The usual disclaimers apply.

The crisis came the next day at lunch and it was no small miracle that it happened just the. Of course the day before, she had been very preoccupied with nerves and papers and the smell of the apothecary and his nearness alone that she hadn't even heard her stomach grumbling and begging for food. She had noticed him, naturally, walking past her to get a sandwich and a packet of crisps for lunch but she hadn't cared.

Well – truth be told – she had cared that he had walked past her. The way he walked was simply marvellous. She could watch him walk for hours. So straight. His shoulders so manly. The male, Snapeish scent that just entered her nose as he was just past her. She could never get enough of this.

Yet, as soon as the smell was gone and there was only the quietness of the apothecary left, he out somewhere for lunch, she had heaved a sigh and had turned back to his books and his orders and everything that he had seemed to mess up in the time since she had left. To be honest, it was a lot. It seemed to her like he had done absolutely nothing in bookkeeping and the keeping of his shop – except losing customers. The numbers didn't look too good. No red yet but definitely a pink tinge to them. She hadn't expected the apothecary to be running towards bankruptcy so quickly. It was almost as if he had had absolutely no customers in the last two weeks and – no, he couldn't really afford to pay her.

Actually, the closer she had looked at the books, the more she had wondered how he had been able to feed himself. The apothecary had gone well until she had left. It wasn't that they were making a fortune (well, he wasn't making a fortune) but enough to get by. But since she had left, it seemed that he had only spent money on very expensive potions ingredients and not have sold anything. If the crumpled and barely decipherable receipts and bills were anything to go by.

A dozen Pythagorean Spidermummy's eggs? Twelve jars of pickled Indian Pepperbeets? Which they could have easily made themselves and for a fraction of the price? Nearly fifteen pounds of boomslang skin?

It did not make sense. His supplier must have made a fortune and – worse than that – must have thought he was going out of his mind. And must have been very happy about it, seeing that he had made him a rich man.

She had shaken her head, and had gone back to trying to decipher receipts and bills and had put them all neatly down in the book, so immersed that she had not even realised he had come back. So immersed that she had not realised how dark it had become and almost too immersed to have missed his grouchy, grumpy 'Go home' sometime around half past nine in the evening.

At least the work and her annoyance at his new spending habits had got her through the next morning as well, without the distraction of his smell or his shoulders or the way he walked.

But – as mentioned – the crisis came at lunch.

Her stomach would not be kept silent another minute and even though all that binging on unhealthy food during the time she had stayed away somehow needed to be taken care of, that certainly wasn't the day. Numbers were dancing in front of her eyes already and so, at around noon, she was ready to get herself a nice soup or salad or anything edible really. She stretched slowly, her shoulders and her neck hurting very much, her vision blurry and so she didn't realise that he was standing right behind her, watching over her shoulder what she had been doing all the time.

"Lunch," he said very solemnly and put a plate full of some sort of pie and peas and carrots in front of her before he walked around her and, accioing a chair, put another plate next to hers.

"Erm, thank you," she answered and hoped to all the transcendental beings that she wasn't blushing.

He only nodded, which she could only see out of the corners of her eyes before he sat down and began to eat very slowly.

She stuck her fork into the hot, steaming pie, steak and ale if she had to guess from the smell his was oozing, and her stomach made a very loud, very embarrassing gurgling noise.

"Pardon," she said.

"Eat," commanded he, chewing peas and carrots.

She did. Faster than she had probably every eaten before, gulping down the doubtlessly delicious pie and the vegetables.

From earlier experiences – eating with him, naturally, - she would have guessed that he would now, at this point, raise his eyebrows at her, make a clicking sound with his tongue and reprimand her for eating almost like an animal and not even trying to taste the different ingredients that had gone into that particular food. He had done it before. He had made her try and figure out what had been in the Bolognese sauce. What had been in the vegetable soup. What herbs there had been in the potato soup. What spices she could taste in her Chicken Korma. In her Chinese take away. In her fish and chips. He had … Hermione wrinkled her nose.

They had eaten a lot together and he had always talked to her about the food. With a passion. Now – he was absolutely silent. She could hear his chewing and his breathing. And not much of that.

Her pie (steak and ale indeed) was halfway devoured when she put down her fork and turned her chair ever so slightly to look at him.

"Yes?" he asked. Snarked, really.

She bit her lip.

"Eat," he replied to that and focused on his food once more.

"I was just … " she began slowly.

"Yes?" he asked impatiently.

"YouspentalotofmoneywhileIwas gone," she blurted out.

"Pardon?"

"I was just … looking through the books … "

"I have noticed," he interrupted, "you have done nothing else since you've come back."

"Yes, and actually it seemed like it was really important because I can't honestly see how you … erm," she came to a screeching halt when she looked up into his face. That face was like … thunder.

"Yes?" he asked with that soft, dangerous voice that a small, or large, part of her had always been afraid of.

Hermione stared at her half-eaten pie.

"Yes?" he asked again after what seemed like twenty minutes during which she hadn't been able to pick up her fork again. Much less eat anything.

"Nothing," she mumbled, well aware that the pitiful rest of her inner Gryffindor lay dying somewhere inside of her.

"You can't honestly see how I can what?" he asked and that voice was even more dangerous but at the same time, there was something in his tone, or his intonation or somewhere, which made her inner lion get up on his last legs and roar. Pitifully. But it roared.

"How you can order so much stuff that you don't ever use, that you will never use when you hire me again and when there is no money to even pay me," she said. Very quickly. Very quietly.

"I fail to see how this is your problem. As long as you do get paid," he replied icily.

"But this is … " she looked up into his eyes and there was, naturally, a glimmer of something in them which made her straighten up and her inner lion roar a bit louder. Even if it was still pitiful. "But this is your livelihood. You haven't sold more than a Sobering Potion in the last one and a half weeks. No money is coming in. You can't even pay the supplier."

"You will find that I have," his tone was cold and – if this wasn't Severus Snape speaking, she would have said it sounded hurt.

"Yes but there is no money now. Flu-season is coming up and you don't even have a Cough Concoction."

He stared into her eyes and said nothing. Hermione knew that he was challenging her and she, being who she was, leapt to that challenge.

"You can't keep afloat. If you continue like this, you will have to close within the next two or three weeks. That is if you stop ordering useless and pointless things."

"Your point, madam?" he asked.

"My point is that if you don't have an apothecary, erm, well, you don't have an apothecary. It'll all be gone. All of this will be … " she paused, "gone."

"Ah," he said slowly, a smirk crossing his lips. "Miss Granger fears that I cannot pay her. Miss Granger fears that she will be out of a job." Pause. "I see."

Severus was an astute observer. He knew she hadn't taken well to his useless spending of money. By mid-afternoon on the first day she had returned the crease between her eyebrows was as deep as the Grand Canyon. Or something like that, seeing that he had never really been to the Grand Canyon. It was very deep, nevertheless. And she hadn't eaten. Not that he minded the extra pound or two she had put on since she had left (in fact, she seemed even more beautiful that way but … no, that wasn't what one was supposed to think about an employee) but not eating was the worst way to get rid of that extra-weight. Still, he had let her be. He had gone out to get a sandwich and some crisps and had then ended up in the pub around the corner for a meal and half a pint. After all, she was in charge again.

Not that she knew that she was in charge but he had done nothing with any sense in it since she had left. He had brewed, yes, and he had tried other things but it was all worthless spending of money which she, indubitably, stumble about. He he would get a clip around the ears for that.

Not the worst thing that could happen to him. She was very, very magnificent and glorious when she was angry. And in a way, very cute. Her eyes flashed in that special way then and he truly, honestly liked seeing her eyes in that way. That special – I-dare-you way.

Especially since she was the only one who ever offered him any kind of opposition. All those bloody customers had just left after seeing his face. They had faltered like … he couldn't think of a metaphor that fitted. That's what she did to him – he couldn't even think of metaphors anymore.

Still. He knew she hadn't taken well to his useless spending of money and he knew that he had to find some kind of explanation, if not an excuse to cover up for the fact that he just wanted to, that he had spent his own, and not the apothecary's money on those stupid ingredients.

Hell, he even had throw her out at half past nine that first day she had returned. When he had wanted to think about that day, and what it meant to have her back and how her eyes would flash as soon as she found the courage to tell him that he had spent money on useless things while watching stupid stuff on the telly. Not that she knew he had a telly. None of her business, even though … well. She should know.

In a way, he thought, she should know more about him. He should definitely talk more to her. If only for the purpose of making sure that she felt absolutely nothing for him. And that that nothing turned into loathing when she finally figured out that he had a weakness for stupid daily soaps and the football. And that he liked her. Very much. That was possibly the hugest asset he had in turning her away. A beautiful woman like her could never feel something other than a meagre form of friendship for someone like him. And that friendship would soon turn into loathing, and in this case, nothingness, if he showed any kind of interest in her.

Still – it amused him and angered him, and annoyed him, and evoked many other feelings for which he had no words when she came back the next morning with a wretched 'good morning' the crease between her eyebrows deeper than ever and had set straight for his books.

For heaven's sake – it wasn't that he had ran the apothecary into bankruptcy. Well, near enough if she made the mistake of thinking he had spent all of that money. Not that she knew about his Gringott's account.

Another thing she didn't know.

Problem was – he wanted her to know about him. To know all of his secrets and all of his passions (even if it was daily soaps and the football) and he wanted her to like all of that. He wanted her to like the entire Severus-Snape-package. Including all of his shortcomings, all of his flaws, everything. The entire thing.

Fat chance of that.

But he would have to try. In a way, he would need her to see him – the real him. The daily soaps and the football and the potions and the dusty books that he kept in his living room (dusty because he couldn't really be bothered with cleaning spells and because he knew that she would get marvellously angry if she knew that his books, rare first editions among them, were dusty. But only on the outside. And never so bad that they were damaged. He had taken care of that. He was a lover of books after all).

The chance was there the second day she had come back to work for him. Her stomach was complaining so loudly that he could hear it in the next room and before she had even noticed what he could possibly do, he had stormed out of the apothecary, had gone back to the pub around the corner and had brought lunch back.

She stretched the moment he was behind her with two plates and the pub meal on them. Her back as lovely as he remembered it. Her long, graceful neck clicking slightly as she moved it to one side, then the other. Her hands above her head in the air, fingers entwined. Her hair, like a crown piled up on her head. How he wanted to sniff her hair, bury his nose in the wild, tangled mess. How he wanted to rub her back, her neck, her fingers which were definitely stiff from all that writing.

And yet, he only put the plate in front of her and almost barked "Eat".

He knew what was on her mind and he knew that she was battling with herself to tell him. Not that he would make it easier for her. He did want to see those lovely brown eyes flashing with anger. Even if it was anger directed at him and sooner rather than later, if with a little provocation from him, it came.

He had waited so long for that moment. For the moment she would be the real Hermione Granger again. Strong and fighting and saying what was on her mind. Telling him that what he was doing wasn't alright. That she wanted to care for him only …

This wasn't quite the case. She was harping on about the apothecary and the money and yes, there was an instance where he thought that she was seriously worried about him but in the end, it all came together to one truly devastating conclusion.

She wasn't worried about him but about herself.

"You can't keep afloat. If you continue like this, you will have to close within the next two or three weeks. That is if you stop ordering useless and pointless things," she said and it almost sounded mean-spirited.

"Your point, madam?" he asked, challenging her to tell him the truth. To tell him his suspicions were correct.

"My point is that if you don't have an apothecary, you don't have an apothecary. It'll all be gone. All of this will be gone."

And there it was. She needed the job. Of course she had come back for the money. He was paying her a reasonable sum of money for the things she did. Basically, she could just sit around doing nothing all day long if she so wished and he would still pay her.

A part of himself knew that this wasn't true. Well, it was true but she would never just sit around doing nothing. She always found something to do and then she did it. She was the greatest asset his apothecary had. His brewing was excellent, yes. But she sold the potions. Without her, the apothecary was nothing. And she knew it. She had seen the books.

"Ah," he said and he tried to smirk as he had always done when he had been a teacher "Miss Granger fears that I cannot pay her. Miss Granger fears that she will be out of a job. I see."

She blushed at that. For a moment he was unsure whether that blush was because he had exactly hit the spot or because he had completely missed the spot but after all, it was only a moment that he wondered. Of course he had missed the spot. He was certain of that. At least he was until she opened her mouth.

It really should have been the extreme flash in her eyes that should have tipped him off but it seemed like he was a little slow on the uptake and so, he missed the absolute foreshadowing of her tirade and the proof that maybe, after all, he wasn't always right.

"Oh fuck it, Snape, don't you think I can get a better job than this? I could get paid three times this much somewhere else if I just wanted to. I want to work here because I like working here and I like working with you, but you don't seem to get this into your thick skull. But of course, you can just go and buy Pythagorean Spidermummy's eggs, twelve jars of pickled Indian Pepperbeets and nearly fifteen pounds of boomslang skin. Amongst other things. If you want to lose this apothecary, go ahead. I was thinking of your sorry little arse, not mine. I can get mine into a mindless job at the Ministry or somewhere else at any moment. But I don't want to."

Her eyes were flashing wildly and for a moment, Severus even thought that he had to smile. She wanted to work for him? Really?

"I happen to like this ruddy place. So eat your pie and get started on the Cough Concoction, so I have something to sell as soon as someone stumbles in here again."

He looked at her for a moment, a million things running through his head while he could think of absolutely nothing but how beautiful she looked at the moment and how well the blush that had intensified now suited her. He stuck his fork into his pie, nodded and tried to hide his smile behind the peas.

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