Severus felt eyes watching him. He turned and found a very solemn looking young girl no more than six years old standing beside a cluttered bookshelf, staring up at him while she clutched a book to her chest. He was surprised when she didn't flinch at him or scurry away. He was even more surprised when she spoke.
"Excuse me sir," she said softly.
"Yes?" He asked, wondering what a child would want with him.
"Are you Professor Severus Snape?" she asked.
His eyebrows rose in surprise. "Yes I am," he said, watching as a pleased expression stretched across her pale face.
She walked forward slowly, arching her head up to look at him. Her long black hair slid over her shoulders as she looked up at him.
Severus found himself taking pity on the bold child and knelt before her. "Can I help you with something?" he asked, now staring into her dark eyes.
"Yes sir. Can you sign my book?" She asked, holding out a volume of his very own 'Potion Basics' text.
Severus was speechless for a moment, never in his life having been asked to autograph a copy of any of his books. And now a small girl not even old enough for Hogwarts was requesting it of him. The girl waited patiently while Severus got over his shock, finally answering. "Yes. Do you have a quill?" he asked as he accepted the well worn copy of his book.
She nodded as she produced a Muggle ball point pen from her pocket.
He accepted the pen and opened the cover of the book. "Whom shall I make it out to?" he asked.
Severus looked up at her in confusion, but quickly turned his eyes down the book.
"I know," she said. "I don't look like a Weasley."
Severus coughed nervously, wondering why he was being so careful with this child's feelings. "Indeed, I am used to Weasleys having far brighter hair."
"Daddy said that I'm a special Weasley. I'm a girl and it's rare for there to be Weasley girls."
"I see," Severus said quietly as he quickly wrote down his inscription. "To Vespa Weasley, may you appreciate and enjoy the fine art of potions. Severus Snape." He blew on the ink for a moment to make sure it wouldn't smear before he handed the book back to the girl.
She took it and read the inscription. "Thank you," she said, offering another of her pleased smiles.
He handed her pen back and shook his head. "Thank you. I'm quite honored to have such a fan."
"She's your biggest fan," a voice said from behind him.
Severus turned his head and his eyes widened once again. "Harry." He stood up and stared at the man. He looked different from the last time Snape had seen him over six years ago. Gone was the scrawny slip of a boy that he'd kicked out of his cottage. The man before him, while still considerably shorter than he was, had filled out and looked much healthier and more handsome than the awkward creature he remembered. A child with shocking red Weasley hair and startling green eyes sat on Harry's hip sucking his fingers.
"Mummy," Vespa said as she walked around Severus and took Harry's free hand.
"Mummy?" Severus asked sharply.
Harry sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. I would have preferred Daddy, but with everyone jokingly calling me Mum, Vespa picked up on it."
Severus nodded sharply, not knowing how to reply to that.
Harry shifted the child on his hip and looked Severus over. "You look well. I hear that you left Hogwarts to do private potions work. Business is well?"
"Yes, thank you. I've been thinking of expanding into a shop here in Diagon Alley." He paused. "How are you?" He asked, feeling awkward at Harry's easy pleasantries.
Harry smiled. "Quite well thank you. I've got my hands full with these two. Vespa might not look it, but she's quite the troublemaker and little James here is just starting to walk and get into everything. His father has been forbidden to take his work home with him after James managed to get into an experimental batch of color change candies."
"Who is his father?" Severus asked curiously.
"George," Harry said.
"Ah." Then he glanced down at Vespa who was staring up at him.
"Her father is a Potion Master," Harry said quietly.
Severus' heart stopped as he looked up at Harry. Harry gave him a sad smile and nodded as he looked down at Vespa. Once the shock faded, the rage bubbled up. "Why didn't you-"
"I did," Harry snapped, cutting him off. "But this is neither the time nor the place for such a discussion. If you'd like, we can go back to the shop and discuss it there, but don't you dare cause a scene in front of my children." Harry bristled, his green eyes glittering dangerously as he stared Severus down.
Severus closed his mouth and swallowed back his anger. He nodded shortly. "I would like to discuss this."
"Good. Let's go then. It's almost time for James' nap. He'll get cranky if we keep standing around." The boy had laid his head down on Harry's shoulder as he continued to watch Severus and suck on his fingers. Harry turned and headed out of the book shop.
It took a moment for Severus' body to snap out of shock before he followed after Harry. They turned and walked down to Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. Trumpets blared as the door to the shop opened and confetti rained down on them. Severus huffed in annoyance as he tried to brush the colored paper from his hair and shoulders
"There is my lovely family," a tall redhead called out from behind the counter of the shop. Vespa let go of Harry's hand and dashed behind the counter where she was lifted into the air and hugged. "Ah, my lovely Queen Bee!"
"Wasp," Vespa corrected, smiling.
"Yes, but Queen Wasp doesn't have the same ring to it my sweet honey bee." He set the girl on his hip and turned to Harry. "Hello." He leaned over to give Harry a quick kiss.
Severus looked away at the sign of affection, remembering years ago when those lips belonged to him.
Only once he'd greeted his family did George Weasley turn his attention to the dark figure shadowing his husband. "Hello Professor Snape," he said.
Severus inclined his head. "Hello Mr. Weasley."
"Severus and I are going to talk after I put James down for his nap. Can you try to keep Vespa out of trouble?" Harry asked, looking at George.
"What are you talking about? Vespa is an angel! She'll be no trouble at all."
Harry looked at him skeptically. "And I'm a natural red-head," he muttered as he walked past and into a curtained doorway.
Severus started to follow when he found a strong freckled hand on his arm. He glanced at George. "Do not upset him," he said quietly. "At least listen to his story before you attempt to vilify him."
"I will try," Severus said stiffly as he pulled his arm from George's grip and walked through the curtained doorway. A large store room sprawled out behind it, but Harry was standing halfway up a flight of stairs, looking down. When he saw Severus, he proceeded up the stairs and through a door at the top. Severus followed and found himself standing in a large, loudly decorated sitting room.
"Make yourself comfortable," Harry said, gesturing to a lime green colored couch. "I'm just going to put James down for his nap. I'll be back in a minute." He disappeared down a hallway, leaving Severus staring at the couch with distaste.
Severus looked at his other choices for seats and finally settled on an electric blue wingback chair. He studied the room, mostly the many pictures that hung from the walls and cluttered flat surfaces. Most of them were full of Weasleys with their bright red hair and copious freckles. To think that he had taught them all and somehow survived the experience. The picture that really caught his attention was obviously from Harry and George's wedding. The two were smiling happily in their white dress robes with little Vespa held between them in a frothy white dress and flowers in her dark hair. The happy couple was beaming at him when Harry returned carrying a tea tray.
"I thought we could use a little tea," Harry said as he set it down on the rickety tea table. He fixed Severus' tea exactly how he always took it with a squeeze of lemon and a single sugar cube and handed it to him.
"Thank you," he said, accepting the tea as a feeling of nostalgia washed over him. He watched Harry fix his usual milky sweet abomination and distantly remembered the taste of his kisses after tea. He quickly banished the thought as he sat back and sipped his own tea.
Harry settled on the lime green couch and sipped his tea, watching Severus quietly. After a few minutes ticked by he broke the silence. "I know you wanted to ask me why I didn't tell you about Vespa."
Severus nodded, keeping his mouth closed lest he let out a stream of vitriol that would only land them in a yelling match.
"I tried. When I found out that I was pregnant, I sent you several letters by owl. Do you remember what happened to those letters?"
Severus' stomach turned uncomfortably. He remembered turning the first two letters away. Subsequent letters he allowed Draco to tear up and return in a neat little bundle of paper squares. He had been so sure it was just Harry making excuses for his fight with Draco. He'd never looked at the contents of them. "Why didn't you come to see me?"
"I tried that too. When I was five months along, I visited the cottage. Draco answered the door. I won't repeat what he said, but suffice it to say that I was taken off guard by his stinging hex. After that encounter, I didn't want to risk Vespa's health with another visit. I sent you a picture when she was born. Merlin knows what happened to that. I do have my suspicions though," Harry said pointedly.
"Draco," Severus said with a tired sigh. Draco had always been resentful of Harry's presence in his life. He'd been elated when Severus had disposed of the Boy Who Lived and took great glee in bad mouthing him. Severus had stupidly indulged his petty behavior. He'd gone on to regret it, but he would not tell Harry that.
Harry sipped his tea. "She was so disgruntled when she was born. I imagine you looked a lot like her when you were born, glaring up at your mother for disturbing your rest in her womb." Harry chuckled. "Vespa already had a dark patch of hair and your dark eyes, luckily she missed out on your nose. Of course I gave her a name fitting of her Snape heritage....despite what happened, you played a big role in my life. I wanted her to have a part of you."
"I'm sorry," Severus said quietly.
Harry shrugged. "What's done is done. We can't go back and change the past. The important thing is that you know about her now. I hope you'll want to get to know her. She adores you. The book you signed for her is one of her most treasured possessions, probably more so now that you've signed it." Harry smiled.
Severus found himself swallowing past a lump in his throat. Harry had obviously tried very hard to incorporate him in their daughter's life, even though he hadn't even been aware of her existence. He'd written Harry off so easily after he kicked him out, he felt guilty. He'd been such a fool in his treatment of the boy.
"Stop giving me that guilty look," Harry said quietly. "I won't lie and say that what you did didn't hurt. It did. A lot. And carrying your child that you seemed intent on ignoring didn't help matters, but I'm happy how my life turned out. I love my children and my husband. I'm part of the family I've always loved so much. My life is good and it seems like yours is too. We weren't a good match, Sev. Things would have fallen apart eventually. I only regret that they fell apart in the way that they did."
"I should have listened to you," Severus said miserably. He was an idiot who could put his trust in the boy to save the whole bloody world, but not even stop to listen to him when he fought with his spoiled godson.
"Yes. You should have, but you didn't. Maybe now you'll learn your lesson. Ask questions first. You know, he broke my rib in that little stunt of his. Looking back, I was probably lucky I didn't lose Vespa right then. So I hope you'll respect my wishes and not let him near her."
Severus nodded numbly, the thought never even crossing his mind to introduce his daughter to Draco. He was so angry at Draco in that moment, the spoiled snot was lucky he wasn't around. Severus would have gladly used something unforgivable on him.
"I'd prefer if you came to meet her here for your first few visits, just to get familiar with her before you take her out," Harry said.
"Take her out?"
"Yes. I told you. I wasn't trying to keep her from you. She's your daughter too. She'll always be available for you to spend time with. Unless," Harry paused, chewing his lip. "Unless you don't want to. I mean, I don't want to force her on you either. If you're uncomfortable with it, you don't have to see her again. She'll be disappointed, but she's a smart girl. She'll understand."
"No!" Severus cut in on Harry's rush of words. "I would love to spend time with her Harry."
Harry sighed in relief and relaxed back into the couch. "Good. That's...good to hear. I was worried," he admitted.
Severus also sighed. "I know I'm not the kindest, most affectionate man, but she is my daughter and I would like to get to know her."
"You'll love her Sev. I promise. She's a lot like you. She adores Potions. I think she's going to be a prodigy." He beamed proudly.
Severus smiled gently. "That's wonderful. I look forward to spending time with her."
Harry nodded. "If you've got time, I'll bring her up now."
"That would be lovely Harry," Severus said, suddenly very nervous.
Harry smiled as he stood and walked over to Severus. He reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "Don't be nervous Sev. She already adores you. It will be fine, I promise."
Severus reached up and touched Harry's hand. "Thank you. Thank you for not cutting me out of her life like I cut you from mine."
Harry inclined his head. "You're lucky I'm not as vindictive as you are Severus Snape. I thought about it. I really did. But in the end, I just couldn't live with myself if I did that. She deserves the chance to know you. You might be a bastard, but I know that you're a good man too. I want her to know that man that I was in love with and know that she wasn't a mistake."
Severus' hand tightened on Harry's. "She's not a mistake Harry. She's a beautiful gift. The most beautiful gift anyone has ever given to me."
Harry gave him a watery smile. "Thank you." He leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to Severus' cheek before reclaiming his hand and hurrying downstairs to get Vespa.
Severus was left to contemplate his life and what he'd missed out on, but not for long as he heard two sets of footsteps on the stairs. He turned and watched as Vespa walked through the door with her face carefully schooled, but her dark eyes wide with anticipation. Severus smiled at her and held out his hand. Suddenly, all the things he'd missed out on didn't matter as she smiled and ran into his arms.
Read Later next.