A/N: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.
This story is inspired by Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing—another tale where a misunderstanding brings together two people who thought they despised each other. Please review as I love receiving encouragement and constructive criticism.
Chapter One—A Christmas Present
Hermione loved Christmas, but she hated buying Christmas gifts. Some people were easy; for Ron and Harry anything related to Quidditch or chocolate would suffice and Ginny was thrilled with any sort of sparkling bauble or scented lotion easily found in Diagon Alley. But what did you get a man that needed nothing and liked little? What did you get a man like Severus Snape?
Under normal circumstances she would never be expected to buy the Potions Master a Christmas present, but having just started an apprenticeship with him in September, she felt the gesture was warranted. Although, he would probably construe it as a way of ingratiating herself with him. Which was partly true, Hermione admitted, but she also thought he might not get too many Christmas presents and she wanted him to know she appreciated him, even if he irritated her beyond reason. So what gift said "thanks for everything you do, you mean, sarcastic twit"?
She was rifling through the papers on her desk, looking for a clean sheet of paper she could use to write a list of ideas, when she found it—an envelope from her parents. They had sent her a gift certificate for two dinners at a very expensive wizard restaurant for her birthday but she hadn't had time to use it.
'Perfect,' she thought, although she did feel a little guilty about re-gifting. With a few waves of her wand, her name was replaced with Snape's and as an extra flourish she even added a Slytherin green bow to the outside of the envelope. Satisfied that her Christmas shopping was finished, she turned her attention back to the Potions text Snape had assigned for their next meeting.
A week later she attended the second annual Christmas party at Grimmauld Place. All the Order members who had survived the war had gathered to celebrate and exchange gifts. Mingling in the small crowd, Hermione found herself in a corner of the kitchen with Ron, Harry, Fred and George.
"So how is Snape treating you?" Harry asked her suspiciously. He and Ron had been disappointed when Hermione had told them she wouldn't be joining them in Auror training. After five years of battling Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, she had had enough of fighting dark wizards thank you very much.
"You know you don't have to work with him," Ron reminded her for the hundredth time, "they would still take you at the Ministry for sure." She forced a smile and tried to think of a response that would convince the two them that she was sure of her decision to become Snape's apprentice once and for all. But words failed her; she knew a lost cause when she saw one.
"We offered her a job at our shop," Fred told Harry and Ron.
"Yeah, lots of potions work there," George added, "And we could really use someone like you in research and development."
"The idea of research sounds great but I'm afraid I would go crazy with paranoia, wondering if I was going to suddenly sprout a second nose or turn into a canary every time I took a sip of my coffee or ate my lunch," she explained.
"Yes, a sense of adventure is required to work at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes." She smiled and reminded herself to keep an eye on her drink at all times throughout the party. Just then Professor Snape entered the room. Unlike in the classroom, where he made an impressive entrance, robes billowing behind him, door slamming shut without him touching it, here he slunk in, obviously hoping not to be noticed.
"If you'll excuse me," Hermione said, leaving the group in the corner and making her way towards him.
"Professor Snape I didn't expect you to be here," she said, smiling at him. Luckily, she had his gift in the pocket of her robes and she figured it would be easier to give it to him here. She could hand it to him, wish him a Happy Christmas and then be on her way with none of the awkwardness giving the gift in private may have caused.
"I was invited wasn't I?" he sneered down at her.
"Certainly, I didn't mean to imply that you weren't," she said quickly. Gods, the man was difficult. It was Christmas; couldn't he at least try and be cheerful?
"Did you want something Miss Granger?" he asked snidely.
"Ummm, yes." He looked at her pointedly, waiting. "I just wanted to give you your Christmas present." She shoved the envelope into his hands.
"Merry Christmas!" she said in a forced cheery voice. He stared down at the gift in his hands and she took the opportunity to retreat—far away.
Severus wasn't sure why he had decided to attend this party. He supposed it was in an effort to avoid a speech from Albus about the importance of socializing. At least here he could nurse a drink or two in a dark corner, scowling dangerously at anyone foolish enough to approach him. He resolved to leave when people had had enough eggnog for that particular tactic to stop working. Drunken twits telling them how they really felt about him or worse yet insisting that he join them in a round of carols was not his idea of Christmas cheer.
But before he had been there five minutes he was approached by none other than Hermione Granger. Didn't he see enough of her during the week? Must she subject him to her presence here as well? His trademark scowl had not been enough to scare her away, a drawback of her being his apprentice, he supposed. He had been too surprised at her shoving something into his hands for him to snap or insult her as he had been planning on doing.
"What's that Severus?" Albus asked coming up alongside of him.
"A gift…from Hermione," he said perplexed.
"Well open it up my dear boy," the old man prompted, chucking him on the shoulder. Severus scowled but Albus just smiled back at him, his eyes twinkling. That made two people who had resisted his death stare. Perhaps he was getting soft?
'No,' he thought, 'Albus never has been one to take a hint, and Granger...' His thoughts were interrupted by Dumbledore snatching the envelope from his hands and opening it.
"Well, well, well," the older man clucked.
"What is it?" he snapped, grabbing for the envelope.
"It seems young Miss Granger harbors feelings for you."
"That's preposterous," he said, looking at the contents of the envelope. It contained a gift certificate—"Dinner for two at Merlin's." That was a nice restaurant, quite expensive if he remembered correctly.
"No it's not. Obviously she gave you this hoping that you would invite her along."
"Of all the devious, low…"
"Slytherin things to do," Albus finished for him. Severus considered that for a moment. It did seem something worthy of his house.
"She probably assumes that I wouldn't have anyone else to ask," he said bitterly.
"Which is partly true, although I do love Merlin's myself," Albus said, earning himself another death stare. "Or she enjoys your company and wants to spend more time with you outside of class."
Severus stared at the paper in his hands. She had obviously put some thought into this gift. He would need to develop a strategy before proceeding.
'Gods, does she expect me to buy her a gift,' he thought suddenly. Maybe if he invited her to join him for dinner he would be exempt from buying her a Christmas gift. At least he was getting a decent meal out of this. He decided to contemplate the matter later. It seemed the eggnog was working quickly this year, no doubt helped along by the Weasley twins, and he wanted to make a swift exit.