Author's Note: A silly, romantic diversion brought to you by a Tumblr Ask, because I cannot be arsed to finish anything else that's looming on my horizon at the moment.
The Business of Ballroom
Severus Snape stood at the corner of the ballroom like a particularly ill-tempered shadow, practically itching to leave.
Truth be told, he hated Ministry functions- all these disgustingly smug Ministry bastards in their disgustingly expensive robes rubbing shoulders with others like themselves gave Severus the worst sort of indigestion. Though he had no appetite, he was, in fact, holding an empty champagne flute that he'd unceremoniously emptied at least three times in a nearby bush simply to avoid having to be asked for the fifty-millionth time if he'd like some hors d'oeuvres by one of the over-eager Ministry house elves.
He sighed heavily when the champagne flute refilled itself as though by magic and glared at the nearby house elf, who'd frozen mid-snap. With a slight wave of his hand, he dismissed the elf, who looked as though she was about to start boxing her own ears right then and there for displeasing him before disappearing with a sharp pop. Severus took a step to try and explain that this wasn't necessary, but then he realized that since it hadn't worked on all of the house elves he'd grumbled at over the years at Hogwarts for trying to be helpful and making things worse, it probably wouldn't work on her either.
The only reason he was at the stupid event was because Minister Shacklebolt (damn him!) had told him that the galleons he'd be receiving along with whatever the bloody award of the week was this time were contingent on his attendance. He looked up at the ornate clock near the far side of the ballroom and sighed. There were still forty-five minutes until midnight, and Severus only had eyes for the Ministry's clocktower. Once it chimed even a single time, he could finally disappear from this godforsaken place like a sour-faced Cinderella.
He snorted into the champagne flute at the thought, pretending to be in the middle of drinking it to avoid yet another overstuffed Ministry official who looked like he was about to come over and talk to him. He'd worn his blackest, least-ornate robes, the buttons fastened all the way up to his chin like armor against being considered sociable or in any way conspicuous. He looked over at the other recipients, which were basically a bunch of the members of Dumbledore's Army (the wankers, he thought, all dressed up like they're playing at being like their elders), and some of the other professors from Hogwarts. Minerva had already saved him a couple of times from nosy gawkers, but she was in the middle of dancing with Phineas Fickleboro, the esteemed Transfiguration researcher from Istanbul, and Severus knew that she wouldn't be able to save him if someone happened to find him in his concealed space behind the fat marble pillar in the shadows of the ballroom.
A buzzing near his ear made him flinch and he swatted at it instinctively. Unfortunately, he forgot that he was holding the champagne flute with champagne still in it, and ended up pouring it all over the place.
There was a loud thump as something heavy hit the ground and a shrill squeal assaulted his ears, making him wince.
"HEY! What the feck do you think yer doin'?!"
Severus knew that voice. He turned his head slowly, as if this would change the truth of the person who lay sprawled out on her back, her robes drenched in champagne.
"Miz Skeeter. Apparently, you have taken my previous instructions to buzz off rather literally," Severus said, stepping back and glowering at her. "Good evening."
He swept off, hoping that he looked like he was stomping away in fury instead of fleeing. Skeeter had been merciless since his survival had come to light- following him everywhere during the day and having Prophet interns tail him at night. The damn woman was a pest who was obsessed with writing unflattering articles about him. Normally, Severus wouldn't care.
He'd been called worse by friends, after all, and Skeeter was no friend.
However, he was also in the process of having several new potions patented, and plans to open his own owl-post apothecary, so he was doing his best to avoid as much negative press as was possible.
"Mr. Snape! A word, please!"
Skeeter had apparently found her wand and cleaned herself off, for she was following after him at a frightening speed. Severus turned away from her to find that he was mere inches from the dance floor. A murmur of interest filled the room and Severus felt his cheeks growing warm with embarrassment, but at the next bellow from the harridan behind him, he forced himself into the crowd of dancers.
Suddenly, someone had taken his hand and he felt himself spun around to find Minerva's laughing eyes and cat-ate-the-canary smile as she led him away from the livid journalist.
"Thank Merlin," he said, before he could compose himself, "I was beginning to think that bitch was going to cast a Permanent Sticking Charm."
Minerva chuckled. "Well I knew that it would take a fairly extreme situation to get you out into the light of day-"
"It's half an hour to midnight, Minerva," Severus replied, unimpressed.
"Be that as it may, it's good to see that you're finally putting all those years of teaching Slytherin House to dance to practice, even if it's little old me," Minerva continued, twirling him out and then bending him backwards in her arms.
"You do know that I'm supposed to be the lead," Severus said, once she pulled him up out of the dip, his cheeks going slightly pink.
"You're three decades too young to lead me anywhere, and you know it," Minerva chuckled as they two-stepped towards the other side of the dance floor. They stopped and clapped politely with the rest of the crowd as the music ended. "Now, then, what are your plans for the rest of the evening?"
Severus was about to reply when he felt a finger tap gently on his shoulder and he spun abruptly, his eyes widening with surprise. There, before him, stood a young woman who looked rather familiar, though he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Her hair was short, though ringlets of chestnut brown hair curled around her face in a wild sort of way that filled Severus with a strange heady sensation in his belly. She wasn't heavily powdered or garishly dressed. There was a simplistic, natural air to her that he instantly envied, but she carried herself with a power and confidence that made her look older than her years. Her eyes were golden and seemed to shimmer in the light of the many candles floating above them.
Instantly, Severus found himself transported back to his stammering, awkward, teenaged self.
"Severus, you're gawking," Minerva politely whispered to him, and he shut his mouth, which had been hanging open and making him look (he was certain) like a total moron.
"Good evening, Minerva, Mr. Snape," the woman said, curtseying slightly
"Good evening, Miss Granger," Minerva said kindly.
"Please, I've told you a hundred times that it's fine to call me Hermione. I feel like a first year when you call me that!" Hermione laughed, and Severus noticed that her teeth were even and white.
His mind flashed back to his cruel words about her teeth, before, and he hated himself just a bit more than he usually did.
"Old habits die hard, Miss Granger, but I'm sure that there are others who can be more easily persuaded to change their ways," Minerva replied, a very peculiar smile playing across her lips as she looked at Severus and then looked at Hermione and back to Severus again.
"What?" Severus asked pointedly, glaring at Minerva, who waved mildly and melted away into the crowd, leaving him behind before he could stop her.
"I'm didn't wish to bother you, Mr. Snape," Hermione said, turning her bright eyes on him and completely stopping his scowl in its tracks, "but I saw you and I just needed to thank you to your face. You saved my life, you see...and-"
They both abruptly turned towards a horrible screeching sound.
"THERE YOU ARE, SNAPE! THOUGHT YOU COULD ESCAPE, DID YOU!?" screamed Rita Skeeter.
Hermione turned away from him for a moment, placing her body squarely between him and the practically rabid journalist, her hands moving up to rest on her hips.
And then, an odd thing happened.
Though Hermione hadn't made a sound, Rita's expression went from full of fury to bug-eyed with fear. Slowly, she backed away and then, when she'd reached the nearest doorway, she turned and practically ran out of the building as fast as her legs could carry her.
Hermione turned back, her face still midway between the intimidating murder-scowl she'd obviously been aiming at Skeeter, but when she finally looked up at him, her face had returned to the almost radiant picture of joy. She had protected him, but not in a way that he'd needed to ask for like some groveling, simpering fool. It filled him with a dangerous, pleasurable warmth and he couldn't bring himself to look away from her.
"Beautiful," he breathed out, before he could keep the thought from escaping his lips, and then, "Shite! I mean...the music is...er...beautiful...and...er...I was just going-"
His cheeks burned with embarrassment and he stared up at the cursed clock, which seemed to have only moved a minute or two past the half-hour mark. Damned thing. Hermione laughed, but it wasn't a derisive sound. On the contrary, she sounded so merry that he almost joined in.
This was it. He must be going mad.
She held out her hand. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd love to have this dance. These Ministry functions are so boring, but it looks like you know what you're doing, and besides, it will pass the time so that we can both get back to our research."
This got Severus' attention as he took her hand, leading her back onto the floor as the band began to play a downtempo waltz. "Research?"
"Yes," Hermione said, mirroring his lead fairly well, though she was obviously about as rusty as he was. "I'm doing research on Ancient Runes and their usage in perpetually renewable charm energy. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of money in the field even though it'll be dead useful once I finally get it up and running. Hence my attendance at this pompous affair."
Severus nearly fell over. It had not occurred to him that anyone other than himself (Minerva, perhaps, but she always enjoyed seeing everyone and was far more social than he would ever be) would feel similarly, much less need the money for ostensibly interesting (although complicated) research projects. Thinking about his own research made him realize something important.
"So...er...,you mentioned that I...helped you," Severus said awkwardly. "What, exactly might it have been?"
Hermione smiled mysteriously and Severus felt his heart skip a beat. "I'll show you if you'd like...when we're done with this dance."
Severus swallowed a mysterious lump that seemed to have appeared in his throat, and he willed his palms not to sweat. The way that she said those words was both seductive and innocuous. It was maddening not to know which it was.
And though he was trying very hard to tell himself otherwise, Severus really, really wanted to find out.
The song ended as soon as the clock struck midnight and Severus blinked rapidly, wondering where the time had gone.
"Thank you, Mr. Snape," Hermione said, curtsying slightly.
"It's Severus actually," he heard himself say.
"Well, then, Severus-"
"Oi! Mione!" The slurred speech came from their left and they both turned to see a stumbling, drunken Ron Weasley being held barely upright by a sheepish looking Harry Potter. "G-weh from th' git thar."
Hermione let out a huff of exasperation and stomped over to Harry.
"He got into a drinking contest with a centaur," Harry explained. "She won."
"She godda mostest perdy trac's o' land," Ron hiccuped. "I wanna ride 'er like a pony. Coconuts 'n everythin'...giddyap!"
"I shall forever regret taking him to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Harry groaned. "Mind lending me a hand? I'm about ready to hex him."
"C'mon, Ron, let's get you home before you hurt yourself again," Hermione sighed, her expression beyond exasperated.
It wasn't until after she'd disappeared into one of the giant floo fireplaces with her two friends that Severus finally realized that he still did not know what she had meant to show him.
Or if he'd ever see her again.
"Come on, Severus," Minerva said, clapping him heartily on the shoulder, "you're free to leave now, or did you forget while you were mooning like a lovesick teenager over your dance partner?"
"I was not mooning!" Severus snapped, pulling away from her in a huff.
"Your lovesick expression says otherwise!" Minerva called out from behind him.
"She's far too young!" Severus shot back. "It'd be disgusting."
"You know what's disgusting?" Minerva asked. "People who hide behind faulty logic to avoid their feelings."
"HAH!" Snape practically yelled. "Perhaps I prefer logic! Logic is safe. Feelings are for dunderheads!"
He finally reached the border of the wards and Apparated away, his ears still burning with embarrassment as they picked up the sound of Minerva's knowing laughter echoing through the cold night air after him.
"You didn't have to stay for the after-party to get the monetary incentive for this award," Minerva mused, handing him a glass of sparkling cider. "And yet here you are. And in some rather new-looking and well-tailored attire at that. Curiouser and curiouser."
"You do know what they say about curiosity and cats, MInerva," Severus replied with a sniff.
"Don't be such a drama queen," Minerva replied. "You're merely feeling a bit twitterpated, is all. It's not the end of the world."
"That still remains to be seen," Severus quipped back dryly.
A rather handsome wizard appeared, bowed, and reached out his hand. "May I have this dance, Mademoiselle McGonagall?" he said, his voice thick with a prominent accent.
"Oh, it's been years since I've been a Mademoiselle," Minerva giggled. "I'll be sure to keep an eye out for your Miss Granger on the dance floor, Severus."
"She is not my Miss Granger," Severus growled irritably.
"That remains to be seen," Minerva replied with a wave as she was whisked off to the dance floor.
In the end, though he diligently searched for her, she found him again. He turned, trying to force himself not to grin like an idiot when he saw her standing there, her eyes sparkling.
"Hello again," she said. "Are you...okay?"
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
"You look sort of like you're in...pain?" She tilted her head slightly and he had to bite his tongue not to make an embarrassing squeeing noise.
"Oh, I'm quite all right," he managed to grit out, "You know how it is."
"Actually, I'm glad that we both decided to stick around. I'd hoped we could have another dance." Hermione blushed and Severus tried to avoid locking his knees. It would not do to keel over in front of her, after all.
"Indeed," he replied, taking her hand and trying to mirror what he'd seen other wizards with proper etiquette training do.
"I must admit, I am looking forward to it," he said, twirling her around gently, not daring to look her in the eye when he said it.
"Oh?" she asked.
"The...thing you mentioned...that I helped you with?" Severus wanted to disappear into his shoes. He'd been practically obsessing about it for the past few weeks, but he'd had very little luck guessing at what it could be. But what if he was overreacting? Blowing things out of proportion? Hermione seemed to be humoring him with her smile and her sparkling eyes, but what if she-
"Well, while we're admitting things, I was a bit intimidated by you at first," Hermione admitted, cutting off Severus' frenzied thoughts instantly, "but now that I'm talking to you, I feel rather silly about having been afraid. You've definitely changed for the better, Severus."
Severus could feel his cheeks flushing at the sound of his name. Normally, he disliked how harsh his first name sounded when spoken aloud, but Hermione made it sound beautiful.
"What about your two male cohorts?" Severus asked, trying not to let any overt malice enter his voice. He did not want them to interrupt yet again.
He'd seen the headlines earlier that year regarding the big, public fight that had ensued after Weasley had asked for Hermione's hand in marriage, and she'd refused politely, citing her desire to continue her studies before settling down. Potter, on the other hand, was determined to force Severus to join his happy family, much to Severus' dismay. He sent letters, cards, and even tried to visit his house from time to time. Severus had become very skilled in the art of pretending that he was never home.
"Oh, they've been up in the VIP room for ages," Hermione replied, gesturing to the stairs that wound up on the side of the room and opened up into some sort of second floor atrium with charmed glass windows that shone brightly with magic so that the people on the other side could see out but no one could see in. "That's where all the good food is, and they don't make you dance."
Severus glared up at the windows, as though he'd be able to see into them if he did so, but they remained opaque.
"Harry has a hard time going out in public without either being assaulted by rabid fans or attacked by people who want to be the one to kill the guy who killed Voldemort."
Severus winced at the name out of habit though his arm did not actually hurt when she said it, thanks to his patented Cursed Wound Salve. He'd begun work on it immediately after he'd realized that his cursed snake bite and the faded Dark Mark still had some residual power left in them that left him with debilitating pain, especially when the weather changed. It had taken him almost a year to perfect it, but after he had finally erased the lingering reminders of the two biggest mistakes of his life, he'd slept soundly ever since.
The song finally ended, and he found himself being led easily by Hermione out to a balcony where they could be alone.
"Don't worry," Hermione assured him, "This won't take long."
She grinned at him conspiratorily, and before he knew it, he found himself smiling back at her. This revelation made him blush, which made him feel increasingly out of his depth. Then, she pulled out her wand, warding the doors shut and turning back to him.
Instinctively, Severus felt his fingers itch to curl around his own wand. He didn't like being backed into a corner without an escape route, even though his bloody heart was shouting at him to shut up and stop being so goddamn suspicious all the time.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, noticing his discomfort, "but it was necessary...I don't want anyone to disturb us."
She pulled her arm out of her sleeve until she was bare up to her shoulder and showed him the clean flesh on her upper arm. "During the war, Bellatrix tortured me and carved a word with a cursed knife right here, but thanks to your salve, it's completely gone. It...it really helped me heal in more than one way."
Severus immediately felt guilty about all of the amorous thoughts that he'd been harboring. Here he was, looking at her like a regular letch and she had just wanted to show him how well his potion had worked.
"You can touch it if you'd like," Hermione said, indicating the soft skin on the side of her upper arm. The way she looked at him was pure sex, and Severus had to stomp on his other foot with one dragonhide boot to refrain from doing as she'd said.
"Actually, I would like to cast a diagnostic spell, if you would let me," he replied thickly, pulling out his wand and waiting for her reply. The truth was, he didn't trust himself to touch her. It was too dangerous. It was already dangerous enough to look.
He cast the spell, moving his wand over the length of her arm, marveling at how there was not even a trace of the curse left over. Without thinking, he gently placed his fingers against her skin and ran them over the space she'd indicated earlier. Her skin was soft and whole.
"Beautiful," he breathed again, this time not bothering to apologize. It was, after all, true.
Hermione let out a soft noise, something between a purr and a sound of agreement. When Severus looked up at her face, he noticed that her pupils had blown wide as she watched his fingers sliding against her supple, silken skin.
"Also," she said shyly, "I used it on this one as well, and it...well…I hope you don't mind me showing you..."
This time, she seemed to hesitate before moving to unbutton her plain brown robes down to her waist. Pulling them to the side enough to show a flash of her bra and her sun-kissed skin underneath, Severus inhaled sharply.
The massive scar- the one he'd helped Madam Pomfrey heal after that horrible night in the Hall of Prophecies- it was-
"Gone," he said, his voice cracking slightly. His fingers reached out as though of their own accord, to touch the space between her breastbone where the thick cord of cursed scar tissue had been. This time, as he traced his fingers against the softness of her skin, she shivered with delight and made a soft panting noise, obviously enjoying his attention.
"You have to understand," Hermione gasped, "I wanted to write you a letter and leave it at that, but I couldn't...I had to...I had to see you...let you…"
"Hermione," Severus bent forward, his breath clouding against Hermione's cheek, "I...I do not think it is wise for me to keep doing this."
She angled her head up so that his breath came hot against her lips, which were as flushed as her cheeks. "And why is that, Severus?"
He shivered to hear his name said in such a way. "Because...I...I want to...I…"
Hermione nudged her way upwards until her lips nearly touched his. "But what if I told you that I wanted you to?"
Severus was inordinately glad for the ward on the door behind them as he firmly pressed his lips against her with a moan loud enough to warrant casting a Muffliato for good measure. Her fingers curled around his hips gently and he sagged into her, letting her pull him against her with a sigh of need. Trailing kisses down her neck, her ran his tongue against the naked skin of her arm in the place that Bellatrix had marked so cruelly. Hermione kissed him everywhere she could reach as he kissed her, holding her tightly as he did so. There was something about her that had drawn him in from the beginning, but here, now, it was a lesson in holding back against his overwhelming desire to take her then and there.
Her fingers were sliding down the slight gap around the waist of his trousers and he moaned loudly into her mouth at the pleasure this brought him. Even with his long, imposing robes, he always wore trousers underneath, but at the moment, he was very much regretting having them.
"If we don't stop soon...it might go too far," he panted, as she began undoing the buttons at his neck.
"I don't care," she replied ardently, "This may be my only chance to see you...to properly...to let you know that I…"
She kissed him firmly and pulled away with great effort. "I've read all of your papers. They're brilliant. Your potion for cursed scars saved my body, but it also saved my mind. I was having flashbacks, nightmares, pain...it was hell. Anyone who can make such an amazing item and sell it at such a modest fee is someone I can't help but feel for, especially in light of...everything."
"Well, then, let me prepare a rebuttal," Severus replied. "You are gorgeous." He kissed her nose. "You are kind." He kissed her cheeks. "You are smart." He kissed her lips. "And you are a force to be reckoned with." He kissed her chest above where her heart lay. "I came to this damnable function because I needed to see you again. I would be an utter dunderhead if I walked away from all of that in the name of propriety."
With that, he kissed her mouth deeply, his mind going blank with pleasure. Behind them, the clock began to strike midnight and Hermione mewled with delight underneath him.
"Shall we?" Severus asked, pulling away, his wand at the ready.
"Oh, yes, please," Hermione replied, her eyes half lidded.
His heart hammered in his chest as he grabbed her tightly around the waist and they Disapparated just as the last stroke of midnight faded away.