A/N: Written for the SSHG Summer Exchange for Nichalia. Please leave a review, since as my name suggests, I suffer from great vanity.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Two Weeks Notice
Hermione Granger, Head Arithmancer for the Ministry of Magic had just lost her job. It was bound to happen at some point, the fame of being Harry Potter's friend that had helped her get the job had been her ultimate downfall. Or at least made it easier for Rita Skeeter's malicious lies splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet to override her exemplary performance reviews.
With the Perma-ink only just dry on her recent divorce (a rarity in the Wizarding world given the finality of most marriage spells,) accusations of inappropriate conduct with her subordinates nailed the coffin shut on her Ministry career with a resounding thud
And it had to happen the day rent came due. She stalked through Diagon Alley on the prowl for the presence of any "Help Wanted" signs. She found a few but when she went inside to inquire, she found that most people had not only read the Daily Prophet but believed it the same way her previous employers had.
Just as she was about to give up and go home, she stumbled across a bookshop. Its sign, Literati, looked like it might fall upon her head and she couldn't tell if the Hiring poster in the door looked old due to the yellow film on the neglected glass or because it truly had been there for ages.
Either way, it was worth a try and it would be nice to work in a bookshop, she thought. She loved books. With a deep breath, she reached out, turned the knob, and pushed open the door. A bell clinked, marking her entry, and a wizened old witch in the corner looked up in surprise.
"Hello there, dearie," she said. She sounded like she had swallowed a toad and her breath reeked of garlic. Hermione almost turned around and left right there, but her impending bills made her stay the course.
"Hullo. I saw you had a sign that said Hiring," Hermione said.
"Oh, I don't own this place. I'm just a customer," the woman said. Hermione held in a sigh of relief.
"Do you know who does?"
"I do," a deep bass voice said. She turned around to see none other than Professor Severus Snape, looking as intimidating and irritated as she remembered him.
"I want the job," she said after taking a few moments to get over the initial shock. She had assumed like most that Professor Snape had either left Britain or the Wizarding world altogether after narrowly escaping a life sentence to Azkaban for the murder of Albus Dumbledore. But there he stood, dressed in the same black robes that he always wore, with the same expression of disdain. The only new additions included a pair of thin wire reading glasses perched on the end of his large crooked nose and a few silver hairs at his temples.
"There is no job," he answered.
"I'll want fifty Galleons a week. I don't work past six in the evening nor weekends and I expect to be treated with respect," Hermione said, ignoring his earlier statement. Desperation spurred her on. She needed this job.
"Oh give it to her. You obviously need a woman's touch around here," the old woman crooned from the corner.
Snape turned to her and ordered her to get out in the same sharp tone Hermione remembered he spoke to Neville or Harry with. With an indignant harrumph she left, but not before patting Hermione on the shoulder. "Good luck with this one, dearie."
Hermione smiled at her, holding in her breath, until she left. Then she turned back to the professor and waited. He stared at her. She stared back. After several long moments, he finally surrendered.
"Twenty Galleons. We close at eight and you're off only on Sunday," he countered.
"Forty Galleons – I have bills to pay."
"Thirty – so do I."
"It's a deal," Hermione said, holding out her hand. Professor Snape curled his lip at what he probably deemed an overly sentimental gesture.
"You start tomorrow," he said. Her hand remained hanging in the air. She took it back with all the dignity she could muster.
"Tomorrow then," she said.
"Now get out."
Hermione thought working in a bookshop would be exciting and wonderful. She could help people select the perfect book – a chance to promote her all time favorites, but in reality, it was boring and tedious. Especially in Snape's shop which attracted very few customers.
"What are you doing again?" Ron asked her one day when she had slipped away to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch.
"I sell books. Honestly, Ronald, it's much less difficult to understand than Head Arithmancer at the Ministry of Magic," she said impatiently.
"I think that's the part that's hard to understand, Hermione. Couldn't you find another job in Arithmancy?" Harry said. "How did you go from Head Arithmancer to a clerk in a bookshop?"
Or one that worked for Professor Snape she thought to herself. She hadn't yet told them the nitty gritty details of her employer – mainly his troublesome identity. She couldn't stomach the inevitable protests and attacks on his character, besides the Wizengamot had allowed him his freedom – something about extenuating circumstances if she remembered correctly. She had rent to pay and Severus Snape, cold-blooded murderer and traitor to the cause though he may be, would help her pay it.
"I've decided to change careers to something less stressful than the Ministry so I have time to work on my next project," she said. It sounded almost as good as she practiced it.
"Which is?" Ron asked.
"I'm writing a history of the war," she told them.
And she was. Every day after the first week spent cleaning the shop, Hermione took out parchment and quill and scratched out every memory she had of the war, starting with her Fourth year. When she wasn't writing, she read – books on Potions and Defense and Charms, anything and everything. She didn't wonder how she had fallen so far. She wondered why she hadn't thought of this as a career earlier.
"That doesn't look like work," Snape grumbled at her later when he caught her with her parchments.
Hermione looked up at him and put down her quill. "What would you like for me to do?" she asked in a patient tone designed to irritate him further. It worked.
"Couldn't you clean…" he looked around to see everything gleaming. Hermione had done nothing but dust for days, sneezing every few minutes. He had complained about incessant noise then. "Something?"
"Why did you hire me if there wasn't any work to do?"
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I wanted to observe personally the Midlife Crisis of a Harlot," he said, quoting Skeeter's venomous headline.
Hermione clenched her fists as well as her jaw. "It was Midlife Crisis OR a Harlot. Not OF, you miserable git."
Snape just shrugged his shoulders. "My mistake."
"Yours and everyone else's," she said bitterly. Her eyes stung with tears that she refused to let fall. She had spent enough of the last few months crying, first over her useless ex-husband, a man she had met abroad and married at too young an age, and then over the loss of her job, a career she had poured her very soul into. She didn't need the scorn of Severus Snape to add to the mix.
She looked up to find him still regarding her carefully. "There are worse things to be called," he said in a softer tone.
"Like murderer and traitor?" She hadn't meant it to sound as harsh as it came out, but her bitterness overflowed out of her mouth. She suddenly understood much of the why Snape was the way he was.
"Good examples." He didn't seem to mind the accusations, but just accepted that she would apply such monikers to him.
"How did you deal with it?"
"I terrorized students and then customers. I'm not sure that qualifies as dealing with it…at least not well." He left, leaving Hermione to gape at his retreating back. If asked, she never would have described Severus Snape as sympathetic and reflective, but he never ceased to surprise her.
Right up until he yelled from the back of the store for her to "get back to work!" That wasn't a surprise.
A few days later Hermione brought her lunch back from The Leaky Cauldron and sat in the back with Snape, munching on fish and chips. She frowned as he passed by and stole some of her chips.
"I offered to get you something while I was there," she griped.
"And I told you I didn't want anything," he said with his mouth full of chips. She shook her head at him, watching as he pulled a cauldron out of a cupboard and began pulling out bottles of potions ingredients.
"What did you think about Von Hausen's book on Charms?" she asked, shutting her book. She had seen him reading it earlier in the week and wondered if it were worth the effort.
"Utter rot," came the short reply.
"That good?" she asked. He glared at her. He was, if anything, a man of very few words.
Hermione tried another tactic to get him to talk. "Why books? Why not a business that sold potions?" she asked.
"Why do you feel the compulsion to voice every question that pops into your head?" He pointed his wand at the stairs to the apartment upstairs. Hermione ducked her head as a vial of something pickled flew overhead.
"Why do you feel the need to evade every question that pops into my head?"
"No one would buy potions from a murderer," he told her. Hermione thought it was eerie the way that he said it so levelly with little to no bitterness or disdain. He said it like a fact of life and nothing else.
"You were exonerated," she reminded him.
Snape rolled his eyes and frowned. "And you didn't really seduce your subordinates but no one believes that." He paused for a moment and considered her. "You didn't, did you?" he asked.
"Well then, I have your squeaky clean image," he smirked at her, "or not, to sell books, which leaves me to brew my potions."
Hermione made a face at him, which he ignored. She took a moment to really observe him. He was still sallow and skinny – too skinny. It looked as though he never left the shop even for food. He had cut off all contact with anyone he had known and resisted most efforts to talk to anyone else, even his own customers.
She watched as he started a small fire under the cauldron and began cutting up his ingredients. She had forgotten how his precise graceful movements fascinated her in school. They had lost none of their appeal. "What are you brewing?"
"A headache potion. I've had a much greater need recently."
Hermione scowled and went back out to wait on their non-existent customers.
Eventually writer's block descended on her and Hermione relieved her boredom with games of Solitaire. Flipping through the deck, she ignored the shouts from the Diamond queen.
"The three on the four," said a voice from behind her.
"There's a reason why it's called Solitaire," she answered even as she moved the card over. He just smirked at her – it was a look she was beginning to hate. He moved around the shop, moving a book here and there before rounding back to where she sat. He looked as restless as Hermione felt.
"The queen to your king," he said.
"I've been telling her that for five minutes now," the queen sniped. Hermione rolled her eyes and left it where it lay. She protested, however, when Snape picked up her manuscript and began to read.
"That's not finished!" He just held up his hand, pushed his reading glasses up his nose, and pulled up a chair. Hermione frowned. She hated the idea of him reading her work before it was fully finished. Actually, she hated the idea of him reading it period. She remembered his hateful remarks in red ink scrawled across each of her essays as a student and she had to resist the urge to grab the papers from his long fingers as he tutted and made other noises of disdain as he read.
"You seem to have stopped right when it gets exciting," he said when he finished.
Hermione frowned. "You mean all the killing?"
It was the cause of her writer's block. The memories of Hagrid's demise at the hands of Avery, the death of Lavender Brown, the image of Bill Weasley's bloated corpse, and the broken sobs of his wife, Fleur, haunted her dreams at night and killed her muse during the day.
"Precisely. Although I suppose one might consider that a blessing. What you have so far is positively putrid," he said with a sneer.
Hermione did grab the papers from him at that. "How dare you!"
"No one is going to want to read this."
"What do you know about what sells? When was the last time you sold anything?"
He ignored her jibe. "Where are your feelings on the subject matter? Where are the quiet moments with the real Hermione Granger? The secrets about Harry Potter that no one but his bestest friend knows?" he asked with a full serving of sarcasm.
"I'm trying to write an objective history," she said.
He snorted. "You're hardly objective. You were there. You watched your friends come back bloodied and injured."
"Or worse," Snape agreed. "See? Hardly objective. No one wants to read your boring detailed analysis of what happened. They want to read what you thought, what you felt, what you saw. Hasn't your experience with Ms. Skeeter taught you anything?"
And with that, he left her angry and with too much to think about. The queen of hearts screeched as Hermione slammed her over onto the king.
"Neither one in case you were wondering," Hermione later said idly. She had wandered back into the storeroom where Snape sat at his desk, poring over the books. She had a hard time imagining just what he was balancing, since what she first thought was a slow week had turned into a slow month.
"Pardon?" Snape looked up from his accounting, his glasses slipping down his nose. He pushed them back up and stared at her impatiently.
"I'm not a harlot and I'm not having a mid-life crisis."
"Really? A divorce and a career change at – how old are you? Thirty-eight? That doesn't qualify as midlife crisis?" he asked in an acidic tone.
"It's not a crisis," she argued. "Who's to say I'm not better off without my horrible and neglectful husband and my stressful job?"
"Yes, you get to work for me and that's so much better," he said snidely.
"I always did love a challenge," she retorted.
He almost smiled at that…almost.
"Snape!" Harry said a week later when he finally wheedled the details of her job out of Hermione.
"It's not as bad as you would think," she argued. "We talk about books and potions."
"How can you say that? You told me he's still rude and sarcastic. And you're not writing your book because of the horrible things he said to you!"
"He had some very…precise…comments about my book. And I haven't stopped writing it, I'm just taking it in a new direction," Hermione said, trying to keep her voice down. The last thing she needed was a story in the Daily Prophet going on about how she had argued publicly with the great Harry Potter.
"I just don't get it," Harry said, shaking his head.
"It's simple really," she explained, starting to sound indignant. "I cannot fail at this job. I don't care if it's working for Snape or not. I have failed at my marriage. I have failed at the Ministry. I will NOT fail at this."
"Hermione, you haven't failed at anything—" Harry started, but Hermione held up her hand to stop his tirade of pity and reassurances. She had heard it all before and it meant nothing. She needed this job to work out, and that meant dealing with Snape. If she could handle him, then she figured she could handle anything.
"I have to get back to the shop," she said. She threw down a few Sickles on the table and left Harry slack-jawed and frustrated.
"I'll take another to go," she told Tom behind the bar. She had discovered that even if Snape declared he didn't want anything when she went out for lunch, that didn't mean he wouldn't eat whatever she brought back, which usually meant she got to eat all of her own lunch rather than having him steal bits and pieces here and there. It was reassuring to know that he had at least one regular meal a day. She couldn't see with how skinny he was that he ate nearly as much as he really needed.
Two months after Hermione started working for Snape, they finally got a customer who did more than wander in, pick up a book and then with one look from Snape put it back and left. He was a short squat man and Hermione almost asked him if he was lost, it was so unusual to see actual customers. But he headed towards the bookshelves, checking a small scrap of parchment in his hand that held some title or author that he needed. She went back to her own book, but made sure to glance up every few sentences to make sure he hadn't left.
Twenty minutes later Snape had joined her with his own book in hand. Their one customer approached her gingerly. "D-d-do you have Terrific Transfigurations?"
"No, but I'm sure we could put it on or—"
"Absolutely not," Snape interrupted her. "We do not carry that drivel. I should throw you out just for asking. If you want something on Transfiguration then you can try Martin."
The man didn't stay to listen to Snape finish his tirade. The professor sat down with a sigh, exhausted from his speech.
"That might have been the only sale we will make this week," Hermione said, snapping her book shut.
"We don't need customers like that." He leaned back in his chair and opened up his own book.
"Well I hope you can pay me this week," she said bitterly. She didn't wait for his answer but stalked into the backroom. Her anger and frustration bubbled up in her and she paced back and forth like a wild animal. This job was only a solution if she made any money. She stopped when a parchment on his corner desk caught her eye – the order form for the next delivery of books. She paused only a second before grabbing up a quill and adding Terrific Transfigurations for Every Situation.
"Just what do you think you are doing?" Snape's booming bass tones came from behind her.
"I'm making sure the next time someone asks for Terrific Transfigurations we will have it."
"Must I remind you that this is my bookshop? I do not need you to tell me how to run my business."
"Don't you? You can hardly pay your bills and I can hardly pay mine." She had seen the odd assortment of individuals who came in not looking for books but for Snape. When they left, he wore a grim look on his face and was in a worse mood than ever. She worried about what they might do to him (and her) the day that he couldn't come up with the interest he owed them.
"My finances are not your concern, Miss Granger," he hissed at her.
"Shall I quit? Do you really need me to scare away customers?"
"I don't care what you do," he answered. He brushed past her and sat in his chair by the fire. Had he said something snide, Hermione might have walked out right then and there, but she sounded so tired and defeated that it gave her pause.
"If you don't care, then let me order the next set of books and let me prove to you that this little store can turn a profit." She paused and waited for his reaction. He didn't say a word, didn't move a muscle. "And then maybe you can take that holiday to Italy like you've been wanting."
That got him. "What are you talking about?"
Hermione pointed to the calendar with a photo of Rome that hung over his desk. "You want to go to Italy, don't you?"
Professor Snape rolled his eyes. "Someone gave me that calendar," he told her.
"I don't believe you. No one would give you anything, especially not a calendar," she said without thinking. The implications of what she had said hit her and she raised her hand to her mouth. "I didn't mean that!"
"Yes you did," he said.
"I'm really very sorry. I—"
"Order what you want."
"Really?" She couldn't believe he hadn't thrown her out on her ear. He narrowed his eyes in the way that he always did, as though he was scrutinizing every inch of her. She felt his gaze in the same way a specimen might feel under a microscope.
"Yes, really," he paused as if considering something and then continued, "but if your inventory is a flop then you're fired."
"It's a deal." She held out her hand to shake on it and once again withdrew when he curled up his lip in distaste and then opened up his book. He dismissed her with a casual wave of his hand. Heading back out to the front in case someone else miraculously decided to come in, she muttered, "wanker" under her breath.
"I can hear you, Granger," he warned, not bothering to look up.
Two weeks later and Hermione's books had come in and she had a plan together to sell them. It took some convincing but the promise of her fame and notoriety combined with the chance to have a top selling author sign their books brought out the crowds of nosy pernicious witches.
"What is all this?" Professor Snape shouted over the commotion of the crowd. Pushing a woman in fuchsia robes with hair to match out of his way, he made his way over to Hermione.
"It's a book signing," she said. She turned away and back to Warner Whitley and his shiny white teeth. His book on Modern Magical Etiquette was as pompous as it was boring, but it brought in the crowds. It all reminded Hermione of Professor Lockhart in a way. "They're waiting for you. Are you ready?"
"Is my hair straight?"
"It looks perfect," she told him, pushing him out into the crowd.
"Perfectly ridiculous." She heard Snape mutter behind her.
"Just go on in the back. I'll make sure no one bothers you," she told him.
He leaned in and whispered in her ear as he passed by. "This is cheating."
She turned her head and smiled slyly at him. "No, this is business," she whispered back.
He looked skeptical but didn't say another word. She counted it as a triumph when they sold out of Whitley's books after an hour and a half and when she figured the numbers, she let out a whoop so loud it caused Snape to come and investigate.
"What is all the ruckus?" he asked taking in her victory dance. She slid around in her socked feet on the polished wooden floors and grinned at him like a loon.
"We did it!" He took the accounting book from her and pushed his reading glasses up his overly large nose to take a look.
"You did it, Granger. I believe I sat in the back and read Potions Monthly."
"Thank you for giving me this chance," she said, her smile growing even larger. He didn't say anything but rolled his eyes and shuffled back to the back room. Hermione finished cleaning up, humming to herself the entire time. When she was done, she went to retrieve her cloak and purse from the cupboard in the storeroom.
There, next to her cloak, she found a bag heavy with coins. "What is this?" she turned and asked.
Snape stood behind her with a hint of a smile crossing his lips. "It's past ten. It's overtime pay."
"I'd prefer a percentage of the profits."
His smile disappeared. "Don't push your luck, Granger."
"I wouldn't dream of pushing you, Snape," she said. And before he could respond, she stepped up and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and Apparated home.
Despite its success, Snape limited Hermione to only a few book signings. No more than one every other month. He insisted that the press of the crowd would bring on a nervous breakdown. Not believing a word of such a flimsy assertion, she argued vehemently for the profits it had brought in, but he refused to see reason and they settled back into their routine of sitting around. They were doing just that when a large brown barn owl delivered a large envelope tied with string to Hermione.
"What is it?" Snape asked.
"I don't know." She tore through the brown paper to find a copy of the newspaper. A cursory flip through its pages revealed that there were no new and embarrassing headlines featuring her name, but there was an entry in the personal ads circled.
'You need to get back out there' was scrawled on a note in Ginny Weasley's handwriting.
The entry circled made Hermione cringe.
Enjoys deep conversations about the meaning of life over candlelit dinners
She heard Snape snicker from behind her. She glanced back to see him peering over her shoulder.
"I spotted my ex with a new lady friend yesterday," Hermione explained. "Ginny thinks I need to strike back with a date of my own." It had been heart wrenching to see her husband with another woman.
"As if you need a man."
Though she approved of the sentiment, it had been hard to adjust to living alone after an entire life of having someone or multiple someones around her. "I may not need one, but some company would be nice. Don't you get lonely?"
"How can I be lonely when you won't ever leave me alone?" he retorted.
Hermione ignored him. Months of working for him and she had learned that Snape rather liked being annoyed. He thrived on irritation.
"There might be someone in here for you," she said with an evil grin, spreading out the paper in front of her. Taking up her pen, she went through the various ads looking for that someone special that would catch Snape's eye.
"Oh, no, no," he protested.
"Here's one: Loves cats and knitting tea cozies. Looking for someone to cuddle with."
"I am not against hexing you, Granger," he said in a warning tone.
"Or we could write your own ad – how about Old cranky wizard seeks blonde mute witch with very large breasts?"
"I am not old!" Snape protested. Hermione raised her eyebrow. "But the rest is spot on," he said when he saw her look. She dissolved into a fit of giggles at his earnestness. He grabbed the paper from her and threw it into the trash bin.
"Anyone advertising themselves in this manner is not worthy of you," he said more seriously. "Take some pride in yourself, Granger. You deserve someone who will appreciate your constant nattering and obnoxious questions."
"Careful, Snape, I almost thought you liked me for a moment."
"Never that," he vowed.
Hermione laughed at him and took herself back out to the front.
"How is your book coming?" he asked almost conversationally one day. She said almost conversationally because he said it with same dose of sarcasm that he said most things with. "Should I expect your own book signing soon?"
"I decided to take your suggestions," she said, looking up from her parchments. Although she had decided to relegate work on it to only when she was at home alone in her flat, so as to avoid any more unwanted advice from her snarky employer. She even had an interested publisher and a possible book advance. But right now, she was working on a proposal for the bookshop. She wanted to start a book club.
"Good. Anything you would publish has got to be better than that horribly sentimental piece of tripe by Parvati Patil."
"Errr…thank you." Hermione never expected even half-hidden compliments from Snape, so to have one so openly was a bit of a surprise. "So you don't think I'm horribly sentimental?"
"No you are," he said. "Just at more tolerable levels than most other people."
Hermione sighed and picked up her papers. "If you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
Snape stalked in early the next morning in a foul mood.
"There was a packet of papers on my desk this morning that didn't belong there," he said with no introduction. He threw her carefully arranged proposal for the book club onto the counter in front of her. A few pieces of parchment slid too far and floated to the floor.
Hermione grimaced. "If you had bothered to look at them you would have noticed that they were a proposal for a book club," she told him, reaching over and picking up the stray papers.
"You haven't even read it!" she protested. "It's a fabulous idea that will make you more money AND it means you will have to have less face to face time with customers. It's the perfect solution for a cranky old bat like you."
Snape grabbed the papers back from her and snarled. "I am NOT old."
She took his exit with her packet in hand as agreement that he would at least consider her idea. Shaking her head, half in amusement and half in utter frustration, she went back to her dusting.
An hour later, perched on a high ladder as she shelved the new arrivals, she felt a sudden warmth on her ankle in the shape of a hand. Fingers curled around her leg and she jumped when what felt like a thumb moved over her skin in a slight caress. She looked down to see Snape standing there with a cross look on his face, but then again he always looked cross.
"Don't you ever do that again!" she said as he took his hand away. "Unless you're ready to catch me."
"This is brilliant! I could kiss you!" he exclaimed, ignoring her statement. He held up her packet in his hand. Climbing off the ladder, she nodded in agreement. She didn't think she had ever seen him this excited before. And then the full meaning of what he had just said hit her with full force. Kiss Severus Snape? She would rather snog a hippogriff.
Although he did grow on a person. If one got past the large nose, yellow teeth, greasy hair, and bad temper, there was a witty and occasionally caring person deep inside…deep, deep down inside.
"K-kiss me?" she stuttered. She couldn't seem to process an intelligent response and had to settle for repetition.
Snape looked up from her parchment with a surprised look, his eyes suddenly wide. And then he snarled. "I didn't mean literally, Granger."
"Right, of course," she said with a brittle laugh. She remembered that most men couldn't see past her brainy love for books to think of kissing her. Not her subordinates, despite what the papers may say, not Harry or Ron, no longer her husband, and certainly not Severus Snape.
Snape watched her closely and his excitement over her plan faded away, replaced with his cold curiosity. "Would you like that – for me to kiss you?"
Hermione faltered. She hadn't really thought about any such thing until now. She had slowly grown used to his caustic personality, but as for physical attraction…
"I—I would like…I would like to know what you thought about my idea."
He paused, not answering her question for several long moments, but finally left the awkward subject of kissing behind. "It has merit," he said. "It requires very little capital, just some initial advertising because we don't order the books until we receive the orders."
"And there is very little for us to do other than place the order with our vendor who then ships directly to the customer. We reduce our costs and increase our margins," Hermione said, her excitement growing at his interest. This could really work!
"Yes, yes, I read the proposal, Granger. There's no need to reiterate everything," Snape griped.
"And don't forget the added bonus of keeping customers away from your sunshiny disposition," she said with a grin.
"Impertinent girl!" he said. And then he straightened up to his full height and glared down at her. "There's a lot to do to get this started. And since this is your idea, you will be responsible for negotiating competitive pricing with our suppliers. You'll need to get fair deals on the owl post. And you'll want creative marketing that will appeal to a wide variety of people."
Hermione refused to be intimidated by him. She placed her hands on her hips and stared right back. "And what are you going to do?" she asked.
"I am going to take a nap," he said and with a swish of black robes, he left a gaping Hermione.
The book club turned out to be much more work than Hermione had ever expected. She went from perusing the personal ads and playing Solitaire between bouts of dusting and the very occasional customer to Floo calling supplier after supplier, negotiating owl post prices, and designing their marketing pieces. She often worked long past eight o'clock, but when Harry and Ron asked about her late hours, she just smiled with the thought of her potential success.
One late night, she fell asleep at the front counter, her papers and cost savings charts spread out around her. She woke with a start at the sound of china being slammed down on the table. She looked up to see Snape looming over her. A cup of tea and a saucer of biscuits sat on the table in front of her.
"Why are you still here, Granger?" he asked.
She reached out for a biscuit, shoving it in her mouth. Her stomach rumbled in anticipation. It had been hours since she had eaten and days since she had seen a proper meal.
"I'm just going over these figures," she said with a full mouth.
"I've heard of sleeping on something, but I didn't think people meant it literally." Hermione looked at him puzzled. "You have ink on your forehead." He pointed a long finger at her.
"Oh!" She frowned, reaching up to scrub at her skin. Snape picked up one of her many papers, tapping his lip with his finger as he read over it.
"Are these right? A forty percent adjusted margin?"
Hermione nodded. "And still lower than the competition. I'm liking this business thing. It's almost as fun as Arithmancy." She rubbed at her eyes. "I should go home."
"Finish your tea," he told her, pointing to the steaming cup in front of her. She cradled her cup and sipped the hot liquid. The silence between them was comfortable, but she felt the need to interrupt it nonetheless.
"Why did you hire me?" she asked randomly. The lack of sleep was clearly affecting her judgment.
Snape didn't say anything and she thought he might be ignoring her, but finally he said, "Everyone deserves a fresh start."
"I've had mine twice over," he said softly.
"You know what they say – third time's the charm," she said with a small smile. Her hand snaked across the counter and covered his. "This book club could be your fresh start."
"I thought it meant I could go to Italy," he said. He stared at her hand until she finally moved it away, leaning back in her chair.
"A fresha starta," Hermione said in a horrible attempt at an Italian accent. She stared down at her tea. "What did you put in here?"
Snape shook his head and let out a chuckle. She realized she had never heard him laugh before. It was an…odd sound, though not unpleasing. "Nothing, absolutely nothing," he told her.
"I should go home," she said, standing up to go. She swayed a bit on her feet.
"Use the Floo. With my luck you'd leave your mouth behind if you splinched yourself."
When it finally launched the book club was successful beyond Hermione's original vision. She actually had enough work to get her through the day and often kept her late. Even Snape took and processed orders. In all the days since her life had fallen apart, Hermione finally felt like she was back on track. Happiness was in reach. Harry had commented the other day that it was good to see her smile again, real smiles not the forced ones of last year, he had quantified.
The frisson of pleasure her success brought bubbled up inside of her and she found herself humming while she went over their latest orders. They sold everything from racy romance novels to how to manuals for Magical cooking to academic journals. The store had earned more in two weeks than in past three months and she had a letter from a publisher who wanted to print her memoirs.
"Granger! If you're going to sing, try something less obnoxious and more in tune!" Snape shouted from the back.
"How do you feel about the Weird Sisters?" she shouted back.
She smiled to herself and changed her tune.
Book signings and the book club were not enough for Hermione. She had dreams of much more and her success with the other two only spurred her on to greater heights.
"We could do the same thing with potions," she told Snape one day while they took a break. "People could mail-order them like with our books."
"Let me repeat, no one is going to want to order potions from me."
"They don't have to know it's you. We could make up some alias, something like Sven Snopes."
Snape just stared at her. "Are you insane? Sven?"
"Okay, so not Sven. Maybe something less foreign – Stephen Smith?"
"What I don't think you understand is how small the Potions community is. If everyone in the magical community has at least heard of one another, then those of us who are experts in potions have all met and know each other's middle names."
Hermione remained skeptical, but she knew it wouldn't do to push the matter right now. So she pursued another line of questioning. "And just what is your middle name?" she asked.
"As if I would tell you."
"Then I'll have to guess," she said, ignoring his grimace. "Severus Aurelius Snape?"
Snape glared at her so she tried again. "Severus Xavier Snape?" Another deadly stare. "Severus Augustus Snape?"
"You are pathetic, Granger," he told her.
"I know!" she said with a grin. "Severus Bob Snape."
"I suggest you change the subject, Hermione Jane Granger, or I will be forced to disembowel you," he threatened.
Hermione laughed, but quickly complied. "I did want to secure your permission to write to Minerva."
He furrowed his brow. "Why in bloody hell would you need my permission to do such a thing?"
"Because I want to ask her to send up the booklists for next year. They have to be sending them to the local shops to make sure that they stock everything the students will need. It wouldn't do to require a book and then later come to find out that no one is selling it. Or that they're not carrying enough. I think we should get in on that."
"So that the shop can be overrun with snotty-nosed first years and their parents? Absolutely not. I left teaching to get away from them."
Hermione resisted the urge to point out that he left teaching because he had cast an Unforgivable on the headmaster not because he had an overwhelming distaste for the job and his students. Although, based on her memories of him from school, the latter wasn't completely unfounded.
"We put them in the book club and let the students order them by mail. It saves the older ones who already have most of their other supplies from having to make the trip to Diagon Alley."
"Write what you want, but they aren't going to agree to do business with me," he said.
"We'll see," he said. Picking up the remains of his lunch, he left her alone at the front counter.
Hermione wrote her letter that very afternoon, determined to prove Snape wrong. She had given him a chance and had come to find that once she got past his prickly exterior that she enjoyed spending time with him. She actually looked forward to coming to work and could often be found at the bookshop even on Sundays, her one day off during the week.
I hope this letter finds you well. As you may have heard, I have left my job at the Ministry of Magic and am now trying my hand at business. I've had a great amount of success recently with the small bookshop Literati, owned by your friend and former colleague, Severus Snape. It's actually what I'm writing to you about today.
I remember as a student being quite excited to receive my book lists each year before starting at Hogwarts. What I didn't like was the press of the crowd when I went into Flourish and Blott's to buy my books. I imagine I'm not the only one who felt that way. Our store, Literati, has an extensive mail-order catalog that we could easily incorporate the Hogwart's booklists into each year, saving your students and their families precious time at the start of each new year. I hope you will consider giving us advance notice, so that we can ensure we have the books in stock.
Please tell the rest of the staff hello for me and I look forward to reading your response.
Hermione J. Granger
Hermione knew that someday Snape would finally get sick of her and she would be forced to leave him and Literati behind. And with the book club up and running and the shop finally making a profit, she figured that day might come sooner rather than later. It was one reason why she continued to find new ways to be useful around the shop. She couldn't bear the thought of leaving just yet. But she hadn't expected an opportunity for her to make her own way to present itself as it did in the letter that had just arrived from Minerva.
I will have to present your business proposal to the board of governors. You are correct in guessing that we send out our book lists to Flourish and Blott's before the school year to ensure that our students will be able to pick up all their books in one place.
I will confess that the fact that Severus owns the establishment you work for might cause some trouble. His history with this school does not lend itself to a renewed partnership of any kind. I find myself at a loss wondering whatever possessed you to begin working with him in the first place.
You know you will always have a place here. In fact, I have an opening for an Arithmancy professor. Please say you will consider it. I can think of no one better equipped to shape the future minds of the magical community.
I'll expect your reply by the end of the month.
It wasn't what she had hoped for at all. The offer of a teaching position was nice, but it seemed unfair to offer a job in the same paragraph that she chastised Hermione for her current choice of a job. She liked working for Snape. It had taken months to convince Harry and Ron, and Hermione wasn't sure it was worth the effort or extra income to try and convince McGonagall as well.
Crumpling up the letter, she tossed it in the trash bin. She expected that Snape would positively glow when he learned he was right and she was wrong. On second thought, she pulled out her wand and set the note on fire. It was such a perverse thing to be so sure of other people's contempt; she decided not to let him know. She watched the parchment disintegrate into a pile of black ashes and then returned to her work.
When she returned from picking up lunch later that day, she found Snape looking very angry.
"Don't be upset with me," she said, placing his plate on the table. "Tom didn't have the roast beef today so I had to get you the chicken."
"I expect you'll be turning in your two week's notice," he said with a sneer.
"What?" How could he possibly know that? She wondered. And then it hit her. The nosy bastard! "You read my note from Minerva before I did!"
"You're the one that decided I should be in charge of the owl deliveries. How was I supposed to know it was for you?"
"I don't know," she spat, "maybe the name Hermione Granger could have given you a clue."
"Most things come these days with your name on it that directly affect my shop. I think I have a right to take a peek every now and then to make sure you aren't selling it out from underneath me!" His voice raised in pitch as he went on, spurring Hermione on further.
"I would NEVER do anything like that!" she shouted. "How can you even think that?"
"I don't accept," he said, turning away from her and starting to walk away.
"What? You can't not accept something I haven't even submitted. Merlin! Did that make any sense to you?" she argued, following after him. "Come back here, Snape!"
He stopped abruptly and swiveled around, his heavy black robes hitting her legs. "I need you here."
"You do not! The book club is up and running. You're actually turning a profit. I've even got you eating regular meals again. There's nothing left for me to do."
"So I was just another one of your projects then, like your ill fated SPEW? Did you give it a name this time round? Maybe something like Clean Up Severus Snape?" His eyes flashed with anger and with each word, he advanced on her until she found herself backed up against one of the bookcases.
She reached out and pushed at his chest. "C.U.S.S.? You certainly make me want to most of the time. I've liked working here, most of the time anyway, but you have made it abundantly clear from the very beginning that you barely tolerate me. I don't understand your sudden desire to—"
He cut her off. With a swift motion, he swept in and pressed his mouth to hers. Hermione gasped and Snape used the opportunity to deepen the kiss. Once she got over the initial shock of Snape kissing her, she realized he was quite good at it. Her eyes drifted shut and she concentrated on the feel of his mouth on hers. A shiver went down her spine as his hands came up and cupped her face, the callused pads of his thumbs caressing her skin.
"I don't accept," he said in a low hoarse tone when he pulled her away from her.
"I told you, you can't not accept what I haven't submitted," she whispered.
"I'm sentimental and I ask every obnoxious question that pops in my head."
"You forgot sings off key," he said. Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but he placed his finger over her lips and shushed her. "And beautiful and smart and a much better businessman than I'll ever be."
He leaned in and kissed her again, softer this time. "And even more important is that you somehow put up with me on a day to day basis."
"You're not that bad," she said, smiling against his mouth.
He pulled back and looked at her. His eyes were dark and shining, like pieces of obsidian, and even if he hadn't had his arms around her, she would have felt pinned by his gaze alone. "I want my fresh start," he said.
The corners of her lips crept up. "Now who's being horribly sentimental," she said with a cheeky grin.
"Insufferable know-it-all," he said with a growl, pressing his mouth to hers again. He moved his hands from her face into her hair and down her back, pulling her ever closer.
"Cranky old bat!" she squealed when he moved from her mouth to the ticklish spot on her neck. He pulled and gave her an evil look.
"I am not old," he said.
"No you're mine," she replied and they kissed some more.