So this is a herd of plot bunnies that keeps bouncing up and down in my head as I listen to the radio and apparently the little lagomorphs aren't going to shut up until I put pen to paper, so here's to keeping my toes un-nibbled.
This'll be a running fic, but the chapters are completely unrelated to each other but rather each will be a stand-alone one-shot inspired by a different song. Apologies ahead of time for those who don't prefer country music...there might be a lot of that. Basically each time a song I hear spawns a plot bunny, I'll post another chapter here.
This shouldn't get in the way of the posting schedule for Art of War. In fact, with all of these darn bunnies out of my head I might actually be able to focus for a change.
This one is inspired by Marry Me by Thomas Rhett.
I recommend listening to the song first so you can hear the words of the song then reading with it on in the background, but that's just me. Let me know what you think about this structure or if you have any song requests!
It seemed to Severus to be an incontrovertible fact that the smarter the witch or wizard the more idiotic the decisions they would inevitably end up making in matters of the heart. He knew he was a man of far greater than average intelligence, a fact that had left him with few friends and even fewer allies in his school days at Hogwarts, and he had devoted two decades of his life pining after someone who not only had abandoned their friendship but had also had the audacity to be dead for a majority of his obsession with her.
After his disillusioned bezoar and hidden blood replenishing potions had allowed him to survive Nagini's attack, he was able to crawl off to an apparition point and lick his wounds at Spinner's End until he found out the outcome of the final battle and, more importantly, that the coin toss between national hero and future resident of Azkaban had come out in his favor. As he slowly got used to life after the Dark Lord, it took many bottles of firewhiskey, several unbecoming one night stands with nameless muggle women, and exactly one, very accomodating and frequently-obliviated muggle psychologist to realize just what a poor life choice his obsession with Lily Potter had been.
Six months after the wounds on his neck had finally dropped their scabs, he began to reintegrating himself into society via a quiet potions laboratory in the top floor of St. Mungo's. He had the fortune of getting almost automatically awarded a fair number of research grants due to his status as a war hero, which allowed him to sink into a peaceful routine of dunderhead-free, intellectually-stimulating work in his own private space each day. After a few big paychecks he also got to fulfill his life dream of incendioing Spinner's End to the ground and watching it burn before quietly purchasing a small flat in a tall building in muggle London not far from Diagon Alley.
However, with all this peace and quiet came ample time for introspection, which yielded the unfortunate conclusion that the smarter the witch or wizard the more ridiculously stupid their choices in the romantic realm. His unfortunate first case study of this came waltzing into his laboratory one sunny September day, formerly-bushy curls bouncing as she walked to his desk, happily placing a parchment bearing her straight-O NEWT scores along with a cover letter and resume on the wood in front of him. She said nothing but fixed him with a cheeky little smile that made it immediately evident his newfound peace was now a thing of the past.
As it turned out, Severus found Hermione Granger, apprentice and research assistant to be entirely more bearable than he had found Hermione Granger, swot extraordinaire and best friend of the Boy Who Lived to Remind Him of His Bad Choices. They worked largely in companionable silence except for their debates on their ongoing projects. She got him hooked on muggle lattes. He taught her Latin so she could read ancient potions texts without a translation spell. She forced him to write up his research for patent applications so he could garner profits from their sales. He hid the fact that after the first one he began to add her name to them as well. At Christmas she bought him an ugly, jet black, squashed faced, feline familiar with a penchant for curling up in his dragonhide boots when he took them off for the night. He made a show of grumbling and pretending to mind. She didn't comment when he named it Schrodinger and began bringing him to the lab each day. Overall everything worked quite well, much to Severus' surprise.
That is everything except for the tiny ring on Hermione's left hand.
After the war the ginger menace finally seemed to run out of excuses not to succumb to expectations and begin dating his long-time friend and the brains of the Golden Trio. Mrs. Weasley had been over the moon when they told her, smothering Hermione in enough love to indicate she already considered her a daughter. The happiness of the Boy Who Lived, now married to the Weasley girl and expecting their first child any day now, that his two friends were together was only surpassed by his relief that they would finally stop fighting.
Hermione didn't comment about the relationship much herself, but it seemed she was happy enough. They hadn't set a date yet, but every once in a while one of the female Weasleys would drag her away from work for a lunch and wedding planning session. And that was the proof Severus needed to verify his theory that smart witches and wizards are doomed to pick horribly when it came to love interests.
He said nothing the first time Hermione came back to the lab at quarter to seven. He had bid her goodnight at six thirty when she left early to surprise her fiance with a homemade dinner. He obligingly let it pass when she returned not thirty minutes later with puffy eyes, hastily-cleaned mascara stains, and a look that said she clearly didn't want to talk about it. Instead he simply emptied half of his latte into a clean beaker and passed it to her alongside the recent issue of Potioneers' Quarterly. She sniffed aggressively, obviously battling the urge to break down, but took the proffered drink without comment and sunk down in her usual chair. He said nothing about the lack of page turns for the next half hour as she stared vacantly at the paper in front of her.
When the terrier patronus came at eight asking where she was, he offered to owl that she had just left after working late and would be home shortly. The look of gratitude he received broke something somewhere deep inside him as she headed out the door.
After that she never went home early again. In fact, her usual pattern began shifting to include later and later nights in the office. As he practically lived in the lab, nothing much changed except for the fact that he now needed to get a cup holder to transport two lattes and two scones back from muggle London on his afternoon coffee run. They never spoke of that night, but a few months later he was meeting Lucius for a rare drink at the Leaky Cauldron he saw a flash of red hair disappear up the stairs with a giggling mass of blonde and put two and two together.
Every time he heard his apprentice come in from a lunch, talking animatedly about flowers or bridesmaids dresses he had to bite his tongue, but she was a brilliant mind and as such was almost guaranteed to end up with cheating wanker. It only made sense.
He was walking home one day when he happened to be passing a Muggle clothing store and see a familiar set of curls through the window. He made the mistake of slowing down just enough for her to see him, at which point he saw her face light up like a child on Christmas as she beckoned him inside.
Mistake number two was realized as he entered the store and was surrounded by white. White lace, white frills, white veils, and more sparkly baubles than would be needed to distract a flock of owls mid flight. She threw her arms around him, talking a mile a minute and he silently cursed himself when he couldn't stop his arms from bringing themselves around her as well.
She disappeared into the fitting room, chattering on about something that included needing a second opinion, and he sat awkwardly on an overstuffed ottoman trying to get his heart to beat more quietly so he could actually hear her talk when she came out again.
He needn't have worried. When he saw a rustling of the gaudy velvet fitting room, he looked up and his heart stopped beating entirely.
Gone were the muggle jeans and oversized sweaters he was used to seeing on his apprentice. Her hair was pulled back into a loose and messy bun, the wispy curls in front escaping to frame her face like the glow of a golden aura. The her front was draped in simple, white satin revealing a delicate neck, drawing the eye down to her subtly protruding collar bones, and modestly clinging to curves that had definitely not been visible under her bulky sweaters. The silk poured down her body creating an almost water-like wave of fabric as she slowly twirled around, eying herself in the mirror an indecipherable look somewhat resembling pleasure.
His breath came back to him in a choked gasp as he saw the lace running down her bare back from her shoulders to where the silk resumed on the lowest reaches of her back. Trying to regulate his malfunctioning airflow, his eyes flicked up to her face, from which her chocolate eyes were regarding him with nervously expectant apprehension.
"How does it look?"
Severus wasn't able to answer immediately, but after a quick swallow he managed to nod deeply, not taking his eyes off of hers.
"You look beautiful."
It came out as a whisper. He didn't know why, but from the delicate flush that stained her cheeks he could tell she had heard him.
"Thank you," she mumbled in embarrassment, "this one is my favorite." He watched as she twirled again, inspecting her dress in the mirror with a small smile on her face.
"It does not appear that you need a second opinion after all," he said, finally back under the familiar auspices of his Slytherin mask of indifference.
He was disappointed to see the small smile disappear immediately from her face only to be replaced with a look of poorly disguised sadness.
"This is my favorite, but Ron wants me to wear that one," she gestured to a gaudy gold chiffon dress that was covered in more ruffles than it wasn't. What wasn't covered in ruffles was bedecked in large maroon costume gems. What would have been an embarrassment at a high school prom was an epic tragedy as a wedding gown. When she spoke next, the tone of her voice embodied the disgusted grimace he had been fighting.
"The wedding colors are Gryffindor."
A slow tear ran down her cheek as she stole another longing look at herself in the full length mirror. Suddenly standing up and much closer to her than he remembered giving himself permission to be, he reached out and cupped her cheek, using his thumb to wipe the tear from her face before it reached her chin.
"Are you sure?"
He didn't remember speaking the words, but his voice echoed in the silence, their impact giving his thumb another tear to wipe off.
"It's what I've wanted since I got to Hogwarts. After I couldn't bring back my parents' memories the Weasleys were the only family I had. It's my chance to be somebody's someone. Harry has Ginny, and we're all growing up, right?"
He wanted to tell her how wrong it was. He wanted to tell her that she was a million times better than her ginger philandering oaf of a fiance. He wanted to tell her that she had haunted his dreams for months and that he was dreading her wedding worse than he would the reincarnation of the Dark Lord.
He said nothing.
His eyes lingered on hers for a breathless minute before he tore himself away from her.
"Well it sounds like you're getting exactly what you want then," he ran his hand over the golden ruffles of the Gryffindor colored travesty. "I'm sure you'll look lovely in this as well."
He made his way to the door but paused with his hand on the glass.
"If I was the one who got to marry you, I would hope it would be in that dress," he said without turning around to see her reaction. After another frozen second he pushed on the glass door and swept out onto the cold street.
In the weeks that followed, neither ever spoke of that day. As her wedding day approached, he noticed she got quieter and quieter during the day. If he ever asked, she blamed the stress of planning a wedding. Neither was fooled but neither acknowledged it.
On the last day of her work before the Saturday she was to be wed, the air hung thick over them like an indoor rainstorm. As she packed her back like she did every day, she kept glancing up at him as if she was trying to get up the nerve to say something.
As she placed her last notebook in her bag he could take it no longer.
Her eyes whipped up, glimmering with hope, "yes, Severus?"
All the possibilities rushed to his head of all the ways he should tell her all the things he had been holding in for the last year of her engagement.
He felt another crack in his heart as her face fell.
"Thank you, Severus."
Her voice cracked as she said his name and then she was gone.
It was closer to five seconds than six when he pulled the top off of the firewhiskey bottle from the bottom drawer of his desk.
He knew it had already happened. It was 5:06 on Saturday. She had already walked down the aisle in that horrible gold dress. In a few minutes the ginger moron would slobber all over her and from then on he would have to refer to his brilliant colleague as Madame Weasley. He wondered absent-mindedly how long it would take to stop loving this one.
He listened to the rain pouring over the windowpane with his eyes shut. A clap of thunder almost sounded like the crash of a door slamming opened. He only opened his eyes when the dripping sound of the rain sounded like it had begun coming from inside the building.
He looked up to see if the shoddy ceiling was leaking again and his breath caught in his chest.
Her chest was heaving like she just finished a footrace, making the drenched waves of white silk drip on the tile floor of their lab. Her face was flushed despite the goosebumps running up both arms. Her chocolate eyes were fixed on his like she was a hunter and he her prey.
He found himself immediately on his feet, but he caught himself before he allowed himself to jump to conclusions.
"I decided I liked this better."
Her tone was resolute. As much as he hated to hope, he knew she was not just talking about her dress.
His question trailed off, but his meaning was clear. After a terrifying second, she slowly shook her head, her eyes never leaving his. Still in disbelief, his eyes glanced down to see her naked left ring finger. With that evidence his eyes snapped back up to her face as he finally let himself believe.
He didn't know if he had run to her or she to him, but she was in his arms within a second. Her lips were as soft as he had imagined them to be, her kisses as incendiary as anything they had ever brewed in the lab. Her hands tangled in his hair as she pulled him closer to her. As he ran his hands down the lace back of her dress, he felt her moan into his mouth and press herself against him. Their bodies fit perfectly.
For the rest of the evening, the storm continued raging outside the lab. Neither of them noticed the rain, except when it came time to peel off the dress it had completely soaked.
And so, for the first time in either of their lives, it would seem, a bright witch and a bright wizard finally made an intelligent decision when it came to love. She had to get the dress professionally cleaned to erase the damage done by sprinting across muggle London in the pouring rain, but a few months later when she wore it again for their small ceremony in the countryside Severus thought it looked just as amazing as it had the first time he saw her in it.