Chapter song: Lee Ann Womack, "I Found It in You"
"We're not staying," Snape said, adjusting his scarf more tightly around his neck, and not just because of the chill December air. He never went out in public without it, preferring not to expose his scar to gawkers.
"You've said that a hundred times." Hermione sighed and squeezed his arm more tightly against her side.
Snape grunted, but didn't get a chance to say more as Kreacher opened the wreath-festooned door of number 12, Grimmauld Place. "Professors," he croaked, bowing low to usher them in.
"Snape! Hermione!" Harry was just coming up the stairs from the kitchen, whence delicious smells of holiday spices and meats were emanating.
"Professor Snape, Harry," Hermione hissed through gritted teeth.
"That's quite all right," Snape said smoothly. "I am, after all, no longer a professor. Potter." He inclined his head in greeting.
"Why don't you come downstairs: Ginny's baked a tonne of goodies and she expects me to eat them all by myself!" Harry grinned. Domestic life became him, Hermione thought. He'd finally got what he always wanted.
"We're not staying," Snape said firmly. "We only came by so that I could deliver this." He thrust an envelope at Harry.
"Thanks." Harry took the envelope and fingered it, looking to Hermione for a cue.
"You can open it," Hermione said.
Snape blew air audibly out of his nose, which Hermione knew meant that he was impatient to be gone; emotional situations were still uncomfortable for him. In fact, he'd wanted her to bring the items to Harry herself, and leave him out of it, but she'd insisted that it was important and right for him to do it. It had taken this many months for him to finally work up the courage to do so - or to get fed up with her nagging.
Harry tore the envelope open and took out a single sheet of yellowed stationery and a torn photograph. He looked down at them for a long while, then sniffed deeply. "Thanks," he finally said.
"I had no right to take them. I apologize," Snape said in a formal manner.
"It's all right," Harry said, tucking the two sheets back into the envelope. When he looked up at his visitors, his eyes were bright. "I don't have many pictures of her, so... well, it means a lot. Thanks."
Snape nodded once, then looked impatiently down at Hermione.
She spoke to Harry: "Tell Ginny hi for me, and I promise I'll come back some other time to try everything."
"Sure." Harry leaned in to tell Hermione conspiratorially, "You're welcome to come back later on tonight once you put the old guy to bed."
Hermione slapped Harry on the arm, and Snape droned, "I heard that, Potter."
Harry straightened up and held out his hand to Snape, grinning. "Happy Christmas, sir. In case I don't see you."
Snape eyed him suspiciously for a moment, but then gave him his hand as well. "Happy Christmas, Potter."
Hermione looked on, beaming. Her two fellas, making nice.
Once they were outside again and Kreacher had closed the door behind them, Hermione stopped and pulled Snape to her, putting both arms around his waist. "Thank you."
"You weren't going to give me any rest until I did it. It was entirely a self-serving action."
"Mmm..." Hermione tipped her face up and stood on her tiptoes to reach his lips. "Still," she said against his mouth. "I appreciate how hard it was for you." She fell silent, then, devoting her attention and her tongue instead to an action that was as self-serving as it was generous.
"I believe Potter said something about getting this 'old guy' to bed," Snape finally said when they came up for air.
A moment later, a brief crack rent the air, leaving behind the echo of a witch's tinkling laughter.
Title Track: Hurts - "Wonderful Life"
Chapter 1: Caleigh Peters - "I Can Do Anything"
Chapter 2: Rodgers & Hammerstein - "Getting to Know You"
Chapter 3: James Taylor - "Something's Wrong"
Chapter 4: Milow - "You Don't Know"
Chapter 5: Family Force 5 - "Topsy Turvy"
Chapter 6: Indigo Girls - "Closer to Fine"
Chapter 7: Chiodos - "Closed Eyes Still Look Forward"
Chapter 8: Mojofly - "Close to the End"
Chapter 9: Trapt - "New Beginning"
Chapter 10: Akon - "Come Back to Me"
Epilogue: Lee Ann Womack - "I Found It in You"