Hermione hummed happily to herself as she sped down the hall towards her classroom. Her autumn care package from her mum had arrived earlier and while she'd only had a few minutes to dig through the contents, it was more than enough time to put her in a cheery mood.
Pumpkin-spice-everything tended to have that effect on her just about now as the warmth of the summer faded into the crispness of October.
With her mind back in her room on her goodies, Hermione took a corner a little too quickly and without looking. "Oomph!"
Thankfully, two hands whipped out to steady her, and Hermione's grin returned as she looked up at Severus. "Oh, thank you! I admit I wasn't looking where I was going, and my mind was elsewhere—"
"What in Merlin's name have you been brewing?" Severus interrupted. As this was a common occurrence when they conversed together, Hermione didn't bother to chastise him.
"Brewing? Nothing since yesterday's Pepper Up batches, why?"
Severus bent closer to sniff her hair, and Hermione lifted an arm to her face to smell as well, confused. Did she have an odor? That was odd. She couldn't remember being in the laboratory today nor had she been hit with any school-age jinxes that would make her smell like flobberworms...that she knew of, anyway.
"You smell...peculiar. I don't recognize that ingredient." Again he sniffed at her shoulder, inhaling more deeply this time.
Aware of the crowd they were drawing, Hermione shoved his shoulder none too gently. Severus rarely responded to light touches—only a strong poke to the chest or a swat on the arm would get her point across during a disagreement or heated debate.
"Right, well, thank you, I guess, but I haven't been brewing as of late. I'll have Dobby launder my robes later. See you for supper?"
"As always," Severus replied, still frowning. Hermione gave him a little wave as she continued on to her classroom and an afternoon's worth of sixth-year Arithmancy.
Several of her sixth-years ended up staying after class for some additional help, so Hermione only had a short time back in her quarters to really delve into her care package before she was expected at dinner. Squealing with delight as she revealed each new item, Hermione unboxed the pumpkin spice scones and biscuits her mum had baked from scratch; a special pumpkin-spiced cream spread she'd found at a nearby market; pumpkin spice chocolates, perfume, air-freshening satchels, spice jar, and even all the makings for a few pumpkin spice lattes. There was a note: "Hermione, dear, I know you said electricity doesn't work at the school, but I suppose you witches have ways around that. Enjoy your coffee, sweetie! Love, Mum."
Taking a huge whiff of the perfume and sighing happily, Hermione idly spritzed herself a few times before lining all the goodies up on her small desk. She had to exercise a great deal of willpower not to simply spoil her dinner and consume the biscuits immediately, but she promised herself half the tin for afters.
She practically skipped downstairs to the Great Hall. Autumn was her favorite time of year and today's box of treats was her annual kick-off to the season. She slowed her gait once she entered the Hall; it wouldn't do to behave so indecorously in front of the students. Or so Severus always told her when she became too animated at dinner. There was rarely any bite to his words, but the man did certainly like to point out when her hair began to vibrate and her voice reached too high a volume. But, drat the man, he always instigated the most vigorous debates, and she could hardly let him win every time. Besides, if the barely-discernible crinkles at the corners of his eyes were any indication, he enjoyed their exchanges as much as she did.
She was nearly to her seat at the faculty table when she saw Neville signaling her from the other end. He chose, not surprisingly, to sit as far away from Severus as possible. Given how Severus still seemed to enjoy intimidating the new Herbology professor, Hermione supposed she could hardly blame Neville. Changing course, she met him at his seat.
"I've got something for you," Neville announced mysteriously. He produced a package wrapped in brown paper from his robes and held it out to her. It was distinctly bottle-shaped.
"Oooh!" Hermione clapped her hands and reached for the package. "Don't tell me Hannah's already got it on tap?" she asked.
Neville nodded, smiling. "You wouldn't believe what a hit it was last year. She ran out of the barrel in about three days, had to brew up another batch. Take a look at this year's, though." He gestured to the package.
Hermione greedily ripped open the paper, revealing an extra-large bottle of Special Edition Pumpkin Spiced Butterbeer.
"Leaky exclusive," Neville said proudly.
"She's going to make a killing," Hermione murmured, turning the bottle over and reading the small label on the back. Then she grinned beseechingly at Neville. "I don't suppose she sent me one to keep and one to drink, did she?"
He laughed and pulled a second, smaller unwrapped bottle from his robes. "She knows you too well," he said.
"She knows my affection for pumpkin spice," Hermione corrected him, taking the smaller bottle. "Thank you—and please give Hannah my love!" She hugged him briefly with one arm around his neck before heading to her end of the table. She noticed Severus glaring at them but he quickly turned his attention back to his plate when he saw her coming. Slipping the larger bottle into her robe pocket, Hermione twisted off the top to the "for-drinking" bottle. She slid into her seat, smiled at Severus, and went to take a long sip of her coveted beverage.
Somehow, though, between her hand and mouth the bottle simply...vanished. "Hey!" she cried, looking around for the culprit.
Severus was turned towards her, his wand already slipping back into his sleeve. He was aiming a horrendously angry stare down the table at Neville. Without breaking eye contact, he said, "That drink was poisoned, Hermione, have you no sense? You can't simply accept liquids from unknown sources without checking them for Dark magic first!"
Exasperated, and definitely Butterbeer-less, Hermione huffed out a breath. "First of all, how is someone going to slip any Dark potions in past the safeguards that you personally put in place? And second, I did know the source—that was direct from Hannah Longbottom." She paused, peeved. "And I was quite looking forward to drinking it."
"Yes, well, you know my opinions of Longbottoms," Severus replied darkly. He was still scowling at Neville, but at least the anger seemed to have ebbed. "In any case, it smelled similar to the peculiar scent I detected on you earlier today. Are you sure you aren't being targeted for some nefarious scheme?"
He was really serious. Hermione burst into laughter at his expression, and her fit only grew worse when he frowned at her, clearly affronted. "Nefarious...oh...it's too funny..." Tears began to stream down her face, and more than one student in the Great Hall glanced nervously between her and Professor Snape. The students were accustomed to the two of them arguing and occasionally laughing together, but this? No one had ever seen the like, and it was clear they didn't know what to make of the situation. Hermione tried to get herself under control, but it was no use. Eventually she simply pulled the Special Edition bottle out of her pocket and handed it wordlessly to Severus. He examined the label carefully as well as the ingredient list before setting it on the table in front of them.
"I refuse to apologize for taking preventative action when a strange scent was emanating from the beverage you were about to drink," he said, somewhat primly. This only set Hermione off into more peals of laughter and she had to wait another few minutes before she could respond.
Finally, she managed, "Thank you, Severus, for looking out for me," knowing that anything else would only send him into a snit. His snits typically lasted eight to twelve hours so it was best to avoid them when possible.
He frowned once more at Neville before returning his attention to his plate, stabbing his roast with rather more force than necessary. "I fail to see how a simple artificial flavoring could send a normally even-tempered witch into such paroxysms of delight."
"You consider me even-tempered? How flattering," she mused. When he didn't crack a smile at her joke, however, Hermione decided to take pity on him. "Why don't you come by my quarters later and I'll share some of my stash with you? Then you can see for yourself."
At first she thought he would refuse—he generally refused any invitation to her quarters unless it was to retrieve a book—but then he nodded almost imperceptibly and stood to leave. "Eight o'clock."
"Bring your positive attitude and open mind with you!" she called to his retreating back.
She could hear his you're-plaguing-me-again sigh from three meters away.
At precisely 7:59 that evening, Hermione pulled open her door just before Severus' knuckles could rap on it. "I'm getting better," she pointed out as he scowled and entered her sitting room. They often played this game—each trying to anticipate the other's move before he or she could make it. It was rather like a chess game, except far more enjoyable to Hermione's thinking. She hated chess; trying to outmaneuver Severus filled her with a thrill and sense of purpose that nothing else seemed to provide.
Odd how she'd never realized that until now.
Shaking off her peculiar train of thought, Hermione grabbed Severus' sleeve and dragged him over to her desk. "I've laid everything out. I have biscuits and scones—homemade of course—chocolates, pumpkin butter—or perhaps you'd like to sniff-test the sachets first?" She held one out to him, watching as he recoiled slightly.
"There is no need to wave that in my face, Hermione; the stench is over-powering even from a distance."
Hermione's hand dropped to her side and she felt the furrow in her brow appear. "It's not a stench, Severus, for Merlin's sake. More like an aroma." She shook the sachet at him. "It's meant to freshen up your room so of course it needs to be strong! You hide it in a drawer or under the sofa and let it work its magic."
Severus merely quirked a brow so Hermione dropped the pouch back on the table. Biting her lip, she tried to decide what would most entice him. Reluctantly she snagged the tin of biscuits and extended it to him. "Pumpkin spice biscuit? I know you secretly love sweets, so don't try to play coy by refusing."
"I do not know how you could possibly claim to know any such thing," he retorted, and Hermione smiled.
"I was in your office one day waiting for you when Winky came by with 'Master's mid-afternoon snack'," she pointed out.
"Fine," he growled, "so I enjoy the occasional biscuit. That hardly means I'm going to accept this—this—bastardized version." He crossed his arms and stared imperiously down at her. "If that's all you have to offer, I'm afraid we're done here."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You don't have to be so stuffy. There aren't any students present." She tapped her fingers on the table, considering, before sighing and bending down to retrieve the box that still held her latte ingredients. "Very well. I didn't want to share these because my mum only sent a few, but I can see that you won't relent enough to try anything else, so here." She shoved the various packets into his arms and moved over to her small stovetop to start a kettle.
"Dare I ask?" he intoned.
"Pumpkin spice lattes, my favorite," she replied tersely. "They'll take a moment to assemble, however, seeing as my coffee machine won't work inside Hogwarts." She mumbled a few choice words about backwards wizard culture and turned to catch the smile that Severus tried to hide. "Yes, yes, it's very funny. Poor little Muggleborn can't have decent coffee while she's at school." She extracted the packets of grounds from his arms and Summoned two empty mugs and her French press jar. She carefully poured the coffee grounds into the press, glancing briefly at Severus to see if he was still laughing at her. Thankfully, his countenance was smooth; she rather suspected even his dour face would be twisted in a smile when she got around to making the foam.
Once the kettle whistled, Hermione whisked it off the stovetop and added the water to her press. Three clockwise stirs, one counter-clockwise for Severus' amusement, and then she set the lid on top to let the whole thing brew. While that was working, she Summoned a plain jam jar and filled it with milk. Screwing the lid on tightly, she took a deep breath and began to vigorously shake the jar. Both of Severus' brows rose but she continued, doggedly determined to make him a latte that he would enjoy. And then he would be forced to admit that she was validated in her love of the taste.
"You look ridiculous," Severus pointed out as the shaking began to loosen her curls from their plait.
"Hence why I do this in the privacy of my rooms," she grunted. Once the milk was frothy, Hermione unscrewed the lid and warmed the jar with her bluebell flames beneath. She heated the mixture quickly so as not to lose the foam that the shaking had produced. The heat nearly doubled the volume and she extinguished the flames right as the foam reached the top of the jar. Setting the jar down for a moment, she hurriedly pressed the coffee mixture and poured the resulting espresso into both mugs. Turning back to her foam jar, she plucked the bottle of pumpkin spice syrup from Severus' hands and added it to the warm milk. A few careful stirs and then she was able to siphon the milk into the espressos. Each mug received a few dollops of foam (three for her, one for Severus—she wasn't foolishly optimistic, after all) and then a sprinkle of pumpkin spice on top.
Feeling quite proud of herself, Hermione graciously handed Severus his mug. "Enjoy!" she chirped, smiling as she brought hers to her lips. There was no better feeling than the anticipation of that first sip of the season, and even Severus' dubious expression couldn't dampen her excitement. Inhaling deeply, she closed her eyes and took a long drink of her concoction. It was perfect. The spices hit exactly the right notes on her tongue and she'd long ago learned the best temperatures for the espresso and milk. Sighing, Hermione took another deep drink, then opened her eyes to see how Severus was enjoying his.
Strangely, he didn't seem to have had a drink yet. He was staring at her with the oddest expression on his face; with her defenses going up, Hermione asked, "Well? Aren't you going to taste yours?"
Severus watched her a few moments more before answering. "I was far too busy watching you make love to yours. Shall I give you two some privacy?" Only the slight quirk of his lips gave away his teasing.
"So I love my lattes. As if you yourself don't react similarly when you get a nice bottle of Ogden's from a parent at holiday." She knew she had him there—he was extremely particular about his firewhisky, and she'd witnessed him lovingly caressing a bottle on more than one occasion.
She was snapped from her musings when Severus stepped closer, placing his mug on the counter behind her, untouched. He was so close she could see the single gray hair at his temple. "What are you—"
"You have foam on your nose," he answered, his voice sounding more gravelly than usual. He brought his hand up to her cheek, resting it there for just a moment as if to give her time to acclimate. Then he was swiping the foam off the tip of her nose with his thumb, and Hermione's knees took that opportunity to buckle. She gripped his arm with one hand, still clutching her mug tightly in her other hand.
But he was already pressing his lips to hers, tentatively at first and then more boldly. Moaning softly, Hermione returned his kiss, angling her head to deepen their connection. Severus' tongue swept against her lips and then into her mouth to tangle with hers, and their snogging grew more heated. Far too soon, he was pulling back.
"You're right. That was delicious."
Hermione couldn't help the giggle that escaped her. "You didn't even try the actual drink, though. You can hardly base anything off of a mere kiss—"
Severus growled and the hand resting on her cheek gripped her more firmly. "I'll have you know that was no mere kiss. But if you insist on being difficult about it..." He reached behind her to grab his mug and drained the entire thing at once. Hermione gaped as he chugged, too stunned to even bother warning him about letting it cool a bit first. He finished and set the mug down with a clack before resuming kissing her.
At some point he freed the mug from her fingers and set it behind them as well, and then Hermione was completely oblivious to their surroundings because Severus had pressed her fully against the wall and was busy exploring the underside of her jaw with his lips. She allowed him to continue for a few moments until she thought she'd burst. Tugging his hair to get his attention, Hermione pulled him back just far enough to make eye contact.
"I just need to finish mine before it grows cold," she explained right as he murmured, "Shall we relocate to your sofa?"
They stared at one another for a moment and then Severus straightened, shaking his head. "Bossy witch," he muttered.
Hermione laughed and separated herself from him. She drank her latte nearly as quickly as he had, then held out her hand. "Now we can go."
"I'm not entirely sure I'm still in the mood," he retorted, crossing his arms and trying to look disinterested.
"Oh, I see," she replied, nodding. Glancing at her desk, she made a quick decision. "I guess I'll lick the pumpkin spice whipped cream off my own nipples, then." She shrugged as she gathered a few items and headed towards her bedroom. She smirked when she heard his footsteps following her.
"You can do that?"
She grinned. It was just as she thought—he wasn't uninterested at all.
A/N: A fun little unbeta'd autumn story for my dear WorryWart! I know you've had a bit of a rough patch and I hope this brings a smile to your face.
And, by the way, looking up 'how to make latte at home' was never something I'd imagined I'd be doing for a story, but there you are. Fanfiction is expanding our minds, folks!