Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling, and I am most certainly not making any profit from it. The title and lyrics at the beginning are by Vanessa Carlton; "A Thousand Miles". A list of all the quotes, passages and tidbits I've stuck in are at the end, with the author's notes.
A Thousand Miles
Philosophical musings, literary repose;
What more could you ever require of prose?
Perhaps some light banter with sexual tension,
Is that what it takes to attract your attention?
times like these
When I think of you
And I wonder
If you ever
Think of me
'Cause everything's so wrong
And I don't belong
Living in your
'Cause I need you
And I miss you
And now I wonder....
If I could fall
Into the sky
Do you think time
Would pass me by
'Cause you know I'd walk
A thousand miles
If I could
Just see you
She walked briskly up Charing Cross Road and turned right, suddenly, onto Long Acre. The wind tugged at the bottom of the small net bag slung over her shoulder and caught up tendrils of hair that escaped from the loose knot at the back of her neck. Warm shafts of early morning sun beat down on Covent Garden, tempting shoppers onto the small patios which stretched out in front of the many cafés. Wreaths of blue cigarette smoke twisted up from the fingers of laughing patrons, dancing in the sunlight.
As a breeze rushed past her cheek, she smiled and closed her eyes briefly. After all the pain and hurt and terror of the past few years, simply being able to walk about London without fear of attack was a long-denied pleasure, one she intended to savour.
She turned down onto the cobbles of Garrick Street, her eyes flitting across the windows of the small boutiques which lined the road, idly taking in the colourful displays. She navigated the small, twisting streets with the air of someone who had walked this path a thousand times before.
Her mind was miles away, idly drifting over the change she'd felt in her soul since the horrific, final battle of last month. They had beaten Voldemort. He was dead, and banished from this earth forever. Her thoughts shied away from the memories of how close she had come to death; too many times for someone so young. But now, now it was over. She could live her life without fear.
Again, she marveled at the change she felt – as though a huge, dark cloud, one which had been hanging over her for years, had finally dissolved, leaving a clear blue sky. She wondered how other people now felt, especially those who had been intimately caught up in the struggle. Not for the first time, she thought of the dark man who had been both the bane of her existence, and in later years, something quite different. Even now, she refused to let herself speculate on what, exactly, he had become to her.
Finally, she reached Covent Garden Market. She slid her dark sunglasses off her face and tucked them into a pocket of her bag as she entered the plaza. She grinned to herself and headed towards Lush.
He was sitting on the back patio of a small wizarding café that was theoretically on Southampton Street. This was theoretical, because it would never appear to exist on any Muggle maps. Nor would it appear to exist to any Muggles, for that matter.
He was quietly reading a book that looked suspiciously like a novel. To anyone who knew him (or rather, had met him – he would most likely sneer alarmingly at anyone who claimed to know him in the more personal sense), this would appear to be rather odd. His students, both current and former, would most likely assume the only reading he did tended towards something along the lines of ancient, massive and alchemical. But children often fail to see adults as people, rather as a caricature of a person. In his case, all greasy hair, big nose, yellow teeth and cruelly soft voice.
But those effects had been partially necessary to the role he was forced to play. Only partially, because when one is in constant fear for one's life from both sides of a war, and therefore under the one of the most intense forms of stress (which is only known to professional spies and certain types of barristers), personal hygiene seems rather insignificant. Yes, his nose was still as extremely aquiline as it had ever been, but his hair was tied back in a loose plait now. It looked suspiciously clean, as did his teeth, if they had been visible.
He wrapped his fingers around a cup and distractedly lifted it to his lips.
There was a sense of peace around this man who had been tormented for so long. Were any of his students, again, current or former, to see him now, they would most likely have a rather severe shock, and then feel quite uncomfortable at the realization that he wasn't as much of a monster as he had appeared to be. All of them but one.
She smiled at the shop clerk, thanked him, and slipped the book into her bag, allowing it to join the other parcels. Retrieving her sunglasses, she wove between the crowds and slipped out onto Southampton Street. It wasn't much quieter here – noon was approaching, and many people wanted to enjoy Covent Garden on this lovely June day.
One of her hands slid inside her now-weighed-down bag and lovingly caressed the edge of the book. Shakespeare's sonnets; a beautiful hardcover edition at that. All she wanted to do was find a somewhat quiet café and curl up in the sun with Will and a cappuccino.
She took a few steps down the street and blinked up at a sign above a small café on the corner of Tavistock.
'Subsentio?' she asked herself. She frowned at the innocuous sign, and trawled her memory. It seemed familiar…Latin, possibly?
In any event, it didn't seem to be attracting much of a crowd – quite the opposite in fact. No one was even looking at it. She frowned again and walked over to it hesitantly, just in time to see a short woman trot out the door. A short woman who was wearing what were unmistakably robes and who had just slipped a wand into her pocket.
Her face lit up. 'A wizarding café,' she thought delightedly. Plucking her sunglasses off her face, she walked up to the door and stepped inside.
The cup was empty, he realised with a start, as he tried to take another distracted sip. He pulled his head back from it in a graceful, cat-like movement and peered inside it with surprise, almost annoyed to find nothing more than a few drops of liquid and smears of foam.
The cup clattered against the saucer when he put it down. A waitress was at his side in a few moments, politely inquiring as to whether he needed anything, only to flit off again at his somewhat terse request.
Waiting, his eyes slid back down to the page in front of him.
"But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
Another cappuccino appeared as he finished the paragraph and he sipped at the froth. Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes and was content to sit for a few moments, just feeling the midday sun on his face, letting Hemingway's words steep in his mind.
He wondered, not for the first time, why he wasn't dead yet.
The café was rather empty, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. The walls were painted a soft salmon colour, and covered in gentle, impressionistic paintings. When she looked up, she saw that the ceiling was painted as well, but it was a soft blue, that of a summer day, with white clouds that actually floated around. The large fireplace on the south wall, to her right, was unlit, and carved into the white marble were rose vines, complete with gray-veined blooms. Round, white marble-topped tables filled the space of the room, giving it a loose, smoothly cluttered look, through which waiters glided. Sunlight filled the small café, invading through large, picture windows which made up most of the back wall, broken only in the middle by an open door.
Through the windows she caught a glimpse of an outside patio surrounded by a high stone wall, in front of which small trees rose and flowers bloomed out of narrow garden beds. It looked idyllic, and almost entirely deserted.
She weaved through the sea of tables and headed through the door into the sunlight.
She was dazzled, and instinctively raised a hand to shield her eyes. As her vision cleared, she blinked a few more times before she could come to terms with what she was looking at. Her mouth fell open.
He was sitting at one of the many small tables, right in front of her. His eyes closed, head tilted back, neck exposed, looking for all the world as though he were just asking her to run her fingers (tongue) over the skin there. And the ghost of a smile on his lips made her want to do Very Naughty Things to him. To him, of all people.
'Where the hell did this come from,' she thought weakly, half panicked, half aroused, and completely aware that this epiphany had been put off for quite some time, and was eager to burst to fruition. A long-ignored and longer-denied infatuation blossomed before her very eyes.
She struggled to move, speak, anything, only to find she had been paralyzed.
He opened his eyes and rolled his head forward, noticing her a split second later. He fixed his dark eyes on her and she almost believed, from the look on his face, that Severus Snape was just as shocked to see her as she was to see him.
He stared at her dumbly for a second, astonishment painted on his face. She was wearing Muggle clothes, unsurprisingly; a short denim skirt, a loose, long-sleeved white cotton blouse and high-heeled sandals that looked structurally unsound. The amazement at seeing her before him dissipated in a second. What was alarming was the manner in which she was watching him. There was more than surprise in those wide eyes. Severus, an old hand at reading body language and expression, couldn't have seen the lust on her face any more clearly, unless she had a large flashing sign above her head advertising the fact.
It was a rather attractive picture, all together. She looked very lovely, a delicate combination of innocence and maturity that made him realise he wasn't unnerved by her hungry eyes – he was, in fact, basking in their heat and returning the sentiment.
He blinked a few times, and raised an eyebrow, willing his familiar cold composure to settle over him in the same manner as a well-worn cloak.
"Miss Granger," he murmured, "are you going to stand there with your mouth open gaping at me all day?"
His deceptively soft words had the desired effect. Her jaw shut with an almost audible snap, her expression closing in a similar manner a moment later. Snape found himself mildly impressed – she had obviously perfected the art of stoicism, a rare find in a girl who was…what now? 20? 21? Young, nevertheless.
'Ahh, don't forget what she's survived these past few years,' he reminded himself, a hint of bitterness tainting the thought.
She was watching him now, clearly a bit uncomfortable at this new development, but curious. He rolled his eyes and gave a small, exasperated sigh.
"If you're going to insist on staring at me, you might as well sit down to do it," he drawled, without any real malice. He couldn't find the energy to put any of the old, typical venom into the words – without the need to play the role of the Slimy Death-Eater Bastard of a Professor, he simply couldn't be arsed. Especially with this girl, who he was quite certain wouldn't give him the satisfaction of cringing in terror or running away in tears.
Besides, it was summer. Therefore, no little monsters to torment him every day by demonstrating just how incompetent they were, which significantly lowered the levels of stress in his life.
Severus tried to work up a truly scathing glare to give Hermione as she sat down, but instead found his eyes drawn to an expanse of white thigh which appeared as her skirt shifted. He gritted his teeth together and forced his eyes down to the open book in front of him.
His head snapped up, and he looked at the girl bemusedly. She blinked and pointed at the novel.
"Hemingway," she repeated. "That is what you're reading, isn't it?"
He nodded once and went to put the book away, assuming he'd never manage to make it through a full sentence with her here, constantly attempting to make small talk, or worse, asking questions. Her hand darted across the table and closed over his before either of them realised it.
"You don't have to stop…" she stammered, pulling her hand back quickly and blushing. She started rooting around in the bag she had been carrying. Severus eyed her, one brow raised in confusion, wondering if she was merely looking for an excuse to leave. ('Oh no, I forgot my, erm, textbooks. Yes, textbooks. Light summer reading and whatnot. Ohwellgottagogoodbye!')
She pulled out a hard cover book and placed it on the table with something akin to reverence. He gave her one last intense look before sliding his gaze down to the cover. Shakespeare's sonnets. Again, he felt that rather uncomfortable twinge of having to give her credit – this time for her taste in reading material. He had never assumed Hermione Granger to be the type of girl to read anything other than textbooks and academic articles. It was something of a mild surprise that she was, in fact, more than an obnoxiously smart know-it-all. He felt a twinge at remembering that he already half knew this, but quickly smothered the memory. The past was better left alone.
She opened the volume to a random page in the middle, and flagged down a passing waitress. Severus mentally shrugged and returned to his novel, uncertain of how this surreal situation came to pass but, deep down, somewhat pleased that this girl would willingly occupy the same space as him.
Hermione struggled to read the sonnet in front of her, but oddly enough her mind was consumed with the feel of Snape's slacks brushing against her bare shin. She closed her eyes for a moment and cleared her mind – an old trick she had developed for those times when she had worried all the school work she took on would pull her under, not unlike quicksand.
She opened her eyes again and read the sonnet.
They that have power to hurt, and will do none,
That do not do the thing, they most do show,
Who moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow:
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expense,
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence:
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds,
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.
She blinked a few times, and fought back the urge to groan. Amazing, how fate has a way of kicking you square in the bum. And the day had been going so nicely.
Hermione risked a look up at Snape, her head still bent slightly forward. He was absorbed in his book, which he now held in one long-fingered hand, the elbow propped on the armrest of the metal chair, the other hand lying languidly ('I've never seen a hand manage to look languid before,' she mused) on the table. She noticed how long and dark his eyelashes were, and felt something in between jealousy and fascination. It was surprisingly pleasant.
"Is something to matter, Miss Granger?" Snape murmured, without looking up.
She didn't bother to try and feign innocence. 'Besides,' she thought with some indignation, 'I'm no longer some scared little Gryffindor for him to torment in Potions.'
nothing is wrong, - " she paused, and sat back,
looking at her companion fully. "You know, I really have no reason to call you
'Professor' anymore. And being called 'Miss Granger' makes me feel as though I
were a 70 year old spinster."
He looked startled for a moment.
'Granger:1, Snape:0,' she thought gleefully, suppressing a grin.
"Then, Hermione, you may call me whatever you wish," he purred in that black silk voice that did strange things to her stomach, his lips curling up at the corners in amusement.
'Damn. Granger:1, Snape:1.'
She simply nodded. Snape watched her for a moment, before making an impatient noise in his throat and turning his attention back to his novel.
"Severus," she murmured, marveling at the way his given name rolled off her tongue. He blinked, and his black eyes were suddenly on her again, studying her.
Hermione felt her throat go dry, but she did not look away. The air seemed to grow thicker, pregnant with unspoken thoughts and some novel feeling she couldn't identify.
She felt as though she would go mad if she didn't move or speak.
Her eyes slipped down to his hands, and she was struck with the recollection of a poem she had read some weeks before. Slowly, carefully, she reached out and ran one finger along the back of his free hand, concentrating solely on the almost obscenely intimate action.
"Doom," she whispered, mainly to herself, but when he didn't flinch away, she looked back up and into his carefully guarded eyes, and spoke.
"In spite of everything/which breathes and moves, since Doom/(with white longest hands/neatening each crease) will smooth entirely our minds/– before leaving my room/I turn, and (stooping/through the morning) kiss/this pillow, dear/where our heads lived and were."
There was silence again, and the same thickness of air suffused the pair. She waited – it was his move now.
The impudent creature was touching him. No one touched him, let alone like this. And he was quite certain no one had ever recited poetry to him, let alone anything as beautiful, not to mention as incredibly suggestive, as the one she had just murmured in that soft, bedroom voice.
Hermione Granger was certainly full of surprises. He struggled with his conflicting instincts. One demanded he snatch his hand away, snarl at her, and stalk out. The other screamed at him to grab her and teach her an entirely different sort of lesson. He settled for something of a happy medium.
Without removing his hand from under her gently caressing fingertips, he slid his book into an inner pocket of the black blazer draped on the chair beside his own. All careful, measured grace, Severus approached this unfamiliar situation in the same manner he did everything.
He looked back at Hermione and wondered why on earth she was so intent on baiting (seducing) him. There was no way a beautiful, intelligent young girl could be flirting with him.
His train of though ground to a halt, and he backtracked.
'When the bloody hell did I stop thinking of her as a precocious, know-it-all child and see her as a beautiful and intelligent young woman?'
The question answered itself, and Severus felt himself floundering in unfamiliar territory. Well, not unfamiliar per se. But it had been so long since…well, he could always brush her off later. Why not play with her innocent little mind, first? He drew his lips back in a smirk, hoping he didn't appear too lecherous, and leant forward, towards her.
"Are you attempting to insinuate something, Hermione?"
His words rolled over her like dark, rich chocolate. She shut her eyes for a moment, and he saw her shiver slightly.
'Oh yes, child. Be afraid,' he thought with grim satisfaction, certain that her features would betray her wavering courage when she looked at him again. That, of course, would be his cue to leave, letting her know just how foolish he thought her.
She opened her eyes. A few seconds later, after all the blood had rushed out of his extremities, and his very erect cock was pulsing against his thigh, he blearily realised he had severely underestimated Hermione Granger.
"Yes, I believe I am," she had whispered.
Her bravado was a surprise to both of them – though she was unaware of the exact effect her words had on the man whose hand she was still touching. But the sly, haughty smirk had disappeared from his face. And now he looked…Hermione searched vainly for an appropriate description. 'Amazed' was the first that came to mind. She was pleased it hadn't been 'outraged'.
He seemed to be staring through her now, lost in his own thoughts, and she allowed her eyes to slide over his body. The long sleeved, loose black shirt, the top few buttons undone, revealing a few black hairs. The black slacks which she more felt (especially when the wind caught at the loose material and brushed it against her legs) than saw. His dark eyes, unfocused and distant now. The strands of long black hair that escaped the elastic and danced madly whenever a breeze rushed past.
'Please,' she prayed, not quite sure why.
And then he was back, his eyes intense and glittering and possibly a little darker than normal.
"What, exactly, are you insinuating then?"
Hermione was silent for a moment, content to savour the sound of his voice, the sensation not unlike that of a physical caress. She was shaken out of her reverie by the feel of long, warm fingers wrapping around her hand. She looked down, stunned to see Snape had stopped the rhythmic movements of her fingers on his with his other hand.
The fact that he had yet to cut her to pieces with his sharp tongue ('Ignore that double entendre, Hermione,') was difficult enough to believe; that he was now willingly touching her was enough to make her give up all her preconceptions of the world and join a nunnery.
One of his fingers ran lightly along her thumb.
'Well, maybe not a nunnery,' she thought fuzzily.
Hermione realised she still hadn't answered his question. After a moment of careful consideration, she decided that, knowing Snape, honesty would be the best route.
"That's a rather…intimate question, don't you think?"
The words didn't feel like her own – she couldn't recall ever flirting in such an alarmingly sexual manner. But they appeared to have the desired effect, and she felt a little light-headed when Snape's hand tightened around hers.
"Don't play games with me, girl," he growled.
She blinked once, twice, and then gave him an amused smirk.
"Why not? Are you going to spank me if I'm perverse, Severus?"
His name was like red wine in her mouth – smooth, with a subtle bite that caught you off guard. His eyes narrowed, and his hand tightened further around hers. He produced a few galleons from somewhere and let them clatter onto the tabletop.
Still holding her hand firmly in his, he grabbed his blazer and stood. She looked up in confusion.
"Collect your things."
Caught off guard, she obeyed, falling back into the role of a student. She stood and looked up at him, realising with pleasure that he really was very tall. She found that oddly comforting, in a strange way – the man who was frightening her now was tall enough to protect her from him.
She stifled a giggle and spoke.
"Where are we going?"
The corners of his mouth turned up, and he took a step closer to her.
"I have decided, Miss Granger, to take your suggestion to heart," he murmured, his breath a warm touch on her cheek, his arm sliding around her waist.
"What are – "
"You are being quite perverse," he purred, "and I believe a spanking is in order. Apparate."
Before she could even open her mouth, they were gone.
A/N: As I've started Subsentio, I decided to go over this chapter, as it was never properly beta'd. I'm having a bitch of a time getting the italicized bits to show up on ff.net, so if there is no italics, just try and pretend they're there.
The first italicized passage is an excerpt from "A Farewell to Arms", by Hemingway; a truly beautiful book. The second is Sonnet 94, by William Shakespeare. The poem Hermione recites is by e e cummings. Subsentio is Latin for 'to notice secretly'.