Title: A Life Well Lived
Beta Reader(s): duskblue
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: On his 50th birthday, Severus Snape encounters an old acquaintance.
Severus Snape was never one much for parties, or occasions. Reaching a half century in age did nothing to change this, or to make him more fond of gatherings and guests. But he knew he'd have to change his ways a bit when he married Hermione Granger, so tonight he was trying to be cordial to the small throng of people gathered at their home to celebrate his fiftheith birthday.
It wasn't all bad, his wife had set a spread out for the guests that rivaled some of the Ministry's events. In more recent years, Severus had found there was enjoyment in food. He was, perhaps for the first time in his life, at an average weight. And it was so much easier to put up with guests when eating and drinking.
Being that he wasn't a party person, Severus had left most of the planning to his wife. The only thing he had a say on was that he didn't want it to last all night because his birthday fell on a weekday and even if some of the guests didn't have to be at work in the morning, both he and Hermione had students that he was not about to let get away with tomfoolery because they had a tired professor. She picked the food, the decorations, even the robes he was wearing. And he hadn't even asked to see the guest list...she knew who he liked and didn't like.
And yet, somehow, he turned around from one departing well wisher to see an tall, young man with bright red hair. Though he now had a certain fondness for Harry Potter, he found no redeeming qualities in his dear friend Ron Weasley. He had taken his role as Potter's side kick to develop a Qudditch career and become a minor celebritity in the wizarding world. If that wasn't nauseating enough, there was also the fact that he was quite a playboy and had been involved with Hermione before Voldemort's fall. Over twelve years later it might be a little petty to hold a teenage romance against the boy, but he was a posessive husband, not wanting to share his wife with any other man, even if it was only in the past.
It also didn't help that sometimes it seemed like Weasley had done a bit more with his life than Severus. Not that he would trade his life for the boy's, but it did seem a little boring on the surface. Despite getting a Second Order of the Merlin, Severus had returned to Hogwarts as soon as he had recovered from the bite that had nearly ended his life. Weasley had tales of exotic travel and hob nobbing with the Wizarding elite. After ten years of marriage he knew that those things would never sway Hermione's devotion, but he still didn't like to see her being regaled with the stories by her former comrade.
Of course, Weasley hadn't risked his life for the Order in not one, but two wards and almost died the second time. That was something Severus had pushed to the back of his mind. At first it seemed like every day he would think of the war, of the atrocities he'd seen the Death Eaters commit while spying on them, but he learned to pack all those memories in a box and tuck it away. He had much more important things in his life now to focus on than the past.
As fate would have it, the young man spotted him and was heading towards him, an big smile plastered on his face. Severus was briefly tempted to duck under the buffet table, but that behavior was hardly fitting for the Hogwarts Headmaster. His dignity was something he wouldn't comprimise, not to Ronald Weasley.
"The man of the hour," His former student greeted him, raising his glass of mead a little in mock salute. "Happy Birthday, Severus. Honestly you don't look fifty..."
Severus felt his lips pull back in a highly forced half smile. "Mr. Weasley. I see the Canons could spare you for one night."
Weasley laughed and shook his head a little. "No game tonight. Besides, I couldn't resist seeing how everyone was doing. I don't get to see Hermione and Harry that much anymore...."
His voice trailed off as he looked over Severus' shoulder. He turned to see what Weasley was looking at and saw his wife standing there, looking beautiful in soft green robes and holding their son in her arms. Harry Potter and his wife, Ron's own younger sister Ginny, were talking with her, one child in her arms and him holding the hand of a second. Everyone in the small gathering was smiling, expect for the youngest of the Potter children, who was fascinated by his mother's earrings.
"Well, you do travel a great deal." Severus pointed out.
Ron gave a sad smile. "Oh, I don't think it's that. They're busy having careers and marriages and children..."
Severus had always been very perceptive, and the slight envy in Weasley's voice intrigued him greatly. Would the famous Qudditch player and Wizarding world playboy want to be home changing nappies and cleaning house? It seemed perposterous, especially considering the look of stupid glee on the boy's face in most of his pictures in the Prophet, where he was showing winning tournaments or partying with lovely young ladies.
"I'm sure you have plenty of lady companions..." He quirked an eyebrow slightly.
"Well, yeah." Weasley gave a small smile. "But nothing ever lasts. Nothing like what Harry and Ginny have. Or even...you know...you and Hermione."
It had been a very long time since Severus had used legilimens on another person. That was something he'd left behind in the Shrieking Shack, when he should have died. And, perhaps a part of him did die that day. He had to put very much in the past that he didn't think possible, he had to make that conscious decision to choose moving forward over mourning the past now that his task was finally complete. Tapping into people's minds was something he did as a spy, and in hindsight it seemed like a violation to a person's will, not a power to be used lightly. It seemed to him in that moment he really was a fifty year old man, that the past twelve years since Voldemort's defeat he'd grown and changed.
His reviere was interuppted by the impact of a small body into his side, then arms wrapping around hsi leg. He didn't need to wonder what he would see when he looked down. Their daughter, Violet, was known for clinging to whichever parent she could get to first. At six years old she was exceptionally bright, but also still very much a little girl.
"Daddy..." She tugged at his hand impatiently. "Mommy hasn't put Shane down all night."
The last two words were accentuated, so it would be clear what an injustice was being done to such a young, innocent girl. Severus was not the type to go cavilarly into anything, even when it came to planning a family. He thought two years between their children was very practical, and would save them from having two babies teething and crawling around at once. Shane had taken an extra year after that to come, and instead of two babies Hermione and Severus were given sibiling rivarly to deal with.
He bent and lifted the girl in his own arms. The way she put her little arms around his neck and held on tight was a feeling he wouldn't trade for anything in the world. And the way the young mister Weasley was watching him, Severus knew that extended to fame, fortune and status.
"Your mother is just worried if she lets Shane out of her sight for even a few moments, he'll get into the food." Severus balanced the little girl expertly on his hip. "We can't trust him to walk around yet on his own like we can with you."
"Oh.." A smile crossed her face and she laid her head on his shoulder. "That's okay, then."
"She's really growing up, isn't she?" Weasley finally spoke up, that sad smile back on his face. "I remember when she was just a little thing..."
"I haven't been little for a long time," Violet replied, sounding very much like her father in that moment. "I can even read. By myself."
Severus felt his lips move again, but this time it was natural and a small, proud smile crossed his face. "Yes, Violet is quite gifted. She'll be the best student we've seen since her mother."
Ron chuckled a little. "I remember that clearly, even if it has been awhile. I don't think I would've gotten through even my first year without Hermione badgering me to study and checking my work over."
The two men's eyes met, blue into black, and their faces echoed the same knowing smile. Weasley was no doubt remembering the days when he was a student and his friend was insufferable know it all. Severus was remembering asking for two inches worth of essay and being presented eight inches by the girl with the bushy hair. In their own ways, they'd both loved her, but in the end, it was Severus who had taken her heart and had built a life with her.
Suddenly he felt very foolish for ever thinking Weasley's life was so much more glamourous than his. Granted, when the kids were still in nappies and spitting up at random intervals there had been very little glamour in his life, but that was made up in bedtime stories and Christmas mornings and talking late into the night with his wife after the little ones had been put to bed.
For the first time, he felt a little pity on the boy. Weasley might have been able to have a different woman at his side every night, but he didn't know the contentness of waking up every morning with the same woman. One you would go to the end of the earth and back to protect and loved deeper than it had ever seemed possible for a human to feel.
"You're a lucky man, Severus." Weasley said, trying to sound casual, but betraying his emotions in the pitch of his voice. "You've a lot to celebrate tonight, I think. A life well lived."
Severus didn't know how to respond to that, and thankfully he didn't have to. His wife joined him then, her arms easily slipping into the arm of his that was still free. He glanced at her, glad she'd arrived before he had to manage some sort of meaningful response. Age had changed him some, mellowed him some, but he was still himself.
"Do you mind if I borrow my husband, Ron?" Hermione smiled at her old friend, though her eyes kept turning to her husband. "We're just about to cut the cake."
"No worries," Ron smiled back, his eyes flitting from Severus to his wife. "We were just reminiscing a bit."
With that he turned and started heading towards the throng of people gathered around the table holding a large cake. Severus had thought Hermione had gone slightly overboard in the size of the cake, but she had done a lovely job on it, insisting that she would make it herself. He was glad to hear the impressed murmurs of their guests.
"Reminiscing, huh?" Hermione pressed warmly into Severus' side.
"I told him Violet is going to be the best student at Hogwarts since her mother." There was a hint of pride in his tone. "Your study habits are legendary."
"Much to the chagrin of my students," She reminded him wrly.
When Severus had become Headmaster after the death of Minerva McGonagall, the first thing he'd done was install Hermione as the professor of Muggle Studies. He never wanted his children to live in a world where organizations like the Death Eaters could flourish again, and that meant educating them that Muggles were just merely non-magical humans, not lesser beings.
"I think he still fancies you." Severus pointed out, watching Weasley glance back from the table towards them, a longing look painted on his face.
"It doesn't matter either way." She hugged his arm. But thank you for being nice to him. I think he feels left out now that the rest of us have grown up and moved on."
Severus turned to his wife, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I never thought I would say this, but I think Weasley actually said something important for a change."
"Severus..." She scolded him lightly, but she was smiling anyways. "And what did he say?"
"It wasn't the words, so much as the tone." He pressed back against her. "I don't think he's as happy as we are. He's got the world on a string, and yet, I think we have a much richer life."
Hermione's adoring gaze was well worth sharing his feelings within earshot of other people. Normally that was a side of him only his wife and children were allowed to see. He loved them so much more so for that. His heart had been broken so badly, and Severus had been certain nothing would ever repair it. And then this student started visiting him at St. Mungo's. Little did he know that it was the start of his second great adventure, romance and marriage and parenthood.
He'd gotten off to a rough start in life, but it had definitely been a life worth living. And now that he had a love to share it with, it was a life lived well. Severus made a promise to himself to never lose sight of that, even for a moment. In his estimation, he was the luckiest man at the party tonight, because he would be here with his wife and children when all the guests had left.
"You know, I do think you're right." She slid her arms down to hold his hand tightly. "And I also think it's time to cut the cake. I left Shane with Ginny, but he's been eyeing it all night in a way that makes me nervous."
A deep chuckle issued from Severus' throat, another thing he rarely showed others. "I imagine it can't be much worse than the incident with the blueberry pie...though there's much more people here to witness it."
She shot him a teasing pout and then tugged him towards the cake table with a smile. "I have something much better in store for us after the guests leave than removing blueberries from our son's hair, my dear."
Something about the inviting smirk crossing her sweet lips made it obvious that only part of the party would be over when the guests left. The best of the evening was still yet to come. Suddenly he seemed like the luckiest man in the world, fifty years old or not. It had been worth getting this old to have a love like Hermione, and the children they'd created together.
Ronald Weasley, eat your heart out, he thought to himself with a little smirk as his wife lead him to stand at the place of honor before the cake. They had each made their choices, and the ones Severus made had lead him to have just what Weasley had said...a life well lived.