Three years. Only three years had passed since the death of Lord Voldemort. The end of the battle between Light and Dark. It seemed like a bad dream. And yet even now she could remember it vividly. The blood splattered on her face, hands, and jeans. The numbness and horror that some of it wasn't even hers. She remembered the elation and utter exhaustion she felt as she gazed upon Harry Potter holding Tom Riddle's head. Yes, Hermione Granger remembered everything. And she was glad it was over.
Now she was in her apartment in America, New Jersey, to be exact. Feeling better than she'd felt in years. She was attending a local university for a degree in both Potions and Arithmancy. She was twenty-two and her life was ahead of her. Smiling, she stepped out the shower and prepared for her day. Deciding comfort was most essential she donned on a pair of light blue skinnies, a simple white tee, a black blazer, and her go-to cognac, lace up, oxford wedge booties. Grabbing her bag, and keys she went the door and headed to class.
It was her only class for the day, a Potions class. Last week, her Professor had informed them that they would be having a guest lecturer for the day and Hermione was beyond excited. To her it was always interesting to hear from people who were knowledgeable in their fields, and Professor Collins would hardly let anyone else address his classroom if they weren't at least competent. Sliding into a seat next to her friend Lana, she smiled as her friend greeted her. "Hey," she said flipping her long, dark hair behind her shoulder, "are you excited about this class or what!"
Hermione grinned back at her friend, happy that she met a talented, young witch who not only turned out to be smart, but a good friend as well. "I know, and we get to have a Q & A afterwards!" Lana, was about to reply, but by now Professor Collins had entered the room. It was small class, only fifteen students seeing as it was a private magical institution. Only people with certain NEWTs scores were allowed in, sort of like the muggle ACT/SAT.
"Well, we are in for a rare treat," the fair headed man, gazing at his students. "The man that is here to talk to us is not only a Potions Master, but my personal friend, Professor Severus Snape."
The name dropped like a bombshell. It took a minute for Hermione to register what was happening. Had Professor Collins just said Severus Snape? Sure enough the man himself entered into the classroom and upon seeing him Hermione gasped. To put it simply: he looked good. Her most recent visage of him had been days after the final battle in the hospital of St. Mungos. Dumbledore, along with the now even more esteemed Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived-Twice, had finished securing pardons for all war crimes committed by people on the side of the Light. That included Severus's crimes as a spy. He was still lying in the bed, only cleaner now and with more bandages than he had when she'd apparated both of them from the shrieking shack.
After Nagini bit him, Harry and Ron had been sure he was dead. But not her. As they turned to leave she shoved three bezoars and a vial full of Fawkes's phoenix tears down her professor's throat. Then she ran to catch up with the boys. Once the battle was over, she lost herself amid the chaos and apparated the bloody, haggard man to St. Mungos. But that had been three years ago. Now, you'd never guess that he'd been bleeding, pale and fragile on the dirty floor of the shack. Now, he looked good. His hair was still long, but he had tied it back with an elastic. He was no longer thin, but simply slim and his clothes hinted at a slight muscular build. He was wearing muggle clothing! A tailored grey suit to be exact, complete with a black collared shirt and cufflinks. His look spoke of confidence, swagger. "Good morning ladies and gentlemen," he said with the rich voice she'd grown accustomed to. Smiling once more she allowed the lecture to wash over her.
"This concludes our Q&A, class dismissed," Professor Collins said cheerily after a question regarding possible positive uses for arsenic was answered. Most of the students began to exit after briefly saying goodbye to the two Potions Masters. Lana turned quickly to Hermione saying, "wasn't that a great lecture?" her brown eyes sparkling with pleasure.
"Yes, it was," Hermione responded nodding sincerely. "In fact, I was hoping to speak more to him about it."
"Oh, ok. Well, I'll just meet you in the cafeteria then." Lana said gathering her things and making her way to the door. Turning once more to the front, Hermione grabbed her own bag and made her way to the two professors who were engaged in conversation.
"Ah, Miss Granger, how are you? Did you enjoy the lecture?" her professor asked her with a small smile leaking out beneath his bristly moustache. Turning to is friend before she could reply, he said, "This is Hermione Granger, one of my top students."
"I am not surprised. Miss Granger has always been….exceptional," Severus let out smoothly. He smirked slightly at the surprised look on her face.
Giving a clearly puzzled look, the sandy haired man asked, "You two know each other?"
"Yes, I had the pleasure of being Professor Snape's student while at Hogwarts." Hermione replied evenly, only now meeting Severus's eyes.
"Oh, yes of course! Well, then you must want to catch up. Come, have lunch with me and Severus!" the jovial man said pushing his glasses back up to his face.
"Are you sure?" Hermione said turning her attention back to her professor. "Teachers and students don't generally dine together…."her voice dropped off in uncertainty.
"Nonsense! Besides, we were going to the cafeteria and students eating with their professors is not as uncommon as you'd think. And we don't mind, right Severus?"
"Not at all, Phillip."
Now they were seated at one of the several tables occupying the lunchroom. Seeing Hermione occupied with the professors, Lana signaled that they would talk later and shuffled off to her next class. Hermione sat alone on one side of the table with her former and present professors on the other side. They'd been speaking for half an hour about potions, and mainly on the subject of the lecture: volatile ingredients and their beneficial uses. Suddenly, Professor Collins sprang from his seat. "Something wrong, Phillip?" Snape said arching one eyebrow.
"It's my wife, apparently, PJ got a hold of her wand and has caused quite the fiasco. I'm afraid I'll have to bid you both good day." He said already gathering his lunch and racing out of the canteen. His departure made for an awkward pause in the once steady flow of conversation.
"So,… how's Hogwarts?" Hermione asked hoping to end the awkwardness of the moment. So far she had enjoyed being around this man again. Especially since he no longer spoke to her with vitriol.
"It's fine. The rebuilding is coming along. Albus and Minerva are in good health as well." He said sipping from is bottled water. "Hermione, how is university?"
Thrown off by his use of her first name she stammered, "I, its fine, Professor, great actually."
"Please, call me Severus."
"Ok, Severus," she smiled, before she added, "You look good, Severus. I like the suit, it suits you." Oh, gods, what a terrible pun. Now, he's going to think I'm a complete dunderhead. To her surprise he chuckled.
"Thank you, Hermione. You look good as well….exceptional, even," he crooned and then smirked at her blush.
Dear Merlin! Was he flirting with her?! Oh she hoped he was! Meeting his eyes once more, she said, "Thanks."
"Do you need to attend class soon, Hermione?" He asked noticing the crowd in the cafeteria began to thin out. To his surprise his lunch with her had been…tolerable. More than that actually. And seeing her now he was reminded by how stunning she turned out. Oh, he'd noticed it earlier, but between Dumbledore and Voldemort he had no time to stop and take in his surroundings. Now, he had time. Besides he hadn't seen Hermione since the final battle. Since Voldemort tried to kill him with that damned snake! He never got the chance to thank her, either. Truth be told, he was intrigued by her and he was still curious as to why she saved him, for it had been before he gave Potter his memories…
"Actually, no. I only have one class on Thursdays. I usually go back to my apartment to study, but I would much rather continue in your company," she answered and Severus could not help but perk up at her slight emphasis on the word much.
"There is a park close by, care to join me for a stroll?" Rising they dumped their trays and made their way out of the lunchroom and soon they were off campus. "It's been a while since I returned to the States, but I believe the park is this way." He pointed, and sure enough they spotted a wrought iron sign which read: Elliot Park.
"You visit America often?" Hermione asked after a beat.
"On occasion. As a Potioneer, travel is necessary."
"I can imagine. Especially, with you being a master." They were walking side by side. Close enough that their hands brushed each other. The contact was sending little shockwaves through Hermione and she wondered if he felt anything. They brushed once more and Hermione was disappointed to find that Severus had placed his hands in his pockets. "How long do you expect to be in Jersey?"
"Not long. I have a port key back to Scotland for later tonight." The announcement of his pending departure put a damper on the mood. He longed to stay, but he still had classes to teach. It had been three long years since he'd talked with someone with such ease. It was…refreshing. "My port key doesn't activate until ten, perhaps you wouldn't be averse to dinning with me this evening?"
Was Severus Snape asking her on a date? "Of course not. When and where?"
"At the little Italian place next to the school. Is seven ok?"
"Until then, Hermione," He gave her a small smile and then left.
Hermione was nervous. The afternoon spent with Severus, had been good. Although she was sure that the snarkier side of him was still present she was glad that he afforded her the rare opportunity to see his other side. But this afternoon had happened by accident, this was planned. The pressure was on. Mustering all her Gryffindor courage she smoothed down her wine colored skirt and entered the restaurant, her nude heels tapping across the tiled floor.
Severus was already seated, but he rose and pulled out her chair. "Thank you," she said appreciative of his gentlemanly behavior.
"Oh, I meant to ask, how do you know Professor Collins?" Hermione suddenly remembered. The food was gone and they were about halfway through dessert.
"Phil and I achieved our masters at the same time. We had plans of opening an Apothecary, but then the prophecy….Anyway, throughout both the first war and the final, Phillip has been the only true friend I've had in a very long time…." He trailed off.
"What about Dumbledore?" she prodded.
"What about him!" Snape slammed his fist on the table, attracting the attention of some of the diners and Hermione recoiled.
"I'm sorry…" she began.
"No, forgive me. It was a moment of weakness. Even though to Albus I was scarcely more than a chess piece, he was still good to me." There was the snark she remembered… "Like I said," he let out slowly regaining his calm, "Phillip is one of the only genuine friends I possess."
Slowly, she reached across the table and covered his still clenched fist with her hand. His eyes shot up at her and she smiled warmly. "I'd like to be counted in that number."