An Interrupted Monologue Upon The Occasion of My Birth
~Prof. S. Snape, PM
A HG*SS story by RedValkyrie
I admit it. I quite hate birthdays. No, not only my own, yours as well, and your best friend's, and your mother's, and even your dog's. It ludicrous, I think, to celebrate… "celebrate" one's birth, as if it were some great and meaningful event in the grand scheme of the universe. I have, if you'll pardon me, born witness, so to speak, to the result of countless birthdays. They trounce about the halls of Hogwarts every term, their addlepated minds offering up a pittance of what I'm sure will be squandered knowledge. And yet, despite the sea of mediocrity in which these precious treasures swim, each and every one of them considers himself or herself to be something special, at least one day of the year. …And their friends, and worse yet, their tutors indulge them!
Not so, say I.
If you will pardon my pun, I will not be party to it. "But Professor, it's my birthday, can't I be excused?" they ask, their little eyes watery with poorly begged hope. Were I to excuse one, to pardon one from lessons, or a nights duty of homework and study, I'd be forced to do so with all, and then what would I have? Bedlam, that's what! I refuse to give the keys of the asylum to the committed. In time, perhaps the brighter of these dim lights will see that it is for their own good and preservation. No one ever made a festival of my birthday, and I turned out…
…But that is hardly the point.
Except for today I'm afraid. You see, it is my birthday. As I said previously, no great occasion has ever been made the sad day I had the misfortune to be jolted into this world.
When I was a child, my… my mother… might have found the means to give me a sweet of some sort, but it was never a foregone conclusion. It is not that she didn't love me, she did. She honestly did... but, ah well, there was little money for extravagances, and being a child, my father said, was extravagant enough.
Lily too, I will admit, did try to mark the day for me… though after our… well, after the incident, it made those remembrances all the worse to bear.
...Which, of course, leads me to Albus, the founder of unbearable things. On the night of my birthday, every year since the first of my servitude to him, he would have the elves bring me a cake, some horridly saccharine confection, much too rich for my pallet. Of course, he did this during the usual dinner hour, announcing to all that it was "Professor Snape's special day." I found it humiliating. Of course he did the same for the other teachers. It was perfunctory, the difference with them being that they were liked! The staff tolerated and suspected me; the students detested me. Be assured his proclamation was never met with fanfare and the sounding of horns. Minerva did always manage a barb or two about my ensuing decrepitude, but really, it was only fodder for our continual contest of words. Perhaps that was her attempt at a gift. She hasn't offered me much more than pitiful glances and solemn apologies since… well, since things changed. I find it tiresome. At least it affords no mention to the issue at hand.
Personally, I prefer to observe the occasion by leaving it unobserved. Thankfully, I have not had to endure that particular brand of torture since becoming Headmaster. Headmaster, ha! and legitimately at that! Now there's a twist of the Fate's wicked spindle. I think Minerva nearly choked on a Ginger Newt when the board handed down its decision, not that she bore me ill will, but more over the fact that I accepted. Oh, and accept it I did, to spite them. The governors and I all knew it was only a gesture meant as a courtesy, but who am I to deny such courtesy? Honestly, just remembering the look on their collective faces makes me feel a bit jovial.
Hmm, Perhaps I will celebrate a little. As the Muggle youth say, maybe I'll "get wasted" on some kind of alcohol; a bit of old port might be nice. Yes, I think I'll hunker down in my worn leather wingback with a snifter full and drink myself into blissful oblivion.
However, at the moment, it is time for dinner and I must make my usual appearance. It is one of the many burdens a Headmaster must bear, the company of others. Even so, and I would never admit this to anyone, sometimes I miss the old codger babbling about during a meal, fussing over some trivial pursuit or extoling the virtues of the latest Muggle sweet he'd discovered. He did, if nothing else, usually provide dinner and a show.
Dinner is always a quiet affair now. No one speaks to me much during the meal, well, except Granger. She's always a chatterbox when seated in my vicinity. She is, despite my original protestations, a skilled and thorough instructor. When I hired her at the persistent urging of Minerva as, of all things, our new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, I thought perhaps Hell had decided to resettle its location. We are frozen over quite often in the winter, so it seemed plausible. But, the girl has proved, and I assure you, I am sickened by the poetics of which I am about to spew, a ray of sunshine in a rather gloomy climate.
Despite my pallor, I am not so adverse to the light. In fact, I find myself searching for it much more often that I should. I have found I have a tendency to burn if left to linger in it for too long. Still, despite my history, I can't seem to shun it. I am, if anything a glutton for punishment, scorched once already and still too foolish to relinquish myself to the shadows. Of course I hold no delusions of grandeur when it comes to her affections, even if my mind might lose itself to wool gathering now and then. A man's dreams are only that after all.
Perhaps I should say, I hold no delusions of Granger, but then I'd be disgusted with myself for such a terrible play upon words. In the beginning, I was fairly aghast to discover my burgeoning feelings for her. I was certain my heart had packed itself up long ago and settled far away from the barren hinterland in which I'd kept it, but it seemingly still beats right here at home.
And it was traitorous, I tell you that without reserve. It was nothing she did overtly to garner my attentions. I certainly hadn't carried a torch for her over the years as I had with Lily. Really, I thought of her as nothing more than a former student that had come into my employment. She's not a great beauty, not one to make men's hearts weak, and please don't take from that statement that I consider her to be unattractive, all I mean is that she does not stand out in a sea of faces. She is neither Helen of Troy nor Aphrodite, and yet, I think I would find her infinitely more pleasing to look upon if given that pleasure for ages and ages hence. What spawned this terrible lo… fondness was a thought, a simple, stupid thought, and I wouldn't slander my brain to say it came from that organ. No, I do believe this had cruder origins, not the least of which was a neglected heart.
It was during breakfast, several months past, that the errant vision slid through my mind. She sat a few seats down from me and I happened to glance at her. She had her nose stuck in some dusty old tome about the Goblin Wars, elbows on the table; her fork poised in the air, unmoving, a half-bitten sausage dripping with syrup hanging limply on the tines. She was practically bathed in light from the windows, highlighting the fact that she wore no makeup and obviously hadn't slept well the night before. I'm also fairly sure she literally had a bit of egg on her face, crusting near her lips.
And then it happened.
…I had an image of her in my arms, her heavily lidded, lust-filled eyes staring into mine, breasts pressing against my chest, and her hands fisted in my robes. You've a bit of egg on your face Miss Granger, allow me to lick you clean...
I've never been punched in the face, but I assume the shock is akin to what I felt directly after that moment. I subsequently proceeded to choke on the bacon in my mouth, knock over a pitcher of pumpkin juice, and scrape my chair so hard across the flagstones as I stood to flee, that I'm sure were you to look, the ruts would still be visible. Never had I once looked at her as a sexual creature, but in those fleeting seconds, that span of time no more lingering than a breath, I imagined myself doing any number of untold things to her.
And I liked it!
I assumed I was ill. I do not have a weak constitution, nor do I frequent the infirmary, unless I'm shoring up supplies at Poppy or Slughorn's request. However, I decided to take myself straight to our resident mediwitch for a quick diagnosis. As I said, I was sure I'd taken a fever on the brain or something that would cause my thoughts to digress so dramatically. She rarely dined with us when she had patients in the wing, choosing instead to perform her morning rounds during that time, and calling up a quick bite from the kitchen in the meantime. Droxie pox had been making its way through school, not nearly so dangerous as Dragon pox, but untreated, it could cause serious problems. Poppy has always been attentive, and prides herself on being able to quickly and effectively cure a great number of ills. I was sure she would avail me of whatever odd humour had possessed my senses.
She did seem concerned about the clamminess of my hands, my stricken countenance, and elevated heart rate. I told her I had experienced an… "unusual hallucination," and that I feared I'd come down with a fever or had been hit with a rather crafty curse. She assured me that there was no trace of malicious magic, neither was I feverish. Handing me a calming draught and giving me what I considered a fairly patronizing smile, she sent me on my way, assuring me that it was probably "nerves." Needless to say, I was far from comforted.
Of course, the first person I saw as I exited the hospital wing was Professor Granger. I practically collided… into her body... Stop it, Severus. She inquired of my health, recounting my "startling" behaviour at breakfast, and stared at me, stared at me with those watery brown doe eyes of hers. Thankfully, I was able to call up some semblance of the man I was during the war and growled that I was perfectly fine as I swept past her, hoping that my robes billowed in the menacing manner so often accounted to me. My heart however leapt into my throat and attempted to beat its way out of my mouth along with the contents of my stomach. Perhaps, I thought, I had proclaimed Poppy's skill far past its legitimate bounds. I prescribed for myself a stiff drink followed by another. I would love to say it did me a world of good and cleared my head of wayward images, but instead it led to introspection, which in my case is never a good thing.
I forced myself to consider why I had stumbled into that particular fantasy. What peculiar spark had caused me to suddenly think of her in such a carnal fashion? True, I have been at want for companionship for quite some time, but even in what has been a long stretch of unintended and certainly undesired celibacy, it hadn't forced me to consider relations with any of the other available females before or after Miss Granger's arrival. It's not as if Sybil hasn't been after me for years. Oh, she puts on a good show of being offended by me, but I can't tell you how many times her hand has managed to find its way to… shall we say the crown jewels of the Prince? Desperation never urged me to take advantage of that offer! With that said, I didn't feel I could pass off my reaction to Hermione as simply a desire for sex… not that sex wouldn't be a fine consolation.
I tried to convince myself that she had acted wantonly, dressed provocatively, used her charms… in the non-magical sense, to momentarily affect me. Yet, as I recalled it, she had been anything but that. Her unruly hair, modest robes, and breakfast crusted mouth did not scream "come hither, Severus." I can't even claim that her breakfast sausage was suggestive… if anything it was mildly repulsive.
Therefore, my conclusion was that the problem was internal. Wonderful.
It was there that I forced myself to admit that I was a lonely man. Believe me, there is a difference between a solitary man and a lonely one, and I found I'd crossed the border from one country to another. I also realized that I found the woman interesting. She was much changed from her days as a student. Oh, she was still a royal swot, nose in a book, library a second home, an answer always on the tip of her tongue, all that, but now, she seemed to be quite confident in that persona and failed to make an annoyance of herself by constantly trying to garner approval. She'd come into her own it seemed. That was something I felt I had never truly done. I grew maudlin for a while and decided that more "medication" would help. I don't endorse drinking as a way of dealing with problems. My father did that and all it was good for was a black eye for me or my mother, and an early death from Cirrhosis of the liver for him. Still, a dram now and then is fine by my account.
Yes, I was… am lonely, and yes, sex would be more than agreeable, but really I couldn't help but think that my problem originated from the fact that I thought, were she to give me chance, we might find ourselves happy together. I'd come to respect her since she'd come to work for me, respect her teaching skills, her refreshing maturity, her love of knowledge, and even her mannerisms and quirks seemed to soften my daily ire. Besides that, as I've said, I myself find her particular brand of beauty enticing. I liked her. I liked her in that stupid schoolboy fashion that makes you blush at all the wrong moments and stutter like a fool when attempting to speak to the object of said affections. I came to believe that my subconscious simply decided I needed a boot to the arse if I was ever going to realise it.
That was months ago now and ever since, I have grown fonder of her and her ways. She has a grace that is uncommon. I do not mean she glides about when she walks or uses the proper fork at meals. She can actually be quite clumsy and socially awkward in matters of etiquette. What I mean by grace is that she exudes a sort of kindness and goodness that is very sparse in this world. We talk. We talk quite a lot actually, but what is best is that she listens. She is not simply a face at which to spew words. I haven't been able to simply sit and talk to another person for ages. The topic doesn't even matter; just the fact that we can be comfortable together is enough. I've told her things I never thought I would tell to another soul... and she has done the same with me. Even when we argue, and we do still argue on occasion, she is never cruel, never begrudges me my past, never truly says anything she knows will wound me. She is one of the few who could claim that distinction.
Finally, after much deliberation and a fifth of Bulgaria's finest Vodka, I decided to engage her, to "create opportunities" for interaction, interaction on my terms that is. At least at that time, now, I would follow her to the ends of the earth, Hell and back, on any terms I might be so favoured to be granted. But I shall return to my point, less I find myself diverging too much. Upon my return to sobriety, I still found the plan meritorious, so I stuck with it. Often, I would be sure to catch her as we walked to the great hall for meals, finding some point upon which we could converse as we made our way to the table, and thus ensuring that she would be seated next to me... for the purpose of continuing our discussion, of course. Also, as Headmaster, I felt it my duty to spend a bit of time observing my staff in their classrooms, and a bit of time did quite adequately for everyone… everyone but Granger. Considering my prolific knowledge in her subject, I allowed myself to linger through her lessons. Of course, being the generous man that I am, I offered up suggestions and even the advantage of my instruction. She seemed quite agreeable, if a bit puzzled as to my sudden magnanimity. Our sessions were, dare I say, quite education... to me.
The way she handles a wand is sensuous. She is intimately attuned to her magic, and you can tell it by the way she works with it. There is nothing indecent or profane in her motions. No, those motions are all in my head, but her movements are drenched with voluptuous curves. She is like music. It's as if she's caressing the air, coaxing the very threads of the universe to sway for her. She has certainly swayed me.
And now I'll stop this vomitus spewing of flowery sentimentality for the fear that I might choke on my own saccharinity.
It's oddly quiet tonight. Usually the din of the hall at meal times echoes throughout the whole of the castle. It is after all a corralling of several hundred adolescences, and that is never an exercise in silence. Honestly, it puts me on edge. It is my birthday, and though I doubt the students en mass would have the audacity to pull some sort of prank, any deviation from the norm sets my reflexes on high alert. Thank Merlin that George Weasely's children have yet to reach eleven.
I like to make an entrance at dinner. I've accepted the fact that I have a flair for the dramatic, and as Headmaster, I feel I can deservedly embrace it. I rarely use the small side entrance reserved for the staff, and I prefer to arrive after the students have been seated. A bit of mystique carries a nice weight, you know. However, what is occurring at the moment, I find rather odd. As soon as I opened the doors to the Great Hall in a, I will admit, overly exuberant fashion, all eyes turned to me. Of course my entrance usually garners some attention. There is a lessening in the typical cacophony of noise, but right now, as I'm walking, it's the sound of my boot heels on flagstone and the unfurling of my robes as they, yes, billow… and nothing else. There are no whispers, no chatter, no clack of cutlery awaiting the food, just every one of these bloody dunderheads watching me, as is the staff. Except, I don't see her.
Fantastic. I can add disappointment to my growing discomfort with this night.
Fine. It's not as if I expected anything good from this day. Still, couldn't she have shown up? She does know it's my birthday. I know this for a fact. Every birthday is listed on the staff calendar in the lounge, in bright red. Mine is there, she knows this. She knows this! I thought, apparently mistakenly, that we had at least become… well, friends. I suppose that was too large a hope. I am her employer. I am her employer and nothing more. She is kind to everyone, and I am a fool.
I hate sitting in this seat, Dumbledore's seat. It'll always be his seat. Yes Minerva, I hear you. I know I'm a bit late. I know it's time to clap my hands and signal the elves. It's not as if this is my...
What in the bloody hallows is this? Green banners, silver sparkles, and an overly large cake... the same kind that Albus always supplied. Apparently I've just clapped myself into a "surprise" party. Judging by the looks on the student's faces and their wan clapping, there was a bit of coercion in their participation. Filius and Minerva have put on their "won't this be fun" faces. Yes Minerva, thank you. I'm glad I'm here to celebrate as well. Yes, every year is a good one. Yes, tears, wonderful.
No, Minerva, thank you, but I don't want to say anything. It's obvious the students don't want me to say anything. The staff members are shifting about in their seats. It is apparent that I am ill at ease. Everyone is uncomfortable. You know I hate surprise, parties, and birthdays, mine most of all. Cake? If it will hasten this. Yes, I know it's the same kind as Albus always had. Ah, gifts from the staff... all as non-personal as humanly possible. Yes Filius, I'm sure it'll prove a thrilling read, a book on potions I could have written at fifteen. The box however will come in handy later tonight when I carve out my heart. It will make for it a suitable coffin for the useless organ.
Of course the meal is something I can barely tolerate. I cannot stand onions and everything on this table seems to be smothered in them.
I'm sorry. Yes, I do have to go. I have forgotten an urgent floo call to the board of governors. It cannot wait, I'm sorry. Thank you for the party, gifts, and fresh dose of loathing.
I have to get out of this hall. I hate this night. I hate this school. I hate everyone and everything.
I cannot bring myself to hate you. Though I do wonder, what has kept you away on this night of all nights? Perhaps you had an abundance of essays to grade, a deadline for one of the journals to which you submit your writings, or perhaps you are, as I walk this seemingly endless corridor, firmly ensconced underneath a young, panting wizard with a straight nose and bulging biceps. I suppose it would make no difference. Regardless of the reason, you are not with me. No, you are not with me.
Judecca! Now let me pass you infernal gargoyle. All I want is the cold solitude of my rooms and a glass of something strong and ill advised. It's times like this I miss my dungeon. It is a fitting haunt for a masochist.
Bugger the glass. I'll take the whole bottle tonight.
Merlin! Her- Hermione? ...I'm hallucinating or dreaming or this is a nightmare and she's about to tell me she's quitting and taken up with a foreign Quidditch player. Oh, bollocks! Wand, pointed at her... old reflexes, put it away man!
"I didn't mean to startle you. You're, ah, early. I didn't expect you to be back for a quite a while yet. I suppose Minerva's surprise was-"
"What are you doing here?"
Oh. She looks... beautiful. She looks stunningly, heart breakingly beautiful.
"Well, I... it's your birthday. I know you don't like to make a fuss, but I wanted to do something to show you that... ah-"
"You didn't come to dinner."
"No, I didn't."
"And you're here."
"What have you got there, on the desk?"
Hermione... oh gods, my heart.
"Well, Minerva told me all about what she had planned, and it just... I know it's not what you like. I just thought, I might, perhaps..."
"...I want you to be happy today, Severus."
Just continue breathing. Breathe. Breathe.
"It's not much. I've brought you a cake, the kind the elves always make for Yule, soaked with plenty of bourbon of course. I know you don't like anything too sweet. Oh, and box of Honeyduke's powerfully puckering sour eels. How you eat those, I'll never know."
"That's very kind of you."
"And, I have a gift for you. Again, nothing much I'm afraid, but I hope you like it."
I love you. It, I mean... I'll love it.
"I'm sure I'll love it."
"Well, open it then."
Simple wrappings, plain brown parchment and a bit of Spello-Tape. It's fairly light, whatever it is. A book probably, perhaps some nice inks. Anything, I'm grateful for anythi-
"Severus... say something. Haha..."
I have no idea what to say to her. I can't believe what I'm looking at right now. It's just...
"Have I, have I done wrong? We've talked about her before, and I know how hard it was for you when she... Severus, I'm sorry. I'll just go."
I can imagine the look on my face. I... I'm just speechless. Go? What? No, NO!
"NO! No... Hermione, don't go. Please, you misunderstand. This gift is... it's remarkable. My mother! I've never seen this picture before. Hermione, how did you find this?"
"Oh! Oh, Severus, I'm so relieved. I was afraid it might have been too presumptuous of me. I'm glad you like it. I've been thinking about what to get you for a while, and actually, finding this started quite a long time ago, back when I was only a student. Harry, Ron, and I were looking through some old year books and news clippings. It was during our search for the mysterious 'Half-Blood Prince,' which as we all know now was of course-"
"Well, we ran across a photo of your mother, Gobstones captain. I know where you inherited your blasted skill at that game. Honestly, you should let me win now and then, but I'm digressing. As I said, I was trying to think of something to get for you, for your birthday, and I couldn't come up with anything that didn't seem horribly clichéd or well, stupid. But then, I remembered that picture. It wasn't a particularly flattering shot, but I thought perhaps there'd be one of her that was a bit nicer in one of the annuals from her years. When I saw that one, I felt as if I'd struck gold. She just looked so-"
"Yes. She looks happy, radiant even. Severus, I... I want you to look like that. Sometimes, you do, but not often enough. I know that things have been, gods, what? Strange? Strained? Horribly awkward? It's as if no one can look past what happened, had to happen. It's been long enough now to let our regrets die. I don't see the things you had to do when I look at you, or the mistakes you made, no more than you judge me for mine. I just see you, and Severus, I like that.
You know, to so many people I'm Hermione, 'The Princess of Gryffindor,' 'one-third of the golden trio,' 'the brains,' Granger. And yes, that is a part of me. That is all there, but it's not who I am. It's tiring, you know, to always be looked at as footnote, a paragraph, a page, never a whole book. I love Rugby. Did you know that? I might have told you, but I don't remember. My father used to take me to local matches when I was a little girl. You'll never read that in any interview or article about me. People don't care. It doesn't fit in their view of me, neither does the fact that I can't stand the smell of bananas, or that my right foot is half a size larger than my left, that my guilty pleasure is a salacious romance novel, the trashier the better. I know I'm ranting, but Severus, what I'm saying is... what I'm saying is, that I know that you like blackberry jam, but only if the seeds are removed. You love crossword puzzles, Muggle ones. You think they're more challenging since you're less familiar with that world now. You don't like onions, and I can't blame you. They're vile. You have a beautiful singing voice, and you're embarrassed that I know that. Don't pretend you're not. You had a pet bird as a child, named Casper. When he flew away it broke your heart.
And you... I know that you love me Severus Snape. I know you. I know you."
"I lov- ...How did you know?"
"I can see it in your eyes, and in your face. I can see it in the way you move when we're together, in the gentleness of your hands. You're very protective, you know. You don't hide it well, at least not from me."
"No, not a spy... just a man. Everyone thinks you're still carrying a torch for Lily Potter. No one even says her name in your presence, as if it was some kind of forbidden thing. We've talked about her, about James, and I know that at first you were indulging my curiosity and just hoping to shut me up for a while. I am an incessant chatter box, I'm well aware, but then, when you saw that I cared, we talked. We talked a lot. I'm glad you're free of her, well, of the hold she had on you. Not because of some jealousy on my part mind you, but because now you can love her for whom she was to you, not because of a debt you owe her. Love and regret are horrible mates. You will always love her, and I know that. But I know it's not the same kind of love you have for me. I don't know if I could even explain the difference, but I know there is one, and I'm glad for it. Do you know why I asked about her in the first place? I asked because no one else would, and because I wanted to know more about your heart. It's a good heart Severus. You should stop neglecting it so. It's very capable of love. It loved your mother, it loved Lily, and it loves me."
"Hermione, I... I don't know what to say."
"No, I assumed you wouldn't. I know I've let my Gryffindor nature get the better of me, blurting out my thoughts like I have, but well, it's how I am. It's no secret to you. You know me as well as I know you."
"Yes, you, you are forthright... but, Hermione, you, you have withheld if you... What I mean, is do you? Oh Merlin's tits! Just tell me woman! Hermione, do you love me? Please, just tell me. I think I'll go mad from not knowing any longer... the way you talk."
"Well, Severus, I've decided something. Your heart you recall, I said had been neglected, greatly in fact, and knowing you as I do, I know you'll fail to take care of it. So, you'll just have to give it to me so that I can care for it properly. It hasn't been loved back for a long time you see, and that's just no good. I've got quite a bit of love for that heart of yours, and more for the rest of you. So yes, Severus, I love you. I love you quite a lot actually. And... Severus, Oh! I promised myself I wouldn't cry. I know you hate when Minerva gets all weepy over you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I'm just very glad you're here, even if you hate birthdays. I can't help but love yours!"
"This is what it's like, isn't it?"
"What's that? Oh, I must look a mess now, all sniffles and red eyes."
"A birthday, a good one, this is what all the fuss is about. This is why people look forward to them so much... because they can make you feel like this, like everything you ever wanted has a chance at being. And no, you look beautiful. I thought so the moment I stepped in this room. Hermione, I feel, I feel..."
"Tell me how you feel Severus."
"I feel... like a man in love, and that I am man that is loved. And I think it may be the most wonderful thing in the world."
"Happy birthday , Severus."
"Yes, Hermione, I think, for the first time, I can truly say it is."
AN: And much kissing ensued. Happy Birthday Professor Snape! I hope this proves a decent gift. Reviews mean more than I can tell you. On a personal note, I've never been so happy to see a year end. Here's hoping for...simply hope in 2011.