Porfessor Severus Snape, Order of Merlin First Class, was admiring his reflection in the mirror. He smoothed down the front of his new dress robes, and admired the way they dramatically swirled around his austere frame. They were black, of course, with subtle hints of the lining showing at the cuffs and throat. A lining of the finest dark green silk embroidered with a stylised pattern that could equally well be repeated motifs of his initials or the emblem of his house, the snake of slytherin.

The faint smile that was playing round his lips faded when he looked at the Order of Merlin. The one fly in his ointment - the ribbon that the Order was suspended from was scarlet and gold. Even in this, his triumph as war hero and acknowledged saviour of wizardkind, the Gryffindors had to muscle in on his glory.

With a dismissive flick of his wand he changed the ribbon to green and silver, and then swept out to the party.

One year on from the defeat of Voldermort the wizarding world was still celebrating. He had his promised Order of Merlin, he had many a young woman happy to thank him for his role in the war personally and repeatedly, and yet he felt slightly discontented.

He strode into the hall to take his seat at High Table. There was one reason for his discontent. Wherever he went, wherever he was feted, Harry- the-boy-who-got-lucky-Potter was already there. He had hoped that once school was over he would be free of the short-sighted, scruffy, thick as bottled pig shite, if he fell over in a sewer he would come up smelling of roses, little tosser.

Deep breaths.

And, of course, his little ginger sidekick. Who, lets face it, was very lucky to survive at all. If anyone deserved to be called a spare it was him. It had seemed at one point that the Weasley's destiny had been to fall in front of Harry at some opportune moment and sacrifice his life for the greater good, but no, he had to go and bloody live!

God, he hated the pair of them. Even on those rare occasions he managed to escape their company he couldn't avoid them smirking up at him from Witches Weekly. The Daily Prophet had even taken a leaf out of the book of Muggle newspapers and had a sort of court circular reporting on their whereabouts. They were now, apparently, eligible bachelors.

He was wondering whether it might be possible to get a job teaching Potions at Beauxbatons. Or even DADA. Not Durmstrang though, too cold. He shuddered at the thought.

"Cold, Severus? I would have thought that the hot air from all the speeches would keep you warm?"

Now his life was complete. The last of the trio, and the only one he had the slightest bit of respect for. Not that he would ever let her know it, of course.

"Miss Granger," he said coldly.

"Now, now Severus, no backtracking."

"Hermione," he conceded with a faint, chilly smile. She had wrung the concession of first name terms out of him during a weak moment the last time they met. He had been very grateful when she had headed off a particularly enthusiastic fan with the face and disposition of a bull dog. He rather suspected Piss Pot Potter and his Pint Sized Pal of being behind that one.


At least . Hermione kept up date with all the latest gossip. She was entertaining him with a description of the latest exploits of Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, involving an attempted threesome with Harry Potter - really the boy ought to have more taste - but ending up with Ron instead. Pansy hadn't taken the news well and had made a dash for it screaming something about ginger pubes.

He sighed, and before he could censor himself he heard himself say, "Sometimes I really miss Lucius."

There was a horrible moment when he had visions of being stripped of his Order of Merlin (First Class) and dragged off to Azkaban. Of all the people to admit to feeling sentimental about his Deatheater days, Miss Granger was the one least likely to be sympathetic.

He was just reaching for his wand to cast a quick Obliviate, when the rather surprising admission came from beside him, "I know what you mean." Seeing his look of shock, she continued, "Not about Lucius obviously, the man was a monster. It's just occasionally I feel the urge to pick an argument with Draco. For old time's sake. He's an arrogant, obnoxious little shit with the personality of a crocodile and the charm and wit of a hyena, but he's reliable and predictable. He never lets you down."

Snape's eyes flicked to Harry and Ron. He hadn't seen them together as much, it's true. A certain coldness appeared to have crept into their friendship during the course of the last year. He thought it best to let the matter drop. He didn't want a snivelling Gryffindor on his hands. He was bound to get the blame, for one thing.

"Lucius was a complete and utter bastard," he said. "Don't get me wrong. But he was good value at dinner parties. Very amusing."

She smiled wanly.

Whatever she was going to say about Lucius, and it was sure to be wonderfully venomous was interrupted by Albus bustling up to the table to talk to them.

"I'm glad to catch up with you two before dinner starts."

"Albus," said Hermione.

Albus was positively gushing about something and Severus carefully blocked the conversation out of his consciousness and contemplated the cleavage of a very attractive blonde a couple of seats away. He was jerked back into paying attention by the application of a foot to his shin, and the realisation that Albus was hinting at something too dreadful to contemplate.

"It's nice to see you two getting on so well. You seem to be spending a lot of time together at these functions. It's good to see."

"I don't know what you mean, Albus," said Hermione. Was there a little frost in her voice? Apparently there was.

"Come now, Hermione, it's obvious you are made for each other," Albus said waggishly. "I must say I was hoping you two would come to your senses when I arranged the seating plan at last year's Yule Ball, and look at you now. I must say it's about time Severus stopped gadding around with all these women. He needs a proper relationship. I'm sure you'll be a steadying influence on him dear."

Only an idiot would have taken the look of disgust they shared as fondness. Apparently Albus was an idiot.

"You know you can't keep secrets from me, Severus. I suppose you are keeping it quiet because you are worried about Harry and Ron's reaction. I expect they will come round in time you know, but in the meantime you shouldn't allow anything to stand in the way of your happiness you know. Love is such a precious thing."

"No, Headmaster, you've got it wrong. We're just friends," she said. That was news to Severus, but he supposed it was quicker than saying we're just people who cling together for some decent conversation in the face of all this Harry-worship.

"Ah, indeed. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse," and with that parting shot he wandered off to annoy someone else.

He turned to look at Hermione in horror. Dear god. Steadying influence? Proper relationship? He liked gadding around with all these women. He hadn't had a lot of gadding over the course of the last ten years, and he rather thought he had a large gadding deficit to catch up on. He took a sip of whiskey to calm his nerves.

"I have just had the most brilliant idea," she said slowly, in the tones of one making a great discovery.


"Let's get engaged."

He spat out his whiskey. He looked at her cautiously. There were no obvious signs of insanity. "Are you sure you are feeling well, Miss Granger?"

"Just consider it for a moment," she continued. "You're bored. I'm bored. Think about it - all those times we've ended up sitting next to each other at these damned affairs were no accident. The old bastard has set us up yet again tonight."


"So I think we ought to play the old goat at his own game."

She had piqued his interest. "What did you have in mind?"

"I thought we could fall madly in love for the Christmas period. Think of the potential." He looked blank for a moment. What potential? Surely she didn't mean actual ahem intercourse. He cast a quick eye over her cleavage. Well, he supposed he could. She seemed to have all the right equipment. He'd never really considered shagging an ex-student, but he supposed it had a certain erotic appeal.

"Potential?" he queried. Better to be safe than sorry. He didn't really fancy sitting through dinner with a hand print on his cheek, and that was assuming that she stopped there.

"We suddenly fall overwhelmingly in love. We live in each other's pockets, and ostensibly shag like bunnies. Naturally things progress and we get engaged in a romantic fever. Then, come the New Year, we come to our senses and split up in a blazing row.

"Think of the advantages," she continued. "We'd have a perfect excuse for leaving dull parties for a start. We pretend we are nipping off for a quick shag, but instead we can have a quiet evening in front of the fire with a good book and a decent bottle of wine."


"And everyone would be really horrified, and just think of the fun we can have with that. If someone is really annoying you, you could signal to me and I would come to your rescue. The faintest sign of affection between us and most people would be running for cover. And you could do the same for me."

He could just picture Fudge's face the next time he started on one of his monologues on the state of the wizarding world and he was interrupted by Hermione holding his hand and calling him sweetheart. Truly nauseating stuff.

"Lots of people we don't like very much would have to buy us engagement presents."

"But when we split up we'd have to give them back."

"I don't see why. We could divide the presents between us, and no one is going to intrude on our grief to ask for their toaster back, are they? But most importantly of all we would get Albus off our back for good."

"Harry and Ron wouldn't like it," he offered.

"That too."

He could see one flaw though. "What reason do we give for splitting up?"

She thought about it for a moment. "Obviously we would refuse to discuss what happened because it is too painful. You could drown your sorrows in cheap Firewhiskey and take up with expensive whores."

"It's usually the other way round," he murmured distractedly. The idea had potential. Severus grinned like a shark that's just seen an Australian surfer's leg. "I like it," he said.

So when Albus opened the dinner by asking everyone to raise a glass in a toast to Christmas, almost everyone was surprised to see Severus and Hermione smiling warmly as they wished each other a Happy Christmas.

Harry nudged Ron. "Look at that, Snape's smiling. And at Hermione too. You don't think."

Ron examined the happy couple. "Nah, mate. He's not smiling. It's just wind."