AN: Don't own any of it. Not looking for money.
Here's a little one shot to start the off the season. Hope you enjoy. As always pls read and review. Thanks, indianpipe.
A Bad Year for Pumpkins
"Hagrid says it is a very bad year for pumpkins" Hermione told Professor McGonagall from her seat on the couch in the faculty lounge where she was knitting away in the late autumn sun.
"Oh dear, that will be most inconvenient. The elves will have to make substitutions, and Halloween is just around the corner." McGonagall pursed her lips in agitation before sipping her tea.
"Pumpkins, pumpkins….everywhere." grumbled Snape from behind the Daily Prophet, he was sitting in the wing chair near the fireplace.
Hermione shot an amused glance at Professor McGonagall, neither of them thought he paid any attention to their daily conversations in the teachers lounge.
"Severus, don't tell me now you hate pumpkins as well? Or are you going in alphabetical order?" McGonagall shot a wry smile at Hermione, while Snape remained silent behind his newspaper.
Hermione couldn't help herself from giggling, something she tried not to do at Snape's expense, eventhough he was never kind towards her she always felt that no matter how deserved the ribbing was he received and no matter how much he shrugged it off she thought she could detect hurt behind his eyes.
She tried to smooth things over a bit, "Yes, we shouldn't hate pumpkins afterall it's the wizards national dish."
The newspaper shifted slightly, "And so you see my dislike." Snape mused.
Hermione tilted her head in understanding, "…to much of a good thing then…?" she queried, not really expecting an answer.
"Precisely" Snape folded his newspaper neatly into his lap and rested his arms on the chair. He looked at Hermione in a friendly challenging sort of way.
"Perhaps you just need a break from pumpkins to realize just how much you appreciate
them when they're not around because as you agree, you find them to be "to much of a good thing" which does mean that you agree they are a "good thing", so chances are once you have properly distanced yourself from them you will see them from afar in all their inherent goodness." Hermione expostulated all this while paying close attention to her knitting, trying very hard not to make eye contact with Professor Snape.
Snape acknowledged her reasoning with the smallest of snorts, "…inherent goodness? I concede to nutritional value…and that is all?
McGonagall was watching the discussion unfold with a keen interest, a small seed of an idea had begun in her mind a few months back and she was taking a personal interest whether it would ever come to fruition.
Hermione set her needles down, finished with her ball of yarn and reached into her basket for another, " Oh come…Professor Snape, their rich beautiful color on the landscape, their curling vines…for goodness sakes…jack-o-lanterns alone should make you like them." She pleaded her case in much the same way she always argued with Snape, pressing her point but never being disrespectful. They had over the past two years come to a workable relationship, she teaching the first and second years potions and he taking the higher level classes, presumably training her for the day when he either was caught as a spy or perished in the struggle.
"I find it hard to believe that a girl, top in her class at University, a soon to be potionsmistress , author of a prizewinning article in Ars Alchema on the Physics Behind Wandwork, can be pleading a case for jack-o-lanterns?"
Hermione laughed at herself, " I don't know…I guess you can be very mature in some areas and be very immature in other ways…so I like pumpkins …at least it's harmless."
He hated when she diffused his criticism by laughing at herself. Didn't she have any self respect?…admitting to being immature…the girl never ceased to amaze him.
"Well I don't have the luxury for such foolishness." He stung her and for a split second when he saw her good humor waver and her eyes resume their counting of stitches a little jab of regret poked at his stomach."
McGonagall saw the debate take the turn it usually did in the end, stalling under Severus' short temper, effectively snuffing out any kindling of friendship. She interjected to soften his words, " …perhaps we could substitute with apples?"
Hermione remained quiet now and Severus sulked , McGonagall's attempt fell on deaf ears.
Halloween was in just one day and the rain that had caused the poor crop of pumpkins still raged outside. Hermione was in the lab preparing for the next days classes and worrying about Snape. He had been gone for three days, called away by Voldemort. As she prepared the ingredients for not only his classes but hers as well, she couldn't drive away thoughts of him injured, or hurt somewhere, maybe even outside in the storm.
Trying to stay focused on her task at hand she startled when Albus appeared in the fireplace.
"Miss Granger, Severus has returned, he's alright…exhausted, and he has a cut over his right eye…could you come with some medicine, Poppy has long since gone to bed and I thought you might not mind."
Tears came to the corner of her eyes…he was alright…but what he must have had to endure…he would never tell.
"Give me just a moment." She was gathering some things as she spoke and Albus gave her a wink before his face disappeared from inside the hearth.
She came through the fireplace not sure what to expect but she spied Snape in his usual chair in Dumbledore's office, just to the right of the desk. His eyes looked black and hollow and the sight of him caused her to shiver where she stood.
"Miss Granger thank you, we didn't want to stop our meeting but it seems Severus needs some attention." Dumbledore motioned to a very nasty gash above Snapes right eye.
"I told you Albus its not necessary, besides Miss Granger should be in bed now she has undoubtedly been covering for my classes this week and setting up all the labs on her own." He raised his hand to the cut and felt it, wincing slightly, "…this can wait till later."
Hermione and Dumbledore glanced at each other, shaking their heads at his total disregard for himself.
Hermione knew this needed a certain tact for Snape to save face with himself, " Well I'm here now I might as well clean that gash up." She tried to sound nonchalant, hoping he would let her proceed.
Her attitude did the trick and Snape shrugged as if to say, very well.
She cleaned out the cut while Dumbledore was questioning Snape, but all the while Snape remained quiet. Hermione drew out her wand and sealed the wound closed then carefully applied some salve that would minimize scarring and provided a cooling and soothing sensation.
When she finished he looked up at her, his dark eyes reflected the light from the fire and she was relieved they had life to them again.
"Thank you Miss Granger, but I must insist that you leave now." Hermione understood, his calm tone was the kindest she had ever heard from him and it conveyed everything he was feeling; I am grateful for your help but fly away from this evil tale I have to convey, it is no place for you. She disagreed with what she surmised was his reasoning but she couldn't insult the sentiment by insisting on staying. She nodded almost submissively and returned to the lab.
Her feelings were a jumble as she laid in bed wondering why she felt so close to Snape tonight and how when she saw him in Dumbledore's office she wanted to embrace him, to protect him and to tell Dumbledore that he was never to go back to Voldemort again. She laughed through her tears and thought of how Snape would say that she was a silly girl, so immature.
The morning brought home the sun and the great hall was awash in brilliant light at breakfast. Hermione arrived a few minutes late and was astonished to see Snape sitting in his usual spot, looking restored, staring down the children, daring anyone to break a rule. Her step was light to her seat just between Snape and Filius. She started eating heartily when Flitwick turned to her,
"Miss Granger, are you ready for this evening, such an important night to be in charge of!" Flitwick posed.
"Yes, I think everything is in order for the Halloween feast." She stammered a bit, nervous that everything would go well.
"Hagrid tells me that it has been a very bad year for pumpkins, all rotted by the rain, such a shame. The feast won't be the same without all the floating jack-o-lanterns."
Hermione could feel Snape's eyes on her eventhough she was turned toward Flitwick.
"I hardly think with times being the way they are that jack-o-lanterns should be foremost on our mind professor. It surely won't kill anyone to live a year without pumpkins."
Flitwick was taken aback by Hermione's gruff reply, it seemed most out of character for her and it took him a moment before he knew what to say.
"But surely Miss Granger we must try to keep up tradition for the children's sake at least?"
Hermione shrugged off Flitwicks remark, trying hard to ignore a pang of regret she felt in her gut.She felt she had to take things more seriously, she needed to be strong.
Snape had remained quiet throughout their conversation and a few minutes later he got up to leave but then he hesitated.
Hermione looked up, wondering what the problem was.
He sat back down, hard on his seat. Hermione, alarmed by his abrupt movements turned to him to see if he was unwell.
Snape's voice went low so only Hermione could here him, " Miss Granger I find myself unequal to today's lessons, I thought I would have the energy but now I realize how fatigued I am."
Hermione quickly offered to cover his classes, not wanting him to have to ask.
"Can you make it back to your rooms."
"Yes…yes…I'll go now."
She watched him leave out the back entrance to the hall and worried her brow in concern that he had an injury she couldn't see.
Hermione's day was filled with classes and peppered with worries over Snape and the Halloween feast. Her heart and mind played against each other over what Flitwick had said to her at breakfast and by the time she had gone down for the feast her nerves were frayed.
The students hadn't arrived yet and she wanted to check the decorations and food before they came bustling in. Just as she was about to open the door to the great hall Snape came around the corner.
"Miss Granger" he nodded in greeting.
"Professor, you look better." Hermione noted that he even had uncharacteristic color to his cheek. "Did you rest for a while today."
"Somewhat" was his cryptique answer. "Shall we proceed inside."
He placed his arm above her head and pushed the door open for her.
"Oh", was all she could gasp, the hall was dimmed in twighlight blue and candlelit by hundreds of suspended jack-o-lanterns.
"How did Hagrid do it?" she wondered out loud.
"He is good at his job." Snape supplied, he smiled and she beamed back at him, she took a chance and slid her hand into his giving it the slightest of squeezes. When she felt a bit of pressure returned a warmth suffused through her and bathed her tired spirit.
They broke apart when they heard the loud entrance of the children and assumed their roles. After the dinnerplates were cleared Dumbledore removed the tables for a more informal party to begin, punch and dessert was off to the side and music was brought in for dancing. Hermione watched for a while from the high table and then sought out Hagrid who was near the punchbowl.
"Hagrid, thank you so much for the pumpkins." She gave Hagrid a kiss on the cheek and he blushed scarlet.
"Well I'd love ter say it was my doin Mione but you'll haf ter thank Snape….uh… a course not necessarily the same way." Hagrid stammered, tongue tied and embarrassed.
"Professor Snape? But he hates pumpkins."
"Well I very much doubt that Hermione. We scoured the north country all day for as many good ones as we could find, as it was we just had nough time to get them back for Flitwick ter work his magic on them."
Hermione couldn't believe what she was hearing, she scanned the room for Snape but he was nowhere to be found.
"Hagrid, I'll be back soon…hold down the fort."
Hagrid looked panicked and quickly put down his punch that Dumbldore had most graciously spiked for him and tucked in his shirt, trying to seem in charge.
Hermione made her way down to the dungeons and like a trail of breadcrumbs was greeted by a lit jack-o-lantern at the bottom of every staircase.
She knocked on the door to Snape's quarters, her heart pounding against her chest.
She made her way over to the desk where Snape sat, head down, red quill slashing through an essay.
"You don't hate pumpkins?"
"I found, that as Minerva so astutely observed, on my way through the alphabet I got stuck at "G" for Gryffindor….. but could never find anything wrong with…. "H….",he looked up to Hermione and searched her eyes, "….and so you see pumpkins never made it to the list."
Hermione started to cry and he came around the desk and took her in his arms.
"Shh, do not be so silly."
"Hagrid says I need to thank you." Hermione raised up and kissed Snape on the cheek.