Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of Joanne K. Rowling. Any characters, settings, places from the Harry Potter books and movies used in this work are the property of Joanne K. Rowling, and Warner Brothers. Original characters belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the private enjoyment of readers at FanFictionNet, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.
"How can you be so gleeful over a mouldy old tome of household charms," Severus grouses. "Not enough that we have to live in this heathenish hovel of a commune of crazed Gryffindors, do you want to turn me into a house-elf now?"
They've been living with Harry and way too many others (not all of them Gryffindors or Ravenclaws or even Hufflepuffs) at Grimmauld Place aka "Headquarters"—of the conspiracy against the Ministry. And Hermione and Severus are lucky; as a married couple they have the attic to themselves. The attic is much better than being stuck in the gardenshed like Bill and Fleur. Harry and Ginny have only one room, and sometimes not even that. And Hermione knows they are sharing not just the room sometimes. She also suspects they rather like that arrangement. At least when she walked in on them a few weeks ago, Draco, Harry and Ginny didn't look all that bothered, more like tangled. A tangled heap of limbs, mixed in with sheets and blankets and nothing in the way of pyjamas or nighties.
"No," Hermione says diffidently, "though an extra house-elf would come in handy, as packed as that house is. Kreacher's not getting any younger, and Winky's rather volatile..."
Hermione beams at Severus as they trundle down to the Tube. "No, this is much better. I never expected to find it in a Muggle second-hand bookshop!" She rubs her cold nose. She really should know better now, she reflects happily. They've found all kinds of magic things in the Muggle world. The wizarding world has a long history of not paying attention. Hermione bites down on her lip. Unfortunately for them, the Ministry is changing that now.
"Christmas Pudding," she announces, spilling her surprise simply to keep dark thoughts away. It's Christmas, she thinks. There's enough time for danger, conspiracies and terrorism in January. "That's what this is about." Clutching the book closer, she can't keep from grinning. "Goody Gostelow's book of Household Management. The most sovereign receipt for the Christmas Pudding of all Christmas Puddings in the Muggle and the wizarding world is in here."
Severus is so stunned that he turns around on the escalator, and almost tumbles backwards into the tunnel. But Hermione grabs him at the shoulder and turns him forcibly around.
"Mind the gap," she sings out—one of their private jokes, something only they can laugh about, and as always she has to marvel at a world where she can be married to Severus Snape and share jokes with him that say "We are a couple; and this part of our special history".
They use the secret tunnel to enter Grimmauld Place. The square is being watched day and night. The Ministry and the Death Eaters know exactly where they are hiding. But with the secret kept safe now for all eternity, there's little they can do about it. Apart from watching the area in an effort to catch the rebels on their way in or out of their lair. So Hermione and Severus Apparate into a coal cellar of one of the adjoining houses and creep through a secret-kept tunnel that joins that coal cellar to Grimmauld Place's wine cellar.
Emerging from the tunnel, they almost fall over Fred and Blaise.
"Hovel," Severus mutters under his breath as they climb the stairs to the next level of cellars, where Hagrid is snoring among the mushrooms he's been growing, with Fang drooling at his feet, and then up to the kitchen.
"Blaise is just trying to comfort Fred," Hermione soothes.
"He's been doing that for twenty-seven months, three weeks and two days now. Don't you think it's time for them to come out of the closet? Or out of the wine cellar, as the matter may be," Severus grumbles.
Hermione snorts. "Would you like to give Molly the happy news?"
"Hmm." Severus pretends not to hear her, stomping up the steps.
Predictably, Old Mother Black starts screeching as they pass her. But with her voice grown so hoarse, she no longer adds much noise to the general din reverberating through the ancient noble house of Black.
Ground floor—Molly shouting at Sirius in the kitchen–, first floor—Ron and Draco must be playing chess in the library, or it would never be that quiet–, second floor—Ginny squealing, Harry gasping, no doubt about what they are up to–, third floor—Teddy giggling, water splashing, then Remus' deep growling laughter and Tonks' chuckle. So good to have them back!
Hermione halts and has to catch her breath before climbing the steep, narrow stairs that lead up to the attics.
Severus is already a whole flight of stairs ahead of her.
The main attic is a fairly silent place, thanks to Professors McGonagall and Flitwick residing here. Apart from them, Kingsley Shacklebolt has a room here, currently sharing it with Lavender Brown (and if Ron jokes about that one more time, Hermione will hex him so he won't joke about anything anymore for at least three weeks; she's sick of his lovesickness, she really is). Luna and Neville have a chamber together, but that is purely platonic. She's with Hannah Abbott; he's with Rolf Scamander. Like Harry, Draco and Ginny, they sometimes swap partners. Then there's Ollivander, in a tiny chamber of his own.
And finally, the ladder leading up to their own lofty home.
Hermione closes the door behind her and leans against it, breathing hard. "Climbing stairs is supposed to be good for you, did you know that?" she asks. She always says that at this point.
Severus has already shed his damp cloak and is busy stoking up the fire. Over the months they have proofed the insulation against even the most persnickety and pernicious drafts, but the two rooms go cold quickly.
"Oh, really?" Severus drawls. "And I suppose cleaning up owl shit every day and waiting hand and foot on a bored hippogriff is, too."
There are drawbacks to living on the last level below the owls and Buckbeak. Although taking care of the owlery or of Buckbeak is not on the official list of their chores, they invariably end up doing most of the work. Simply because there is no sleeping here under the pounding hooves of a grumpy hippogriff, and no Charm will get rid of the stink if the owls decide to make their displeasure with the service known.
"Yes," Hermione says brightly. "Great for your cardiovascular health."
"Oh?" He slides the cloak from her shoulders and his long fingers slide over her breasts.
Her heart is pounding even harder, and her stomach tightens. "Climbing stairs, that is," she qualifies, still breathless, though not so much because of the stairs anymore now.
"You've said that before." But he kisses her neck. In spite of his grumbling and grousing, Severus Snape has mellowed considerably. His final near death experience did that, he says. And falling in love with Hermione. But he doesn't say that. He shows her. On a daily basis.
Their quasi-exile from the wizarding world and feeble efforts to establish a wizarding underground and an effective resistance should be gruelling horror, like a never-ending nightmare. And it is, often enough. When people are disappeared in the middle of the street, in bright daylight, when friends are imprisoned and tortured and murdered. When you get scared of your own shadow, of every word you speak, because it could trigger a Taboo. But it's not always like that. You can't be scared around the clock. And now it's Christmas and for the time being every member of their network is safe and sound and accounted for.
"Now what about that pudding of yours?" Severus asks. "What do we need to make it?"
They've got a small round iron stove installed next to the fireplace in the living room because often they feel remarkably unsociable and not inclined to make the trek down to the kitchen. For the same reason there's an adorable bathtub and washstand squeezed next to the chimney in their bedroom. And Hermione is quite proud of the Vanishing Toilet. It operates on the same principle as the Vanishing Cabinet at Hogwarts, transferring contents put in on their level to the toilet on the second floor which has proper plumbing. The only thing that doesn't work perfectly yet is the Charm that's supposed to trigger the second floor toilet to flush. Hermione suspects that Severus is sabotaging it just to annoy Harry.
"Oh, yes! The pudding!" Hermione drags Severus to the sagging sofa in front of the fireplace. She's determined that they will have a proper Christmas in spite of everything. She's got a tiny baby fir in a bucket and enchanted mistletoe over the door. (And a Charm that warns her if it's Sirius Black outside, come to steal a kiss.) "Okay, see here: seven recipes for Christmas pudding. Will you read them to me?"
She uses every opportunity to get him to read to her. She simply loves his voice, silk and steel, and, since Nagini's attack, smoky like good single malt whisky. Severus smirks, but he humours her. It is the day before Christmas, after all.
"Puddings and pastry," he begins, "familiar as they may be, and unimportant as they may be held in the estimation of some, are yet intimately connected with the development of Christmas culture and Christmas Charms, both in the Muggle and in the wizarding world…"
Hermione curls up against her husband. In his basket on the stack of firewood, Crookshanks curls into an even rounder ball of ginger fluff and twitches with an ear. He likes Severus' voice, too.
Soon Hermione's mouth begins to water, as Severus reaches the lists of ingredients: sultanas, raisins, currants, candied peel and almonds, brandy, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, or even figs and brazil nuts!
Then Severus turns over a page and they gape at a beautiful colour print with a dozen puddings arrayed in all their splendour. And the page has been Charmed—the scent of vanilla and spices, of warm cake and sweet berries drifts up from the book.
"Ohhh…" Hermione sighs reverently. Then she tilts her head and flutters her lashes at her husband.
Severus raises his eyebrows. "Are you serious?"
She bites her lip and ducks her head, hiding heated cheeks under brown curls. "I love pudding. And your voice. That way I get both without getting fat."
He snorts, and she knows that he's trying not to laugh. As if she's got a chance of gaining even a pound, what with their "work" keeping them busy nearly 24/7, and with all that running up and down those many stairs. Additionally, there's never quite enough to eat for the lot of them here at Grimmauld Place, not even using magic and Muggle junk-food. Christmas dinner will most likely end up a potluck affair involving Hagrid's gigantic kettle and Molly's stew. No, her diet is the very last thing Hermione has to worry about.
But she doesn't care. They are alive, and, for the time being, unhurt, and she simply adores how the corners of his mouth twitch with suppressed mirth, and not with that desperate, futile rage she remembers from her school days. His mouth is beautiful, she thinks. But his features—black, blazing eyes, proud, hooked nose, crooked, tea-stained teeth—are so overwhelming that you tend not to notice how sensitive his thin lips are. Now they are quivering just a little, and she quickly raises her head to steal a kiss.
Strange, she thinks, how, all in all, although everything rather went arse over, some things are actually better than before.
"Very well," he allows and affects a long-suffering sigh. "Consider it an early Christmas present."
He turns his attention back to the page, but his left hand curls warmly around her shoulder.
She sighs happily.
"Trifle." His still suppressed grin warms his voice. "Blanc-mange. Almond pudding." His stomach rumbles.
She swallows. The scents drifting up from the book intensify.
"Rout cakes. Jam pudding." His voice softens. When she glances up, she sees that his eyes are misty with memories. When he notices, he lifts his hand and gently strokes back her hair, tucking a stray curl behind her ear. "Mam made that for Christmas. We had not enough money for a proper pudding, but there was that old cherry tree in the backyard, so we got jam. It was a bit sour, always. But it was jam."
She reaches for his hand resting on her shoulder, thinking of the Christmas treats of her childhood. Swiss chocolate, Italian panettone, whisky-drenched Scottish Christmas pudding, German Stollen. As always, when she thinks of her parents, tears are threatening.
But Severus saves her and continues. "Tartlets. Vanilla cream."
The perfume of vanilla is almost palpable now. Hermione inhales hungrily.
"I'm not a good Englishwoman," Hermione admits abruptly.
"Why is that?"
She buries her head at his shoulders and mumbles her reply.
"What was that?"
"I said, I don't like mince pies!"
He's shaking now, chuckles rising like champagne bubbles from deep within him. "Nor do I," he admits. "I won't tell Molly if you don't."
Solemnly they shake hands. "Deal."
"All right, where was I?" Severus looks back at the book. "Apple marmalade tart. Never had that." He frowns.
"Sounds good to me. Not too sweet," Hermione suggests.
"Pear and apple dumplings. Cherry tart. Charlotte Russe. Never had that before, I think. Dessert biscuits. Gingerbread pudding."
"Oh god, yes," Hermione breathes. She can almost taste the spices now.
"Fruit tart. Milk pudding.—Is that what Teddy keeps yelling bloody murder about once a week?"
Hermione nodds. "Remus insists that it's good for Teddy. Mainly because he never got it as a boy."
Severus says nothing. Since he shared a hospital room with Remus for months, since he knows that Remus' childhood was very similar to his own if not worse, since—so many, no, too many things have happened—the enmity of their youth has passed.
"Apples and rice. Pancakes. With syrup I suppose. Or chocolate sauce." Severus takes a deep breath, buries his head in Hermione's curls and whispers into her ear. "And…Christmas Pudding."
He kisses her earlobe.
Begins to nibble down her throat.
An explosion rips the book out of his hands and blasts their rickety old sofa backwards, spilling them toward the table, limbs colliding with chairs, heads banging on books.
For a moment Hermione just lies there, ears ringing, and stares up at the ceiling. There's a new crack in the plaster, she realises distantly. I must fix that.
"What the bloody fuck was that?" Severus snarls. "Are you all right Hermione? Say something, damn it!"
Hermione mumbles something, clutches her wand, pushes herself up into a sitting position from where she lies in a nest of toppled books and spilled nuts from the bowl that sat on the table. "I'm fine. You?"
He's already on his feet, wand pointed, duelling stance rock-solid.
Then he gasps, gapes and lowers his wand.
"I'll be damned," he breathes.
Hermione follows his gaze. Her eyes widen in disbelief and her lips round into one astonished syllable: "Wow."
There's no time for more. The door crashes open. Remus, Tonks, Kingsley, Lavender, Neville, Luna and Professor McGonagall pile into the room—as far as that's even possible. There is not much space left.
Muffled curses from the staircase sound like Harry trying to shoulder his way through the crowd and failing.
The witches and wizards who came running to save Severus and Hermione stand and stare.
Stunned silence spreads.
At the bottom of the stairs Ron is yelling: "What happened? What's going on? Is anyone hurt?"
"What is that?" Neville asks finally.
"Pudding," Minerva and Severus answer succinctly, at exactly the same time.
"A lot of pudding," Luna adds helpfully.
"Severus must have triggered a spell hidden in the book I bought today," Hermione says slowly, trying to figure out what just happened. She slaps her forehead. "That's why the page smelled so wonderful! The puddings are real! They must have been Transfigured into the pictures!"
She's never seen such a huge Christmas pudding before. The long table that has magically appeared in front of the fireplace takes up their whole living room, half the second attic, and it looks like it's made a dent in her Muggle books. Thank goodness she has no grimoires on that particular shelf. They wouldn't have reacted well to being jostled and punched by a magical table!
"Which book was it?" Minerva asks.
"Goody Gostelow's book of household management, and the most sovereign remedies and receipts.—I asked Severus to read it to me."
"Ooohhh," sighs Tonks. "Severus reading could turn me into pudding, too. Such a beautiful voice the man has."
Remus elbows her in the side. Flushing bright pink, cheeks and hair alike, she falls silent.
"Tonks is right, though," he says. "It's really amazing." If he means Severus' voice or the pudding remains ambiguous.
"Will you let me through now, dammit?" Harry shouts and nearly shoves Remus into the Blanc-Mange. "Hermione, are you okay? Get out of the way, Tonks! I need to know that the git is all right!"
Then Harry squeezes inside, between table, trifle, Remus and Tonks, framed by Luna and Minerva.
"Wow!" He glances up and down the long table, counting the bowls and the plates. Then he stares at Hermione and Severus, both obviously unhurt, just ignominiously imprisoned between toppled sofa, fallen chairs, scattered books and their dining table.
"Don't ever do that again!" Harry cries. "You very nearly gave me a heart-attack. I was worried it's an attack! Death Eaters in the house, or worse, Ministry Snatchers."
"No," Severus retorts. He has to raise his voice. It's not just his stomach growling anymore. The small room is smelling like Christmas come alive: vanilla, brandy, fruit, nuts, and chocolate. Upstairs Buckbeak must smell something, too, because he's stomping harder every second. The crack in the ceiling is growing.
"No Death Eaters. No Ministry Snatchers." Severus turns, takes Hermione's hand and hauls her up on her feet. Then he looks back at Harry. "Just an unexpected…pudding party."
Climbing over the sofa, he slaps Harry's hand away from the cherry on top of the trifle. "And if you think you can steal the first piece of Christmas Pudding, think again, mate. That's for my wife. This is all her fault, after all. She caused this mess. Now she can eat it, too."
That's exactly what Hermione does.
Not everything. And not on her own, either.
(Harry being Harry manages to get not only the cherry from the trifle and the first piece of Christmas pudding in the end. But Severus eats the last one, sharing it with Hermione.)
After checking the magical table and the puddings for curses, hexes, jinxes and poisons (there are none), they move the party downstairs. The puddings are all utterly delicious. Even Molly agrees. And all bowls and plates are spelled to refill themselves three times.
By the time Hermione and Severus wearily climb back up to their attic, the whole house is full of pudding and the smell of pudding. There is pudding everywhere, in the wine cellar with Fred and Blaise, in Hagrid's vault, in Fang's bowl. In the kitchen, of course. Someone has smeared Blanc-Mange all over Old Mother Black's face and she's not even complaining.
Passing Harry's and Ginny's bedroom, they hear noises that make them wonder what else you can do with pudding.
And when they reach the main attic, Minerva's room is open, and they glimpse Flitwick, Ollivander and Minerva peacefully sharing some pancakes and rout cakes.
Up in their living room, Hermione picks up a few books that were not put away when they put the room to rights before joining the pudding party downstairs.
On top of the stack lies Goody Gostelow's book for household management and the most sovereign remedies and receipts. Severus moves to stand behind Hermione and embraces her. His breath tickles her throat and smells of Christmas Pudding.
"I'm so happy I found that book," Hermione says. "The pudding party was a lot of fun. And I think that Christmas Pudding was perhaps the best thing I've ever tasted in my life. What do you think, Severus? Which pudding did you like be—"
He turns her around and silences her with a kiss.
The kiss is spicy and sweet and rich, like the Christmas Pudding all over again.
At last they draw back, just a little, an inch or two. Severus' eyes glitter in the dim light of the dying embers in their fireplace.
"No," Hermione sighs. "It's you. You are the best thing I've ever tasted in my life. Even better than Christmas Pudding."
A/N: All references to Mary Stewart's character of Goody Gostelow and Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management are entirely intentional. This was written as a gift for Iulia Linnea and Tudorpot over on my blog/LiveJournal. I hope you enjoy it, too.
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