A/N: This is the promised one-shot for the 100th review for The Art of War. Hope you guys enjoy it!
Prompt: After the War,Severus retires from Hogwarts and lives in a little Town
where he meets Hermione.
The first time Severus saw that ridiculous bushy head of hair he thought he was going crazy. He had been walking down the street of Presteigne, a small merchant town on the border of England and Wales, when he thought he had seen her turn the corner in front of him. He didn't know why, but he sped up his gait until he reached the corner behind which she seemed to have disappeared. Of course, when he could see the street on the other side there was nothing but shops and the faint hum of quiet that pervades every corner of most towns of that size.
After the war ended, Severus celebrated his miraculous survival (but really, what self-respecting potion master worked in the regular company of a giant, poisonous snake without a pre-prepared antidote on his person at all times) and being heralded as a hero of the wizarding world (because what he really loved was attention and witches fawning over him for some silly romantic notion that they could be the one to disabuse him of his long-abandoned childhood crush) by moving to the smallest town he could find that still got owl service. For the first time in his life he was not under the thumb of a meddling Albus Dumbledore, he did not have to feign service to the half-blood monster that was the Dark Lord, and he had finally paid back his self-declared debt to Lily Potter by seeing that her son outlived the aforementioned Dark Lord.
The day his story hit the presses he had moved everything he cared to remove from the dingy dump that was Spinners' End and into his new home in the country. He had used his money from the First Class Order of Merlin currently shoved in the back of his socks drawer to purchase the local apothecary from the aging wizard who had previously run it and had made a decent living. When he had begun doing research in the back room and selling custom potions to private clients, his vault in Gringotts began approaching Malfoy levels of full. The best part was the solitude. He got to research, brew, and write the scholarly articles he had never had time to write when safeguarding hordes of teenage dunderheads and playing tug of war between Dumbledore and the Dark Lord.
And so far the wizarding world had been only too happy to let him go. Every so often he would receive an owl from Minerva with a clipping of a Daily Prophet "Whatever happened to Severus Snape?" story along with some basic news and updates from the school, but other than that he was certain the wizarding world was just as happy to be rid of him as he was to be rid of it.
A few months later he was in the midst of bottling another batch of the de-aging face cream that had earned him enough money to make Lucius' head spin when he heard the bell ring to signify the entrance of a customer. He only had one or two per day, mostly aging residents of the town picking up their health potions, so he shouted out that he'd be there in a minute before finishing his bottling and gliding back out to the front counter. He first saw the hair, as the witch it belonged to was crouching on the other side of the counter, trying to get a look at an ingredient on the bottom row of the glass case. His curiosity piqued, he asked, in his usual silky drawl, "How may I help you, Miss Granger?"
The curly-haired witch's head jerked up to look at him in shock, causing her to hit her head on the protruding ledge of the counter, lose her balance, and topple backwards with an undignified yelp. Severus didn't quite manage to keep a straight face as he watched her scramble back to her feet and try to subtly maneuver her robes back into some semblance of the right place. When she finally looked him in the eye again, she colored at the look of amusement on his face.
"Professor! What are you doing here? Well obviously you work here...so that answers that question...I mean, well what I meant to say was, how have you...oh bloody hell." The look of amusement turned to a velvety chuckle as Severus watched the frazzled witch dig herself into a deeper and deeper verbal hole. When she ended with a disappointed little frown and an expletive, he finally decided to rescue her from herself.
"I haven't been your professor for six years, Miss Granger. Now, as you've surmised, I do in fact work here, so may I help you with something?"
Hermione grimaced at his jab before belatedly realizing it came with none of the malice she was used to hearing from her acerbic, former professor and giving him a small, self-deprecating smile.
"Yes, do you have Entwhistle Nettles? I need them for a spell I'm working on." Without saying a word or taking his eyes off the witch in front of him, Severus reached up to the top shelf next to him and pulled down a jar. He handed it to her and she handed over some coins. She looked like she was about to speak, but instead huffed out a breath of defeat and simply bid him a good day and left the store.
Well that was certainly interesting, Severus thought as the door clanged shut. He had initially been worried about her finding him, after all, the whole point of living here was so that no one from his past life would ever invade his newly established peace, but from her evident surprise it didn't seem that she had been expecting to see him at all and from the immediate and hasty retreat she had made it didn't seem like she would be coming back to the town any time soon.
How time had passed, though, she had looked far more like an adult witch than the schoolgirl he remembered.
The next summer Severus decided to refresh his library. He had all of his books from his personal library at Hogwarts, as well as many of the seedier dark texts that he had inherited from the Prince estate once his name was cleared. Usually when acquiring new books he did his research ahead of time and then ordered from Flourish and Blotts via owl order, but he needed to get rid of a great number of books in a discrete manner and had no desire to apparate back and forth to Knockturne Alley with them, so he decided to try out the dusty book shop on the corner opposite his apothecary. He passed it every day on his way to work and was tempted to go in, but he hadn't fully overcome his hermit ways and always managed to think of a reason not to go in that day.
He opened the door and was greeted by a chime similar to his, but with a much more fairy-like sound. The old cowbell seemed to have been charmed to make a less obnoxious noise every time the door opened. He made a mental note to ask the proprietor what charm he had used, for surely Severus would hex his own bell to smithereens one of these days when it startled him in the middle of a precarious brew. A female voice drifted out to him as he made his way past the towering stacks of books.
"Just a minute!"
He didn't mind waiting as he slowly made his way through the stacks leading to the front counter. He was leafing through a potions book, one he could have sworn wasn't coming out for another two months, when he looked up to see the bushy halo of hair surrounding a smiling Hermione Granger making its way towards him.
"How can I help you, Professor?"
Severus Snape did not fumble things. He did not drop things. He had the hand eye coordination of a muggle surgeon. So why the potions text in his hands was suddenly on the floor was a complete mystery to him. He stooped a little too quickly to pick it up and straightened to see a small glimmer in the chocolate brown eyes of the smirking witch in front of him.
"You work here?" He asked smoothly, trying to recover from NOT dropping the book.
"No, I actually own the place. Had to do something with the blood money the Ministry shoved at me alongside that gaudy Order of Merlin medal. That hideous thing is shoved in the deepest corner of my closet, but the galleons helped me get this place, so I guess their guilt for using children to fight their battles came to some good, right?"
"You live here?" Severus gestured helplessly at the counter. Apparently his recovery was not going as smoothly as he had hoped. Severus cringed inwardly as the witch in front of him developed a cheeky little smile.
"Not here at the counter, no," Another cheeky smile. "I live in the flat upstairs. And as the owner I would kindly ask that you not drop that book again. The author lets me have all his books on early release and would be quite cross if I started destroying them before the rest were even published."
Severus was trying to put his thoughts together, but found himself at a loss.
"For how long?" This time the impertinent witch even giggled at him.
"About four years now."
"But I thought you would be knee-deep in little ginger ankle-biters by now?" he said before he could get ahold of his mouth. He cringed to himself again as he saw a brief moment of sadness flicker across her face before it was replaced by what he knew well to be the Gryffindor-being-unwillingly-brave-again smile.
"No, as it turned out Ron seemed to enjoy his fame a bit too much for me. One too many starstruck witches all to willingly chasing after a man would do that to anyone, I assume. He's much happier as a bachelor with all its...advantages. And I get to live out my life dream of literally living in a library, or as close as you can come to it, I guess." He could have sworn he saw her bravery flicker for a second there, but it didn't falter again. The silence stretched on until she spoke again.
"So how may I help you, Professor?"
"I'm not your professor anymore, Miss Granger."
"Well then, Severus," she enunciated every syllable of his name clearly, giving him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach which he immediately ignored, "what can I do for you?"
He tried to get his mental feet back under him but he was having a harder time than usual putting his thoughts together.
"Books. Rather, I have a great deal of them, some of a more sensitive nature. I would like to responsibly sell or donate a number and refresh my library with more current material. Does your store buy or redistribute texts as well as selling them, Miss Granger?"
"Now, Severus," there goes that strange sensation in my stomach again. Could I be ill? "Surely if you are not my professor anymore you can see your way to using my given name as well?" There was that cheeky smile again.
"Yes, so, Hermione, does your store buy books as well as sell them?" He was rewarded with another round of bell-like laughter.
"Yes, Severus, let's sit down in my office and see what we're dealing with here."
A few days later Hermione went out to Severus' house to take a look at the books he was trying to get rid of. She was exceedingly professional, but he couldn't help but notice how her eyes kept drifting towards the large fields that lay on his property behind the windows of his library. After inquiring about it she simply commented that she loved open space with no human settlements on it and kept cataloging books. The project stretched on for a few days, during which he learned that she had bought her store almost exactly a year after he purchased his and, until she came in that day, she had no idea that he lived or worked in the area. He also discovered that she had developed a similar business model to his own. She ran the bookstore during the day, but used her nights and empty hours to develop custom spells and charms for wealthy customers with specific needs. He also learned that her familiar had found a full-kneazle somewhere in the village who had bequeathed upon her a litter of three-quarter-kneazle kittens who ran amuck through her store and flat alike, that she had a monthly standing tea with Headmistress McGonagall in which they had a firm policy of discussing nothing of any importance, and that the woman could consume her body weight in Earl Grey.
As they worked through the project he was surprised to find her an easy conversationalist and, without her two pesky sidekicks, not bothersome in the slightest. The day they had finished up she gave a polite nod and a smile as she apparated away with the last load of dark texts. As he shut the door he felt a sad twinge somewhere in his gut. He wasn't sure why, but when he sat down in his library to read it felt empty of more than books.
A month after she had sent off the last of Severus' books Hermione came downstairs to open her shop and found a package to be sitting on her counter. Immediately snapping to defense mode she quickly assessed the wards around her shop and was intrigued when she found nothing amiss. There were few wizards who could possibly get through her wards without them alerting her or leaving any trace...a smile of comprehension dawned on her face as she immediately opened the package to find a positively dangerous quantity of the most expensive brand of tea she had ever seen. Earl Grey. Okay, Severus Snape, two can play at this game.
Her laughter rang across the empty store as she began to plot.
The next morning Severus turned the key to his apothecary, still groggy and waiting for his morning coffee to kick in. Instead of the hated clang of the bell he swore at every morning, he heard a soothing tone, somewhere between a soft gong and a temple bell. Now wide awake, he glanced up and saw the knocker of the horrible cowbell rattling as always, but it emitted an entirely different sound.
Checking his wards, he could sense that they had not been tripped, he would have been able to sense that from home, but he could detect a faint trace of a familiar magic signature.
His velvety laughter drifted out of the still-open door, across the street, and faintly hit the waiting ears of the now quite pleased with herself witch drinking tea by her upstairs window.
A week later Severus won a major contract from a large portions supply chain and decided to take himself out to dinner to celebrate. There was only one fancy restaurant in the small town, but Severus avoided public eateries like the plague so he had yet to try it out. When he came in the hostess showed him to an empty table near the back of the place. He had brought one of his new books with him and, after ordering, he quickly disappeared into its pages.
He was jostled out of his reading by the sound of a familiar voice behind him asking the waiter very detailed questions about the wine menu. After listening in amusement for a few minutes, he turned around in his chair to rescue the poor waiter who had begun to sweat at the inquisition.
"She'll have a glass of the Chateau Latour," he said, giving the waiter an appreciated excuse to flee back to the kitchen. The curly-haired witch in front of him looked up and a brilliant grin lit up her face. She laughed as she spoke.
"Spoilsport. A few more seconds and I would have had him."
"Why Miss Granger, I surely didn't know you had a sadistic side," he said in clearly-feigned horror, eliciting another giggle.
"Why Severus, I didn't know you had such a poor memory…" she said, emphasizing his name. He sighed dramatically.
"Well then, Hermione, would you like to join me? It appears we are both eating alone, and I fear I owe you at least one dinner for fixing that abhorrent bell of mine." He gestured to the empty chair across from him.
She nodded cordially and gathered up her purse to move tables. He wondered just when it was she had grown up and how Ronald Weasley had been such a fool for letting her go.
They continued accidentally (and not so accidentally) bumping into each other as spring turned to summer. He would show up at her shop midday and accompany her to lunch, she would show up with muggle carry out around closing time and they would eat on the floor while experimenting with different ways to mix potions and charms, patenting more than one revolutionary new product and adding sizably to their respective vaults at Gringotts.
Each time they met he became more and more enchanted by the young witch. He made friends with her horde of familiars, learned that she didn't like olives, and found out that she had been the cause of his missing boomslang skin way back when. More surprisingly, he divulged personal information the likes of which he would never have given up under threat of the cruciatus curse in his past life. They discussed everything from their shared hatred of the Ministry, the night terrors that came from living through dark revels and being tortured in Malfoy manner (respectively), and what would have been the best hex to use when she found Ron Weasley and a vapid blonde with her ankles in the air.
She came to him crying the night she couldn't find Crookshanks and she was the first person he told when he beat out St. Mungos' potions department for a major potions contract with the Americans. The only thing that worried him was the nagging feeling that he wouldn't be able to go back to his former, solitary life should she ever disappear.
One day she was sitting sprawled out in the plush chair she had permanently claimed in his library when he realized she hadn't turned a page in quite a while. He looked up from the paperwork he had been doing at his desk to find her staring at him intently.
"Something wrong, Hermione?" Her eyebrows knitted themselves further into a worried line.
"I got asked out yesterday." His quill fell to the desk and he stood up, though he couldn't quite find the words as to why.
"What did you say?" She had shut her book and was now sitting at attention.
"I'm not sure I want to tell you."
His stomach dropped.
"And why would that be?"
Time stood still.
"Because I'm afraid that if I tell you it will ruin our friendship and I very much enjoy our friendship."
Severus took a deep breath and resolved to be the bigger man despite the urge to find out the bugger's name and ensuring his body parts were scattered across the Atlantic before he could actually take Hermione on a date.
"I guarantee that no matter what you said, you will not lose me as a friend." He couldn't help but sneer slightly at the last word.
He watched Hermione steel herself and inhale deeply.
"If you must know, I told him that I couldn't because I was already in love with another man."
She waited for the knut to drop with her eyes squeezed shut.
Her eyes snapped open as she heard him rushing towards her, just in time to see his lips come crashing into hers. She stood up to meet him as he pulled her face to his. Her body curved to fit his as his hand wove itself into the back of her bushy curls. He heard a small groan escape her lips as his other hand came to rest on the small of her back. As was so often the case when they were together, time stood still for Severus as ravaged her mouth, letting her know without words exactly what he thought about her going on a date with anyone but him.
One year later, on the main street of the small town of Presteigne, the sun set on two stores on opposite corners of the main road. Both were closed while the owners were on their honeymoon. As the sleepy town began to close down, a passerby noticed that both storefronts showcased newly-painted identical signs. Both stores now featured insignia that read "Granger and Snape's Books and Brews, see across the street for more".