A/N: This is a one-shot I intended to post for Severus Snape's birthday but, alas, it's belated, as I just couldn't throw it together in time.
I've based this fun one-shot on a delightful image that you can find on DeviantArt (and also in the accompanying image): "The 9th of January" by Kleolanda. I've taken certain liberties, however, with the image (i.e. making all of the characters older than they appear in the artwork itself.) Other than that, though, Kleolanda's image was the basis for this little burst of inspiration. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox and own none of her associated characters. No money, just fun.
A Birthday Brightness
"Damn it, Albus!" Severus cursed, wiggling in vain against his confinements, though to no avail. "Unhand me at once!"
"Now, now, Severus," responded the elder wizard, with a twinkle in those bright blue eyes that left Severus feeling quite tentative. "If I have to force you into this celebratory occasion, then I shall. It's time we took some time out to give you ample attention. It's only fitting, my dear boy."
"I don't want 'ample attention,' you meddlesome old man!" he snarled back in retaliation.
Albus Dumbledore's mustache drooped into a frown, dwindling some of the playful glimmer of excitement Severus had previously glimpsed. "That saddens me greatly, Severus. When will you ever allow others to express their appreciation for you, particularly on this day? It's only your birthday, after all."
Severus ground his teeth together, spitting out between a menacing hiss, "I was quite content not to celebrate my birthday in the past, Albus, and you saw nothing ill will about it! You have no right to subject me to this bloody torment of yours!"
To his grave irritation, Albus's white eyebrows rose to his hairline hidden beneath his tall, pointed hat. "Dear me, is celebrating the day of your birth actual torment for you, Severus?"
"Sounds nearly homicidal in here," came a cheeky voice from the edge of the room that Severus recognized, causing every hair on the back of his neck to rise to attention.
The two wizards turned to the open doorway of the potions laboratory, where a seventh-year, confidently positioned Hermione Granger stood with her arms crossed over her chest, wearing a provocative—attractive—smirk that deepened Severus's apprehensions. He nearly slunk back in the chair that he was presently tied to by one of Albus's more challenging binding spells.
"Ahhh, Hermione!" Albus greeted with warmth. "Do come in! I trust the others are on their way?"
"They should be, Professor. The boys are probably mucking about and forgotten the time, as usual."
Hermione rolled her eyes and strolled into the laboratory carrying a heavy satchel over her shoulder. Undoubtedly, it was filled to the brim with her latest checkouts from the school library, though Severus was more leery of what other surprises might be lurking inside as well: birthday candles, dreadful party favors, or one of those god-awful birthday hats.
Severus shuddered at the thought, as Hermione threw down her bag onto the nearest working table, her back turned away from her Potions professor amusedly fastened to his desk chair and unable to escape his predicament. She wasn't aware of falling under the scowling wizard's scrutiny; he was hardly mindful of it himself, actually.
With that somewhat tamed mass of curly hair that cascaded over slender shoulders, warm, caramel irises that unfailingly looked upon him with compassion and a respect that Severus rarely experienced his whole life, and a newly formed self-assurance that only came with experience and age, Hermione Granger was quite the contrast from the swotty, insecure first year she had been when she first entered Severus Snape's Potions classroom seven years ago. That Hermione was virtually unrecognizable by the end of the war, if only to her surly, unsocial instructor. Others, most notably the ever-unperceptive Potter and his goofy sidekick, Weasley, treated the girl—nay, young woman—the same as they always had, seemingly finding nothing notably different in her character, behavior, or even her improved appearance. But Severus had.
Oh, yes, did he ever notice this older, full-bodied transformation Hermione Granger had undergone in the span of a year she had been away from Hogwarts...
The two had struck up a 'friendship' during her final year, if that's what you could call it; to others, the man seemed to merely tolerate her presence with less ill-mannered verbiage than before. Still, something had greatly altered in each of them to allow for such two stubborn, battling intellectuals to converse with one another far easier than they ever had in years' past.
Albus was aware of the oddballs' growing attachment; the rest of the staff wasn't, and so, it seemed, were the two war heroes in question. For now, the ever-insightful Headmaster would keep this hush-hush information for his own eyes to monitor. He could only hope that the two quarrelsome admirers would come to acknowledge their mutual fondness in time (and hopefully once Hermione was no longer a student but, perhaps, a full-time member of staff, if Albus played his cards right.) He was only too happy to see Severus Snape—the bitter, miserable, always detached and isolated fellow—finally catching the eye of an attractive young woman, and not just any woman, but the brightest witch to have come through Hogwarts' doors in ages. A woman who matched Severus in intellect and supposedly wasn't afraid of the ultimate challenge: winning the wizard's highly safeguarded heart.
Perhaps there was a light at the end of the tunnel after all for this grossly misunderstood man who had sacrificed so much for the benefit of so many. Severus had invariably rotten luck in managing to keep the few friendships he had, let alone maintaining anything beyond an occasional hand-holding or kind word from another.
Hermione is just the sort of light our poor, dear Severus needs, Albus mused to himself on more than one or two occasions over the past year.
Today, his sidelong glance towards the bounded Slytherin hinted at that very draw the wizard seemed either hell-bent on not acknowledging or was too stubborn to recognize as anything other than unwanted pity.
Unmindful of Albus's quiet schooling, Severus squirmed against the ropes that held him in place. "Untie me, Albus!" he growled heatedly towards his boss through clenched teeth. "I mean it."
"I'm afraid we can't risk it, Professor," Hermione interrupted; her observing smile made the man's cheeks turn a brighter shade of red. "You'll more than likely shoo us away, and you shan't have it. Not today."
"And you're just as meddlesome as he is!" Severus spat back, exasperated; he huffed and puffed against his restraints, inwardly knowing it would do him no good. "I'll take 200 points from your house! No, 300 for your impertinence, Miss Granger!"
Hermione giggled at his threat, which had more of an effect on Severus than she knew. He instantly stilled, gaping at the witch no longer with anger but in awe. She had some nerve to actually be laughing at him!
"I've been given permission by the Headmaster to be meddlesome this time, Professor, so your deducting house points is useless in this case, I'm afraid."
Severus's eyes went wide, but before he could snap at her again, the corridor outside the dungeon classroom was suddenly abuzz with rambunctious chatter. The noise grew louder and louder until it was upon them, much to the apprehended professor's chagrin. Hermione and Albus turned to the source of such ruckus when the infamous Boy Who Lived hero himself emerged in the doorway, his dark hair its usual messy disarray, flanked by his fellow Gryffindors that included freckle-faced Ron, boyishly handsome and no longer timid Neville Longbottom, and the only Slytherin amongst their rowdy pack, Draco Malfoy.
"Hello, Professor!" Harry and the boys greeted their Headmaster, all smiles and waves as they unloaded their satchels next to Hermione.
"Wonderful! Now then, do you have everything you need?"
"I think so, Sir," said Neville, tossing several pounds of sugar and flour out of his bag.
"What is the meaning of this?" came Severus's incensed voice in the corner, forcing everyone to turn their gaze in his direction.
Ron scrunched up his nose, diverting the wizard's question with a resounding, "Oi! Who tied him up?"
"Albus, enough of this! Untie me!"
"I'm afraid I can't chance it." Albus adjusted his half-moon spectacles with a twitch of his mustache. "Relax, Severus. This will be all quite painless, I can assure you."
"It was the only way we could get you to comply, Sir," Harry further explained, which did nothing to ease the pounding in Severus's head. "It shouldn't take long."
"I don't give a damn what you all have planned for me! I want nothing of it, do you hear? Nothing! Now unhand me this instant!"
The boys,—well, young men nowadays—all of whom had seen their own fair share of dangers over the past year, shrunk at the professor's magnifying anger. Apparently, Severus Snape could still make them cower, except for one: Hermione, who, on the other hand, placed a hand on her hip and stared Severus down in a challenging manner that he had never received from a pupil. Not only was it unexpected, but it stunted his anger.
"Professor Snape, I suggest you quit your bellyaching and take heart! It's your birthday, which only comes around once a year, and, whether you like it or not, we wish to celebrate it all the same! Now, with all due respect, Sir, please be silent if you can find nothing optimistic to offer up about your special day and let us treat you to something special!"
Hermione's fellow seventh-years stared at her through gaping mouths, including Draco, who was the first to draw his attention away from the courageous witch to his head of house, who also appeared stunned and at a complete loss with how to counter back. He blinked a few times, but could say nothing, and that brief lapse of silence was enough to pull Hermione back to their working station, where several ingredients, as well as pots and pans, were spread out. She began delegating tasks to everyone in that bossy air like always, whilst Albus slipped away to the opposite end of the room. Severus could see him hunched over and conversing with a house-elf who had suddenly popped into the room, holding a banquet of balloons between spindly fingers.
Oh, no you don't! Severus thought, horrified.
Albus muttered instructions to the house-elf, who bowed low and began snapping his fingers. The Potions lab was promptly transformed into the most hideous display Severus had ever witnessed: giant balloons spread from corner to corner, black, silver, and emerald streamers were strung across the walls, and fluorescent confetti trickled down from the ceilings, disappearing before it reached any of their heads.
Much to Severus's outrage, he, along with Albus and his pesky students, were also donning party hats on top of their heads. Immediately, he squirmed, snarled, and shook his head to rid himself of such a monstrosity, but the hat stayed in place, thanks in part to the house-elf's strongly shielded brand of magic.
"Damn it all, Albus!" he spat, his upper lip curled back in indignation. "Let me loose! And get this blasted thing off of my head!"
"I think it's quite becoming on you, Severus," Albus had the audacity to tease him.
Hermione and the boys were certain that if fumes could have billowed out of the wizard's ears, they most certainly would have at that moment. They began working more quickly, exercising use of both Muggle and Wizarding tactics to bake and build their professor's four-layered birthday cake; but things on their end weren't going as well as they were for their Headmaster and the house-elf...
Neville's familiar, Trevor, decided he was no longer content to remain huddled in the Gryffindor's unzipped bag and hopped onto the table, and then into the mixing bowl from whence Neville was working, sending splatters of cake mix and flour everywhere. Draco shook his fist and expressed his anger over the commotion this caused to his concentration. He demanded that Neville "get his bloody toad under bloody control," which only prodded the two into a nasty row that lasted long enough to cause everyone a splitting headache, none more so than the trapped Slytherin in the corner.
Ron laughed at the spectacle the boys' row caused, but when Neville's and Draco's bickering no longer held any appeal for him, he spent the majority of his time peering over Hermione's or Harry's shoulders and looking utterly lost with what he was supposed to be doing. More than a handful of times, Hermione was forced to poke or prod the distracted ginger back to doing what she had assigned him with—that is, when she wasn't trying to calm Neville and Draco down.
To Severus's surprise, Harry was the quietest of all, mixing and baking without objection or a grumbling, negative word. He sometimes chanced a glance over in Severus's direction, but when the professor would sneer angrily back at him, the young man with the infamous round glasses would return to his cake duties at once, wearing a small smile that unnerved Severus to the quick.
It wasn't Harry that Severus found himself mostly enamored with watching, however, despite his mounting frustrations at being forced to stay put, but the demanding Hermione taking charge, barking orders or snapping the boys back to attention when things got out of hand. That bossy know-it-all from years before was still present, only it was now less irritating and more enticing to Severus to behold, particularly since he wasn't on the receiving end of the witch's sharp whip.
It felt like hours before the students were done with Severus Snape's birthday cake—at least, to him. As they stepped back to admire the result, a single candle stood at the top of the green and white-frosted, four-tiered cake, which was surprisingly professional-looking, considering the clumsy group who had made it. They owed a great deal of thanks to Hermione for adding several of her last minute touches. The ingredients were a mixture of vanilla and chocolate, which Hermione already knew to be the professor's favorite. She placed the last finishing touch on the cake with her wand; with a flick of her wrist, the lone candle was lit. Albus, too, dimmed the laboratory with a wave of a his hand, and the atmosphere took on a warmer, understated glow that it didn't normally have. Not when Severus Snape was overseeing his own classroom.
Speaking of which, Severus was no longer stewing, griping, or even twitching against the ropes that bound him. He had gone mute several minutes ago, having been drawn into what was happening despite his attempts to remain bitterly irate. Sure, this was all way over the top—the decorations, the silly confetti spell, the birthday cake itself—but, as all turned to look upon the war hero who had forfeited so much to keep them safe (most importantly Harry), withstanding lack of any gratitude for his efforts, Severus discovered that he was secretly touched by the efforts that had gone into marking his birthday celebration by this select group of people.
He had never had a proper birthday party before. Growing up, even an acknowledgement from his parents on his actual birthday sometimes went unfulfilled or acknowledged. Here were five students who apparently admired him enough to bake him a cake. More to the point, the group was led by a determined, fiery young witch who had taken the liberty of ensuring that, for once, Severus Snape's birthday wouldn't go unnoticed, least of all by the wizard himself. Although accustomed to passing January 9th alone and without a friend at his side, Severus unexpectedly realized that he had one, if not several, people who were interested in changing that; one, perhaps, even more than all the others.
As Severus blinked, he realized that he was no longer tied to his chair. He wiggled his hands and arms freely but stayed rooted to where he was, unable to move or breathe a word. Hermione quietly transfigured a cake platter from one of their baking utensils and carried the cake over to Severus, where she crouched down before him, a welcoming smile gracing her lips.
"Happy birthday, Professor," she whispered, holding the cake out to him as a token of hers and the others' appreciation. "Won't you blow out your candle, please?"
Severus snapped his mouth shut. That long, stringy black hair that had the ability to hide the man's face fell forward, shielding much of his expression. Hermione was the only one close enough to witness the severe blush, the hidden gratefulness in his sad eyes, as well as his inability to speak properly, for he was so taken by their gesture of good will—most of all, that she was here, intent on spending this day with him.
"It's all right, Professor," she assured him softly, still smiling sweetly up at him. "We just wanted to ensure that your birthday didn't go unmarked. Believe it or not, there are good people in this world that greatly appreciate you, if you would just let them show it..."
Ron called a "Huh?" at not being able to hear what was being said, whilst the other boys looked on, anxious and waiting. It seemed that, despite the distance, Albus was the only other person present to detect what the young witch was saying privately to Severus. His eyes flashed a glint of self-satisfaction, especially at catching the intense, yet soft, exchange that passed between the two.
Silently, Severus blew out his candle, but those obsidian irises weren't glancing over his impressive cake, or the candle he had just blown out. They were staring deeply into the eyes of the knelt witch at his feet, moonstruck and bereft of anything else taking place in the room.
Yes, Albus confirmed with a glint towards the grey tabby cat who had descended upon the scene just then; she plopped down on a desk next to the Headmaster and looked up at him knowingly. Hermione is that long lost ray of light our Severus has been so in need of...
Minerva McGonagall meowed in agreement.
A/N #2: Thank you for reading! I hope it was a fun read. Reviews are always greatly appreciated.