Author: dressagegrrrl PM
AU. SSHG. Post-war. Hermione's parents drag her to a swap meet so they can buy ugly dog figurines and sad clowns to clutter up their house. While there, she discovers a relic from Severus Snape's past that forces her to change her view of the man.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Severus S. & Hermione G. - Words: 8,683 - Reviews: 162 - Favs: 373 - Follows: 30 - Published: 01-25-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5696229
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I own absolutely nothing you see here. Hermione and that naughty, naughty Severus Snape belong to JK Rowling... the lucky wench.
This is a bit of a departure from what I do normally, and I hope you all like it. Please, please, please - when cued by my A/N's, please go listen to the music on youtube that I've pointed you to. I think it really adds to the fic. :)
FIRST, I want to thank the amazing, mesmerizing Aurette for both her beta work and all of the sexual harassment which she graciously provided to me as often as I wanted it. Yar, dear. Writing this was fun because of all of the laughs you provided. Readers, if you haven't read her Princess of Gryffindor, STOP. GO READ IT NOW. THIS FLUFF WILL BE HERE WHEN YOU GET BACK.
SECOND, I want to dedicate this fic to the lovely Kirafyre who is recovering from surgery. I wub and miss you. Hope you feel better!!
SCHADENFREUDE: satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.
I wasn't sure it was him on the cover at first. It seemed a terribly incongruous thing for him to be doing, and yet I couldn't deny that I recognized the way he held himself and the breadth of his shoulders. The spill of black hair did nothing to obscure his shrewd eyes, and of course, I recognized that nose jutting from the ocean of his face like an iceberg. He was standing in a field of buttercups, a monstrous dark stork, with an expression every bit as dour at twenty-one as it was at forty-one. He gripped the neck of a bass guitar sullenly as his two band mates cavorted, appearing as excitable as chittery monkeys fighting over a banana.
It was undeniable. In the uncharted parallel universe of the 1980's Severus Snape had played bass for a Muggle band called Schadenfreude.
Cackling with joy, I vowed never to rail at my parents again for forcing me to attend swap meets with them. In pious thanks for the wondrous gift I held clutched in my arms, I resolved to drag my sorry carcass out of bed at five in the morning to aid them in their continuous quest to clutter their house with kitsch and camp whenever they called on me. No googly-eyed, praying cherub figurine was too good for John and Jean Granger.
I paid all of a pound for my precious record, and after mumbling a quick excuse to my parents, I jogged down the street and ducked into the cover of a bus stop before Apparating home.
Luckily my parents were traditionalists and had gleefully scorned the advancements in Muggle audio technology for nearly twenty-five years. I'm sure they had never even heard of an mp3 player. No, our aged record player still held court in the family room, attended by our massive collection of classical music. I flipped open the lid and placed the vinyl on the platter with great reverence, setting the needle on the shiny groove that ran around the outside of the record. I hurried back to the couch and sat down, elbows on knees, and gnawed my fingernails while I waited for the music to start.
…Strains of a synthesizer careened wildly around the room chased by a heavy drum beat. Electric guitar shrieked and shivered, playing a waterfall of sloppy, dripping notes that dissolved into a trite-sounding riff. The whole thing was offset by mush-mouthed singing by what sounded like hooligans rooting for their football team in a tin can.
"Oh, lord," I muttered. "Severus Snape was in a terrible Muggle band called Schadenfreude. The indignity!"
I flipped over the sleeve and examined the songs listed on the back. There were only four tracks, thank the gods. With titles like, "Transfigure my Heart," "Love Potion," and "Call me on the Fellytone," I could only be grateful there weren't more. My eyes grew suddenly round when I realized that they'd included a bonus Christmas song called, of all things, "Jingle Spells."
Pulling my knees up to my chin, I listened in horrified silence, afflicted by the same perverse human quality that makes you stare at a car accident as you drive by it. By the end of the first song, my ears ached so badly that I felt as if I was in a bass drum being banged by a monkey on speed.
I pictured Professor Snape at a gig, unyielding and menacing as he plucked the strings to his immortal anthem devoted to his love of potions or tried to deduct points from an over-enthusiastic fan. Twenty points, he'd hiss, handing the girl back her knickers. Twenty points for behavior unsuited to a young lady. Where is your self-respect? She'd stutter and try to excuse herself, but he'd continue, his black eyes smoldering like coals. Do you think I get up here for you? So that I can get some fine young thing between my sheets? No. I do it because I love the music.
I felt the corner of my mouth twitch madly.
Suddenly, I couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts and continue my Potions apprenticeship.
I swept into the Potions lab in September with all the dignity and aplomb I could muster.
"Good morning, sir," I sang out to the erstwhile musician. He was bent over a simmering cauldron. The liquid inside glowed a bilious green that gave his sallow skin the quality of something that had been dead for several days.
"Oh, goody. It's Ms. Granger, and she's cheerful." His eyes flicked to meet mine. "My break was filled with well-mannered frivolity. I'm assuming yours was a veritable orgy of middle-class suburban Muggle doings. Now that we've gotten the pleasantries out of the way, tie your rat's nest back and come help me with this De-Slugging Potion. Hagrid's got an infestation of over-sized, rabid Speed Slugs from the Dark Forest in his cabbage patch, and he can't catch them. Once again, I am left to take care of other people's messes." With fastidious hands, he measured out a gram of aconite.
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir. At your service, sir." His mouth tipped up slightly at the corner, but he otherwise ignored my impertinence. I clawed my hair into a knot at my nape, and buttoned my Apprentice robes (which he insisted had to be Slytherin green) up to my neck.
On the gleaming granite countertop on the island in the middle of the lab, my Master had laid out the remainder of the ingredients he needed prepared. My feet echoed on the flagstone floor, sounding like stones falling into water in the empty silence of the laboratory. I saw him watching me out of the corner of his eye.
Picking up the mortar and pestle, I ground the beetle carapaces into a powder while I watched Professor Snape hover over his cauldron, stirring the potion with care. How could someone who was so precise and well-timed in the art of Potion-making be so a-rhythmic and hopeless with a musical instrument? I wondered if he had danced when they played, rocking back and forth like a goblin with a bad hip.
"So, Professor, do you have any hobbies?"
"Good lord, Ms. Granger. Have you taken leave of your senses? What on earth would make you think that after two years of your Apprenticeship, I suddenly have developed an interest in idle chit chat? Stop your nattering, or I'll toss you out like a bit of poofy-haired baggage."
I smiled, sure of my footing. "That would be your loss. I am the most brilliant witch of my generation, so they say, and I'm sure there are plenty of other Masters who'd love to take me on."
He rolled his eyes, grunting, "They're welcome to you and your entitled attitude."
It had been made clear to me from the moment that I walked into his lab as his Apprentice that Professor Snape detested my self-assurance and belief that I belonged here at Hogwarts as his student. Gone was the insecure Muggleborn child trying to fit into a world not her own. I wanted to be a Potions mistress, and after everything that I had given to the war against Voldemort, I felt as if I'd earned the best, and there was no doubt that Severus Snape was the best in Europe. Besides, I liked the snarky, arrhythmic git.
"So, do you? Have any hobbies?" I pushed.
"Why do you want to know?"
"Well, sir, it's just that I was thinking of taking up a sport or maybe an instrument. I know you like Quidditch, but I've never seen you do more than referee. Do you play an instrument, Professor Snape?" I kept my face carefully neutral as I examined the consistency of the powder in my mortar. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him pinch the bridge of his nose as if he was in pain.
"I want you to stop what you are doing and think. No, really think. Can you honestly see me playing an instrument?"
I cocked my head and appraised him. Despite the evidence I'd already seen, my inner schoolgirl Hermione scoffed. Saying that he played an instrument was an uncommonly kind way of phrasing it. Besides, he was Severus Snape, the forbidding Potions master, and although I'd never indulged in name-calling like Ron and Harry had, a large piece of me still thought of him as an asexual stiff who got his jollies by thinking up sadistic detentions. Ron had once been forced to give an enema to a herd of Stupefied Hippogriffs that had half-poisoned themselves by eating moon-shirking lilies. I smirked. Now that I was older, I realized that was just a portion of his personality. A very loud, often-indulged portion.
But really, the last two years had rather endeared him to me. Severus Snape wasn't so bad, especially now that I was no longer his student but his apprentice. He still sniped at me, but his attacks were almost never personal… unless he felt I said something particularly idiotic and slack-jawed, in which case he'd deliver a scathing set-down and then make a pointed comment about my hair. Oh, and he very much enjoyed poking fun at my brief-lived and extremely tepid affair with Neville Longbottom.
Professor Snape was still an arse, but he lacked the malice he once had. I was surprised rather early on into my apprenticeship to discover I liked the man with his cutting wit and quiet hands, especially now that he had that hairless Voldemort-monkey off his back. This newest piece of information I had discovered about him – that Snape had once been a ridiculous young thing who had dreams just like the rest of us – added a whole new dimension of interest to him. I wanted to get to know him better, if only to see that he was a human who could display bad judgment along with the rest of us.
"Well? Has your brain finished interpreting my simple question at its subhuman processing speed? Honestly, I should have done just as well for myself apprenticing a carp or mackerel. If only they had thumbs, Ms. Granger. If only."
I smiled. "Yes, Professor Snape. I could see you playing an instrument. Perhaps the guitar?" "'Will you walk into my parlor?' said the Spider to the Fly." Go ahead, take the bait.
I'd surprised him, I could tell. His eyebrows slid towards his hair line, and the lines at the edge of his mouth softened. And that was the first time I'd ever used the word "soft" when describing this man.
"Oh." His mouth worked for a moment. "Well, then. Yes, I play guitar. Tell anyone and I'll skin your kneazle and use his pelt for a dust mop."
"That's not nice!" I said, briefly aggrieved. I didn't mind when he poked fun at me, but the elderly Crookshanks was off limits.
"Count your blessings. I had originally planned to use him to make mirkins for poxy whores."
I knew what he was doing. He was reestablishing distance after admitting something personal to me. I smirked. "Do you have much traffic with poxy whores, then?"
A bark of laughter escaped him. "Shut up and grind the damn beetle carapaces, Ms. Granger."
A beat of silence passed while I worked the bug bits into a fine dust. "Professor?"
"Oh, for god's sake, what?"
"Will you play for me some time?" I knew I was crossing a line with him and braced myself for his response which was sure to be swift and brutal. Professor Snape doled out personal revelations and private moments like Voldemort had handed out butterscotch candy to Muggle school children.
Instead of a scathing comment about my hygiene, the Potions Master paused, the line of his shoulders tense. "Why?" he asked finally.
I ran through several answers in my mind, but in the end I decided to go with the truth. "I'm curious."
His shoulders dropped, and he sighed. "I'm not here for your entertainment. My only responsibility to you is to forcibly cram as much Potions knowledge as possible into your brain which, I take a particular glee in informing you, is already stuffed to capacity with images of a naked Longbottom's bottom."
"I'm impressed you got that out in one breath. I'd like to correct you on one point, though. I have thankfully never, ever seen Neville without his clothes."
"I'm glad you had the good sense to employ a sheet with a hole cut in it and complete, stygian darkness as I recommended." His voice was more acerbic than normal.
"Hnn. Back on topic, Professor. I didn't intend any insult." I set the mortar and pestle down and turned to face him. "I've known you for a decade, but it's only been in the two years since I've become your apprentice that I feel like I've learned anything about you."
"Seeing as you were eleven when we first met, I'm sure you can imagine why I wasn't ecstatic at the idea of being chums."
"That's a shame. You could have signed my slambook, and we could have painted each other's nails with varnish." I giggled, remembering that Professor Snape's nails had been a rotten banana black on the cover of the Schadenfreude record.
The wry look he cast me gave me hope, and I pressed on. "My point is that I was shocked to discover that I enjoy your company, and I'd like us to be friends," I wheedled.
Professor Snape stilled, his hands splayed gracefully next to a cutting board covered in jobberknoll feathers. He took a deep breath and then gestured indolently to the nearest cauldron, "Stir the beetle carapaces in with eight clockwise stirs followed by twelve anti-clockwise stirs." Turning to face me, he said, "Perhaps, Ms. Granger. I will consider your request."
There was a hint of color to his sallow cheeks.
One week passed; a week in which Professor Snape had been both less communicative and less vitriolic. I wondered if he really was considering my request to hear him play. I doubted he'd give even a passing thought to being friends with me, Gryffindor princess and the brains of the Golden Trio, but I found myself wishing that he would.
Finding the Schadenfreude record had caused me to reevaluate him. I had already known that he was a complex man who wore wool and snark as a mask. However, I'd always dismissed the man beneath as equally hard and bitter; the sort of person who cradled his hurts and grudges close. But instead, I'd discovered this brilliant, funny man who, once upon a time, had started a band with his mates; who had continued to play guitar through even the darkest hours of the Wizarding world. Whether or not he was rubbish at it was immaterial. It spoke of passion and devotion.
What a fascinating puzzle of a man. How could I not hope to cultivate his friendship?
I had my answer exactly one week to the hour from when I'd asked him.
"My quarters directly after dinner."
"I'm sorry? Eleven, twelve, thirteen…" I muttered, counting stirs for the Skelegro Potion I was brewing for Poppy. I could feel the fumes causing my hair to frizz, and I had to wipe my forehead against my shoulder to prevent a bead of sweat from falling into the cauldron and ruining the time-consuming potion.
He sighed, sounding very much put upon, but waited until I had reached the requisite thirty-two. As I was decanting the liquid, he said, "Have you forgotten so soon?" Professor Snape didn't look at me, and his voice cracked in the air between us.
"Oh, of course not! You mean you'll play for me?"
"No. I've invited you to my quarters so that you and I can look at naked pictures of Longbottom together. Do say you'll bring your collection. Oh, please."
"Ah, and again I must remind you that I've never seen Neville without his clothes on."
He'd turned to consult some texts he stored on his lab's shelves, and I could see him in profile. It was blazingly hot down in the dungeons without windows, and he'd removed his robes and frock coat, standing in nothing but his black woolen trousers and a soft white dress shirt that was skimming his low back from sweat. He'd pulled his hair back in a queue, providing an unobstructed view of his prow of a nose.
I cocked my head. Without his outer clothing, he should have looked like a turtle without a shell to me. Instead, my first thought was, Well, he's quite trim isn't he? His shoulders were wide and his hips narrow, giving his upper body the appearance of an inverted triangle. I wondered if he was naturally slender or if he worked out and had definition.
He cleared his throat with a staccato burst, as if trying to grab the attention of a class of first years à la Umbridge.
It was then that I realized that I was only able to compare the width of Professor Snape's shoulders and hips because he'd turned to face me. His eyebrows were arched and his mouth half-open. "Are you quite finished?"
"Did you bleach your teeth, Professor?" I squealed.
He stared at me, and rubbed the palm of one of his hands on his thigh. "It's a side effect of a potion I'm taking. Are you free after dinner to come to my quarters or not? I refuse to carry my guitar around Hogwarts for any and all to see."
I gave him a warm smile. "Professor, I am free and looking forward to it."
He nodded solemnly and turned back to his shelf of Potions texts. In bemusement, I went back to studying his profile.
He ignored me.
I sat with Ginny at dinner that night, absently poking at my beef wellington.
"You look nice. Do you have a date?"
My head jerked up. "Why would you say that? No, I don't have a date. Why would I have a date?"
Around a mouthful of her meal, she managed to say, "Dress." She pointed at my hair with her knife. "Sleakeasy." Weasleys. They all ate like wolves were after them.
I bit viciously into the flaky pastry stuffed with meat and glanced around to ensure no one could overhear us. To be safe, I cast a nonverbal Muffliato.
Swallowing, I said, "No, I'm not going on a date." Satisfied, I sat back.
"You cast a spell so no one could overhear that?" Ginny crossed her arms over her ample bosom and eyed me in doubt. "Spill, girl." She looked forbidding in her Mediwitch apprentice robes.
I chewed on my lip for a moment before I decided to share. "I'm going to Snape's quarters after supper."
She mewled in disappointment. "Does that git ever give you a night off? So, you had to cancel then? Who was it? Someone from your year? Oooh, was it Dean Thomas? He was lovely."
I stared at her.
"Oh, well, not as lovely as my Harry of course," she said, shoveling another bite of dinner in her face and topping it off with a swallow of pumpkin juice. She set her cup down, and I could see bits of gnawed up beef and pastry swirling around the glass.
"It's no one from my class, and it's not a date. I'm going to Snape's quarters after dinner because I think we've sort of decided to become friends." I considered telling her about my discovery, but decided against it. I was certain that should Professor Snape find out that not only had I known his secret, but I'd shared it with my friends, it'd be a deal breaker in our hopefully burgeoning friendship.
Ginny's mouth fell open, and I was treated to a vision of half-masticated roll.
"That's disgusting, Gin. And besides, why are you so shocked? He's a human just like the rest of us."
"That's debatable, Hermione. Are you sure he comes with all of his working parts? You should verify facts before you start making crazy accusations of humanity without proof," she sputtered.
"For gods sake, the man's a wizard in his forties! I guarantee all of his moving parts are still moving in a satisfactory fashion. You know that problems of that nature don't usually afflict wizards until they're well into their hundreds."
I could tell immediately from her face that I made a mistake.
"I meant that you should make sure he had a heart, Hermione, not a prick!" she shouted. "Why on earth are you thinking about Snape's nether regions?"
"I'm not," I grumped. "The man's just going to lend me a book. Forget I said anything."
We sat there in silence, Ginny far from mollified. I cut my meat into tinier and tinier pieces and smashed them into my potatoes. I didn't want the elves to feel bad because of my lack of appetite.
I was bothered by her dismissal of Professor Snape. It's true that I thought he was a starchy, stick-up-his-arse teacher, but he was a good man with a streak of genius as wide and bottomless as his guitar-playing was tepid-baby-pool-shallow. Listening to Ginny rant about him disquieted me.
"You know, he's not a monster. I told Ron that I thought Professor Snape had a good sense of humor, and he immediately started casting Auror-grade detection spells on me. I don't understand why everyone is so fast to hate him." I cast a sideways glance up at the Head Table. The Potions Master was not in his normal seat next to Professor Sinistra, and I swiveled slightly to see him standing next to a second year Hufflepuff boy.
Who was balling his eyes out.
When I glanced back at Ginny, she wore an I-told-you-so-expression that set my teeth on edge. Because of her smug attitude, I neglected to clue her in to the fact that she had catsup smeared by her mouth. "Let me guess, Herms. You're thinking to yourself, 'Yes, in school he was a wretched git who frequently made me cry over cracks about my personal appearance, but it was his persona… part of the waaaaaaar effort.'"
I didn't appreciate how whiny she made me sound, so I also neglected to tell her she had mashed potatoes in her hair. "Tone aside, yes that's exactly what I think."
"Then why didn't the arse drop it when the war was over? Why did he continue to target Gryffindors and pick on children? Did you know that last week he told that fourth year, Ravelle D'ar-whatever-her-name-is that he had poisoned her toad? She came to Poppy screaming and carrying on for an antidote, only for us to discover it was just a sedative. Git, Hermione. Pure and simple."
I remembered the incident. I also remembered how quiet he was that evening as we brewed together in his lab. His mouth had been more pinched than normal, and his insults lacked their habitual creative flare. "Gin, he'd told her twice not to bring the toad to class. He was trying to emphasize that the classroom is full of dangerous chemicals and her toad could get hurt." I paused and took a sip of my pumpkin juice to give myself a moment to organize my thoughts. "Don't you think that after years and years and years of wearing that persona, he might not know how to take it off? That maybe the lines between Severus Snape the man and Severus Snape the spy got blurred until he's not sure which is which?"
Ginny pulled the napkin out from where she'd tucked it into her collar like a bib on a toddler. "I don't know, Herms. Do you really want to get close enough to take a peek beneath? What if the softer side of Snape doesn't exist?"
I sat back, satisfied that I'd at least gotten her to listen. "It's not like I'm talking about embarking on a passionate affair with the man. I just want to try to be friends."
Sighing, she said, "All right. I'll stop picking at you, and I won't tell Harry or Ron. God knows they'd cause a scene."
"Thanks, Ginny." In a moment of charity, I leaned forward and patted her on the hand. "You have a touch of catsup on your face and a glob of potato in your hair."
She shrugged, disinterested, and bit into a piece of broccoli.
Professor Snape's quarters were notoriously difficult to find unless he expected you. Being a private man, the entrance was coy, appearing where it shouldn't, opening onto blank walls, disappearing as you reached for it. Occasionally, the door was nothing but an elaborate trompe l'oeil, painted brick to trick the unobservant.
When I touched the green carved door at the end of the dungeon hallway, its animated snakes writhing, I was both unaccountably nervous and elated.
Nervous because I was about to enter into the Potion Master's private sanctum, a place I'd never seen; elated because he'd invited me.
I'd listen to "Call me on the Fellytone" all night if it meant that he'd open up to me, even if just a little bit. Although I hoped I didn't have to, because ugh.
Professor Snape opened to my knock, and my stomach clenched, a visceral reaction to his solemn eyes and the soft black jumper that stretched over his lean frame. Stepping back, he opened his hand in an inviting gesture. "Please," he said. His voice, softer than I was used to, lacked the edge that was present when we were together in the lab or classroom.
"Thank you," I murmured. I felt his eyes sweep from my sleakeasied hair to the dress I was wearing. I couldn't help but wonder when the last time was that he'd had a female in his quarters. I wondered if he'd ever brought a woman back to his rooms at Hogwarts.
I stopped dead when I saw his living room. My mouth hit my chest. This was not what I expected at all. I had imagined a cramped study, overflowing with books, papers stacked untidily, quills scattered; a room that was dusty perhaps because Professor Snape didn't trust the house elves to treat his books with the respect they deserved. I pictured it dark and dreary.
Instead, I walked into a room with shining hardwood floors covered with thick sheepskins. Four enormous windows lined the exterior wall, tall and deep enough for a full-grown man to stand upright. Although he was in the dungeons, he'd charmed them to show the moon rising over the lake. It made sense. He was a man who liked to read, and Hogwarts lacked electricity. While at night, he'd have to rely on candles like everyone else. During the day, this room probably filled to the rafters with sunshine.
The only furniture in the room was a slightly-worn, brown couch, a leather wingback chair, and an antique potions bench that functioned as a coffee table. There was a single bookshelf on the far wall that stretched from floor to ceiling, and on it –
"That is the single most clever thing I've ever seen," I gasped, lust in my heart. I danced over to the bookshelf and ran my hand over the thousands? hundreds of thousands? of shrunken books stacked there. Knowing him as the merciless and impatient Potions Master, I was positive that he'd also cast a lightening and indexing charm on each book for easy access. "How many are there?"
"97,243." He cleared his throat. "If you are quite done rubbing up against my furniture…"
I turned to him to see his arm outstretched, holding a glass of red wine. When I took it from him, our fingers didn't touch.
"None for you?"
"I don't drink."
The implications of that statement didn't escape me. After being a double agent for twenty years, it was no wonder the man was a recovering alcoholic. I had an image of him curled up in that wingback chair after a particularly brutal night of Muggle baiting, tossing back firewhiskey after firewhiskey in the hopes of replacing the burn in his mind with a burn in his gut. But, I just smiled and accepted the glass. The man was entitled to his demons.
We watched each other in peaceful silence.
"Will you sit? Please make yourself comfortable." Again, he made that curious welcoming gesture; curious only because it was strange to think of Professor Snape welcoming me anywhere but into his lab, and even that only grudgingly. Still, the man never said or did anything that he didn't explicitly mean.
So, I sat. I crossed one leg over the other, and wove my fingers together around my knee, waiting for some indication from Professor Snape on how this evening should go. What did he see this meaning? Was this a step towards friendship? Was he merely indulging my idle curiosity?
No. Never that. I remembered the nearly disappointed slump to his shoulders when I had answered that I wanted to hear him play because I was curious. He'd only consented when I said that I wanted to be friends. I eyed the flickering lights which were scattered around the room on tall, twisting candelabras whose lines defied the eye to follow them. Did he view this as a date?
I didn't know what I wanted this to be. This had started as curiosity, it's true. But each little glimpse I got beneath the man's armor made me want to peel another layer from him until I discovered the person beneath the pretenses.
"How long have you been playing?" I asked.
"I started playing bass before switching to classical guitar almost twenty years ago… As long as you have been alive," he said, and then his mouth tightened and his eyes widened. Before I could say another word, he walked away from me, muttering, "Let's get this over with, then."
When he returned, he was carrying a classical guitar, not the bass I had been picturing for the last few weeks. I hadn't lied to Professor Snape when I told him that I didn't play an instrument, and I was only able to recognize it because the tuning pegs on the headstock were facing the back of the guitar, instead of out to the side like an acoustic.
Had he rearranged "Jingle Spells" as a classical piece? Was "Transfigure My Heart" now filled with sweeping arpeggios that wept gently from his fingers? I swallowed my laugh, and pasting a smile on my face, I prepared to remain polite no matter how badly he played.
Professor Snape sat stiff and straight in the wingback chair to my right. He cradled his guitar and took a deep breath. "This is… important to me. I'd prefer you not mention that I play to any of your little friends."
"I promise you that I won't say a word. I admit that I don't know why you've decided to share this part of yourself with me." Here, I bit my lip as I felt a bit bad that I'd nearly put a crowbar to his ribs in order to force him to open to me. "But I value this, and it would end if I shared your confidences with Harry or Ron."
He nodded slowly, his mouth a straight but gentle line. Without another word, he bent over, his face near the juncture of the body of his guitar and the twelfth fret.
(A/N: This is the song that Professor Snape plays. Please take a moment to listen, or listen as you read the next part:
Remove the spaces:
http : / / www . youtube . com / watch ? v = xcFB009XkO8
If this link doesn't work [because the ways of ffn are crafty!], go to http : / / www . youtube . com / user / johnclarkemusic , and choose "Romance (Jeux Interdits).")
When he began to play, I fumbled and nearly dropped my wine glass. I didn't recognize the song, but it didn't matter. The notes poured out of him, and I could feel them stroke against my skin, enter my mouth, and crawl down my throat.
The music was alive and curled between us. The melody line was so bright and clear, and the broken chords quaked beneath it adding depth and color and emotion. His left hand danced over the fret board, lithe and relaxed as he made his guitar shiver and sing.
Professor Snape's face was unrecognizable. His lips pursed lightly and his brows drew together and then eased apart as if he was having a conversation with the music. I'd never seen that expression on his face before. No, I might have seen an echo of it on Harry's face when he stroked a hand down Ginny's arm, or on Ron's when he held George and Angelina's first child, but no, never on Severus Snape. Up until last week, I would have guessed that his range included "forbidding" and "marginally less forbidding." This was tender.
When his hands finally stilled a few moments – an eternity – later, his eyes flicked to mine and captured me. He didn't say anything, just watched me, his face nearly cradled by the body of his guitar until he slowly, slowly straightened, letting the emotion ease until I could breathe again.
Lifting his brows, he said in a voice made husky by emotion, "That was Romanza. Well? Has your unholy curiosity been satisfied?"
What was I supposed to say? I opened my mouth, but all that emerged were gasping breaths as I tried to still my heart from the pure and defiant beauty that had just cocooned me… beauty that Severus Snape had wrung from next to nothing with just his hands and catgut.
His gaze darted from my eyes to my cheeks to my heaving chest and back to my eyes and locked there. At this distance, I couldn't help but notice that his left eye had a lighter gray starburst radiating out from his pupil. Tension stretched between us, a current that flowed back and forth. With every breath I took, he exhaled; he exhaled every breath I took. Unable to help myself, I reached forward and placed my hand directly over his heart, feeling it batter against my hand like a bird trying to escape from a cage.
"Ms. Gra- Hermione," he whispered, leaning forward.
Oh god, he was going to kiss me. I wanted it desperately; to feel his lips press mine, to taste that shocking passion to which I had just been exposed. I could lick it from his mouth if I could get past this sudden, choking guilt for the way I'd used him and tricked him into sharing his innermost being.
He was barely a hand's span from me when a hot tear spilled from my eye, and I sat back, ashamed. I couldn't do it. Not this way. "I have to go."
He straightened, his hand white-knuckled around the fret board. He didn't call me back as I ran from him, but his dark eyes expressed regret when I turned to glance at him one more time before I slipped out his door.
I sat on the couch in my small quarters crying. I had never been more ashamed of myself.
Before prying my way into Professor Snape's life, I had justified my intrusion. I believed I was throwing an old man a bone, a hand of friendship. I thought he'd be fatuously thankful; tamed to the first gentle hand that reached out to him. I piously told myself that I'd be willing to suffer his wretched music for my cause, and in fact, I expected it because surely a man such as Professor Snape couldn't grow or be beautiful.
The absurdity of it all had attracted me, and I took pleasure in the mortification that he'd feel should he discover I knew about Schadenfreude. (If that wasn't irony.) Yes, I'd been interested in becoming friends with him, but only because I thought I'd discovered his feet of clay.
If I'd let him open to me naturally, without manipulating him into thinking that I saw more in him than I did, the time spent together in his quarters would have been something precious. Instead, his beauty startled me and showed me that I was a vulgar creature, tricking others into thinking that my wan and sickly light was the sun.
I'd ruined it with my impatient, impetuous nature. How was I going to face him across the potions bench now? I was sure I'd lost our grouchy camaraderie with my foolish behavior, and now that I knew some small part of the heart that lay beneath those black robes, I mourned it even more.
A knock at the door interrupted my burst of self pity. God, it was probably Ginny coming to ask me if I'd been able to catch a peek at the softer side of Snape. My red-rimmed eyes would do nothing but make her think he'd verbally savaged me. I cast a glamour small enough that I hoped she wouldn't notice.
Smoothing the wrinkles from my dress, I opened the door. The serene expression on my face faltered when I saw that Professor Snape stood before me. Strands of inky black hair at his temples had been pulled from the queue secured at the base of his neck. His posture was loose and his forearm rested on the outside frame of the door. I could see the shadow of his dark mark.
"Ms. Granger, will you please invite me in?"
I stepped aside to allow him enough room and – "Professor, have you been drinking?" He smelled faintly of firewhiskey when he brushed by me. Good lord, I was going to be the man's ruination.
His mouth twitched. "I don't drink because I don't like the taste, but I needed something… fortifying. Don't make it sound like I've fallen off the wagon, for gods' sake."
I felt a wave of heat rush from my face to my belly when I realized that I'd done it again. Without knowing anything about this man, I'd decided he turned down a glass of wine because he was a recovering alcoholic or because as a spy he hadn't been able to drink due to the fact it could loosen his tongue and compromise his cover. I bit my lip in mortification.
"Don't look so upset, Ms. Granger," he began, glancing at my face for the first time since I opened my door. Arrested, he looked again, his head cocked. Slowly, he squinted until he had me pinned by his black and grey eyes.
What little color he'd had in his sallow cheeks drained away, and he gestured sharply, dispelling my glamour and revealing my red-rimmed eyes. One of his fine-fingered hands made an abortive gesture towards my face, but he caught himself and tucked his arms over his chest. "I… I didn't mean to frighten you, Ms. Granger. I apologize if I did anything to make you feel as if I expected your attentions." Despite his sneer, Professor Snape spoke to me as if I was a small, frightened thing, quick to claw or bolt.
"No!" I interjected. "That's not it at all."
"Did I misinterpret things between us, Hermione?" He stumbled over my name, but hearing it from him in his velvet voice caused a flush of heat to crawl up my neck.
Words fell from my mouth before I could swallow them back down. "N-no, not at all! Your music touched me so deeply. It was like a heat on my skin, but…" I trailed off, unwilling to extinguish the hope that flared in his eyes at my words. His mouth lost a fraction of its pinched look.
He stepped forward, and I leaned back, my shoulder blades hitting the wall behind me. Professor Snape braced his arms on either side of my head and whispered, "If you tell me to stop, I will, Hermione." His breath washed down my neck.
I whimpered at the way he caressed my name and because he smelled so good – like bergamot and lemongrass and because his lips touched the point of my jaw below my ear and his body was so warm against mine and –
"No, stop!" I gasped.
He pulled back to look me in the face, his body nearly vibrating from tension. Sighing, he said, "I can't seem to help making a fool of myself."
"No, no. It's not that." I turned my face away so I didn't have to look at him and said, "I've deceived you."
He was gone, moved away ten feet because of my admission.
"I'm sorry, I wish I hadn't," I whimpered. "I didn't even realize I was doing it at first, but when I heard you play I understood what I'd done." Too many words. I felt them get caught in my throat.
"I don't understand." The stentorian edge was back in his voice, and it was hard, and it hurt me.
Blinking, tears burned down my dry and abused cheeks. "I made you think that I saw you. But I didn't."
Professor Snape hissed, "You are going to have to be clearer than that if you expect me to understand what you're talking about, for fuck's sake."
I walked into my bedroom, and when I returned I held the Schadenfreude record out to him. "I found this at a swap meet with my parents."
His eyes widened, the grey standing stark against the black. In haste, he flipped it over and scanned the track listings, before returning once more to gaze at the cover.
"I'm so sorry. I wasn't trying to embarrass you. I just loved that you'd once been a silly boy in a band, and I used it to force you to open up to me, and…"
"…you showed me a part of yourself that was just so beautiful and I felt tawdry for using you. I'm no better than Harry or Ron. I was nosy and smug and… disdainful." I stuttered to a stop when I felt his warm and calloused hand cup my cheek.
"I've been looking everywhere for a copy of this. I didn't think I'd ever find one." His thumb stroked over my lips.
My eyes jerked to his and shock immobilized me when I saw how kind his gaze was. He tucked a lock of hair behind my ear.
"Are you angry?"
His arms slid around me. "Yes, absolutely furious for your use of Slytherin tactics to become closer to me." A contented rumble emerged from his chest. "My little Gryffindor, I'd just about despaired of getting you to notice that I was trying to court you. Subtlety is lost on you."
I gaped, shocked at his warmth. "You were? When? In between the comments about my hair and threatening to use my cat to make vagina wigs for whores with the clap?"
He pursed his lips. "I accepted you as my apprentice. In the twenty-five years I've been at Hogwarts, I've never done that before." His tone was mild. "I let you rearrange my storeroom without complaint. I let you spend an obscene amount of money so that you could purchase the Abyssinian shrivelfigs instead of the Chinese ones, even though it makes no difference."
"I'll have you know that I read a very convincing article…" I huffed.
"That I told you was rubbish."
"…Which posited that the dryer climate made Abyssinian shrivelfigs more potent."
"It's a ridiculous assertion, but I let you test it out, even to the detriment of the Potions budget."
I paused, sucking my lower lip into my mouth. Professor Snape watched me, interested. "I just thought all that meant you thought I was smart and a good Potions apprentice."
"I do think you're smart and a good Potions apprentice… but I'd also like to deepen our acquaintance to something more familiar." His voice was low and hypnotizing. A hint of something wry curled in his throat when he added, "Really, I thought I was being perfectly clear."
"Oh, but I can't believe you're not more upset that I know about Schadenfreude. You butchered a Muggle Christmas carol. Angels wept at the horror of it!"
"Obviously, I'd prefer you didn't spread that information around to Potter or any of the Weasleys, the only secret that really matters to me I volunteered to you of my own free will. Schadenfreude is easily chalked up to youthful folly. It was an outlet for me to escape when Voldemort started going completely insane at the start of the first war."
He released me and stepped back, dragging a finger over the cover of the record. "Regulus Black," he pointed at the taller of the boys. "Cranston Yaxley," he said of the black haired lad with a surprised and dopey expression on his face. "We had this pressed just before the Dark Lord killed the Potters. And now, I'm the only one left."
"Your band mates were fellow Death Eaters?"
"Just baby ones. They didn't know what they were getting into when they signed up. Both died in the first year after Lily." He shrugged as if it didn't matter, but I saw him swallow hard against a lump in his throat. "They were good lads both."
I rubbed my palm in circles against his back.
"Can I have this?" At my nod, he smiled.
The air of the room, which had weighed heavily against my heart, lightened suddenly, allowing me to pull a deep breath of hopeful air into my chest. Maybe this would work, this gorgeous, leprous thing grown between us so suddenly that it stole my breath.
My mouth curling, I teased, "Don't fib to me now. You have bleached your teeth, haven't you? Keep in mind you're talking to the daughter of two dentists."
He laughed, and my knees went weak at the complete and utter sensuality of the sound. "Of course I did. I was trying to attract the attention of a witch nineteen years my junior."
"Hmm?" He tightened his arm around my waist and pulled me towards him so that our chests were touching.
Stroking down his back, I hummed in appreciation of the taut muscles I felt beneath my fingers. "You've got my attention."
"Good," he said and kissed me.
(A/N: This is the song that Professor Snape plays. Please take a moment to listen, or listen as you read the next part:
Remove the spaces:
http : / / www . youtube . com / watch ? v = J46eGwqzrxk
If this link doesn't work [because the ways of ffn are crafty!], go to http : / / www . youtube . com / user / johnclarkemusic , and choose "Tempestad." It's on the right near the bottom.)
Five Years Later
I was sprawled on his couch, books covering the cushions around me, an itemized list of topics I wanted to cover for my review balanced on my knee. I was set to study for my Mastery, and really, I should have already started an hour ago, but the man in front of me was a visual feast.
Severus leaned back in his wingback chair, one leg draped over the arm, guitar in his lap, plucking out the Tempestad. His shirt was untucked and misbuttoned, and his hair ruffled around his shoulders, made messy from the last thirty minutes tangled around my hands.
"God, you make it difficult to study," I said, leaning back against the arm of the couch, a leg bent to my chest.
"Why should I be interested in making this easy on you? When I'm hard, I end up mussed and happy and you end up curled on my couch wearing my shirt and nothing else." He yawned, baring his teeth, before giving me a very satisfied smile.
"Ooh, when you're hard…" I huffed, amused. "That was dirty meant, I'm sure."
"There's no such thing between you and me, Hermione." He tipped his head back until it rested on the chair and tapped the rhythm of his song over the sound hole of his guitar.
"You just want me to fail so that I'll be doomed to be your apprentice for another year." I'd emptied my voice of even a hint of doubt or hope.
"Yes, I'll take particular schadenfreude in it, too." He smirked. His fingers flexed powerfully, and he played a riotous flourish before moving into the next movement of Tempestad. "Although, really? It hardly matters. I'm planning to keep you forever whether you're my apprentice or not."
"Really?" I tried not to sound delighted.
He opened one eye and peeked at me. "Of course. Didn't you know, my little Gryffindor? You're mine now. I'm afraid you'll never be free of me."
I stood up and walked over to him, very aware of the fact that I wasn't wearing knickers. Quieting the strings suddenly, he rested his guitar on the floor next to the chair and opened his arms to me. "It's nice to have these things confirmed," I sighed into his neck.
Severus didn't reply since his hands had slid up my hips, and he was far too busy concentrating on other things.