Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. In other words, I don’t own J.K.R.’s characters. Please don’t sue me; I’m not worth it anyway. Once I’m done, I’ll buy them dinner, several good bottles of wine and put them back where I found them.
A/N A bit of fluff, but the bunny had a look of angst.
My thanks to my new beta, agnes_grey, who answered my call for help.
Isabel’s piercing cries woke Hermione from her brief (so brief as to be almost non-existent) sleep. She rolled out of bed feeling as though the entire contents of the Gobi desert had been rubbed into her eyes. Glancing back to the bed, she noted that her husband was not there. It had been five weeks since his daughter’s birth and he had yet to share in any of the nurturing responsibilities for her care. He would hover and stare and point out that she looked hungry or cold or sleepy, but he wouldn’t touch her.
Hermione was at breaking point. She felt stretched, thin and brittle. Even with the reluctantly accepted help of a house elf, she was exhausted both physically and mentally. The constant drain on her resources had left her, much vaunted, intelligence at the level of a cabbage and her mood vile. Her nipples were sore, her head pounded and emotionally her hormones had her bouncing between elation, despair, rage and joy, sometimes all at the same time. She loved Isabel with all her soul. But, as for the other baby in her life, her temper with him was wearing tissue paper thin. She just didn’t have the time for his distant, hurtful behaviour. He had been so supportive during her pregnancy, and now he was behaving like this! It was driving her slowly and agonisingly insane.
Still more than half-asleep, she padded through the open door into Isabel’s room.
Severus was there, staring down at his daughter. He looked up as he heard Hermione’s footsteps.
‘She’s crying again,’ he said flatly.
As she felt it flare, Hermione reigned in her temper. ‘Babies do that, Severus.’
She crossed to where her daughter lay crying. As she grew closer, the source of Isabel’s distress became obvious; she had a very full nappy.
‘She needs changing,’ Hermione said tiredly.
‘I thought she might,’ he said in the same tone.
That was enough for Hermione. He couldn’t be expected to feed her, but he had known she needed changing and done nothing. Her temper exploded.
‘You knew and did nothing! She’s your flesh and blood too. Yet you act like she is poison. You never touch her. Never do anything and I… for fuck’s sake, Severus…’
Her rage gave way to tears and she slumped to the floor. Severus stood wretchedly by, his hand flexing in distress. He reached out and touched her shoulder, but she shied away from him.
‘Don’t touch me.’
She didn’t see the look of hurt flash across his face. She roughly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then she stood up. She picked Isabel up and headed back towards the bedroom.
‘If you don’t want us, and that much is obvious, then I’ll take her and go.’
He moved very quickly to block her retreat. ‘No,’ he said in an anguished tone she had never heard before.
‘Severus, I just can’t do this anymore…’
She looked at him, and was shocked. His face, normally the epitome of composure, was completely open to her scrutiny. His emotional storm played clearly across his face, and she saw the fear of losing them writ large in his expression. He began to pace, raking his hands through his hair.
‘Hermione,’ he began, ‘I want to… I …I’m afraid.’ He turned away.
‘Of what, Severus, a baby?’ Hermione hissed, still angry.
‘I don’t know what to do.’ Hermione let out a snort of disbelief. ‘I might hurt her. Merlin, she’s so tiny, and I…’
The truth hit Hermione like a brick wall. He looked wretched. All this time he’d been watching Isabel had been afraid to touch her, and she had mistaken it for intransigence. Of all the many things she had considered that might be wrong, this had never been it.
Now that he had started to speak, it seemed Severus couldn’t stop.
‘I watch her sleeping, eating and I want to… so much… but I just can’t.’
‘Oh, Severus,’ Hermione said gently. She held Isabel out to him.
‘Severus Snape, there is someone I want you to meet. This is your daughter, Isabel.’
Severus looked rather as if she were offering him a cobra.
‘Now, just put one hand here and hold her…yes that’s it … that’s perfect. Now, Isabel, this is your father. He’s rather intimidated by you, as incredible as that may seem’
Held tentatively in her father’s arms, Isabel waved her arms around as if to say such a thing was ridiculous. One tiny fist snagged his nose. She tugged with delight on her marvellous new toy.
‘See love, she’s not broken,’ Hermione said.
Severus’ smile was sunlight bright.
‘And love.’ Severus looked up. ‘You will never be your father.’ He glanced down, proving to her that she had guessed aright at the other source of his disquiet. ‘Now come on, I’ll show you how to change her and then you can rock her back to sleep. It looks like you have the touch anyway,’ Hermione noted, as Isabel started to make contented snuffling noises.
‘I love you both. Very much.’
‘I know, you stupid wizard.’
‘I am sorry.’
‘I know, love.’ She kissed him gently on his cheek.
‘Can we change her now? She smells.’
‘What are you going to do after?’
‘I’m going to remind myself what sleep feels like. She’ll need a feed in a couple of hours. You can wake me then.’
Severus let Hermione sleep for four hours. All the while he held Isabel against his chest and over his heart, rocking her gently from side to side. He watched in delight as she slept in his arms. One tiny, perfect fist gripped his little finger. Then Isabel started to grizzle and stuff her fists in her mouth. Severus took this as a sign that she wanted more than he was physically equipped to provide. He carried his daughter into the bedroom, holding her as if she were the most precious thing in the entire world, and padded softly over to the bed to wake Hermione.
PS The title is Welsh as are all in this series. This one means touch.