Part Ten: The Gift
by Underlined Twice


"Hello, Severus. Lovely day, isn't it?"

"Mmm."

"I would offer you a lemon drop, but the house elves have whipped up a delicious batch of lemon meringue macaroons today and I wouldn't want to spoil your appetite for citrus-flavored delights."

"I completely agree."

"My goodness! I would never have thought you to be so keen on lemon. Although, I was talking to Sybill earlier and she did mention how a craving for the fruit can be a sign of imminent drowning."

"Quite so."

"Are you quite all right, Severus? You look a little peaked."

"That's nice."

"Merlin's lacy long johns! You're not even listening to me."

"How interesting."

"Hermione, Lord Voldemort and Victor Krum all just walked in and are leering at you in a most suggestive manner. If you could just drop your drawers and waggle your hips about, I'm sure they'd be quite satisfied for the moment and leave the rest of us to our lunch."

"How thoughtf—what?"

"Glad to have you back with us, Severus. Tea?"

"No, I do not want tea, you meddlesome old man!"

"Very well, then. Care to tell me what has your mind so preoccupied that you're dropping your guard in public places?"

"…"

"Come now, Severus. Something is obviously dominating your thoughts. You'll feel better once you get it off your chest."

"There's nothing to tell. If I wished to have a heart-to-heart with anyone, I'd most likely be discussing the matter with my wife, not you of all people."

"Ah, but Hermione is the subject of your dilemma, is she not?"

"…"

"Don't give me that look, Severus. One doesn't become an omniscient headmaster merely by chance, you know. So tell me: what's troubling you?"

"…Hermione's birthday."

"I thought so. The big day is tomorrow, correct? Yes, as I thought. Now, did you forget to buy her a gift?"

"No."

"Do you have a bit of bad news to tell her?"

"No."

"Then what has you so out of sorts, Severus?"

"…All right. Here's my problem…"


Later, in the Charms classroom…

"Professor Granger? Might I have a word with you before your next class begins?"

"Of course, Headmaster. Here's your essay, Miss Torrington. We can go over Summoning Spells again tomorrow."

"Thank you, Professor!"

"Well, Hermione. Do you mind if I close the door?"

"Not at all, Albus. Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you. Lemon drop?"

"You know I can't stand those things, yet you offer them to me every time we talk. Perhaps if you keep this up it'll be the stuff of legend in the next edition of Hogwarts: A History. What is it you wanted to speak to me about?"

"In honor of your birthday tomorrow, Pomona Sprout has offered to take over your patrol duties."

"That's very kind of her!"

"Yes, she is a sweet old girl."

"…Is that all, Albus?"

"Well, no. Say there was a… hypothetical situation where someone got someone else a gift, but felt it was too… eh… impersonal and pragmatic to be apropos."

"Is this about Severus? Is this why he's been so horribly cruel to his students today?"

"No, no, no! Not at all! This is merely hypothetical."

"Hm."

"So, with that situation in mind, what would you advise the first person to do? In this purely hypothetical situation, that is."

"You tell Severus that he knows me well enough to get me something that will make me happy. Good day, Headmaster."


The next evening, in the Snapes' living quarters…

"Mhmm… thank you, Severus. This has been a wonderful birthday."

"Don't be silly. I haven't even given you your present yet."

"Leave it to me to marry a man who believes a birthday can't be good without material possessions."

"I suppose this means you don't want your gift? That I should send it back from whence it came?"

"If you do, I will hex you six ways from Sunday. I demand my present!"

"That's what I thought. Very well, here it is."

"An envelope?"

"It's what's inside the envelope, you silly girl. I am starting to think that your birthday cake had something dodgy in it, what with the way you're acting."

"…"

"Hermione?"

"…"

"Is something wrong?"

"This… it's… you bought me a new Potions lab? In Hogsmeade?"

"Well, it's our new Potions lab, technically. But, yes. …You're not upset, are you?"

"Upset! How could I be upset? This is the best birthday present I've ever gotten! Thank you so much!"

"You're quite wel—mmph!"

"Mhmm… nothing better than a celebratory snog, hm? Now, tell me about our new lab."

"…Well, it's actually part of the apothecary down in the village. The man who runs it is thinking of retiring in a few years, so we might be able to eventually buy the entire lot. It has storage space and fifteen work stations. There's also a smallish office off one side that you can use for research and experiments. Don't think I haven't noticed the way you've been trying to find ways to mix Charms and Potions."

"If I succeed then you'll have to change your start-of-term speech, won't you? Foolish wand-waving, indeed."

"It is hoped that by that point I will have tendered my resignation and will therefore be saved the crushing blow to my reputation and legacy."

"Is there a Wizarding age of retirement? Where you're allowed to quit working and still get enough income to live?"

"In case you haven't noticed, there are plenty of purebloods who have never worked a day in their lives, while others, such as Albus, haven't once thought of retiring."

"Hm… Speaking of Albus, did he tell you about the hypothetical situation he presented me with?"

"You mean he…?"

"Yes."

"Good God, the man truly is a lunatic."

"What I want to know is what gift you originally got me?"

"What 'original' gift?"

"Albus said that you thought your original present for me wasn't personal enough. What was it?"

"This was the original gift. …Hermione, stop laughing. I really don't see what is so humorous about this situation."

"I can't believe that you thought I wouldn't like this!"

"I knew you would like it, I was simply… concerned that it was not appropriate as a birthday gift."

"And here I thought you had gotten me something like a shower cap or a self-cleaning oven!"

"It's certainly nice to know what you think of my taste in buying gifts."

"Oh, don't sound so sour, Severus. Albus said that you got me something impersonal and pragmatic. What was I to think?"

"What I suggest is to start thinking of various ways to bribe the house elves to compromise his stash of lemon drops in a most unpleasant manner."

"I knew there was a reason why I fell in love with you — apart from the material goods, that is."

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A/N: I'm almost at 100 reviews. Good god, people! I seriously love all of you! I swear, I could die from happiness if I hit that mark.

Anyway, I want to thank all my reviewers, both new and old. You're all amazing and deserve cookies, OtterPops and warm puppies. Really. It doesn't get much better than that.

In other news, I have decided that there will be thirteen chapters total to this… dare I call it a 'story'? I think I must! I am developing a very slight inkling that there might be a plot-like substance somewhere in here. And I am definitely planning a sequel or two, be they dialogue-only or otherwise.