A bit short, but I hope it satisfies. :)
Hermione takes her time in the kitchen, leaving Severus to contemplate Weasley's possible motives. But by the time Hermione is back with the tea, he can only determine that she's completely insane.
"I think your friend has aspirations as a matchmaker," Severus notes with amusement once they're settled on the sofa.
Hermione looks embarrassed again, and then drifts into a sort of melancholy that leaves him confused. Had he misinterpreted the situation? Had he said something wrong?
"Is the idea really that funny?" she asks finally.
"What?" Again, he feels lost.
"Could you never fancy me at all?" Her tone is entreating.
"You... say that like it might be desirable," he says slowly.
Hermione says nothing. Oh.
Damn. Severus has no idea how to feel about that. He's still not convinced he's right.
"So... you're saying that such a... fancy on my part... would be welcome?"
Her head slowly tilts down and up in the barest fraction of a nod while she sits staring into her teacup forlornly.
Severus attempts to digest that for a few moments. Does that mean this evening was meant to be some sort of... date? He ponders the ramifications.
...And is startled when he notices a few silent tears sliding down Hermione's cheeks. Shite. Not again.
"I'm afraid I don't know what to say," Severus begins nervously. "I must admit that I haven't previously thought of you in a... romantic light..."
He's distressed when her features twist alarmingly.
"But I can't swear that such feelings are... impossible," he quickly adds.
She finally looks at him then, but with annoyance.
"And I can't swear that Merlin himself won't someday rise from the grave and grant us all a wish or three," she snaps. "But that doesn't make it likely, and I'd appreciate it if you just let me down with a refusal and not give me false hopes."
"Well, I—You're a very attractive young woman-"
"So attractive you never even thought about-" she mutters.
"Fucking shite, Hermione. What do you want me to say?" Severus says forcefully, suddenly feeling passionately angry in a way he hadn't been in years. "Yes, I do think you're attractive and no I never considered you as a prospect for romance. But it's nothing to do with you. You're the best friend I've ever had, maybe my only true friend.
"It has everything to do with the fact that I'm Severus fucking Snape. I'm ugly and bad-tempered. I drove away my best friend in school, the girl I loved, and then got her killed. I spent years believing stupid shite about blood supremacy because I was jealous and picked on. I followed a fucking maniac and hung around his blood-thirsty disciples. I fucking murdered and then spent months in Azkaban. I spent sixteen years locked up in a fucking school teaching imbeciles who hated me, surrounded by my old teachers who—strangely enough—hated me.
Who the fuck would want me?"
He finds himself standing, breathing erratic, his tea in a mess on the floor. Hermione stares up at him from the sofa with wide eyes, looking terrified out of her wits.
Severus attempts to calm himself with a few deep breaths and after a while continues hoarsely,
"So yes, your admission caught me by surprise. I've spent decades believing that no one could possibly ever like me, much less be interested in me romantically. It didn't take me long at all to stop looking altogether. I would never have dared dream-" he stops, choked, and sits back on the sofa abruptly, head in hands.
Hermione sets down her tea and places a hand on his back, delicately.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers, her face streaked with tears.
They sit that way in silence for several minutes.
Severus eventually sits up. His eyes are red, he's sure. He silently cleans the spilled tea.
"I am... hesitant to suggest that we risk our friendship," he says finally. "My last effort at romantic passion ended so tragically. But I must admit that, given the opportunity..."
His eyes catch and hold hers.
"I would be... honoured to explore whatever feelings we could possibly share." His gravelly voice is pitched with rare emotion.
Hermione smiles widely, still crying, and carefully takes one of his hands in her own. It occurs to him that he can count on one hand the number of times before this they've been close enough to touch.
"And you're sure that... well, you're really interested in me?" she asks nervously. He lifts an eyebrow.
"I'm not such a dunderhead that I would attach myself to someone uninteresting, no matter how desperate I may have just made myself sound," he says dryly. "And... I would be a fool not to adore you."
He feels himself retreat after this embarrassing admission, but she holds his hand tighter and shifts closer to him on the sofa.
"I'm very glad," she says softly, and brushes her lips gently over his.
It's a simple and unarousing act. But it's utterly perfect.
She leans into his chest and gets comfortable at his side. They sit that way for an untold amount of time, simply basking in the joyful experience.
Severus is sure he must be smiling like a moron but can't bring himself to care.
"I admit, for a while, I thought it was impossible that you could... I mean," Hermione whispers eventually. "Your Patronus is still a doe."
He nods, sobered. Of course she would have focused on that.
It's always with regret that Severus looks back on those moments of panic, lying near death in the Shrieking Shack, desperate to get the message to Potter somehow. He wishes frequently he'd exerted more control over which memories he allowed to seep out of him. He'd never wished anyone to know of his old, pathetic infatuation, and now the whole bloody world does.
"Patroni are curious things. You can never really tell what emotions or experiences will affect their form. Lily was a good friend for quite a few years, and I'll always deeply regret her death. But I believe... it is her death that so heavily impacted my life and perspective. More so, I must admit, than even Lily herself did while alive. You need not worry that I'm still pining," he tells her honestly.
Hermione nods against his shoulder. "That makes sense... And I should like to think Partronuses truly represent us and our experiences, anyway, more than they reflect whomever we happen to fancy at the moment. It seems a bit... unhealthy? To lose yourself completely in that way."
"Indeed," Severus smirks. "No dramatic ideas about essential and self-sacrificial love?"
She looks up at him with a teasing smile.
"I'm too much the daughter of a feminist, I suppose," she says lightly. "No, I'd much rather believe that we're all capable of getting by independently, and that a relationship is beneficial rather than obligatory. A sort of facultative mutualism."
"I'm terribly hurt," Severus says sarcastically, teasing, "Are you saying you don't feel... a need?"
Tentatively, his free hand comes to rest lightly on her cheek.
"None at all," she denies, eyes sparkling. Her hands flutter around a bit uncertainly, before finding their way to his chest. Neither of them are entirely confident, it seems. "But I feel a wonderful desire..."
Her lips slant over his, and they get down to the rather serious business of snogging.
Severus admits he's still a bit stiff and unsure until one her hands lifts to tangle in his hair.
At which point he can feel himself simply melt.
After a time he gathers the courage to place his hand on her back and stroke the expanse of skin left bare by her dress. Her breath hitches delightfully, and that is wonderfully arousing.
He reluctantly pulls back and lightens his kiss until their lips are just barely touching, then just the barest distance apart.
For a moment they just breath.
"You have—I mean, you're not-" she begins, looking embarrassed. He rasps a little laugh.
"No, I'm not, and I have," Severus mocks, though it would be best not to elaborate on that front. They weren't the most dignified or pleasurable occasions. "But I'm finding it... a vastly different experience, when with someone I... care for," he says seriously.
Hermione nods and smiles softly.
"Alright." She molds herself to his side again, and they... cuddle. "There's time."
They don't budge from the sofa for hours. Eventually, however, Severus must reluctantly depart.
...After several minutes spent tangled pleasurably at the door, with promises to continue at a later date.
It's months later at a Christmas party Harry and Ginny are hosting at Grimmauld Place. Most of the old crowd is there, plus a few new additions. Colleagues, romantic partners, friends and children.
Hermione and Severus arrive together, fashionably late, and Ginny greets them at the door with a smile and takes their cloaks. Almost no one notes their entrance, too busy mingling, snacking, and having fun.
"I'm so glad you could make it," she tells them. It's a pleasant surprise, because she knows Severus hasn't seen many of these people since his trial or before, and the couple hasn't been all that open with their relationship. Which is understandable. The media can be brutal and old acquaintances, worse.
Ginny also knows that Hermione moved into his home on Spinner's End just recently, although they're thinking of buying something a little larger soon. Something with more room for bookshelves.
She chats with them a bit before she has to welcome the next arrivals, but she watches them carefully for most of the remainder of the party.
She had been very concerned, at first, when Hermione explained her feelings and then later revealed they were in a relationship.
...Although Ginny has to admit a certain smug satisfaction at learning she'd been the catalyst.
She was concerned mostly because it was Snape. An older man with a tragic past and an infamous unrequited love. Or should that be infamous past and tragic love? Either way suits, really.
He's always had a terrible temper, also.
So yes, Ginny was concerned. Not enough to interfere, or even prevent her from encouraging Hermione, whose judgment she trusts completely. But enough to wonder. Could he really have feelings for her, after Lily? Even if he did, did he know how to be in a loving relationship? What if he's with her only because she's the first one to show him real friendship? Could she really be happy with him?
All of these worries faded completely with time.
They're not really demonstrative, but even those observers unaware of their relationship can see something, and are watching them with a bit of wary confusion. The couple effortlessly ignores the strange looks. Or maybe they don't notice.
And to those who are aware... Harry got over the shock quickly enough and is thrilled for the both of them. While most others, Ron included, don't understand at all, but know Hermione too well to try to object.
But as Ginny watches them now, she does understand. She can see that the relationship is good for Hermione. Good for them.
Hermione's calm. Light-hearted, teasing even. A much different woman than the—she hesitates to say—almost shrewish harpy she sometimes seemed when in a relationship with Ron. Now she seems at peace, with herself and with him.
If Hermione is annoyed or starts to worry and dwell on something, a sharp comment from Severus and she'll relax with a laugh instead of escalating into a tizzy.
And likewise, if he's feeling uncomfortable and retreats into the corner or another room in a bad mood, she'll touch his arm with a gentle smile and slowly lure him back to humanity.
They're very different people... she's eager and idealistic, wants to march ahead and change the whole world; he's reserved and observant, content to be a commentator making small contributions. But they compliment each other in a way Ginny never could have imagined. They're both better people for it.
She's happy for them. Their adoration is entirely mutual, and their relationship clearly benefits them both. Sort of like... oh, what did Professor Sprout call it? Like with gillyweed and that one little fish... 'sym' something. Symbiosis? Herbology was never her best subject.
Ginny decides to find Neville and ask him, content to leave Hermione and Severus to their subtle glances and secret smiles.
A/N: I'm very happy to have completed a multi-chapter fic for the first time, short though it is. I really hope you enjoyed it, and I welcome any criticism.
I went into this without a whole lot of forethought, hoping to simply illustrate how a romantic relationship between Hermione and Snape might come about. So that's what I focused on, maybe to the exclusion of developing a fully fleshed reality and characters. If/when I write more in the future, I'll try to improve that as well as my use of capital letters and punctuation... I never know where to put the buggers. :D
But given that I conceptualized and wrote this in not much more than a week (admittedly filled with little else), I'm fairly pleased. Thank you for joining me, and a huge thank you to everyone that took the time to leave a review. I really appreciate everyone's comments.