I do not own Severus Snape, nor Hermione Granger, or anything else from the world that JK Rowling created. I own a small cheesecake though...

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Anyone who passed or even entered the little apothecary at that time wouldn't have noticed a difference. Outwardly, everything was much the same as it had always been.

Snape was in the back, brewing, or fiddling with new recipes, the door to his laboratory sometimes closed, sometimes half-open, sometimes ajar. Sounds could always be heard from the back, small noises like harmless Chinese firecrackers or sometimes whistles, sometimes, but only ever on Monday mornings, even the out-of-tune humming of the owner, and brewer, himself.

Granger was up front, labelling jars, putting them in order, serving customers, keeping the books, ordering ingredients, sometimes, but not very often, and only ever on Thursday afternoons when there was a lull, hunched over a book, or even a crossword puzzle.

Snape was only seldom in the front, and when he was, he would always look surly, he would always scowl, and barely uttered a word. Not even to customers.

Granger was constantly smiling, her head surrounded, or engulfed, by a cloud of bushy hair, even though sometimes there were traces of her trying to keep it tamed. Her attempts could never be called quite successful. Granger was constantly chatty, always knew the names of her regular, and irregular customers and she brought a kind of inner light to the otherwise dark, and rather gloomy, apothecary.

Granger and Snape – that was why people bothered to go out of their way to get their potions. Granger and Snape were the reason that the stepped out of Diagon Alley, crossed the street in the Muggle world and stepped into the little shop, hidden to Muggle eyes who only ever saw Boots to one side, and right next to it HMV. They couldn't see the little apothecary between those two but barely wondered about weirdly dressed people simply vanishing between those two. It was just more proof of how Snape and Granger handled their shop – and their wards. They came for Snape's excellent potions and for Granger's chatty, smiley disposition. They came, because they were served well and because the quality of the things acquired were brilliant.

Even in those days, back then, nobody noticed that something, inside the apothecary, was strange. Nobody noticed anything. Apart from, of course, Snape and Granger themselves.

She had come to him, had asked him for employment after she had broken her dalliance with one Ronald Weasley and couldn't possibly work in the same building with him anymore. He, out of a sense of obligation (because she had been the one to go back to the Shrieking Shack and well, he hated to admit it, had saved his life), had employed her in his apothecary. He had been tired of dealing with idiots. It was just as simple as that.

For the first, oh, about three years, their conversations were kept strictly on the business. It was striving and Granger regularly received raises, went home happily, and even went to work happily. They talked once or twice a week about potions and what ingredients he needed and if he needed something special, he just wrote her a note. They just worked together.

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Then, one night, just before it turned weird inside the little apothecary, she stayed longer, her eyes still swollen from crying over her dead half-Kneazle Crookshanks, just to finish the book keeping for the week.

He stayed as well, noticed her swollen eyes but said nothing until she began to curse – quite crudely – about one or the other of their distributors and his eyes almost popped out of his head because he had never heard her talk this way.

"Fuck it," she ended her tirade.

"Good Merlin, Granger," he answered simply.

"Sorry," she said, and a moment later, everything bubbled out of her. Her recent break-up with a Muggle bloke she had been with for about half a year, her annoyance at some of her distributors for not taking her seriously, the idiotic customers to which she had always had to be nice, and at least, the parting of her beloved pet which weighed most on her heart.

He merely stood, leaning against the counter of his apothecary and listened.

The next morning, the weird mood had begun to settle over the little apothecary. Not that they noticed at first. This, their first talk, was only one of many. She talked to him more than once a day, and sometimes, he even opened up to her. Slowly, but surely, the awkwardness festered and still, they didn't notice and kept on talking, long into the nights and sometimes, Granger transfigured one thing or the other into a camp bed to sleep in the little shop because she simply did not want to go home.

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It was Snape, of course, who noticed the awkwardness at first and he tried to pull back out of it. He tried to stop their talks but because Granger hadn't noticed yet, she didn't and kept on chatting away, telling him about things that occurred in her free time, stuff she had read, troubles with, again, the distributors, and some idiotic customers. She vented and he listened but he never talked anymore.

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Outwardly, all remained the same at the apothecary. He brewed, she smiled.

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When she noticed that something was awkward, she didn't realise at first, that it was awkward at all. Their conversations were, if anything, even more amicable than they had been when they had begun to talk about, oh, two years ago. She often reached over to touch his arm, or rest her fingers on his, or to poke him when she wanted to drive home a point and he had, often, done the same, if in smaller measures.

It was in the middle of the night that she noticed the weirdness – but only when she thought about the fact that he had, oh, four weeks ago, stopped touching her completely. It was only then that the awkwardness that had been allowed to fester and burn in the apothecary invaded her stomach with one quick realisation in her brain.

Granger was in love with Snape.

It had happened so gradually, so slowly, so, oh, timidly, that she had barely realised. But he was, after all, all she wanted in a man. He was older, he was taller, he had nice hands and eyebrows, he had insanely intense eyes that grew even darker when he wanted to drive home a point (and had often, before he had stopped, poked her to do so) and lips that she longed to feel on hers. A tongue and vocal chords that could drive her mad by speaking only. So, as she sat bolt upright in her bed, realising that, for the first time in years, she was in love again, and madly at that, the awkwardness settled in her stomach and in her mind as well.

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He, of course, noticed immediately that something was wrong. The skirts she usually wore had at least grown two inches in length. The heels, in turn, had shrunk down to nothing and the Muggle shirts she insisted on wearing had grown huge. Only her hair continued to be the same and the smile she wore when she talked to customers only seemed off to the well-trained eye.

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The only difference was, when the awkwardness had settled and been noticed by everyone working in the little apothecary, she left as soon as she could and did not even stop to say good-bye.

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Snape suspected that she had found out that he was in love with her. Or – worse – that she had yet found another idiotic Muggle boyfriend with whom she would be happy, marriage, children, semi-detached with dogs and cats and whatnot. Of course he only wanted her to be happy and yet he wondered in his love-starved heart if it was so wrong to want her to be happy with him.

A few weeks later – when she had left on the dot every day, when she had only smiled at the customers and not at him, he knew he would not be dragged into another one of those unhappy-in-love-things again. He would … yes … fire her. He would vanish her out of his life and he would slip easily back into the role of surly potioneer. Only, she was the only one who touched him, who laughed with him, who spent time with him apart from the Kneazle kitten he had seen at the Owl Emporium, and who had looked so pitiful that he was reminded of a certain someone and which he had bought on a whim and named, because he was as dark as night and had cute little fang-like teeth, Dracula. Not that she knew he had the kitten. It was none of her business but …

He didn't want to lose the easy camaraderie he had shared with her over a cup of tea or a butty or some buscuits. He didn't want to lose those casual, gentle touches and the tickling pokes. He wanted nothing more than to keep her and yet … he would not subject himself to her pity when he told her that he … loved her.

As far as he could see, there were only two ways to go: fire her, or tell her. He couldn't go on like this in any longer. And since he would never be able to endure her laughter when she found out for sure that he was in love with her, he would have to get rid of her.

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It was hard to stand the strange looks Snape gave her all day long. She couldn't see them per se but she felt them boring into her back at all times. This was the day, she knew it. She would have to get things off her chest and then get the hell out. She couldn't possibly work in such a small space with him. She needed to tell him to stop being kind to her one day, looking like he fancied the pants off her, or like she was an early Christmas present one day, touching her, laughing with her, and being an utter bastard the next day.

In her heart, she knew this wasn't true. He had withdrawn all kinds of affection, verbal and non-verbal a few weeks ago. He was just being a surly bastard but she couldn't possibly tell him that she was insanely in love with him and wanted to crawl in his pocket, or under his skin, just to be closer.

She would tell him she got tired of his stupid games, that she despised playing games because she always lost and would then resign. Immediately. It was the only way to go.

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He steeled himself for the moment. He heard her footfalls coming towards him and he had the parchment with the termination of her contract on hand already.

She pushed the door open and with a weird sort of expression on her face, as if she had just lost something great, she cleared her throat and her voice was small and wispy when she spoke.

"I quit," she said and for a moment, he couldn't believe his ears and he shook his head.

"I quit," she repeated," don't shake your head. I resign."

"You're fired," he replied coldly and handed her the paper he had prepared. "You receive two weeks' salary and a bonus for work adequately done."

Her eyes opened wide for a moment before she took the parchment from him with trembling fingers and just as she turned to walk away, she said, softly, "Good bye."

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Ahem. Yes. Well. If you want another chappy with a possibly happy ending, let me know. And if not, let me know as well. And let me know if you liked this thing (since it's very loosely based on real life...).

Thank you!