A/N: Not mine. Written for the SS/HG winter exchange as a gift for KarasuHime. Her prompt was: Hermione has one thing she wants and that's Severus Snape. She has a plan of attack and no one will get in her way. Systematically taking down the competition. Romantic Comedy please.

Houdini's Tables

Chapter One

There is a small café tucked around a dark corner off of Diagon Alley, not ten steps from The Leaky Cauldron, which specializes in knowing its customers needs. It's the tables really. The kitchen is sometimes lacking; the meat is often overcooked and sometimes the gravy is too runny along with other inconsistencies. But they never claimed to be a four star restaurant, just a humble café that made fairly good sandwiches and excellent soups with a reputation for knowing its customers.

It was the tables that kept people coming back, even if they didn't know that's why there were there. The original owner had thought to imbue them with a particular kind of magic that would sense what the customer wanted to eat and pushed them towards that. An unintended side effect meant that they sensed more than that, and somehow over the years people came back because they realized good things happened when they were there; a wizard looking for a job sat next to a man looking for an employee. A woman looking for some male comfort found it at the table right next to hers…

All Hermione had wanted was some lunch. Ginny had mentioned this cute café in Diagon Alley that served great sandwiches. And after a morning full of charmed paper airplanes vying for her attention, (giving her several paper cuts, one on her neck of all places!) she decided an hour away from the office would do her good. So she had packed up one of the books she had been meaning to read and Apparated to just around the corner.

The restaurant appeared to be just as popular as Ginny had mentioned, with a crowd already starting to form despite that the lunch hour didn't technically start for another thirty minutes or so. Hermione was just glad to get a table, until she saw Him – Professor Severus Snape.

He looked up from his menu and saw her. A scowl immediately leapt to his lips and Hermione shuddered at the sight. It had been more years than she could count since she had last seen him, bloodied and near death in the Shrieking Shack, but he looked just as she remembered him, except for the few silver gray hairs at his temples and the wire reading glasses perched on the end of his nose as he read the menu.

"You can't sit there," he protested. Hermione looked around the crowded room. She didn't want to sit next to him either, but there was nowhere else to go. It was this or a takeaway sandwich eaten at her desk, and she wasn't doing that one more day this week.

"I saved your life, you miserable man, the least you can do is allow me to have the table next to yours without a lot of whinging," she said with narrowed eyes.

It should be noted that Snape wasn't too happy to see her either. Severus glared at her. Why did she have to bring up that minor detail? "I think the Healers at St. Mungo's had more to do with that than you, Miss Granger."

"I was in a coma for three days after sucking the poison out of your neck!"

The host looked from Hermione to Snape, unsure of what to do, finally deciding on leaving a menu on the table for Hermione and scuttling off to manage the growing lunch crowd at the door.

"And I was in a coma for two months. I win," Severus argued. He had woken up to find himself acquitted of Dumbledore's death in part to the memories he had given Potter and that Miss Insufferable Know It All had taken it upon herself to save his life. He hadn't been too happy about that, until recently, that was.

"I'm not leaving."

"Fine." With a flip of his hand, he gestured for her to sit down. "Just don't bother me."

"I just want to eat my lunch, Snape. I didn't come here to harass you," Hermione said, sitting down. She immediately ordered a drink and a grilled cheese sandwich, and pulled out a book from her sack. It was then, as she straightened up over her table with her book in hand, that she noticed the flower. Severus Snape had a flower.

"Is that a rose on your lapel? A red rose?" Hermione asked. She squinted her eyes just to be sure she wasn't imagining things. Nope, he really had a rose. "Roses are my favorite, although I prefer yellow ones." She didn't think Snape wasn't the rose type, but who was she to judge.

"Not that it's any of your business, Granger, but I'm meeting a date here for lunch. I told her I would be wearing a red rose in my buttonhole," Snape explained.

Hermione furrowed her brow in confusion. A date? "B-b-but…"

"There's no need to look so shocked," Snape said with a huff. He pulled a newspaper from his inner coat pocket and threw it over onto her table. It skidded to a stop and she could see a surly looking Snape scowling up at her underneath a headline that read "Most Eligible Bachelor."

"Apparently, I'm quite desirable – a war hero who is lately rich," he said with a smirk. His most recent Potions patent had finally brought him the attention and praise he felt he deserved. A lovely feeling of smugness overcame him as he watched Granger scan the article in front of her.


"But what, Miss Granger?" He looked at her exasperated. If either of them were still at Hogwarts, he might have deducted points. Severus considered it even now.

"You're in love with Harry's mum," she said.

"That just makes me—" he paused, taking back the newspaper, looking for the direct quote, "both deeply sensitive and loyal. When Severus Snape chooses to love, it is forever." It was utter tripe he knew, but he still hoped it would get him laid.

Hermione resisted the urge to gag. "What utter rubbish. You don't just get over someone you've loved that long."

She thought of Ron, her dear sweet Ron, gone now for more than five years. She had watched as a curse that had hit him in that final battle had slowly and painfully killed him. She thought of him every day and the time that had been stolen from them and she knew, she knew that you didn't just 'get over it' as so many people had told her, though they were always more subtle than that.

"I would be a fool to spend the rest of my life pining over a woman who has been dead for over twenty years?" He said acidly. Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but he held up his hand to cut her off. "And when she was alive was married to another man!"

"When you put it like that," Hermione huffed. She still didn't like the idea that someone should get over the love of their life just because they were dead.

"I deserve some happiness in my life," he went on.

"I never said you didn't," Hermione said. She didn't appreciate his tone.

"Good. Then you'll keep quiet and not interfere with my date." He stared her down with the same deadly look he used to use on his first year classes and Neville Longbottom. Severus was disappointed to see that it no longer worked on Miss Granger.

She held up her book for him to see. "I have a book that I'm certain is more entertaining than your blind date."

"Marvin's treatise on Transfiguration? Not exactly light lunch reading, but it does show you have some sense." Hermione rolled her eyes.

Severus considered her a moment more, noticing the dark circles under eyes and unkempt hair. She looked horrible in his opinion. A moment later, a blonde wearing pink robes interrupted them. He liked the look of her much better.

Hermione opened her book and tried hard to concentrate on the dry text, but she couldn't be blamed for overhearing a teeny, tiny bit of Severus Snape and his date's conversation. Mostly because the woman had the most irritating high pitched giggle that cut through even the din of the lunchtime crowd.

After five minutes, even Hermione was ready to rip her throat out. Snape couldn't be that amusing. She considered a Silencing Charm, but thought that might be considered interfering and she had promised. And Muffliato kept people from hearing the person casting its conversation, not the other way around.

She commended Snape's self-restraint. Mercifully, at twenty minutes, the witch announced she needed to visit the powder room. Hermione sighed in relief. Five to ten minutes of silence. She thought she could probably finish her lunch and be gone before the other woman got back.

"You'll find someone eventually," she said, turning to the Snape. She motioned the waiter to bring her check.

"What are talking about, Granger?" he said with a sneer.

"You're not honestly going to see her again, are you?" she asked with a grimace.

"Why not? She meets all the basic requirements."

She knew it was the wrong thing to do, but this statement piqued Hermione's curiosity. "And just what are the basic requirements?"

"Blonde, large breasts, and she could string together a sentence that sounded sensible." There really wasn't too much more Severus looked for in a woman these days. Lily Potter had ruined for long-term relationships, but a quick roll in the hay might be anyone.

Hermione touched her hand to her frizzy brown curls and frowned. She only fit one of the three of those requirements. Not that she cared about what Severus Snape thought about her because she certainly didn't. "Your expectations certainly are high," she said sarcastically.

"I've learned over the years that it works out better if I don't have high expectations."

That statement made Hermione cringe. Severus Snape might have had a terrible history, but the murder of an innocent, if not annoying witch, wouldn't make things better for him. "Don't expect me to testify for you at your murder trial when her high-pitched giggle finally gets the best of you."

"Is it really so hard for you to believe that someone of the female persuasion would find me attractive and amusing?" he hissed.

"I don't doubt that you are a sparkling conversationalist when you wish to be, Professor, but not even you are funny enough to warrant the amount of tittering that's been going on at your table."

"I thought you were reading?"

"I couldn't help but be distracted," Hermione retorted.

"Oh, do you know each other?" The Giggler had returned from the loo. Except now she wasn't giggling. She was irked that her war hero lunch date was flirting with the woman at the table next to theirs, a frumpy woman at that.

"She was one of my students," Severus explained with a condescending smile. Hermione sniffed at the description. They had slightly more history than that. The woman who saved my life was a much better fit.

The giggler giggled her obnoxious giggle and Hermione took great pleasure in watching Snape wince. He tried to hide it, but she noticed.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," the blonde witch cooed. "I bet Severus was a fabulous teacher."

"Hardly," she muttered under her breath.

"I was the best," Snape said. "Miss Granger here though was one of my more annoying students," he continued. And one of the brightest but he usually found that those two went hand in hand, except in the case of Potter. He had just been obnoxious.

Hermione slapped down a few galleons for her lunch. "It's Mrs. Weasley, and I should be going," she said. If he thought she was annoying, she hoped that his new association with his blind date continued a long, long time.

Three days later and Hermione found herself at the café once more. And once more she found herself at a table alarmingly close to Snape.

"It's you…again," Severus said. He looked to the host. "Isn't there another table? By the kitchen, perhaps?"

The host shook his head. Snape sighed and threw himself into the chair, grabbing the menu from the other man's hand with a scowl.

"We could agree to a schedule," Hermione suggested.

"What are you on about?" Snape said with a snarl. He had another flower in his lapel, this time a peony.

"I could take Mondays and Wednesdays and you could have Tuesdays and Thursdays. That way we could avoid being near each other." It was the perfect solution in Hermione's mind. Rather than coming back from lunch, riled up and angry after an encounter with Snape, it could be the relaxing interlude it was meant to be.

"I am not scheduling my life around yours, Granger. I have a better solution. Why don't you stop having lunch here altogether?" Then he could eat his lunch and chat with his date of the day without wondering if Hermione Know It All Granger was listening in.

"I am not going somewhere else!" Hermione said. "If you don't want to see me then you'll have to leave."

"I can't. I'm waiting on someone," Severus informed her.

"Not having lunch with your friend from the other day?" Hermione asked, trying to sound innocent. She took her seat, gave the waiter passing by her order, and took out her book.

Snape didn't look at her, but opened his menu and shrugged. "As long as I wasn't talking to her we got along fine. But I've decided to keep looking."

"When you weren't talking to her?" Hermione asked. She hadn't dated anyone since Ron had died, but what she remembered from her school days conversation had played a significant part in the dating process. She didn't think that had changed too much.

"An unvoiced Silencing Spell in the bedroom," he explained, turning to tell the waiter who had come up that he would just have water until his companion arrived, then finally, he looked over at Hermione. "She eventually got suspicious."

Severus didn't mention that that the giggling had turned to screaming when she realized what he had done. Of course, the spell meant that he didn't actually hear her shrieking tirade, but he got the idea from the vase she had thrown at his head. He had collected his clothes and Apparated out of there as quickly as possible.

"Well, I'm sure you'll find someone who will make you happy," Hermione said. Severus didn't like her patronizing tone.

"Or at the very least someone I can tolerate," he said.

"And who can tolerate you." It sounded to Severus as if she doubted the possibility. He scowled and changed the topic.

"What is that you're reading? Is that Dennison? Why are you reading that tripe?" Severus asked. He had previously thought that Hermione Granger was a sensible academic, not a reader of avant-garde cuckoo theorists who had no business writing a letter, let alone a book on Arithmancy. He told her as much. And was surprised to have her argue back.

"You're stuck in the past, Snape," she said. "Plenty of Magical researchers are using the scientific studies of their Muggle counterparts to reach their own conclusions."

"You don't call that stealing?" Severus asked, provocatively raising his left eyebrow.

"No, I call that cooperation. Something we need a little more these days."

"It can hardly be called cooperation if the Muggle scientists have no idea their work is being referenced in a Magical text. And wrongly referenced at that."

"And just how would you know that they're wrongly refere—" Hermione started, but a woman interrupted her. A very attractive woman at that.

"Sorry, but are you Severus Snape? We're supposed to be having lunch."

Engrossed in the argument, Severus glanced behind him, hardly noticing the blonde standing there. "Yes, that's me," he said. "Perhaps you can help me convince Miss Granger here that Dennison is a nincompoop and his theories are the arrogant fabrications of a poor researcher."

"Who is Dennison?" the woman asked. She thought she was here to meet a Snape, the one from the article, not a Dennison.

Hermione rolled her eyes. Snape impressed her with his ability to come up with creative and new ways to insult those that he scorned, but his interpersonal skills with his dates left more than a little to be desired.

"I think we can continue this later, Professor," she said, pointing to the woman behind her.

Severus frowned, but when he spun around to take a good look at his date, he cheered up. She had the biggest breasts he had ever seen on a woman.

Hermione applied herself to both her book and her lunch, but once again found the temptation of eavesdropping to be too much. Besides, Snape was right, even if she wouldn't admit it, Dennison was an idiot, and boring besides. Snape's date, however, was turning out to be just as idiotic.

"You know she's fake right?" Hermione asked when the woman had excused herself to use the loo.

"What are you talking about?" he asked irritably. He liked her. He felt they really had potential. And he didn't need Miss Granger messing this up like she had messed up his date with…whatever her name was.

"Don't tell me you honestly believed that story about meeting the French Minister of Magic. She didn't even pronounce his name right. And her boobs are too enormous and stiff to be real," she sniffed. She couldn't believe he hadn't noticed that.

"I think she's lovely," he said. "And you're just jealous."

"Jealous of what? Bad French and a mechanical chest?"

"Waiter!" Severus said, waving down the man as he came by the table. There was no arguing with the girl and it was best if he just got rid of her instead. "Miss Granger is ready for her check."

"It's Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said through gritted teeth. "Yes, fine, give it here," she said in answer to the waiter's questioning look. She gathered up her book into her bag and fished out the coins to pay for her meal. "You're a horribly shallow person, you know that, Snape? I would have thought of all people you would appreciate truth and honor in a relationship."

"Whatever gave you that absurd idea? Because I am filled with honor and truth?"

"Because you spent so many years pretending to be something you weren't," Hermione hissed. "And now you might want someone who wants you for who you are, not because of some ridiculous article written by Rita Skeeter."

"Or maybe I understand why a person would lie and pretend and am perfectly comfortable with those reasons since I spent, as you put it, so many years pretending," he retorted.

Severus had the great pleasure then to watch as Miss Granger huffed and sputtered trying to put together a suitable response, and when she couldn't she simply slapped down a few coins to cover her bill and stormed out.

He smiled as he watched her go and continued to smile, especially when his date informed him that she worked as a lingerie model.

"So how is Miss Plastic doing?" Hermione asked a few days later, taking up her menu. She didn't know why she bothered; she always ordered the same thing – grilled cheese and a side salad every day. And everyday she sat at the table next to Snape's. She didn't know if she came for the excellent food or because deep down inside she harbored a voyeur who liked the daily peek she got into Severus Snape's love life.

"Miss Who?" he asked, putting down his menu. He also ordered the same thing every day – the Monte Cristo sandwich and chips.

"You know," Hermione said and motioned to her breasts. Severus looked at her chest, not too bad really, nothing compared to his last blind date, but substantial nonetheless. He looked up to find her blushing, and realized that the sudden rush of blood to her cheeks made her look pretty. Not beautiful, certainly, but attractive to someone who liked bookish nosy prudes.

"Ah, April. She was a bit of a disappointment. It turns out she wasn't really a lingerie model after all."

"And you resented her lying to you?" Hermione asked. His response to her accusation of being shallow the last time they met had left her angry and confused for days. She kept going over their conversation together for hours. But maybe he had seen that she was right all along.

"Oh, no I could have forgiven her that, but if you're going to lie and say you're a lingerie model then you should have a model's confidence."

"A model's body isn't enough?" Hermione asked.

"Heaven's no, especially when she insists on having all the lights out and still worried about me seeing her butt. I had rather thought that was the point of the evening." He really had been put out about it.

"Yes, truly a disappointment for you," Hermione said wryly. "So I guess the woman of your dreams really does need more than blonde hair, big breasts, and the ability to string several words into a sentence."

Severus shot daggers at her with his eyes. "I'm not looking for the woman of my dreams," he snapped. The woman in his dreams had died a very long time ago and had been married to his worst enemy. No, he didn't want the woman of his dreams, just a quick roll in the hay, or rather a good roll in the hay. He had quick recently and it wasn't quite what he was looking for.

"And what about you?" he asked, trying to change the subject before she latched on his choice of words and decided to get weepy and pitiful on him in regards to Lily Evans. "What are you looking for?"

"I'm not looking," Hermione said, surprised Snape would even ask her such a question. "I'm marr—"

"You're not married. You're a widow," he said, interrupting her. "I'm sure someone out there would find you attractive."

Rage bubbled up in Hermione at Snape's comment. Someone might find her attractive? "Just what is that supposed to mean?" she asked; a little too loudly apparently because the two wizards at the table beside Snape's turned their heads and stared. She repeated the question in an angry hiss.

"I mean that right now you look like you're still in mourning, but with a little work you might attract a man. Maybe do something with your hair, wear a little eye makeup, and some jewelry wouldn't be amiss, minus the wedding ring of course."

"You're not much to look at either," she snapped. Between the ghostly pallor of his skin, his beaky nose, and the yellow teeth, there was very little there to attract a woman. Although she supposed his voice was nice when he wasn't using it to make an acidic remark and he was very smart. She supposed that was something.

"Insulting my looks won't improve yours," Severus said, sticking his overly large nose in the air and smirking. He enjoyed watching her get more and more riled up. Her eyes sparkled with anger and her color rose to the point that he thought steam might come out of her ears next.

But to be perfectly clear, Severus did not find her attractive. She had been his student and he remembered much too well the way she had irritated him with her constant need to be right. Her raised right hand haunted his dreams to this day. Although, he would admit that she had grown slightly less annoying…but only slightly. However, that didn't mean that there wasn't someone nice out there she could use to get over Ron Weasley.

"My list, just to be clear, is slightly longer than yours," Hermione said. "I don't need a blond pretty boy to make me happy. Instead, I require something more substantial."

Severus raised his eyebrow at that. "Such as what? If I recall correctly you're attracted to fame and fortune."

"I am attracted by intelligence."

"Wasn't Weasley a Quidditch player?" He might have been intelligent going in, doubtful in Severus' mind, but the number of blows to his head by bludgers would have diminished whatever capacity for intelligent conversation he had greatly.

"And an excellent strategist. Besides that, he was kind and funny and he—he loved me for me." Tears gathered in her eyes, and she quickly swiped at them. She never cried in public and this was not the time to start.

Snape felt slightly guilty at making her cry. Added to the fear that she would erupt into a full-fledged scene, he backed off in order to maintain some order. He didn't handle weepy women very well. "Yes, well, there is that."

He wanted to add that he wouldn't really know since the one woman he had loved had never bothered to return the favor, but he held back.

"There is," she said, softer now. "It's a rare thing, I think. You'll find it though." She leaned it across the small gap that separated their tables, feeling inexplicably calmer. It must have been the thoughts of Ron. "And when you do the sex will be great," she added in a conspiratorial tone. "Much better than any lingerie model."

The collar on Severus' shirt suddenly felt tight and he felt his cheeks redden with the sudden intimate nature the conversation had taken on. One minute he was goading her about her looks and the next she was telling him she was sure he would find someone to love and cherish. He wasn't sure of that himself, but he would like to believe her and she seemed so earnest, but it would never happen. He tried to take the conversation back to its sarcastic beginnings. "Is that so?" he asked with a scowl.

Hermione nodded. Snape looked uncomfortable at her sudden change in conversation, which was a nice change of pace, but deciding to have mercy on him she changed the subject. "Where is your date for today?" she asked, leaning back and taking a bite of her grilled cheese. He wore a bright red carnation in his lapel button today.

"She must have forgotten it was today," Severus said.

"That's not very nice." Despite his demeaning attitudes towards his dates, Hermione still felt bad for him. It was never nice to be stood up.

Severus shook his head. "Not really. She was hit with a botched memory charm a few years ago and has problems remembering things. She might show up tomorrow or later today."

"That's horrible!"

"Not at all," Severus said with a smirk. "I figured a bad memory would be a good thing for any woman in a relationship with me." He could say and do what he wanted for a change and not have to worry about her getting angry. Or if she did, she would forget by the next day. It was perfect.

"That's a horrible thing to say," she said in shock. Hermione was starting to get the idea that Snape did not think that highly of himself. She didn't know why, he wasn't a bad catch at all. He had made some money with his potions research lately and he was a good conversationalist, funny and smart, among all the other reasons Rita Skeeter had listed in the Daily Prophet.

"I know my limitations and work with them, Miss Granger. Eventually I will make some cutting remark that she will be unable to defend without resorting to tears, I will have to use all of my willpower not to curse her and stay out of Azkaban, and that will be the end of it."

"Everyone is going to say something unkind in a relationship, but what about kissing and making up?" Hermione asked.

Severus looked at her strangely. "I'm unfamiliar with the concept."

Hermione rolled her eyes and went back to her sandwich. But later that night, she did wonder how Snape's date had gone. Would he find true love with a woman who could hardly remember his name? Or would it be just another mark in his growing list of conquests? And, she thought, as she drifted off to an uneasy sleep, why did she care so much?

Hermione couldn't, or wouldn't rather, put into words why she decided Monday morning to wear her hair up in a clip, if asked she would say it was to keep her unruly hair from falling in her face, or why the urge suddenly struck her to wear the crystal earrings Ron had given her one year as a gift for her birthday. She chose the colorful jumper she wore simply because it was the only thing clean.

It most definitely was not because of what Severus Snape had said to her about her appearance.

Ginny noticed that Hermione had put more than five minutes effort into her morning toilette and commented, "So who is he?"

"Who is who?" Hermione asked, trying to play dumb, but acting the airhead generally didn't work for her since it was quite obvious she wasn't one.

Ginny refused to repeat the question and instead raised her eyebrow.

"What makes you think it's a man?" Hermione sputtered.

"You're wearing mascara. You never wear mascara, not even when you interviewed for the Head of the department."

"Of course I didn't! I would hope they hired me based on my skills and past experience, not because I happened to get up early that morning and obsessed over my eye makeup," Hermione said.

"Of course not," Ginny answered, making sure to use a pacifying tone. She didn't want to hear another one of Hermione's rants on judging people on their abilities rather than their looks and the plight of the modern woman in the Wizarding World. It wasn't that she disagreed; just that she wasn't in the mood this morning. She would rather talk about men. "You forgot the wedding ring though."

Hermione, used to people changing the subject of the conversation on her, looked down at her hand to see the golden band Ron had given her at their wedding there on her third finger. "No, I didn't," she said, holding up her hand.

"I meant that you forgot to take it off," Ginny said.

Hermione frowned. "Take it off? But that would dishonor Ron's memory. We were very happy together and I—I—"

Ginny saw the tears brimming in Hermione's eyes and interrupted before they could start a cascade. "It's not that I didn't love my brother, because I did. And it's not that I didn't think the two of you were great together, it's just that…well…he's gone and you deserve to be happy. Don't you want to be happy?"

"Yes," Hermione whispered.

"Then give me that ring," Ginny said. Hermione reluctantly wiggled the thing off and deposited it into her sister-in-law's waiting hand. "And go get your man."

"He's not my man," Hermione protested.

"Not yet, but he will be," Ginny said with a twinkle in her eye. "You do want him don't you?"

Hermione nodded and tentatively said, "I do like him quite a bit." Of all the things in the world, she was attracted to Severus Snape. It didn't make the least bit of sense, and to a girl like Hermione that was no small matter, but Ginny was right, she had grieved long enough and now she needed to take some action on getting her life back on track.

"Quite a bit? Like him?" Ginny said, raising a questioning eyebrow. "You're not going to catch him with lily livered sentiments like those. Now tell me again, do you want him or not? Tell me how he makes you feel when you're around him."

"He makes me crazy," Hermione said. Despite his acid tongue, Hermione really did enjoy their lively conversations, which already in two weeks had spanned topics of academics to men, women, and the dangers of love.

Ginny smirked. "Good enough for now." And then she took out her wand and Transfigured one of her quills into a sparkling gold chain. Slipping Hermione's ring on it, she handed it back to her friend.

"Now you can keep it close to your heart and out of other men's view," she said with a smile and then sauntered off down the hall.

Hermione took it and put it on, watching Ginny go and wondered if her friend had any idea at all that she was encouraging Hermione to flirt with Severus Snape. He might be a hero, but he was still a horrible, horrible person.

"How did your date go? Or do you remember?" Hermione asked as she slid into her habitual seat at the café. She wondered why the host always put her here. Today there was a spare table on the other side of the room by the window, but she didn't mention it and since Snape had stopped complaining several days ago, she let it go. Besides she was very interested to know how his date went.

"I'm not the one with the memory problem," he said, turning to glare at her. Except Hermione realized it wasn't really a glare. His eyes were narrowed, but not enough so that she didn't catch the glint of something, (was that pleasure perhaps?) in them.

Severus tried sneering at Miss Granger, but halfway through realized that she wore her hair up today, so that he could see the graceful curve of her neck. And small crystals dangled and sparkled from her ears. He realized with astonishment that she had actually taken his advice. And suddenly he wasn't sure she should be dating other men. But she interrupted his thoughts before he could take them much further.

"Did she remember to show up?"

"Actually, no," he answered. "But I was to meet her at her house if she didn't come to the restaurant."

"I see," Hermione said, a little disappointed. She had hoped the date hadn't taken place at all. Her frustration showed itself in her next questions. "And was her forgetfulness as useful as you had hoped? Were you able to say as many nasty things as you wanted with no regard for the consequences?"

Severus shook his head. No, it had been much worse than that. "If you must know, you nosy busybody, she forgot what we were doing halfway through us doing it."

"Well it serves you right," Hermione said.

"How so?"

"You treated her with such little respect, it's no wonder that it came out the way it did. Tell me, professor, just how many meaningful encounters have you had since you started this endeavor?"

"Whoever said I was looking for meaningful, Granger?"

"Enjoyable then?" Hermione retorted.

Severus straightened his back and prepared his answer. There had been plenty by his count. There was the giggler, but no…that had ended with him scurrying around for his clothes and leaving while she railed silently at him. And the lingerie model had turned out not to be a lingerie model but a shrinking violet. Although there was the accountant before her…but he felt as though she was keeping a balance sheet in her head the entire time, a touch for a touch. Luckily, fate intervened and he didn't have to answer.

"Are you—?" An older woman asked, coming up to the table. She looked to be older than Snape, but though there were streaks of gray in her hair, it was arranged stylishly and the cut and cloth of her robes indicated she had money. Hermione had felt pretty that morning, but next to this woman she just felt inadequate.

"Yes, yes, he is the great bloody Severus Snape, but just because he pined for one woman for twenty years after her death, it doesn't mean he'll treat you with any respect," Hermione snapped.

Snape held out his hand, smooth as ever. Miss Granger may be right, but he couldn't let her further disrupt his date. Although, Lucius had failed to mention that this woman he had set Severus up with was older than he was. He had specifically mentioned younger and blonder than this witch. "It's a pleasure to meet you…" he said, ending with a questioning tone.

"Agatha," she said, filling in his blank. She looked from him to Hermione, who had pushed her nose into her book and was ignoring them both as best she could. "Is this your daughter?"

"No, no, she's—"

"It's okay. I have a grown son of my own."

That confirmed Severus' suspicions that she was much too old to be here with him.

"Is that so?" he asked. "As a rule I don't usually date women with children."

"That's pretty hypocritical of you. I suppose you also expected me to be younger and blonder as well?"

Hermione, overhearing, couldn't contain her snort. Severus looked over at her and scowled and then turned back to Agatha.

"Lucius didn't mention anything about blondes, but he did recommend you highly."

"That's because Lucius understands that with age comes other…shall we say advantages."

Severus felt her foot on his calf under the table and he reined in the urge to kick her. He firmly believed that physical affection should be confined to the privacy of the bedroom. Glancing over at Miss Granger, he saw her face turning red as she listened to their exchange, so he allowed it to continue. The thought of irritating her made it all the more acceptable to him.

"Such as?" he asked.

"Confidence," Agatha said, "experience, the courage to experiment." Her leg moved up and down his leg with each word and despite himself he found that his shirt collar had begun to feel tight, among other things.

"So what do you do?" Severus asked, trying to change the subject. But Agatha misunderstood him, or understood him but refused to let him off so easy. Later that night when he went over the afternoon's events in his head, he had a hard time deciding.

"Anything you'd like," she said. Hermione coughed at the next table.

"I meant your occupation," Severus said.

"Oh, yes, well I'm not so crass as to have a nine to five job, but I do like to dabble in researching new Potions," she said.

"Potions? Really? What kind of potions do you focus on?" He listed a long list of academic names of the variety of potions and was impressed with her knowledge of each. Perhaps Lucius hadn't been too far off the mark, he thought, as they continued their lively discussion. And now that he looked at her, she was very beautiful, more elegant and refined than any of the other women he had been with recently. It made him wonder why she was here with him.

Hermione wondered the same thing at the table beside them, except she focused more on how she could get her to leave. She had meant to do what she normally did, which was to point out the incompatibility of Snape's date to him, but this woman was everything she had been hounding him to find—she was intelligent, interesting, and even if she was a little forward, she was obviously very sophisticated.

It wasn't fair that Snape would find someone who might last longer than one night the very same day that Hermione decided exactly what she wanted. And what she wanted was him.

This called for desperate measures.

When they placed their order—Snape getting the Monte Cristo like always—Hermione found her opening.

"And please no nuts," Agatha told the waiter in regards to her summer salad. "I'm allergic."

This was to be her chance. Hermione packed up her things and took out some coins to pay for her lunch.

"It was nice to meet you, Agatha," Hermione said with a saccharine smile as she stood up to leave. She never had been good at lying. Agatha did not return with "likewise" but sat coolly looking at the wall behind Hermione's head. "Goodbye, Professor. Perhaps we can finish our discussion tomorrow," she continued.

"I'd rather not," he said with a sneer. "But I'm sure you'll insist."

"I'm sure I will," she said, her smile softening into a real one this time. Snape narrowed his eyes. It almost looked as if he knew she were up to something.

Instead of leaving the money on the table as she normally did, Hermione took her check up to the counter. She pretended not to have small change and the extra time it took for the barman to locate enough tender to break her larger bill, she had already spotted Agatha's salad. She looked around. The café was so busy no one would notice her small quick movements. Hermione glanced back at Snape. Did she really want his attention so badly?

He met her gaze, and raised a questioning eyebrow. She blushed and turned around quickly, her heart beating like a tribal drum. Even if it was just a fling, he was the first person to really make her feel alive since she had gone into mourning five years ago. She could do this. She would do this.

She reached out and snatched a bottle of peanut oil. A few drops later and the deed was done.

Severus watched Miss Granger from the corner of his eye, not sure if he believed what he just saw. If so, then she was becoming more and more interesting by the minute.

A/N: As my name suggests I suffer from great vanity so please review.