Author: Aurette PM
Can two emotionally underdeveloped people make a complete hash of everything? Easily. AU, EWE, M for reason. HEA Guaranteed.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Severus S. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 12,698 - Reviews: 162 - Favs: 268 - Follows: 34 - Published: 09-10-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7370837
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: The First Rule of Write Club is… Well, we all know the First Rule of Write Club. However, many of you might not know that the Thirty-second Rule of Write Club is, 'Do Not Buy A Purple Computer.' "Oh, it's pretty!" should not ever be a part of the process of buying electronic equipment. Trust me. You will spend more time staring at its dead purpleness, than actually using it to write anything. Thank the Interwebs that I didn't get rid of my old, dying, boring-gray computer when I had the chance. It's held together with duct tape and paperclips, and runs only when I hook it up to the hamster wheel and water the hamster with soy chai lattes, but it allows me to bring you this story.
Okay, now that we have taken care of important announcements, we move onto the next order of business, namely, that this fic was beta'd by astopperindeath, and Brit-Picked by my Hebe GB. Any mistakes you find are mine, since I am always noodling with them right up until I post.
Lastly, I don't own this, and am making no money off of it. If I did, I might could afford to fix stupid purple computers.
On with our tale…
Records later showed that the wedding had been held on the hottest day recorded in Ottery St. Catchpole's history, since the year 1765. However, the heat was only one of the many minor disasters that had added up to the Worst Wedding in Memory.
Even though Cooling Charms had been the order of the day, Molly Weasley had been nearly inconsolable when it was discovered that the wedding cake had melted into a pile of goo before the first guest had even arrived.
The Mother of the Bride had sat rigidly next to her husband and did her best to alienate nearly everyone, including her daughter.
Before the ceremony had even begun, the fairies had escaped their bindings and taken off, only to be eaten by the doves that had decided to rebel against their symbolism. The birds had madly swooped over the gathered guests in search of their brightly lit prey, defecating on anyone not fast enough to get out of the way.
The buffet table had been overturned in the ensuing panic.
One of the lowest points of the whole fiasco had to be the vows. When Hermione Granger, looking pale and overwhelmed by the yards of tulle that seemed to be strangling her, had choked out a hoarse 'I do,' Severus Snape, who'd been standing next to Minerva McGonagall, had promptly thrown up on his shoes.
Upon seeing that, the poor bride had fainted dead away.
The groom, who'd been preoccupied with laughing at Snape, failed to catch her.
But as farcical as all that had been, everyone that was there later agreed that the most shocking moment of all happened immediately after that…
Eighteen months earlier…
Severus Snape, who had recovered as much as he was going to in the hospital, accepted his award—both the medal and the honorarium—and retired to a small cottage in the Wizarding village of North Kielder, in Northumberland.
It had taken him the better part of two years to fully regain his strength after surviving Nagini's bite, so he kept his life simple and reveled in the peace and solitude.
He settled down to a pleasant, if not slightly dull routine of going for long walks, puttering in his garden of potion ingredients, submitting papers to various journals, and the occasional evening down at his local pub, where he became an irregular. He had one or two friends, two or three lovers, and three or four acquaintances in the village despite his curmudgeonly demeanor.
He was comfortable with his rather unexciting and extremely routine life for the most part.
Therefore, the chiming of his wards on a Saturday afternoon had confused him terribly at first. Aside from Minerva, no one ever visited him without invitation, and she had been by for tea a month ago and was not due to drop by for at least another month.
He pulled open the door and stared for a long moment, before pocketing his wand and greeting his visitor.
"Miss Granger. How… unexpected."
"I'm not teaching anymore. A simple mister will suffice."
She smiled at him, her light-brown eyes crinkling. "I was hoping I could persuade you to change that. I happen to be in need of a teacher."
He didn't understand why he hadn't simply shut the door in her face. No good had ever come from any of his interactions with one of the Golden Trio. All he could think of was that he was too tired to bother. He invited her into his little cottage, made her tea, and listened with something vaguely akin to patience, as she nattered on about her needs. It seemed the chit had never taken her N.E.W.T.s, and until she was certified in certain subjects, she would continue to be limited as far as advancement choices in her department. Before the evening had even fully set in, he agreed to tutor her in Potions and Defense so she could make Investigative Auror the following year. The Ministry would pay his fee and for whatever books and supplies he deemed necessary.
It occurred to him immediately that he might get the Ministry to cough up the funds for some rather costly ingredients he'd been saving up for with a minimum of creative paperwork.
It occurred to him after he'd shut the door behind her that he must have been more bored with his life than he'd thought.
They scheduled their tutoring sessions for three days a week. She took half-days at work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and always arrived promptly at his door at two in the afternoon. She tended to stay until about seven o'clock, although no formal time to finish had ever been set.
He found tutoring her to be nowhere near as annoying as when she'd been a student at Hogwarts. She'd become a poised, witty, and quietly ambitious young woman. He also noticed a streak of fragility in her that he suspected hadn't been there until after the war. Peace always demanded its price.
They got on well enough for the first six months. He rather enjoyed the experience over all. His autocratic manner gave way over time to the more relaxed relationship he'd shared with his former colleagues. He even found himself paying attention when she would blather on about her friends, coworkers, and her lover, Weasley, far more than he'd ever bothered to listen to Minerva, Filius, or Hooch talk about their escapades.
The fact that he had no vested interest in, well, anything, made the occasional bit of gossip less grating than he'd always found it before.
Had it only been a six-month course of study, they would have both walked away from the situation unscathed. They most likely would have remained friendly, glad to see each other at the various galas or affairs the Ministry gave for charity. Perhaps sending the odd Christmas card for the first few years after.
But with her work schedule and the amount of revision she needed after several years away, it had taken a year…
She danced into his little cottage, twirled in a circle, and held her hand out, showing off a ruby set with tiny diamonds. He gave it a cursory glance and went back to his journal.
"So he finally asked you. Took him long enough."
He thought the ring foolish. It was too small to be impressive, and most likely so expensive the poor sod would be still paying for it when he was a grandfather.
"Be nice," she admonished with a laugh, dragging out her cauldron and gathering her supplies. "It took time for the dust to settle after the battle, that's all. We didn't want to rush into something that might have just been the euphoria of survival."
"Okay, 'I'. He's rather smug in an adorably 'I-told-you-so' kind of way. I just thought it would be better to wait a bit. I'm mature enough to admit waiting might have been silly."
"Indeed. If my years of experience have taught me anything, it would be that seizing the moment has its benefits. Waiting can be a lonely business."
The silence after that statement stretched, and he looked up from his notes to see her giving him a searching look.
He frowned, but then gave her a little bow. "Congratulations, Hermione. I think the two of you will be very happy together."
"Thank you, Severus."
It was in the weeks that followed that things began to change. He didn't know when he first began to feel protective. Certainly, the young woman had found a way past his first line of defense, but he really didn't know when she'd slipped past the second.
He theorized it was when she began to express her fears to him.
She'd lost control of the wedding plans early in the process. Her own parents had started to feel left out and had wasted no time in letting her know it. Snape thought them rather selfish, since it had been their idea to stay in Australia. How were they supposed to be involved from halfway around the globe? Was it really so hard to keep their insecurities to themselves?
"Molly is just excited, Granger. You make her sound like a harridan. I've known her for years. She's a rational woman. You only need express that you feel this way, and she'll back off."
"I can't. I don't want to hurt her feelings," she said miserably, thumbing through another tome about the Dark Arts.
"So you let her run rough-shod all over yours? Since when did you become a martyr?"
She just shook her head in wonder.
"Is your mother still screeching at you?" he asked.
"It's more of a shrill whine than a screech."
He scowled. "Gods, why don't the two of you just go to the Ministry and be done with it. You young people always make it seem like the bloody wedding day is the goal, or that tacky dress. It's not. It's what comes after, or it's supposed to be."
She snatched up a text and jerked it open to her bookmark. "My dress isn't tacky," she muttered under her breath.
He snorted and gathered his robes together as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Is it white?"
"Are you a virgin ready to sacrifice her maidenhead to finally be welcomed into society as a full woman?"
"Don't be daft."
"Then I rest my case." He waved a hand. "The dress is a symbol of a way of life that has passed. It's become a maudlin joke and a monument to a foolish waste of resources. Think of it. How much money are you spending on this? What is it really besides a bloody vow and an excuse to throw a party? Just go to the damned Ministry Records Office, and then drag your chums down the pub. Think of the money you could save. It would make a down payment on a house."
She looked back at him with her brown eyes too large in her pale face. "We'll have a house. My parents are giving us theirs. They've decided that after the wedding they won't come back to the UK until we have children."
Snape threw his hands up and turned away from her in disgust. "Lovely. No pressure there…"
She was quiet for so long that he thought she'd started reading. When she spoke again, he had to strain to hear her. "I actually asked Ron if we could. I had an anxiety attack at work, and Neville sent for Ron. When I could breathe again, I asked him if we couldn't just pop upstairs and have them marry us and get it over with."
He grimaced and in a subdued voice asked, "What did he say?"
"Nothing. He just looked unbelievably hurt."
Snape silently shook his head.
In the weeks that followed, he became her agony aunt, swept along in all the traumatic stress of a wedding that was still nine months away.
Looking back for the moment when it had all started to go pear-shaped, he knew it had to have been when he'd impulsively tried to do something for her.
What the hell had he been thinking?
He'd made a total fuckery of trying to be a Hufflepuff.
He looked up from his journal when the ward chimed. A heartbeat later, she blew in through the door, unwrapped one of her ugly shawls from her shoulders, and dropped her satchel on the table.
"Granger, what are you doing here? You do know it's Friday, don't you? I wasn't expecting to see you until Monday."
She sighed and began pulling books out. "I know. But I've had a beastly day, and I really just want to lose myself in my studies for a while."
She looked up and then glanced around the main room of his cottage, as if only now realizing that this wasn't just his place of work, but his home. She looked from the potions bench, to his desk, to the kitchen area and then over to where he was sitting on his couch by the fire. There were only two other rooms, his bedroom and the loo.
"I hope you don't mind."
He took off his glasses and laid them down on the end table, dropping the journal on the couch next to him. "That depends. What constitutes a beastly day?"
She sat at the worktable and propped her head in her hands.
"You know Neville took Hannah to Majorca, right? Well, I was stuck finishing up his report on the Crather case—domestic assault, with kids involved. It was an ugly business. Then Molly sent me an owl to tell me that she went ahead and ordered the pumpkin-colored dresses that I hate. The ones with the big, puffy sleeves I showed you?"
He shuddered. They had been truly ugly.
"I was in the middle of those breathing exercises you showed me, trying to calm myself, when my mum called my mobile. We ended up having a row all the way back to my flat. I got home at the same time as Ron, who was wiped out by the Porcinia Perkins case that he's been working on with Harry. He asked me if there was any dinner, and I just went spare."
She looked up and peered around again, shaking her head. "He'd meant 'was there already something he could reheat for us.' I thought he wanted me to jump up and cook. I'd already verbally eviscerated him before I really heard what he was saying."
Snape unfolded his frame from the couch and walked over to her as she continued to babble.
"I feel like such an arse. I did everything I could to apologize, but I said some stupid things that I don't think he's going to forget for a while."
He picked up her wretchedly tacky shawl. "Were any of the things you said a lie?"
"Well, no. But there are ways you can say things that are a lot easier for someone to hear, you know? I don't think shrieking is one of them."
He dropped her shawl over her head and grabbed her by the elbow. "Did you ever manage to eat?"
"No. Are you throwing me out?" she asked, dragging the shawl off her face.
"No. I'm taking you to the pub."
"Oh," she said with surprise. "Oh, that would be lovely. You're such a good friend."
"I was actually thinking that if I was going to have to listen to much more, I would need a few pints first."
She laughed and followed him to the door. "You can be such a bastard."
"So you've said before."
They headed up the empty lane toward the village, shouldered their way inside The Pig's Trotter, and found a table in the corner.
"Granger," he said after their third round, "this has got to stop. Just marry the boy and let the chips fall where they may. If he cared for you at all, he would see how much this is affecting you."
"I can't," she sighed slumping down onto the table and pushing her last chip around with her finger. "Everyone wants this. Gods, it's become this beast. It has a life and momentum of its own. I swear, Snape, if I don't even show up, they won't notice." She lifted her head up and tilted her glass.
"Ronald would notice at some point later in the night, surely," he snarked from behind the rim of his glass
She snorted into her drink. "I'm not always sure about that. I mean, it's good, but I sometimes think I could be anyone, or even just a hole in the mattress."
Snape choked on his ale. He coughed and slammed it down, splashing some of it into her hair. "Christ! This is getting ridiculous! What do you see in him? He doesn't support you. He couldn't be arsed to stand up for you to his mum, and now it turns out he's a crap lay." He picked up his glass again, drained it, and signaled the bartender, Irving, for another one.
"Oh, don't go all weepy," he snapped in annoyance as her face crumpled. "I know what you see in him. I've spent the last nine months listening ad nauseum to what you see in him. I just don't know why you put up with all the other shite. Jesus. It's not that complicated. You like a person, you shag them, and if it's good, you keep them around. When it's not enjoyable anymore, you shove off."
"Says the man famous for his undying devotion to his lost love," she muttered into her glass. It gave her voice a humorous echo.
"Shut it, Granger. I wasted my life, and now I'm trying to impart some hard-earned wisdom." He leaned in close. "The wheel is round already. Don't bother reinventing it; just take my word for it."
"Alright, Wise One, tell me what I should do." She propped her head on her little fist and stared at him with her enormous, laughing eyes.
He lifted up his hand and started ticking off points, a little disturbed by how intently she was watching his fingers. "You should tell Molly to settle her arse down, tell your mother to go get stuffed, tell your partner to finish his own paperwork the next time he wants to take a jaunt, tell Harry to grow a backbone and stop whining to you about his little frigid wife—you are not one of the boys—and tell Ronald to grow a pair and learn how to use them. No, on second thoughts," he flattened his hand in front of her face. "He was always an uninspired student. Show him how to use them. Show him what needs to be done. No two people are the same, what might have worked on his last lover, obviously isn't working on you, and you are a dunderhead for not telling him so."
She laughed and downed her drink. "Actually, there haven't been any other lovers," she said, smothering a burp. "For either of us."
Snape blinked at her. "Oh. Well." He cleared his throat, and scratched at his ear. "In that case, you both might need work. I recommend some reading material and a month spent locked up together doing homework."
He shook his head, pondering how life was wasted on youth. If he had his twenty-three-year-old todger back, he'd be blazing new records for inventiveness. He scowled and drank his ale.
"So is that how it is for you now?" she asked into the uncomfortable silence that followed. "You like them, you shag them, and when they get on your nerves you shove off?"
"More or less."
"Have you got a lady friend now?"
He sighed, annoyed at his own stupidity in bringing the subject up. He'd managed to convey precious little about his own life to Granger since they'd begun working together. However, he conceded that a certain amount of quid pro quo was probably equitable at this point. "Not at the moment. My last lady friend started thinking that she wanted a more permanent arrangement, and since she knew I didn't, we broke things off. That was about four months ago."
"That sounds lonely."
He jerked his eyes to her face and was repulsed by the pity he saw there. "Really?" he snapped. "I would have thought being in love with a woman who treated me like a hopeless puppy for half my life and was dead for the other half would be the definition of lonely. Having a mature understanding with a willing woman is currently my idea of paradise."
"But there's no love."
"Love is a lie, Granger. Anyone can spend time with any other person on the planet, and if they are together long enough under the right circumstances; they will decide they are in love. It's all just window dressing to hide the fact that we are basically animals programmed to cluster up for safety, and reproduce. You should be less concerned about what the invitations look like, and more concerned about whether he's a sound business investment. If you are going to bind yourself to someone for life, I think things like financial harmony, common values, and a vested interest in helping each other reach your goals is infinitely more valuable than what color the bloody centerpieces are."
To his great irritation, her lips started to wobble. "You think I'm foolish for marrying Ron, don't you?"
"Oh, bollocks." He thunked down his empty glass. "Look. You liked him enough to be with him these last—what is it, three years?—and you're willing enough to make a commitment for life. There's nothing in what I said that says doing so is foolish. I just think you are making it all unnecessarily complicated.
"Look at Arthur and Molly. Do you honestly think they were always just a comfortable matched-set their whole lives? If you do, then you're missing the obvious implication of just how many gingers they spawned. They're together, through thick and some gods-be-damned thin, because they work as a unit. They make each other happy, and they meet each other's needs. Ask Molly about her own wedding, see if it wasn't even half as complicated."
He stood up, tossed a few coins on the table, and waited for her to finish her pint.
"You do make it seem like it's become grossly overblown," she said, as they headed for the door.
"It has." He shook his head in frustration, turning down the lane. "Look, ignore my words and go back to your idea of love. You love the fool, anyone can see that, and from what you say, he loves you. The rest is just window dressing. This stress you've been caught up in is not good for your health."
"I'm always right."
"Except when you're wrong."
They reached his cottage, set back from the road and hidden behind a copse of trees. "Are you okay to Apparate home? You're welcome to the couch."
"I'm fine," she replied. "I'll just grab my books."
"Leave them. I think you should take the weekend to just relax.
She nodded, swaying on her feet just slightly. "Thank you, Severus. I really needed this."
"I know," he said with a smirk. "A night out and a decent shag will cure many ills."
She giggled. "I'm so glad I got to know this side of you, Snape. You really are a cheeky bastard, you know that?"
"I'm content in the knowledge that if you were to spread that vicious rumor about, only Hooch would believe you."
She snorted and tightened her horrid, hand-made shawl around her shoulders, before impulsively leaning up to kiss him good night.
That had been the moment. That was when it had all changed.
It obviously hadn't been intended as anything more than a peck on the cheek, but he'd fumbled it. Friends didn't kiss Severus Snape good night, only lovers.
He'd been caught off guard…
…and turned his face the wrong way.
There is an etiquette to a kiss. Location, duration, and motivation will send a message that words will only ever fail to fully tell. Millimeters, milliseconds, and alcohol can change lives.
Her lips landed on his and stayed for just a heartbeat too long. In that heartbeat, there had been far too much time to register warmth, softness, smell, and the sound of a breath quickly drawn in through her little pointed nose. In that extra moment, before his heart had finished pumping the blood into another chamber, there had been enough time for arousal to flood in.
Hermione drew back and looked at him quizzically as he stared at her, utterly mute. Then, she raised her hand to his shoulder and kissed him again. It wasn't any different than the first kiss had been, it was just as brief, but this second time, he met her half way.
Again she pulled away, and this time backed up a step.
He straightened up and looked away, needing to somehow break free of their actions.
"Right. Well, good night then," she said, offering him banal normalcy with her voice.
He grabbed at it. "See you on Monday, Granger."
She Disapparated with a pop, and Severus walked into his house in a daze of confusion.
The next Monday afternoon, she'd arrived after her thrice weekly half-day of work and had begun chattering away as soon as she'd breached the door. She'd moved so swiftly and talked so animatedly, that he had been put in mind of a wild bird trapped in a house and desperate to get out.
It had been more than obvious that she'd wanted to forget the incident in its entirety.
After a weekend spent fretting over it, he was more than happy to oblige.
He'd snapped at her to cease prattling, and assigned her a particularly complicated potion to make in an unnecessarily short amount of time. She'd looked at him with profound gratitude and threw herself into the challenge.
The days rolled by, as texts were lectured on and debated with vigor, ingredients were chopped, cauldrons were watched, charts were drawn up, and the incident was ignored.
But it was never forgotten either.
Bodies stood too close. Hairs tended to prick up. Looks lingered too long. Breaths had come far too erratically.
Most damning were the silences that stretched until one could almost hear the air cry from the strain.
It had been nothing. An innocent goodnight kiss extended in friendship.
She was happy with her Weasley, despite what the stress of the impending wedding would have her think.
He was happy in his life without complications. He didn't want any messes.
So, they soldiered on, ignoring what was happening with quiet desperation as the days turned to weeks… and the nights turned to agony.
"Pay attention, now. After forty clockwise stirs, the aconite will start to activate. You need to agitate it for the potion to become viable, and not congeal. Watch the wrist motion." He counted off the strokes, repeating himself for emphasis, "Once, twice, scoop and change. Once, twice, scoop, and change."
She leaned in, going up on her toes to better see his hand, as he bisected the potion before changing to a counter-clockwise motion.
He could smell her light perfume—rosemary and mint, with a hint of patchouli.
"Watch, and you will see the tell-tale blanching that precedes the color change. When that happens—"
She'd leaned even closer, intent on the cauldron, and her breast had pressed against his arm. He was aware of it instantly. The reaction it had on his body was almost painfully abrupt.
Absorbed in the lesson, it took her a moment to notice.
It was only when his hand stopped—when the words choked to a halt in his throat—that she realized what she'd done and jumped back.
He turned to her, no longer able to hide the desire that had been turning closer to obsession with each passing day.
She swallowed thickly, unable to hide… anything.
Her enormous eyes were filled with guilt and embarrassment. "I'm sorry."
He held up a hand, shaking his head. "I know." He closed his eyes and drew a breath. "I know. It was nothing. This is ridiculous. I don't know why it's become so all-encompassing."
"Nor do I," she said with relief. "Well, that is to say, I have my excuses, but no good reason. I think, perhaps, it's just… curiosity."
He nodded. "It's understandable. We've just grown confused, is all. There's nothing to this."
"You're right. It's just wedding jitters."
"False doubts," he agreed. "Stress is making you lose focus, and I… I just need to find a new lady friend."
She bobbed her head manically. "We've grown fond of each other."
He nodded back in accord. "There's a certain pleasure in finding someone intellectually compatible."
"Exactly," she said. "It was just a good night kiss."
"I merely turned the wrong way." He could feel the moisture from the little puffs of her breath and see the pulse race in her long, graceful neck. Had he stepped closer to her?
"I had a rash moment," she whispered.
She was so close, staring at him with searching eyes.
"It was nothing," he repeated.
"Meaningless," she added.
Madness, a voice inside his head cried.
He lifted a hand toward her face but curled it into a fist instead. "I can't get it out of my mind," he whispered.
"I can't sleep," she admitted.
"Christ, I want you," he rasped. "I want you right now."
"Oh, gods yes..."
With a groan, he leaned down and crushed his lips to hers. There, again, was the almost electric thrill of touch. A jolt that he'd never felt before until that Friday night after the pub.
When her hands slid up around his neck, he lost control completely. He pulled her up against him and kissed her as if his very life depended on it. She tasted of cinnamon from the little sweets she enjoyed, and he swept his tongue into her mouth to capture more.
She clung to him, pressing herself against his body, and making little needy noises in her throat. It nearly drove him over the edge. The next moments were a blur of kisses and touches and a seemingly insatiable need.
There was a pop and a cough, and he dragged his mouth away from hers and blinked. She was crushed against the table with one of his legs wedged between hers. Her hair had been pulled loose, tumbling past her shoulders in wild abandon, and she had a death grip on his robes. Her enticing breasts heaved from the breaths she took as she stared at him with heavy lidded eyes.
He blinked again and turned his head. The potion was ruined and close to igniting from lack of attention. He'd never done such a thing before. Black smoke was roiling across the surface, and even as he watched, another bubble popped, belching fumes.
He couldn't comprehend what had happened.
He turned back to her and watched as she banished the potion and cleansed the air.
"Why are we doing this?" he whispered. "Why do I want you so very much?"
She just shook her head. "I don't know. I haven't been able to put you out of my thoughts for even one moment these last weeks. You've become my obsession."
He leaned forward, and looked deep into her eyes searching for an answer to his confusion. "You love Weasley. There is nothing between us."
"I know," she replied in a voice choked with repressed anguish. "There is nothing between us. We're just friends. You're my tutor. This is stupid and wrong, and I could be fired for spending departmental money to pay my tutor to kiss me. It's idiocy." She dragged her hair back off her head, scrunching her eyes closed. "I love Ron. I want to spend my life with him."
She dropped her hands and opened her eyes. "But none of that means anything when I'm near you," she whispered. "I can't make myself stop wanting you. I don't understand."
He nodded, feeling as if he finally had a handle on this madness. "Escape," he murmured. He stroked her cheek and backed away. "It's just nerves," he said. "You're scared and confused and ground down by the weight of this future you are planning. And I… I care for you, Hermione. I don't have many people I call friends. It's my support you crave. That's all."
He pulled his robes around himself and walked over to the cabinet he kept his whiskey in. "We made a mistake." He gestured at where she was still standing, leaning against the table with her arms around her waist. "Not that; that was just insanity." He poured a measure into two tumblers. "Our mistake was not talking about that damnable kiss. We tried to bury it and let it fester into something that could have been appalling."
He gestured to his couch, and she came over and took the glass he offered. They sat down, and he clinked his glass against hers.
"You love your happy idiot," he said. "And I've never been one to chase women young enough to be my daughter." He shook his head. "This is nothing more than a distraction from the details of your wedding. Your curiosity is only a wish for a bit of escapism. Stress relief."
She nodded silently, sipping her drink and laying her head against his shoulder. "That has a ring of truth to it," she said. "But you are rather mesmerizing, in an utterly peculiar way, so you can't discount the effect you have completely."
He chuckled. It felt so good to laugh in that moment.
"We need to just keep talking, girl. No more long, angst-ridden silences. This was a wonderfully absurd bit of madness, but it was madness nonetheless. What would have come of it? Would you really have thrown over your young man for a few quick shags with me? I don't want a relationship. I don't want the bother of having to please someone else. You would have ruined what you wanted for nothing."
She sighed. "I would have ruined my life with Ron and my friendship with you. I find those two things are the only thing keeping me sane these days."
"I'm fairly sure tonight's events would strongly point to the fact that sanity has gone by the wayside." He nodded at her glass. "Drink up, and go home to your Weasley, Hermione. We'll start over tomorrow."
They both felt intensely relieved after their talk. Hermione left, feeling slightly embarrassed, and extremely grateful, and Snape saw her off with a much lighter heart.
It lasted five days.
On to the next!