Prompt: After losing a bet, Severus is stuck getting lessons on being a Modern Muggle from Hermione Granger (SS/HG or SS & HG). All my love and kisses to MrsHH for being my alpha, beta, sounding board, cheerleader, and an amazing friend :D
Lips pursed, Hermione lifted a package of coffee to her nose and frowned. There were enough grounds in the pack for one last full pot and she berated herself for not going to the supermarket the day before. Pushing her way through a throng of shoppers at Sainsbury's and then standing in a long queue hadn't been her idea of fun after a long work day. Yet putting off that small task left her with an almost empty fridge and an amount of coffee that would suffice for just that Saturday morning. Hermione then remembered that she still had a few slices of bread left and resigned herself to a bit of toast before heading out. She had just reached into a cabinet to pull out her favourite black currant jam when her doorbell rang.
Who the hell is visiting me at this hour?
Walking at a brisk pace towards her front door apparently wasn't fast enough for the person on the other side because they began leaning into her bell, causing it to shrill loudly.
"Do you mind?" she greeted angrily, yanking open the door. Her annoyance at being rushed fizzled upon seeing her visitor.
"I need your help."
"And good morning to you," she replied sardonically.
"This is no laughing matter, Granger. I truly do need your help, as much as it pains me to admit."
Her visitor, dressed in all black with a frown to match his dour attire, hadn't so much as cracked a smile since she opened the door. He spoke to her in a clipped tone and it was evident that he was distraught, but Hermione still couldn't figure out why he was at her house at ten in the morning. Instead of harping on that moot point, she stepped back and waited for her visitor to step inside.
"I was just making coffee," she began, shutting the door and walking back to the kitchen. "Would you care for a cup?"
"Yes, thank you."
"So tell me, Professor," Hermione continued as she began rifling through a drawer for coffee filters. "What is so important that you felt the need to visit me, of all people?"
Removing his jacket and draping it over the back of a chair, the man sat down at Hermione's kitchen table and crossed his hands. "There's no need to be so formal seeing as I'm no longer your professor."
"Well, what should I call you then? Mr. Snape?"
Her former professor pressed his lips into a thin line, but Hermione had her back turned and didn't notice.
"Severus will do, if you don't mind," he stated wryly.
"Does that mean you'll call me by my first name instead of 'Granger'?"
"Only if you insist."
Hermione turned to face Snape and blinked. "I do," she replied, raising an eyebrow. "How do you take your coffee?"
"Just a splash of milk."
Once the two were seated awkwardly across from one another Hermione took a sip from her mug, watching Snape as he curled both hands around his and stared at the rising steam.
"So...are you going to tell me what you need my help with?" she eventually asked when he kept his attention on the mug instead of her face.
"My apologies. I haven't eaten since last night and it's difficult to focus."
"Right. That still doesn't tell me anything."
"The long and short of it is I lost a bet and am unable to use magic for a week."
A range of mirth, disbelief, and then curiosity flitted across Hermione's face. She didn't think Snape was the gambling type and she wondered who he'd lost to, but all she asked was, "So what happens if you use magic?"
"Nothing pleasant," was his rather surly reply. Snape relented only after Hermione shot him a scathing glance. "The terms of losing the bet multiplies for every incidence of magic."
"Meaning, another week without magic for each time you use your wand. Wow. And there's no way around this? How would whoever you made this bet with know if you've used magic?"
"Wizarding bets aren't the same as regular ones. There's no sneaking around if you break your word and if you place a wager with a sadistic wizard who takes pleasure with inconveniencing others, then it is in your best interest to uphold your end of the bargain."
"Excuse me for being forward—actually, I take that back. You were forward in ringing my doorbell and barging in on me before noon so propriety really has no place here, but I'm sure your terms were just as if not more stringent that whoever you made this bet with."
A nasty little gleam appeared in the man's black eye and the smug smile on his lips sent a shudder down Hermione's spine, and she silently vow to never make any sort of bet with Severus Snape.
"So is that why you haven't eaten since last night?"
Snape's smug countenance slowly dissolved into something more sheepish at Hermione's question.
"I will confess that my cooking skills are limited without the use of magic. Eggs, toast and tea are easy to manage using just the hob but..."
Hermione began piecing things together in her mind. Snape was still a professor; he maintained his headmaster's position at Hogwarts yet if her calculations were correct, the school term had ended two days ago. Perhaps Snape and whoever he'd made the bet with had been indulging in a bit of adult end-of-term celebration which included some sort of spirits and revelry. It was easy to see how the bet came about, but then she realised why Snape's kitchen prowess didn't extend to more than three things.
"You were used to the house-elves supplying your meals," she interjected. "What happened when school was out for the summer? Don't tell me you ate eggs and toast every day for three months."
Snape mumbled something about his private home and a house-elf and Hermione was rent between annoyance and amusement at the tiny creature supplying the staid man with round the clock meals.
"OK, so from what I gather you need cooking lessons. No idea if you think I'm some sort of Delia Smith but I suppose I know a thing or two. In any event I don't go hungry, well, except for today. I was actually planning on going to Sainsbury's for groceries as I don't have a thing in, not unless you mind a vile tin of meat paste that I can't figure out how it ended up in my kitchen. You couldn't pay me to eat the stuff."
"I'd sooner starve than eat that mess," Snape drawled. "It reminds me of something Filch's damned cat hacked up and left on the floor outside my office."
"Charming image," Hermione groaned. "Well, finish your coffee and then off to the shops we go."
"Well, if you're going to learn how to cook you have to learn how to shop. Don't you think?" Hermione laughed when she saw the wariness etched across Snape's face. "It's a relatively painless process, I promise," she reassured. "One that shouldn't take us too long if we hurry and go now. The queues tend to get longer the later it gets on a Saturday."
The dubious look on Snape's face remained, yet he dutifully followed behind Hermione once they finished their coffee.
The drive back to Hermione's house passed in stark silence, save for the silence of Snape huffing slightly as he bent over in his seat, using a tissue to clean his shoes. What she was sure would have been a quick and easy shopping trip swiftly turned into something that sapped her well of patience completely dry.
The moment they stepped inside the crowded supermarket , Hermione immediately noticed the way Snape drew in on himself.
Tired-looking mums and dads straggled along, most of them pushing trolleys that had a younger child seated in the front while an older one tried to hang on and ride the back, sulking when they were told to get down. With every step there was a shrill cry of "I WANT THAT!" followed by "Not today, darling, besides you have enough sweeties at home," or "I've already told you that I'm not buying it, Molly."
Little Molly was seated in the front of the trolley with half her body hanging out, reaching for things as she was wheeled along. She had been perturbed by the knowledge that her mum was not going to buy whatever it was she'd been clamouring for, and proceeded to scream shrilly at the top of her lungs. Her mum kept a forced smile plastered on her face yet went on with her shopping, calmly filling her trolley while Molly yelled her head off.
Hermione was used to witnessing this sort of thing and did her best to walk past Molly and her mum; Snape, on the other hand, glared down at the little girl as if he could scare her into silence. Before Molly's mother could turn around to see the pinched faced man glowering at her child, Hermione nudged Snape in the back while hissing "Don't you dare!"His dark look, however, had the desired effect as Molly's tears immediately halted and with a frightened look on her face, she fell silent and stuck a thumb in her mouth.
The next unintentional offender had been a little old lady. First she hit Snape with her trolley and even though it had clearly been accidental, an apology was never issued. Then she cut in front of the two and proceeded to plod along as a snail's pace, pausing every so often while peering down each aisle. Having had enough of the old lady, Snape took control of the trolley Hermione had been pushing and whisked it down the next aisle. He'd been in such a rush that he hadn't noticed another trolley which had been left in the middle of the aisle. A few baguettes were sticking out of the trolley's seat and managed to catch the edge of a box on a low shelf. One box tipped into the next one and there was a domino effect as the boxes tipped into one another, leaving behind a mess on the shelf and the floor.
Some of the boxes landed right on top of the baguettes; some of them bounced on the floor and split open near Snape's feet, covering his boots in a finely-milled white powder. The owner of the trolley came rushing down the aisle, clutching a handful of smaller boxes and immediately launching into a tirade when she saw her damaged baguettes. Everyone else in the aisle paused when they heard the commotion, and Hermione squeaked a string of apologies as two employees ran over to clean up the powdery mess.
The two were still receiving dirty looks while standing in the queue. Snape had stared straight ahead, ignoring everyone and everything, while Hermione wracked her brain, trying to think of what other supermarkets she would now have to do her shopping at seeing as she would no longer be able to return to this one, which happened to be conveniently located not far from home.
"You know, that wasn't entirely my fault," Snape finally stated, breaking the tense silence. He balled the tissue in his hand and stared out the window. "The idiot who stocked those shelves clearly didn't know what they were doing."
Hermione's grip on the steering wheel tightened until her knuckles were white.
"If you say so," she replied through clenched teeth. "But seeing as how it was partly your fault, did you really need to glare at everyone? Especially that little girl? A little patience wouldn't have gone amiss."
"Say what you want, Granger, but the ends justified the means. The little brat stopped her whinging; personally I think everyone in the shop should have thanked me."
Hermione knew that she shouldn't be surprised, considering that this man was her former teacher who made pupils cry on a regular basis. However, there was a distinct difference between an eleven-year-old and a four-year-old. Summoning the strength to remain calm, she tried to distract herself from the disastrous trip to Sainsbury's.
"I'm curious—how did you get to my house?" she asked. "It's not as if you drove and since you can't use magic..."
"Let's just say that I strongly persuaded my gaoler to make one provision which was to Apparate me within walking distance."
A strange little smirk was on Snape's face and Hermione was almost tempted to ask what was going through that oily head of his.
Thankfully, lunch was an easier affair in comparison to their shopping trip. Deciding that sandwiches would be difficult to mess up, Hermione stood alongside Snape in her kitchen as they prepared their meal.
"Not bad," she announced after her first bite. "Let's see how you do with dinner."
A slightly worried look crossed Snape's face and Hermione felt vindicated; his anxiety over that night's meal was her payback for his horrid behaviour in the supermarket.
"How did you know where I lived, by the way?"
Snape cast Hermione a derisive look while taking his time to chew. "Do you honestly think that I would be ignorant of your whereabouts?" he finally replied after swallowing.
"Is that me, Ron, and Harry? Or just me?"
"The three of you. But I am curious as to what made you stay here instead of moving to a wizarding community."
Hermione shrugged as she took a small bite of her sandwich. "I suppose I'm attached to this house, which isn't all that shocking. My parents were happy to stay in Australia and had anything happened to them I would have inherited this house, so they decided that I could have it now. They visit once in a while and I've even taken them to the wizarding part of London a few times, but seeing as I grew up a Muggle, doing things without magic still feels natural."
Still musing over the changes in her life that occurred after the war, Hermione watched Snape through her lowered lashes. She got the impression that he was watching her, even as his long fingers curled around his water glass before raising it to his lips. The idea that her former professor, a man who insulted and intimidated her at every turn and was now seated across from her in her kitchen, was daunting and somewhat inconceivable. Sure he was still unpleasant—downright cynical at times, she might add—but for some reason Hermione no longer experienced an unpleasant lurch in her stomach that always seemed present whenever he was near.
Perhaps it was the fact that the wizard had humbled himself enough to ask for her assistance. Maybe it was, in spite of her job at the Ministry of Magic, she continued to reside in a purely non-magic neighbourhood which in turn brought forth people who were completely oblivious to the existence of witches and wizards. Hermione was aware that Squibs sometimes lived among Muggles—Ms. Figg came to mind, as Harry had been shocked to learn about her. Even then, Squibs usually recognised Hermione's face, as did most people when they realised she was part of the Golden Trio. That was another part of why she chose to remain in her childhood home; maintaining a bit of anonymity was not only desirable, but a necessity.
"So you know where I live, obviously," Hermione began. "And what of your home?"
Snape gave a short, humourless laugh. "It's nothing worth mentioning, I assure you. Definitely nothing as glamorous as your abode."
He didn't sound contrite or upset when he spoke about his own home; his words were very matter-of-fact and instead of placating Hermione, it made her more curious.
"Well, thank you, but where specifically is this so-called non-glamorous home located?"
"North; Spinner's End. The very house in which I was raised and am now unable to rid myself of. If I were to get a thousand quid for the place it would be a miracle."
Hermione frowned. "I'm not sure I know where that is."
"You don't need to know," Snape assured with a wry smile. "It's no place for pretty little witches like yourself."
Was he mocking her? Or was that a compliment laced with an insult? Hermione couldn't tell. Snape usually said exactly what he meant so if she were to take his words at face value then he really did think she was pretty. Unless he was being sarcastic, which was not entirely unheard of...
"Fix your face, Hermione. All I mean to say where I live isn't the nicest of places and you would stick out like a sore thumb. That isn't a bad thing, but the natives would definitely know that you don't belong."
"You don't need to be ashamed about where you come from," Hermione gently told him.
"Believe me, at the age of forty-four I really couldn't give a damn about what anyone thinks," Snape remarked with a half-smile. He looked as if he was pondering something before resuming his meal. Hermione was still mentally digesting their conversation and found it difficult to focus on her sandwich until Snape pointedly looked at her.
"I helped to make that, therefore you're supposed to eat it."
"Yeah, key words: you helped. I did some of the work, more work than you if you take into account me driving to the damned store, so I can push my plate away if I want."
Snape scoffed. "And you talk about me having no patience?"
That brought Hermione up short and, having no reply, she harrumphed at the wizard.
Again, with Snape's assistance, dinner was prepared and eaten later that evening. The rest of the day had been filled with conversation and the two watching television in Hermione's living room. Only after their meal was finished did Hermione realise that Snape was still in her house. The terms of his bet forbade him using Side-Along Apparition with anyone, and driving him back home was the only option. Snape continued flat out refusing to give specific detail as to the location of his house, which caused Hermione to become snappish and state that he would have to stay the night in her guest room.
"You're in charge of breakfast tomorrow and mind that you don't burn down my kitchen," she stated flatly after snatching the remote from Snape's hand. The two had been going through a process of turning over every other minute because of indecision on what to watch.
"I taught Potions for twenty years and kept every little miscreant who stepped inside from burning down my classroom," Snape replied, inching his hand towards the remote when Hermione put on a programme that made him sneer."I think I can handle a cooker."
"You had your wand in the classroom," reminded Hermione, switching the remote to her far hand and keeping it out of his grasp. "But if you do set something on fire, I keep an extinguisher in the cupboard. Do you need a lesson on using it?"
That comment earned Hermione a scathing glance from her house guest. Before Snape was able to reply, she began explaining where her electric kettle and coffee maker were, asking if he knew how to use them.
"As if it's that difficult," he sniffed, crossing both arms across his chest. "As it so happens I do know how to use both, even if I have a whistling kettle. Hopefully that contraption heats water properly; lukewarm tea is highly unpalatable."
"Oh, believe me, it heats up water just fine. You're liable to burn off a few layers of skin if it accidentally spills on you."
"Very nice. Anything else I should know about?"
"Let's see, there's the vacuum and the dishwasher, unless you prefer doing the washing up by hand. Also I didn't see you with a suitcase so I assume you'll want to wash your clothes at some point."
"I've already got that sorted, thanks."
Hermione stared at Snape, waiting for him to elaborate.
"Charms, Miss Granger. You do remember what a Shrinking Charm is, or have you forgotten that quickly?"
"You have an entire shrunken wardrobe in your pockets?" she asked after a long minute of silence.
"I have what I need. I always do," Snape told her before pressing his mouth into a thin line.
Sunday was an easy day for both. Hermione found that Snape was an earlier riser than her; breakfast had already been prepared when she came down to the kitchen, half-expecting to find that everything had gone pear-shaped. The coffee was a tad strong (Hermione was sure that chest hairs were going to instantly sprout beneath her robe) but surprisingly enough their meal was more than merely edible.
Even though she and her house guest were prone to sniping at one another, Hermione found that Snape was actually tolerable to be around. He helped her sort through an old box that she had been meaning to look through. The box turned out to contain things that belonged to her parents; books, some old sheet music and a chessboard. Hermione had been floored when Snape said that he was able to read the sheet music and when the sceptic look didn't leave her eyes, he took the yellowed paper in his hand and beckoned her to follow him to the living room.
The piano was shoved to one corner and had been there so long Hermione sometimes forgot about it. Her mum used to play and had taught her to play, and only when the mood struck did Hermione key out the few songs she had committed to memory.
"When's the last time you had this thing tuned?" Snape asked, frowning after striking a few keys.
"It's been some time," she admitted, watching as he sat down.
Snape was quiet as he propped up the sheet music. The piano might have been out of tune but that didn't stop the professor from displaying his rather impressive skills, and Hermione had to force her mouth shut when he was done.
"That was...very good. Excellent, in fact."
"Thank you. Do you play?"
"A bit. Well, I used to play more when I was younger. I was no Chopin but it was relaxing. Dad said he liked listening to me play, but he could have been humouring me."
It was Snape's turn to look sceptical.
"Knowing your tenacity to get things right I'd say you were just a cut below Chopin."
Hermione didn't know if that was another thinly veiled insult in the form of a compliment, and she didn't get to ask as Snape suggested they finish with the box before starting dinner.
Hermione woke up late on Monday, much later than she'd intended. She nearly slept through her alarm and Snape had knocked on her bedroom door when the obnoxious buzzing continued. She had been more tired than usual the night before but her conversation with Snape had been intriguing that sleep was forgotten about.
She was still tired upon arriving at work and tried to revive herself with a cup of tea. Half an hour after finishing her tea, her head began spinning. Folding her arms atop her desk and pressing her forehead against her hands, she berated herself for not calling in sick. Calling out was something she hated to do as she loved her job, but the only thing that would bring her comfort now was her bed.
"Hermione, are you all right?"
Hermione didn't bother with looking up to see who was standing by her desk. What little energy that remained needed to be reserved for other things, such as grabbing the bin to her right in the event her breakfast made a reappearance.
"No...I don't think so..."
"Maybe you should go back home? You won't be the only one; my secretary's called in sick too. Apparently there's some bug going round."
"Can't...home... too much work..."
"Nonsense. Up you go."
A pair of strong hands slid beneath Hermione's arms and carefully helped her to her feet. Prying open one eye, she found Mr. Weasley curiously peering into her face.
"You don't look well at all. Do you need someone to escort you home?"
"No, I think I can manage," she uttered weakly, pressing one hand to her forehead and twisting round to find her purse. "I just need to tell Kingsley that—"
"I'll pass along the message that you're unwell and need to return home," Mr. Weasley interrupted. "Besides he isn't in yet, I've just left his office."
The tiled floor refused to stay still, at least that was how it felt to Hermione. It didn't take more than a second for her to decide to take Mr. Weasley's advice, and she even accepted his offer of walking her back to the Floos.
The moment she was back in her house, the urge to vomit became stronger and Hermione practically sprinted down the hallway, wrenching open her bathroom door and making it to the toilet in perfect timing.
"Oh god," she moaned, praying that the room would stop spinning. Why the hell did her mum choose such ugly tiles for the downstairs bathroom? The floral pattern would have been pretty had it been standing still; now it was wobbling and morphing into a blob that resembled road kill.
That very thought was enough to make her already sensitive stomach do another somersault, and Hermione was still in the throes of what felt like a painful path to death when the bathroom door opened.
"Jesus Christ, Granger," Snape greeted in his customary tactless manner when he caught sight of her pale, sweaty face and heaving chest. "Did you catch someone's lurgy?"
"Go away," Hermione groaned, in no mood to deal with his crassness.
"You're not pregnant, are you?"
"You have to have sex to be pregnant."
The silence after that incredibly personal question was awkward, yet only to Snape as Hermione seemed to not give a fig about putting on airs.
"Shall I, that is, is there something I can do?" he asked uneasily after clearing his throat.
"Yeah, shut the bloody door and leave me to die in peace. I hate being sick and I don't want you to see me being sick."
"Well if this is how you're going to behave—"
Snape was cut off when Hermione began violently retching again. Instead of leaving the bathroom like she asked, he strode forward and held her hair back, waiting until she was done before helping her up.
"OK...OK," Hermione panted, dimly aware of the tight grip Snape had on her shoulders. "I think I'm fine. I just need to rinse my mouth and go to bed."
"Why didn't you stay home if you were feeling poorly?"
Giving an unenthusiastic shrug, Hermione rooted around for a flannel and doused it with cold water to wipe her face.
"I just figured it was your cooking and perhaps something that a bit of Rennie could cure."
"My pork chops weren't that bad and anyway, didn't you say you were feeling under the weather last night?"
"So I did." She paused to catch her breath, then looked down curiously. "Why am I missing a shoe?"
Snape lifted one eyebrow and slipped out of the bathroom, returning a moment later with said shoe in his hand. "I believe you ran out of it on your way to losing the breakfast I so thoughtfully prepared for you."
"Yeah, and tried to poison me with," Hermione pointed out, wishing she had the strength to laugh at the immediate petulant look on Snape's face. "I'm joking; clearly your cooking skills are to be commended because there is obviously nothing wrong with you. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to settle into a nice, comfy coma."
Hermione shuffled past Snape and slowly made her way to the steps. She had no idea that a pair of black eyes were honed in on her form as she clung to the banister and dragged herself upstairs. One shoe was still downstairs, the other on her foot, and that was kicked off. Her outfit was wrestled off and once Hermione was down to her bra and knickers, she collapsed into bed and pulled the sheet over body. Just the effort of walking to her bedroom and undressing had her knackered, and her soft mattress was a godsend.
"Just a little sleep...is all I need..." she murmured to herself, closing her eyes.
She knew that voice; she knew that tone. How many times had it cut her down in class, both in Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts? If she could have given Snape a piece of her mind and gotten away with it at the time, she would have. However, that brought her to a new question: what the hell was the voice doing in her bedroom?
"Leave me alone, professor, I'm not your bloody student anymore."
"Nice way to greet someone who's trying to help you."
The familiar, mordant tone sounded as if it were more than just a dream, and forced Hermione to open her eyes.
"Sorry. I forgot where I was for a moment."
From the dim light trickling in through the window, Hermione hazarded a guess that it was close to the evening.
"How long have I been asleep for?" she asked, attempting to sit up and changing her mind when she found that her dizzy spell hadn't subsided.
"Five hours going on six. I knocked a few times to see if you wanted anything; obviously you didn't hear."
"That was thoughtful of you," she mumbled, burying her face back into her pillow.
"Don't remind me. Judging by the state of your hair and that sheet sticking to your skin, I would say you have a fever."
"Is that why my head feels as if I've been Apparating nonstop?"
"It's a distinct possibility. I brought you something to drink, by the way; didn't think you'd be able to stomach anything heavier."
Hermione lifted her head as high as it would go and cracked an eye open to see a glass of bright orange liquid on her nightstand.
"Thank you... Lucozade? Where did that come from? I didn't have any in."
"The Lucozade fairy dropped by your house." Snape's tone suggested that he was growing impatient but he added, "I went for a walk if you must know."
"There aren't any wizarding shops around here. Where did you get Muggle money from?"
"I nicked a tenner from your purse while you were asleep." Those words were laced with irony. "I keep both Muggle and wizarding currency on my person at all times. Now drink the damned Lucozade and so help me, Granger, if you ask another stupid question I'm going to forget about my bet and spell your mouth shut."
No need to be so touchy, Hermione grumbled silently, but she did allow Snape to place the glass in her hand. Lucozade had always been too sickeningly sweet for her, but at the moment it was ambrosia. The refreshingly ice-cold liquid was boon to her overheated body and Hermione drank until the glass was empty. Promptly afterwards she fell back onto her pillows and barely noticed the sheet being drawn up to her shoulders.
"Wake up, Hermione."
At first Hermione thought the deep, frantic voice was some conjuration of her incoherent state, but the cool, slim hand pressed to her forehead was definitely real. She tried to speak but found that her tongue felt like cotton.
There was the sound of footfalls crossing her bedroom, followed by the bright glare of the overhead light being switched on. Despite her eyes being closed Hermione flinched from the abrupt change and blindly reached for a pillow to cover her face. However, her hand and the pillow seemed heavier than usual and she lay listlessly, hoping the light would turn itself back off.
"A Potions master and a wizard with a wand that he's unable to use. I must say you picked one hell of a time to fall sick."
Foggy-minded and too weak to reply, Hermione made no protest when the cool hands returned and slowly shifted her to lie flat.
"I don't need a thermometer to know that your fever spiked seeing as your sheets are completely soaked."
Hermione didn't give a damn about the sheets. The only thing she could focus on was the regret that Snape had moved her out of a comfortable position. Between the too-harsh light and her aching head, the nausea she experience earlier returned.
"It's a shame I can't use magic; it wouldn't take more than a few minutes to brew a fever-reducing draught or at the very least raid Pomfrey's stores," Snape was saying, sounding contemplative. Just as he began ruminating over Hermione taking Muggle medicine, she interrupted him.
"I'm going to be sick again!"
One moment Hermione was staring up at her ceiling, and the next she was looking at the equally ugly tiles in her upstairs bathroom. Never in her life could she recall feeling so utterly terrible and she wondered which Fate she had brassed off so thoroughly that her castigation should be vomiting up what felt like her toenails.
"I'm dying. I'm dying and I don't care," Hermione announced mournfully when she was done. The fact that she was still dressed in only her bra and knickers never occurred to her; the cold air hitting her sweat-dampened skin, on the other hand, was highly uncomfortable, but there was no way she would make it into the bath.
"You're not dying, it only feels that way," Snape bluntly reassured, keeping Hermione propped up with one hand while his other began rooting around. Seconds later the sound of water flowing in the tub echoed in the bathroom.
"I don't need a bath, I need sleep."
"What you need is to bring down that fever."
It was clear that she was not going to be coddled—that thought was absurd as Snape was not the coddling type. Anyway, Hermione hated being fussed over and having to suffer with someone—that someone being Snape, of all people— to witness her invalid state was mortifying.
She agreed to the bath, mostly because Snape threatened to pick her up and place her in the water if she didn't get in. Asking him to unfasten her bra would have caused her to blush but now was no time to for modesty. Then how modest could she be after the man saw her becoming sick repeatedly? Even so, she waited until Snape left the bathroom before disrobing completely and slipping into the water.
"Argh! Why is it so cold?!"
"That water is tepid and you're lucky I didn't go the old-fashioned route which included cold water and ice cubes," Snape called through the door.
Hermione harrumphed to herself but after a while her body became used to the water. She didn't want to admit it but Snape made a compelling point as the bath did help.
Twenty minutes later, Hermione wrapped herself in a towel and returned to her bedroom. The light was still on and Snape was standing next to her bed, doing something that made her pause. Originally her sheets had been periwinkle with tiny white flowers. They were now replaced with a set of pink sheets that were rumpled from being shoved to the back of her airing cupboard. Accidentally-on-purpose she had forgotten about them.
"You can't sleep on those," Snape told her, looking down at the wrinkled heap of periwinkle bedding on the floor. "It took me some time to figure out where you kept extra sheets. Interesting, I never took you for the pink sheets type."
"I'm not. They were on sale and Mum thought they were pretty. She was so pleased that I didn't have the heart to tell her I hate pale pink."
Snape's gaze drifted over to the wrinkled, floral nightmare encasing Hermione's mattress and pillows.
"Your abhorrence is justified. Now I seem to remember you whinging about wanting to go back to sleep. Are you going to hold up the wall all night?"
Hermione didn't realise that she'd been slumped against the wall. Straightening up and refortifying her hold on the towel, she walked to her dresser and pulled out a fresh pair of pyjamas. She paused briefly to see Snape quickly averting his eyes, and perhaps she was still feverish but she swore that his sallow cheeks had a bit of colour. He then muttered something before rushing out of the bedroom, and even though Hermione was confused by that odd exchange, she welcomed the opportunity to redress in private.
Minutes later Snape returned with another glass of the disgusting orange drink. Hermione was already in bed and he lingered by the edge, refusing to move until she drank at least half the glass. Just as he was about to walk away, she grabbed him by the hand.
"Thank you for everything. I know playing nursemaid wasn't part of your plans."
Snape's gaze was focused on the small hand clutching his, but finally he recovered and brought his eyes up to meet Hermione's.
"Fair's fair, I suppose," he replied, sounding slightly uncomfortable."I know you hadn't planned on giving Muggle lessons and you could have turned me away."
"Considering all the times you saved our necks it was the least I could do," Hermione countered, giving his hand a light squeeze before pulling back. "Anyway you're a good house guest. You've done more for me than my last so-called boyfriend. I had a cold and this idiot couldn't be bothered to fix me a cup of tea, never mind pop out for cough drops. I had to ask Harry to run to the store for me."
"You always did know how to pick them, Granger."
"There's a reason I've been single for the past five years—oh, will you sit down? You're putting me on edge," Hermione chided, pointing to the other side of her bed. "Hopefully I won't get you sick."
Snape looked dubious about taking the proffered seat although Hermione's bed was large enough to easily accommodate them both with space left over. When she thumped the mattress with the flat of her hand he crossed to the other side, toed off his shoes, and climbed up.
"Lucky for me I won't catch your stomach lurgy. I take a tonic that prevents that sort of thing; it's necessary being around schoolchildren. Little bastards; they're all harbingers of disease."
"Ron and Harry always wondered why you never took a sick day," said Hermione, laughing to herself. She got so worked up, becoming more amused by the minute that Snape worried if she was delirious. "Every morning they broke their necks to see if you were at the staff table in the Great Hall and Ron swore a blue streak when he saw you. Said you wouldn't get sick and miss class just to spite everyone."
The young woman was now laughing so hard that she could barely get out each word. The louder she shrieked the more pinched Snape's face became until he leaned over and yanked the blankets up to her shoulder.
"You're ill and should be resting, not making sounds that rival a goose being tortured."
Instead of being offended, Hermione laughed harder; her chuckles soon turned into a wince of pain and she clutched onto her stomach.
"I didn't realise that you could get so sore from vomiting. Being sick has nothing on sit-ups." She paused and stuck a hand beneath her pillow, withdrawing a small remote and handing it to Snape. "I'm going back to sleep, you can watch TV if you like."
Without another word, Hermione closed her eyes and began snoring. Snape was thoroughly nonplussed at the abrupt change in conversation and shook his head to himself, wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into. Hermione's fingers were still curled around the remote and he had to pry it loose from her clutches. Television had never been his sort of thing—he didn't even own one—but it was better than sitting in silence. Working the remote was easy enough but Snape cursed under his breath when he realised that the overhead light was still on, its switch across the room which forced him to get out of bed and turn it off.
Hermione slept straight through four episodes of whatever shows (he'd forgotten the names) Snape found to watch. A few times he reached over to feel her forehead; she was still warm and he lamented once more his inability to procure a phial of fever-reducing draught. After a small deliberation on the use of cold compresses, Snape went to the kitchen and filled a bowl with ice. A handful of wide flannels were unceremoniously tugged from the linen closet in the upstairs hallway, and Hermione soon had the ice-filled cloth pressed to the back of her neck. She moaned a bit in her sleep yet didn't wake up.
The cloth was alternated between Hermione's neck and forehead, and Snape held on it the entire time. It wouldn't do to wake the girl up spilling ice cubes over her face. He hadn't anticipated on falling asleep next to her, but a light clicking sound combined with the bed frame trembling made his eyes shoot open.
"Granger, what is it?" he asked groggily, peering over at her curled up form.
Snape easily deciphered that clacking noise had been her teeth chattering together. The ice that previously filled the flannel had melted, and the soaked material lie in a soggy heap against Hermione's skin.
"Sorry, I was trying to cool you down," he mumbled, embarrassed at thinking he was the cause for her plight.
The flannel was haphazardly tossed onto the nightstand and Snape tucked the sheet and duvet firmly around Hermione's neck. When her shivering continued, he rushed to the place where the pink sheets had been found, remembering that another thick blanket was somewhere in the messy airing cupboard. That blanket was also draped over Hermione but her trembling lessened marginally. Snape's final resort was slipping beneath the huge pile of blankets with the witch, aligning his body with hers and attempting to use his own heat to warm her. He was grateful when her quivering stopped and her breathing evened out.
It was hard to ignore their intimate proximity; Hermione's soft behind was inches away from his crotch and her soft breasts were right above his forearm. If she were in her right mind then perhaps it would have been an issue, but Snape reasoned that comfort was the only thing the young woman cared about at the moment. So while she slept soundly in his arms, he pretended to forget about the soft, feminine bum or the graceful column of her neck that was immensely appealing even if it was damp with sweat.
Snape was pleased with himself for keeping his focus on the matter at hand. In the end he fell asleep with Hermione still securely tucked into the slim curve of his body. A few hours later he was jostled awake and immediately sensed that something was wrong.
"Are you all right?" he asked the witch who was now wriggling free from his embrace as well as the heavy pile of blankets.
"Hot," was all she muttered, breathing hard as she struggled to sit up. Her shirt was ripped off and tossed down onto the floor, followed by the pyjama bottoms being kicked off and abandoned to the foot of the bed. Hermione immediately flopped back down onto the bed, shoving all the blankets away from her and splaying her limbs across the mattress. She seemed oblivious everything; her former teacher sharing her bed... the fact that the her only article of clothing was a pair of tiny blue knickers...
Now that Hermione was almost completely naked, Snape wondered if he should return to the guest bedroom. Looking after the witch while she was in a state of convalescence was one thing, but hanging around while her bare and in his opinion, perfect, breasts were on display seemed perverse. Just as he was about to ease off the bed, Hermione turned her face towards him and mumbled something.
"What?" he asked, moving his ear closer to her lips.
"I said, take off your trousers. They're scratchy against my legs."
Right, he was still dressed. And apparently, Hermione was aware that he was still in her bed. Snape dithered for a moment but decided to follow instructions. Besides, he would be more comfortable in just his vest and boxers. He just hoped that Hermione wouldn't have a fit if and when she came to her senses and found him lying next to her in his underwear.
Those worries were short-lived as Hermione immediately resumed her slumber after Snape undressed and resettled in bed.
Between then and daybreak, bouts of hot flashes and cold chills had Hermione either huddled against him in a tight ball or wriggling away in desperate need of a new, cool place to lie down in. At one point her skin became so overheated that Snape considered breaking his no-magic rule and Apparating her to St. Mungo's. Flannels that had been dipped into a large bowl of ice water and strategically placed did the trick, and soon the flushed, feverish glow in Hermione's face and chest faded. By sunrise he was utterly knackered from a lack of rest yet relieved to find her sleeping normally.
A low rumbling sound made him take notice of his own empty stomach; in the chaos surrounding Hermione's illness, he'd forgotten to eat dinner the night before. Snape was positively famished and hoped that he wouldn't ruin the kitchen in the pursuit of breakfast.
There was a second quiet rumbling, this time coming from Hermione's stomach. Rolling over and opening her eyes, she blinked slowly before focusing on her bed partner.
"Good morning," she croaked, frowning as she smacked her dry, chapped lips together a few times.
"Morning," Snape countered uneasily, waiting to what Hermione had to say on the topic of them sharing a bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Like hell, but at least my stomach isn't doing somersaults," she answered, flicking away a stray curl that had fallen over her eye. During the night when Snape needed to wipe Hermione's face, he'd had to wrestle every wild curl into a sloppy bun atop her head, securing it with an elastic band which had mercifully been left on the nightstand. Perhaps she was unaware of her impromptu hairstyle because the only thing Hermione did was a combination of stretching and yawning before burrowing back beneath the sheets. "God, I'm starving and I need a bath. And I'm tired which is amazing considering that I slept most of yesterday."
There was a possibility that Hermione was now aware of her semi-nude state; it seemed that she was making a blithe effort at keeping the sheet up to her chest although when she was stretching he caught a glimpse of her nipple.
"You should try to drink something before attempting anything solid. What would you like?"
"No tea, I need something cold. I guess I'll drink more of that disgusting Lucozade."
Hermione was able to keep down the Lucozade, and half an hour later she was served an omelette that had been cooked without her supervision. It was delicious and she complimented Snape's improved cooking skills.
"How hard is it to crack a few eggs?" he'd grumbled, although Hermione could tell he was pleased.
After showering and changing into clean pyjamas, Hermione claimed the need for a nap. But before lying down she wanted to throw her previous bedding into the washer, at the time showing Snape how to use it. He paid close attention to the amount of soap to use and which dials to turn, and the look on his face was so intense that it caused her to laugh.
"Let me guess—the house-elves were also laundering your clothes?" she asked, biting down on her bottom lip when his nostrils flared.
"Perhaps," was Snape's curt answer, and Hermione sank her teeth further into her lip.
"It could be worse," she pointed out. "Dad shrank Mum's favourite jumper in the wash once and after that he wasn't allowed to touch the laundry, not even his own clothes."
Once the machine was going Hermione settled at one end of her sofa, a pillow from her bed beneath her head and a throw tucked around her legs.
"You can watch whatever you like," she'd solicitously offered, handing him the remote.
"In a generous mood, I see," he commented drily, accepting the remote and shifting to the side to avoid Hermione's foot, which had dug firmly into his thigh.
Soon none of that mattered because she fell asleep. It was typical for her stretch across the entire length of the sofa whenever she fell asleep there and she did so without waking up, forgetting about the wizard on the other end. She had no idea that her feet draped over Snape's lap, nor did she realise that his slim hands had eventually settled atop her ankles. When Hermione woke up a few hours later and looked down to see her feet still perched on Snape's thighs, she quickly pulled back and lowered them to the floor while half-muttering an apology. Then she caught sight of something that made her forget about her embarrassment.
"Are those my sheets?"
"No, they're your neighbour's."
Quirking one eyebrow, Hermione reached over to the laundry basket and peered down at the neatly folded stack of periwinkle bedding.
"They're dry and folded. You remembered how to use my dryer."
"Oh—take that patronising tone out of your voice! I feel like I'm back in your classroom."
"Please, don't remind me of that place. I've only just gotten the stench out my nostrils."
Hermione shook her head. "Anyway, thank you. You didn't have to finish them, I would have done it myself."
"You were asleep and I needed something to do besides listening to you snore," he replied disinterestedly. "Good lord, woman, you could wake the dead with that racket."
"You are the last person who should be talking. I passed the guest room the first night you came here and thought someone dragged a rusty motor into my house."
Snape muttered something about if only he were able to use his wand, and Hermione adopted a smug smile.
"You needn't hover so, woman. I'm perfectly capable of following written instructions."
Hermione cooked spaghetti Bolognese so many times that she no longer needed to refer to her cookbook, yet Snape volunteered to make dinner that night and she'd dug out the huge, food-splattered thing and set it down with a thump on the countertop.
"I'm only trying to help," Hermione replied, opening the fridge, pulling out ingredients and setting them beside the cookbook. "Stop grousing at me."
Snape paused to glare at her. "Shouldn't you be convalescing on your sofa? Watching one of your ridiculous programmes?"
Hermione matched his frown and the two stood in the middle of her kitchen, staring at one another for a long minute.
"I feel fine."
"So you say, but you're still tired. Now go lie down before I use a sticking charm and make you stay on the sofa."
Hermione bristled at being ordered about, but then a superior little smirk appeared on her lips when Snape mentioned using magic. The mischievousness in her brown eyes practically screamed her thoughts, and Snape brandished a large wooden spoon in her direction, his mannerisms eerily similar to when he was holding his wand.
"Ordered around in my own house..." Hermione sniffed before skulking out the kitchen and into her living room.
Settling down on her sofa and pulling a throw over her legs, she attempted to watch television for a bit while listening to Snape going through the rigmarole of preparing dinner. A few times she was positive that some colourful language was being muffled, and she turned down to volume to eavesdrop. Sure enough she heard a growled "Shite!" followed by a few clunks, but it wasn't enough to make her get up to investigate. Not that she didn't want to; if there was a chance Snape was going to destroy her kitchen and expensive cookware then overseeing his activities were a good idea, but she knew that if he were to see one frizzy curl of hers appearing over the threshold, bedlam would ensue.
So doing her best to drown out the noise, Hermione turned the volume back up on the television and attempted to distract herself with the evening news. There was no way she would admit it but Snape did have a point—she was tired. Being ill had sapped her of all energy and she was extremely grateful to have someone else voluntarily handling the cooking and washing up. If Snape were to keep it up, she might not let him return home.
Hermione became drowsy as the news reporter droned on, and didn't realise that she had fallen asleep until a shadow loomed over her, calling her name.
"Rise and shine. Dinner is ready, and you might want to wash that dried spittle off your cheek."
"In lieu of being served something that smells amazing, I'm going to ignore that comment," Hermione shot back. "And I don't drool in my sleep!"
The incorrigible man actually laughed at her before turning to walk away, and she furiously rubbed her cheek while inwardly maintaining that she was not a drooler.
Dinner turned out to be better than she expected, and when Hermione helped herself to seconds Snape looked extraordinarily pleased with himself.
"Go on, laugh it up," she murmured, fiddling with her fork. "But I have to say, this is better than mine."
"I might have deviated from the recipe," he commented dismissively. "Instructions are actually guidelines to be improved upon by the daring."
"So long as your daring doesn't land me with food poisoning, you carry on. But just to warn you, keep cooking like this and I might not ever let you leave. I can see the women now, beating down your door."
"I think you still have a fever."
"No, I'm serious! Do you know how hard it is to find a man who cooks? One who cooks well, that is. One who volunteers to cook."
"I hope you aren't comparing me to your former idiot companions. That's likened to an insult; didn't you say one of them couldn't be arsed to fix you a cuppa when you were sick?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at the memory. "Yeah, he was a bit of a prat. No wonder if only lasted two months."
"Was that longer or shorter than the other one?"
Snape shrugged. "If you say so."
"You know, whoever you made this bet with, it's a shame that you had to give up your magic instead of that never-ending cynicism. I think we can all use a break from it. Anyway, yes, Ron. Not that I'm prone to flights of fancy but I guess considering the whole 'are we all about to die' thing and then the elation afterwards, we sort of just happened. Ron was sweet when he wasn't being annoying but we should not have dated. Ever. I have no idea what I was thinking."
"You just explained it well, the whole cliché 'last chance to experience love' thing." Snape sounded as if he was discussing something distasteful and Hermione looked incredulous.
"Thing?" she asked in a raised voice."You make it sound like a chore."
"More like grunt work, considering the make-ups to break-ups of every adolescent fling that occur at the turn of each term. The chore was watching it all unfold. At least being headmaster I'm no longer tethered to a classroom and witness to jaded pupils glaring at one another because they caught the person they'd already planned a life with at the age of fifteen kissing someone else, when they week before they were practically glued at the hip and playing footsie beneath their desks."
"Really?" Hermione tilted her head and took another bite of spaghetti. "I never noticed anything like that going on during Potions."
"Why would you have?" When she looked up from her plate, apparently insulted, Snape quickly backtracked. "I mean to say that you were always focused on your work and not the rumour mill. No need to become so touchy."
"That's rich coming from you," Hermione replied, stabbing her fork into her pasta."You're the touchiest person I know."
"Believe me, I'm easy compared to some. Now if you would so kind as to finish your meal instead of attacking it."
Hermione finished her meal, not because Snape asked but because it tasted too good to leave on her plate.
Early Wednesday morning a letter from the desk of Kingsley Shacklebolt was delivered to Hermione's home via his personal owl. She hadn't been the only one to stay home that week; apparently one of the servers in the canteen had come to work sick when she should have done the opposite because whatever she had spread rampantly throughout the offices and people had been dropping like flies. Kingsley's letter read that he hoped Hermione was feeling better and that she could take the rest of the week off.
Normally Hermione would have been bored out of her skull with nothing to do except lie around the house, but with Snape's presence, boredom was not a word that came to mind. Hermione barely waited for him to drain his coffee mug and finish the last of his toast before whisking him out the house. There was slight reluctance on his part when she explained that they were going to one of her favourite bookshops, an old place that was on a side street and oft ignored by most people walking by. He did display a hint of petulance after asking if the shop had any wizarding books and Hermione said that no, it was purely Muggle, but once they were inside the shop Snape tried to conceal his delight at the high rafters.
Hermione had gone off on her own to peruse through another section when a shocking thought occurred to her. Upon seeing how pleased the professor looked when he stepped into the shop, a shard of pleasure shot through her and left her chest warm.
Or maybe you're still not totally recovered?
Despite never uttering those words, that excuse still sounded flimsy to her ears. Hermione never had the opportunity to see Snape reading anything that was not school related, but to view the usually pinched look on his sallow face morph into something...pleasant, warm, even, threw her off kilter.
That little scene continued replaying in her mind; too distracted to focus on the book she'd plucked from the shelf (which was practically criminal considering her penchant for reading), Hermione softly crept from aisle to aisle until she found Snape. Even though his posture was rigid as a pole—Hermione was sometimes guilty of leaning against any nearby stable surface—his demeanour was that of someone who was completely absorbed in something private yet utterly self-fulfilling, and it left her wondering if she should avert her eyes.
Part of why she and Ron hadn't worked out was that he never understood how she could spend hours in a bookshop or library and never become bored. Hermione had always been that way and she expected that Ron understood, but somehow it became more of a bother once they began dating. She couldn't force Ron to understand her love for books any more than he could force her to understand his love of Quidditch, and she would never try but secretly maintained that it would be nice to have a boyfriend with whom she shared similar interests, or at the very least loved books the way she did.
You and Severus have similar interests, the annoying voice in her head pointed out. And you both like to read.
Yes, would he look at you that way?
Slow down, there, Granger. Does that mean you look at him that way?
OK, you can shut up now.
"Honing your voyeurism skills, Granger?"
Hermione's eyes went into focus. She had been so engaged in the sight of Snape's slender fingers on his right hand curled around the spine of his book with the left slowly turned pages, that she hadn't noticed the way he was pointedly staring at her.
Adopting a smug look to hide that she was two seconds away from blushing to the roots of her hair, Hermione coolly walked over to examine the book in Snape's hand.
"Nice selection. Are you ready to leave yet?"
"Not exactly. Why, are you?"
"I would have been shocked had you said yes. You don't strike me as the sort to spend ten minutes in a bookshop. Ten hours, on the other hand, I can believe so by all means, feel free to take your time."
It was hard to keep the grin off her face and Hermione had to duck her head as she hurried past Snape to carry on with her perusal.
Part of the bookshop's charm was the little nook where customers could sit and pore over their book choices before settling on which ones to purchase. The owner, Mrs. Stewart, was used to Hermione lingering in there for hours and when it wasn't crowded she always offered a cup of tea. Hermione always took care not to spill a drop and because of her painstaking ways, Mrs. Stewart always left a cup on the low wooden table.
"Here you are, for you and your gentleman friend," said Mrs. Stewart, placing down two identical cups filled with steaming, fragrant liquid. "You should bring him in more often. I like to see a man who loves his books." With a wistful sigh, as if remembering something fond, the older woman turned away and headed back to the front of the shop.
"That's Mrs. Stewart," Hermione explained. "She and her husband used to run this shop together but he passed a few years ago. She told me all he ever did was read and that it was his dream to own a place like this. It's mostly empty whenever I come in but I suppose she's got enough business."
"Hermione, your business alone would help support her and a hundred more shops ten times over," Snape offered ruefully, placing his book to the side and picking up his tea.
Hermione had reached for her cup at the same time and their fingers brushed. It seemed incredibly stupid to behave like some besotted youth in front of Snape when remembering that she'd worn only knickers while sleeping in his arms—You were sick, Hermione reminded herself—but it still didn't stop the little thrill that ran up the length of her arm.
"And your business would help all the bookshops on this half of the world stay afloat."
It was a weak comeback, but a comeback nonetheless and it made Snape flash her a half-smile. That was good enough for Hermione.
Hunger eventually drove the two from the bookshop. When Hermione dug into her purse for money to pay for her books, Snape politely nudged her out the way and paid for his things as well as hers. He also did the same when they stopped off for lunch and Hermione pulled a face.
"Since you're being so agreeable I'll make dinner tonight," she offered. "Any requests?"
"Anything but tripe and I'd like bread and butter pudding for afters. Ever since you've mentioned it I've wanted some."
Steamed fish and vegetables was settled on for the evening meal. A quick visit to a couple of shops was in order to get a few last minute things and Hermione was grateful when there was no glimmer of recognition from the workers as her and Snape's face when they entered Sainsbury's.
Soon they were back home. Despite Hermione's offer of cooking, it was Snape who looked over the fish while she handled the vegetables and then his bread and butter pudding. A moderately priced bottle of wine had also been purchased and after eating, the two were at opposite ends of Hermione's sofa, both sipping on their second glass of white wine and listening to the radio.
"You know, it never occurred to me to have music while eating. But I must say, listening to classical waltzes while getting mildly pissed on a Wednesday night isn't half bad."
"Just don't tell Kingsley that I'm getting you drunk at home when you're supposed to be recovering from the dreaded lurgy."
"I'm not drunk," Hermione protested. "I'm of perfect sound and mind. I could dance to this right now if I wanted and not miss a step." She gestured to the radio where the sounds of Strauss were pouring from.
Snape eyed Hermione from over the edge of his glass. "Is that so?"
"No! I'm going to dance by myself, that just looks stupid."
"You were the one that offered a demonstration."
"Yes but then I realised how daft I'd look!"
There was no time to suss on Snape's intentions as he swiftly finished his wine and urged Hermione to do the same. He then took their empty glasses, set them on a side table, grabbed Hermione by both hands and tugged her to her feet.
"Severus!" she shrieked in a mixture of delight and mortification when he began leading her in an impromptu yet smooth waltz around her living room. "How the devil do you know this?"
"Let's just say that being acquainted with certain wizards leaves one with a variety of skills."
She was still being twirled around as he spoke. This was definitely a pleasant surprise; Severus was turned out to be an exceptionally good dancer from what she could tell thus far. Her living room wasn't all that big but they had just enough space to move around without hitting the furniture. She was still laughing when the piece ended and Snape escorted her back to the sofa, giving a bow as she sat down.
"Idiot," Hermione snorted, grinning when he sat next to her yet disappointed when he kept a modest distance between them. "Really, though, who taught you to dance like that?"
"Lucius Malfoy and his wife."
"I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised," she murmured, scooting closer towards Severus and allowing her weight to lightly settle against him. At first he didn't move; perhaps he was unsure of her intentions and to speed things along, Hermione cautiously brushed her fingers over his, praying that he wouldn't push her away. Gradually his arm slid around her shoulder; after twenty minutes she was nestled against his side as they held hands and became lost to a placid tune by Chopin coming from the radio. Had anyone else been witness to these turn of events it would have been assumed that they were on a date, although that couldn't have been farther from the truth.
A date usually implied one party asking another out, and there had been the unconventional method of their throw together dinner plans. Regardless of semantics it was nice to sit in silence, save for the sounds of the soft piano and their even breathing. If this were a date then it would be of the nicest Hermione had ever been on. Perhaps it was the fact that she and Severus had spent the last few days in each other's hair which left her feeling more at ease around him. Of course now that she was finding it hard to look at him in a purely platonic manner, keeping a straight face was difficult. Hermione was sure that her feelings were being broadcasted—she'd never been good at hiding anything —and if she knew one thing about Severus Snape it was that he picked up on everything. But the fact that he was still next to her meant something, and Hermione was hopeful.
Both remained unmoving for what seemed like an eternity; the feel of Severus' chest rising with each breath was against her back, and his hand was warm and dry as it cupped hers. Hermione had no idea how this evening was going to end, but if it extended just to listening to music while lingering on the sofa with Severus, so be it. The effects of wine had her feeling loosed limbed, and the warm air coming from his nose each time he exhaled, inadvertently grazing her cheek left her on an unfamiliar edge.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, breaking her thoughts.
"I was just wondering if you treat your partners with the same care that you display towards books."
There was a slight pause before he answered."I have no idea. Perhaps you might be able to tell me."
Hermione's mouth went dry and she swallowed hard. "Alright."
A hand slid through her hair and settled at the back of her neck. Its touch was light, teasing almost, causing her skin to break into gooseflesh. Then her curls were methodically pushed to the side and there was the unmistakable feel of thin, soft lips brushing against the area above her collar.
Hermione lips immediately parted and inhaled audibly when a trail of feather light kisses were dropped one by one onto her skin. Severus eventually travelled to the side of her neck and Hermione was almost embarrassed when a moan left her mouth.
His voice was a low rumble next to her ear; each word had been punctuated by a tender kiss to her temple causing Hermione to become limp in his arms, and she pondered outright melting into Severus and lying there for hours.
Yet merely sitting there was not going to happen because she was then urged to face him. The backs of his fingers stroked her chin and the high curve of her cheek; a single fingertip traced her forehead, down the bridge of her nose, and along the outline of her lips. The caresses ended with Severus' fingertips curved around the column of her throat, his thumbs stroking its hollow centre.
"Are you nervous?" he asked unmockingly.
"No...yes...a little. Why?"
Two fingers moved to the space behind Hermione's jaw and sought her pulse.
"Because it feels as though your heart is hammering its way out your chest. First time jitters?"
"I'm not a virgin, if that's what you mean but it's been a while."
"Likewise, but I didn't mean it that way. If this happens, it will be our first time with one another. Correct?"
"Oh right, I hadn't thought of it that way."
"To reiterate, if this happens. I've yet to hear a yes or not from you."
Hermione dithered for a moment, and just as she parted her lips to speak Severus cut in.
"Sharing a few kisses doesn't equate to things automatically progressing further. I'm a far leap from your impatient lads, in case you need reminding."
"So you mean you won't start humping my leg like some sex-crazed dog while pawing at my knickers?" she teased while playing with Severus' collar.
"I was saving that for another day." His face was straight but Hermione knew she was being goaded. "So is that what your other boyfriends did? Rut on you like some mangy animal?"
"You mean boyfriend and I would have kicked Ron if he tried such a thing."
Severus unblinkingly stared at Hermione for a moment before raising his eyebrow.
"Weasley was the only one you..."
"Yes, and what of it?"
A flush began creeping its way up her neck and she folded both arms across her chest. She then tried scooting to the other side of the sofa but Severus caught her by the waist and kept her close.
"You don't need to be embarrassed," he quietly told Hermione. "You have every right to decide who you want to share yourself with, or not share yourself with."
"As it stands you're the only one to share my bed, and by that I mean merely sleeping in it. Hmm, now that I think about it Ron did stay over once, but Harry was with him and they both passed out in here on my carpet. They had a little too much fun at a pub for a friend's stag do and I threatened them each with a beheading if they were to vomit on my floor."
"Last I heard both were still annoyingly alive so I take it they didn't asphyxiate on their own bile. What a pity." His sinister chuckle made Hermione swat his arm.
"Severus!" she bellowed, amused yet cringing. "That's not nice. So anyway now you're up to date on my abysmal dating record. What about you? Any wives or girlfriends that I should know about?"
"Current or past?"
"My record is just as dull as yours. I never picked up the habit of arbitrarily bedding women."
"I see. And what about now?"
"There is nothing arbitrary about this," Severus assured. "The occasionally prim woman who cut me down with her eyes even as she graciously allowed me to cross her threshold had already piqued my curiosity, but then hearing her cursing 'bloody, arse-ugly tiles' and 'fucking arse-ugly pink sheets' in her sleep left me more amused and intrigued than words can convey."
Hermione ducked her head in mortification. The heat returned to her cheeks when she heard Severus chuckling.
"You certain gave me a surprise; barely conscious with fever yet somehow you'd manage to condemn bathroom decor and lurid bedding to the pits of hell. And that mouth... I'm impressed."
"So you liked hearing my gutter mouth? How about this one: quit taking the piss or else."
"What will you do, hex me? Bad form, Hermione, attacking a man when he can't use his wand."
She flashed Severus a lingering dark look. Her glowering was interrupted when he leaned forward, whispered "Be nice" and brought his parted lips to hers. It made no sense to be shocked because Severus had already kissed her neck, but now he was at her mouth and that single touch made her gasp.
In some deep, dark recess of her mind, Hermione screamed that she was kissing Professor Snape. It was odd because his pundit persona had remained absent for the most part, in its place a man that was still somewhat of an enigma yet slowly opening to her.
As far as an answer to her question, if he treated women the same way he treated books, the answer was a solid yes.
Hermione hadn't known her face to be an erogenous zone, but the tingles that slipped down her spine whenever Severus' mouth touched her were unavoidable. Quietly he'd asked her permission to remove her shirt and bra; when his arms encircled her back to fiddle with the latch he used that opportunity to drag his lips along her collarbone and shoulder. Her jeans were pointed out in a similar manner, although Severus merely unfastened the button and zipper, leaving the stiff fabric hanging over her hips and exposing the soft skin of her abdomen.
Topless and knees splayed as she knelt upright on the sofa made Hermione feel somewhat exposed. Her stomach muscles tensed whenever Severus' tongue came close to her navel, otherwise she was reduced to soft mewls when he kissed elsewhere.
Kisses had never been so enticing; foreplay had never left her trembling and yearning for more. Admittedly foreplay had never on the list of high priorities for Ron, and Hermione always wondered if she was missing something. Now it was evident that she had been missing a great deal many times over.
Severus held her perfectly; almost too perfectly as if he were reading her mind. His enquiry about removing her jeans was exceedingly polite, although she wondered why he didn't bother with her knickers as well. It hadn't mattered as she was tugged back into his lap, one knee in between his thighs and her other on the outside. While his tongue began tracing the outline of her lips, Severus was lightly skirting his fingertips along the edges of her knickers. The waistband, the outside of her thigh where the elastic was, then the dampening cotton crotch.
He was fully dressed but Hermione didn't care so long as his caresses didn't falter. The light strokes against her covered core were enough to make her want to trap his hand between her thighs, yet she forced herself to calm down and accept what she was given. When the fingers finally shifted her underwear to the side and pressed against her naked flesh, her reaction could not be helped.
For all Hermione's bluster about not being a virgin, she may as well have been. Ron had never excited her this much (and masturbation expectedly lacked that sense of urgency), and the steadily mounting anticipation made her belly tremble. Slowly, carefully she was stroked and titillated until Severus' fingertips were slick with her essence. Hermione could feel his eyes burning into her face as she was being touched, and to her surprise she found that it excited her.
She held onto Severus and he held onto her, each unwilling to let the other go. Hermione couldn't have if she wanted; her limbs were so tense with the need for release that her fingers seemed permanently embedded into the front of his shirt. The entire time while his fingers were roaming between her legs, his lips were travelling between each breast, delicately lavishing attention upon each nipple until they were pebbled against his tongue.
Twice Hermione found release with relative ease; first with Severus' fingers still touching her outsides with whisper-light touches, then with his digits buried within her, methodically finding spots that she had no idea existed, massaging them until she felt it all over. By the time Severus was done, Hermione was weak-kneed, exhausted, and covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
"Was that a satisfactory reply to your question?" he asked, guiding her to lie flat on the sofa.
She grumbled for him to shut up, yet became lost to the thralls of his tongue gliding along her throat before his lips fastened to her pulse. Getting Severus naked swiftly became a priority and his black trousers and shirt were tugged off and thrown down to the floor with her jeans and top. Following that were his boxers and her knickers, both of which were thrown somewhere over the back of the sofa.
Their lovemaking was just as unhurried as the preliminaries had been. Pulling Severus over her, a feat somewhat difficult with the narrow sofa, Hermione took her time kissing and caressing his pale skin. She was intrigued by the sprinkling of coarse black hair darkening his chest and abdomen, and her fingers explored him with the same thoroughness he displayed moments ago. His skin turned out to be soft as hers, yet there was another place that drew Hermione's attention. While her hand delved below to wrap around him, she looked up into Severus' face. His jaw tensed the moment her grip on his tightened and seeing his reaction made the area between her thighs clench involuntarily.
"Did you want to stop this here?" he asked thickly, his eyes fixated on Hermione's as he dipped his head low for another kiss.
Her nonverbal answer was a rather impatient chuffing noise, followed by her hands grabbing onto Severus' slim hips and pulling them against hers. She pretended not to notice the way his hand trembled when it moved between them to place himself at her entrance. Despite his unyielding restraint, Hermione knew that she was not the only impatient one of the two. Severus was breathing hard into her neck as he pressed forward and filled her to the hilt in a single, excruciatingly slow swoop.
For the second time that evening, Hermione found herself in disbelief at the notion of whose naked skin was pressed against her. It still felt surreal to her that Severus Snape was on top of her; prior to him showing up at her doorstep she never thought about him in a sexual capacity. Even after spending time with Severus, she found it hard to get a read on certain aspects of his private life. Now she knew better: Severus had desires and passions just like anyone else, he was merely more circumspect about it. Yet there was no denying that he was there; the moment he buried himself inside the most intimate part of her body, muscles that she'd long forgotten about ached as they stretched to accommodate her partner.
Severus' quiet passion took the form of slim fingers that teased and pinched, scorching kisses that left her yearning for more, and a steady, sensuous rolling of his lower body that caused Hermione to lose all control of her senses. It was another first, being able to find release that way and with another person, and it took several minutes for her to come back to earth. Severus waited patiently and dropped kisses to Hermione's temple and forehead. Her laboured breathing slowed and just as she fully drew in air, he resumed his slow, deep thrusts. Having her pleasure painstakingly drawn out more than once was too much to handle, and with Severus' name on her lips and his long, black hair clutched in her fist, Hermione's resolve shattered one last time. That unintentionally caused Severus to head down the same path, albeit it with less moaning and more panting.
"That was..." Hermione began as a yawn snuck up on her, "...wonderful. Do you mind if we take a quick nap?"
"I thought that was my job as the post-climactic male," Severus replied, although he shifted and allowed Hermione to use the length of his body as her mattress. "Are you cold?"
"No...damn, I will be though." Sighing heavily, she reaching down to the floor and patted around until she found her wand. "Sorry..." she mumbled, remembering that Severus was still unable to use magic.
"I forgot about that; you could say that pleasurable pursuits had me otherwise engaged."
The devilish look on his face brought a pink tinge to Hermione's cheeks, and she practically chucked the pillow she'd just Summoned from her bedroom at his head.
"So that's it? I'm forced to slave in the kitchen all day, then you shag me to death and deny me dessert. I still didn't have my bread and butter pudding."
"It'll be there when we wake up," said Hermione dismissively, snuggling her head into Severus' chest as he covered them with the sheet. "Though I could really go for some chocolate ice cream...shame the kitchen seems so far away..."
Needless to say, it was going to be a while before Hermione got her ice cream and Severus got his pudding.
Upon waking an hour later, the two made love again. With them both being naked and Hermione straddling Severus' waist as they slept, the two were already in a perfect position and used it to their advantage.
"I could get used to that," Hermione panted after she collapsed onto Severus' chest. That round had been slightly less frantic than the first yet just as intense, and going from five years with no sex to twice within a night left her aching all over but completely satiated.
"Does that mean you plan on keeping me around?"
"Don't get me wrong, that was lovely, but so long as you continue kissing me the way you do then I'd be hard pressed to let you go," she smiled. "You're a good kisser and,"— Hermione paused with a sigh as Severus began massaging the back of her neck—"I could let you do that all day. Those hands should come with a warning: 'may caress you into a state of unconsciousness'."
"Damn, and I thought it was my improved cooking skills that were luring you in."
"Trust me, your cooking skills only sweeten the package." Hermione exhaled again as his fingers dug into her shoulders, easily finding the knots that came from hunching over whenever she read. "OK; that too."
"Essentially you're keeping me around to feed you and pet you. One would think you were part cat."
"I might be. Right now this cat is hungry. Ready for your pudding?"
"What do you think? Can't you tell that I'm light-headed and weak? It's a miracle I'm still awake."
Hermione sweetly smiled up at him. "I can change that for you if you like."
Severus narrowed his eyes at her. He then kissed the top of her head while reaching down to slap her behind through the sheet. The two ended up kissing again, and in the middle of their liplock, Severus whispered, "I still don't have my bread and butter pudding."
Hermione pulled away, laughing uncontrollably.
"You've earned it," she conceded, moving from the sofa to stand up. "But don't think this is going to become habitual."
"I would never dare to dream," Severus smirked, enjoying the sway of Hermione's naked hips as she walked out.
It didn't take long for her to return, and she handed Severus a small plate before sitting down.
"Very good, thank you," he murmured, tossing the sheet back over Hermione's legs with his free hand.
"I can't believe we're naked and having dessert in my living room," Hermione commented, prying the lid off her ice cream and digging in. Just as she raised the spoon to her lips, Severus leaned forward and caught it with his mouth. "You ate my ice cream."
"I did, and it was delicious."
"The bloody cheek...you ate my ice cream!"
"Be quiet. Here—" Severus shoved a forkful of his pudding into her still opened mouth. "Think of it as reparations."
Hermione pretended to look scandalised as she chewed and swallowed. "Reparations my arse; I'm the one who made the bread and butter pudding. All you did was look over my shoulder and give instruction."
"And your point is?"
Shaking her head, Hermione dug her spoon back into the ice cream and exaggeratedly leaned back to put it in her mouth.
"You know, you never told me who you lost this bet to."
Severus took a few more bites, chewing so slowly that it drove Hermione mad.
Hermione dropped her spoon.
"Lucius Malfoy?What are you two, twelve years old? Wait a minute, I take that back. Anyway I have to ask, what were your terms if he was to lose this bet?"
The corner of Severus' mouth twitched.
"I told Lucius if he were to lose that he'd have to wear Muggle clothing for a week. And not suits, but trainers, blue jeans and jumpers."
"That doesn't seem so bad."
"Not to you, but to someone like Lucius whose wardrobe is mostly black and consists largely of silk, satin, or velvet, Muggle clothing would be the equivalent of dressing in a burlap sack. Or even worse, standing completely naked in the middle of Diagon Alley. Actually, Lucius did say that he would sooner stand naked in Diagon Alley rather than wear a pair of jeans."
"He doesn't know what he's missing; I like jeans and trainers, though I'm not surprised. Anyway your week of no magic is nearly up. What's the first thing you're going to do when you can use your wand?"
The wicked gleam that worried Hermione appeared in his eye and she let out a long sigh.
When Severus first realised that he'd lost the bet to Lucius, he was mostly irritated about not being able to use magic. Now he wanted to thank his friend because in losing the bet, he gained something else: his newfound connection with a person that he never thought he would enjoy spending time with.
He and Hermione barely left the house for the next few days, much less her bedroom. However, it almost made him forget how he'd ended up there in the first place.
"Don't you dare laugh at me, but I'm going to miss not waking up to you," she told him that Friday evening. The two were nestled together in Hermione's bed, legs and feet tangled beneath the sheets. Severus had one arm draped across Hermione's torso and his fingertips were tracing around her navel, sometimes dipping inside the shallow indentation and making her laugh.
"Is that a subtle hint, letting me know that I'm no longer invited over?"
"What? No, you idiot. I just meant when you go back home my bed is going to feel a bit empty."
"Forgive me if it's too forward but you are more than welcome to visit my bed whenever you like. All I ask is that you look past the shoddy state of my home."
"When may I come visit you?"
"Whenever you like, Hermione. You can ring me if you like but it isn't as if I have a full dance card that would prevent me from answering."
"You have a telephone?"
"Yes; rarely used but it's there."
"When are you going to come back here?"
"Whenever you invite me. I won't barge in on you again."
"OK. But you still haven't told me when."
"Bloody hell, woman—relax. I'm here if you want me. Granted you should know this already, it's not as if I let just anyone nearly vomit on me."
"I did not vomit on you!"
"I said nearly."
"Ugh, you're a bothersome man."
"And you are a pain in my arse."
"I'll show you a pa—"
Severus planted his lips on Hermione's, silencing her and effectively ending the conversation.
Lucius Malfoy felt a tad guilty about the stringent terms he'd forced upon his longtime friend. Severus, however, had the ability to out-smug him even on his best day, and Lucius had been desperate to get him back. Had Narcissa heard about what he'd done, she would have verbally castigated him and forced him to cancel the bet.
Which is why he refused to tell her.
Lucius thought himself terribly clever by saddling Severus with the inability to use his wand. Little did he know that the joke would soon be on him, for he had no idea about the parcel that was being delivered to Malfoy Manor: a pair of blue jeans, a pristine pair of white trainers, and an ugly multicoloured knit jumper that looked as though it had been made by someone's blind granny, all of which had the Gemino Curse cast upon it.