The adrenaline pumped through Hermione's veins when she heard the sirens of the emergency medical crew coming down Diagon Alley. What if she had killed the woman? All in the pursuit of a man! She was ashamed at what she had become, all because of some goading by Snape and then Ginny. She rushed into Ginny's office, her face still flushed.
"I've done something horrible!" she exclaimed.
"What is it?" Ginny asked, hardly looking up from her paperwork. Hermione got worked up about the smallest things. She probably submitted a budget form with a misspelling.
"I gave a woman a severe allergy attack because she was flirting with Sna—someone."
"Your special someone?" Ginny asked, looking up, her attention now fully engaged.
"Yes," Hermione said miserably, sinking into the chair Ginny kept for guests. "He won't be my special anyone when I'm in Azkaban."
"Oh, I'm sure she'll be fine," Ginny said with a wave of her hand. "Although I would stay away from poisoning people in the future. So he was with someone else. Is it serious?"
"It was a first date." Hermione picked nervously at the pocket of her robe. How did she let this go this far? Getting Ron interested in her hadn't been this hard. In fact, all she had to do then was kiss him and it was easy from there.
"Then you have a chance still. Next time though I would try to make him jealous. Maybe have a date of your own," Ginny suggested.
"So I should ask out a man I don't like in the hope of getting the man I do like?" Hermione asked. Normally, she grasped things fairly quickly, but this concept didn't make sense to her.
"But what about the other man, that's not very fair to him," Hermione said.
"Hermione, you just spiked a woman's lunch to stop her from flirting with this man and now you're worried about another man's feelings?" Ginny asked.
Hermione admitted that she did have a point. But no, she couldn't do that. She couldn't use a person like that. Hadn't she been harping on Snape for just the same behavior? Well okay, not the exact same. She didn't plan on taking them home, seducing them, and never owling again.
"Are you sure I couldn't just kiss him and go from there?"
Ginny looked at her in amazement. "You would do something like that?"
"It worked with Ron," Hermione said with a shrug of her shoulders.
"But what if he doesn't return the kiss?"
"Then I shrink away, run to the loo and cry my eyes out. A tub of chocolate ice cream later that night and I'm well on my way to the next guy. Am I right?" Hermione said, quoting every silly article on dating she had ever read, (which wasn't many.)
Ginny beamed. "As long as you tell me every detail later."
Hermione shook her head, wondering if every detail meant that she would have to confess that the man in question was Severus Snape.
While Hermione gossiped and plotted in the safety of Ginny Potter's office, Severus debated whether twenty minutes with a woman, one he may or may not be inclined to see again in the future, meant that he should accompany her to the hospital to make sure she didn't die from a sudden allergy attack. It was a difficult quandary, so he was relieved to discover that it was already decided for him – since he wasn't family, he couldn't go up to see Agatha until the next day.
"You're very chipper this evening," Lucius noted later that evening. "Another date tonight? I'm not keeping you from your latest conquest, am I?"
"No, no date tonight," Severus answered. He had hoped that Agatha from lunch would turn into an evening rendezvous, but with her sudden allergy attack she had been rushed to St. Mungo's, he found himself without a woman's company. It would have to be Lucius and his excellent brandy tonight.
"Then why so cheerful? I hardly recognize you without the aura of gloom. I don't think you've truly been brooding in more than a week," Lucius said. Severus scowled, which only prompted his friend to smile and raise his glass. "Ah yes, there's what I've been missing. So what is it? Has Potter managed to get himself killed yet?"
"No, it has nothing to do with Potter," Severus said. "Although it does involve one of his little friends."
"I thought Weasley died some time ago?"
"Not Weasley, well in a way, his wife, the Granger girl."
"Bushy haired mud—muggleborn?" Lucius asked. He knew how Severus felt about that term and good mood or not, he didn't want to take the chance of being hexed in his own living room.
Severus nodded. "I think she poisoned my lunch date today."
Lucius' lips quirked into an almost smile. Severus decided he looked like a cat getting ready to pounce with that expression. "Is that so? Why would she do such a thing?"
"We've been sparring lately," Severus said, and then seeing Lucius' confused look, he explained. "She usually ends up with the table next to mine at Houdini's Café. Revenge, perhaps?"
Lucius shook his head. "If that were the case then she would have poisoned your lunch and not your date's. No, I think dear Miss Granger might have more tender feelings for you than she might let on."
Severus frowned. "You think she likes me because she poisoned my date?"
"She's removing the competition. It's actually quite admirable of her when you think about it." Although potentially dangerous if Severus made her angry, she might try the same sort of stunt on him. But Lucius decided the desire to see his friend happy in love outweighed the possibility of him being poisoned. "I recommend letting yourself be seduced."
"She's half my age!"
"Most men would find that a plus and not a minus, Severus," Lucius said, raising an eyebrow.
"I taught her for Merlin's sake!"
"And didn't she used to be teacher's pet? " Lucius said with a leer. If not for his own wife, he might be tempted to pursue the girl himself.
"Now you're just being obscene," Snape said petulantly. Lucius shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject, but he couldn't help notice that Severus acted distracted for the rest of the evening.
Severus mulled over the sickening thoughts that Lucius had planted in his head. And the more and more he thought about it the less sickening it became. Why couldn't Miss Granger, or Hermione rather, make him happy? They argued like cats and dogs, but he hoped that would translate well in the bedroom, and their conversations outside of it would always be interesting. No, she would suit him just fine.
He knew he would have to commit to more than just one or two nights. She struck him as being a long term commitment. But when he was honest with himself, the idea of long term appealed to him for the first time since Lily Evans.
Developing a plan, he decided to pin a yellow rose to his lapel and show up at the café. She showed up most days, and with her suitably impressed that he remembered what her favorite flower was, he would invite her to be his date for that day. She kept going on about how he should fine someone he could be serious with, well now he had.
Except that plans very rarely go the way they are meant.
Hermione showed up at the café the next day with her own plan of a direct attack, and a little bit of a subtle attack, wearing her lowest cut shirt, putting up her hair, and wearing jewelry for the second time that week…that is until she saw the yellow rose pinned to Snape's robe. He had a date. She wondered if it was with another Giggler who she could easily get rid of or another Agatha. She had been Sorted into Gryffindor but she didn't think she had the courage to depose another rival like Agatha.
Instead, she fell back on Ginny's advice. She grabbed the man standing close enough to her, startling the poor wizard out of his newspaper as she dragged him across the restaurant to her habitual table.
"What is your name?" she hissed.
"Brad…ley," he answered in a stutter.
"Oh, it's so nice to see you again, Brian," Hermione cooed, timing her greeting with their exact arrival at the table, within Snape's full hearing.
"Oh, Professor Snape, how horrible to see you again. I'd like you to meet my lunch date, Brian."
Snape looked up from his menu, which he was only looking at more out of habit than anything else, and felt his heart drop. He had suggested that Granger spruce up her wardrobe and put herself out there, but he hadn't meant for other men. And especially not the stuffy businessman type.
"You don't look rich enough for Miss Granger," he said acidly. "Are you famous then?" Severus wondered if he should mention that he was both rich and famous…although he wasn't sure infamous counted in her book. It did contain the word famous.
"F-f-famous?" Hermione's unlikely date sputtered. He had just wanted chicken salad for lunch. He didn't know this woman other than that she was somehow connected to The Boy Who Lived. He hadn't been expecting the Snape Inquisition. Not that anyone ever did.
He definitely remembered Snape. Even if he hadn't recently been in the papers, he would never forget the terror he inspired in Bradley as a Potions student. Or the terror he inspired in him now.
"Yes, she only likes really famous men, like Quidditch players or arrogant twit with hero complexes," Snape told the other man, who now had a twitch in his left eye
"I never liked Harry!" Hermione protested. "Or are you referring to yourself?"
Severus raised an eyebrow at that. So he had been right. Although he didn't he didn't appreciate the comparison with Potter. Nevertheless, he ignored the jibe and focused on the fact that she lumped him in with Quidditch players like Weasley and Krum and thought he was a hero like Potter.
"What is it you do?" Severus asked Granger's date.
"I'm an insurance adjuster," Bradley said, hoping that the tremble he felt in his chest didn't come out in his voice. He looked around for a waiter, or the host, or the bartender, someone to help him. But no one came.
"The lowest form of life," Snape said with a sneer. He turned towards Hermione. "Are you really going to go out with this pond scum? He's not worth your time. He's not worth any hag off the street's time."
"I'm sitting right here," the hapless Bradley said. But no one one bothered to listen to him, though Hermione did summon up some fake indignation.
"How dare you say something like that to a friend of mine," Hermione said.
"I've said much worse," Severus retorted. And it was true. He could become creatively cruel when discussing Potter.
Hermione huffed. She had no idea what to do now. So she took the coward's way out nad retreated to the loo in order to regroup and retaliate. This was not going at all like she planned. Making Snape jealous had sounded like a dangerous prospect in Ginny's office when they had discussed it, and she had been right. She tried to think of what she would say while she very slowly washed her hands. She hadn't thought of anything and before she could try to slip out of the café unnoticed, or before she could even dry her hands, Snape barreled into the WC.
"You can't come in here!" Hermione exclaimed, shaking the last drops of water on her hands at him. "This is the witch's room!"
Severus ignored her, coming in and locking the door behind him. He couldn't risk them being interrupted, especially if her horrible date decided he wasn't such a coward and decided to follow them both.
"Do you think I am fooled by the outrageous display out there?" he demanded.
"Just what are you referring to?"
"Don't bother playing dumb, Miss Granger, it has never suited you," Snape said with a snarl. "Today is even worse than last week."
"I don't have any idea what you are talking about. Now if you excuse me, I have to get back to Barry," Hermione said with a sniff. She tried to move past Snape, but he stood firmly in her way, his hands crossed against his chest as he looked down his overly large nose at her. She had a sudden flashback to Hogwarts and a small chill ran down her spine, but strangely enough it was a nice feeling.
"You mean you didn't try to kill my date by purposely giving her an allergic reaction?" he asked, his voice accusing. Hermione shrank back. What if he turned her in? Suddenly the chill wasn't so exhilarating as it was composed of complete and utter fear.
"I did no such thing!" She tried to deny it, but even if Severus hadn't seen her the bright red spots that appeared on her cheeks surely gave her away now. If possible, it made her even more desirable to him. "And about Barry…"
"I thought his name was Brian," Severus said. So he had been right. The date was just a decoy to inspire jealousy in him. Well it had certainly worked.
"Whatever! You're the one who told me I should find a nice man."
"I meant me, you twit," Severus argued.
"You're not nice," Hermione retorted. "And I suppose that's why you were waiting for yet another blonde bimbo? Because you're secretly in love with me?"
"You didn't even notice my flower," he said with an accusing tone.
"Your flower?" she screeched. "The one you're wearing for your blind date? The one you wear almost every day I see you in the café? What has that got to do with anything?"
"I suppose I should have known it would be too subtle for your philistine kind of thinking. You would rather poison an innocent woman rather than try to seduce me," Severus said.
"Subtle?" Hermione asked, now thoroughly confused.
"It's a yellow rose," Severus pointed out. "I thought that was your favorite." He suddenly wondered if maybe he had miscalculated. Hadn't she said that first day that yellow roses were her favorite? But then she murmured an "oh" that sounded an awfully like an epiphany and before he could say something sarcastic about her finally figuring it out, she threw herself at him and pressed her lips to his.
She surprised Severus, but once he realized what was going on, he enthusiastically joined in, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer. Hermione sighed, both in pleasure and relief that he hadn't pushed her away.
She was delighted to discover that he was quite a good kisser. A chill tingled through her spine, leaving her knees weak and her hands grasping at his frock, as he moved his hands to cradle her neck so that he could achieve the perfect angle.
Severus felt certain that Miss Granger, or Hermione as he would be obliged to call her from now on, was right about sex being better between two people who cared about each other. Just kissing her alone was ten times better than any of the other women he had been with recently. He relished the feeling of her stray curls that tickled his fingers as he cradled her neck and the lovely sensation of her breasts pressed against his chest.
"Was that subtle enough for you?" she asked when they finally parted.
"I'm beginning to think that subtlety is overrated," he said and then kissed her again. But a thought occurred to Hermione and she pulled away. Severus stared down at her, wondering at her sudden reticence.
"I don't want to be another hash mark in your tally of conquests," she said while she stared at his top button. This was it, she thought. This is where he will leave me here to cry alone in the stall. But instead he took her by the chin and made her meet his eyes.
"I figured as much," he said, his eyes shining like dark obsidian, "besides, you promised me great sex if I found someone to cherish."
Hermione felt a shiver run through her at the mention of sex. If kissing him was this great, then she could hardly imagine what making love would be like.
"But—" Severus said. Hermione tensed up, he could feel it, and he held her even tighter. "But I don't want to be a replacement for your dead husband."
She shook her head, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth in a nervous habit. "I could never replace him. Which is why you are perfect for me. You couldn't be farther from Ron if you tried," Hermione said.
Severus scowled, but smiled when she laughed and kissed him again. This third kiss was softer, gentler, and in it both Hermione and Severus could sense the desire to make this…whatever it was between them…really work. Hermione just had one more thing to say.
"I don't want to be a replacement either," she said quietly.
"You can't replace something you never had," Severus said. He looked her squarely in the eye. "I am tired of searching. I want something real. And I want it with you."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yes," Severus said, and then realizing just how sappy he sounded, he made sure to qualify it. "On the understanding that I will say horrible things to you and argue with you and make you crazy." Unlike his last date she wouldn't forget what he had said to her. But then he also hoped she wouldn't forget other things as well, like who he was and why he was in her bed.
"As long as you let me teach you about makeup sex," Hermione said with a wicked grin.
"I look forward to it." And he did, he certainly did.
Suddenly a knock came at the door. "Hurry up in there!" a woman's voice called out. A happy giggle bubbled out of Hermione.
"We should go," she said.
"Are you in such a hurry to get back to your date?"
"Not particularly," Hermione answered, leaning up on her toes to kiss his large, crooked nose.
"Did you fall in?" the woman on the other side of the door screeched.
Severus spun around, opened the door just enough to let his head through, and hissed at the intruder.
"You shouldn't even be in there, you—"
"If you don't leave right now I will make the Cruciatus Curse look like a blessing, you nosy hag!"
"Hey, aren't you Severus Sn—"
He slammed the door shut and pulled Hermione back into his arms.
"You definitely are not nice," she said, but she wore a smile, so Severus didn't take it personally.
"I don't believe I ever said nice, in fact, I'm certain I never would." He kissed her again, reveling in the fact that though they stood in a small dingy bathroom that he felt more at home here with her than he had ever before in his life. Hermione hadn't felt this happy in more than five years. She felt loved. She felt safe and secure in Snape's arms. It was several minutes before they emerged together.
"Oh! Brock left," Hermione said as they neared her regular spot. The diminutive insurance adjuster had left and two new people sat at her table. She saw that her food had been delivered to Snape's table; it sat next to his Monte Cristo sandwich.
The tables had known. The tables always knew at Houdini's Café.
A/N: As my name suggests I suffer from great vanity, so please review. Thanks for reading!