Someone who Understands
Every year it was the same song and dance. Attend all the holiday and birthday parties at Harry and Ginny Potter's beautiful home in the country, while having to deal with the fact that she had nothing in common with the Potter's anymore. The worst of all was being forced to spend time in the presence of her past best friend and boyfriend, Ronald Weasley. If it was bad enough to spend time watching Ron pretend he didn't feel a bloody thing for her, it was worse to watch him hang all over his wife in bad attempt to prove it.
Hermione Granger was not sure why she bothered to go anymore. Perhaps it was because she really had no family of her own, and she was oddly comforted knowing she was not the only one alone here.
It had been a complete shock to everyone that Severus Snape had managed to survive. When someone had gone to collect his body from the Shrieking Shack after the battle with Voldemort, they found he had made it halfway down the old rickety stairs toward the tunnel. He had been covered in filth, was unconscious, and had nearly bled to death. But he was shockingly alive.
With Harry's convincing testimony on his behalf, Severus Snape was granted a pardon. It came with limits of course. He would no longer be allowed to teach as a Professor again and at least twice a year he would attend a party at the Potter's home as a favor to Harry. Snape did not appear unhappy about never teaching at Hogwarts again, but attending parties at the Potter's home was a different story.
Hermione knew that it was torture for him. She knew he once had loved Harry's mom, and he probably still did. Twice a year Snape was subjected to looking into Lily Potter's son's eyes as he smiled laughed and bounced his children on his knees. He was subjected to the happy portraits of Harry's mom with her husband or with baby Harry all over the house. Didn't Harry realize that it was like pouring salt into the poor man's wounds?
Hermione and Snape barely said a word to each other at these parties. Usually a nod and sometimes to wish each other Happy Christmas. Hermione barely spoke at all, a big change from her bubbly talkative teenage self.
She arrived tonight thinking perhaps this party would be more enjoyable than the last, knowing that it probably wouldn't, but being hopeful all the same.
Hermione had noticed something different in Snape this past summer when they all celebrated Harry's 27th birthday party. The first difference was that he wore a charcoal gray sweater with a turtleneck. She had never seen him wear anything but black. He always wore high neck garments to conceal the scars on his neck. His hair had looked not nearly as greasy as usual.
Hermione had caught the older man staring at her. At first Hermione thought she might be imagining it, because he looked away as soon as she looked in his direction. Perhaps he just happened to be resting his eyes on her for a moment while he looked around. But she found him staring at her yet again less than ten minutes later, as well as several times throughout in the day.
It was unsettling to her, and she went home that night and thought of Snape as she lay in bed. Why had he been so interested in her? Or was she really just imagining it all? For the next few months she thought about him. She wondered how he coped being alone all these years when it was obvious he had a heart, and how he dealt with the awful comments and questions people sometimes sent his way. While cleared of his charges, it was obvious that many people loathed him. He had taught generations of children all in the same harsh, bullying way. He had been a Death Eater once, and many people believed some spots never came clean.
Snape had been staring tonight at her as well, and she wondered just why he kept looking at her. Perhaps he found her as pathetic as she found herself to be. She had just turned 28 in September, and she was still not married. In fact, she did not even have a boyfriend, and had not had one in nearly 3 years. Her job wasn't exactly the best. He probably thought her to be a loser.
She could have had a bright future, but an abusive relationship and the death of her parents in a stupid automobile accident had changed all that. The depression and anger took over her and it had taken her a long time to move past it.
Harry's youngest son Albus was whining about Christmas presents, and when could they start opening them. Harry calmly told him to be patient or Santa was not going to bring him gifts after midnight. She saw Ron put an arm around his wife, Melody, and kiss her cheek before glancing in Hermione's direction. Snape was watching her from his place in the corner, and unlike this summer, tonight he had not been looking away when she glanced at him.
Hermione suddenly needed to leave the room. If she had to watch Ron hang on his wife while looking in her direction one more time she was going to be ill. And worse, she felt herself flush under Snape's ministrations. The room felt too warm and too tense.
She quietly got up and made her way toward the kitchen. She paced while there, feeling like a caged animal. She opened the back door and went out onto the porch for some fresh air.
It was bitterly cold out as she sat down on one of the steps that overlooked the yard. She felt the cold straight through the slacks she was wearing. The snow was falling steadier now, the ground specked with white. It was truly a white Christmas.
While the fresh air did her some good, it also burned her lungs. She wrapped her arms around herself, her teeth chattering while she shivered. What kind of witch went out without a coat, or even her wand to produce a warming spell?
A red coat fell around her shoulders and she gasped at the unexpected feeling of the heavy wool being dropped onto her.
She was on her feet in an instant, and her eyes widened as she stared into the pale face and dark eyes of Severus Snape.
"Be grateful I was not feeling festive either, or you might have ended up with a nasty case of frost bite."
Her mouth opened, but no words came out. She had none, yet her mind was full of activity. Over the last ten years she had barely heard a word from Snape and yet he had said a full sentence to her. More alarming was the sense that he seemed to have sought out her company.
"I…I wasn't thinking. I just needed some air. Thank you, sir."
He seemed to wince at something she said, but then looked away to watch the snow swirl around in the wind before reaching the ground.
He was dressed in a heavy long black wool coat, the same charcoal sweater from this summer and the white turtleneck. His hair drifted around his face in the wind that blew the snowflakes at them while they stood side by side on the porch. His usually sallow face had some color to it now, and the deep worry lines that once seemed etched into his face did not seem so harsh. Realizing that she was staring, she looked away.
"Anyone would need air watching Weasley slobber all over his wife."
Hermione pulled her coat around her and shivered, but not from the cold. She was quite comfortable with the warming charm Snape must have put on her coat. She gazed down at her feet and sighed heavily.
"You need to stop feeling guilty for being honest with him all those years ago."
She looked up at him, but he was still staring off at the snow, which was coming down heavier.
"And he needs to stop hanging all over his wife in an attempt to get back at you for not feeling what he felt."
"I thought I was the only one who noticed that," she admitted softly.
He looked at her now, and yet his eyes did not meet hers. "Hardly."
Hermione could feel her heartbeat quicken as she watched him look her over. Was that approval in his eyes? And approval for just what?
"The snow is falling much heavier now. The Muggle weatherman predicts 4 inches for the country," he said matter of fact.
She blinked several times, and then could not contain the laugh that escaped her throat.
One dark eyebrow arched higher than the other did. "You find that amusing?"
She shook her head and gazed out at the snow as nervousness washed over her. "I just find it hard to believe that you would come out here to discuss the weather with me."
"Forgive me for intruding." His voice was cold, but Hermione caught an underlying tone. He sounded discouraged and even hurt.
He stepped away to head back into the house, and without thinking she grabbed his arm.
"No, that's not what I meant."
He stopped and stared down at her and she removed her hand from him. "I didn't mean for you to go…it's just..." She shook her head, her wavy hair cascading down her shoulders. "We never talk. Yet here we are standing out in the snow, discussing the weather. Doesn't that feel strange to you?"
Snape cleared his throat and Hermione realized he seemed frazzled. He shifted his weight several times. He had yet to look directly into her eyes since he had come outside. In fact, he had not looked into her eyes once tonight, when in past years he had no problem making her feel like she was twelve all over again.
"Are you all right, sir?"
He closed his eyes and gave a pained expression. "Please don't…"
She frowned, not understanding what she should not do.
"It was a mistake for me to follow you out here."
She shook her head, reaching for his arm before he got the idea to head back into the house. "I don't think it was a mistake. I…I'm enjoying your company. You're the only one here I feel I can relate to."
A sad grin appeared on his face. "We are both surrounded by people, and yet we feel utterly alone."
She swallowed hard at how he had hit her feelings so perfectly. "Yes, that's right."
Even though she was shaking inside Hermione stepped closer to him and moved into his direct line of vision. "Did…did you intentionally seek me out or did you just need fresh air, too?"
He shifted his weight again, his head bowing as he looked down at the wooden floor of the porch, before gazing at her.
"It was intentional," he said in a low voice.
The tone of his voice as well as his confirmation that he had been seeking her, caused Hermione's heart to pound so hard that it made her dizzy.
"Why…" She tried again, wetting her dry lips. "Why have you been staring at me lately?"
He grinned. "Ah, so you have finally noticed."
"Finally? You only started this past summer."
"You only started noticing this past summer."
She frowned and then took her lower lip between her teeth. "How long then?"
He paused, looking her over again. "Three years."
Her lips parted as if she intended to speak, but it took several moments for the sound to fall forth.
" Of course not," he said smugly. "I would not have been a very good spy if you have been able to figure me out. I let you know when I wanted you to be aware."
She looked down at her feet and then back up at him again. "Why so much interest in me?" she managed so softly she wondered if she had spoken aloud.
She realized he had heard her, when his dark eyes locked with hers.
"Do you truly desire to know?" His voice was so low she had to struggle to hear it over the wind.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. How had the air around them become so charged with energy?
It happened so quickly that she had no time to react.
He was all around her, shielding her from the cold and snow. His warm thin lips pressed softly against her own, his body like a protective cloak.
She felt him stiffen and start to pull back at her lack of reaction. Suddenly desperate not to lose the contact, she leaned forward and up to press her lips against his, while one hand moved up his shoulder to his neck to bury within his hair. It was softer than it looked.
He was trembling, and she realized he felt too warm to be cold.
Her heart was pounding so hard and fast she thought it might burst from her chest. Their kiss was clumsy, similar to two teenagers sharing their first kiss. His nose bumped her check just as her fingers caught in his hair.
The softest sound of pleasure came from him when she opened her mouth to yield to his. Hermione suddenly put it all together. The reason for his staring, the reason he came out here to small talk with her. His reason for looking her over.
Severus Snape was smitten with her.
He pulled back slowly so they could both take a breath.
He was looking at her now, his eyes devouring the sight of her within his arms, but with a fear she had never seen from him before.He thinks I'm going to reject him…
The thought of it made her heart ache. Something felt alarmingly right being in his embrace as crazy as that seemed. Maybe it was because she knew him. Not intimately like a friend, but more like a distant colleague. He was no stranger. She knew some of his past and he knew some of hers.
But it did not make sense to her. He rarely said a word to her and he was in love with Harry's mom. How could he possibly feel anything for her?
"I let her go the night I saw you three summers ago," he said as if reading her mind. "I never intended to notice you…but you looked how I felt once…when my own heart was broken by my own stupidity."
She opened her mouth to speak and he shook his head.
He stroked her hair gently, and her eyes slipped closed at the contact. "That young man hurt you terribly, just a few years after your relationship ended with Weasley, and then your parents…. How could I not notice you?"
Her eyes filled with tears. It had been such a terrible time for her. Jared breaking up with her after admitting he was seeing someone else. Losing her parents and having no one to help her through the loss.
"The Potters had been too busy with the birth of their third child and Mr. Weasley was too busy wallowing in his own self pity that you should be single again when he had just married."
She chuckled nervously. "No wonder you survived going between two madmen. You notice everything and no one is aware of it." She was alarmed at how he seemed to pinpoint everything with such accuracy.
He stroked her cheek and felt his heart leap in his chest when she leaned into his hand. He had no idea how she felt and that scared him more than the Dark Lord ever did. He was forty-seven years old; too old in his eyes to open his heart to anyone, and too old for a relationship he had not been searching for. Yet, there she was, always in front of him, but he had never noticed. She was a welcome distraction if not a burden when he realized a year later how he felt.
She combed her fingers through his hair, watching as his eyes slipped closed at the contact.
"If you don't---
She put a finger against his mouth and his eyes opened. "Ssshhh."
"This is a little unexpected…" she felt his body tense. "But I'm not complaining."
That seemed to please him because he pressed a kiss against her cheek.
She turned her face so that her lips were near his. He kissed her again, softly.
The start of their kiss was clumsy, but within seconds it became heated. Their bodies became pressed together and his tongue ended up in her mouth, with her own later exploring his mouth.
Hermione felt like a teenager snogging out on the porch of her parents' home with her boyfriend. What if someone in the house moved to the kitchen to refill a drink or get food? What if someone came looking for them? Did she care what they thought if they saw her kissing Severus Snape?
She realized that she didn't. Not even a little. He felt good against her and he tasted like the wine he had been sampling earlier. When their kisses became hungry it did something to her insides that Ron nor her college boyfriend Jared had ever been able to awaken.
He tilted her head back and placed a line of kisses from her chin to her collarbone. She couldn't help the soft moan that escaped her lips.
"You enjoy that…"
She nodded, blushing as she did so.
"I will retain that information..."
She smiled at the hope in his voice. Who was this man? Certainly he could not be her old Professor from Hogwarts.
He was staring at her openly now and she felt her cheeks burn with a blush. "We go from barely talking, to you staring at me, to talking about the weather, to snogging on Harry Potter's back porch."
"Snogging is for teenagers," he told her, feigning offense.
"Forgive me for offending you, sir," she teased.
He shook his head. "Don't call me that, Hermione. I don't want to be reminded of the past."
"I'm sorry, Severus." The word was foreign to her tongue, yet it fell forth with ease.
He smoothed back her hair, which the wind was blowing into her face. "As regretful as I am to suggest this, we should get inside before someone comes looking for us."
He stepped away and she followed him. "Severus?"
He turned to her.
"When can I see you again?"
His eyes lit up at her question and she felt giddy knowing she had somehow made him happy.
"A week from today, this same place."
"A week? But that's- "
"New Years Eve. The Potters always hold a party, do they not?"
"Yes, they do."
"I will be able to fulfill my obligation for one of two parties for the New Year if I stay until midnight, and I will have the pleasure of seeing you again soon."
She flushed and then laughed. "You are so devious." Then her smile faded. "It must have been so difficult for you all these years being forced to attend Harry's parties. I tried to convince him to do something else."
"I have loathed coming here for years, and yet I feel indebted to him in some sense. If I had not been forced to attend, I never would have noticed you."
She blushed again. "I don't know what you're asking of me, Severus, or how much of myself I can give, but I know that I want to get to know you and see if there is anything possible between us."
"For the moment, that is all I ask for."
She grinned, and bravely kissed the end of his nose. "Then, I shall see you here next week. Same time, same place, Mr. Snape."
"I am counting on it, Miss Granger."