A/N: This piece was written for the Third (summer) SSHG Promptfest on LiveJournal. I've only changed a minor grammatical error or two, so the gist of it is very much as it was when it was originally posted. You can find more information about my prompt below. (I ended up doing a bit more back story for this piece, but I found it a necessary tie-in to the rest of the story.)
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Brittny, for her immeasurable help!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox. No money, just fun. Artwork is credited to Natalliel on DeviantArt and entitled "Yin-Yang".
LJ Fest: SSHG Prompt Fest
Warning(s): Mild Language
Prompt: A potion accident leaves Hermione stuck on Severus - literally! (SS/HG or SS and HG, author's choice!)
Stuck On You
Minerva McGonagall had a stressful standing at Hogwarts these days. As a former Head of House and Deputy Headmistress, she was fairly experienced in being inundated with work under the late Albus Dumbledore's loose-minded administration, but as Hogwarts's newly instated Headmistress (the first since the end of the Second Wizarding War), she had a great deal more riding on her shoulders nowadays.
Sometimes, usually late at night when the rest of the school had tucked in for a good night's sleep, the reserved, stiff upper-lipped Minerva McGonagall would confess her grievances to Albus's portrait in the Head office, from her grumblings with war-weary staff members to intense meetings with the unreasonable Board of Governors to the fact that she hadn't had a proper night's rest since "Merlin knows when!" She hadn't a clue how her old friend had managed the school for so many years without losing his nerve, but his portrait, at least, repeatedly listened with an understanding ear, unlike another former Headmaster who was alive and well and working under her very nose, and she greatly appreciated Albus's input and advice.
Sure, Albus had always relied too heavily on Minerva and the rest of the staff to see to school-related matters he couldn't seemingly be concerned with, and that had grated on her nerves more times than she cared to count, but, at the time, she took her dear friend's unshakable faith with pride given how much she looked up to him. Their friendship had been an exceptional one, borne out of a mutual respect for one another, as well as like minds when it came to the welfare of the students and school.
Thus, following Albus's passing, Minerva felt as though the rug had been ripped from underneath her feet when she learned of Albus's untoward treatment towards one of her long-time colleagues and the former Headmaster who didn't take so kindly to her grievances with said position: Severus Snape. She had been shocked by a number of disclosures that came to light, and the revelations lessened her opinion of the great wizard. Particularly, Albus's use of Severus and Potter as means to an end greatly shook her faith in him, and it had taken Minerva the better part of a year to come to terms with the unsavoury approaches he had taken for the greater good of their cause.
In the three years since, Minerva sought out a still surly Severus for advice but kept her intrusions to a minimum. She understood that whilst Severus might sympathise with her issues when it came to, say, dealing with the stuffy Board of Governors, she would find no commiseration for many of her other troubles.
After the personal and professional hell the former spy had endured as Headmaster that year the Dark Lord fell, Minerva wasn't one to gripe around him too often or too loudly. Severus didn't speak much about that trying year, and Minerva wasn't one to prod someone for details where it wasn't warranted. How he had survived was an accomplishment in its own merit, and largely why she wouldn't stoop to pitying herself too often over this overworked, rather thankless job. She couldn't imagine having to keep up with two masters—one of whom had been a cold-blooded psychopath!—and constantly having to shut down her mind whilst secretly gathering intelligence on their enemies, whilst also overlooking the everyday ons and goings of the school, looking after the student body and the staffs' grievances and affairs, and managing a few decent hours of rest on top of it all.
Poor, dear Severus... If we'd only known...
On relatively quiet evenings such as tonight's, when Minerva was finally nearing the end of the stack of owls that required her immediate response, her mind—still as sharp as ever—drifted to three years ago when she had first been thrust into the unwanted role of Headmistress. The transition hadn't been smooth but was one she was well-suited to undertake.
The school had been in shambles and in desperate need of repairs, starting with a series of new wards throughout the castle to ensure it from incurring further damage. Most of its magical protection spells had been centuries old and meant to last. Today, some parts of the castle were still inaccessible and barred off to students.
Much of that first year had been spent attending to mending the broken castle, and both Minerva and the staff had put in overtime in seeing that whatever could be salvaged was properly restored. Severus Snape had agreed to help rebuild the school, though Minerva had had to convince the stubborn Slytherin—beg him, rather—to return to Hogwarts, despite having been the subject of controversy as its Headmaster the previous year.
Restoring Severus to the coveted position he had so long desired—Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher—initially had several parents in an uproar. Even Minerva couldn't have foreseen the number of angry Howlers that came her way from barking families all over the continent; but she didn't succumb to their misplaced objections or the will of some of the more fickle members of the Board of Governors. If there was anyone who deserved a second chance, it was the quietly stout-hearted, terribly misunderstood Severus Snape, her former pupil and good friend. Merlin knew he wasn't the only member from badly tainted Slytherin House whom she and others had aggrievedly misjudged.
Minerva wasn't to be alone in her steadfast request to see Severus Snape reinstated to the school. The summer following the Final Battle, Minerva found an unexpected ally in none other than Hermione Granger, one of her most decorated Gryffindors and a famous member of the Golden Trio. The fiery, outspoken witch had pounced on all the ill-conceived contentions surrounding her former professor with bombastic enthusiasm. As the cleverest to have stepped through Minerva's House in decades, she was all too pleased, if not pleasantly surprised, by the actions Hermione took on Severus's behalf. The churlish professor seemed far less appreciative of the woman's "infuriating meddling," however, whilst Minerva simply chortled and brushed his complaints aside. The poor man didn't know what was good for him.
Minerva kept a close eye on Hermione's prospects that summer and wasn't at all surprised when she chose to take her N.E.W.T.S. early the following autumn. Her early leave from the school presented Minerva with a golden opportunity: to offer Hermione a teaching post in Muggle Studies. It was a position the bright witch gladly accepted. The only person to come forward and express his displeasure with Minerva's decision had been the very person whom Hermione had so vigorously defended: Severus.
Go figure. Poor man doesn't know what's good for him.
Minerva clucked Severus's carping aside once more and moved on. She expected many a rousing debate from those two at future Head table meals and staff meetings, and, in the past two years since hiring Hermione, Minerva had yet to find herself unamused by their bantering. Sure, they would sometimes stoop to glowering at one another like petulant children rather than getting into verbal spats—well, Severus would scowl; Hermione would stick up her nose defensively and refuse to acknowledge the man's existence, snubbing him throughout breakfast, lunch or dinner—but, mostly, their intellectual debates were of an intensely vociferous, amusing nature.
Towards the end of Hermione's first year of teaching, however, what had begun as intellectual rowing had somehow shifted. Their altercations became less about one another's questionable academic research and more personal, mainly about how the one infuriatingly treated the other, and it seemed obvious to all but the stubborn pair what it was that had their knickers in such a twist: they were in love.
Minerva had unearthed Severus's attraction fairly early on. Only that man could make a snarky comment to an attractive, challenging young woman that, in the same breath, might pass for a form of endearment if she read between the lines. Having known Severus since he was a mere boy of eleven, Minerva knew all too well that Severus only ever bothered sharing his opinions with those he considered to be on the same intellectual plane as him, and only if he cared enough to bother.
In the case of Hermione Severus had quickly begun spewing a mouthful. If he wasn't dismissing her ineffective teaching methods on a near constant basis (mainly to fire her up) than it was off-the-wall comments regarding her informal manner of address, her ghastly attire, or her nagging challenges against his seniority amongst the staff. Hermione took Severus's cutthroat remarks in stride, which only served to disgruntle and frustrate the hell out of him further. It was rather surprising to all that she continued to boldly pursue his company despite his nasty attitude, and very directly in ways that Minerva thought her colleague positively daft not to have noticed by now; or perhaps he was in denial?
Whether it was repeatedly seeking out the empty chair next to Severus at the Head table day after day or pestering him persistently on anything from teaching advice to what she should purchase for her parents or godchildren for Christmas, it seemed a determined Hermione was finally, after two years, wearing Hogwarts' sulky Slytherin down.
As for Minerva, she was all too pleased to see her former pupil's efforts coming to fruition. The poor wizard deserved some long-awaited happiness. Why couldn't he simply allow himself to be happy already?
When is he ever going to realise how badly he's got it for her? Minerva would muse to herself, smiling at the unconventional pair behind her morning brew of Scottish Breakfast or an evening dram of Scotch. Those two need to acknowledge their feelings already before they drive the staff batty, including me!
Just as that passing thought entered Minerva's mind she was startled out of her reveries by a commotion outside her door. Scrambling and shuffling could be detected, growing louder and more dire by as it fast approached. At once, she recognised the voices that were presently snarling and huffing back and forth at one another. She leaned back from her desk, her apprehensions mounting as she listened.
Speak of the devils...
"Blast it, Granger!" Severus spat heatedly. "I've told you repeatedly to move with me, not against me! Are you incapable of following directions still?"
"Your strides are much wider than mine!" she argued with equal fury. "How the hell am I supposed to keep up, Severus? You're taking the stairs two at a time on purpose!"
"I most certainly am not!"
"Yes, you are! You're purposely trying to drag me!"
"Since when is it my fault that you have no balance or coordination and can't hike up the bloody stairs at a reasonable pace?"
"Oh, you're impossible, you know that?" Hermione hissed and apparently stomped her foot. "This is all your fault, you know!"
"My fault?" he snapped, sounding considerably affronted.
"YES! If you'd listened to me from the beginning about the dangers of crossing knotgrass with lovage and peppermint—"
"Spare me your damn dissertation, Granger!" Severus growled between what was surely clenched teeth. "Have you forgotten that I have at least two decades' worth of more experience in the practice of Potion-making than you?"
"I would bear that in mind had you not been so bloody stubborn about not listening to me for once!"
"Why would I?"
"Because you were in such a hurry to test my theory and push me out the door to think rationally for two bloody seconds!" Hermione countered, her voice rising in pitch and intensity.
"Why you infuriating—"
"DON'T YOU DARE, SEVERUS SNAPE, OR I'LL—"
"YOU'LL WHAT?" came Severus's booming response, by which point Minerva was hustling over to her office door. "Hex me? Idiot girl, we're stuck together and our wands are missing!"
"Damn it, Severus, I know that!"
"Then what the hell are you barking on about—"
That was it. Minerva had had enough of her colleagues' childish hissy fit. She threw the door open with gusto, prepared to reprimand the pair of them accordingly, when her eyes widened at the quizzical sight before her. Severus and Hermione stood sheepishly back to back, wiggling and scuffling and fighting against each other, though there was nothing Minerva could see that was binding them together. However, both were trying unsuccessfully to break themselves apart.
"What the blazes has gotten into you two?" she demanded once she had recovered.
At once, Severus's nostrils flared and he made a headstrong raise of his chin. He glared daggers at her sidelong but refused to speak. Hermione, on the other hand, blushed apologetically.
"We're sorry to disturb you, Headmistress," she stammered, writhing against whatever invisible enchantments kept her bound to Severus.
"I'll say!" Minerva snipped; she studied them carefully over her square-rimmed spectacles, finding nothing at the off that might assist her in combating whatever was wrong. "I'll have you both know that it's nearly midnight. What have you been up to?"
Severus had the gall to look insulted and bared his teeth. "What does it look like, Minerva?" he challenged lowly, which put Minerva on the defence. She crossed her arms over her chest and pressed her thin lips together.
"I haven't the slightest inkling, Severus. Perhaps you would care to enlighten me? And use your indoor voice, if you please."
Severus's slighted expression morphed into one of childlike humiliation. He grunted to clear his throat and nodded towards the much smaller witch at his back, who was now shooting him an infuriated glare of her own.
"I was assisting Miss Granger with her independent research—"
"For improving anti-befuddlement potions, Headmistress," Hermione interrupted, with a glimmer of pride reflected in her tone.
Severus snapped his head sideways to stare her down before continuing. "We were working on a solution this evening when I noted Miss Granger making a crucial error."
"Minor more like," the witch grumbled under her breath.
"I attempted to intervene, seeing as that's what she had asked me along for," he emphasised with exasperation, not catching Hermione's dramatic eye roll that followed, "when the entire operation back-pedalled."
Minerva's eyebrows drew upward. "Back-pedalled?"
"The potion blew up, Headmistress," Hermione interjected a second time, "and somehow, erm, Severus and I ended up like this."
"You know perfectly well why we ended up this way, Miss Granger," Severus retorted with a frustrated grimace, much to Hermione's and Minerva's chagrin.
"Oh, for goodness' sake! Shall I levitate you two into my office or would you prefer to try to walk?"
Hermione started to open her mouth, but Severus beat her to it. "Absolutely not. We're perfectly capable of walking."
Minerva frowned. "I can see that."
The elderly witch, exercising a great deal of patience by now, silently retreated to her desk whilst Severus and Hermione attempted to drag themselves into her office sideways. As anticipated, it didn't take long for the bickering to ensue.
"Would you please not force me to drag you?" Severus sputtered when Hermione let out an aggravated huff at not being able to keep up.
"Then slow down!" she argued and blew a frizzy curl out of her eyes.
"You always were the clumsy sort."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Clever, mind you," the wizard continued to goad, twisting against her to no avail, "but not the quickest on your feet."
"Oh, you're one to talk, Mr Tactful-I-Hate-Everyone—"
"All right, that's enough!" Minerva shot out of her chair, her beady eyes darting intensely from one to the other. "Now, unless you'd prefer to be stuck together for the rest of the night, how might I help you?"
Severus and Hermione suddenly craned their necks to look at one another, the exchange passing between them, at first, confusing to the third party watching them. "Minerva," Severus spoke up with a weighty sigh, "I'm afraid we've lost our wands."
Minerva blinked. "Lost them? How?"
"The force of the explosion knocked us backwards," Hermione explained, "and, by the time we realised that we were stuck together, neither of us could find our wands. We looked all over. We even used Accio."
"They're not in one of your pockets?"
Minerva caught the brightening shade of red that suddenly flushed her colleagues' faces; it had been a simple question, so why the profuse blushing?
"No, erm, we checked," Hermione tumbled nervously over her words, whilst Severus's lips tightened together. "Well, we attempted to at any rate..."
Ignoring the oddity of that reply, Minerva turned to Severus questioningly. "Why didn't you call for Winky? Couldn't she have assisted you?"
"Miss Granger insisted that I not wake her." Severus shot the exasperating young witch another one of his trademark sneers. "Apparently, it's more suitable to disrupt your evening, Minerva, than it is a bloody house-elf's."
"You overwork that poor thing enough as it is! Not to mention, you frighten her!"
Hermione turned ruefully to Minerva. "I'm so sorry, Headmistress. This was a mistake. We shouldn't have..."
"Not at all, Miss Granger." Minerva put up her hand to stop either of them from speaking. "However, I believe Severus is right in this case. We should look to Winky to help you in retrieving your wands."
Hermione's brown eyes flashed. "But, Headmistress—"
"Our house-elves like to be of service, Miss Granger. I know you disagree, and I can respect that, but Winky enjoys what she does, although, I dare say, you're probably right about one thing: she likely is terrified of Severus." She threw the dark wizard a cheeky grin he didn't return. "She'll take direction from me much better, I'm sure."
Hermione's mouth slumped; there was no disguising her disappointment. She didn't keep a house-elf at the school herself for apparent reasons that stemmed back to her school days and the founding of S.P.E.W. However, in front of the Headmistress, she chose to shut up about it and lowered her eyes a fraction.
"Winky!" Minerva called to the house-elf, who immediately appeared in her office the next moment with an audible pop. She squeaked and bowed her floppy, pointed ears nervously.
"Winky, we need your help."
"Winky will help, Ma'am!"
"Would you go to the dungeons and retrieve Severus's and Miss Granger's wands? They seem to have gone missing in the midst of an experiment."
"Yes, Ma'am, yes! Right away!" the house-elf peeped and disappeared in the next instance before Hermione could protest.
Once Winky was out of sight, Minerva turned to face her two fastened-together colleagues, both of whom appeared sorely put out by this mess. "Your wands couldn't have gotten far." She brought her hands together casually in front of her. "Now, then, while we're waiting for Winky to return, why don't I leave the two of you to work this out?"
"What?" Severus and Hermione blurted out in unison.
A wave of horror washed over their gaping faces, as if Minerva had requested that they ingest flesh-eating slugs. She couldn't help but chuckle, which visibly riled Severus and left Hermione blushing to her roots.
"Oh, cut it out, would you? You two really need to get things out in the open already! You think the rest of us don't see this?" She gestured emphatically towards the two of them, but Severus and Hermione stared on, utterly bewildered. "I think it's high time you both came to terms with a few important matters, don't you?"
Severus's eyes narrowed into slits. "Just what are you insinuating, Minerva?" he questioned, his jaw tightly clenched.
"I think you know exactly what I'm getting at, Severus. Unless you'd prefer that I spell it out for you?"
"No!" both aggressively cut her off at once.
"Very well. I'll leave you to it." Minerva moseyed around her desk and started for the door, Severus's and Hermione's terrified eyes trailing the Headmistress's every step. "And I expect you two to have gotten to the heart of things by the time I return."
For the incensed wizard and witch still stuck together, an unnerving silence filled the darkened space once Minerva left her office, though the warm glow emitting from the fireplace was welcoming and peaceful despite the tense circumstances they were in. Neither spoke for a long time, but it was Hermione who finally attempted to break the awkwardness with a quiet clearing of her throat.
"We really made a mess of things this time, didn't we?"
"You made a mess of things, Granger."
"Won't you take any credit?" She prodded her elbow against his side, trying to make light of the situation. "You didn't listen to me, Severus. You were too busy telling me off and how I never seem to know what I'm doing—"
"Well, when it comes to Potion-making, you don't!" he maintained with a growl, causing Hermione to shake her head and fall silent. The man really was impossible most of the time; that was, until he piped up softly, "That being said, I... I shouldn't have lost my temper on you."
Hermione waited, hearing him scrape his boots behind her on the wooden floors, and cautiously turned her head. "Is that...an apology, Severus?" she asked after a lengthy pause.
"Don't start, Granger," he returned, griping irritably. "If I ever lose my nerve, it's because you provoke me."
To Severus's astoundment, Hermione chuckled at that, and, despite knowing he should feel insulted by her laughter, he instead found it whimsical to hear, its' fluttering trickling through his body like a soothing stream of warm water. He inadvertently leaned into her, and Hermione did likewise.
"I suppose I do have a tendency to peeve you off, but it's quite fun to ruffle your feathers."
"Yes," she snickered lightly, and Severus felt the reverberations against his lower back, "I like how your cheeks redden and your eyes flare when I've touched a nerve. Even in your anger, you speak with passion, and it's actually..."
Hermione stopped herself short of finishing. She was speaking irrational nonsense. Why was she doing that? Her heart instinctively beat faster against her chest, and she soon found Severus elbowing her rib to coax her to continue.
"Yes? You were saying, Granger?"
"I... I'm sorry," she stuttered, grateful that her back was turned so that he couldn't see the severe flush upon her face. "I shouldn't have said—"
"No," Severus insisted without irritation, "I'd like to hear it...if you would?"
"Erm, well..." Hermione shifted back and forth, their backs brushing spine to spine. "I just... I like getting you to respond to me is all. You've always been so closed off. I understand why you had to do so in the past, but, well, with the war over now it's... It's admittedly nice to see you open up a bit, Severus; to hear you speak your mind, even if you can be rather sarcastic when you do."
A puzzled scowl, as well as a confused line formed between Severus's eyes as he listened to Hermione speak. When she ceased talking, he half turned his head towards her and confessed in a hushed voice, "I know I'm unpleasant, Granger. It's difficult for me...to express myself..."
"I know, Severus; I do. You don't have to explain. Still, it's nice."
Heartened by such gentle reassurance, Severus's hair flew forward to half mask his face. He could feel the tension building behind him—the way Hermione's shoulders were rigid and her breathing had quickened—and tried to focus on the lingering silence, but his thoughts were screeching, leaving him no peace of mind save for filling the void. Despite being locked together, they suddenly seemed miles away from each other.
"What do you suppose Minerva meant when she said...?"
An uneasy pause later, "Don't - Don't you know, Severus?"
"I think I do, but I don't want to be wrong," came his surprising, quiet answer, and Hermione, too, twisted her curly head towards him; but she couldn't really see him as his face was well-concealed behind limp, black hair.
Without thinking, Hermione leaned into Severus again and sought out his hand somewhere nearby. Once she found it, she wrenched her smaller fingers between his spindly digits and squeezed. She saw Severus's head jerk, though he still wouldn't turn her way. His breath seemed to have caught in his throat, too, but he didn't dare move. He also didn't push this slight effort to get closer to him away, which Hermione was immensely grateful for, so much so that she quirked a smile.
"You wouldn't be wrong, Severus," she whispered back, gripping his hand firmly. "I've just been hoping for a long time now that you might... Well, that you might eventually notice me."
The uncertainty of that inquiry tugged at Hermione's heartstrings. She realised then that it wasn't that the poor man hadn't noticed her before, but he simply wouldn't allow himself to hope for a chance with her.
"Yes, of course I have!"
"Why would you think I wouldn't notice you?"
Hermione eyed him curiously. "I don't know. I suppose I wasn't certain if you'd want anything from me; if - if I was at all what you desire in...someone. Your mood swings have made my attempts at figuring out your type pretty frustrating."
"My type?" he murmured so softly she almost missed it. "Foolish."
"You're a fool, Granger, to think any man with half a brain wouldn't notice you the second he laid eyes on you."
Hermione blinked rapidly. Had Severus Snape actually complimented her, without any hidden messages or subtleties? In its own manner of address, it confirmed all of Hermione's desperate hopes, and her stomach fluttered in response.
"And you're a blockhead to think yourself so undesirable," she countered back, smiling from ear to ear.
Finally, Severus fully rotated his head and peered into her eyes. His usually sharp features weren't cold but warm—soft, even—and unconsciously drew Hermione closer.
"It appears we've both been horribly misinformed," he suggested through considerate, obsidian irises that reflected the dancing firelight in their depths.
"Yes, it seems we have..."
Two pairs of lips progressed closer, intent on finally authenticating exacerbating years of pent-up frustrations, when a sudden pop and a high-pitched squeak swiftly cast them apart. Hermione tried to laugh off the unwanted intrusion of Winky by laughing, albeit nervously, and, to her relief, Severus smirked as well.
"Winky found Master's and Miss's wands! They were stuck beneath the storage door, sir! Winky retrieved them safe and sound!"
Severus coughed awkwardly. "Thank you, Winky."
"Should Winky unstuck Master and Miss, sir?"
Suddenly, it dawned on Hermione that Minerva could have easily seen to their detachment before hustling Winky off to get their wands. She could have broken them apart as they spat in her doorway, for that matter. Her eyes widened in amazement. The old witch had gone full stop as a bloody matchmaker to get her and Severus to see heart to heart before setting them free. Had it occurred to Severus already what the Headmistress had done?
"Yes, Winky, that would be appreciated," Severus consented to the elf, his voice not giving way to any awareness of the fact.
Winky made a quick snap of her fingers. At once, whatever magical pull that had bound them together as a result of their potion malfunction shattered, and Severus and Hermione were left free to step away from one another. As they did so, the mutual expression they bore could probably be described as disappointment rather than consolation.
Winky quickly distributed their wands, asked if there was anything else she could be of service with, and Severus dismissed her to get some rest, issuing more civility to his house-elf than she evidently was accustomed to, for she bowed lower than usual. Then, with another pop, she vanished from the Head office, leaving the two professors alone at long last.
"Did you know?" Hermione asked, to which Severus didn't follow. "That we could have been spared staying stuck together this long?"
The sliver of a smile that broke out on Severus's face spoke volumes. "Perhaps."
Hermione's eyebrows rose high on her head. "Why didn't you say anything?"
To further confound her, Severus merely shrugged, glanced down at her hand, and slid it into his with ease. Then he explained patiently, "Minerva was already threatening to give away all my private sentiments for you; not sure how she knew, but, in any case, I wasn't about to test her limits."
Hermione laughed at that and shot him a playful look. "Does she frighten you?"
"Certainly not," he opposed in a low hiss, "but I do know better than to cross an easily miffed Scottish witch who's averaging about as much sleep these days as I am."
Hermione's smile extended across her radiant cheeks, and, without warning, she leaned in on her tiptoes to kiss him sweetly on one of his own cheeks. When she reared back, Severus was staring wide-eyed down at her, his hand remaining tightly entwined in hers. That was how she knew that she hadn't just frightened him off. Two years of scrutinising and slowly coming to understand the mind and heart of Severus Snape hadn't been an easy road, but, despite tonight's research setbacks, the emotional result it had brought to both of them was well worth the wait.
"Well," came a familiar female voice from the doorway, which had crept open without their awareness, "have we finally settled things?"
Severus and Hermione solemnly nodded to Minerva, and it was a testament to how long-awaited this moment had been that Severus's hand didn't shy away from Hermione's in the Headmistress's presence. Delighted, Hermione gave his hand another reassuring squeeze.
"Very well. I'm glad to hear you two have come to an accord, hopefully one we can all live with."
Severus rolled his eyes at the elderly woman's goading, but Hermione giggled in agreement and inched closer to him. Without further delay, and feeling quite accomplished, Minerva shooed them both out of her office and collapsed in the chair behind her desk, a triumphant smile emerging on her lips.
"Thank goodness," she spoke aloud to the portrait of Albus Dumbledore directly above her head, knowing he had been feigning sleep and listening in the whole time, "those two have finally resolved their issues."
"You know it won't stop their bickering from time to time, Minerva," came Albus's twinkling response.
"Oh, I'm well aware of that, Albus, but I'm glad to see dear Severus happy for a change. It's been such a long time since I've seen that peace I saw on his face tonight when he left."
"Indeed. Miss Granger's a good fit."
"Yes, she is," Minerva concurred with a wider smile. "She's the only Gryffindor patient enough to put up with him. Merlin bless her! Severus should be thanking his lucky stars!"
With that, the Headmistress chuckled, stretched, and rightly tucked in for the night. The rest of her nagging late-night duties could wait till morning.
A/N #2: Thank you for reading. Reviews are always greatly appreciated.