Something to Talk About
Yes, this fic is based on a song. Points to you if you can figure it out without running to Google. If you can't, well, you're probably under 18 and your parents never blessed you with their choice of radio station/album collection.
No, this is not a songfic. It's just silly, sweet, fluff. I cite the fic I'm writing (considerably angstier/darker than I usually go) as the reasoning behind this.
My version of Lavender is owned (and protectively coveted) by IzPerplexing. This story, especially Lavender's grand appearance, is for her! Friends who ship together, stay together. Amen.
"...shagging her rotten!"
Hermione, catching the tail end of the conversation as she breezed into the Staff Room for the monthly meeting, looked up to find Pomona Sprout with her head bent towards the Headmistress. "Who's shagging who rotten, now?"
Pomona looked up and blushed, pulling back from Minerva rather quickly. "No one, dear. Just idle gossip."
"If you say so," Hermione hid a smile at Minerva's pinched look. There was always gossip flying around Hogwarts, especially between the staff, but that didn't mean their illustrious leader had to like it. She always tried to quash tall tales before they got out of hand. Personally, Hermione thought it was because she had once believed a falsehood about someone and it had almost cost that man his life.
"Come sit, we're only waiting on a few stragglers now," Minerva called, patting the couch seat next to her.
Humming softly to herself, Hermione stirred the cauldron in front of her. She plucked the little jar that held spider legs in it off the table and shook out four before dropping them into her mortar. She ground them up, swaying slightly with the tune in her head.
"Whoa, for the longest time. Whoa-oh." She scraped the powdered insect limbs into her cauldron and stirred once more, enjoying the silence of Severus' empty classroom and the familiar relaxation that came with brewing.
For all the fact that she was the Transfiguration teacher, having taken over after Minerva became Headmistress, she still loved Potions more than anything. It was nice to create something with your hands, to get dirty so to speak.
Thinking of Neville and how filthy he always appeared after his classes she smiled wryly. Perhaps not that dirty.
"I don't care what consequence it brings, I have been a fool for lesser things..." She broke off into humming again as she ran a finger down the page beside her, going over the instructions once more.
Picking up the sweet grass that she'd already shredded, Hermione was about to sprinkle it into the cauldron when she spotted a dark form out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and visibly jumped as she realized that Severus was watching her from the doorway.
"Oh! Severus! You scared the crap out of me!" She laughed slightly, quickly dumping in the sweet grass and stirring three times, counter clockwise before turning to him. "How long have you been there?"
He smirked and shrugged. "Long enough."
She blushed hotly and crossed her arms over her chest defensively. "It's not polite to eavesdrop, you know."
He shrugged again. "Spy."
"What's that Muggle phrase? Old habits die hard."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, and there's also 'curiosity killed the cat' or my favourite, 'eavesdroppers never hear the good of themselves'."
"I'll take my chances," he chuckled. Nodding towards her potion, he said, "Don't forget to give it an extra stir at the end."
Hermione picked up her stirring rod and shot him a glare. "Yes, Professor," she muttered under her breath.
Heading towards his private chambers, he called, "I heard that."
"Good god, it's a dull roar in here." Hermione slipped into her seat next to Severus, smiling politely at the Muggle Studies teacher, Amelia Blatchard. "What's got them all riled up?"
"Hogsmeade tomorrow," Severus glared at the sea of children before them.
"Oh, right. I completely forgot."
"You have to chaperone?" she asked, piling food onto her plate.
Severus grunted in reply. Hermione smiled and patted his forearm. "There, there."
He mumbled darkly. Knowing him, she thought, it would be vague plans about poisoning them all at breakfast the next morning.
Smiling teasingly, Hermione leaned in towards him. "What's that Severus? I didn't quite catch you."
"I said that if you were truly the Gryffindor Minerva thinks you are you would volunteer to take my shift."
Hermione tossed her head back and laughed. "I'm not quite that self-sacrificing, Severus."
"Yes, well, see if I ever let you brew in my classroom again."
"Nonsense, you'd miss..." Hermione trailed off in mid-sentence when she noticed that everyone to Severus' right, including Minerva, Pomona, Filius and Rolanda, were blatantly staring at them. Minerva, however, seemed to have her frowning eyes on Hermione's hand, which was still on Severus' arm.
Snatching her hand back, she blushed hotly and picked up her fork. When she looked back up she caught the man in question watching her, a look on his face that she couldn't interpret. He almost looked as if he were about to lecture her. Desperate for a change in topic, she cast about for the first thing that came to mind.
"So, do you have anything to get in the village?"
"Professor Granger, could I speak to you for a moment?"
Hermione started and looked up from the letter she had been reading. Walking and reading in the hallways of Hogwarts was usually a recipe for disaster but as almost all of the students were in classes at the moment she had felt it was safe to read Harry's letter as she made her way back down to her office.
"Headmistress, of course. Is everything all right?" She eyed the older witch, trying to read her stern face. Minerva usually looked like she was about to take someone to task but that didn't really mean anything. Of course, Hermione had noticed that she was getting an awful lot of attention from her former Head of House and it made her slightly nervous.
"Everything is fine, I just wish a word."
She followed the elder witch, thankfully that her office wasn't too far off, because she suddenly felt like an errant first year all over again. All she needed were Harry and Ron with her, sulking about their impending detention, to seal it.
They reached the gargoyle guardian and Minerva gave the password, 'sweetums', before climbing up the revolving stairs. When she pushed open the wooden door to the office Hermione half expected to find a smug eleven year old Draco waiting there.
"Please, sit. Tea?"
"No, thank you."
Minerva nodded and seated herself behind the massive desk, clasping her hands in front of her. Hermione fought the urge to fidget, reminding herself that she was no longer a child and that she had done nothing wrong. At least, she was pretty sure she'd done nothing wrong.
"Hermione, I'm afraid I must be blunt. Are you involved with Severus?"
Hermione's eyes flew open and her jaw dropped. "I...pardon me?"
"Are you seeing him? Romantically?"
"I...no! Minerva, why would you even ask that?" She flushed, thinking back to the occasional stray daydream, and tried not to look guilty.
"Be that as it may," Minerva said, eyeing her with suspicion, "there are rumours going about—"
"About the two of you and your possible involvement! Both the staff and the students have noticed how...close you two seem to be."
"But we're not—"
"Hermione, there is nothing in the staff code of conduct that forbids you from having a relationship with another staff member." Her expression clearly said that whatever the rules, she clearly didn't approve of such things. "However, you must handle your affairs with discretion. Students mustn't know, or see evidence of it, unless you plan on getting married."
"But there is no relationship!" Hermione protested. "How am I supposed to 'handle my affairs with discretion' when there's nothing to handle? Am I supposed to stop socializing with Severus simply because the little wankers see more than there is?"
"Those 'little wankers' as you so eloquently put it are not the only ones who have noticed your interactions with Severus."
Now Hermione frowned, beginning to get more than a little irritated. "You mean the gossiping old biddies?"
"Hermione! You cannot speak of—"
"Why is it that every other rumour that comes about you squash instantly but this one you give credence to? How is that fair?"
"I'm not giving credence to it, I am simply warning you about—"
"No! You believe the rumour, that much is obvious, and you're here to tell me off about it instead of taking me at my word! You believing it gives it credence, gives the others the idea that they're right and therefore they can talk about us behind our backs!" She suddenly remembered Pomona's whisperings in a new light and it made her clench her hands. "Have you discussed this with Severus? I'm sure he'd squash the idea instantly."
"I have yet to speak with Severus. I don't see how—"
"Oh, perfect!" Hermione stood up, furious. "I am not in a relationship with Severus, Minerva, and if I was I certainly wouldn't display it for the children to gossip about. Now, if that's all? I have some personal correspondence to take care of. Good day."
Hermione sat down next to Severus, meeting Minerva's eyes boldly and silently daring her to say anything. She was the only one who ever shared the two person couch with their resident pariah but it was only after having had her little chat with Minerva that she realized how oddly everyone looked at her as she sat there. Resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at her colleagues, she leaned over into Severus' personal space.
"Did Minerva...talk to you recently?" she whispered.
Severus arched an eyebrow at her. "She speaks to me daily, unfortunately."
"She didn't pull you into her office for a talking to?"
He frowned. "No. Why?"
"No reason." She pulled back, purposefully avoiding his eye.
Thankfully, the Headmistress began the meeting shortly after that and Hermione had a legitimate excuse not to speak to her couch partner. Unfortunately, the business at hand was all of the boring updates that, according to Severus, Dumbledore never bothered with and Minerva obsessed over. They listened to the mid-term reports about student grades, points, detentions and any issues that specific students might be having. Hermione zoned out for most of it, only taking note when a student's name was mentioned. She shifted around, crossing one leg over the other, then back. Her dangling foot began to jiggle, then her hand started tapping her Muggle pen against her other palm with a rapid tap, tap, tap, tap. She was the personification of 'antsy'.
"Do desist. You are making the couch shake," Severus said, leaning over and placing a hand on her knee.
Hermione started at the warmth of his palm through her robes and looked up at him. He sighed and placed his other hand over hers, stilling the movement of her pen. Gasping slightly, she couldn't help but shoot a glance towards the rest of their colleagues. No one was paying them any mind and she relaxed slightly.
Severus did not seem to noticed her concern. Releasing her, he gestured for her to scoot closer on the couch as he pulled something out from under his marking. With another glance towards Minerva, she shifted quietly towards the other man until she was close enough for their legs to brush.
"This may help." Severus placed a Muggle crossword book on top of his papers and flipped it open to the puzzle he was currently working on.
Hermione leaned closer, her shoulder brushing his, and smiled. "You're brilliant, you know that?"
Severus chuckled softly, drawing the attention of some of the others in the room, but Hermione was too busy thinking about 5 Down – Poultry vegetable to notice them.
The castle was cold and drafty in the winter. Students rushed to and fro, hoping to get to warm classrooms that had hearth fires in them or, like Hermione, to the Great Hall where one was guaranteed to warmth thanks to the number of bodies.
She had just reached the main staircase that would lead to the Entrance Hall when she came upon Severus holding a student by the front of his robes. There was a small crowd of on-lookers, of various ages and Houses, but none of them seemed inclined to intervene. Concerned for the student, Severus' wrath was legendary, she started to make her way down the stairs when his voice reached her.
"—utmost disrespect Mr. Appleby! A hundred points from Slytherin for daring to speak thusly about a teacher! I will be writing to your parents to inform them of what a foul miscreant their son is. I'm sure your mother will be thrilled to hear how you speak of women, it will warm her heart no doubt."
Hermione descended the stairs, approaching the pair. She saw a couple of young boys' eyes go wide at the sight of her and frowned. The sound of her footsteps made Severus looked up at her and she almost took a step back; she hadn't seen his face that angry since Harry was his student.
"You will serve a month's worth of detentions with myself and Mr. Filch. I will determine the time and notify you, Mr. Appleby." He let go of the boy's robes, practically flinging the child from him. The boy, glancing once at her, and wasted no time in scrambling away.
He turned towards her, his face still set in angry lines but not nearly as terrifying as it had been. "Excuse me, Professor Granger. I have business to attend to."
Without letting her get another word in, he turned and swept away, making students dart out of his path. She turned and caught the eye of the nearest student, a young Ravenclaw. Quirking her finger, she bid him approach her.
"What happened here?"
The boy looked away, instantly making her suspicious. "Harvey said...he said something inappropriate about...about you, Professor."
"Me?" she echoed. "What did he say, Mr. Rivers?"
"I...I don't want to say."
"Then give me an over view, no specifics."
The boy looked up at her and blushed furiously. "It was about you and...and Professor Snape."
Hermione's eyebrows went up. "And I'm assuming he overheard Mr. Appleby's comments?"
She shook her head slightly, no longer feeling sorry for the boy. "Very well, thank you, Mr. Rivers. Ten points to Ravenclaw. You best get to the Great Hall, now."
Watching the boy scamper off, Hermione frowned at the last place she had seen the Potions Master. He never took off that many points from Slytherin. It set her mind to whirring; what had Harvey Appleby said that would enrage Severus so?
Curled up in her favourite chair, Hermione stared into the fire and willed it to provide answers. Her book had, sadly, long been discarded to the floor where it lay open to the page that she had finally given up on. Her concentration was shot to the point where not even Mr. Darcy could make her feel good. He was her fall back guy, as cliché as it sounded. She knew that, if her friends had even the vaguest idea of who Mr. Darcy was, they'd roll their eyes and mutter 'typical' but she couldn't help it. She'd been raised on novels like Pride & Prejudice, they were the love stories she went to when her own romances fell flat.
Of course, Austen lied to her on a regular basis but she was confident in her denial to ignore the implications of that. Most of the time.
Sighing, she looked down at her familiar and smiled softly. He'd somehow managed to squirm his way into the chair, placing his furry body between her and the cushion in a complex, twisted position that couldn't possibly be comfortable. He was purring, though, so that was a good sign.
"Crooks, what do I do about this, hmm?" She stroked the back of her finger up his nose and forehead, smoothing the bushy ginger fur away from his closed eyes. "You're never vocal when I want you to be, you know, but when it's meal time you won't bloody shut up."
The cat opened one eye as if to say 'Do you have a point here?' before releasing a little sigh and twisting his head at an odd angle.
Hermione huffed and tangled her fingers in his fur. Her familiar couldn't help her figure out her own feelings, she knew that, but that didn't stop her from wishing that he would.
The problem wasn't so much how she felt, but more so what to do about them. She'd sat down and thought about Severus, more than once to be honest, and knew that she liked him well enough. She certainly respected him and his intelligence, he had a dark sense of humour but she'd found that with age she'd learned to appreciate it. He wasn't handsome, and his hair left much to be desired, but that didn't seem to matter all that much anymore; his personality had, despite all odds, grown on her. He was kind in his own way, especially when there was no one else around to see it, and when he smiled at her it set off a crazy reaction in her body, making her tingle from the inside out. Okay, so she liked him more than 'well enough', but that didn't change anything; she still didn't know what to do about it.
"Crooks!" She poked the cat, making him grunt and let out an irritated half-meow. "What do I do?"
Humming softly to herself, Hermione rubbed her freshly showered hair with a small towel to remove the worst of the water. Trial and error had quickly taught her that drying charms made her already unruly hair into an absolute monster. The one time she had tried it her riot of curls had expanded to the width of her shoulders, making her look exceptionally ridiculous. Her mother had tried to convince her to use things like stay in hair curlers and various Muggle products but she simply didn't care enough to put that kind of effort in. Well, that and they looked like medieval torture devices; Chinese finger traps or something.
She was very much a 'put it in a pony tail or a bun' kind of girl on most days. It tended to make her look incredibly young, so she combated that with a light touch of makeup on her eyes and lips, drawing attention to the fact that she was a woman and not a child.
She snorted to herself, thinking of someone who had missed that memo.
A knock at her door interrupted her musings and she threw her towel down on her bed, snagging her bath robe as she went. Another knock sounded as she was slipping the garment on and she called out, "I'm coming!"
Tying the sash quickly, she hid her body behind the door as she opened it a crack.
"Severus! Is something wrong?"
"No, everything is fine. I just wanted to thank you for the Christmas gift and give you the latest copy of Potions Quarterly. I just finished with it and there is an article about the uses of Transfiguration charms in form altering potions like Polyjuice and whether they can be used to extend the period of activity for said potion. I thought you might be interested in it."
Hermione beamed at him and stepped away from the door. "That's brilliant, Severus! Thank you so much. Do you remember who the author was? Keller, by any chance?"
"I—yes. I mean, no." He suddenly looked flustered and Hermione frowned at him as a light blush crept up into his cheeks. "I don't remember who it was. Here." He thrust the booklet at her. "I must go, I have rounds."
Still frowning, Hermione watched as he turned and practically fled. If she didn't know better, she'd have thought that he was barely holding himself back from a full out run. Curious and more than a little confused, she watched him until he turned the corner and disappeared from view. With a shrug, she slipped back into her quarters and closed the door.
Looking down, her frown quickly melted into a grin. She had forgotten that she was dressed in a bath robe that only fell to mid-thigh. Her legs, stilly rosy pink from her hot shower, had been completely on display for the stern Potions Master.
Perhaps there was some truth to those rumours after all.
Hermione stepped through the Floo, leaving the rushing green behind her and pausing to brush the soot from her navy blue robes.
"In here!" her voice called. "No! Jonathan, you put that down right this instant!" Hermione followed the sound of voices towards the kitchen. "I am warning you, child, I am going to—Hermione!"
She leaned against the doorframe and took in the scene. Lavender was trying to coax Derek, aged four, to eat his spaghetti, not wear it, while Jonathan, aged seven, seemed to be making his action figure dance in his soup. Hermione smiled. "You look like you've got your hands full."
Lavender huffed, blowing an errant blonde curl away from her face. "I swear. One day I'm going to sell them."
"Severus might take you up on that. Potions ingredients and all."
"There's an idea!" She turned to her eldest son. "You hear that? I'm going to sell you for potions ingredients."
The little blue eyed monster just giggled at her.
Lavender gave her a look as Hermione unsuccessfully covered a snicker of her own and gestured to the kitchen table vaguely. "Try to find a clean space to sit. I make no guarantees."
Doing as she was bid, and casting a discreet Scourgify at a chair, Hermione turned her attention to watching Lavender wrestle with her two boys. Derek was having none of it, deciding that he'd much rather smear his food as far across the table as possible. Jonathan was temporarily ignored as he was fairly silent whilst dipping his Merlin's head into a bowl of creamy tomato soup.
"Remind me why you thought having another would be a good idea?" Hermione asked casually. Her friend was only a couple of weeks along and not showing yet, but it had been confirmed; they were going for number three.
"Endorphins," Lavender responded instantly, snatching Derek's bowl away from him and whipping out her wand to clean up his mess. "Seamus' you-know-what caused my brains to momentarily dribble out of my ears and agree to try for a girl."
"Ah, yes, that's what it must have been." She smiled, having missed Lavender's particular brand of insanity. The pair of them had become quite close after the war when they'd been two of the few students who opted to return for an 'eighth year' at Hogwarts.
"Sometimes I honestly wish I'd never given up my job," the other witch muttered, wiping her son's face with a cloth and pulling Merlin out of Jonathan's soup. "Eat that or your father will not be taking you to see Uncle Dean next weekend."
"No buts! Eat!"
Jonathan grumbled but obeyed, picking up his spoon and dipping it into soup. As soon as Lavender's back was turned, however, he quickly began dribbling it onto the floor. He seemed to realize, after about three rapid spoonfuls, that Hermione was watching him. He froze, spoon in mid-air, and looked at her warily. She arched an eyebrow at him and hid a smirk as that spoon suddenly found its way into his mouth. Another discreet Scourgify later and the mess was cleared.
"Alright, now tell me what's got your knickers in a knot. I didn't quite know what to make of your letter, to be honest," Lavender said, putting a plate of sliced up banana in front of Derek. His eyes practically bugged out of his head as he let out a happy, 'nanas!' and proceeded to shove handfuls into his mouth.
Dragging her eyes away from the fruit massacre, Hermione proceeded to tell Lavender everything that had happened up to that point, making sure to cover the rumours, Severus' reaction to the student gossip, Minerva's little 'chat' with her and the late night visit that resulted in a little more exposed leg than planned. By the end of her story, Lavender was practically humming with excitement.
"It sounds like he has the hots for you, Hermione! And you like him, right?" At Hermione's nod she gave a little bounce, looking like she was a heartbeat away from clapping her hands like a happy toddler. Hermione made a mental note to force her out of the house more often. "I know exactly what to do! I'll be right back, watch them for me."
Without pausing at Hermione's instant sound of protest, Lavender took off. She could hear her rapid footsteps heading upstairs and eyed the two children warily. Jonathan smiled at her. Hermione narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
Thankfully, Derek was happily masticating banana and licking it off his fingers and Jonathan didn't seem inclined to have a fit. When Lavender returned, Hermione breathed an instant sigh of relief—until she saw what her friend held in her arms.
"Stand up, I need to do your measurements." She deposited her load of magazines and measuring rope on the table before yanking Hermione out of her seat.
"Because you're going to get a new wardrobe, one that looks decidedly less frumpy and more 'you know you want me' so that he will stand up and take notice." Hermione snorted at her choice of wording and Lavender grinned.
"I don't know about this, Lav...don't they say you shouldn't change yourself for a man?"
"Shut up, I haven't been able to buy anything nice for myself since I got pregnant with Jonathan, I am going to live vicariously through you." She picked up the rope and began taking Hermione's measurements. When she looped the cord around her waist and hips, Lavender sighed, but when she got to Hermione's breasts the other woman let out a mournful noise—straight from the soul. "God, I remember when my tits were this perky." Without a care for personal boundaries, she poked a breast with one finger and smirked at Hermione's yelp.
"Watch yourself, woman, or I'll tell your husband that you've been feeling me up!" Hermione warned.
Lavender rolled her eyes. "Please, don't. He'll like that idea far too much."
"Ha!" Hermione shook her head, sat back down, and pulled the nearest magazine towards her as Lavender wrote down her measurements.
Both of them looked over at Derek who was beaming at them with his face covered in banana.
Pausing outside the staff room door, Hermione took a deep, calming breath and smoothed down her new robes once more.
She had to hand it to Lavender, she looked quite nice in them. They were enticing whilst still being tasteful; mostly they were just tailored specifically to her frame, making them cling and flare in all the right places. She was particularly fond of this set; the material moulded to her body until her hips where it flared out in a long skirt to the floor. The sleeves were also form fitting until the elbow when they too opened up into a traditional peasant cut. The deep purple, reminiscent of a rich wine, set off the small bits of silver jewellery that Hermione had applied; a simple chain and pendant here, a delicate bracelet there, a pair of silver drop earrings almost hidden by her hair.
She thought that she looked quite beautiful, which was certainly saying something, and with that thought firmly in mind she strode into the staff room.
The women took notice of her instantly, their eyes raking up and down her new robes, some of them nodding approvingly and others merely arching an eyebrow. Minerva, surprisingly enough, smiled and nodded at her. Returning the gesture, she headed straight for the back of the room were Severus could be found with a pile of marking no doubt; his was the reaction she was waiting for.
Unfortunately, he didn't look up as she approached and so she sat down, purposefully close to him. Crossing her legs primly, she turned to him and whispered quietly,
"Thank you for the Potions Quarterly, Severus. I read the article you mentioned, and it was fascinating! I'd never even thought about adding elements of Transfigural magic to...Is something wrong?" He was frowning at her, a deep furrow in his brow, with his mouth pressed into a hard line. His eyes raked up and down her form and she felt her stomach do an unpleasant swoop.
"Do you think your..." he seemed to be searching for the right word as he took in her appearance "apparel is quite...appropriate for a teacher?"
Involuntarily, Hermione glanced down at herself. There was nothing wrong with how she was dressed, was there? Sure, it was a little tighter than usual, but it wasn't skin tight. There was no skin revealing, in fact, she was almost prudishly covered up in that regard.
Taking her silence as acquiescence, he continued. "Is this a habit for you, Professor Granger? You answer your door wearing barely any clothes, I could have been a student for all you knew, and you now traipse around the school in that?" He sat back, shifting slightly away from her and looking forward. "I've heard of those type of teachers but I never thought you'd be one of them."
Hermione stared at him, her heart pounding painfully in her chest and her eyes prickling dangerously. He didn't acknowledge her baleful look but merely stared forward, as if waiting for something to happen.
"I cannot believe you just said that to me." She didn't bother to lower her voice as he had. Clenching her hands tightly, she tried to stop them shaking. "I know you can be hateful but for some, clearly stupid, reason I thought you were my friend."
She stood up and began to storm away when another thought occurred to her and she whirled back to face him. He didn't look at her. "And I made sure to keep hidden behind my door until I knew it wasn't a student coming to see me so don't you dare try to make me off as some tart." His jaw clenched but made no other indication of hearing her. "Just because you have zero sex appeal, doesn't mean the rest of us have to hide ours!" she spat.
Turning on her heel, she quickly left the staff room, avoiding everyone's eye and trying not to look like she was fleeing. As soon as the door swung shut behind her, she broke into a run, hoping beyond hope that the tears wouldn't fall until she was behind closed doors.
Rather than bowing to his nasty comments and reverting to her 'frumpier' clothing, Hermione tossed every last baggy item of clothing out, Muggle or magical, and replaced them with the latest styles and fashions from Gladrags and Madam Malkins.
Of course, it cost her a pretty penny—or a knut, as it were—but she didn't regret it. Striding down the hallway, her heels clicking softly, she felt pretty and confident for the first time in...she couldn't remember.
Her appearance was never something that she'd put a lot of thought into but she couldn't deny that knowing that she looked good made her feel good about herself. Ginny's ramblings about 'retail therapy' took on a whole new light and she smiled wryly to herself as she imagined the look on her friend's face when she saw her next.
It had been a solid month since Severus' nasty comments but as the weather slowly warmed and the February air began to smell like spring, Hermione's anger simmered. Surprisingly, there'd been no retaliation for her very public denouncement of him. She avoided him completely, and he acted as if she didn't exist. While she wouldn't admit it aloud, she missed her time in his lab, the dinner conversations, and the recent sharing of a crossword puzzle over tedious staff meetings. Missing him, however, only made her angrier because anger was easier than being hurt. She didn't really have much of a right to be hurt, she supposed. He'd never even called her friend, let alone anything else.
She had spoken with Minerva shortly after the fiasco in the staff room, the Headmistress had been understandably concerned, and Hermione had told her what Severus had said. The older witch had reassured her that there was nothing wrong with her mode of dress and that Severus was merely an old grouch with an itch to irritate everyone else.
Hermione wasn't convinced on that score but, lacking any other possibilities, had to concede that the Headmistress might be right.
A knock on her office door almost startled her. Sliding her letter from Harry under a textbook she called out, "Come in!"
Once again, he surprised her. Expecting a student at her door, she instead found Severus stepping into her office, his face carefully neutral. Unlike the last time he paid her an unexpected visit, his appearance did not make her smile.
Standing up, she began collecting her students' essays and Harry's letter. "I'm afraid you've caught me at a bad moment, Professor. I have business to attend to."
"Prof—" He grimaced, taking a step forward. "Hermione. I will only take but a minute of your time."
"A minute I don't have, I'm afraid," she said, stepping around her desk and heading straight for the door. "I've students to seduce, you see. Do lock up when you're done."
With that, she swept past him and out of the room, not bothering to look back. She didn't hear him follow her out of the room until his voice rang out in the hallway.
"I see you've learned a thing or two about being hateful."
Pausing in the middle of the empty corridor, she almost turned around. Almost.
"I learned from the best."
"Finnegan Household!" Hermione cried, throwing a handful of Floo powder into the flames and sticking her head through. "Lavender? Lav, are you around?"
Her view of the Finnegan living room consisted only of carpet and couches until a pair of socked feet came into view. Crouching down, Seamus smiled at her. "Hermione! Lavender is coming, she just got out of a bath."
"Oh, I can call back later if that's better?"
"Nah, she told me to come down here and detain you. Apparently you have some exciting news?" He grinned at her.
Hermione wrinkled her nose. "Unfortunately, I doubt it's what she wants to hear."
Seamus sat down in front of the fire, crossing his jean clad legs. "So, you're not shagging Snape?"
"She told you? !"
He grinned. "I'm an Auror, Hermione. I've got to be good at weaseling information out of people, don't I?"
"Using your prick does not count as good detective work, Seamus Finnegan!"
Both Hermione and Seamus looked towards the sound of Lavender's voice but Hermione couldn't only see a pair of bare feet and red, silky pyjama pants.
"That's not the only trick I have up my sleeve." He grinned lasciviously at her and Hermione snorted quietly.
"Get out of here, you, or I'll start getting graphic about my period." Lavender nudged his thigh with her bare foot.
Seamus wrinkled his face comically and stood up. "Disgusting."
Lavender chuckled and sat down where her husband had been, grinning at Hermione. For a moment she looked like she was sixteen again, hair damp and smile mischievous, about to sit up all night gossiping with Parvati. "I don't understand how that still works; he was present at the birth of both his children, after all."
Hermione shrugged. "It's encoded into their DNA or something."
Lavender pulled a face. "Sure, whatever you just said."
"Oh right. Sorry," Hermione smiled sheepishly.
Her friend waved a dismissive hand. "Doesn't matter. So, has anything changed?"
"No...well, I think he might have tried to apologise to me the other day."
"I didn't exactly give him the time of day."
"What do you mean?"
"I told him I had better things to do, like seducing students, and walked out."
Lavender leaned forward, propping her chin up on her fists. "Points for attitude, but why didn't you let him speak?"
Hermione growled. "I don't want to hear his nastiness anymore. I thought we were done with that, you know?"
"Hermione, I know you don't believe me but I think he said that because he was...I dunno, jealous, or possessive, or something."
"So? That doesn't make it right!"
"No, it doesn't," Lavender shook her head slowly. "And call me crazy for defending Snape's temper but...well, if it happened the way you said it did I think that you set him off balance, and he reacted the only way he knows how."
"To humiliate me in front of my peers?"
"Well, you said that no one else heard what he said," Lavender pointed out, looking thoughtful. "And I'm not saying it's right, or that it's something you should ignore—it definitely has to be addressed—but if you like him...I think you have to accept that sometimes he might snark without thinking."
"That doesn't mean he can put me down whenever he's feeling overwhelmed, or whatever," Hermione insisted.
"Don't act like a child, Hermione."
"Yes you are. I have two children, remember? You've got the petulant face on. All you need is to drop lip a bit more." Lavender reached into the green flames and took hold of Hermione's lip, pulling it out and down. "There you go, perfect."
"Pah!" Hermione pulled back slightly. "I am not petulant."
Lavender snorted. "Uh huh."
"Okay, fine, maybe," Hermione rolled her eyes. "I just... I dunno."
"Talk to him. Or let him talk to you next time."
Hermione huffed dejectedly. "If there is a next time."
March blew in to Scotland, gusty, wet and cold.
And still, Hermione had not found the nerve to say anything to the glowering professor she was avoiding. At first, she'd been determined to wait him out and see if he approached her again. She knew it was petty but there was a large part of her that thought he needed to do the apologising first. Yes, she'd been rude—something she still blushed to remember—but he'd brought it on himself, hadn't he? She'd simply given as good as she got.
But Severus did not approach her again. He simply went back to pretending that she didn't exist.
So Hermione had convinced herself that she needed to approach him and...and what? Demand an apology? Apologise first? No. She had more pride than that.
The problem with her plan was that she'd no idea what to say to him once she'd gathered the nerve to approach him. Oh, she'd tried a few times; forcing herself to walk down to his dungeon and stand pitifully before the door until she heard someone's footsteps and fled the scene like a guilty criminal. Seeing him face to face, of course, was a different story.
Poking miserably at her porridge, Hermione reached for the honey and poured a liberal amount on it in a vain attempt to make it taste better. She was an adult and could choose whatever she wanted to eat but ingrained habits from childhood were hard to beat and her mother had had her eating porridge during the cold months like a bloody ritual. Phrases like 'it'll warm you from the inside' and 'stick to your bones' swam through her head as she lifted a spoonful to her mouth.
"Why do you eat it if you hate it?"
She looked up, startled to be spoken to. Since she'd moved from her usual place beside Severus she hadn't had a lot of chatter from the teacher's around her. She shrugged at Madam Hooch. "Habit."
Hooch wrinkled her nose at Hermione's bowl and mirrored her shrug just as the morning post arrived. Screeching into the room, Hermione barely spared them a glance until one swooped down, landing neatly into her breakfast.
Noting the Hogwarts crest hanging around its neck, she took the little scroll from its leg. "Cheers," she said as it took off. Feeling far less guilty, she happily Banished her soiled porridge and picked up a hot piece of toast from the platter in front of her. Toast in mouth, she broke the seal on the parchment and unrolled it.
Blinking, she slowly removed the piece of toast from her mouth and glanced down the High Table towards Severus. She caught a flash of black robes as he pushed in his seat and left the Great Hall through the staff entrance off to the side of the table. Looking back at the two simple words, she made a quick decision and tossed the toast down on her plate.
Despite having only left a few minutes after him, if even that, when she emerged into the hallway he was nowhere to be found. Glancing at the large clock above the four giant vials of precious stones she figured she had enough time to run down to his office and back before her first class arrived. She set off at a run.
When she reached his door she almost lost her nerve. Before she could think twice about it, she tapped her knuckles smartly against the door and took a step back. She didn't have to wait long.
Severus whipped open the door, a strange expression on his face. He looked...stressed? She couldn't quite place it; she wasn't an expert on his very minimalistic facial expressions. It was something she had hoped to learn how decipher before he'd basically called her a slag.
She opened her mouth but the second she did it became plain to her that she had no idea what she wanted to say. Snapping her jaws shut, she bit her lip instead.
"Perhaps we should have this discussion inside?" He stepped back, offering her his office with one hand. She nodded and walked in past him, taking in his familiar and gloomy room.
The door clicked and she turned towards him, holding up the parchment. "What the hell is this? What are you playing at?"
"I had thought that rather obvious," he said, folding his arms over his chest. His words lacked the usual venom and she frowned.
"You can't act like a total prick and expect something like this," she held up the note "to simply fix it. You—you—what you said...it hurt." She folded her own arms over her chest and looked away.
"I...I don't know what else to say." His voice was quiet, almost missed even in the silence of the dungeons.
"I don't know what you expect from me, Severus." She determinedly stare down the wall opposite, afraid to look at him in case she started to blubber. "You can't honestly think that a little note fixes a friendship."
"Are we friends, Hermione?"
Her head snapped up at that, anger flaring. "I thought we were, but apparently I was wrong!"
He took several steps closer to her, invading her personal space. She backed away slightly but he followed. "Friends don't say what we said to each other, Hermione."
"Yes, well I lied!" she snapped.
Nearly growling, she dropped her arms and stepped closer to him. "Your stupid fucking sex appeal, you arse."
"I have sex appeal?"
He smirked. "Good."
Before she could formulate a response to that infuriating remark, he pulled her into his arms and planted one on her. Hermione froze, shock running through her veins, and Severus used this time to reach up and cup her face with one warm hand. He kissed her for only a moment before pulling back and smirking again—at her dazed expression no doubt.
"I lied, too. You are beautiful."
Hermione huffed, the corner of her mouth quirking despite herself. "Kissing me doesn't make it okay, you know."
"I know," he nodded, thumb caressing her cheek. "I can't promise it won't happen again but I can promise that I will try to...to think before I speak."
Hermione smiled, remembering Lavender's words. "I can work with that."
"Can you?" he asked, eyes serious.
"Won't know until I try, will I?"
"True enough," he smiled, soft and small, but genuine. "I have a confession, however."
He leaned in, lips just a whisper away from hers. "I don't want to be your friend."
"Well, why didn't you just say so?" With a grin, she tipped her face up and stole another kiss.
Smiling broadly, Hermione pushed open the door to the staff room. For once, she was looking forward to the monthly staff meeting. Pausing just inside the room she quickly scanned the area for her target and, upon finding it, wound her way through the various chairs and tables with a grin fit to split her face.
The professor in question was in the middle of a conversation but Hermione didn't stop to consider the niceties of propriety as she bent down to whisper in her colleague's ear.
"You were right, he does shag me rotten." Straightening, she gave the scandalized Professor Sprout a saucy wink before turning and heading towards the back of the room where Severus sat on the couch she'd started to think of as 'theirs'.
"What did you say to her?" he asked once she'd sat down next to him.
"Oh, just that you shag me rotten." She turned and beamed at him. He looked at her in shock for a split second before he began to chuckle, drawing curious glances towards them. Making no effort to hide it, Severus placed his hand on her thigh, his thumb stroking a gentle pattern into the soft fabric of her robes.
Smiling smugly, Hermione sat back and prepared herself for yet another boring staff meeting. If she was lucky, Severus had remembered to bring his new crossword book. If not, well, she could always spend the hour making Pomona uncomfortable with suggestive glances and perhaps a waggle of her eyebrows.
Maybe she'd do that anyway.
For those of you who didn't figure it out, the song is Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About". No copyright infringement intended, blah, blah, blah.