Chapter Nine—Under the Mistletoe
Dinner had been more than enjoyable in Hermione's opinion. The food had been good, the conversation engaging, and Snape had been almost charming. He had even insisted on her calling him Severus, but only outside of Hogwart's, he warned.
Now as they walked back to the castle from the front gates, she desperately began to formulate ideas on how to extend the evening. She concentrated on trying to remember what the heroines in the many romance novels she had read had done. In truth, she didn't like to admit that she even read the things, but a girl couldn't be expected to read textbooks all the time. She was glad she had now though; she was going to need all the help she could get.
She thought about inviting him up to her rooms for a nightcap or coffee, but decided that held too much connotation for only a second date. But after holding his hand all evening and relishing the feel of his arm wrapped around her shoulder on the walk through the snow, she plotted ways to get him to kiss her.
"…don't you think?" she heard him ask, interrupting thoughts of possibly tripping and 'accidentally' falling into his lips. Once again, she hadn't been paying attention; too busy trying to think of ways to continue the date and she had neglected enjoying it.
"I don't know, maybe?" she answered hesitantly, deciding it would be better to listen than to plot from now on.
"You're too nice," he said. She sighed softly, relieved that her response had made sense.
"Maybe you're too mean," she retorted. She really had no idea what they were discussing but she felt certain that whatever it was he was being too severe. He snorted in derision and Hermione felt a rush of relief to see that they had reached the doors of the castle, if just for the opportunity to change the topic.
"I suppose we should go inside," he said, releasing his grip on her. Did he sound reluctant? Maybe this was her opportunity! She decided to go for it.
"I would rather take a walk. It's a beautiful night with the moon shining on the lake, don't you think?" she asked, lowering her voice to add what she hoped was a somewhat seductive effect.
"Are you sure you feel alright, you don't sound so good," he remarked, regarding her seriously. Shoot! Her one attempt at romance and seduction like she had read in her books and now he thought she had a cold.
"No, I'm fine," she said reverting back to her normal voice. He stood there looking at her oddly, so she took his hand in hers and pulled him away from the door and towards the path around the lake.
"As you wish," he relented. She smiled back at him. He didn't seem the type to take romantic moonlit strolls through the grounds but if he gave in to this request perhaps he would acquiesce to more in the future. Maybe that pink leisure suit wasn't totally out of the question. The thought brought an evil grin to her face.
"What are you grinning about?" he asked her suspiciously.
"I was just thinking about what a wonderful time I was having," she lied, "I never realized how enjoyable time spent in your company could be, it's different in the classroom."
"As it should be," he said defensively.
"Of course, of course," she said quickly. This was not the time to get into an argument over his abysmal teaching methods. If you could even call what he did teaching; it was more like barking orders and then some more yelling when the student inevitably failed. They walked in silence for awhile, finally coming to a stop on a small hill with a view of the lake and the castle.
"The castle is beautiful from here isn't it?" she asked
"I can think of more beautiful things," he said softly. She held her breath, knowing his eyes were fixed on her. What did he mean by that?
"Such as?" she breathed after a few moments of suspense. He paused, licking his lips.
Severus was sorely disappointed to see the date end. Dinner had been nice, and with his hand in hers he wasn't tempted to reach for his wand when she said something inane. He had even refrained from being sarcastic, well, as much as was possible for him. However, it seemed that his mouth had stopped taking orders from his brain when it came to Hermione. Wasn't that how he had ended up on this second date in the first place, with him asking before he could stop himself? And then when his brain screamed at him to make a caustic comment, to humiliate her as they sat there eating dinner or as they walked back to Hogwart's, his mouth had refused and he found himself saying what he thought might be considered 'soft.' He hoped none of his reformed death eater friends had seen them together. He didn't want to lose what little reputation he had left.
But there was something else he wanted to do with his mouth right now, and he hoped he could get both his brain and lips into action. They stopped at the front steps and he relinquished his hold on her shoulder.
'This is it,' he thought, "I have to make my move now.' But just as he made the decision to kiss her, she spoke again.
"…don't you think?" she asked. He had been too busy staring at her mouth and summoning the courage to kiss her that he had neglected listening. She sounded different however, as though sometime in the last five minutes she had developed a cold. He still wanted that kiss but now he faced the dilemma of balancing his desire to kiss Hermione with his wish to avoid illness. If people thought he was scary on a daily basis then they had never seen him with a runny nose, a cough, and a temper so caustic it could eat through metal.
Against all reason he let her drag him along the narrow path beside the lake. Salazar's socks it was cold! He might get a cold whether he kissed her not! Why on earth she wanted to come out here, he didn't know, but she had that mischievous grin on her face again.
They walked in silence for several moments before she finally decided they had gone far enough. He quickly cast a warming charm, but he had never been very good at foolish wand waving unless you counted the many Dark spells he had learned for dueling. Still shivering, he stood and watched as Hermione smiled and pointed to the castle.
"I can think of more beautiful things," he said in answer to her question—her smile for one. He decided that he definitely enjoyed the slight turn of her mouth and the way the skin around her eyes crinkled and he wanted to do more to encourage it. He didn't think having her scrub cauldrons tomorrow would induce more smiles or soft touches from her.
And that was just it wasn't it? He had promised himself that this was to be their last date, that there would be no relationship between them outside of the classroom. He was the teacher and she was the apprentice and anything else would jeopardize that balance.
But then she looked at him like that, all flushed and full of expectation and what was he supposed to do. He didn't want to disappoint the poor girl, and let's face it more people than not believed him to be unprincipled and dishonest. Why not just kiss her?
He paused and licked his lips. She fluttered in anticipation.
"My fire for one thing," he heard himself say harshly. "It's freezing out here!"
She stepped back and nodded.
"Yes, we should get inside," she said, her voice suddenly falsely cheerful.
She didn't hold his hand on the way back and he missed the warmth of it in his, but it was not something he would let himself admit. He kicked himself for what he had been about to do. Kissing Hermione! He'd rather kiss a mandrake, he told himself forcefully, but he had a hard time believing it.
And then other thoughts began to creep in. Maybe he could convince her that she would be better in another subject. Surely Minerva would take her on as her apprentice. He would have a hard time of it though; he might have to resort to insidious insults and sarcasm regarding her potions in order to convince her. Looking over at her again, he decided he could definitely make the sacrifice and fail her next attempts in class if it meant that he was free of her…free to have her.
Escorting her inside, only thoughts of possibly kissing her in the future quelled his intense disappointment that the date had come to a less than satisfactory end.
This was it, Hermione thought, there would be no more dinners, or lectures, or walks in the moonlight after tonight. She would return to being Miss Granger and he would become once again Professor Snape
'This is silly,' Hermione thought, 'It's only been two dates.' But she oddly felt herself feeling saddened that they would not be continuing their personal relationship. Actually when she thought about it, she preferred their personal relationship to their professional one. She liked having dinner with him. She didn't like being yelled at because his handwriting was bad or because she was too curious.
"Well, then I guess I'll see you in class," she said.
"Yes of course." Did he look sad also? She couldn't tell but she imagined that he did. She had just learned that he felt emotions like other human beings so it wasn't so odd now to think that he might be disappointed as well.
"Ms. Granger and Severus, how good to see you," Professor Dumbledore said cheerfully as he came round the corner. Hermione thought she saw Snape redden a bit at being caught coming home from a date with her and she was torn between feeling insulted or finding it sweet.
"We were just returning from a Potions lecture," Snape assured the headmaster.
"Of course, of course," he said, "I'm just glad to see you out and about. You spend too much time in those dungeons in my opinion my dear boy."
"You know what I think about your opinion old man," Snape snapped. Hermione bit back a giggle. His caustic comments only thinly shielded the obvious affection he had for the headmaster.
"Well, well," Dumbledore said, ignoring Snape's previous remark, "look where you two are standing." He pointed above them. It appeared they had stopped directly under some mistletoe. What in Merlin's name they had been thinking hanging mistletoe in a castle full of crazy hormone-driven teenagers, Hermione didn't know, but it appeared they were to be its next victims.
"I'll leave you to it then," he said with a twinkle in his eye. They watched as he sauntered off, humming "Joy to the World."
"He'll never know," Snape offered, looking petrified at the thought of kissing her.
"Not bloody likely," she retorted a little offended that the idea so repulsed him; she had been so sure that he had wanted to kiss her by the lake.
"You're right, he probably has it charmed so that we can't move until we do," he explained.
He leaned in and pressed a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth. She turned her head slightly to meet his lips full on. Before she knew what was happening he had one hand tangled in her hair at the back of her neck and the other at her back, pulling her closer. She rested her hands flat against his chest as the kiss deepened, first as he took her bottom lip between his and then as she teased him with her tongue.
He was quite the kisser she decided, all thoughts of ending this relationship banished to the back of her mind. It might be worth it to let it continue despite the unequal relationship of apprentice and master. Or there was always Arithmancy or Transfiguration, she was certain McGonagall or Vector might take her on as an apprentice. And who knew, it might be fun to work for the Weasley twins after all.
A/N: Thanks for reading and please leave a review before heading over to the sequel, Cupid's Arrow.