A/N: So here it is, the last chapter. I hope you all have enjoyed it! I do need to thank SShappiness who asked in a review if Severus' Gift would be the title of this chapter. Crazy enough, it wasn't and as soon as she asked I realized my mistake. So I have her to thank for the title.
Chapter 6- Severus' Gift
The next day Hermione woke in an absurdly good mood. Twice she caught herself humming as she got ready for work and she tried unsuccessfully to wipe the silly grin off her face. All in all she decided that turning thirty was not nearly as bad as she was expecting it to be. The day passed with the same slowness that it always did, but Hermione tried not to be bothered by it. She was meeting her friends after work that day and she kept hoping that perhaps Severus would stop in or a least owl her. Surely he had enjoyed their evening together as much as she had.
Finally when five o'clock came Hermione hurried out of her office, practically skipping down the steps of Gringotts. She was still grinning when she reached her friends' usual table at the Leaky Cauldron. Once again she was the last one there and her grin grew even larger as she thought of the night before and how Severus had kissed her right at that table.
"What's that smile for?" Ron asked suspiciously. "I haven't seen you that happy in ages."
"Oh… nothing," Hermione said trying to look serious. "It's my birthday. Shouldn't I be happy?"
"I suppose…" Ron said but he still didn't look convinced.
"Hmm…" Ginny said, a smirk on her face. "How was that blind date last night?"
Hermione nearly choked on her laughter. "Terrible. Honestly Ginny, you couldn't think of anyone but Neville?"
"Neville Longbottom?" Ron nearly shouted. "You set her up with Neville? Really Ginny, you couldn't do better than that?"
"Well it's not like I had a lot of notice," Ginny said defensively. "Besides, he's nice, single and rich. She could do worse. So, if it went so bad, then why are you in such a good mood?"
"Well…" Hermione debated whether or not to tell her friends the truth, but she figured they were going to find out eventually. "After Neville left, I ran into someone else and we went to dinner and had a very nice time."
"Oh really?" Luna asked. "Who?"
There was complete silence at the table for about five seconds before Harry and Ron both began shouting.
"Snape?" Ron asked nearly coming out of his chair. "You went out with Snape?"
Meanwhile Harry was shouting, "Hermione, have you lost your mind?"
Hermione just looked at the two women at the table. Ginny had a knowing gleam in her eyes that said 'I knew it' and Luna leaned over and whispered, "I want details."
Both Harry and Ron stopped mid tirade as the three women broke into wicked laughter. They exchanged looks of confusion and frustration before sitting back in their chairs. Hermione was sure she heard Ron mutter something about 'crazy women'.
Unfortunately for Ginny and Luna, Hermione was unable to give them the details they were wanting since both Harry and Ron had made retching noises the moment she began talking. So the three women made plans to meet later in the week so that Hermione could give a blow-by-blow account of the entire evening. Gradually the conversation turned to other, less controversial topics of conversation, such as Harry and Ginny's wedding. Hermione kept thinking that perhaps Severus would somehow show up, just as he had the day before, but as the evening wore on, she began to lose hope.
Finally the group all left and Hermione couldn't help but feel a little let down. She supposed it was silly of her to think that Severus would show up at some point during the day; he was probably busy with his work. She decided to floo to her flat; it had started raining and she really just wanted to change into some comfortable pajamas and curl up under a blanket with a pint of ice cream.
She did exactly that and was in the middle of a new book and halfway through the carton of rocky road when she heard a knock on her door. She could feel her heart pounding as she hurried to the door, throwing a bathrobe around herself in an effort to look presentable.
She threw open the door and looked at Severus in shock. Although she would never say it to his face, the only words that came to mind as she looked at him were "drowned rat". He was completely soaked, his dark hair plastered to his face and his cloak was dripping in a steady stream on the floor.
"I thought you always came home the Muggle way," he growled through his chattering teeth. Hermione had to fight to keep from laughing and pulled him into the entranceway. She went into the living room and grabbed her wand before coming back and performing a Drying Charm on him.
"How long were you standing out there?" she asked as she led him into the living room.
"Too bloody long," he said, still sounding disgruntled. "Where have you been?"
"With friends. I floo'd from the Leaky Cauldron. Honestly, Severus, what were you doing waiting like that?"
Now that he was dry, Severus began to feel embarrassed. What had possessed him to stand outside in the rain waiting for a woman like some love-sick fool? She stood in front of him, waiting for his answer. He cleared his throat nervously before reaching into his pocket and pulling out an envelope.
"I came to bring you your birthday present," he said gruffly. Hermione looked at him in surprise and took the damp envelope from him. She broke the seal and pulled out the parchment, unfolded it and scanned the contents. She looked up at him, her eyes filled with questions.
"What is this?" she asked. "How did you…"
"Well… you don't have to take it if you don't want to, but last night you mentioned your interest in Arithmancy and I happen to have some contacts in that field. I took the liberty of seeing if any of them were interested in taking on an apprentice." He paused but Hermione said nothing and he felt the need to continue talking. "It wasn't difficult. As soon as they heard your Arithmancy marks on the N.E.W.T.s several of them were thrilled at the prospect, but Madam Fletcher is considered the top Arithmancer in Britain and I assumed you would prefer working with the best."
There was another long pause and for one terrible moment Severus thought that perhaps she was angry at him. Perhaps he had overstepped the boundaries of this new friendship and he had offended her.
"If you don't want it, of course you can just throw it away and forget…"
Severus was unable to continue speaking as Hermione had just thrown herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.
"Thank-you," she said in a muffled voice. She pulled away to look up at him and Severus was shocked to see tears in her eyes. "You have no idea what this means to me."
."Happy birthday Hermione," he said as he felt his nervousness lessen. She wiped the tears from her eyes and reluctantly stepped back, away from the comfort of his arms.
"Would you like something to drink?" she asked heading into the kitchen. "I know you don't drink tea but you must still be cold. Would you like some coffee or something?"
"Coffee would be fine," Severus said joining her in the kitchen. It was only then that he really took in her appearance. "Tell me, Hermione, are you never dressed in regular clothing when you're at home?"
Hermione blushed, but when she looked up at him, he didn't seem to mind in the least. In fact, the look on his face caused her to blush even more. She handed him a cup of steaming hot black coffee and he sipped it, grateful for the warmth. They moved back into the living room and as he sat on the sofa, Hermione joined him, sitting next to him. She pulled out the parchment that he had given her and stared at it again, a small smile on her face.
"I was worried you would think I was overstepping my bounds," Severus said as he watched her reread the words.
"No. I would never be angry at someone trying to help me out," Hermione said as she refolded the parchment and laid it on the coffee table. "Why did you, though?"
Severus stared into his coffee mug. "I suppose because I know what it's like to unhappy in one's profession. I never cared much for teaching; I suppose that is obvious. Albus made me stay for my own protection."
It was the first time he had mentioned the former Headmaster and Hermione couldn't help but be intrigued by their relationship. Severus seemed to sense her interest, and continued speaking.
"Albus was never exactly a friend to me. I can't say I have ever had any friends. I doubt I would even know how to go about it. But he kept me alive when it would have otherwise been impossible."
"Perhaps…" Hermione started speaking but then was unsure if she should continue. "Perhaps you just hadn't found the right person to be friends with."
Severus looked up at her and gave a small nod. "Perhaps you are right."
They sat in silence for several more minutes before Severus noticed the half empty carton of ice cream sitting on the coffee table.
"Ice cream?" he asked looking over at her. "Is that not the typical food of choice during what I believe is called a 'pity party'?"
"It can be," Hermione said, feeling silly.
"And tell me, why on earth were you feeling sorry for yourself? Especially on your birthday of all days?"
"Well… I kept expecting you to show up all day. It's silly I know. But after last night I thought maybe… I had hoped… " Her voice trailed off and she sat staring very hard at her hands sitting in her lap. Severus said nothing and she finally got up the nerve to look at him. He was staring at her intensely.
"You were upset because you thought I had forgotten your birthday?" he asked with a mixture of shock and disbelief.
She found she couldn't quite speak but she nodded her head and looked away. Severus moved closer to her and turned her head so she was forced to look at him.
"Merlin knows I don't deserve it, but I am honored that you think so highly of me."
He pressed a kiss to her lips and she wrapped her arms around him. As she pulled him down on top of her, he lost himself in the feel of her lips on his and her body against him and neither of them had any desire to talk any more.
It was early the next morning when Hermione awoke, the gray light of early morning just beginning to come through the windows. She reached over to the other side of the bed, but she felt nothing but cold sheets and the imprint where another person had lain. She propped herself up on her elbows, drawing the sheet around her and squinting in the dark.
"Severus?" she whispered and she heard rustling on the other side of the room. She sat up more and looked in the direction of the noise. "Severus? What are you doing?"
She saw him move back toward the bed, wearing only a pair of black trousers. She saw he had a piece of parchment in his hand, but before she could get a good look at it he leaned down and gave her a kiss.
"Good morning," he said as she leaned back against the pillows. He watched her for a few moments and Hermione got the feeling he wanted to ask her something.
"What?" she asked and he lifted his hand holding the parchment.
"I was going to leave you a note on your desk, but I came across this," he said, arching an eyebrow. Hermione didn't even have to look at it to know what it was. Her list. Still, she took it and looked down at it. The first three lines had notes next to them that she had written as she had completed each one.
Ways to make life more magical
Do something death defying
-Next time I want to fly, I must remember to use both hands
Take some time to dream
-Perhaps this should not be done while at work
Believe in the unbelievable
-Who knew that Crumple-Horned Snorkacks were real?
Only the fourth line remained untouched as it had been when she had written it the month before. She cringed as she looked at it now.
4. Fall in love
Hermione's face burned with embarrassment and she couldn't bring herself to look at him. He was surely going to be furious and think that she was just using him as a way of finishing the list. But instead of yelling or storming out of the room, Severus sat down on the bed. It creaked slightly from his weight and Hermione slowly raised her eyes to him. He was still studying her.
"Severus, I…" Hermione broke off, unsure of what to say. But Severus did not speak and seemed to be waiting for her to finish. "I hope you don't think that this list has anything to do with… us."
"Actually, I must admit I was rather relieved to see this."
"You were?" Hermione asked, looking at him in shock. Severus gave a dry laugh.
"Well, at least I am quite sure now that you weren't losing your mind. Although you attempts to make life more exciting seemed to have backfired, you at least had a plan for it, which is very much like the woman I have always thought you to be."
Hermione was speechless at this. Of all the reactions she would have expected, relief was not among them. Severus leaned in closer, brushing a strand of her hair out of her eyes.
"Besides, it makes me feel a bit better about your date with Longbottom."
Hermione laughed. "I already told Ginny she was in trouble for that. I don't think her heart was in it though."
"Oh really?" Severus asked. "And why was that?"
"She had already accused me of having feelings for you," Hermione said with a grin and Severus smirked.
"I never much cared for the Weasley family, but I suppose I could make an exception for her."
Hermione put her arms around him and pulled him down further. She was about to kiss him when he stopped her, pulling away a bit.
"Tell me Hermione…"
"Did you accomplish all the things on your list?"
Hermione thought seriously for a moment, wanting to give an honest answer to his question.
"I can't say for certain," she said thoughtfully. "But I think I've made a very good start."
Severus lowered his mouth and kissed her neck.
"Yes," he whispered in her ear, making her shiver, "I think you have too."
He slid back into bed next to her and Hermione's last coherent thought was that for once in her life she was wrong. Life hadn't lost its magic; she just hadn't known where to look for it.