Hermione Granger is twice divorced, three times a mother, hiding a shameful secret, and falling apart.
Severus Snape fell apart a decade ago when the war ended, but self-imposed solitude is taking its toll.
Out of sheer desperation, Hermione sets aside her dignity and puts an anonymous ad in the Daily Prophet offering to do "almost anything" for 10 Galleons an hour. This is a last resort, but one she is unable to avoid, thanks to a series of devastating events over which she had no control.
After intercepting it at the newspaper office, Severus, who has been living with pain both physical and emotional for all these years since she saved him from certain death, begins to wonder if the insufferable know-it-all might be exactly what he needs to help him rejoin the land of the living.
But when an old enemy threatens to break them apart before they've even managed to come together, and with a second pressing danger looming on the horizon, suddenly much more than just their shaky, blossoming friendship is at stake.
A Severus Snape/Hermione Granger story-
With multiple plotlines that weave into one.
Featuring Lucius/Narcissa Malfoy, Minerva McGonagall, ex-husband Ron, Portrait Dumbledore, Luna/Rolf, Delphini Black, original characters.
Also featuring Draco/Astoria, Bellatrix/Voldemort (in flashback), Lily Potter (in flashback), Harry/Ginny, and brief appearances by several canon others.
A complex Romance/Smut and Hurt/Comfort fic with dark themes/undertones and a bit of Mystery, for MATURE readers only.
Rated M for sexual content (incl. lemons), violence, emotional abuse, and adult language. Don't expect in-chapter Trigger Warnings.
Canon/original series compliant save for Severus' still being alive (ignoring the DH epilogue), with elements from Cursed Child & Fantastic Beasts woven in.
Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.
-Hamlet, William Shakespeare
It wasn't the most degrading thing she'd ever had to lower herself to do, but damn, it was close.
Talented witch, 28, in dire financial straits, seeking employment. Will do almost anything for 10 Galleons per hour, flexible schedule necessary. In good health, physically fit, reasonably attractive, highly capable. Past experience in multiple relevant positions. Discretion expected.
If she were applying for any respectable job, this short cover letter, minus the last two words, would merely be shamefully pathetic and poorly phrased. But she wasn't applying for a respectable job. She was placing an ad in the Daily Prophet's Age-Restricted Personals Column. Though she was not, by nature, the type to worry about what others thought of her, she ran her fingers anxiously through her tangled mane while awaiting the response of the Daily Prophet clerk seated on a tall stool behind the counter under a sign reading ADVERTISEMENTS.
He read it, looked her over as if bemused, and read it again.
"Well?" she asked, impatient. "Will you print it?"
"It's weird," said the incredibly unhelpful clerk. He was perhaps twenty, as gawky as Stan Shunpike, as fair-haired as Draco Malfoy, and as utterly tactless and freckly as Ron Weasley.
Damn it. Bloody hell.
Tears stung the corners of her eyes.
It still hurt her heart to think of her first husband, not because she regretted their divorce, but because of how things had turned out since. He had a devoted wife, a healthy baby, a great job, and, no stranger to the post-war spotlight, he was still riding the fame wave to Ministry galas and exclusive parties. Though she was glad they were no longer together – she'd long ago come to terms with the fact that they weren't right for each other, as some childhood romances are meant to be confined to childhood – she couldn't help but feel a sharp twinge of jealously when she thought about how well his life was going… and how quickly her own was going down in flames.
"If you're looking for a job, you should put an ad in the Help Wanted section," the clerk said, twirling the long curl of his ridiculous blond goatee as he spoke. "Help Wanted section's not restricted. More people will see it. Makes more sense there."
"Thank you, but I want it in the Personals," she said without affectation. "I want it restricted."
"No offense, but this makes you sound like a prostitute, ma'am." He continued to twirl, which made her want to reach up to his chin and tear the damn thing off in frustration. "You sure you wanna word it like this?"
"I've given considerable thought to the wording," she snapped as a second wizard, with a badge reading Editor: Advertisements, came up beside the first to check over her words. More witches and wizards were filing into the office now; she could hear them behind her, chatting, whistling, waiting in line. Wanting to make a quick escape, she quickly asked the editor, "How much to place it?"
"For half an hour's worth of backbreaking work, I'll let you run it for free," smirked the editor. "I can transfigure my desk into a cot."
"Five galleons, then?" she asked, taking the money out of her coin purse as if he hadn't just insinuated in front of an office full of people that she should pay in sex rather than money. "That seems like a bit much for a tiny ad."
"Three sickles," said the first wizard, apparently oblivious to what had just transpired despite his earlier warning about her wording. "Five galleons! Could you imagine? We'd only have to run a couple of ads every issue if we charged those prices, eh, boss?"
Without comment, she paid the clerk, shot a look of disgust in the direction of his still-smirking editor, turned on her heel, and stalked from the newspaper office, trying to hold onto her last shred of dignity.
She was so intent on blocking out the world around her just long enough to get home without crying, she hardly registered the existence of the man she bumped into upon her swivel. He scowled, as she neither acknowledged her rudeness nor apologized for it. He also fell back slightly, as this was the first physical human contact he'd felt in years (aside from that of his visiting nurse, who popped in every six months to make certain he was still alive) and it strangely pained him. Who was he kidding? It wasn't strange. Everything pained him. It had been a decade already and he was still in pain, a constant reminder of what he'd survived. He rubbed the sore spot on his arm, envisioning the bruise that would be appearing there later, and mentally cursed her name.
Then he cut the queue, stalked up to the newspaper counter, and snapped his fingers to get the attention of the idiotic advertisements section employee.
"That woman," he said, jerking his head toward the exit. "The one who just left. Might I see her ad?"
"What for?" asked the goatee-twirling employee with mild suspicion.
"I know her," said the man. "We're old… friends." This was a lie, but not the sort that would make one feel remorseful. It was a little white lie, like Sure, that dress looks nice on you dear, or Of course I'm grateful you saved me from death by possessed snake. "I overheard your conversation and worry my… friend… is making a grave mistake."
"She certainly is! Look at this. She must not be much of a writer!" The wiry employee slipped the parchment across the counter to the formidable looking man in black, whom he thought looked vaguely familiar, but could not readily place. "She wants to put an ad for employment in the Personals but it makes her sound like a… well… you know."
"I'll pay for it," said the man. His face showed no emotion, but he tugged his thick black cloak more tightly around his body as he spoke, giving the impression of a bat curling up inside his wings for the night. "How much?"
"What do you mean?"
"I will pay to pull the advertisement. Do not run it. I intend to speak with her about its contents first." This was, of course, another lie, but less of a little white one. "How much?"
"Uh… a galleon?" The advertisement was already paid for and typically if one were pulled before going to print the person who'd placed it would get their money back, not pay, but the clerk figured he could use a little extra gold.
The man in black placed one galleon into the open, waiting palm of the clerk, who then handed the man the parchment on which she'd written the ad.
The man did not say thank you. He merely slipped the parchment into the pocket of his robes, turned on his heel as the woman had, and stalked out of the newspaper office, having completely neglected to do what he'd gone there to do – place his own Help Wanted ad.
In the Personals column.
So… this is completely unlike my other recent fics. It's also my first time really writing Severus Snape/Hermione Granger (Sevmione?) aside from "Man of Her Dreams," which I wrote many years ago when I was young and silly. This is nothing like that.
Thanks for reading. Reviews always appreciated.