The Claddagh Ring
Warnings: DH Spoilers, EWE
Disclaimer: I'm not J. K. Rowling.
Summary: Severus Snape had lost something precious in the Battle of Hogwarts, and it hadn't been his life. Hermione Granger seemed to have this precious something that Severus Snape had lost. Could it be a Claddagh ring or something else completely? SS/HG
A/N: This story was written for vanityfair00 as a gift on the Winter 2007 round of the sshgexchange on LJ.
The prompt: DH ignored. Snape teaches at Hogwarts. Hermione is an Auror out saving the world. Their courtship in letters – what do they look like?
I know the prompt asked to ignore DH, but it doesn't work like this for me, although I had no problem in ignoring the Epilogue. I hope you enjoy it.
My betas - Annie Talbot and Machshefa - are wonderful people who have hearts bigger than they realize and had made writing this story possible. My love to you two and to all the others who helped me in some way. : hugs :
Chapter 1: Possessions
The noise in the Great Hall was loud and cheerful – too much so if you asked Severus Snape, Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He should remain in his quarters for meals when Harry Potter was at Hogwarts. If only the prat would let them know when he was coming, that would be helpful.
As it was, Severus was in for a noisy evening. Since the end of the war and his recovery from the Battle of Hogwarts, there wasn't a time when Potter was around that the annoying man would skip a visit with him. He had tried to point out that he didn't require or want his friendship on several occasions, but this… new Harry Potter seemed to have made it a matter of life and death to be civil and friendly towards him.
Ah yes, here he comes.
"Good evening, Severus."
Severus mumbled a greeting.
Potter chuckled. "I can see you're fine."
What is wrong with this prat?
"Listen, I want to know if we can meet after dinner; there is something I need to talk to you about."
Of course there was. Severus sighed, searching for an excuse to evade the meeting.
"I won't take much of your time," Potter assured him. "It's Ministry business."
The bloody Ministry. Since Potter had become an Auror, he'd used the Ministry as an excuse to meet with him as often as reasonably possible, and in the end, all he wanted to talk about was his mother. Lily wasn't satisfied with all his previous sacrifices, or so it seemed. She still wanted to punish him for his mistakes by pushing her Potter son in his way after all this time.
"Fine, but I only have a moment to waste with you, Potter," he finally agreed.
"I promise it won't take long."
Severus harrumphed, knowing that calculating smile all too well by now. Why, Merlin? Why?
He stood and strode out of the Great Hall, leaving Potter to follow as he could. Severus took a moment to enjoy how out-of-breath Potter became, before opening the door to his office for them. Harry took a seat without being invited, as usual.
"Did you wait for my mum when you walked together, or did she have to run to keep up with you, too?"
Here we go.
"And I'll learn how this concerns the Ministry in no time, I'm sure," Severus dismissed.
"I guess that's a yes to the latter." Harry smiled.
"I don't have time for chit-chat, Potter. If you really have something of any importance to say, I would advise you to say it now, before I send you on your way."
Severus, standing across his desk from Potter, leaned threateningly with his palms on the desktop to balance his weight. He really hoped the annoying brat would take the hint and go on with whatever excuse he had for this meeting.
"Okay, okay," Potter said defensively, "I'm here to tell you that the last of the bureaucracy regarding the investigation on your possessions was sorted out yesterday. You can have your books back, finally."
Another smile, as if getting back some old Dark Arts books was like having Christmas every day.
"If that's all, leave the books and get out of my sight."
"Oh, but I don't have the books with me."
Severus rolled his eyes. If only the brat had inherited more than the green of Lily's eyes – let's say, for instance, her brain. Severus took the chair behind his desk and busied his hands arranging parchments, then rested them crossed over the pages. Resigned, he looked at Potter.
"You're not here only to deliver this message. Even you know what an owl is and how to use one."
Potter sighed. "Is it so astonishing that I wanted to visit you? I thought you would like to know that the Ministry has nothing they can hold against you any more, and I wanted to give you the news myself. Is that so wrong?"
"How many times will I have to tell you that you being Lily's son doesn't make you a potential friend, Potter?" Severus emphasized the wrong last name while scowling and then pretended to read the top parchment on his desk. "The message was delivered; your work here is done. Now, get out."
Severus heard more than saw Potter stand up and walk to the door. Unfortunately, the brat had something to add before leaving him alone.
"I was going to offer to bring the paperwork to be signed here, but since you don't like my visits, you'll be required to meet the Head of the Commission for War Affairs sometime next week. I was only trying to save you a trip to London, but it seems you like traveling. Good evening, Snape."
Prat! Severus wasn't expecting such a Slytherin move from his current Gryffindor nemesis. Maybe he had inherited something other than Lily's eyes after all: her cruelty. What Potter didn't know was that Severus wasn't only a Master in Potions, but also in subtlety, cruelty and revenge.
He looked back to the parchments under his hands – a study of poisons, his new specialty. He was expected to vouch for its validity before the Journal of Potions and Poisons would publish it. His best ideas always came when he was in a Potions lab, and a trip to the dungeons seemed in order. He stood, Summoned a relevant book from a shelf, and left his office. Severus had some planning to do.
Severus surrendered his wand to the young witch and waited for it to be returned. He didn't like this procedure. Actually, he didn't like any of the Ministry's procedures and avoided visiting the place as much as possible. He had been lucky in the last five years and wouldn't have been there today if Harry bloody Potter hadn't made such an impossible dare. Because it had been a dare, and as long as Severus lived, that brat would never have the last say on anything.
He walked to the lifts without as much as a glance around. Focus was the key for a successful visit to the Ministry. He would take the lift, find the right level, meet this War Affairs person and get out of there.
The voice announced the floor for the Department of Law Enforcement and Severus got out, following a couple of paper airplanes. There was a small reception counter, and a young witch turned to greet him. Her warm smile dissolved as soon as she recognized him.
No smiles for me, I see. It would be a sad thought if it wasn't amusing.
"I'm here to see the Head of the Commission for War Affairs."
Fidgeting… still amusing, if somewhat bordering on annoying. Severus tried to recall her name. She'd been a Hufflepuff… Summers? No, Summerby.
"Miss Summerby," she winced, "if it's not asking too much, tell me where I can find the Head of the Commission for War Affairs; you can act like an annoying first-year afterwards," he sneered.
"Third desk to the left, sir," she managed.
Severus left the way she'd pointed, intent on getting this quickly over with. Of course, this was before…
"Professor Snape! What a pleasure!"
Potter! Of course it's Potter! He growled in frustration. "You're the Head of the bloody Commission for bloody War Affairs." He glared down his nose at the bane of his continued existence.
"Surprised?" Potter smirked.
"I won't play games, Potter. Give me what is mine so I can get out of here, and leave me alone."
"There is no need to rush, Professor. Please have a seat. Would you like some tea?"
Severus looked disdainfully at the chair Potter had offered. He has got to be kidding me, he thought. "Keep the books, Potter." He turned to leave.
"No, wait! I'm sorry."
Severus stopped and looked over his shoulder to the Brat-Who-Lived, who was now on his feet by the desk. "No, you're not," Severus declared.
"What is wrong with sitting to have a cup of tea, sir? I'm just trying to be polite."
"I'm here for my possessions, Potter, not for politeness. If you don't object, I'd like to have them and be gone."
"Fine," Potter agreed, quiet for a moment. He went about searching for something in his mess until he produced a piece of parchment and offered it to him. "I won't hold it against you if you took a seat to read before signing it."
Severus took the parchment and the seat. He wasn't about to sign anything with the Ministry seal on it without a thorough reading beforehand. From the corner of his eye, he tracked Potter's movements, and when the brat cursed quietly, Severus forgot the parchment for a moment.
"Towler," Potter called the man walking past his cubicle. The man stopped to listen. "Can you ask Granger to bring me the book on your way?"
"Great, you've been borrowing my possessions. How rich," Severus muttered, but only because he was sure Potter could hear him. Then he decided to read the document first and be indignant about Potter's behavior later, when he would be able to hex him properly.
He had reached the end of the document when the cubicle was invaded by loud protest.
"Harry, you said I had until tomorrow to read the–"
"I'm afraid I'll have to cut short your assault on my possessions, Miss Granger," he said, head bowed over the document, when she failed to complete her rant. He signed the parchment and offered it to Potter. He shrank the books Potter had separated, loading them into a pocket of his black robes. He stood up to leave and only then turned to face Granger.
She looked chagrined, as she should, and held the book to him. She visibly tried to regain some of her defiance, squaring her shoulders and raising her chin. "It was in the Ministry's custody until now. I was simply doing my job."
He raised an eyebrow at that; she was a lousy liar. He looked down at the book and grabbed it.
That was when he saw it.
He held the book without claiming it, staring astonished at the hand holding its other end – more specifically at the thumb over the cover. There it was! She was wearing it! He schooled his features in time, or so he hoped, and finally took hold of the book, making her release it. Severus looked from her hand to her face, frowning. Before he could act or say anything, she nodded and left, taking his most valuable possession with her.
The only belonging he'd lost during the war that he actually cared about was the ring currently adorning Granger's hand.
"Are you feeling well, sir?"
Potter's question brought him back from his contemplations. Fate was mocking him again. With Potter and all the other Aurors there… he could do nothing about it.
"Never better," he answered. "Is that all?"
"Yes, those were the last of your possessions in our custody."
Severus strode out without another glance back before he did something he would regret, and he'd been very careful not to since the war had ended. The ring was not lost, at least not from the world, which was somehow a relief. It seemed lost for him at the moment, though. Potter had said they didn't have any of his possessions with them, but Granger had the ring. My ring! he added to himself. Severus wanted to go back there, pull it off of her hand and have it back. How dare she use it? It's not hers; it was never her right to wear it!
He was in the Atrium and hadn't even been aware of that, such was his fury. A couple of witches looked terrified at the sight of him, and he stopped – not because of their expressions of horror, but because he didn't know how his wand had slipped into his hand. He slid it back inside his sleeve and started out again. As soon as he could, he Apparated to Hogsmeade.
Severus opened his eyes to the sight of the Shrieking Shack instead of the gates to the school. He closed his eyes again with a sigh; it seemed that the hours, days he'd spent looking for his then lost ring had affected him when he'd concentrated on his destination. He could Apparate to the gates of Hogwarts then, but he decided to walk. He needed the time to cool down and decide what to do now that he'd finally found the ring.
He reached the front doors of the castle without a single usable idea on how to claim the ring as his. In fact, there was a way, but he wasn't going to humiliate himself unnecessarily. He had to make Granger surrender the ring to him of her own free will. How? He would have to figure out how.
Severus went straight to his quarters, even though he was supposed to be in his office until dinner. Considering that no student was insane enough to look for him outside class, anyway, and that the other professors could find their way through the dungeons if they needed him, Severus thought it safe to miss the stupid office hour. Safer, in fact; he needed a warded place where he could expend his frustration in peace.
Several items blasted and repaired, much pacing, and many frustrated words later, Severus was ready to admit defeat. He had come up with an idea that didn't involve much humiliation, but would cost him some time. Precious time, if anyone asked him. He needed that ring.
With a sigh, he sat by his desk and grabbed a piece of parchment, spreading it open across his blotter. He took a pointy quill and started to write. On the third try, he had a letter ready to be sent. Before his courage could abandon him, he went to the Owlery and sent the letter.
Now, all he could do was wait.
Coming next... Severus' plan is revealed on his first letter to Hermione.