Disclaimer; Just borrowing the Wizarding World from J.K Rowling for a while.
A/N: SS/HG fic. M rated. This is my HP fic so let's see how we go...
'People in general are emotional creatures. Feeling happy, sad, angry, and scared is normal, and these emotions are part of what makes us human. At times, however, these emotions - particularly the negative ones - can be overwhelming and take on a life of their own. Change, grief, sorrow, heartbreak, and loss can trigger a whole host of unfamiliar and confusing emotions and behaviours. The process trying to overcome these can be so emotionally messy and complicated that some fail to recover from it sufficiently enough to make good choices for themselves.'
Dr Hermione Granger knew all of this first hand and she liked to think she had made very good choices for herself.
Hermione sat in her office on her 27th birthday, which was also an anniversary of sorts because a year ago she was given access to the very first and only psychologist clinic in wizarding Britain which was based in St Mungo's. It took a lot of hard work to get it there, but get it there she did. Her office was pretty sizeable, it wasn't as big as Harry's at the Ministry, but it was perfect for Hermione. Each of the 4 walls was lined with books from floor to ceiling. She even had a heavy duty rolling library ladder, preferring to find her books the muggle way (and secretly Hermione always wanted one ever since she'd seen Beauty and the Beast as a child). The ceiling was enchanted, just like Hogwarts' ceiling and that carried throughout her clinic. That was the best thing about creating her work space. She was given free reign to make it as comfortable as possible for her patients.
Minerva helped her a lot of the time but Filius also nipped in on numerous occasions to help her with the more difficult charms. The room she treated her patients was quite similar to the room of requirement. The idea is that when the patient walks into the room their mood can mix with the magic and create a space that is welcoming and comfortable for them to easily relax in without it being triggering. It worked incredibly well so far.
Hermione smiled to herself at the memory when the room transformed into a giant sand pit today. Her 46 year old client (who was related in some way to Professor Sinistra) and Hermione sat for an hour building sand castles while they spoke during their session. That was the kind of thing that room could do.
She poured herself a glass of white wine and toasted to herself. "365 days." She kicked off her heels and draped herself over one of the couches she had in her office and looked up into the enchanted ceiling sky, which was beautifully clear tonight.
She'd stayed late. Well, she did most nights. Hermione was never in any rush to get home - there was nothing there for her - and although it was her birthday, it made no difference. Her relationship with Ron had gone tits up years ago when she decided to leave the Wizarding world behind for a few years and pursue a career in psychology at a Muggle university. It was the best and the worst experience, really. She'd met some lovely people who really enriched her life for years at a time she needed it but she could never truly be herself and the distance was taking its toll on Ron. She knew in hindsight she'd never really been in love with him - she'd been in love with the thought of him. And in the end it crashed and burned. It was amicable though and Ron had sent her a card today to wish her Happy Birthday.
She'd been inundated actually. Her pile of mail grew throughout the day and the elves from the hospital had baked her a cake. Her three favourite elves and her secretary, Alula, had sang (extremely off key) to her on her lunch break. It surprised Hermione that her most grand gift had come from the Malfoy's. She'd just completed 8 weeks with Draco. He'd reacted really well to her PTSD treatment and cognitive behavioural therapy and he'd turned out to be a surprisingly thoughtful friend and had bought her a massive bouquet of flowers as a thank you. He had a family of his own now, his daughter Velena was 13 months old.
She opened up another card. It was muggle card with a first class stamp and inside was a card which read, 'Today we celebrate the day you left the vagina! Happy Birthday!' Hermione snorted and shook her head. She knew who this was from without even opening it. It was from her closest friend during University, Jules. She was training to be a teacher and they had house shared in Kent for 4 years during their studies and Hermione became friends with her instantly. She was the polar opposite to Hermione. She'd grown up in Sheffield with a thick accent and was a complete salt of the earth character. She accepted that she didn't know Hermione's full story, she accepted that Hermione had a troubled past and had come to university seeking a new life and yet she didn't care. She was so laid back, funny, kind.. Jules was what Hermione needed for 4 years.
'Fucking hell, you old bastard! Remember a few years ago on your birthday we got on the train to London, pub crawled to South Bank, got absolutely shit faced, picked up some drunk wacky fella who kept screaming GOLDEN TRIO at us and got on the back of this rickshaw to St Pancras that we couldn't afford! Wherever you are I hope you're smiling as wide as I am writing this sugar tits. I miss you. Julez xxx'
Hermione wiped a tear from a cheek and turned her gaze to the open fire which was glowing and crackling under the night sky of her office, downing the rest of her wine in one large gulp reminiscing about that night with Jules. There was a knock at her door and she turned her attention to her office door which lead out into a corridor where she could come and go without catching the attention of any of the other Mungo's visitors. It was almost 9pm and she rarely had visitors this late. She put her glass down on the coffee table next to her sofa with her cards and flicked her wand to open the door.
"Hermione!" It was Poppy Pomfrey, the matron at Hogwarts School. "My darling girl, what on earth are you still doing here on your birthday! I wasn't sure if you'd still be here!"
Poppy plodded in. She might be getting on a bit now but she still worked herself down the bone. She held out a carefully wrapped box the size of what Hermione could only compare to Crooks' old cat box.
"It's cosy here..." She said, flicking her eyes to Poppy for a second smiling unconvincingly. "Would you like to join me with a glass of wine?"
"Oooh, seeing as we're celebrating."
Poppy placed Hermione's present on the larger couch and took a seat opposite stretching her legs and shutting her eyes. Hermione handed Poppy a small glass of wine and slumped back onto her couch and eyed the rather large gift sat beside her.
"Is that for me?"
Poppy opened one eye with faint amusement and tutted, "Silly girl. Open it."
"Poppy, you shouldn't have."
Poppy waved her hand at her dismissively and closed her eyes again mumbling something Hermione couldn't make out.
She set her wine glass down by her feet and started to undo her gift, almost feeling bad for destroying such a well wrapped present. Almost. Throwing the wrapping paper on the floor it revealed a box with a picture of the moon on the side.
Almost sensing Hermione's curiosity, "Mood light dear. Saw it in a nicknack shop while I was out in Muggle London last week. The one thing that's always missing from that ceiling of yours."
"Poppy this is brilliant!"
Within minutes she had it out of its box on her coffee table.
"Runs off batteries dear. I trust you know where to get replacements when they run out."
"Of course!" Hermione beamed. Poppy sat up and sipped her wine watching Hermione put the batteries that came with it into the base of the light. She flicked it on a moment later and wandlessly dimmed the office lights so that the moon could radiate to full effect. It was a soothing, soft kind of light and you could see the darker craters on the surface of the moon too. Hermione smiled and reached down to retrieve her wine. She knew her new moon light would be yet another object she will spend hours staring at.
"I love it Poppy. Thank you so much."
Poppy set her glass in her lap watching Hermione as she drank hers. There was always this platonic vibe between them that Hermione always appreciated. It was the closest thing to a maternal relationship she had with her mother.
"So, how are things at Hogwarts?"
"Much the same, much the same. It feels like we might finally be on even ground at last. Minerva has worked so hard trying to put that school back together and I think she's finally cracked it. All the teachers are in place and seem to be on the same page. The student numbers are back to a steady number and the Ministry have finally got the message about sticking their noses in."
"That's a relief," Hermione sighed. "I haven't seen Minerva for the past few weeks but she wrote today and said she'd been fine tuning."
"Hermione's eyes drifted to the moon lap and Poppy's followed.
"And you don't seem to have stopped..." Poppy pressed slowly.
"No.." Hermione hid her grin with her wineglass and took another snip.
"You went straight out to Muggle university months after the war ended, 6 years later you come back, working your behind off to get your clinic on the map and you're so completely snowed under that hardly anyone's seen you! We have to hear about you through that blasted rag."
"I know." Hermione replied faintly. "Harry thinks I'm a workaholic."
"Dear, you still need some time for yourself no matter what you do. Take a week off. You're your own boss! No one's going to begrudge you it."
Poppy got up and placed her empty glass on the desk and came over to the sofa and sat next to Hermione, putting her hand over hers. "Hermione, I don't want you getting ill, you know how I'll worry. I know more than most that constantly listening to people's woes will grind you down eventually. We all need to be recharged." Hermione put her glass down too and took both of Poppy's soft hands and squeezed them.
"Would you believe me if I said I've been thinking of taking some time off in the next couple of weeks?" This was the truth, Hermione thought. It was healthy after all, to be able to shut down from the world and get lost in her own head for a few days. She just hadn't done that for a while. Poppy raised and eyebrow.
"Well, I have. I'm going to visit Harry and Ginny and spend the weekend with a muggle friend of mine. Maybe pick up a new hobby. Lose myself in some acrylic paint and hold up my hair with paintbrushes. How about that?" Hermione winked.
"Satisfactory. And what about those?" Poppy said flicking her head towards the giant bouquet of flowers on Hermione's smiled and shook her head. It amused her that Poppy always found such a smooth way into having a boy talk with her but she, yet again, wasn't going to get very far.
"They're from a patient… Friend." Hermione immediately spoke over whatever Poppy was about to say.
"Poppy, you know more than anyone about working in a strictly confidential environment!" Poppy rolled her eyes and swivelled herself round to sit correctly on the couch.
Hermione turned her head so sharply she could have put her neck out.
"Oh come on, the amount of times I fixed that boy, and Lucius at that. Wealthy Purebloods have impeccable manners," Poppy said sincerely. "I'm so glad he's doing well."
Hermione looked into the fire and cleared her throat. "Right. Well. Yes. He's had a complete turn around and has turned out to be a surprisingly tolerable young man."
"And it looks like he thinks quite highly of you too." Poppy patted Hermione's knee and they smiled at each other.
"How is it all going though dear? You've had every Tom, Dick and Harry in here, I know that much. The war.." Poppy shook her head, "I help heal the physical scars and you help heal the psychological. I've seen some appalling things and you hear about it." Poppy's eyes twinkled. "We make a bit of a team really."
Hermione had found herself thinking the same thing the last time Poppy visited. They've never really spoken about the war together properly, but the level of understanding was so thorough that perhaps Poppy thought, as she did, that they didn't have to.
"Team Awesome?" Hermione held her hand up for a hi 5.
Poppy laughed at that and grabbed her hand. Hermione sighed and wished she had another glass of wine in her hands.
"Every day i get on a rollercoaster with a someone and sometimes that someone is really afraid of rollercoasters. Or afraid of heights. And I'll hold their hand and sometimes they'll shut their eyes or scream or not say anything and look completely and utterly fearless. Or they'll be smiling and laughing one minute and then we'll go over a loop the loop or into a tunnel and they'll be looking terrified. But at the end, when we get off I feel like we've accomplished something together and we high 5, they'll go and get on with their life and then I jump back on with someone else." Hermione bit her lip. "It's thrilling and fun and can be challenging, it can also be painful and traumatic but the light at the end of the tunnel always overshadows all of that."
Hermione chided herself briefly for not really attempting to stop to breathe and looked slightly bashful. She wasn't at all surprised to feel the adrenaline in her body that her own explanation had caused. It's what she most missed about not having a relationship. Going home and telling your partner about your day with a hot cup of tea and hearing about theirs.
Hermione hadn't noticed Poppy had put her hand on her shoulder. "Oh how miss having that youthful energy.." Poppy said wearily. "I find my patience wavering as I get older."
Hermione smiled. "Patience is something else I've had to learn. It's a shame there isn't much literature on the learning process!" They both laughed heartily.
"Oh well, I suppose I'd be better be off before I fall asleep right here on your couch. And you get yourself home before you do just that."
"It wouldn't be the first time.."
"Don't I know it!"
They stood up and gave each other a warm hug and Poppy let herself out to say goodbye to one of the on call nurses she knew. Hermione didn't really feel like it but thought it was best if she followed suit, so she went about her routine of shutting shop as it were, but not mentally.
Hermione was tucked up in bed before she realised that she'd got herself home and undressed. Too busy in her own head. Again.
It was safe to say Jules and Hermione were more than half way to being completely and utterly trollied. Jules had filled a hip flask with honey whiskey and they had been taking it in turns to down a measure or two since they left Jules' house. They were now 20 mins outside of Manchester and walking into a pretty run down looking pub. Jules had ran out of phone battery and her phone had the party address on it so they were trying their luck that someone in the pub had a cable and a plug.
The pair seemed to find their predicament amusing, as one would after a few Jack Daniel's but Hermione was secretly way out of her depth. This part of Manchester, wherever the hell they were, was rough. They passed several groups hanging out in the streets smoking weed and listening to music out of their phones while eyeing them up and down. If it wasn't for the warmth and extra confidence the whiskey had given them they'd probably had turned back around and got the next bus right into town. But Jules was determined to find the party being held by one of her friends because she fancied him.
So they found themselves in The Duke. A pub on the corner of an estate that seemed like it probably had industrial roots. They shimmied their way through a few smokers outside and headed for the bar. It was fairly busy for a Friday night, although for Hermione it was blissfully quiet compared to pubs in London at this time on a Friday night. She became well aware of a dozen eyes fixing on them when they settled themselves at the bar. Chatter began to resume shortly after the young, dark haired barman approached them with a grin.
"What can I get you ladies?" he asked with a thick Manchester accent.
"Two whiskey and cokes. And a phone charger if you've got one?" Jules replied.
The bartender eyed them both with a knowing eye. "Ya all out?"
"All out. We've got a party to go to and the address is stuck in here."
The bartender laughed and threw a towel over his shoulder and got started on their drinks. Hermione spent this time taking the place in, purely out of habit. Pubs were never a natural environment for her but she'd gotten used to it since her student days. This one definitely felt different though. Everyone in it seemed to be very drunk or high. Everyone except the barman that was, who was sipping lemonade when they came in. Drunk people was definitely a norm in a pub but the atmosphere was different here and Hermione couldn't put her finger on why. Her thoughts were cut short when a woman come out of the toilets and gave her an evil stare as she walked by. Perhaps that was it, Hermione thought. It wasn't very a very welcoming and comforting place, and they'd only been here 2 minutes.
Turning around to the sound of a glass on a surface Hermione nodded in thanks to the barman who was accepting money from Jules and handed over a phone charger, pointing her in the direction of a space around the corner. It was an L shaped bar so they picked up their drinks and followed him until they found a corner near the entrance to the kitchen where they could plug in and refuel. The bartender was called Eric. Thick Manchester accent, fairly young, laid back, dark rings around his warm eyes. He didn't look like he belonged there. But neither did they really. The place smelt faintly of cat urine, there was cardboard cut out in place of a window on the door and Eric was keeping a beady eye on the couple in the corner who was starting to raise their voices. Hermione didn't know what they were arguing about but every other word was a swear word. They probably didn't know themselves.
Eric was making good conversation with Jules and he looked like he could take on anyone in this pub with a breeze so Hermione didn't worry too much.
"I know this area well. I can point ya in the right direction of that party."
Jules threw her hands onto her forehead massaging it, "I can't remember what the bloody road's called. Gunna have to wait until there's some life in this."
Jules nipped out for a cigarette leaving Hermione reading the back of a beer mat. She was in a world of her own when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to find a guy in his mid 50's, eyes not entirely in focus, grinning at her.
You girls can't be from round 'ere eh? Nah, too pretty."
"No, we're not no," Hermione replied without much interest.
"Yeah, you see," the man took a seat beside her, "We don't get many beautiful girls in this place."
Hermione started to feel uncomfortable, but he was nothing she couldn't handle so decided to approach with politeness.
Hermione twisted around to take a sip from her drink. She noticed Eric was emptying the dishwasher behind the bar and gave her a crooked smile.
"What's your name love?"
""Hermione?" He laughed. "That's a bit unusual 'ent it?"
"Is it?" she asked in a bored tone.
He laughed again and shifted himself around on the bar stool so he was facing her.
"Eric, get us another round. My usual. And whatever these ladies ordered."
"Oh no you're.." Hermione was interrupted.
"It's on me darling, don't you worry about it."
Eric tended to the order while Hermione played with the remnants of her drink in her glass. She had to laugh inside sometimes. The amount of times she'd gone out with Jules and found herself in such bizarre, weird situations. Eric poured them all a new round of drinks, and Hermione appreciated that he kept looking back to make sure she was ok.
"Stone, you better not be chatting up my newcomers. You'll scare em off."
Stone barked a laugh and put his arm around Hermione pulling her into him slightly. Hermione grimaced and turned away into the opposite direction, not quite enjoying his affections.
"Course I ain't. I just made a new friend didn't I Hermione?" He let go of Hermione and sipped his drink looking at her with a twinkle in his eye.
Hermione fiddled with the bobby clip keeping her hair somewhat at bay and was worrying about Jules. She'd been gone for more than 5 mins now and although Hermione's wand was inches away, tucked into her wrist, she had no intention of using it tonight. Tonight was supposed to be a chilled out, merry evening. She never thought that would entail sitting in a bar in the middle of nowhere getting chatted up by a 50 year old drunken idiot.
"Stone. Leave off pal." Eric, probably sensing Hermione's discomfort, flicked the tea towel that was over his shoulder over Stone's head catching him with a loud slap.
"Ow! Fucking 'ell Er. Jesus!" Stone grimaced and rubbed the back off his head. "Maybe you can rub that better for me later Hermione, eh?"he said quietly in her ear, nudging her with his elbow as he slipped off the stool. Hermione eyed his movements out of the corner of her eye as he staggered back into a booth he was sharing with 3 other older men.
Eric pulled out his smokes out of his back pocket offering one to Hermione. She politely declined as he slipped out from the side of the bar for a "cheeky cigarette" telling her he wouldn't long. Hermione decided that if Jules wasn't back by the time Eric was she was going to go out and check on her. The smoking area here was basically in the street and she didn't like the idea of her friend hanging out there on her own for longer than necessary. And she rather felt the same about herself in here, trying not to think about the 3 against 1 scenario behind her.
She sighed into her empty glass, pushing it towards the bar and pulled her new one towards her when the lights flickered off. A tingle instantly ran down her spine. The punters grunted and laughed, heckling that the landlord should pay his bills but no one seemed to bothered about it, like a blackout was normal here.
Hermione would have laughed too except someone was taking advantage of the darkness and was standing far too close to her. A rush of panic rose up through her veins that sobered her in an instant. She gripped the glass in her hand only for it to be ripped out from her and thrown across the bar with a smash. Hermione felt the senses all down her right side heighten as her hairs bristled and moved against someone who very close to her ear. She stiffened and waited for the worse.
She recognised a tingle in the air. Someone had cast a Muffliato charm around her and Hermione heard a faint whisper in her ear, "He's spiked your drink." She gasped suddenly and spun around on her stool to turn to try and make out the person beside her. She didn't feel overly scared which surprised her a little. Her wand had slid down into her hand as soon as the power cut and she was one spell away from something dangerous, yet the presence she felt didn't feel dangerous. And whoever it was, was helping her. That bastard had slipped something in her drink! She felt a cold hand come down on her wand hand lowering her hand slowly onto the bar. If anything this made her grip it even tighter.
Lighters from smokers in the bar were starting to illuminate random spaces around the pub where people tried to create their own light source, even using their phones. She could faintly see a dark figure next to her but it was near impossible to make out any details. She just knew she smelt tobacco, and it was strong. A sudden movement stopped her thoughts. Whoever it was next to her turned so quickly that Hermione instinctively stood up from her stool and threw her body over the bar and cast a Lumos.
There was suddenly a lot going on. Eric made her jump when he appeared right front of her with a phone light shining in her face asking her to move. Someone was leaning over the bar with their mouth around a beer tap helping themselves. Stone was on the floor, trying to stop the blood from pouring out of his nose. That explained the the thump sound she heard behind her, at least. The unnamed man punched Stone!
The lights flickered back on to Hermione's relief. She scanned the pub for any sign of Jules. She couldn't see her at all. Jules could handle herself spectacularly but why wasn't she back yet? There were some distant cheers around the place and some "fuck sake's" too. Hermione tucked her wand back up her sleeve grabbing Jules' phone, glad to see their handbags were where they'd left them on the bar. She grabbed them both, desperately searching for a familiar face.
"Hermione!" Jules was walking in the doorway waving frantically at her.
"Finally!" Hermione rolled her eyes, trying not to be annoyed.
She grabbed her jacket and the bags and made her way out of the side of the bar around to where they were sat earlier towards Jules. She eyed Stone with distaste as she walked over his drunken state on the floor, hearing him call her a name under his breath but she decided not to react. She regretted it slightly as she felt a hand wrap around her ankle and she tried to stop herself from toppling over. She managed to catch herself, but only just. Anger rising up to boiling point, Hermione turned to give him a piece of her mind only to find someone else had got there before her. And it froze her on the spot.
Hermione was shocked to find someone who looked distinctly like her old Professor with a hand wrapped around Stone's neck.
Her mind raced at the speed of light as she tried to take it in. She stepped forward so she could see better and reached out and touched his shoulder. Snape -she was now 100% certain it was Professor Snape- had not moved. He was staring at a nervous giggling Stone, his jaw clenched and his chest heaving. Hermione could almost laugh at the audacity of it, because that stare of Professor Snape's was anything but funny. He jerked his shoulder as soon as she touched him and she let go just as quick.
"You need to leave." He said slowly and uncertainly, flexing his grip around Stone's neck.
"I'd be on my merry fucking way if.."
"I'm not done with you!" Snape snarled, with a raised voice.
It felt like minutes went by. Hermione had still not recovered from the shock of seeing Snape and she was starting to wonder if perhaps he was equally as shocked to see her too, as he didn't seem much at ease either. His eyes started to flicker and he took a deep breath and looked up at Hermione. Her breath caught and she felt a lump form in her throat immediately. emSeverus Snape just saved me. Again./em She thought. She hadn't seen him since the Shrieking Shack, covered in blood and he was, what they all thought, dead. When she'd read in the Prophet he had survived she couldn't believe it. The guilt she felt for not helping him when there was a chance of survival was crushing. Especially after finding out everything he had done for them. Harry and Ron had found that difficult to handle too. So many lives were lost during the war, if they'd have known there was a chance with Snape they would have taken it. Seeing him now in front of her with the scars on his neck showing so clearly had brought all those emotions right back.
"Hermione," She felt Jules' hand reach around her waist slowly pulling her back away. "We're leaving, yeah?"
Hermione would have bet she saw a flicker of recognition and softness flashing past Snape's eyes but his stare quickly hardened and he looked away, back to intimidating a now curious looking Stone. It was almost as if he knew she was digging around in the past in her mind and that he was almost embarrassed. His eyes were bloodshot and messily Occluded. She could tell he'd been Occluding far too much and there was no way he was sleeping well if the dark rings under his eyes were anything to go by. His cheeks were sunken and she could see his arm slightly shaking. He had let go of Stone's throat and was grabbing the clothing on his neck now. Old Professor Snape would have picked him up by the scruff and thrown him out with one hand but this Professor Snape? She wasn't so sure.
He looked like so many of the patients she'd seen in the past year, except he looked worse. And out of all of them he probably needed the help more.
Her hand came up to her mouth to try and control the rush of sadness that had overcome her but her rational and professional side acted first. Not before Snape had though. He still had his speed she'd give him that. He threw Stone on the floor with a swift push of his shaking hand and whipped round, lightly pushing past Hermione. She reacted and turned instantly and thought she might have caught the end of a quick glance in her direction, but his hair hid his features and his eyes. And with that he had gone.
Hermione tried in vain to copy his movements and left as quickly as she could. She had no desire to stay in that place for another moment. Thankful for some fresh air Hermione eyed the streets to see if she could see the tail of Snape, but part of her accepted as soon as he'd brushed past her that that was it. She took a deep breath and felt Jules' arm around her waist again who was guiding her down the street.
"Are you ok?"
Hermione sighed and put her arm around her friend in return giving her a squeeze.
"I think so. So many things happened at once in there."
"I can't leave you anywhere can i?" Jules joked, nudging her shoulder with Hermione's.
Hermione snorted expressing her contempt but she had to quietly agree.
Jules stopped and turned to face taking Hermione's arms. "We can sod this party off if you want sugar?"
Hermione shook her head and took her friends hands, "No, we're here now aren't we? I'm ok."
"If you're sure? They're a good bunch. We'll stay for a couple of hours then we'll go, yeah? Just let me know if you wanna go."
Their destination wasn't too far away. They walked in silence without any disturbance along rows of old attached Victorian houses. Her friend kept an arm wrapped around her for assurance. Hermione let her mind clear and found herself peering in every window that was amiss a curtain, briefly taking a look into other peoples lives. Looking for Snape.. It seemed most of them were engrossed in Friday night tele.
They arrived at the party. Andrew (or Drew as he insisted they call him) welcomed them both with open arms. He was a musician born and raised in Manchester, in that very house he'd said. It wasn't a particularly busy party but there were a lot of other musicians there dotted around the front room, singing and strumming guitars, beating a cajon and stomping their feet. There were 3 people lounging on the stairs and a group of around 6 in the kitchen talking politics, which is where Jules and Hermione found themselves. Jules got stuck in and carried the conversation but Hermione's heart wasn't really in it. She hadn't touched the bottle of beer she was handed and found herself making an effort not to catch the eye of a guy who had not stopped smiling at her since she'd got there. Andrew had entered the kitchen with a bottle of whiskey insisting they all did shots so Hermione took the opportunity of distraction and snuck out the side door out into the narrow garden.
Hermione was pleased to find she was the only one out there, quietly thankful for the temperature outside and made her way to the end of the garden to a bench that was hidden behind a glass house. Not that there was much glass left in it and the bench itself only had a couple of its wooden slats. She placed her beer bottle on the floor and took in a deep breath, setting herself a warming charm. She shifted her Occlumency she had been using and welcomed back some of her emotions, which were all about Professor Snape.
Part of her couldn't believe it had happened. How her and Jules could come to some arse end corner of Manchester, get her drink spiked and have Professor Snape, who she hadn't seen nor heard of since the war ended, save her from what would certainly have been a pretty awful sort of evening had she drank it. She shook her head and ran her hands over her hair bringing forth her memories of him leaning over Stone looking so fragile. It annoyed her that he probably looked like a drunken regular looking for a fight to anyone else because he was certainly much more than that. He would probably berate her for being such a Gryffindor if he knew that train of thought, and she smiled to herself.
"Bloody hell!" The sparking of a lighter behind her made her jump and she spun around instinct for some reason making her grab the beer bottle off the floor and holding it above her head. It was no surprise then that the face being lit up by a cigarette was that of Professor Snape, who was sporting an expression of derision and disbelief, signature eyebrow raised. The glow slowly faded as he blew out to the air above him, the smoke slithering away into the night sky.
Hermione lowered her hand, deciding to sip whatever was left of her beer, the rest of it emptied out somewhere in front of her. Not a drop left, she shrugged and wandlessly vanished the bottle and brushed herself down nervously clearing her throat.
"First my local and now," he drawled breaking the silence, "my garden."