This Year's Love

AN: Prepare for some (vaguely) Christmassy themed fluff.

All characters belong to J.K. Rowling.

I'd never really noticed her before.

Well, I had, but only as one third of an intolerably troublesome Gryffindor trio. When she came back after the War, to complete her N.E.W.T.s, I didn't notice her then, either. Why would I? She was just another face amongst a sea of many, and I suppose, I simply wasn't looking.

A few years later, when Filius Flitwick chose to retire, she came back to take up the Charms position. Really, I had no choice but to notice her, then—our paths destined to cross at any given time of the day.

They say familiarity will often breed contempt, but to my eternal consternation, I found quite the opposite with Miss Granger.

I'm not a very loquacious person; I say what needs to be said—no more, no less. She talks all the time. If it wasn't socially improper, I believe she would talk aloud to herself, too.

I can't abide aimless chatter, and so often I felt like telling her to give it a rest. I'd be trying to read, or mark essays, in the staff room, and her voice would drift over from wherever in the room she was currently pontificating. One time, when I was in a particularly abrasive mood, I curled my lip into a sneer, ready to tell her once and for all, to put a sock in it and shut up.

Except, I made an elementary mistake. Instead of charging ahead with my reprimand, I paused in my actions and listened to her.

In the end, listening became a habit of mine, and I could only deduce from such a pattern that I must actually be interested in what she had to say—I was hard pressed to find evidence as to her chatter being aimless. It would be out of character for me not to find fault with something, though, and after a time, I decided the fault lay in the fact that she rarely, if ever, talked only to me.

So eventually, I seized the initiative myself.

'Professor,' I said to her one afternoon, after I'd happened upon her in an otherwise empty staff room, 'what on earth is that tripe you are reading?'

'Tripe?' she'd immediately scoffed. 'Professor Snape, I'll have you know that Gladsworthy has some sound insights into–'

'It's tripe.'

'No no, see here…'

She had me there for an hour, lecturing me on the theories and flights of fancies in the recent publication of George Gladsworthy, a noted, if rather unorthodox academic specialising in magical theory.

From then on, she seemed to deem it okay to subject me to regular discussions on whatever topics were currently occupying her mind.

'Professor Snape,' she would say, 'have you read this article in the Prophet, today? Is it not completely ludicrous?'

Often, I was guilty of responding in such a way as to fuel her enthusiasm.

'I found the article eminently shrewd.'

'You're joking?'

'I never joke, Professor.'

At meal times, whether by coincidence or unconscious design, I found I was frequently seated next to her, and the chatter would continue in my ear. Although, her choice of topic was usually more lightweight, ranging from Quidditch:

'Who are you fancying for the Cup this year, then?'

Classroom mishaps:

'Do you know what happened to me in my first-year class, today? I actually got hexed!'

To gastronomic delights:

'Oh my! I would gladly lay down my life for a slice of the Elves' chocolate tart!'

And I would sit there, outwardly detached, but still inwardly fascinated.

I discovered early on that I had the ability to annoy her exponentially. For several days I had witnessed her toil over one of the Prophet's Fiendishly Difficult crosswords. One day, when she had abandoned it unfinished on the table, stalking away from it with an angry huff, I naturally had a look.

Some time later, there was a confrontation.

'Um, Severus, did you happen to finish my crossword? The one I was, in fact, capable of doing myself?'

'You're welcome.'

She was not amused, and indeed, seemed to take it as some sort of challenge. The next time such a crossword was published in the Daily Prophet, I observed her furiously scribbling away over it during breakfast. When lunchtime rolled round, I encountered her in the staff room, her eyes closed in a frown and her quill tapping against her cheek; I felt obliged to offer assistance.

'Twenty-five across—Gubraithian fire.'

I placed my own copy of the Prophet in front of her, and left. The sound of a quill snapping in half was music to my ears.

I knew that she felt her pride was being compromised, and so I was eminently prepared the next time the newspaper arrived at my plate, the black and white grid indicating there was another puzzle to solve. I hadn't finished unfolding mine when the sound of a seat being pushed back was heard, and immediately visible was the retreating figure of the curly-haired Charms teacher.

She told me later that she'd nearly run to her classroom to begin solving the cryptic clues of the crossword puzzle, before morning lessons began. As it was, I also began tackling it, and I assigned my students some theory to do, allowing my concentration to be focused elsewhere.

It only took me fifteen minutes.

'Miss Philips, I need you to take a note to Professor Granger.' I neatly cut out the puzzle with my wand.

I would have dearly loved to deliver it myself, but her answering note told me all I needed to know.

She was quiet at dinner, unusually so, and I couldn't resist annoying her further.

'Am I going to have to discuss with you your breach in protocol, Professor, in sending offensive messages to your superiors?'

'Are you suggesting you are my intellectual superior?'

'Dear me, would I really dare to imply such a thing? I was merely referring to our respective positions within this establishment.'

'My apologies, Deputy Headmaster. I had nearly finished that crossword, I'll have you know.'

In hindsight, I suppose I might as well have run up behind her in the corridor and pulled her hair—it signified the same thing, in the end.

It was difficult, at first, to reconcile how the image of the girl with sleek, red hair and piercing, green eyes, so strong in my thoughts for so many years, had begun fading to be replaced by a figure with hair one would be hard pressed to describe as sleek, and eyes that most were most definitely brown.

And, who likes change? Naturally, I resisted.

I kept to the dungeons as often as was permissible, and I really thought it would work. Except, after a week or two, she began venturing down to my classroom or my office—wherever I happened to be—to begin her chatter once more.

The first time she attempted such a course of action represented a shift in the tone of our conversations. Under my new paradigm of existence, I should have sent her away with a few sharp words, and I would have done, were it not for the fact that her expression indicated she was somewhat troubled.

Once again, I listened, and could only wonder at the irony of the newly appointed Head of Gryffindor seeking out the infamously biased Head of Slytherin, for advice on how to run her House. Had she forgotten we were supposed to have a life-long rivalry?

At one time I might have found it advantageous to withhold the extensive knowledge years of experience had taught me, in order to further the interests of my own House. This time, however, I found my own interests would be better served by being helpful, troublesome and niggling interests as they were.

As I led the conversation, for a change, I found I liked having her attention focused on me. Her eyes would watch attentively, and the look on her face was one that I could, if I chose to, let myself imagine implied she was as captivated with me as I was with her. Such delusions did not sit well with me, but they were enough to weaken my resolve with regard to avoiding her.

Indeed, eventually, I found myself agreeing to have tea with her in her office. In her own private domain she was even more vociferous, and it was always a mark of what particular mood she was in. Those rare times when she appeared reluctant to engage in conversation indicated, quite clearly, that there was something on her mind. Paying as much attention to her as I had, I was apt to notice her reticence.

After a time, I felt it would not be improper for me to seek to rectify such moments, and I'd usually begin with an off-hand observation.

'You are uncommonly quiet tonight.'

Often, it was the most trifling thing that was bothering her.

'It's silly, I just… I overheard some students talking unfavourably about me; it was nothing too bad… just "Oh, I hate Professor Granger! She's such an old cow for giving us this essay to do!"'

'If I let myself be affected by every negative comment I heard about myself from the students, I can assure you, I'd never be able to get up in the morning.'

'All right; I know I'm being stupid…'

'Your trouble is that you want all of them to be your friend—to like you.'

'Is that wrong?'

'No, you just need to realise that it is plainly impossible. Perhaps you should take a leaf out of my teaching handbook, and then you wouldn't be preoccupied with such things.'

She laughed, and I nearly found myself smiling.

My default response should have been to scorn such sentimentality, but I couldn't fault her genuine commitment to her students, and indeed, I found it didn't annoy me as much as it should have done.

I learnt many things about her during those times, when topics increasingly strayed beyond the sphere of academics, and Hogwarts. I was also intrigued by what I learned about myself.

Challenging her to games of chess, cards, and even, in my more laid-back moments, Gobstones, I discovered that my enjoyment of her company was not limited to those times of enthusiastic discussion or teasing; quiet companionship was more than acceptable, too.

I will always remember the first time I ever witnessed her completely speechless, for it was I who rendered her so. I did not have long to revel in such a feat at the time—embarrassment was the more pressing emotion.

It was the staff Christmas party, and the lot of us had commandeered several large tables in the Three Broomsticks. I was seated on the end, and at that point, I was not surprised to find her sitting on the other side of me. Indeed, I revelled in her proximity – the scent of her perfume, the sound of her voice – all very clichéd and pathetic, I'm sure. She was preoccupied with Hagrid, and I had no desire to join in the discussion of Madame Malkin's winter catalogue, with Minerva and Pomona, so I sat quietly, trying hard to block out the grating sound of Christmas songs in the background.

When Hagrid finally lumbered off to another table, I waited patiently, knowing it would only be a few minutes before she would pipe up with some opening gambit. I wasn't to be disappointed.

'Enjoying yourself, Severus? Don't you just love Christmas?' She sipped at her drink and hummed quietly along to the music.

'Oh yes, the best time of the year.'

'Well,' she frowned at me, 'could you be any less sincere?'

I replied to her rather dismissively. 'I could, indeed.'

She merely huffed at me, and changed the subject. 'I read something rather interesting today, an exposition in Challenges in Charming on why more should be done to bring Potions and Charms to work together more.'

I remember inwardly lighting up at this; I had the perfect response.

'There is a reason for a perceived distance between the two disciplines, and that is because potion-making is clearly the more skilled and respected profession. There is no need to bring silly incantations into the equation.'

She was completely dumb-founded.

'Excuse me! Charms is a highly-skilled and immensely complex—'

I fought hard not to smirk. 'Oh, please! One could never compare Potions to Charms! You can't even begin to pit the innate understanding, creativity, and pure talent needed to brew the perfect potion to the ability to wave a wand and say a few words!'

She slammed her glass down on the tabletop in disgust. 'I really can't believe this! Are you honestly saying you believe such rubbish? Next, you'll be telling me Divination has more credibility!'

'Well, I wouldn't go that far. I would say, however, that Transfiguration would rank higher in my estimation than Charms. I'm sure Minerva would agree with me.'

At the mention of her name, Minerva looked up from where she was sat, opposite us.

'Whatever you two are disagreeing about, don't drag me into it. Hermione, I would just take no notice of him.'

'I'm afraid I cannot, Minerva! This is outrageous!' She fixed me with a potent glare. 'Look at the charm on the Great Hall ceiling! That is an incredible piece of magic that I'd like to see you replicate! No one even knows how such a feat was managed! You can't create that effect with a potion, can you? No! You say all this, but where would you be without all your charms in potion-making? All those sterilising charms for your bloody cauldrons and beakers; cleaning charms and Banishing spells for accidents!'

'I'm not disputing their effectiveness; I'm disputing its place within the academic food-chain. Potions has a much broader body of theory, which it draws on and–'

She made a loud huffing noise.

'No, I'm not having this! Charms is just as complex and technical as Potions, or Transfiguration, or whatever! I don't care what you say; you've always been dismissive of spell-work! For Merlin's sake! What about all the charms they use in Healing? They take an extraordinary amount of skill to perform—or are you of the opinion that anyone can whip their wands out and cast a diagnostic charm at will? Ugh! I can't believe you are being so supercilious about this! Does this mean you have no respect for me, or my abilities, or…'

At this point, her rant became background noise and all my consideration was focused on her. She was incandescent with indignation and her eyes blazed at me. I hesitate to say it, but I was transfixed—if ever I'd wanted her full attention, I definitely had it then. Perhaps that is what made me do it, or maybe I just wanted to show her that I did respect her, or even, just to shut her up.

Whatever it was, it had me suddenly leaning forward with only one purpose in mind. When she trailed off in surprise, I quickly became aware of what I was about and I reeled back immediately. She blushed furiously, and I flushed at the thought that I'd actually moved to kiss her—in front of everyone.

I wondered if anyone would mind if I Avada Kedavra'd myself, right there and then.

To my relief, no one else appeared to notice that both of us were sitting there as if suffering from shellshock. I was angry with myself, and embarrassed for being so completely foolish. For several excruciating moments, I hardly knew where to look.

I knew I could not have brought myself to look at her—for all the Galleons in Gringotts I could not. All I could do was replay my rash action over and over in my head, cursing myself each time, while digging my nails into my thigh to stop myself from physically cringing.

I took a long draught of my ale for fortification. I knew I should have apologised, but one quick glance in her direction, found her staring into her glass, cheeks still tinged pink, and I ended up cursing myself again. I thought she was probably feeling embarrassed for me—pitying me for making an arse of myself.

It was at that point, just when I contemplated beating a hasty retreat, that Rolanda Hooch came swaying over to our table, three sheets to the wind, and clutching a battered sprig of mistletoe.

'Santa baby! Slip a sable under the… Severus! I haven't got you on my… on my list, yet!'

Without ceremony or warning, she threw herself upon me.

I had just enough time to move my head to the side, but her hands were grabbing at my hair, and her lips were perilously close to my cheek. I pushed with all my might at her shoulders.

'Get the hell off me, you old hag!'

'Come on! Just one!' she cried, puckering her lips, and making disturbing cooing noises.

Then there were hands grasping at her shoulders and Minerva was pulling her off.

'All right, Rolanda, get off Severus—before he gets his wand out.'

The flying instructor shrieked with laughter and jeered. 'Ooh, let's see it, then!'

I grimaced, but sighed in eternal relief when Minerva pushed the inebriated witch in the direction of some other unsuspecting souls.

I started regaining my composure, but distraction came in form of some muffled sounds on my left. I looked to find the source of my earlier embarrassment turned away from me, and desperately trying to contain her laughter. Her shoulders shook and her hand was pressed over her mouth.

I cleared my throat, distinctly unimpressed. 'Find it funny, do you?'

She wiped at the tears in her eyes. 'I'm sorry, I thought she was going to eat you!'

'Fat lot of help you were.'

I drained my tankard, feeling this night was destined to be a disaster from start to finish.

'You know, I,' she let out a long, steadying breath, 'I think I should admit to being rather, ah, disappointed.'

'Oh, I'm sorry—you wanted to see me smothered by a Quidditch referee?'

'Well… put it this way—she got a lot more action than I did.'

This was my turn to be rendered speechless. She stared at me, but the longer I remained silent, the more flushed and unsure she ended up becoming.

'I'm sorry, I thought—earlier, you wanted to… um…' She tucked her hair behind her ear awkwardly. 'Right; how embarr—'

I forced myself to speak. 'I did…'

'You did?'

I nodded dumbly.

'Oh, right, well, um…' She looked at her hands.


I watched, incredulous, as she tentatively picked up Hooch's abandoned sprig of bedraggled mistletoe, and held it in her lap. 'Well, then, perhaps you would be agreeable enough to, ah…' She suggestively jiggled the mistletoe in her hand.

Well, I was more than agreeable, but I could hardly believe what she was asking of me.

'Now?' I managed, sounding, I was sure, like a dunderhead.

She nodded. 'If, that's all right…?'

I swallowed, and deciding to put myself on the line, I plucked the mistletoe out of her hand and dropped it onto the table. 'I don't think we need this pathetic piece of vegetation, do we?'

'Fine by me,' she whispered.

I moved slowly towards her, afraid that if I moved too fast the spell would be broken and she'd run off screaming. I brought one hand up to touch her jaw, and when her eyes fluttered closed, I felt a thrill of confidence ignite inside me.

I pressed my lips to hers, letting them linger long enough so that, by no means could it be confused for a friendly peck. I pulled back to gauge her reaction.

She looked at me, smiling, and when our eyes met, I felt oddly mesmerised.

'Again?' she murmured softly, and if I were a lesser man I probably would have blushed.

She must have seen my eyes flick briefly to our nearby companions, for her next words were, 'Forget about them.'

'Fine by me,' I whispered.

That time, she kissed me, and for several moments we remained like that, our mouths moving almost languorously together, until we parted, mindful of the fact that we'd probably attracted an audience.

'Maybe, now, you can see the benefit of Potions and Charms coming together a bit more,' she uttered quietly, and a little breathlessly.

'I'll admit, I wouldn't be averse to collecting more data…'

She smiled and her eyes shone. We turned back to our table, unsurprised to see there were several people looking at us with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

'You two, ah, enjoying yourselves over there?' Minerva questioned dryly.

'Yes, quite,' I replied, and I quickly moved to take a sip of drink, only to find it was empty. I was never sure what it was, but Minerva always had the ability to make me feel like a schoolboy all over again. Still, any amount of discomfiture was worth it for the contentment that coursed through my veins.

A movement by the side of me attracted my attention, and I discovered that Hermione had scooted closer, to rest her hand on my arm, under the table.

'I'm going to be prepared this time—just in case Rolanda comes back,' she explained, smirking.

I didn't complain.

As expected, the incident ended up spreading around Hogwarts like wildfire.

'Did you hear what happened at the teachers' Christmas party? Snape and Granger were seen smooching—all night!'

'Bloody hell!'

And, of course, by the end of the day, many other fantastical details had been added into the mix.

'Apparently, he slipped her a Love Potion…'

'No, I heard she cursed him…'

'No, he cursed her…'

'Didn't you know they're getting married? I was told they've been engaged for well over a year!'

'She's pregnant, isn't she? You can tell...'

Hermione was not amused by that rumour.

I wasn't amused by any of them, and things soon quietened down when it became known just how many points I was taking, and how many detentions I was handing out if I heard those silly stories being discussed.

Secretly, I wasn't all that bothered. For the first time, in a long while, I could almost say that I felt good about myself, and I wondered if, maybe this time, this year, I had finally fallen for the right woman.

AN: Told you it was fluff.

Happy Christmas : )