Just a silly story written for Madeleone! She asked for a SSHG tale about candles and candle making.
Severus Snape crumpled up his newspaper, threw it in the air, and—wandlessly, wordlessly—set it on fire. A string of elaborate profanity escaped the man's mouth as the cinders drifted gracefully to the floor.
And Pomona Sprout began sniggering from the other side of the faculty lounge.
He whipped around faster than an unattended Venomous Tentacula could strangle a sleeping Puffskein.
'Severus, dearie,' she said, stirring another teaspoon of honey into her morning tea, 'you need to calm down.'
His eyes flashed as he gesticulated in the general direction of the ash heap. 'Did you read that dreck? The Ministry stalled on another major appointment to the Wizengamot, there are political protests in the Gambia, and there's an outbreak of owl flu that's threatening all the damn birds in Europe. The world's a shit place, Pomona.'
'I'm not disagreeing with you.' She leaned across the table, helping herself to another hobnob. It was her third of the evening. Or fourth. Or maybe her seventh, if she were honest with herself. 'But it's not like the world going to pot isnew, or that everything's ever going to be perfect.'
He crossed over to her, primly taking a seat across from her and snatching up an oaty biscuit for himself.
'So it's settled,' she said firmly, patting him on the knee.
He eyed her suspiciously. 'And just what exactly is settled?'
Pomona plucked a stray leaf from her hair and smiled at him. 'I'm going to teach you how to relax.'
The next morning, Pomona found herself at the High Table, eating breakfast between Professors Snape and Granger. After a minute of arranging her plate full of eggs, sausages, stewed tomatoes, and toast with marmalade, she decided to kick things off with her big plan.
She coughed a few times to catch their attention. 'Severus, you and Hermione are both going to meet me out at the greenhouses on Friday night.'
'I'm sorry?' Hermione asked. She spread some marmalade on a slice of wheat toast, which along with a grapefruit, didn't seem to be quite enough for a decent breakfast.
'Hermione, dear, you know you're almost as tightly wound as Severus is. Why, even Minerva was commenting on it the other day, and the woman's hair has been in the same bun since 1953.'
The young woman harrumphed and helped herself to some dried figs. 'Fine.'
'As I was saying, I think it should be in my greenhouses, the three of us, Friday night,' Pomona said, repeating all the important details. 'Let's say eight o'clock, shall we?'
'And if I refuse?' Severus asked. He looked up from the journal he was reading, red pen in hand as he annotated corrections in the published articles.
Pomona's eyes narrowed and her voice grew cold. 'You do not want to find out, young man.'
Severus gulped in wonderment, eyes open wide. 'I suppose... I could squeeze in the time.'
A bright smile flashed across the older woman's face, and her eyes crinkled. She clapped her hands together in delight. 'That's what I thought.'
When Friday evening rolled around, Pomona put the final touches on the greenhouse. After waffling between the building filled with tropical flowers and the one that replicated a desert, she'd chosen the former. Warm, moist air was good for the skin, surely. And a certain fogginess would cling to the glass, wouldn't it? That would be helpful, Pomona thought, as she didn't want to scandalise any of the staff who might be walking across the grounds after curfew.
The house-elfs set up everything she needed inside the glass building, and had been kind enough to fetch a full spread of delicious treats: a few bottles of wine, crudites, fresh berries and custard, the chocolates she liked best.
Then it was time to wait.
Hermione arrived a few minutes early, so Pomona filled her glass with a cheeky Beaujolais that packed a hidden wallop. By the time Severus finally showed, Hermione was on her second glass.
Pomona pressed a full glass into Severus's hand. 'Drink.'
He grinned a crooked smile at her. 'Pomona, if your only idea for self-tranquilisation was alcohol, I can assure you that I have already mastered that particular method.'
She pinched his bottom, eliciting the strangest noise from the man. 'You needn't be impertinent, dear. It's a good bottle, and I want to share it with my friends.'
Hermione giggled into her wine. 'It is good, Pomona. Thank you.'
'I still don't know why we're here,' Severus grumbled, tipping back his glass. 'It was a cold walk to get here, and we could drink in your quarters. I'd be willing to bet that's where you keep the best of your homemade scrumpy ale, isn't it?'
She reached up a hand, pressing it to his cheek in a motherly fashion. 'If you'll just stop being a miserable wanker for the next twenty minutes, lad, I'll send you a gallon of my ale.'
He rolled his eyes, but there was a tinge of pink to his sallow mug.
'Right then,' Pomona said, walking her youngest colleagues over to a large rectangular table set up with empty jars and string and wax pastilles and scented oils. 'Bring a bottle along, Hermione, and we'll get started.'
'Pomona,' Hermione asked, eying the table in confusion, 'what are we doing tonight?'
'You'll see,' the older woman said. After setting up Severus and Hermione beside one another on one side of the table, she took her place opposite them. Then she rolled up her sleeves and waited for them to do the same. 'Now then. I'll give instructions, but please ask if you have any questions as we go along.'
Hermione nodded, and Severus rolled his eyes.
'Start a fire,' she said, waving her wand to set up a small fire in front of her.
Two identical bluebell flames were conjured out of thin air, one in front of each.
Pomona nodded. 'Very good. Now choose a jar and hover it a few inches from the hottest part of the fire.'
They followed instructions like the truest of badgers.
She grabbed a handful of wax pastilles and emptied them into the heated jar. 'Melt the wax. Once it's all liquid, you may add any scents you like.'
With a single gesture, Severus unstoppered all the tiny bottles of essential oils before them, releasing a cacophony of subtle aromas that intermingled with the air.
'Lavender is considering a soothing scent,' Pomona offered helpfully. 'You should both start with that one.'
Hermione sniffed at it distastefully. 'I think I'll pass. I've never had much of a taste for lavender.'
Seizing an opportunity, Pomona decided to slip a sly suggestion into the conversation. 'Severus, perhaps you could find a scent that would suit? What smells like Hermione?'
'What?' he asked sharply. That tell-tale blush she'd seen on the boy came back in full force, the skin of his neck turning as pink as the flowers named for Leonhart Fuchs.
Hermione wasn't unaffected, either.
Pomona smirked to herself. This was going to be so easy. 'Well, you two can take your time and think about it. The scents can be added at any time. Just be sure to do it before you take your candle off the heat.'
Pulling a handkerchief from his back pocket, Severus wiped the sweat from back of his neck. It was rather hot in there, surrounded by exotic flowering trees. Then he unbuttoned the top button of his collared shirt, an action that Hermione did not fail to observe.
'Now then,' Pomona continued, pointing at the waxed strings in front of them, 'pick a wick. A nice long one. Well, not too long. Pick one that's just the right length for you.'
Hermione wasn't making any eye contact with anyone at this point, but kicked her shoes off, standing barefoot on the grassy floor of the greenhouse.
Pomona reckoned that she had about three minutes before her "interruption" came to get her, but she had to fill the time until then. And planting a few more suggestions couldn't hurt. 'Stick your wick in the bottom the jar, and be sure that the wick sticks up, erect.'
Severus shifted his weight from one leg to another.
'How's your wick, Severus?' Pomona asked, keeping a determined look of innocence on her face.
So she spoke up again. 'If it's limp, grab the end to help it stay stiff.'
Just then, he and Hermione glanced at one another, locking eyes for a moment.
And Hermione burst into laughter. Loud, riotous, body-heaving chortles.
Severus smiled at her then, a little shyly, before snapping his body back to attention. 'What next, Pomona?'
'Then you've got your wax, and maybe your scent, and you pour it in. Take it off the heat, the wick stays up, and Bob's your uncle.'
A rapping on the glass door came just then.
'You two stay,' Pomona offered, wiping out her flame and crossing to the door, 'and I'll see what it is.'
It was Minerva, of course, ranting and raving about a crisis in the Hufflepuff common room, and could Pomona come back and talk to her students? One of them might be hurt.
Minerva said this all quite loudly and with an overly exaggerated style of diction, saying, 'Only you, Pomona, are needed, and your presence alone is needed right now and for an indefinite amount of time... but probably long enough that you should plan on not coming back to the greenhouse tonight. Yes, you will need to return to the castle, and leave Severus and Hermione to finish up here.'
Gryffindors were such wretched actors.
'Right!' Pomona called out to the twosome. 'You'll both finish together then, yes?'
Severus began coughing uncontrollably, and Hermione cast a Stasis charm over her candle-in-progress so she could take her hands off her wick. She clapped the poor boy on the back a few times. 'We'll be just fine on our own, Pomona.'
Pomona and Minerva made a noisy show of closing the door and walking away.
When they were safely out of earshot of the greenhouses, Minerva grabbed her friend by the arm, halting her in place. 'Did it work?'
Pomona looked back at the building, gasping as she saw Severus's arse and back pressed against one of the glass walls, followed by some body part of Hermione's that she couldn't quite identify. Maybe a calf. Or was it an arm? The steam in the enclosed space had indeed created a thin film that obscured their sight.
'Oh, my,' Pomona said, fanning herself despite the cool winter air. 'Yes, Minerva. Yes, I think it did!'