The Vibrator, the Witch and the Portraits or: What Witches Want
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. Just borrowed. Will be returned. Snape is welcome to stay, though.
A big Thank You goes to my beta-reader and brit-picker, Melusin, who transfers my babble into language, sorts my random punctuation and is a good friend. This story was written for an anti-doom-and-gloom challenge by Melusin.
The Vibrator, the Witch and the Painting
Hermione Granger-ex-Weasley liked sex very much. She liked it so much that the lack of its regular occurrence turned out to be the only thing she really missed after she threw Ron Weasley out of the house and got a divorce.
Of course there were the occasional flings. She was an attractive and vivacious woman and had ample opportunities. However, while she indulged on rare occasions, most often she turned the invitations down. She was too well known to trust casual acquaintances; she could never be quite certain if a man's interest was in herself or in the famous war heroine who had helped the Boy-Who-Lived-Twice defeat Tom Riddle. With the men she knew well, she didn't feel at ease, either. She didn't want to be disillusioned or ruin a friendship because of a casual fling. And most men of her acquaintance were married, anyway, with very few exceptions.
Married men were out of the question. Hermione loathed adultery. Besides, she didn't want to mar her reputation––for her children's sake. It was one thing to laugh about Molly Weasley's use of the term 'scarlet woman'; it was another thing entirely to have one's children confused and hurt because their mother was referred to as such. As silly as the term was, she didn't want to subject her children to ridicule.
Muggles were an option, and she wasn't opposed to having a bit of fun with an interesting Muggle man from time to time. This seldom went further than one-night-stands, though. She didn't like to have to constantly keep her real life a secret. And one-night-stands, as exciting and satisfying as they could be, weren't really what she wanted. She wanted someone steady. She wanted emotion, drama and commitment. In other words, she wanted comfort, love and a partner for reliable, regular, satisfying sex.
Alas, a man who met her requirements was nowhere to be found, and thus, most days, there only remained the do-it-yourself solution. Some time almost every day was set aside for herself and her body.
Ever since Hermione had found out that sex could be something she might be interested in, she had read all about it—all she could get her hands on, anyway. Even before Viktor Krum had fondled her budding breasts for the first time, she'd read everything the library of her parents had to offer: The Joy of Sex, The Hite Reports, The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana… Her mother had always been very open with her and freely talked about everything Hermione had wanted to know. One of these studies had mentioned that orgasms were not only relaxing but also helped with insomnia, bad moods, menstrual cramps and strengthened the immune system. From that day on, Hermione's motto had been: 'An orgasm a day keeps trouble at bay', and she hadn't rested until she had found a technique that worked for her each time she tried. Men were unreliable; her fingers were not.
Unfortunately, Hermione wasn't one of those lucky women who only needed the slightest stimulation to get themselves off; she had to invest a considerable amount of effort. It took some time to get into the right mood—as well as some very enthusiastic stimulation of her genitals. This was time well spent, Hermione found. However, all that strenuous exercise was a bit hard on her wrists. If she couldn't have a man, she wanted a vibrator.
Hermione had been thinking of getting herself a vibrator for quite some time now, but things weren't as easy and straightforward as they seemed. Many years ago, long before she'd married Ron, she had experimented with an electrical toothbrush while visiting her parents and found the experience quite satisfying. A proper vibrator, she thought, would even be better. But, alas––a battery-powered vibrator wouldn't work in areas where magic abounded. Which was just about everywhere in the wizarding world.
Getting a magical vibrator would be the logical conclusion, but there weren't any to be found. Hermione researched, asked around, read––there wasn't anything remotely like a sex industry in the wizarding world she was familiar with, let alone sex toys. At least, they weren't freely available or talked about. People being what they were, Hermione was certain that all kinds of magical devices had to exist that would imitate or exceed their Muggle counterparts. But she didn't know how to find them; she didn't have the connections. They certainly weren't mentioned in the circles where the Weasleys and Potters socialized. Decent people didn't talk about these things, and the Knockturn Alley residents weren't willing to give her any information.
The solution was to invent a magical vibrator from scratch. Hermione imagined a roughly cock-shaped device with in-built gripping, growth and hover-charms and, of course, vibration control. But that was easier said than done. There was no proper vibrating charm. She had tried and applied everything she could think of but without satisfactory results.
There was no such thing as a magical toothbrush. Most witches and wizards simply used a Cleaning Charm on their teeth.
There was no such thing as a mobile phone with a vibrating alarm. The Floo network neither offered inspiration nor did the prospect of having soot and ashes all over the place make any attempt at using the rotational energy of Floo travel even an option.
The egg-whisking charm was too rough, too violent; there was no control, and none of the modifications Hermione tried to introduce into the incantation made things any more predictable. Tarantallegra, the Twitchy Ears Hex and the Jelly Legs Jinx sounded like good basic spells, but they were quite resistant to modifications. The thing they all had in common was the unpredictability of the movement. The twitchings, twirlings and jigglings were too wild, too erratic. Hermione had no intention of trying anything that unreliable on her most sensitive parts. There were more pleasant ways to make herself numb, thank you very much.
Despite these problems, jinxes seemed to be offering the most promising prospects thus far, so maybe, if she focussed on the darker aspects of magic, she'd get some new ideas. She wasn't exactly keen on including Dark Magic in her project; she had been tortured in the war and had seen enough sadistic arousal in Bellatrix Lestrange to last a lifetime. However, the distinction between rather harmless jinxes and really evil and malicious spells wasn't very clear, and the definition of light and Dark magic often seemed to serve the needs of the Ministry or some interest group instead of providing a useful tool for the classification of the spell. There was a strong possibility that she'd find something useful in the so-called Dark Magic texts without having to get into the malicious part of magic too deeply.
Further reading about the detection of evil and Dark magic was supporting her ideas. She came across a technical brochure on Secrecy Sensors: they detected the vibration of evil. And if evil vibrations could be detected, other kinds of vibration could be detected and channelled, too. She'd have to do more research. She needed access to wizarding erotic literature, Dark and light. But how to get hold of it? Some careful planning was required.
This was the situation as Hermione stood in a corner of the great banqueting hall at the Ministry of Magic, a glass of champagne in one hand, a caviar canapé in the other, and waited for the twenty-first commemoration party of Victory Day to begin. You had to give it to the Ministry; the food was always decent, and Kingsley's speeches were usually rather short and to the point. He'd never managed to develop the amount of pompousness his two predecessors had possessed in such quantities. The evening would be bearable, even though each passing year reminded her of, well, another year passing without having achieved just what she had set out to do so many years ago. Working in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had seemed like a good idea at the time, but twenty years of tilting at windmills and fighting Umbridge-esque prejudice could wear a woman down, especially since promotions had all too often bypassed her and been handed out liberally to her more docile, but also more brainless, colleagues.
Hermione shrugged her frustration off. That part of her life had been over for almost a year now. As was her marriage, for rather similar reasons. One day, the day Rose went off on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, she had just had enough. Ron had lied to her once too often. For him, it wasn't a big deal that he winked and laughed about her behind her back, but for Hermione it was a constant undermining of respect and trust. Ron may have loved her in his own way, but he certainly didn't respect her as an equal. She was good old Hermione, always at hand, always the bookworm, always too serious. She was his wife, but that didn't stop him from making fun of her in front of his mates. She had complied quietly at the station, but when they got home that night, she had sent Hugo to bed and thrown Ron out.
Of course there was a row, and there were several months when Molly Weasley hadn't talked to her, but it had all passed, and eventually all of them had admitted that she and Ron were better off as friends. She wasn't concerned about the children at all. They had turned out very well, having inherited their mother's intelligence and their father's light-heartedness. Rose and Hugo were a unique mixture of pigheadedness and an irresistible charm; Hermione was very proud of them. However, at this twenty-first commemoration of the end of VWII, she had to wonder where her own life had gone. Was she happy? Did she still have dreams? Of course she did, and now that she'd finally given up her old ambitions and had left her job at the Ministry, she could follow those dreams and do exactly what she wanted.
Enough of that. Here comes Kingsley she thought, emptied her glass and sat down at the table to listen to the speech.
"Once again we've gathered … blahblahblah … remember those who sacrificed … blahblahblah … never let it happen again … blahyaddablah … celebrate life and victory … yaddayaddayawn … especially pleased and excited to present one person to you, who we all believed to be lost … What? What did he say? … delighted to award the Order of Merlin, First Class, to Severus Snape, who has returned to Britain after an absence of twenty-one years."
Deadly silence greeted the Minister's words. Some of the guests shook their heads as if they wanted to clear them. Others gaped; some sat down heavily on the chair next to them. The silence must have lasted at least a minute because the creak of a door being opened was very loud in the room, and when a thin man with greying dark hair, graceful movements and black dress robes started to walk to the podium, all eyes followed him. He took a few steps into the room, and then the racket started.
"WHAT?" Harry shouted. "What are you talking about? That can't be him. He's dead, We saw him die!"
Others had started to talk and ask questions, and Hermione thought her head would burst from all the 'whos' and 'whats'—a constant buzz and hum interspersed with excited and sometimes appalled cries of 'Snape'. Snape? Hermione swallowed. It couldn't be, could it? She had seen the man die, after all. She had seen him bleed to death, giving Harry a set of relevant memories before his movements stilled. And if she remembered correctly, neither of them had moved a finger to help…
In the meantime, the man who had mounted the podium had turned towards Kingsley and taken a small bow.
Harry's tirade stopped, and he stared at the man open-mouthed. It was Severus Snape, twenty-one years older, but undeniably himself. Since Polyjuice Potion didn't work with body parts from dead people, that man couldn't be an impostor. It was either an incredibly good double, or it was really Severus Snape.
"If everyone has quietened down again, I can finally present the medal to Severus. He has won our admiration and respect for the many sacrifices he made during both Voldemort wars, and if anyone has redeemed himself for past mistakes, it is Severus Snape."
Kingsley handed the medal to Snape, who took it with another bow.
"I hope you will join us for the victory celebration, Severus," Kingsley said before declaring the beginning of the feast.
Snape nodded. "With pleasure." He let his gaze sweep over the room, lingering briefly on Harry, Ron, Ginny, and then on Hermione.
Oh, my, Hermione thought. This is going to be an interesting evening, after all.
Hermione slowly approached the crowd that had gathered around Snape. "How did you survive? Where have you been?" were the questions being asked most often.
"Lucius Malfoy came looking for me in the Shrieking Shack, found me still alive, rescued me and helped me until I recovered from my injuries. Then I left the country. I didn't feel that I would be welcome in post-war Britain, although I had Minister Shacklebolt's full pardon. There were too many people who wanted to see me in Azkaban—or dead, and since I was finally free to go wherever I wanted, I travelled, studied Potions and Alchemy and wrote books. "
Merlin, his voice was still as dangerously silky and smooth as it had been while he was their teacher, Hermione thought. But now the threat, the menace, was missing and what remained was its seductive quality. She was intrigued.
"Is there anything I can do to help you, Mr. Snape?" Harry asked. Having dragged Ginny over to Snape, he was now beaming at him with his typical stubborn enthusiasm.
"You want to help me, Potter? Why?" Snape asked with a searching glance.
"I owe you so much, and you worked so hard. And you loved my mum (Snape rolled his eyes—how interesting)—and I feel bad for not respecting you in the past. Ask anything of me, Mr. Snape."
"I see that things haven't changed. Your decisions are still as, ah, spontaneous as they always were, Potter," Snape purred. The hairs on Hermione's neck rose. This needed to be watched. "In fact, Mr. Potter, there is indeed something you can do for me…"
"What is it? Just name it. I'll do anything in my power. And so will Ron and Hermione, I'm sure."
Snape's lips twitched, and his eyes glittered. "Very well. I have bought Foxglove Cottage, the former home of the Mulciber family. The house had been up for sale for years, but no one wanted it. It is rumoured to be haunted and cursed, which is, of course, rubbish. The Mulcibers left no heirs. Foxglove Cottage is much larger than my old house. I have discovered many of the secret chambers and hidden traps but not all of them. If you could help me by breaking the curses, it'd be inhabitable much faster— " He paused and glanced at Hermione. "There's also a large library that needs to be catalogued and cleared out. Some help with that would also be greatly appreciated."
Hermione nodded. "I can help with that. I owe you, too. But it will have to wait until September—when my children are back at Hogwarts."
Snape frowned but agreed.
"Oh, but that's perfect." Harry beamed. "I'll help you in the meantime to get rid of the evil left-over curses. Should be a piece of cake, shouldn't it?"
Snape looked dubious. "Don't underestimate the ingenuity of magical architects. It will be hard work."
"That's settled, then. Perfect." Harry beamed again, his eyes twinkling behind his glasses. "You won't regret it, Mr… Can't I call you Severus? And you call me Harry? After what with my mum…"
"I don't think I can stop you, Potter." Some kind of emotion flickered over Snape's face, but Hermione wasn't certain what it was. With any other person, she'd have sworn that it was resignation.
Ron had kept out of it, but now he approached Snape and awkwardly stuck out his hand, which was accepted and shaken. "If you need anything from our shop, anything… you'll get it. We've developed the patented daydream charm further; they now almost work like the Muggle cinema—if you want a good selection of those, just say the word. Sorry I can't help with the house—can't stay away from the shop for long, you understand?"
Snape looked at him critically, flicked a brief glance at Hermione and nodded. "Thank you, Weasley. If I ever have need of your, ah, products, I shall let you know."
Grinning self-importantly, Ron went away.
When Hermione got home, she kicked off her shoes and shrugged out of her dress robes, not caring where they fell. The children were at Hogwarts; no one else was in the house. Sighing contentedly, she filled the bathtub, added some scented salts with her favourite fragrance and lighted a few candles. While in the tub, she started to play with her breasts and to softly pinch and tweak her nipples. Eyes closed, she focussed on her body, enjoying how the hot water relaxed her tense and tired muscles.
After drying off, she carefully applied body lotion, stroking and teasing herself while she did so. Her breasts received extra care. Feeling pampered and sexy, she poured herself a glass of wine, lit the candles in her bedroom and lay down. A flick of her wand, and a disembodied voice started to read certain marked parts in a Muggle erotic novel. Smiling to herself, Hermione continued with her self-pleasuring routine. She listened to the exciting paragraphs in the novel and felt her own arousal rise from imagining to having an active part in the fictional couple's activities. Her hands knew exactly what to do—fingers flying, tweaking, pinching and rubbing just so. Hermione started to breathe heavily, heat rising up from her groin and spreading out all over her body. No stopping now, no distractions, she thought and kept going, faster and faster. The voice in the background faded away—only what was going on in her mind counted now. A few shifts of her body, and parts of her started to tremble. This was the time when things felt so incredibly good. Almost there, but not quite. Her wrist was getting tired, but she kept going. Almost, almost… She focussed on the image of the couple in the novel, who were indulging in some light bondage, but instead, the image of Severus Snape appeared in her mind, eyes gleaming dangerously, lips curled in a half-smile. Hell, since when did he have such sensitive lips? She wondered what he looked like naked, and if that nose fitted other parts of his anatomy, and how it'd feel when… and with a loud, shuddering sigh she came, long and good.
Of course, it was lonely and a bit frustrating afterwards. And getting your G-spot stimulated was difficult that way. But it was a lot better than no sex at all, or the frustration of being with a selfish lover, thank you very much. Hermione sighed contentedly, pushed Snape firmly out of her mind, rolled over and fell asleep.
"Ginny! Where's Harry?"
When Hermione took her children to King's Cross on the first of September, she'd expected to meet the Potters, Weasleys and Ron on Platform nine and three-quarters as she did every year. Seeing Ginny alone with her children was unexpected.
"Oh–– Hi, Hermione. He's at St. Mungo's, but don't worry, he'll be fine."
"What happened? An accident at work?" Telling her not to worry usually rang Hermione's alarm bells.
"No, no, nothing like that. Do you remember him promising Snape to help get his new house curse-broken?"
"Well, that wasn't as easy as it seemed, at first. Those old builders were quite cunning. On his first day there, Harry got sucked into a reverse trap-door, and Snape only found him hours later in the chimney. He had to fly up there to untie Harry."
"Yes, quite tricky, that house. But Harry wasn't seriously injured; he only had a few scratches. You can't expect to remain unharmed when you hang upside down in the chimney, tied to your ankles, like a sausage or ham about to be cured, can you? Good thing there wasn't a fire in the hearth, though."
"Good grief. And then?"
"Snape apologized profusely. He thought he'd found and deactivated all the reverse trap-doors."
"Hmmm… and had he?"
"He thought so at the time. Snape hasn't remained uninjured, either. He said that he was welcomed by a shower of poisoned arrows as soon as he opened the door for the first time. Only after the contract of sale was signed did the house accept him as its master, and only then could he start looking for traps and deactivate them."
"And Harry is his guinea pig?"
"Harry offered to help. He's an experienced Auror, after all." Ginny looked taken aback. Obviously, she took Hermione's questions as criticism of Harry's competence.
"I know that, but…"
"Never mind," Ginny continued. "What no one suspected was the giant octopus in the pipes. It almost succeeded in dragging Harry down the toilet… but Snape heard him scream and managed to stop the beast. It's been taken to Gringotts, now—the Goblins find it a very useful creature, and they paid a good price."
"Oh, he only had a few bruises. Good thing, too, that his midriff has spread out a bit over the years, otherwise it would have been easier for the octopus to drag him down. Snape was worse off; he got his nose broken when he wrestled with the monster, but Harry was able to heal him right away."
"I see. So how…?"
"Just let me finish, will you?" Ginny glared at her impatiently. "The portrait, which looked like an ordinary glass door but led into a snake pit, was relatively harmless. The snakes had starved to death years ago, and all that was left of them was their skeletons. And a few broken bones from a fall have never been able to stop Harry."
Hermione swallowed. "Right. Go on."
Ginny nodded. "What was really bad was when that tapestry unravelled and tried to strangle Harry. He had only touched it briefly with his wand to check for hidden doors when it attacked him. Quite a powerful anti-theft spell, I'd say. Harry was unconscious for three days."
"But that's horrible!"
"Yes. And in the meantime, Snape had almost been squashed by a room with moving walls. They moved closer and closer towards each other; he barely managed to stop them before he was flattened."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I am… Anyway, after Harry went back there, a few new trap-doors appeared, and Snape and Harry suspected that the house had some means of communication—from the entrance door to the traps, from room to room; something they hadn't discovered yet.
"Eventually, they figured out that the carvings on the doors and railings and the ornaments on the ceilings were connected to each other and passing on messages. The carvings consisted of Gargoyles, Sphinxes, Chimaeras and the like—all creatures that can talk. Snape has now stripped the house bare of all the carvings and decorations, but this came too late for Harry."
Harry was caught by another trap—a door with a handle that contained an in-built Portus spell, activated by the carved creatures at will. He was transported to a room where all the surfaces got hot and hotter."
"Well, that sounds familiar."
"That's what Harry said, too. In fact, I think the Goblins were involved in building that house… Anyway, Harry had third-degree burns; no flame-repellent charm helped him in there. Snape eventually found him, and now Harry's in St. Mungo's. But don't worry, he'll be fine."
Hermione frowned. "You know, you're being surprisingly nonchalant about this, Ginny. Are you sure that this wasn't set up by Snape as revenge or something? He never liked Harry…"
Ginny laughed disdainfully. "Rubbish! Don't be silly, Hermione. Snape came to our house before Harry went to help him, and he asked for my forgiveness for what he had to do as Headmaster all those years ago. Can you imagine?"
"Really?" Hermione asked, unconvinced.
"Yes, really. And I forgave him, of course. As did Neville—and Luna and everybody else to whom Snape went to apologize. We'd realized a long time ago that he'd tried to protect us, anyway." Ginny looked slyly at Hermione. "You know, back then, I never noticed how charming he could be."
"Charming? Snape? Have you lost your mind?" Hermione couldn't believe it.
"Yes, charming. And without the permanent scowl and sneer, he looks quite handsome, too. He has a certain… something. Well, you'll see for yourself when you go and help him with the library. You are going tomorrow, aren't you?"
Hermione stared at Ginny unbelievingly. "Yes, I'm going there tomorrow. But I still say that you've lost your mind…"
Ginny merely grinned, and after they'd waved good-bye to their children, they parted.
The next morning, Hermione stood in front of Foxglove Cottage and looked around. The door in front of her was old but freshly painted and decorated with tasteful floral carvings. The pewter knocker in the shape of a foxglove bell looked new.
Hermione knocked but nothing happened. She knocked again and became aware of a pleasant lemony scent. Looking up, she noticed two rows of tiny, sharp teeth staring her in the face.
Thud! Before Hermione could figure out to whom those teeth belonged, they had been whacked away. Attached to the teeth was a fanged geranium—now snapping at a giggling fairy, which held a large wooden club in its tiny hands and was threatening the plant with it.
"Blimey!" Hermione cursed. The humming and buzzing she had thought was coming from the bees and other insects was being made by fairies, who were holding a large cluster of beautifully blooming fanged geraniums in check. An unorthodox way to guard the landlord from his houseplants, she thought. But she had to admit that the geraniums did add a touch of colour and a welcoming look to the house.
Hoping that she wouldn't meet a Venomous Tentacula next, Hermione knocked again. After a short while, she heard swift footsteps, and the door was thrown open.
"Mrs. Weasley. Do come in."
"It's Granger. Good morning, Mr. Snape."
Snape smiled. Snape smiled? "Perhaps it would be prudent to call each other by our first names. We will be working together here for some time, after all. Your friend Potter insisted on being informal, so you might just as well call me Severus."
"If you wish," Hermione said, astonishment written all over her face, which caused Snape to smirk in that oddly attractive way. Attractive? Dammit, get a grip, girl. "By all means, call me Hermione, then. We wouldn't want to cause distress to Harry, now, would we?"
Snape's eyes widened, and he could barely suppress a snort. "Far be it for me to cause further distress. Do come in, Hermione. Can I offer you a cup of tea or coffee before we start?"
"Tea would be nice." Hermione studied her surroundings. The entrance hall was decorated in the same floral design as the main door; there were foxgloves, monkshood, flowering mandrakes and other magical and medicinal herbs and plants in the carvings and stitched on the fabric of the curtains. There was a mirror, a coat stand and a chest of drawers, all in a clear and simple design and of good quality.
"This is very nice," Hermione commented. "After all I've heard about the traps here, I expected a bit more of a construction site, actually."
"Oh, you heard about your friend's mishaps—and my own, for that matter?" His smile was a bit skewed. You could almost call it sheepish—if you wanted to be that frivolous in Snape's presence.
"Well, I had all the decorations removed and employed a Muggle interior designer to get the house back into shape. I managed to salvage some of the antique furniture, but everything dangerous has been removed." While he explained, Snape led her to the lounge and offered her a seat. After sitting down himself, he tapped the coffee table briefly, and a teapot with all the necessary tea things neatly arranged on a tray appeared. Hermione stared at the tray with a frown.
"I hired a free elf to do the cooking and cleaning. I prefer to spend my time on more interesting occupations. The rates are reasonable, and the new house-elf employment contract is ingenious. I was told that it is a fruit of your own work, together with the status-of-being reforms?"
There was that smile again. Hermione was charmed despite her better judgement. Snape couldn't possibly be so pleasant. This simply didn't fit into her mental image of the stern and nasty ex-teacher to whom they all owed so much. She'd expected a vengeful, bitter and angry man, full of biting sarcasm, but not the socially competent man sitting opposite her. His demeanour was friendly, his manners impeccable, the smile intriguing and the voice… Unbidden, the feelings and images of her self-pleasuring session after the ball arose in Hermione's mind. She felt the heat rise in her face and put those thoughts far back into the realm of fantasy, where they belonged. She cleared her throat and looked at Snape through narrowed eyes. She wasn't that gullible; she would reserve judgement until she knew more about his plans and motivation.
"Yes, that was my doing, mostly. That is one of the few things I remember fondly from my time at the Ministry."
"Why did you leave, if I may ask?" Snape inquired while he poured her another cup of tea.
"I… didn't feel appreciated. You may remember that I never was able to hold my tongue for very long…"
He raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. "Indeed."
Hermione smirked and nodded. "That hasn't changed. I still speak up when I feel that something needs to be addressed, and… er… diplomacy was never really my thing. I'm not a very good liar."
"And so others wheedled themselves into the favour of your superiors, presented your ideas as their own and got promoted while you were… considered eccentric but useful?" Snape nodded when he saw Hermione's astonished look. "I know how the Ministry works."
"You're right," Hermione sighed. "I was less than happy with that situation. I wanted to change things, but constantly got tied down by ridiculous regulations and asinine administrative actions. Filling out forms correctly was more important that what was being proposed in those forms…"
"So that's why you left?"
"Not quite. After my divorce, I had more time to focus on my private interests, and in the course of that, I invented something that earned me so much money––and still does––that I was able to resign last year, live comfortably and focus on interesting projects without having to circumvent this or that uppity administrator all the time.
"What did you invent?"
Snape had ordered another pot of tea, which came with chocolate digestives. Hermione watched in stunned fascination at how he devotedly licked the chocolate off the side, completely oblivious to the sensuous display he was offering. She swallowed a few times and forced herself to look away.
"Uh… it's a charm box, which reads out loud from whatever is put into it: books, letters, documents, you name it. It can easily be connected to Extendable Ears; you know, the kind that Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes sell? Together with a dictoquill, it's a very useful device for any business."
"Indeed!" Was that respect in Snape's eyes? At least she had his full attention now. The biscuits were forgotten.
"The whole thing was based on the charms for the Wizarding Wireless, and thus it was only a small step to invent a modified, very small wireless that can be connected to Extendable Ears. It's something teenagers are absolutely wild about. It sells like crazy. I developed it together with George, and it keeps me financially independent. It's like a Muggle Walkman. We call it 'W-Pod'. Everyone wants one: Fleur, Bill's wife, gave one to Mrs. Weasley last Christmas."
"I've heard about them," Snape said silkily, but not quite able to suppress the awe in his voice. "They are popular, indeed. Amazing. I never took you for an inventor, more for a… ah––I'm surprised that you agreed to help me with my library."
"You still think that I'm full of book learning and nothing more." Hermione's smile was forced. "Looks like we both might have to adjust our mutual prejudice a bit."
"Perhaps," he answered smoothly. "But cataloguing my library is still a waste of your talents. You should be out and about inventing…"
"Oh, but I do want to help." Hermione was flattered; she couldn't help herself. Snape, who had never found anything she did remarkable while she was his student, now was actually praising her. What had the world come to?
"And I do have selfish motives, too. I'd like to get a good look at your books. You've no idea how difficult it is for a goody-two-shoes like me to get any information about the more, ah, illegal kind. No one at Knockturn Alley speaks to me. Ever. And I need some information on the theory of curses and hexes. Mind you, nothing really Dark," she added hastily when she saw his frown. "Just something a bit beyond the harmless hexes and jinxes you see in the standard spell books."
"I suppose you know what you are doing, Ms… Hermione. But be careful. Many of the books in my library are very dangerous. The Mulcibers were known for their well-stocked library. Ah… I'd be honoured to be of assistance, if you don't mind."
"I'll gladly accept that offer, Severus," she said. "But hadn't we better get to work, now?"
"Some things never change." He smirked while he stood up, and Hermione could literally hear him thinking 'bossy as ever.' Only then did she realize that she had told him a lot about herself and had learned nothing new about him. Sly bastard.
The work in the library turned out to be rather pleasant. Hermione had come every day for three weeks now, and together with Snape, she had managed to banish horrible hexes, deactivate dangerous dust jackets and Evanesco the most evil tomes, as well as cataloguing the useful ones. The work was progressing nicely shelf by shelf, but Hermione had not found anything helpful for her vibrator project as yet.
In all this time, Snape had kept up his relaxed demeanour. He neither sneered nor mocked. He didn't get angry; he was calm, composed and polite. Sometimes, he was even charming but always in a calm, impersonal way. He didn't talk much and only looked at her briefly when she addressed him or when he showed her something. And that was more or less what Hermione had expected after her first visit to his house. She was very much aware that, despite his pleasant behaviour, he didn't––couldn't––really like her, which was a pity, she thought, because the new and improved Severus Snape had turned out to be a rather intriguing character and was on her mind a lot more than she cared to admit.
What Hermione didn't expect were the many visits from young and middle-aged unmarried witches, who offered help, food, company and advice to the poor and lonely man. They were summarily deposited in the lounge where they were fed with tea and biscuits, treated briefly to Snape's company and then politely dismissed, never to be seen again for the most part. Some of the more tenacious kind, however, wouldn't take the hint and returned repeatedly, insisting on dragging the poor man out of the house and into some social activity with them as their partner. He usually resisted, but those were the days when he resembled his old self the most, always having a sneer on his face and a sarcastic remark on his lips after those visits.
Hermione wondered why he was so popular all of a sudden. Certainly, being one of the greatest heroes of his generation, and one who was thought to be lost, had an irresistible appeal in itself. His mysterious life away from Britain during all those years added to the enigma. And then there was his past––his love for Harry Potter's mother. Hermione had heard the story from Harry, as almost everyone else in the wizarding world had, but she never thought that he'd still be pining over a dead woman after all these years. At least, she hoped not––but it was really none of her business, was it? It did add to his mystery, though, and Hermione could well imagine how overly romantic witches––and on occasion, wizards––would idealize that youthful attachment and fantasize about Snape as the dark and brooding romantic hero of Victorian novels who needed to be rescued and shown the power of true love.
She did fantasize a bit herself, to be honest. Snape was a challenge; she wanted to find out more about him––and she enjoyed his company. However, he stayed aloof, and Hermione didn't want to ruin their amiable working relationship by asking unwelcome, personal questions.
This went on for two months. By early November, they had catalogued about half of the library, and Hermione had found several interesting books on hexes and jinxes.
She was sitting in the library, reading one of these books, while he was entertaining yet another of the hopeful witches. It was late, and she was only waiting for him to come back so she could call it a day and go home. She leaned back and yawned so deeply that her jaw creaked.
"Why don't you just get a few personal things and stay overnight?" Snape asked from the door. Apparently, another disillusioned would-be bride had left the house. "The house is large enough, if you fear for your reputation."
"I do as I please, within limits, so I have no worries about my reputation," Hermione said. "Thank you for the offer, and it would indeed be quite convenient. As tired as I often am after all the curse breaking, Apparition is a bit of a stretch, and Floo travel gives me nausea. I'll gladly accept."
"Good," Snape said. "Spunky will show you to a guest-room and help you with all the essentials. Why don't you stay right away and get your things tomorrow? I 'm certain Spunky can come up with everything you need for one night."
"Yes, I could do that," Hermione said with a yawn. "That means we can finish this shelf here and then go to bed."
Half an hour later, after drinking a glass of wine in Snape's company, Hermione followed Spunky the house-elf to the guest room. It was a nice room with a huge antique bed and a comfortable rocking-chair by a large window. There was a small secretaire, a chair and a chest of drawers. A wardrobe and a small bathroom completed the suite.
When she'd finished her evening routine, Hermione fell onto the bed exhaustedly. She soon fell asleep and drifted right into a lively dream. She dreamt that she was sinking into the mattress, deeper and deeper, until nothing of her could be seen from the outside. Underneath the mattress, the floor opened, and she fell into the opening, sliding downwards on a long and winding slide through a dark tunnel. With a 'plop', she finally landed on another bed. Staring up, she saw the hole in the ceiling slowly close.
This is the weirdest dream, Hermione thought. She sat up on the bed and looked around. That room was just as comfortable as the other one and had similar furniture and facilities, except that there were several strange contraptions on top of the chest of drawers. Hermione felt her curiosity challenged—she'd call it scientific zeal—and walked over to take a closer look at the contraptions.
There were two pairs of handcuffs, lined with velvet. There were several rings and clamps, a leather whip, a blindfold, and something longish, shaped like a cock. She took it in her hand; it felt remarkably good. Smooth and warm, almost like real skin. A soft squeeze, and the thing began vibrating.
I'll be damned, Hermione thought. Here's my vibrator.
The temptation to try it out right there and then was very strong, but Hermione resisted. If she looked closely enough, maybe she'd find out which charms were used to enchant the thing.
A few simple analytical spells later––it wasn't easy to do these wandless––Hermione had an idea how to proceed with her own vibrator project. She was keen to put her plans into practice, but most likely she would forget everything once she woke up. If only she could write it down somewhere and hope that her wakeful counterpart would remember where she stored that particular memory in her mind. Worth a try, anyway. Perhaps the books would do?
A closer look at the books revealed them to be guides to sex magic. They were a bit disappointing because the rituals and recommended positions were rather conservative and generally thought to aid conception more than the mutual gratification of the partners, but she leafed through them anyway. There wasn't much in there that she didn't know. She was just looking around for an imaginary quill to write her ideas on the flyleaf of one of the books when she heard a hammering at the door.
"Hermione, are you in there? Answer me."
"Severus?" Hermione pinched herself. She was in a dream, right? Why was Snape here? She wasn't really all that attracted to him for him to appear in her dreams—or was she?
"Yes, it's me. I'm terribly sorry about this. I don't have a key for this door, but Spunky and I will have you out of there in just a minute."
Damn. She would have to remember the vibrator charms as best as she could after waking up. Just in case, she pocketed the vibrator in her nightgown—a very nice one, made from spider silk. The house-elf had produced it; she had no idea from where.
A few moments later, the door was blasted out of its hinges, and two confused and worried faces were staring at her through the settling dust. "Hermione, are you all right?"
"Don't worry. We're just in a dream," Hermione said distractedly, still looking for a quill. "I need to write something down, though."
"This is not a dream, you silly woman," Snape snapped. "I thought we had lost you. Spunky was about to bring you some more candles when she saw you disappear through your mattress. Before she could wake me, though, I was roused by a loud screech in my head—something no one else would hear, I suppose. That bed up in your chambers appears to be a trap Potter and I overlooked––for obvious reasons. It's one of those beds that recognizes when a single woman who isn't the master's wife sleeps in it. That woman is then considered prey for the man of the house and transported into this pleasure room to await the eager attentions of her host."
"And the lady is never asked?" Hermione sneered. "How charming."
"I apologize for the behaviour of my house. Please believe that I did not plan to seduce you in such a crude manner––" His face flushed beet-red. "I mean, I didn't…" he stuttered.
Interesting choice of words, Hermione thought. "No, I suppose that wouldn't be your style," she said loudly and grinned. The grin froze on her face, though, when she saw Snape's eyes sweep over her figure. The silk was very thin… Now it was her turn to blush, and her damned nipples had nothing better to do than stand to attention right now—from the cold. Of course it was from the cold. She shivered and crossed her arms.
"I apologize again, Hermione." Snape took off his own dressing gown and wrapped Hermione in it. It was nice and warm and smelled good. Hermione hadn't been enveloped by the warmth and smell of a man for some time. Maybe that was why her mind was constantly in the gutter that night, but she couldn't help noticing the attractive figure Snape made in his own grey nightshirt. She'd always considered men in nightshirts old-fashioned and ridiculous, but Snape… She had never noticed that he had such wide shoulders… and the legs were very nice, too. They were long, slender, with strong, wiry muscles, but there was nothing bulging or out of proportion. It made her curious about what the rest of him looked like.
"Spunky will have another room ready for you in a minute—one that doesn't contain any antique furniture," Snape said while he led her to the door. "It's all new and Muggle-made. Let's go to the library and wait…" but Spunky had already returned, ready to lead Hermione to her new room.
This time, Hermione found the bed to be solid and comfortable. Sleep eluded her, however. After turning and tossing from side to side a few times, she took the vibrator out of her pocket, cast a cleansing spell over it and tried it out. It was absolutely quiet, no obnoxious buzzing. Different degrees of squeezing produced different strengths of vibration. She tried a low level and thoroughly stimulated the area around her clit, but never stimulated it directly for fear of getting numb. The sensation was very nice, and it didn't take long for her at all to get completely lost in her fantasies, sweating and gasping. A fleeting thought of adding voice control to her own model-to-be distracted her briefly, and then it was there, the anticipated moment. Unbidden, Snape's image appeared in her mind once again and, with a shivering sigh, she came.
Easy on the wrist, Hermione thought when she was able to think again, but she refused to ponder over the regular appearance of Snape's image in her erotic fantasies. A moment later, she was asleep.