She's certain of it.
There have been only three opportunities where she saw him actually write, sitting down hunched over a typewriter and clicking away. He's so tall, and built completely of angles, like an overgrown bird of prey; his jutting fingers snapping over the keys, pouring his ideas onto paper in a torrent of words. Hermione imagines she can see him thinking, see that enormous brain clicking and whirring like a machine. Each time she's felt a surge of privilege, as she knows Severus despises people watching him write. It makes him feel self-conscious.
"Your copy, Miss Granger," Mr. Snape says almost dismissively, handing her the thick manuscript. Hermione tucks a fluffy strand of hair behind her ear and hefts the thick wedge of neatly typed paper, eyes already scanning the title page.
Right on schedule, as usual. S. T. Snape never misses a deadline. "You fixed the middle bit?" she asks, flipping through the pages and skimming.
"I reworked it somewhat. And if you ask me to rewrite the chase scene again I shall burn the entire novel."
"It would save us both a bit of time," Hermione quips, and shoves the manuscript in her bag. "Right, don't forget about your classes, you have—"
"A morning lecture, I know. Insolent little brats."
She smiles. "I was once one of those brats, Mr. Snape."
"You were never a brat. A wholehearted, overly-enthusiastic nuisance, a busybody and a know-it-all, determined to flaunt your knowledge in front of your classmates like a well-trained peacock, that's what you were."
"Which is why you hired me, Mr. Snape."
"Precisely. Work on that manuscript right away, Miss Granger, I'd like to see it by this weekend."
She runs his life, if just a little bit. Mr. Snape is an intensely proud and organized man, keeping his life determinedly in check. But there are little details which get lost in the shuffle, and she thinks they get squirreled away inside his brain. Lost, somewhere, like a paperback in a library. So she sorts through his mail and post-it notes and brings him coffee, and makes sure his newspaper subscription is paid on time. Little things. Little tricks and tips of the business, which keeps the authors happy.
But the real perk of the job is seeing his mind at work.
The first draft of his books is always her favorite—obviously they need work, otherwise she would be irrelevant. But the public doesn't get to see the prickly, choppy, run-on first draft, they only see the sleek finished product. So as Hermione cuts down sentences and reshapes his prose, it gets a little cheaper. A little closer to mass appeal. His first copy is always rough and sometimes achingly raw, like the words are striking her in the face with their abruptness. She tries to keep these flavors in his books, but sometimes it doesn't always come through.
She remembers the first bad review Mr. Snape ever got. "Overly slick and polished," the critic yowled, "with the perfunctory emotions and results of two robots saving the world."
Mr. Snape had read it, torn the newspaper in several pieces and then fed it into the fire. "Moronic," he remarked idly, but she could tell by the way his jaw tightened that the reviewer had gotten to him. He didn't write for weeks, and finally Hermione's boss, Oliver Wood, sends her down to his flat with a cup of coffee.
"See where his head is at," Oliver ordered, and Hermione did just that; she talked to him and was rewarded with one of Mr. Snape's rambling, burningly angry rants.
"There's something masochistic about writing," Severus said, pacing his living room, long black hair falling into his eyes. (He hasn't had a shower in days, Hermione can tell.) "At first, you write because there's nothing else to do. It's boredom spilling out of your ear and onto some paper, with a few brain cells mixed in. And then some poor bastard comes by and says he likes it. Well, then, you're buggered. Because now you're writing for him. Or perhaps the poor bastard doesn't like it, and says so—then you write for him anyway. Regardless, you're never writing for yourself, only the dunderheads who buy your sodding trash. You become a whore for your own words, writing what people will buy and read."
Hermione had brewed him some strong tea and sent him into the bathroom to shave and shower. When he emerged, wearing a bathrobe and looking much fresher, she answered, "Don't write for the critics, Mr. Snape, because they're just doing their jobs. Same as you. Fill your roles, and then let the public act out the play."
The first time Hermione had ever read one of his books, it had been in an airport. She had picked it up from the little bookstore there, surprised at the name on the cover. Was it her old professor, from back at Hogwarts University? Curious, she began reading. She sat with her luggage at her feet, and promptly missed her flight.
His writing was astonishingly good. Sharp and funny and filthy at times, the prose was witty and scathing of politics and people. It came across very strongly that the main character (and perhaps the author) hated society as a general rule, and by the end of the book Hermione was feeling rather snobbish herself.
But the plot was thin. He became too wrapped up in his own intelligence, rambling and turning, monologuing with no real purpose. Clearly his editor was either high as bollocks or thought a slapdash job was being "avant-garde"; either way, the editor in Hermione's mind was screaming.
When she saw the little book-and-skull logo in the upper left corner of the binding, naming the publisher as Knockturn Publishing House, she phoned her boss immediately.
"S. T. Snape," Hermione had reported breathlessly into the receiver.
There had been the sound of papers shuffling. "Uhm…yeah, here we go. He's a new author picked up a few months ago. Normally he does stuff in journals. He's a scientist, I think."
"Have you read his book? Quotations and Expectations? It's brilliant."
"I know, that's why I've got Trelawney doing his books. He's going to get shortlisted for a Booker if he keeps this up, his stuff is great."
(Trelawney was a completely looney partner of the publisher, who was practically a relic and had oddly specific ideas about copyediting. Hermione hated her sometimes.)
"No," Hermione had argued, "his work could be great. But the editing, it's…it's loopy. Trelawney is fantastic, don't get me wrong—" (Lies, all lies) "—but it isn't suited for his writing. He needs someone firmer and with more guidelines, he monologues all over the place and his sentences last for nearly a paragraph."
"It adds character," Wood pointed out.
"It's confusing. Let me take a crack at it, please. Let me edit someone with a brain for once."
There was a rush of static into her telephone as Wood sighed. "I don't know, Hermione…"
"Please, Olly? Just think about it."
"I'll think about it," Oliver said halfheartedly.
When Oliver didn't get back to her, Hermione cut out the middleman.
She had reread Quotations and Expectations several times, with an almost feverish obsession mounting. Her criticisms against the book mounted ever higher, while the praise for his actual writing became an insurmountable pile. Snape was genius, and Hermione was nearly positive it was her old Chemistry professor, the one she had feared and loathed the most. He was a terrifying man, from what she remembered, but the elegance of his writing was really something to behold.
So when Mr. Snape came into Knockturn Publishing for his scheduled monthly meeting with Trelawney (Trelawney didn't make housecalls), Hermione pounced.
He came out of Trelawney's office looking sour and ill tempered, but this didn't stop Hermione as she hurried across the room. "Mr. Snape!" she called out in a hushed voice, causing him to turn around.
It was her old professor. He was tall and thin, dressed entirely in black, and had long black hair which curtained sharp, strong features which could only loosely be described as handsome. His intelligent black eyes bored down at her, and she quavered a little internally.
"Mr. Snape, I…I've read your book," Hermione squeaked, fumbling, holding up her dog-eared paperback copy. "I…I picked it up at the airport."
A beat. And then, "How fascinating."
"Oh! I'm so sorry. I'm Hermione, Hermione Granger. You probably don't remember me, but—"
"You were a student of mine," Severus said dryly. "I believe I remember your left hand better than anything else, since it was constantly waving in the air during my lectures."
Hermione went entirely pink. "Yes, um, well—"
"Nearly perfect grades across the board, as I recall," he continued, "and yet you end up here, at a second-rate publishing house with minimum wages and a terribly awful taste in carpet décor."
The carpets were rather lurid and floral-smelling, but that was beside the point. "Ignoring the state of these carpets, I wanted to talk with you about your books," Hermione persisted.
"What about them," he said shortly.
"I want to edit them."
Snape stopped walking and turned to her. "Why," he asked, with little patience, "would I give a menial copy editor like yourself the ability to edit my work when I have a senior partner currently proofreading them?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Because I'm an excellent editor, I've been working here at Knockturn for three years now, your writing is brilliant but sadly misshapen, and I was the only one to get a passing grade on your lab practical midterm, sir."
There was a long, evaluating moment of silence, and then Snape's lips turned upwards in a ghost of a smile. "Remarkably confident in your own abilities," he noted, "or perhaps just idiotic."
Before he walked away, he threw over his shoulder, "I'll let you look at one or two of my works tomorrow. I'll mail them."
And so began their business relationship.
"You'll have to rework this whole chapter."
"Because it's shit."
"Elaborate, if you will."
"Your main character shows a completely inhuman reaction to this entire scenario. If I were to walk in on my lover murdering my father, I would possibly scream or beat him senseless with the nearest blunt object. I wouldn't just run away screaming. Not to mention Stephen stands in the doorway for ages, just watching his girlfriend execute his father. Thinking about the Royal Family, I might add."
"It works in context," Snape snarled moodily.
"There is no context! You gave yourself a scenario, stick with it! Stay with the action, follow the pacing you set up for yourself. It flows along quite well until this chapter where it just smashes to a halt."
"Precisely. It's a turning point in the series."
"Then make it feel like a turning point. Stop being a child."
"I find it ironic that a woman fifteen years my junior is lecturing me on immaturity."
"I find it funny that a man fifteen years older than myself is pouting in his armchair like a twelve year old." She tossed a ream of fresh paper in his lap. "Get cracking, your deadline is in two days."
Something that bit me on the ass and refused to let go. Rated T for now but will probably go up in later chapters, since I'm practically physical incapable of writing something without sex. -nylex