This is a side-fic to accompany "A Father's Loves". What exactly happened inside that closet?
This fic was written at the request of NotAndrea on AO3, who expressed some curiosity about just what transpired in the broom closet that started Severus and Hermione's relationship.
"This really is the most atrocious punch." Hermione smirked a bit as she took another ginger sip of her the heavily spiked holiday drink. "Is it always this...um…"
"Flammable?" Severus supplied. "Yes, if Filius has anything to do with it. I don't know why he's tasked with procuring the refreshments each year, but there we are. The sandwiches will be decent, though," he said, indicating the plate of smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches on the buffet across the room.
"Ooh! And mini-eclairs. Yum." The first-year professor was practically salivating.
A slightly slurred Scottish brogue broke into their less-than scintillating discussion of the available food at the annual Hogwarts Staff Holiday Gathering Extravaganza (Filius had struck again with a gaudy banner). "Severus! There you are. And Hermione. I could use your assistance."
"Of course, Minerva," Severus responded with a sneer. "Need I physically restrain Filius from adding still more brandy to the punch this year?"
"What are you talking about? There's nothing wrong with the punch. No! Bogart! In the dungeons! Thought you should know."
The potions professor rolled his eyes. "And now I have been informed. Why have you not dealt with it yourself, Minerva?"
"Severus, I'm a bit more than half-potted as it is. Do you really think I'd aim my wand at anything in my condition? No siree. But you're still quite sober!"
"And you, Hermione! I remember that you're a dab hand with those ridiculous riddikulus charms."
Hermione blushed. "Well, not really. Actually I -"
"No matter! You can help. Come along you two." The Headmistress swept off with a surprisingly spry gait for one who claimed to be 'half-potted', gesturing for her two most junior professors to follow. With a quick glance and a shrug, Hermione and Severus unsheathed their wands and traipsed after their employer as she marched down to the dungeons.
She paused in front of a broom closet that Severus didn't remember seeing before. Which should have struck him as odd, for all the years that he'd lived in the dungeons. He and Hermione aimed their wands at the closed door and looked to Minerva.
"It's rather a deep closet. You'll likely have to venture in a bit to banish the boggart," she said authoritatively. Hermione, perhaps you can light the way for Severus while he banishes the boggart?"
"Alright. Ready, Severus?" the younger woman asked her boggart-banishing partner.
"Excellent!" Minerva cried. "Off you go!" She flung open the door and waited while Severus and Hermione crept into the darkened broom closet, pushing their way past a rack of outdated Quidditch uniforms and de-spelled bludgers as they made their way toward the back of the closet. Hermione's wand shone brightly in the dark space as they reached the back wall and found...nothing.
Perplex, Severus turned toward over his shoulder. "Minerva, there's nothing in here. How much did you say you'd had to drink?" he called toward the door.
"Just one for Dutch courage, my boy! I'll be back for you in the morning. There's pies and some sandwiches for you by the door. Good night!" The closet door closed with a slam, glowing orange, then red, then green as the Headmistress locked it shut and warded it using her authority over the castle.
Hermione lowered her light-tipped wand and looked at her co-worker and (more recently acknowledged) friend. "Did she just…"
"Lock is in?" he finished tersely. "Yes. I rather believe she did." The Potions Master quickly illuminated his own wand before stomping toward the front door, roundly stepping on the plate of sandwiches as he did so. "Minerva McGonagall, what the actual fuck have you just done?" he shouted.
"What the two of you slow tops have been too blind to do for yourselves, you great nincompoop!" she shouted in return. "You'll stay in there until you've sorted yourselves out to my satisfaction and not before! I'll return in the morning." Her pronouncement was followed by the sound of her boots clacking on the dungeon's flagstone floors, leaving Severus and Hermione alone together in the dark closet.
"Hermione, will you kindly cast a partner shield over the two of us?" Severus growled.
Hermione did so, choosing to use the verbal incantation so that he might know when it was active. She watched as he leveled his wand at the door. " Bombarda Maxima !" he shouted, sending a blast of battering power toward the solid entrance to their temporary closet home.
The spell struck home and the walls of the small space shook. A moment later, the door disappeared.
"Fuck!" Severus shouted, turning toward his fellow captive.
Hermione, who had largely been silent during this time, placed a hand on Severus' arm. "I seriously doubt you will be able to supersede Minerva's authority here. Perhaps we should make ourselves comfortable until she returns for us? And...we might also want to consider what the hell she meant by 'sorting ourselves out', yes?"
Severus glanced back at Hermione - beautiful, vivacious, oblivious Hermione - and nodded his head in agreement. "I'm afraid my transfiguration skills are nothing compared to yours," he stated humbly. "Perhaps I can task you with making this space habitable for what I hope will be a short stay?"
"Of course!" she said. Ever the know-it-all, Hermione was always happy to show off her skills. And to receive such an admission of superior skill from Severus Snape - why, she was nearly giddy with the event.
She made quick work of transfiguring several old Quidditch uniforms into a series of plus floor cushions, then created several wall sconces from the defunct bludgers. Broken broom straws became candles for light and still more uniforms concealed the back half of the closet, where she fashioned a rustic commode for 'emergencies'. She settled down, tired from more than an hour of transfiguration work and regarded her co-worker in the yellow light of her transfigured candles. "Comfortable?" she asked him as he created a small nest for himself amongst the cushy pillows.
"Quite. Thank you," he said, nodding his gratitude.
"Think nothing of it. If we had been in a situation requiring potions, I would have relied on your expertise." She sent him a cheeky smile. "Now what the devil was Minerva thinking?"
Severus stared at Hermione a long moment before responding slowly. "You really have no idea, do you?"
She tilted her head to regard him. "I...no? I suppose I don't, and it's quite obvious that you do. Enlighten me?"
Severus fidgeted with the sleeve of his robe a moment before stilling his hands. You would think that, after twenty years of teaching at Hogwarts, he would finally be used to dealing with the directness of House Gryffindor. Alas, this was a conversation he had not anticipated having. Ever. He drew a short breath and replied briskly. "Minerva has been playing matchmaker this year." He watched as her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Between us," he clarified.
Hermione's eyes widened and her lips curled into a pink O of surprise. He watched, one part amused and one part in utter terror, as she mentally pieced together the events of the past few months. Their nightly rounds together. Clearing the potions storage out. That ill-fated self-defense class. Chaperoning the Hogsmeade visits. "...I see." She raised shamed eyes toward his. "I thought she'd assigned you to me. As a mentor," she said in a small voice.
He gave her a wry smile. "No," he replied gently.
"I'm so sorry," she breathed.
Severus shook his head in confusion. "Whatever for?"
"That she put you in such a position. Oh, gods this is embarrassing."
He watched in confusion as she curled into herself and rested her chin on her knees, not meeting his eyes. "Hermione," he began, "we're friends of a sort, yes?"
"Not of a sort, Severus. We're friends. Full stop," she said, looking up at him.
"Then please explain to me the source of your embarrassment. Because as I see it, this situation is of Minerva's making, not yours."
Hermione rested a her forehead on her knees, turning her head toward her lap so that her voice was a bit muffled when she finally replied. "After Ron and I decided that we wouldn't work, I didn't really date. I was just...there was no one that caught my eye. But I had tea with Minerva every month - well, you know, you saw me around the castle each time I visited. Last summer I told her that I wanted to try my hand at dating, but that I had no idea how to start. She offered to help, but then she never spoke of it again. I just assumed she'd forgotten, or that she was thinking about it. I never thought she'd -" she sniffed.
"You never thought she'd press me into service," he finished. "I'm sure it must be very embarrassing to be paired with the Dungeon Bat. I'm sorry for any pain this may have caused you." Severus lowered his eyes, trying not to flush with his own humiliation. Rejected again. And he hadn't really even offered himself this time. Could he sink any lower?
"No!" Hermione said vehemently, her head shooting up from the cradle of her arms. "No, that's not what I meant at all! I was embarrassed because she - she's obviously asked you to do something you didn't want to do. Otherwise you would have flirted or asked me out or something. And you didn't. So clearly you didn't want to pursue me - not that I blame you, I'm a complicated piece of baggage - and I was embarrassed that she'd even asked. Oh, damn it! She never should have put you in this position. We work together for Merlin's sake."
"She didn't ask."
"What?" Hermione asked, bewildered.
"She didn't ask me, Hermione. She simply tossed us together. Gave us a chance to get to know each other. I'm sure she expected us to take care of the rest, were we so inclined." The Golden Trio's great problem solver didn't consider that Minerva's pool of eligible men is somewhat limited to those in this castle. Unless you have a desire to date Hagrid?"
"He's with Madame Maxime," Hermione replied absently. "I didn't think about it, really. I just assumed that she'd forgotten our conversation."
"Hmph." Severus was silent again for a long moment. "Her plan did work, you know."
"Allowing me to get to know you. I've...rather enjoyed our duties together. Well, the ones where you didn't attempt to kill me, that is." He smirked.
"Those were accidents . How many times do I have to apologize? I've been a nervous wreck this whole semester. It's not every day that you land your dream job and start teaching people who remember seeing you when they started at the school you teach at! And I haven't spilled doxy eggs or flung you over a balustrade in months !" she replied hotly.
"Thank Merlin for that." He picked up one of the mince pies and started picking at the crust. "I wouldn't object, you know."
"To falling over the balustrade? That could be arranged," she growled.
He chuckled. "No. To a relationship. With you."
She blinked at him. "And you're just telling me this now why? "
"Because Minerva won't let us out of the closet until we settle things one way or the other. I'd been meaning to ask you to dinner for awhile, but hadn't devised a stratagem to do so yet."
"A stratagem," she replied dully. "Circe save me from Machiavellian Slytherins. All you had to do was ask. I would have said yes."
Severus scoffed. "Ask? Like a common Hufflepuff? I think not." He shuddered.
"Works for me," she said, twinkling.
"Hmm. Hypothetically, would you have said yes if I'd asked?"
She smiled shyly from her pillow. "Hypothetically, I would've been ecstatic. Because hypothetically I've had a bit of a crush on you since third year."
"Since - good Gods woman. I take it back. You're clearly not well and need to be committed to St. Mungos."
She laughed and slapped at his leg, which had extended across the width of the closet to rest on part of her pillow. "I'm not! It was when you protected us while Lupin transformed. It was very heroic."
"Oh, well if that's all you wanted," he said sarcastically. "I don't make a habit of shielding people from crazed half-wolf idiots."
"No, but you made it your business to protect us. And then there was that voice. Whenever you'd lecture over the cauldron, I'd turn bright red. You have a lovely speaking voice, Severus."
He turned bright red at her compliment.
"So will you hypothetical request for dinner ever become reality?"
He tilted his head to regard her, reading frank interest in her eyes. "I'm afraid all I can offer you are these mince pies. And that plate of trod-upon sandwiches. At least until Minerva lets us out of our make-shift confession booth."
"I rather like mince pies," she replied, taking one off the proffered plate and sinking her teeth into the palm-sized treat. "How long do you think we'll be in here, anyway?"
Thirty-six Hours Later ❅
Minerva woke in on the sofa of the staff room, feeling as though her head were going to fall off her shoulders. "That is the last time I let Filius procure the refreshments," she muttered to herself before sitting bolt upright in alarm. " Severus. Hermione! " With a speed that belied her true age, Minerva ran out of the room and clattered down the dungeon stairs. She quickly removed the wards from the (now present) door to the broom closet and flung it open.
She paused and stared at what she found. There Hermione Granger and Severus Snape lay, nestled underneath a blanket that had clearly been a seeker's flying cloak, fast asleep. They appeared to be wearing little else.
Leaving the door slightly ajar, Minerva backed away from the door as quietly as she could. She was pleased as punch that her scheme had borne fruit, but thought it prudent to take an impromptu extended holiday vacation. Just in case.