Disclaimer: The characters here and the world they inhabit are the creation and property of JK Rowling and her assigns.
It was necessary to put in an appearance at dinner. It wasn't hard to shrug and give the impression that the witch was too tired to come to the Great Hall to eat. After that, he went back to his quarters to put some things together to take back to his mother's house. While he was there, he poured himself a drink.
There was a knock on the door. Was it Dumbledore? Had the time come to pay the piper? It wouldn't be as much fun as he had planned, but it was almost the time he had planned to admit everything, anyhow. The old man couldn't do much damage now.
It wasn't Dumbledore. The person standing in the doorway was a somewhat subdued Hermione Granger. “Professor Snape! I was hoping to see Professor Vector. I thought...” she trailed off awkwardly.
“We share this lounge, Miss Granger, but Professor Vector is away today. Is there something you need?”
She looked up at him just as Septima did when she desperately wanted to know something but was afraid to ask.
“It's all right, Miss Granger. As it happens, I'm in a particularly ebullient mood today.”
“I don't know how to ask this question of anyone else. Just how close are you and Professor Vector?”
“Close enough that we share far more secrets than there are secrets between us.”
It took her a moment to digest what he said. Finally she said, “Well, may I come in and sit down?”
“Certainly.” His arm swept wide and he stood back to allow her access. It was hard not to laugh as she first sat in his chair and then shook her head, instead choosing a spot on the sofa that Septima claimed was the most comfortable in the room.
She stared at her hands for several moments while Severus started to get nervous. What could be the problem? Had Krum—or anyone else—tampered with her? A flash of rage went through him.
“I had a short visit with my parents after the Yule Ball,” she finally blurted out.
“That must have been pleasant,” he said.
“It was, but it was also so very odd. They told me that they had been approached to adopt a baby boy who was magical.”
It was hard to breathe with her so close to a question that occupied much of his thoughts. “And?” he asked quietly.
“They've signed all the paperwork. It's just waiting for the birth certificate and the mother's final signature after he's born in late February or early March.”
Severus closed his eyes. Dumbledore had made fast work of stealing Septima's baby. He ironically thought to himself that it was almost as if he already knew the process. “You don't want a brother?”
“Oh, no, I'm happy enough, I guess, but the whole thing didn't sit well. I asked some questions, and it came out that I was adopted. My parents—the Grangers, that is—were told that the baby is my half-brother.”
He said nothing, but rather Summoned a glass and put some water in it. She took it, sipped from it a little, and then held it in both of her hands.
“I had no idea, and when I came back, I wanted to talk it over with Professor Vector, but she never seems to have time for that sort of thing these days. I miss talking to her.”
“She's been under a great deal of strain lately. I'm sure she misses talking to you, too. She's just been very preoccupied lately and does very little outside of teaching you lot and grading your essays.”
“It's all I've been thinking about for almost a month. It's as though I can pick a mum out of the whole magical world, and the person I want to talk it over with has been distant to me. Last week, Pansy made a crack in the hallway about how Professor Vector's been walking like a pregnant cow lately, and I wondered about it.”
“Oh?” It echoed hollowly in his ears, but she was in her own train of thought.
“What if Professor Vector is pregnant? Is she hiding the pregnancy? What would she do with the baby? Would she put it up for adoption?”
Severus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Hermione looked at him and asked, “If I could pick any witch I knew for my mum, it would be her, but then if she is, why would she get rid of me like that? She seems to like me as much as I like her, but if she gave me up, it changes everything.”
He might have found some sophistry to mislead her, but in his own confusion, he answered the last question first. “You have to understand how it was,” he said.
Hermione looked a little shocked. “Are you saying she is? How could she never tell me?”
He shook his head. “It's not like that; it was never like that. You were coerced or perhaps even stolen from her. Then she was put under a memory charm or potion and told that she had miscarried you. Any thought of you beyond a superficial one causes her great unease. Whenever she gets close to the truth, she becomes very nervous and upset.”
“So she doesn't know?”
He stood up and fixed himself another drink. “She's aware of it, now.”
When he turned to sit back down, he realized she was staring at him intently. “How do you know?”
“I was there at the beginning, and then I recognized you the moment I saw you.”
“I don't understand how a mother could be forced to give up her child.”
“She didn't have a lot of options after I abandoned her.”
Suddenly he realized that Hermione had not yet considered that part of the equation. She looked at him and really saw him for the first time ever. “You?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
He nodded again. “That's exactly what I thought. I had other things going in my life and no time for Septima or her child.”
“So you just left her?”
He sighed. “Settling down with your mother was just too pat. I wasn't ready for that scene, and there was another witch.”
She looked slightly ill. “A few weeks ago, I had parents who love me. Now I have a father who abandoned my mother and a mother who doesn't even remember me.”
“She does remember you.”
“You just said that she doesn't.”
“Wait just a minute.” He got up and went into Septima's bedroom, where he got several scrolls. He put them on the coffee table in front of his daughter. “This is just a sample. She's been doing this since the day she left the hospital after having you, often several times a week, but never more than a month apart.”
Hermione opened what appeared to be the oldest and read it. “What does this rune mean?” she asked.
“That's your name,” he said. “She called you Renée.”
She looked through the others in front of her. “They all say I'm doing well.”
“She thought she was going mad, that her art was making fun of her. She never asked where you were or whether you might be alive.”
“She couldn't bear it... Until I forced her on the day you had that altercation with Malfoy and his friends.”
“Why hasn't she said anything since then? Why has she been so distant to me?”
“She wasn't sure how to approach it, and although now she has an intellectual knowledge, she doesn't have the emotional attachment she wishes for. She's terrified of being a bad mother.”
“But she's completely frozen me out!”
“She's been exhausted the last few weeks. It turns out that Miss Parkinson is right. Your mother gave birth to your younger brother early this morning.”
A/N: Thank you so very much to Owlbait and Kyria of Delphi for beta reading!