AN: A short little something that I had in my pocket to cheer up Hebe GB, who needs a distraction as she recovers from surgery, and pilky, who's had a series of minor unfortunate events and needs something to read. Unbeta'd, so, well, there you go.
Hermione stood at the desk and impatiently tapped the edge of her ID card on the aged wood. She looked at her watch, scratched at her ear, scrubbed at a spot she hadn't noticed on the sleeve of her robes, and then went back to tapping. A few moments later, she repeated the cycle.
Finally, she heard the sound of footsteps beyond the counter and snapped her spine straight.
"Here you go," said the old witch from behind the stack of files she carried. "Moloch Fattershin's notes on the Goblin Treaties, from 1367-1372." She set the stack down with a heavy thump and an abrupt cloud of dust.
Hermione looked at the foot tall stack. "Oh, my. Did you bring me more than I asked for? That would be very kind of you, to be sure, but I specifically requested those files because they were most likely to contain the pertinent information. I spent a good deal of time last week researching the years that might have contained the precedents I'm looking for, and I'm almost certain that I had narrowed it down."
"Indeed," said the woman, handing her back her request slip. "Enjoy your reading."
"Thank you, I shall, or, rather, I shall attempt to. I have to admit I had quite enough of the Goblin Wars when I was in school, thank you very much, and being given this assignment is about as rewarding as having my teeth filed to points. However, one mustn't shirk one's duties. I'm a team player, after all. Used to working in a team, you know. I spend a good deal of time by myself these days for some reason, but I do miss being part of a team. No, I won't complain. You wouldn't tell them I complained would you? After all, it was only a minor complaint. Nothing serious. They wouldn't have given me this project unless everyone else had complained first, you see."
The librarian cleared her throat. "I don't need to remind you that if you try and sneak out of here with any of them in your bag again the wards will go off, do I?"
Hermione flushed crimson. "That was months ago…" She sighed and grabbed up the stack. "I rarely make the same mistake twice. I assure you that wasn't an attempted theft so much as a desire to continue my research while I was hot on the trail, you see. Honestly, if you think about it, why on earth would anyone want to steal 600 year old documents about an obscure period in history that only Professor Binns ever thought was interesting. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Goblin interested in this stuff, not that I'm complaining, mind—"
Hermione watched as the librarian turned her back on her and walked away into the stacks. She sighed and headed toward the Ministry Reading Room, pushing the door open with her hip.
She passed all the tables, threaded her way through several shelves of books, and headed straight for her favorite group of squashy chairs in the corner.
When she got there, she saw one was already occupied.
"Hello, Professor!" she called in a lowered voice. "Oh, I guess it would just be Mr. Snape now."
Severus Snape glanced up from the large tome he was reading and nodded his head to her. Then he went back to reading.
She set her stack of files down on the end table and sat. Her chair was next to his, angled slightly toward his with another small table between.
"I haven't seen you since we all got our medals. You're looking fit. How have you been? Do you work here as well? I've not seen you about before."
He responded to all of these questions by sighing deeply and uncrossing his right leg and crossing his left.
"Right. Sorry." She pulled out a stack of parchment and a jar of ink from her bag. "Don't mind me. It's just a nervous habit I picked up after the war. I assure you I would be blathering to anyone who sat there. I promise I'll shut up when I start reading." She dug out several quills, checked to make sure the nibs were sharp, and set her bag down to the side. "There, see? All set. You won't hear another word from me until they throw me out at the end of the day." She picked up the oldest file. "Anyway, it's good to see you, sir."
She peeked at him one more time and caught his eyes on her before he looked back down at his book. He'd had the characteristically dazed expression, complete with the subtle hint of fear, which every one of her colleagues had whenever she opened her mouth. She sighed. At least he hadn't blurted something about just having remembered he'd left his ironing charm on back at the house and gone running.
Turning her attention on her research, she dove in, looking for legal precedents on the Rights of Magical Creatures.
Three hours later, she was disturbed by the thump of a book. She looked up to see Snape standing and registered the sounds of chairs scraping across the floor throughout the reading room.
"Oh, is it closing time? Already?"
"It is. Good evening, Miss Granger."
She blinked at him in silence as he walked away, watching him until his robes swirled out of sight.
Hermione made her way back to her squashy chairs with another armload of files the next day. Again, she found Mr. Snape reading a very thick book.
"Well, hello again!" She dumped her files down. "I've not seen you these five years and now twice in one week! Aren't you the lucky one!" She sat. "It occurred to me last night, while eating my pot noodles, that I hadn't told you I liked what you've done with your hair. Very trim, very neat. You look years younger. And I like the long sweeping fringe. It keeps you looking mysterious. Best to keep that mystery, you don't want anyone becoming overly familiar, now do you?" She dug out her supplies. "Aside from me, of course. You get no choice there, if you're going to keep using that chair."
She sat back and pulled out the first file. "Sensible plan, silence. It's no defense, but trying to say anything would be wasted, and it's obvious you're a man that knows when not to waste his time." She grinned. "You had enough of that teaching dunderheads Potions, I imagine." She opened it to the first page. "There, see? You survived me again. But then, you're rather good at surviving, aren't you? I, for one, am very grateful, too."
She flashed him a distracted smile, her mind already settling down to the task, and caught the amused twist of his lips. She grinned and set to work.
"And there you are again! Really, we must stop meeting like this," she said, setting her files down. "People will begin to talk." She sat and pulled open her bag. "Actually, no they won't. They know me better than that. At least most of them. There's always Herbert. He's in the Department of Botanical Classification and for some mysterious reason thinks he's in love with me. He would probably be rather put out if people started talking about me being with anyone, not that I ever am. I suspect he's been hit with a Stunner too many times. Anyway, rest assured, if anyone was to start spreading vicious lies about you because of me, it would be that you're deaf." She pulled out her supplies. "You know, since you haven't gone screaming out of the room, I feel you deserve a small reward."
She leaned over towards his chair, and he lifted his head, alarmed. "I'm here every day from two o'clock until closing. Just a warning. You know, in case you want to avoid my verbal tic in the future." She leaned back and reached for her bag, pulling out her previous days' notes. "I see you're reading Asmodius. Doing a bit of research on Body Enhancing Potions? Not that it would be for you, of course. You're hardly the type to care about that sort of thing. Or need it for that matter. I bet there is a good market for them though. You could make a tidy profit there, I'm sure. Did you know Asmodius was killed by Pirates? Which is topical because tomorrow is apparently Talk Like a Pirate Day, according to the younger interns in my department." She flipped open a file. "Right, it's been lovely, as always."
"Ahoy! Thar he be! Diggin' for treasure in a mighty tome again, I see." She dropped her files. "Right. Enough of that. What have you got today?" She leaned over to look at his book.
He marked his place with a slender finger and closed the book, tilting the cover towards her.
"Duniel Thrasher, eh? I'm not familiar with him. Is it a him? I'll have to look up Polymorphic Peptides when I get home tonight. I have no idea what that is."
She sat down and opened her bag as he went back to reading. "I always get so excited when I discover something I've never heard of before. There's so much out there! How can you not want to know it all?"
She smiled, digging in her purse for her quills. "Oh, yes, hah hah. I get the joke. Well played, sir. Well played indeed. That's right, I'm the Know-It-All. Effortlessly annoying everyone with my unending thirst for knowledge. You were the first, but not the last, I assure you. That's fine. I'm used to it." She grabbed up the first file. "Just like I'm used to being assigned the most asinine research because they assume I will be too enthralled to realize how insipid it is."
She hunkered down in her chair and opened the file. "Right. I'm going in; tell my Mum I love her."
She settled into her research but was distracted as Snape leaned over and picked up her quill, scratching a word on the top of her parchment before leaning back and resuming his reading.
She turned her head and read: 'Arrrr.'
She burst forth with a bubbling giggle, as he smirked behind his book. "I like the cut of your jib, Mr. Snape. Aye, I do."
Hermione headed over to her chair and stopped when she saw Snape's chair was empty. It was the first time in weeks that he hadn't showed up. She set her things down and then looked around their usual seating area. Turning on her heel, she walked out into the middle of the reading room, and then made a circuit, peering at all the reading chairs.
She stood in the middle of the room again, feeling curiously abandoned and lost, until the outer door opened and Snape strode into the room in a billow of black robes. She blew out a relieved breath and smiled at him.
"Running a bit late, are we?" she asked, as he gestured courteously at their chairs with the book in his hand. She fell into step beside him. "I was a bit worried, I must say. I dislike when routines get disrupted. It throws me off for days. I'm glad nothing terrible happened to you. I was just trying to figure out how to discover if you were alright. I mean, after all, you're an Unspeakable. No one even admits you work here, so they certainly wouldn't tell me if you'd taken leave. Oh, don't look so surprised. I have an anxiety disorder, that doesn't make me stupid. However, you mustn't fear my indiscretion. I babble, but I never babble secrets. That's why I stopped bothering you with questions about what you read or what you're researching. Not that you would ever answer me, but I am rather clever and started to put things together just from the books you read. I stopped though. Read in confidence. I gave up trying to extrapolate information."
She sat, and he did as well, opening up his book. She rifled through her bag and snatched up the first file from her stack. "I'm so glad you're well."
He lifted up his head and nodded politely, before returning to his reading.
"Happy Anniversary, Mr. Snape!"
He looked up from his book in obviously clueless surprise. He looked around before pinning her with a questioning stare and raising his eyebrow.
"It's been an entire month since we started our clandestine affair. To celebrate, I brought you a gift." She dropped her files on the end table and dug through her bag. "Here," she said holding out a slip of paper. "It's a gift certificate for Borgin and Burkes."
He took it with all the enthusiasm one showed when being handed a dirty nappy.
"Oh, don't worry. I didn't spend any money. I regifted you. Tacky, I know, but I've no use for it, and I thought you might. I just wanted to give you a little something as a reward for putting up with me. The only other people who do are Harry and Ron. I reward them by not attending family functions anymore. I meet them for lunch or dinner occasionally, and that's that. They have to write to me to tell me what's going on in their lives. I never give them a chance to get a word in. Terribly embarrassing when it's someone you care about. However, I honestly don't care anymore when it comes to someone I don't care about. Which is why I felt you deserved a token. After all, I do care for your opinion and don't want to punish you more than necessary."
She opened her file. "Anyway, buy yourself something nice. If you even can in that store."
"Thank you," he replied, tucking it away in his pocket as she lost herself in research.
She didn't know how much time had passed—she'd managed to fill three feet of parchment with notes—when Snape kicked her ankle lightly.
"Hmmm?" She blinked at him, jarred by the change in routine.
His eyes shifted to the right and back before returning his gaze to his book. She turned and saw Herbert standing two feet away.
"I asked you if you liked the card," he said nervously.
"Card? Oh! The card! Um. Yes, well, um. Thank you, very much for the lovely gift certificate. I thought of a good use for it immediately. As for your question, which I'm sure is the reason you are disturbing my research, I'm afraid the answer is, 'Not tonight.' You see—" she threw Snape a panicked look, hoping for inspiration."You see I have to re-catalogue my spice cupboard. It's something that I do on Friday nights. Yes, that's it. Every Friday evening, as soon as I get home, I pull out everything and measure it so I can check my usage. I keep a chart on a hook next to my stove. I couldn't possibly have dinner with you tonight, I fear. It's Spice Night. Absolutely. Terribly sorry. I think I might have a pepper shortage soon and getting proper measurements is quite dire, I fear. Most inconvenient. You might try asking someone else?"
Herbert blinked. "What about tomorrow night? My cousin has tickets to see the Weird Sisters…"
"Sorry, Bathroom Medicine Cupboard Night. I have to do a count of tamp—"
She shut up and looked at Snape, shocked to hear his voice twice in the same week, never mind day. "Yes?"
"Less is more." He turned his head. "Herbert, is it? I think you should know that Miss Granger is trying not to hurt your feelings. She is, in fact, currently seeing someone else. Now, do us all a favor and go away."
"No, she's not!" Herbert avowed stubbornly.
Snape raised his eyebrow. "Surely you're aware of the rumors?"
"About you being deaf?"
"No," Snape said with irritation, "the other rumors."
Herbert blanched and looked at Hermione. "Then the rumors are true?"
She tried to wipe the shock off her face. "Not much as I'd like," she mumbled.
She bit her lip to keep quiet as Herbert shuffled away. Once he was gone, she turned to her seating companion. "Oh, I say, that was rather well done. Thank you, sir. You are a chivalrous man."
He gave her a pained expression. "Do you really measure your spices?"
She giggled. "I don't own any spices. I can't cook at all."
He shook his head. "You are an appalling liar, Miss Granger."
She smiled. "Thank you."
She looked back down at her notes but then registered the sound of people starting to pack up and leave. "Oh blast, is it that time already?"
Snape nodded and stood up.
She waited expectantly for his routine, 'Good evening, Miss Granger,' but instead, he turned to her and looked… nervous.
"Yes?" she prompted.
"Since it is our anniversary, and I know Spice Night is a lie, I was wondering of you wouldn't mind having dinner tonight." he grimaced. "With me."
She blinked several times, and then smiled so wide her eyes nearly shut. "That would be lovely! I just need a few moments to gather my things, and then I have to take my notes up to my office and file them with the rest. I'll need another moment to change my shoes as well. I have a cute pair of slingbacks that I wore this morning, because I thought they looked good with this skirt, but then I switched to these old things because I had to do a lot of running around in the office this morning, and I can always move faster in flats. Anyway, I'm sure that you need to do something Unspeakable and will need a few minutes to get yourself together. I could meet you at the Floos in about fifteen minutes? Unless you meant to meet up later at some point. That would be acceptable as well. After all, I just assumed you wanted to go out directly after work since we were already together so-to-speak, and—dear gods, you're the Potions master is there nothing I can take that will shut me up before I ruin another first date? I really, really do want to go to dinner with you, and I would be devastated if I wrecked things before I even had a chance. It's just that—"
He reached down and pressed his thumb against her lips, effectively silencing her. "I'll meet you at the Floos in fifteen minutes, Miss Granger." He released her with a slight caress across her bottom lip.
"Call me Hermione," she whispered.
"So there I was, at the baptismal font, babbling away like a git and holding this infant that was doing it's damndest to try and squirm out of my hand. I was utterly convinced I was going to drop him on his head. I finally managed to shut up long enough to take a breath, and during the pause, the cheeky little brat filled his nappy. It was so extraordinarily loud! And even I cannot properly find a way to describe the smell! Anyway, that's when I realized that children weren't for me. I can fake it long enough to give my godson a present and eat cake with him, but it's so much effort not to show how much the boy actually makes my skin crawl. He's cute as a button, mind, and I'm counting on you never telling Harry I said this about his son, not that you talk to Harry, but if you ever wanted revenge on me then telling him would be a devastating one. Anyway, back to my point, if you asked me to dinner for any reason other than friendly, meaning if you were looking forward to perhaps exploring a future together, I would be very amenable. However I thought it only fair to tell you right off the top that children aren't a priority. At all. Nope. Hate them, in fact. Of course, it's most likely highly inappropriate to bring this up on a first date—this is a date, isn't it?"
Snape looked up from paying the check and nodded.
"Oh, good. You see, somewhere inside I am aware that I'm making a complete pest of myself—it's not like I'm blind. I saw the looks the waiter kept giving me—and there's this little voice that just keep screaming, 'Shut up! Shut up!' but I've been ignoring it for years, the poor dear. Before you ask, yes, I have been to St. Mungo's and, no, it's not a spell, curse, hex, what have you. It's a rather bizarre mental tick I picked up after the war."
He stood up and picked up her cloak, holding it out. She stood up and turned.
"I've spent good money on Muggle doctors as well, but they all want to talk about my history and delve into what caused it and that just won't work, will it? What am I to say to them? And it's always just so strange to sit and talk about your problems. Even for me. Well, you seem to be an exception, you're a rather good listener."
He held out his elbow, and she smiled and slipped her arm through it as they headed out of the restaurant.
"In fact, I think there is a chance you might just be a bit masochistic. I mean, when you think about it, why did you ask me out to dinner? Not that I didn't enjoy it. It was delicious, and I truly enjoyed the company, and I do like being seen walking on a distinguished gentleman's arm. But what's in it for you? Really? You must admit it's pretty strange to want to subject yourself to an endless conversation that you can't participate in."
She stopped when he did and looked around. Diagon Alley was busy at this time of night with couples out window shopping or heading off to dinner. It occurred to her that she was finally one of them. She turned and smiled at him. It spread into a grin when he smiled back.
"Well," she said. "That was lovely. I simply cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that, Mr. Snape. Actually, I can. If you are in the mood to hear it, I could probably spend the next hour telling you exactly how much I enjoyed that. In fact—"
He pressed his thumb over her lips again, and she smiled. She did like the way he simply dealt with the situation. It was so annoying to watch other people try and figure out how to be tactful, it wasn't like she didn't know there was a problem.
"Hermione, do you talk in your sleep?"
"Would you like to find out?" she blurted when he removed his hand. "I'm not honestly sure, that is, I don't think I do. When I was a child I remember waking myself up when I would, and it wasn't that often. I would wake up terribly embarrassed, as if someone had seen me, and I'd humiliated myself. I haven't done that in years so I can only surmise that I either don't anymore, or I've managed to figure out how to ignore myself in my sleep. Was this a random curiosity? Or were you leading in a particular direction. Because it has been a point of question in my mind, and I do think research might be fun. That is, if you're interested. If it was just idle question then feel free to disregard my answer. There's no need to feel—"
She sighed when he pulled her close and kissed her. His warm lips glided against hers and stole her breath away completely. When he pulled back, she stared at him for a full minute of beautiful silence.
"Oh," she finally said in a daze. "That worked rather nicely, didn't it?"
"I thought so myself. I've been wondering if it would be effective."
"Really? For how long?"
"About two weeks now."
She smiled at his smirk, and then she grinned as realization struck her. She grabbed onto the front of his robes. "I can't think of anything to say! Kiss me again!"
He pulled her in close and did just that. When he pulled his head away again, he looked at her with heavy-lidded eyes.
"You have the most amazing eyes," she said quietly. "Did you know that?"
He stared at her, obviously waiting for her to continue and smiled slightly when she didn't.
"Thank you," he said. He turned, taking her hand and wrapping it around his arm, and set off down the street.
"What made you ask me out to dinner?" she asked, biting her lip.
"I wanted to," he said.
"Yes, but why? I'm well aware that I'm exceedingly annoying."
He let out a dry chuckle. "In the weeks since we've been reading together, between all of your babble, you've managed to convey that you were happy I was alive, you liked my physique, and you shared an interest in my research, not that I am free to talk about it, you put up with my unbearable silences, and aren't the least bit intimidated by my presence. These are rare qualities. Add to that you are very attractive and highly intelligent, and what is not to like?"
She gave him her biggest smile. "The same could be said for you, sir."
She sighed his name, "Severus."
He pulled her close and kissed her again and when he pulled away, she felt at peace for the first time if a very, very long time. She laid her head against his shoulder, and he wrapped his arm around hers as they started off down the avenue.
"As for your babbling," he said. "Do you remember how noisy it was at Hogwarts?"
She nodded her head, afraid to open her mouth now that she'd finally shut up.
"So do I. For twenty years I was deafened by the sounds of a castle full of riotous children, and my only relief was when I would go home during holidays. The thing was, I inevitably couldn't wait to get back." He walked along for a few more lengths of pavement before he began speaking again. "You asked why I would subject myself to your chatter. It's not that complicated. I miss noise. I live in a silent house, I work in a silent office, and I do my research in a silent Reading Room. I cannot tell people what I do, I'm terrible at making conversation, and I have little patience for people that lack intellectually curiosity." He stopped and turned to her. "Do you see? I enjoy your babbling."
She beamed at him.
"You are allowed to say something at this point," he said with a note of concern in his voice.
She shook her head, stubbornly, and hugged herself closer to him.
He chuckled. "And as for your earlier question, yes, I do think there are one or two anti-anxiety potions we could try if you like. It would take time to find the correct dosages and ratios, but I think I can help if you would want my help."
"Really?" she blurted. "Oh, that would be marvelous! Because I did try several Muggle remedies, and I must say that I didn't like the side effects at all. Most of the time I felt like I was slogging along underwater. And the constipation! Good gods, what the hell is up with that? No one ever managed to explain to me what being treated for depression had to do with loose bowels. I was stopped up for months. I finally just tossed the damned things out, which I found out later was a crap idea because I could have gone into convulsions, but I didn't, so to hell with them. And did I mention weight gain? It took me a full year to knock off the two stone I gained when I was on them. How is it we're not supposed to be depressed about being fat and constipated, I ask you? I've no patience with Muggle drugs anymore. Aside from the occasional Ibuprofen—I'm sorry but that is one thing that is far superior to potions when it comes to menstrual cramps. Not that I'm suffering now, mind. In case you needed to know that for sleep-talking research. Were we going to do that now? Or should I play coy, since it's a first date? I feel I should tell you that I'm not much in the mood for coy. I've been alone for a damned long time, and I do fear you might wake up tomorrow with a change of heart. I think I'm better off taking advantage of you now while you're sluggish from good food and drink. What do you say? Do you feel like being taken advantage of as a research partner?"
He swung her around until she was pressed up against his chest and kissed her again. "Your place or mine?"
She smiled and leaned in to kiss him back. "Yours. Definitely yours."
He hugged her against him and spun into a turn.
They disappeared with a quiet pop.
I hope you enjoyed. I do have several other stories in the works, but endings seem to be think on the ground these days.