A/N: Hello all. Again I'm sorry for how long its been, but it can't be helped right now. Still dealing with lots of stuff with family. I've never dealt with all that goes along with preparing for a funeral and everything before. It's a pain in the butt, plus, it's depressing as hell.

Between that, and taking care of details for my aunt's estate, family that drop by to see if everyone is okay, and just trying to be a shoulder for her kids (grown adults, but still...they lost their mom)...I'm exhausted. Plus with everything else on my plate...including my own family that needs time, I've been neglecting this once again and all I can say is that I hope you all bear with me.

Chapter 24

The next few weeks went by and Severus found himself at her flat quite a lot. They spent time going over things for the shop, deciding that while Severus would prefer his investors to be only from the Malfoys, Hermione still liked the idea of Harry or even the twins being involved too.

In the end, they went with half their investment would come from Harry, though Severus agreed with her stance on it being a loan and Harry not just giving her the money, and the other half from the Malfoys.

Lucius and Draco could argue who got what part of that half too. Both wanted in and Severus was not going to choose a side in which one got to do it. Hermione didn't really care; she'd spent her vote on Harry being involved, though she did hope it was more Draco, than Lucius. She still didn't think she trusted Lucius.

However, in the midst of all of that, somehow Narcissa Malfoy was under the impression that Hermione wanted help decorating. Severus was well aware of how that had happened, and bit back a smirk at figuring out that Lucius threw Hermione's new flat at his wife to keep her from his touching office.

The day that Narcissa arrived for the first time, Hermione had been sitting at her computer, arguing with Severus on why it would be better to keep their records that way than by hand, when a knock sounded at the door.

Rolling her eyes at both the interruption and Severus still arguing with her that he didn't like the idea of a computer keeping track of things, she padded over and threw open the door. Expecting one of her friends, she was shocked to see the perfectly coiffed blonde standing outside her door.

"Mrs. Malfoy?" Hermione asked, confused as to why the woman was even there.

Narcissa looked the young woman up and down, taking in her worn muggle jeans that were now cut off into shorts, and the pale yellow tank top. "Hello, my dear. I'm here about your flat."

Hermione frowned. "Why? What's wrong with it?" Not understanding.

Narcissa had given her a small, but tight smile. "Nothing, other than it needs to be properly decorated."

At a loss, Hermione had stared at her dumbfounded. Narcissa had cleared her throat softly before speaking again. "May I come in, my dear?"

"Oh, forgive me, of course." Hermione said, moving aside and letting the stunning blonde woman inside. "I'm still not sure why you're here though."

Narcissa saw Severus and smirked. "Hello, Severus." Not looking the least bit surprised to see him, meaning either Lucius or Draco told her of his connection with Hermione.

Severus inclined his head. "Cissy. What brings you here?"

Narcissa's smirk grew. "I figured Miss Granger here could do with some help getting her new home situated."

Severus saw Hermione's confusion, and as understanding dawned at what Lucius had done, it had taken everything inside him to not only keep his smirk from showing, but to keep his laughter hidden as well. Though by the amused look on Narcissa's face, he had a feeling she was aware of both reactions.

"Then, I'll take my leave and let you two ladies get to it." He said, standing quickly.

"What?" Hermione squeaked out, her eyes wide at seeing him leaving.

Fighting a fresh laugh at the stunned and slightly petrified look on his lover's face, he gave Narcissa her customary peck on the cheek, before moving towards Hermione. "You two don't need me in the way for this." And I'm not getting in Narcissa's way at all, he added in silently.

"But..." Hermione started, only to have Severus cut her off with a short kiss before he was gone.

Left standing there speechless at his quick retreat, Hermione faced the woman who was now smirking at her. "But...I...what just happened here?"

Narcissa gave a soft laugh, highly amused at the scene she'd just watched. "Severus is smart enough to get out of my way for fear of me deciding to look at his own home next. So he left you to deal with me, instead of him having to deal with me instead."

Hermione eyes sparked at hearing that. "You're telling me that Severus Snape just turned tail and ran?" She would never have believed such a thing had she not just witnessed it.

Narcissa gave a soft laugh again. "That would be exactly what I'm telling you, my dear. Now, what precisely would you like to see in your home?"

Hermione seethed. "A certain Slytherin snake hung by his toes at the moment. I cannot believe he ran like a coward. He faced...Voldemort for cripes sakes, but he runs from you?"

Narcissa chuckled again, her hand moving gracefully in the air as she waved the comment off. "Voldemort would only torture him painfully; I can make the rest of his days a living nightmare of pastel silks and crushed velvets. My decorations can't be removed by anyone, but me or those I allow. He'd be stuck with whatever I chose to do until I decided to change it."

Hermione folded his arms across her chest, a look of annoyance on her face. "I'd give him sickeningly pink walls and cheerful kitty cats all over every available surface for him bailing on me." Thinking of what she'd seen in Umbridge's office during her fifth year.

Narcissa cocked her head in thought as she studied Hermione. "Hmm...I think I might just like you. Your sense of justice sounds like it might match my own. Come, I'll tell you what I did to Lucius' office the last time he seriously angered me. Think bright yellow drapes, with robins' egg blue throw pillows that were covered in bright green banana leaves. It's was atrocious to say the least, but very satisfying to see the look on his face at what he was going to be forced to sit in everyday until I decided to change it."

Two hours later, Hermione decided she might just like Narcissa too. Once you got past the icy demeanor she wasn't that bad. She'd tried to argue with the older woman over her trying to pick up the bill on the décor, but Narcissa waved her arguments away.

Explaining that Hermione would never have picked the silk wall paper on her own, so there was no way she was allowing the young woman to pay for it. This was Narcissa's newest project and since Lucius had sent her the young woman's way, Lucius could eat the costs it would incur to save his office from her. Narcissa was well aware of why Lucius hinted at Hermione needing decorating tips.

Two weeks after that first visit from Narcissa, her flat wasn't even half done, according to the blonde woman, and Hermione didn't even have to be there for the decorating to continue. Something she was very thankful for, though she did have to admit Narcissa was doing a fantastic job. Even taking in what Hermione liked and disliked and working from there, something that Narcissa had pointed out, she didn't even do for Lucius. Causing both women to chuckle over that tidbit of information.

After Severus had returned from his first escape after Narcissa's arrival, he'd had a bouquet of lavender in his hands and a stiff apology on his lips for running out the way he did. The flowers had her pausing in confusion, since he didn't seem like the flower giving type, until he explained the different practical uses for them. Making them sound more logical, than whimsical.

Keeping her smirk firmly hidden away since she knew he wouldn't appreciate it, or ever give her flowers again if he saw it, Hermione accepted them and his apology. Though she did tell him that she planned on hexing the hell out Lucius Malfoy for sicking his wife on her flat.

Severus merely nodded, saying that it sounded fair to him. Though he did hint at getting even with decorating tips being suggested for Narcissa, who would undoubtedly turn to Lucius' office when she was done here.

An evil smirk flirted about Hermione's lips as she thought of all the horrible ideas she could give the Mistress Malfoy to get even with Lucius. "Pink walls and cute kittens." Hermione had muttered, with a soft chuckle.

When Severus asked what she'd said, Hermione waved it away. Saying it was nothing, just a thought for the next person who royally pissed her off. Which having heard it, even though he'd asked her to repeat it, only had him thinking that maybe Narcissa being introduced to Hermione was a very bad idea. Severus' house could still end up on the chopping block, as it were, and he could anger Hermione enough to send Narcissa to his home with exactly what she said in mind for the décor. That alone had him suppressing a shudder.

They took a few days as Narcissa had her way with Hermione's flat, to scope out a few possible locations for the new shop in Diagon Alley. Both agreeing that being as far from Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes as they could get might be the best route to go. Though both were sure the twins would be excellent customers with all the disasters they'd seen over the years.

With the apothecary that was already in business at the entrance of Diagon Alley next to the Leaky Cauldron, they decided to inquire about the open buildings between the magical instruments shop and the ice cream parlor. It also happened to be across the way from Flourish and Blotts, meaning they'd get many people passing by.

"Can you refrain from going to the book store on a daily basis?" Severus asked with a light smirk.

Hermione sent him a mild glare. "I do have some self control, you know."

Severus' brow rose at that. "Oh?"

Hermione shrugged. "Yes."

At his narrowed gaze that went with his lingered smirk, she huffed out a breath. "I can keep with my trips only being once a week at most."

"You wouldn't pick Tuesday's for your once a week trip, would you?" He asked, his lips curving a tiny bit more.

Hermione felt her lips twitching in return. "Possibly. One never knows though."

Severus started chuckling. "I'm sure Tuesday's will find you there if you go. That being the day they stock any new volumes that were received in their shipments."

When she didn't comment, he only chuckled again. Knowing he was right, and knowing that she knew he was right. Mostly because when he visited the book store, that was always the day he would usually go too. He had spied her there on that specific day during several different occasions in the past.

After learning how much it would cost them to rent the building, though Hermione did want the option to purchase it later when they were making a profit, they decided that would be the ideal location. When Severus asked about why she wanted to lease first instead of buy outright, though he agreed and only wanted her view point on it, she explained that it would lower their start up costs to rent first. Which was what he figured as well.

When another two weeks passed, Hermione was sitting at her computer, doing her best to work while Narcissa had elves hanging different things and moving furniture that the older woman had bought. She checked her figures again, mentally tallying them up, even though she knew the total the computer gave her was correct.

She had their exact start up cost totals. That included vials, labels, ingredients, caldrons, different types of stirring rods, knives, shelves, display cases for more expensive or volatile potions, and everything else they'd need to get going. The total had her whistling softly.

She knew it was lower than it could have been, considering that Severus knew how and where to gather some of their more costly items due to rarity, but the total was much more than she'd initially thought.

Hearing the soft whistle, Narcissa turned. "Have it all figured out, Hermione?" The woman asked, having demanded they be on first name basis with how often they were around each other.

"Yes, ma'am, I have. It's almost double what I first thought it would be. I wonder how Severus is going to take seeing these numbers." Hermione said.

Narcissa chanced a glance at the box holding the figures, not really sure how the blasted machine worked, but it looked easy to read with how it was laid out on the screen. Spotting the total at the bottom, Narcissa made a soft humming noise.

"I don't see what the problem is, dear. My tailor's bill is almost twice that amount each year." Narcissa told her, really not seeing the issue.

Hermione eyes bugged out of her head. "Twice that amount a year?"

Narcissa gave her a patient smile. "Yes, dear. It's takes a lot of money to look this fabulous every day. Did you think my closets made the clothes themselves?" Laughing softly at the thought.

Hermione couldn't imagine spending even a quarter of that kind of money on clothes in five years, let alone every year. But as she stayed staring in shock, Narcissa gave her a once over.

"You know, Hermione, I think you could do with a bit of help from my tailor too." She said her hand waving dismissively at Hermione choice of clothing for the day.

Hermione looked at her jeans and t-shirt. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" There isn't a single stain on it, or a worn spot anywhere, she thought.

Narcissa sighed. "Nothing, I suppose. It's what you always wear, after all. But I think...yes...I think after I'm done here with your flat, that you'll be my next project."

Hermione's jaw dropped. "What? No."

Narcissa's perfectly groomed eyebrow rose. "No? Really, my dear, it'll be much easier on you if you just go along. I'd hate for you to learn the hard way why it is that Lucius and Severus don't fight me on what I want."

Hermione's eyes sparked. "I don't care what they learned. If I don't want to be your project, I will not be your project. Besides...I like what I wear."

Narcissa smirked at her. "Yes, but does Severus like it?"

Hermione frowned at her, though her eyes held a glimmer of amusement. "You mean the man that only ever wears one color?"

Biting back a chuckle, Narcissa nodded. "That would be the one, but have you ever noticed the quality and cut of those one colored clothes?"

That drew Hermione up. "No." All amusement gone.

"Exactly. He may only wear one color, but they're very fine indeed." Having made her point in her mind. "Besides, a person doesn't wear clothes for themselves."

Hermione frowned again. "Then, who else is going to be concerned with how comfortable I am?"

It took all the poise the stunning blonde had been raised with, not to roll her eyes. "No one, but my point was, that you don't wear clothes for yourself, you wear them for your...what exactly are you calling Severus these days?"

Hermione seemed stumped. "Just his name."

Narcissa's brow rose again. "I meant to other people. You do not call him your beau or your suitor? Not even that he is your...wooer or admirer?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, though Draco did imply that he was my boyfriend once."

Fighting a very unladylike snort of laughter, Narcissa shook her head. "What are you telling people about him, Hermione?"

Hermione sighed. "The last time I had this discussion with anyone, it ended with someone asking if I was shagging him and I simply agreed that I was."

The statuesque blonde refrained from sniffing disdainfully at the term, but just barely. "My dear, you need to know what to call him when people ask. I wouldn't think that Severus would like the term...boyfriend, however, you do need to be able to call him something." Narcissa said before going back to the elves who'd finished their tasks and were waiting for new orders.

"What's wrong with lover?" Hermione asked as she looked the blonde woman's way.

Narcissa glanced back at her. "Nothing, my dear, but he can't just stay as your lover forever, now can he?"

At a loss, Hermione stayed silent. Seeing she'd made her point about Severus and made a dent in getting Hermione to agree to letting Narcissa take her on as a project, the blonde aristocrat moved back to her decorating.

A/N: I know I kind of jumped around, but figuring out details for opening a shop takes time, and I think Hermione needed an adult female perspective. I love Ginny giving advice, but Ginny isn't much older either and can't always be the bearer of all good advice. Besides, we get to see Ginny being the advice giver soon once again anyways. lol.

More coming soon, I swear. Take care and please leave me your thoughts.