Disclaimer: Insert appropriate text here.
Huge thanks to Beta-of Dreams, Melusin, and a respectful nod towards Shiv5468 for introducing us and pointing many of you in this direction. Melusin worked incredibly quickly on all these chapters and banged her drum in my honour. Keladry Lupin and Britt1975 have also been very supportive. It has been a delightful introduction to the weird and wonderful world of HG/SS.
Chapter 10: Corporate Hospitality
After an initial whinging fit (brought about entirely by a pathological hatred of the limelight – unless he was clearly the most talented person present), Harry threw himself into Quidditch practice. He enlisted Draco's aid, and the pair spent several days zipping around the garden and rooftop of the House like a pair of complete lunatics. The hours of training were brought to an abrupt halt when a pell-mell pursuit of Draco's professional-speed (and mercifully unsullied) Snitch, resulted in the demolition of Neville's runner beans and two irreparably shattered panes of greenhouse glass. Hermione watched through the kitchen window as Neville performed a spirited impression of Vernon Dursley in a state of apoplexy.
After Harry had apologised for the eighth time, Hermione administered a Calming Draught, Draco took Neville to Harrods and Selfridges for the rest of the day and Severus mysteriously managed to get hold of Licky and some new glass. Sadly, the runner beans had literally bitten the dust, and Winky disgusted Hermione by artfully draping herself in a tea-towel out of the kitchen drawer and chatting up Licky like an absolute pro.
Plans for what everybody began to refer to as, "Q-day" were successfully put in place, and Hermione pulled an exhausting double shift in order to prep most of the ingredients for the company's Wolfsbane. She was sat in the kitchen, eating lasagne at stupid-o'clock, when Remus arrived at the House sans Tonks.
'Evening, Hermione. Working late? Or has Severus been tiring you out in other ways?'
Hermione shovelled a mouthful of pasta and sauce into her mouth, chewed and glowered.
'Wolfsbane, for two hundred. My fingers are blistered to fuck!'
'Why do you think Severus palmed the job off on you? At least if everything goes well, you'll have Wayne to help.'
Hermione pulled a face.
'I hope we can pull this off. I feel like everybody is relying on me,' she mumbled.
'I think it'll be fine. If we can handle Voldemort, we can handle a pissed-up geriatric and a misogynistic wanker. Come with me, and I'll show you something that might cheer you up before bedtime.'
Hermione's curiosity was (obviously) piqued. She hastily finished her dinner and followed Remus out of the kitchen, down the corridor and into the room opposite Draco's office. Remus entered first, silently lighting candles as he went.
'Have you been in here before?' he asked quietly.
'It's Severus' study. He used to sit in here all the time until things got so busy. Probably hasn't had any time at all, lately,' said Remus, giving Hermione an understanding smile and an entirely too understanding wink.
Mentally cursing the eager lewdness of men's minds, Hermione began to observe her surroundings. The dark, oak-panelled walls were obviously very old – probably remnants of the original decoration of the House. The indefinable but very scrummy scent of Snape hung in the air. Hermione took note of a battered leather chair behind an impressively untidy desk. On the desk was a single silver-framed photo.
'Have a look. You'll be surprised,' said Remus.
Hermione picked up the photo and let out a startled, 'Oh!' followed immediately by a gurgle of laughter. In the photo, a younger and thinner Snape was flanked by two identical teenaged boys. They all had mischievous expressions, and they all simultaneously stuffed what looked like custard creams into their mouths. With a puff of feathers, all three transformed into giant canaries. The cycle began again.
Hermione glanced up at Remus quizzically. 'How the hell did they persuade him to do that?'
'Oh, there was no persuading about it. Fred and George were Snape's favourite students by miles. Their Potions skills were fantastic compared to the rest of the students' – even yours, I'm afraid – because they spent ages experimenting with stuff. He turned a blind eye to a lot of their antics, as long as he got the chance to check out what they'd invented before they sold it to anyone.'
'So why were their OWLs so bad?'
'The staff at Hogwarts reckoned that Molly took her eye off the ball, having so many young children to cope with. She left them to themselves too much. Their practical work was great; their written assignments were okay, but their exam papers were terrible. Couldn't cope with being split up, you see.'
'Bloody hell! That's awful.'
'Well, it would have been, if they'd given a shit. But they didn't. Good job, too, as it turns out. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes keeps Bill, Fleur and the kids going nicely, and Arthur's got a healthy pension fund, now. He wouldn't have, if it was up to the Ministry.'
'Who took this?'
'Lee Jordan. On Severus' camera, so he had the negative. He threatened them with a dose of untraceable poison if they told anyone else and asked them to remember him when they were millionaires.'
Hermione snorted. It rather smacked of Slughorn. 'Did they tell anyone?'
'Ginny. She got Severus to show Harry the photo, eventually.'
Snape was on-call, so after Hermione had gone upstairs for a sleepy goodnight kiss (or four), Remus walked her back to the Cottage. She joked that she now knew what to get Severus for Christmas – hastily adding the proviso of still being "together" at Christmas. Remus fixed Hermione with his most penetrating gaze (which wasn't a patch on Snape's).
'You do realise that Severus is behaving in a manner that none of us have ever witnessed, don't you?'
Hermione shook her head.
'Well, he is. He is smiling at least once a day; he hasn't kicked Neville out all summer, and he has completely lost the ability to keep his eyes off you. It's actually a little bit frightening.
"Q-day" was fine and sunny. After hearty breakfasts, Harry, Ginny and Draco flew south to Tutshill while Hermione was left holding the baby. Severus was seriously twitchy about leaving the laboratories unattended for nearly a whole day and went through the emergency call procedure three times with Winky. He also threatened to tell Licky that she was a slapper, if she didn't behave.
At twelve-thirty in the afternoon, Neville sauntered down the stairs and into the library where Remus, Snape, Hermione and baby Gideon were waiting. Neville set his jaw and donned his dark glasses. Hermione's eyes nearly popped out of her head. He looked like a professional bodyguard. His shoulder muscles bulged through his jacket, and with his permanently apologetic expression masked by his sunnies, he looked anything but friendly. Snape's eyebrow performed some Olympic-level gymnastics before he lit the fire with his wand and chucked in some Floo powder.
'Dragon's Breath!' intoned Snape, and stepped into the flames.
When they'd all arrived at the wizarding pub next to the Tornado's Quidditch pitch, Remus went slightly ahead to check for unwanted distractions. Inevitably, he found Ron and Bill, and without too much trouble managed to shepherd them into a nearby shop in which Chudley Cannons merchandise was on sale. The others hurried past the danger and climbed a huge stone staircase at the home supporters' end of the ground. On the way into the corporate hospitality area, they passed an unusually inconspicuous, black-haired, black-robed Tonks, who winked at Hermione. Once they got past security (who eyed Neville cautiously and were terribly polite), they were safe.
Ginny and Draco were waiting for them in the Member's Bar. A few people were clearly avoiding Draco whilst speculating wildly as to the presence of Ginny Potter. Others were making their way over to say, 'hello,' and ask him what he was doing directly. Draco was devastatingly polite and utterly dismissive. Hermione could sense his exasperation with the sycophantic-but-posh types, in their club hats and traditional robes. She wondered if it was worth tracking down Rita Skeeter and getting another interview published in the Quibbler, or maybe a photo-shoot in Witch Weekly in order to clean up Draco's image. Ginny noticed her evangelical expression and hurriedly began to chivvy everybody in the direction of their private box. Hermione handed a nonsense-gabbling Gideon over and muttered nice things like, "ate a lot" and, "changed him before we left". Severus looked almost avuncular.
In the box, they found Remus being kind and charming to a delighted Padma Patil and a very nervous Wayne Hopkins, who was startled to see Hermione. She smiled sympathetically and gestured to Draco for drinks. Wayne sniffed his Firewhisky suspiciously, then appreciatively, and gulped some.
'What are you doing here, Hermione? Are these chaps recruiting you as well?'
'No, they aren't recruiting me. I have a few things to say to Carmine Scrimgeour, though.'
'He's coming here? Bloody hell! The apprentice will be on his own. He's given his notice – he's going back to Bulgaria to finish his training there. He won't be concentrating. I've got to go!'
Wayne shot towards the exit and collided with the solid wall of Neville's chest. Draco gave Neville a lascivious smile and stooped to help Wayne up off the floor.
'Now listen, Mr Hopkins. This is precisely the sort of inappropriate situation we wish to avoid in the future. Just having you here makes the point convincingly. Stay until we've made it, then you can go back to work.'
Through a large, plate-glass windows, Hermione could see the crowded stands begin to seethe with activity. Fourteen brightly robed players emerged from the changing rooms below their box. The announcer could be heard introducing each of them, and Ginny scowled when Harry's cheer was quieter than Kirley Duke's. As the players circled the ground and hovered occasionally to sign autographs, a short, corpulent man with rheumy brown eyes, a shock of wavy white hair and a red-veined nose entered the room. He was followed closely by Tonks.
'Good afternoon, everybody. This is Mr Scrimgeour.'
Gideon gurgled happily from a conjured play-pen by the window. Wayne tried to hide behind Neville. Draco conjured a hefty tumbler of Firewhisky and stepped forwards.
'Good afternoon, Mr Scrimgeour. May I call you Carmine? We're delighted you could make it today – do have a drink.'
Scrimgeour took his glass and surveyed the room edgily. Something didn't feel right. He spotted Wayne, and then Snape and swallowed convulsively.
Ginny tore her gaze away from the scene outside. She tossed her hair and smiled warmly. Scrimgeour perked up noticeably.
'Hello, Mr Scrimgeour!'
'Carmine, please. I don't stand on ceremony, you know.'
'Well, Carmine. I understand that a mutual acquaintance of yours and my friend Hermione here is in the box next door. As the match is just starting, why don't you go and fetch Herbert Snodley, and we can watch together?'
Hermione smoothed her green dress, flicked her hair in a passable impression of Ginny and smiled sweetly. Scrimgeour's eyes gleamed. Quidditch, whisky and pretty young girls. Perhaps things were quite right after all.
Ginny took Scrimgeour's arm and daintily led him out of the box. The rest of the Phoenix Feathers heaved nervous sighs and gulped their drinks. Padma, gauging correctly that there were things going on of which she was unaware, conjured a teddy bear and went over to introduce herself to Gideon. In the background, the Quidditch match began, and to incredulous murmurs from the crowd, the Chudley Cannons scored a goal in seconds. Neville stifled a cheer and then folded his arms and put on his best nightclub bouncer, "if your name's not down, you're not coming in," expression.
At the same moment, Ginny, Scrimgeour and the sexist-boss-from-hell arrived. The latter carefully avoided Neville's bulk, then performed an exemplary double-take when he saw Hermione. Strangely enough, his gaze became more appreciative as he took in the fact that she was no longer clad in lime-green scrubs.
Uttering the words, 'Just one drink, then. I can't stay long, you know!' Snodley allowed Ginny to draw him close to the window. He accepted a tumbler to match Scrimgeour's from Draco, with nary a glance away from Hermione's tits. Snape's eyes narrowed, menacingly.
As the group watched Harry failing to dodge Kirley Duke's sweetly struck Bludgers, Tonks surreptitiously cast a series of incantations on the door of the box. Hermione began to speak without taking her eyes away from the action beyond the window.
'It's lovely to see you again, Healer Snodley. How are things at the hospital?'
Snodley sipped his drink and leered nauseatingly.
'Oh, same as always. You don't have to be mad to work there, but it helps. We rather miss you, and your… attributes.'
'That's funny. I would have phrased it slightly differently. I might suggest that you don't have to be mad to be treated there, but it helps.
Snodley's attention was no longer focussed on Hermione's attributes.
'Whatever can you mean, Healer Granger?'
'Well, I have it on good authority – nine eye-witness accounts, in fact – that rather a lot of easily avoidable mistakes have been made in the last few months. The strange thing is that all of the mistakes are to do with the potions prescribed, rather than the spells.'
'That's a very serious accusation, Healer Granger. Quite a slur on the hospital's reputation.'
'Oh no, Healer Snodley. It occurred to me that if the hospital was directly responsible for negligence, then it would be highly unlikely that a decline in standards would be restricted to such a specific aspect of patient care.'
As the volume of chatter in the box died, the crowd outside roared with approval. A Tornados Chaser left the Cannons' Keeper for dead and scored effortlessly. Harry was violently barged by his celebrating opposite number and wobbled precariously for a moment before setting off again on his usual circuit of the pitch.
A moment later, Carmine Scrimgeour started violently as the tall, dark figure of a dress-robed Snape appeared silently at his shoulder. Severus' voice effortlessly carried over the babble of fifteen hundred enthusiastic Quidditch fans as the Tornados scored again.
'If I were to discover a consistent problem with one particular aspect of medical treatment at St Mungo's, I would suspect that there might be an issue with the supplier of such treatments. In the case of counter-charms, for example, I would investigate those who cast them. In the case of medical potions, I would discuss the subject with those who manufacture them.'
Wayne flinched. Padma took his hand and squeezed it gently.
Snodley was a singularly unprepossessing example of humanity. His carefully placed comb-over did nothing to hide the flakiness of his scalp, along what remained of his hairline. His pinched expression was not enhanced by the presence of a thin moustache. His beady little eyes betrayed no warmth as he turned to face Carmine Scrimgeour. Draco silently refilled Scrimgeour's tumbler. The old man didn't notice. He instinctively downed the entire contents of the glass and held out his hand for another refill.
'Well, Carmine,' said Snodley, 'is there any reason why I should contact the supplier of the potions my Healers use?'
Scrimgeour's face reddened. His previously rosy nose purpled.
'Of course not, Herbert! I've been overseeing the production of potions for St Mungo's for forty bloody years! A qualified member of staff checks each brew before delivery. Absolutely nothing wrong with 'em.'
'I wonder if an independent review of St Mungo's patient files would verify that statement?' murmured Snape, seemingly to no-one in particular.
Herbert Snodley paled slightly. He frantically wracked his brain to try and identify what he'd ever done to piss off Severus Snape.
Remus eyed his glass, apparently lost in thought. 'So, Carmine, you seem to be implying that you have an appropriately qualified member of staff on duty at all times,' he said.
Scrimgeour scowled. 'What would a half-breed pauper know about the appropriate procedures at a potions company?'
Tonks nonchalantly pulled her wand from her sleeve and let its aim drift slowly from the floor to Scrimgeour's midriff and back again. 'In order to gain its status as a licensed manufacturer of medicinal products, Phoenix Feathers Ltd. was required to submit a full risk assessment to the Magical Equipment Control section of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Mr Lupin, Mr Snape and Mr Malfoy co-authored said document, which received official Ministry approval, just over three years ago.'
Hermione watched in a detached manner as the two Cannons Beaters managed a spectacular mid-air collision, a Cannons Chaser got clobbered round the head by a stray Bludger and the Tornados scored again. Beside her, Herbert Snodley was quietly contemplating how to make himself look as good as possible in what was rapidly becoming a ruinous situation. He'd just discovered the potentially lethal power behind the mysterious Phoenix Feathers Ltd. And an Auror was present. If he wasn't careful, he was fucked. If he was really unlucky, he was dead.
'If you don't mind me asking, who have you got working today, Mr Scrimgeour?' enquired Snape.
Scrimgeour muttered into his tumbler. The words, 'bloody', 'impertinence', 'respected' and, 'lanky shit' were clearly audible.
Wayne Hopkins cleared his throat nervously. 'A-a-as it was officially my day off, I'm afraid I didn't check to see whether Mr Scrimgeour was supervising the lab today. There is an apprentice with one year's training on duty. I'm not sure if he knows where we are, but I hope he would try to contact us in the case of an emergency.'
'Do you mean to say that a fucking, quarter-trained apprentice is the only person available at short notice to brew potions for the hospital?'
Scrimgeour gulped the dregs of his Firewhisky. His shaking hand caused the glass to rattle against his teeth. Hermione felt a twinge of pity for the old man. She raised her eyebrows imploringly at Ginny, who promptly went and fetched Gideon, retrieving a glossy brochure from beneath his play-pen at the same time. As she handed the booklet to Snodley, the baby leaned over her shoulder, smeared sticky hand-prints over any bit of window he could reach and chanted, 'Da-da-da-da!'
Snodley managed to plaster an apologetic grimace onto his face. 'I apologise for my language in front of the little one, Mrs Potter.'
'That's all right, Herbert. Why don't you have a little look at our company brochure while we have a chat with Carmine?'
She gestured at Snape. With a flick of his wand, he conjured a reasonable approximation of an armchair. Remus did the same. His chair was smarter.
Draco smirked, settled Scrimgeour into Snape's effort and sat opposite. He pulled a folded piece of parchment out of the inside pocket of his linen jacket and began to talk in a low tone about retirement and the joys of exploring the vineyards of the Loire Valley. After a moment, Ginny went to listen.
Snape walked over to Wayne and shook his hand, quietly saying, 'I think you've done all you can. If you'd like to check up on your laboratory, one of us will see Miss Patil safely home. We'll be in touch tomorrow.'
Wayne smiled gratefully, remembered who he was smiling at and scuttled away to take his leave of Padma.
Snape walked back to the window and stood behind Hermione, who was watching Snodley flick through the Phoenix Feathers' blurb. Hermione shifted backwards a little bit and put one hand behind her back. She felt Severus take it, immediately. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles, and Hermione's heart soared as her internal Sesame Street Count chuckled happily, displaying his pointy teeth. She glanced at Remus and Tonks, who were standing near the door, smiling at each other idiotically. She shifted her gaze again to Neville, who was watching the Quidditch avidly.
'I assume you'd like me to set up a meeting with the appropriate people,' sighed Snodley, eying Severus with cautious resignation.
'I think that would be for the best, don't you?' replied Snape. 'If you'd like to have a word with Mrs Potter, she'll sort out the details for you. We do, however, have a few stipulations regarding confidentiality. If you can see your way to assisting in the process, I'm sure we can make it worth your while. Otherwise, we might have to handle things… differently.'
Snape's eyes left Snodley's and focussed on something over the shorter man's left shoulder.
Snodley raised his eyebrows and turned to see what Snape was looking at. Neville practically had his nose touching the window. He was mumbling to himself. He raised his arms and placed his hands against the glass, shouting fiercely, 'Come the fuck on, Harry!'
Snodley shuddered and backed away towards Ginny. She ignored him completely as she gawped at the scene before her. At the last moment, Neville, Snape and Hermione jumped away from the glass. With a tremendous THUD! Harry Potter flew into the window – just like a fledgling sparrow on a sunny day. He landed in a heap of robe and broomstick on the little balcony outside. His glasses were broken, and he was out cold.
Hermione let out a horrified gasp and immediately tried to open the window. Ginny rushed to her side and gripped her forearm firmly. 'No, no! Don't panic. It's all okay. He's got the Snitch. See?'
Snape snorted with delighted laughter at Ginny's reaction. For the first time in his life, he was happy that a Potter had won a game of Quidditch.
Hermione rested her head against the cool glass, closed her eyes and vowed never to set foot inside a Quidditch ground again.
Harry came round – after a double-dose of Rennervate. Ginny, Gideon, Remus and Tonks took him off to visit the Mediwizard. Draco left with a half-cut but relatively cheerful Carmine Scrimgeour. Snodley assured Snape that confidentiality wouldn't be an issue, made his excuses and went back to the box next door. Neville gallantly offered to escort Padma home. Eventually, Hermione and Severus were left standing by the window alone.
'Well, that went as well as could be expected,' said Hermione. 'With the added bonus that Harry might think twice about meddling in future.'
'It was as smooth as the skin on your delectable bottom,' replied Snape. 'I'm rather impressed. Although, I'll hex the fuck out of Herbert Snodley if he so much as glances in the direction of your cleavage again!'
'I'm perfectly happy to leave all contact with him to Ginny. You can see why I was so desperate to get away from St Mungo's.'
Snape stared absently at the distant goal-posts. 'Is that the only reason you took a job in Wales?'
Hermione fixed her attention on the last remaining stragglers, who were making their way out of the stands. She watched two tall, red-headed men disappear down the away supporters' staircase, and with a sigh of relief, turned to face the man standing before her.
'Not entirely,' she said.
Hermione took one of Severus' hands between both of hers and gazed at it intently. In return, he lifted his free hand and stroked her cheek with his thumb.
'If we don't move quickly, I'm going to say something terribly soppy,' said Severus. 'Shall we go home?'
'Mmmmm. You can tell me all about what you'd say while we have a cuddle on my sofa.'
As they walked out, Severus remembered to open the door and let Hermione go first. They passed through security with little delay and began to descend the stone steps.
Hermione was floating on air. She looked over her shoulder to smile adoringly at Snape. In the process, she bumped straight into a tall, blonde woman.
'Oh, I'm terribly sorry!' she exclaimed.
'Not to worry. I'm a bit of a slow-coach because of my damned leg!' replied the woman.
'Well, I'm a Healer. Can I help at all? How did you get hurt?'
'Quidditch injury. Got called up from Holyhead to train with the England squad and had a prang at the first session. The team medic says it's my hamstring, and the coach told me to rest it.'
Hermione winced sympathetically. 'There's a new tendon-knitting charm that's been tested at St Mungo's for a few months. Would you like me to try it?'
'Frankly, love, I'd try anything to get back into the national squad.'
Snape's lips quirked. He couldn't quite prevent his appreciative grin. He leant against the stone parapet, folded his arms and crossed his legs. His dark eyes absorbed every detail as Hermione bent over and carefully ran her hands down the slim, trouser-clad thigh of Britain's best female Quidditch player.
As Hermione located the source of discomfort, the woman sucked in a hiss of breath. Truth be told, so did Severus.
Hermione aimed her wand, sang a short incantation and watched a gentle blue light float over the injury for a few seconds before dispersing. The woman bent her knee and then stretched her leg, a delighted smile crossing her face.
'That's fucking fantastic! How come our medic doesn't use it?'
'Well, it's only on trial at the moment, you see.'
'What can I give you? Tickets for a match next season?'
Hermione's eyes met Severus'. Legilimency was not required.
'It's funny you should ask, actually…'
1. In a review, LillethJ made Remus' point that a happy Snape is a scary Snape.
2. I've modelled the Quidditch ground partly on a British county cricket ground, with a section for Members (who pay an annual subscription, wear blazers and county ties and have their own area to sit, eat and drink), and partly on a football stadium (with an end for the home supporters and an end for the away supporters). Both types of sporting venue have a number of corporate hospitality boxes built into the stands. I believe that American Football stadiums have similar facilities.
3. The Magical Equipment Control section of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is canon (see HP Lexicon for details).
4. That's all from the owners of Phoenix Feathers Ltd. With this tall tale, I had three main aims: firstly, I wanted to see if I could write something that would make people laugh. It seems I have succeeded – I am as jubilant as an arse-groping Snape. Secondly, I wanted to see if I could parody the hatchet jobs that have been committed on poor old Ron Weasley. In this story, he says three words, none of which are to Hermione, and we only ever hear her side of things. Reviewers have still demanded his head on a platter. Thirdly, I wanted to write a plot driven by the consumption of tasty food and alcoholic beverages. However, if you look carefully, you'll find that no female character does any cooking, not even making tea or coffee. Thank you all for reading.