|Tea and Sympathy
Author: Regann PM
"Heart over Mind" universe story, post-"Flower and Vine." Severus makes a new acquaintance, while we make an old one. HGSS. Written for the winner of a charity fic auction on livejournal. COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Hermione G. & Severus S. - Words: 2,191 - Reviews: 33 - Favs: 89 - Follows: 8 - Published: 09-15-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6326318
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Severus knew that both he and Hermione had made changes in the months since she had returned from Peru, adjustments that had worked to fit their lives together as they had yearned to do for when she'd been a continent away. But there was one thing time and proximity hadn't been able to accomplish where it had helped with so many others: the attitude and opinions of Carolina Granger toward Severus Snape.
Severus had only interacted with Hermione's family on a few occasions since that first meeting, but they had been enough; while William Granger continued to treat him warmly and cordially, his wife made no such effort, much to her daughter's dismay. After the second tension-filled evening he'd tried to spend with her family, Hermione had declared defeat on the matter, freeing Severus from the obligation of accompanying her whenever she went for a visit. He knew it was difficult for Hermione, having two of the people she loved most so openly hostile with each other, but there was little he could to change the fact when it was her mother who perpetuated it.
It was for this reason that Severus had come to know a little cafe not too far from Hermione's parent's home, one where he tended to loiter whenever Hermione had brief business with the Grangers. He was there that morning, in fact, because he and Hermione had plans for the day that had been delayed upon a rather urgent message from Carolina, stating she needed to see her daughter as soon as possible. She had promised she would be brief, which was why he had agreed to wait in the cafe instead of Apparating to Diagon Alley ahead of her. The atmosphere was warm and quiet, and the tea was excellent, so it was not too much of an imposition to wait.
As he took another sip from his tea, Severus noticed a woman watching him from across the cafe. There was no reason for her scrutiny: his wand was carefully hidden, his robes folded and disguised as a coat, and his white shirt and dark slacks were passably Muggle enough to blend in. Still, he could feel her eyes on him even as he focused on the Muggle newspaper he was skimming. When their eyes met, Severus tried to deter her with a glare that was very effective in the Wizarding World, but it did not seem to faze her.
He took the chance to examine her out of the corner of his eye while he pretended to read the news. She was close to his age, from what he could tell, and she was attractive, though not breathtaking, vaguely familiar in some way he could not name. Her features were sharp, framed by long dark hair, and her clothing choices could only be termed bold judging from the raspberry-colored blouse she wore and huge hammered-gold earrings dangling from her lobes.
When she realized Severus was looking her way, she caught his eye and smiled. He scowled darkly in return before pointedly diverting his attention back to the print in his hand.
A moment later, he felt the presence of someone standing near his elbow and looked up to see that it was the woman. She was at his table, a steaming mug in one hand. "May I join you?" she asked.
"I hardly see where it would be necessary," he told her. "Or appropriate."
"I'd enjoy the chance to talk with you," she said, setting her mug down on his table.
"Madam," he told her. "I do not share in that desire."
"Oh, you will," she assured him as she slid into the chair across from him.
Severus could not help but be surprised by her audacity. "Do you routinely accost men you do not know in public?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," she admitted. "Although that fact is irrelevant because I know exactly who you are, Professor Snape." She sighed, shaking her head. "I had expected the family resemblance to speak for itself by now."
Severus studied her more closely, noting the curve of her smile, the certain way she looked at him out of her eyes. Finally, the pieces fell into place. She was obviously not Carolina or the grandmother, so she must have been...
"The infamous Aunt Sophia, I presume?"
"Very good, Professor!" Her smile widened. "Hermione said you were clever; I was beginning to wonder, but at least I know you're too loyal to flirt back when a gorgeous woman approaches you. A point in your favor, sir."
Suddenly, Severus had a better picture of the emotional state that had had Carolina calling for her daughter. "I assume Mrs. Granger's unexpected summons for Hermione today is related to your arrival here in England?'
"You assume correctly." She took a sip from her mug, which Severus could tell from the strong aroma was coffee, not tea. "And I'm going to assume we have the same reason for being here at the moment."
"That reason being...?"
"Neither of us want to spend more time with Carolina than we must," Sophia explained. "Hermione's wrote to me about the difficulties you've been having with my sister."
"Hermione shares a great deal in her letters, I see," Severus said.
Sophia laughed. "More than you'd like, I'd wager, but less than you fear. She needs someone to give her good advice, since she won't get it from her mother. Especially when it comes to the subject of you."
"No doubt," Severus agreed.
"That's how I recognized you," she continued, casting a significant glance his way as she looked him up and down. "Between Hermione's descriptions and, of course, Carolina's as well. I could hardly believe my luck, this chance meeting we have between us."
"So you've come to spend time with your sister, but instead you're sitting here," Severus observed. "Pardon my saying so, but that hardly makes sense, Ms. Morazzano."
"Oh, I've spent time with her. I've been here since last night," Sophia said. "I just needed a break. If I'd known Hermione would arrive while I was here, I would've stayed, though. One of the reasons I'm in the country is to see her."
Severus could see where a respite would be needed when it came to Carolina Granger.
His thoughts must've been plain on his face. "I see you understand," Sophia said, as she settled in her chair. "I'm sure dinner is going to be quite the affair."
She nodded. "Carolina is probably inviting Hermione - and you - as we speak. She mentioned it this morning." Sophia smiled slyly, a wholly untrustworthy expression. "It'll be a novelty, not being the sole recipient of Carolina's silent disapproval for an evening."
Severus refrained from mentioning that he seldom found Carolina's disapproval of him to be silent. "Will sharing the burden make it easier on both of us?"
"Probably not, but the hope is there." Sophia quieted, as if in thought. When she spoke again, there was a seriousness in her that had been absent to that point. "Something you need to understand about Carolina, it all comes from love. Once she's satisfied you aren't going to hurt Hermione, she'll accept you. Most likely."
"And in your case?"
Sophia shrugged. "We're sisters. I gave up on acceptance a long time ago." Another pause. "I know she loves me, though. Disapproval is just part of an elder sister's nature."
"You are not what I expected," Severus admitted, thinking of the things he'd heard of Sophia from both Hermione and her mother, even the snippets of the aunt's letters he'd been privy to. While she was certainly not usual, she was not quite as outrageous as he'd come to think her to be.
"Because I'm not hanging from the ceiling beams?" She smiled a little at her private joke. "Sometimes it's difficult to lose a reputation you've gained over the years. And sometimes you use that reputation to your advantage, even if you don't like it. Do you know what I mean?"
Severus almost smiled, a fact he hid behind his tea cup. "I believe I do."
"Well, for what it is worth, you're hardly the mustache-twirling villain Carolina paints you to be, either."
"Thank you, I think."
Sophia's eyes darkened a little as she leaned toward him, voice soft and low. "That doesn't mean, however, magic or no, that I won't help my sister rip your heart out if you break Hermione's. Capisci?"
Before Severus had a chance to reply to Sophia's threat, he heard a breathless, "Aunt Sophia" sound from behind him and turned to see Hermione approaching the table.
"Cara!" Sophia was on her feet with her arms wrapped around Hermione before Severus had even noted she'd stood. "It is so good to see you, dearest!"
"You, too!" Hermione laughed and returned her embrace before gently pulling away to cast a confused look toward him. "I see you've met Severus."
"Yes and what a pleasant time we've had of it, too," Sophia told her. "He was so easily recognizable from your letters, I couldn't stop myself from coming over." She smiled in his direction. "You'll be glad to know that he was not in the least interested in entertaining the attentions of a strange, albeit lovely, woman such as myself until I made it clear I was family."
Hermione smiled at Severus, an unguarded look of affection. "I never had any doubt otherwise."
"Oh, and..." Sophia leaned in to whisper in her niece's ear. Though Severus could hear none of what she said, he watched as Hermione turned a violent shade of pink before she pulled away with another, "Aunt Sophia!"
Sophia threw her head back and laughed at Hermione's reaction, shooting Severus an amused look at his quelling expression. "I'd love to catch up with you, but I'm sure you two have plans at the moment."
"We do," Hermione said, her hand reaching for Severus's as he took his place at her side. "We'll have more time on Sunday."
Sophia nodded, as if she expected that answer. "I can't wait," she told them before giving them both affectionate kisses on the cheek. "It was lovely to meet you, Professor."
"Likewise, Ms. Morazzano."
Hermione gave her aunt another quick wave of goodbye as Severus steered her toward the door, one steady hand on her back. Once they were outside and on their way to an obscure little side street that they tended to use for Apparition into and out of Hermione's family's neighborhood, she reached up and ran a finger over Severus's cheek - obviously trying to displace the same berry-colored lipstick that stained her own face, thanks to her aunt.
"I hope she didn't say anything too embarrassing before I got there," Hermione told him as he finished the lipstick removal with a handkerchief that he leant to her for the same job. "You can never tell with Aunt Sophia. She likes to shock people sometimes."
"She was, on the whole, pleasant," Severus said. "Especially compared to your mother."
Hermione laughed at that. "In your case, that isn't saying much. My mother probably makes Lucius Malfoy seem pleasant."
"Lucius, no," Severus said. "But she does make me nostalgic for Lockhart."
Hermione laughed again, although Severus could see the sadness in her at the truth hidden in their teasing. He took her hand in his once more, hoping the small gesture expressed his sympathy. "So we're back on Sunday, are we?"
"You don't have to come," she told him quickly. "But Mum did include you in the invitation, although I believe that was Dad's influence."
"Of course, I'll accompany you." Severus decided the hardship would be worth it given the delight his promised attendance brought to her face. And he couldn't help but feel that he'd gained another ally in Sophia Morazzano, one that might even make the occasion tolerable. "I can manage for an evening."
As they ducked into the small side street, Hermione wound her arms around Severus's neck and drew his head down for a kiss, long and slow, an embrace much too heated when they were on their way to Diagon Alley and not somewhere more private. "What you endure for me."
"I would endure much more for you." Severus's own arms wrapped around her as if of their own volition. "They are really only minor annoyances in the scheme of things."
"Still they are annoying, and you do bear it admirably," Hermione smiled.
"Don't worry, my love, you'll have your turn at it," he assured her. "I'm sure Ljalja is just waiting for the chance to bring up the subject of grandchildren..."