Disclaimer: The characters, settings, etc. of the Harry Potter series are not mine. I just play with them.
If anyone had asked Severus Snape to describe his personality, he would have used many of the same adjectives his pupils often would use when describing him. Severus was the first to admit that he was a cold, sardonic, and cynical man. He was very much aware that he could be extraordinarily cruel and unfair to his students. He was mean; he was a bastard; and he had, over time, come to accept this as it was, simply put, who he was. His personality was not something he was going to change just because people didn't like him. No. People could damn well learn to deal with him.
However, he was, on occasion, presented with situations that caused him to act in a way that might not generally suit his personality. The situation he presently found himself in was one of those. Severus had been eating his toast when a very large Malfoy owl descended upon the head table to give him a letter. Or not a letter, as he saw when he tore open the envelope after feeding the owl a bit of his toast to get it leave. It was actually an invitation to Malfoy Manor to celebrate the engagement of young Mr. Draco Malfoy to…
Severus felt his jaw drop. Draco was engaged to Ginny Weasley? Good Lord! When had this happened? Severus tried hard to think of the last time he had spoken with the boy; it had to have been at least three months ago. That sort of thing could happen in three months, though. People fell in love in astonishingly short periods of time, it seemed.
Glancing over the invitation, Severus saw a small notation at the bottom of it in Draco's barely legible scrawl. 'Severus,' it began, 'I know you adore the Weasleys, but as I no longer have any parents, I would very much like my godfather to be in attendance at this party. So, come. Or else. Sincerely, Draco.'
Severus Snape was not one to be intimidated by idle threats from his godson. He was also a cold, cruel man who could, generally, care less about engagements and weddings and other frivolous traditions that dealt with love. But Draco's note had included a plea that even he, cold, cruel bastard that he was, could not ignore. Draco was now an orphan, and in some way, he almost felt he owed it to the boy to be present at the engagement party.
He sighed as he took another bite of his toast. It was how these things always started. First he was agreeing to attend an engagement party, and next he'd be wooing some woman in Hogsmeade and giving points to Gryffindor.
Severus snorted as he stuck the invitation in his pocket; he was going soft in his old age. As he finished his toast, he officially decided that he would go. He did owe it to the boy as his godfather to be in attendance at such an event. Which meant he would probably have to go to the wedding as well. And, oh dear, the stag night. Well, hopefully he could get out of that. Especially since there would probably be numerous Weasleys in attendance. Drunk Weasleys. He shuddered at the thought.
Severus used his off period that morning to compose a reply to Draco's invitation. It had not said to respond, but he supposed he might as well. Settling himself in his office with a new quill, a fresh piece of parchment, and his black inkpot, Severus set himself to writing.
'Dear Draco,' he began the letter, 'I must confess that I was fairly shocked upon receiving your invitation this morning. I had no idea you were seeing the Weasley girl. And marrying already!? I do hope you have been courting her longer than I have assumed. I also hope that you haven't knocked the girl up and are simply…'
No, no. Severus sighed as he pulled a fresh piece of parchment from the stack. That was not the right way to compose this particular letter to his godson. If he was marrying the Weasley girl then he probably supposed himself to be in love with her. Severus shivered involuntarily at the idea of falling in love with a Weasley.
'Draco,' he began again, 'I must confess I was fairly surprised upon receiving your invitation this morning. I did not quite realize how serious your courtship of Miss Weasley was.' Yes, yes, yes. That was much better. 'I wish to extend my congratulations to you both, as well as my sincerest wishes for your happiness.' Ooh, he was quite good at this. Hell, he almost sounded nice. 'I gladly accept your invitation to the Manor for this blessed event, and look forward to seeing you and your lovely fiancée. Until then, my friend. Yours, &c.' He finished the note by signing his name with a flourish.
Frowning, Severus began thinking about this party. It was Tuesday and the party was being held on Saturday. Thus, he had all of four days to find the couple a gift. People did give gifts at engagement parties, didn't they? Surely, they did. Hadn't he given one to Draco's parents when they'd gotten engaged? Granted, that had been almost twenty years earlier, but times hadn't changed that much had they?
Severus thought hard for a moment. Who was the last couple he knew that had gotten engaged? Oh, why Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood had been married for almost three years now, having married about a year after they'd graduated from Hogwarts. They had, accordingly, gotten engaged at one point and of course had a party to celebrate. While he hadn't been invited to that particular party, he knew Minerva had been and therein laid his salvation. Minerva would know all about engagement parties and whether or not one gave gifts at such things nowadays.
"Well," said Minerva as she passed Severus his tea cup, "do you plan on going to the wedding?"
Severus frowned. "Of course, Minerva. I am the boy's godfather, and now that Narcissa and Lucius are dead-"
"Yes, yes," she cut in, waving a hand at his words. "Well," she began again as she took a sip of her tea. "My thoughts would be to get them a small token for the engagement, and wait until they actually marry before you buy them anything substantial."
His frown deepened. He had forgotten just how expensive it was to have friends who married. He sighed, thinking of all the potions ingredients he could buy with the money he would end up spending on his godson and the Weasley girl. "What kind of token do you suggest, Minerva?"
She shrugged. "You can come to London with Hermione and me tomorrow. We're going to Diagon Alley to look for gifts."
Severus raised an eyebrow. Hermione? "I'm afraid I don't recall any Hermiones in my acquaintance, but I will be glad to accompany you and your friend to Diagon Alley. Thank you for inviting me."
Minerva sighed. "Hermione Granger, Severus. Hermione Granger will be accompanying us to London."
He sputtered on the sip of tea he'd been swallowing. "Miss Granger? That insufferable, know-it-all, brat? Why I'd rather…" He trailed off when he caught a glimpse of Minerva's glare. "Well," he began again, "that sounds positively delightful, Minerva. I look forward to seeing Miss Granger again."
Minerva smirked and took a sip of her tea. "I'm sure she'll feel exactly the same about you seeing you. How long has it been, anyway?"
Severus thought carefully. "It has been three years since I have had the great honor of being the company of either Potter or his two sidekicks."
Minerva shook her head as she smiled at him. "I don't know how you managed to avoid all those Ministry dos. Even I got scores of invitations. I don't see how Severus Snape, war hero extraordinaire, managed to avoid them."
"I didn't," Severus said, his tone bored. "But no one seemed to question me when I owled them to decline due to one nasty disease or another." He paused, before giving Minerva a rare grin. "I suppose the matter wasn't pressed out of respect, despite my overwhelming popularity with Wizarding society."
She chuckled gently. "I suppose so, Severus."
Severus was sitting in his office and staring at the surface of his desk when Minerva's head appeared in his fire, looking very irate. "Severus!" she said sharply, "do you have any intention of coming up to my office to meet us, or should we leave without you."
"I'm coming," Severus grumbled as he stood and approached the fire. He had not been looking forward to seeing Hermione Granger again, and had a sneaking suspicion this afternoon in her presence was going to be just awful. The girl must be completely insufferable now that she had attended university, and had even more knowledge to spout off when the mood struck her. Minerva had said the girl had not only graduated earlier than all of her Hogwarts peers, but had also managed to be at the top of the class when she did so.
Severus took down some floo powder from the jar on his mantle. "Minerva, do move your head, unless for some reason you enjoy being stepped on."
Minerva muttered something about his being a bastard as her head disappeared from the fire. Severus took a deep breath to steel his nerves, threw the powder into the fire, stepped in and called out, loudly and clearly, "McGonagall's office."
"Ah, finally," Minerva said as he stepped out of the grate and into her office a moment later.
"I'm sorry," Severus said as he began dusting off his robes, "I lost track of the time."
"Of course you did, Severus," Minerva said, and he could practically hear her eyes rolling.
He lifted his gaze to glower at her, and was surprised to see that not only she was smiling at him, but a very attractive woman he vaguely recognized as Hermione Granger was grinning at him as well. "Miss Granger," he acknowledged gruffly.
"Hello, Professor," she said as she took a few steps forward and extended her hand. "It's very good seeing you again."
Severus took the proffered hand and shook it quickly. "Likewise."
"Well," said Minerva, "now that everyone's been properly reintroduced, I think we should be off, don't you?"
"Yes," Hermione agreed, looking away from him and back to Minerva. "Let's get going, Minerva."
"Oh, you first, dear," Minerva replied.
Severus watched as Hermione smiled at her former head of house before turning and walking to where he stood before the fireplace. "If you'd excuse me, Professor," she said softly, as she reached past his shoulder to pull down a handful of floo powder.
"Oh," said Severus, as he realized what the girl was doing. "Right. Sorry." He stepped out of the way as quickly as he could, and saw Hermione give him a small smile before stepping in front of the fire.
She threw the floo powder into the flames, stepped in, and called out "The Leaky Cauldron," before disappearing from the grate.
"Your turn, Severus," Minerva said when the Granger girl had gone.
"No, no, ladies first," said Severus. "I insist."
"No, I insist that you go before me, Severus Snape. I don't trust you at all to actually follow me." Minerva replied, giving him a steely glare.
He sighed. "Fine." And after mimicking Miss Granger's actions exactly, Severus found himself standing in the fireplace of The Leaky Cauldron. He stepped out of the grate and into the pub, frowning when he saw just how covered in soot he actually was.
"Damn it all," said Severus as he began to dust off his robes.
"Oh dear," said a soft feminine voice on his right as he saw a hand reach out and begin dusting off his sleeve. "You're absolutely covered, Professor."
Severus raised his eyes to look at the face of the person who had thought it necessary to take it upon herself to touch him, and was only fairly surprised to see Hermione Granger intently brushing at the soot and dust on his sleeve. "Miss Granger," he began.
She raised her eyes to look into his. "Hermione," she corrected.
He frowned. "Hermione," he repeated, "if you were still a student, I would be deducting points at this very moment."
She snorted. "Why?"
"You're. Touching. Me."
She snorted again, before laughing at him. "Professor, you haven't changed one bit, have you?"
He narrowed his eyes. "I pride myself on my consistency, Miss Granger."
She smirked up at him. "It's Hermione."
He frowned as he held her gaze with his own. Her hand had stilled on his arm as she peered back up at him, and he was sorely tempted to use legilimency on the girl. But as he was not fond of having his mind invaded, he decided against doing it to her simply because he desired to know what the foolish woman had been thinking in going and doing something so unexpected - and unexpectedly pleasant - as touching him.
"Well!" Minerva exclaimed as she stepped out of the grate and came to stand beside Severus. He turned his attention away from Hermione immediately and he felt her hand leave his arm. "That grate is certainly in need of a good cleaning. I'll have to have a word with Tom about it. We certainly won't be using it on the way back," she said as she pulled out her wand and with a quick wave, cleaned herself completely of soot.
"Honestly, Severus," she continued as she waved her wand again in his direction. He watched the dirt vanish instantly from his robes. "You should at clean yourself after coming out of such a filthy fireplace. Why on earth would you want to walk around covered in soot?"
Severus followed the two women into the first shop they were visiting in Diagon Alley. The place was called, simply, 'Harrison's Shop,' and seemed to consist entirely of all types of useless knick knacks and junk that Severus would never, under normal circumstances, spend money on.
"It's a gift shop," Hermione explained to him and Minerva as she led them around the place. "There's all sorts of lovely little things here that we could buy for Ginny and Draco."
Severus paused to look at one of the displays beside him. It featured dozens of tiny glass sculptures. Some were animals, some were children, some were plants, and some looked to be clowns. Clowns? "Yes, but what is the purpose of such garbage?"
"Those in particular?" Hermione asked as she sidled up next to him. Severus looked at her and noticed that Minerva had gone off to inspect another display.
"No," he said, "all of it. I mean, what's the point in buying such useless, pointless-"
"May I help you?" a squeaky feminine voice interrupted from the side Hermione was not occupying.
Severus turned his attentions and glared down at the tiny woman who stood next to him. "Ah," he said, "Yes, Miss Anderson, I believe you can."
"Oh!" she squeaked again. "Professor Snape!"
"Indeed," he said, "I do hope Miss Anderson, for your sake, that your knowledge of your shop's stock is more impressive than your knowledge was in Potions. I would be most displeased if it was not, and I do know how much people enjoy me when I am displeased…" He trailed off and gave her his most intimidating sneer.
She gave another squeak, though this one was inarticulate.
"We're doing fine on our own, thank you, miss," Hermione interjected. "We'll let you know if we need any assistance."
Miss Anderson shot Hermione what Severus thought to be a terribly grateful look before turning on her heel and practically fleeing in the opposite direction.
Severus laughed as he watched her depart before turning back to the glass sculptures. "Hufflepuffs."
"That wasn't very nice, you know," Hermione said, suddenly reminding him of her presence.
"I'm not very nice, Miss Granger," he replied as he studied a glass unicorn. "Do you suppose this would do for a gift?" he asked as he pointed to the little glass creature.
Hermione looked at the item he indicated. "Yes, it's quite lovely."
"And does it suit our purpose?" he asked.
"Certainly," she said, "it's a nice little gift."
"Good," he said as he selected one of the boxes from the shelf marked 'Unicorn.' It was only then that he noticed the price. "Merlin's thumb!" he exclaimed as he gaped at the price tag on the box.
"What's wrong?" asked Hermione.
He pointed to the tag.
"Oh," said Hermione. "Yes, I suppose twenty galleons is a bit much for a bit of glass."
"Indeed!" he exclaimed.
"Though it is quite lovely," she continued, thoughtfully. "And Ginny does adore unicorns…"
Severus turned his gaze on her. She did not appear to be lying. He sighed, knowing that he'd have to buy the thing now as it was near impossible that he'd be able to find another gift that would please Ginny Weasley. "Then, I suppose it would be a wise purchase," he concluded.
"Yes, Professor, I believe it would be a very wise purchase," she said as she smiled up at him.
Though he didn't quite know why, Severus gave her one of his rare grins in response. He was quite pleased to see her eyes widen in shock.
It took Hermione and Minerva almost a whole hour to finish their shopping. Eventually, though, they had bought gifts for the couple, and the three of them had apparated from Diagon Alley to the path leading from Hogsmeade to the castle.
"I do hope you'll be staying for tea today, Hermione," Minerva said as they began their walk to Hogwarts.
"Oh, yes," said Hermione, "that would be lovely. Thank you."
Minerva smiled. "You're welcome, of course."
Severus let his mind drift as the two women began conversing about the wedding. He heard bits and pieces of what they were discussing, and it all seemed to be fairly regular subjects. There was the dress, the rings, and the matter of the style of the wedding.
Eventually the three of them came to the castle, and he followed them through the front entrance and into he main hallway. He turned immediately and began heading in the direction of his dungeons when he heard Hermione call out, "Severus!" from behind him.
He turned quickly and glared at her. "Yes, Miss Granger?"
"It was nice seeing you," she said softly, and he was shocked when he saw a blush rising on her cheeks.
"Likewise," he replied gruffly.
He watched as she gave him a small smile. "Until Saturday, then?"
"Yes," he said. She nodded at him before turning and walking in the direction he saw Minerva heading. Shaking his head and deciding not to dwell on it, Severus turned back in the direction he had originally been traveling and made his way to the dungeons.
Author's Note: Thanks very much for reading. The next part should be up in the very near future.