Chapter Four - Tent
She and Ron needed to talk – even though they were taking a short breather from their relationship, Ron deserved to be told. Hermione put quill to parchment, but it didn't matter what she wrote, or the tone she used; he'd likely interpret the message to mean 'I'm pregnant.' Regardless of how she broke the news, it was likely to end badly. At least, Arthur had suggested the Three Broomsticks.
Can we talk - alone? I'm available tomorrow after work at the Three Broomsticks.
Let me know if that sounds good to you.
Hermione sighed and signaled for the rented owl. It would have to do.
A knock sounded at her door. While it shouldn't have been a surprise to her that it was Snape, when she glanced through the spyglass – it was. Happily surprised, actually, despite the late hour of the evening.
"I'm glad you're here," she said, opening the door wide. "We have a lot to talk about."
How odd, there was a cat tucked up beneath his arm. It leapt to the ground and sauntered towards the kitchen. Hermione frowned. Crooksy was very territorial and wouldn't take kindly to another cat scenting in his home – which didn't at all answer the question as to why he'd brought a cat.
"I agree," Severus smoothly replied, removing his wand.
In a short series of swishes and flicks the cardboard boxes in his pocket re-sized themselves into the center of her living room.
"What are you doing?" Hermione asked, bewildered.
Severus rubbed his hands together. They felt gritty from the dust accumulation and hard work; he barely spared the witch a glance.
"Moving in. Or hadn't you heard, what's yours is mine. What's mine is yours."
It took Hermione more than a moment to recover, but watching him root around her kitchen helped her find her voice. "Wait – what happened to being married on paper only? You and I going our separate ways?" No. There was simply no way she could allow him to stay.
"You have no staple foods," he called from her icebox.
"I do, too. Milk and cereal. Two highly nutritious staple foods. And don't change the subject, Snape," she said moving behind his… well, his rather well-formed behind as it stuck out her icebox. Snape's arse looked much more appealing in tailored trousers than billowing robes. And she could admire it now, couldn't she? His sins were many. His personality was thoroughly lacking. And Hermione had no illusions about the man to whom she was currently married. But he had a nice looking arse. She could appreciate that at least.
"Circumstances have changed. Believe me when I say I'm only here out of necessity. I'll draw up a list of groceries for you to pick up when you're out."
Her back teeth gnashed together – a bad habit her parents had tried to break her of; it led to tooth sensitivity, muscle soreness, joint pain, and could, under extenuating conditions, crack a molar.
He frowned at her pantry.
"I'm going to need a better explanation than that. You may have gotten past my wards, but you're not welcome here yet, and I don't believe I've asked you to move in."
"Your wards won't keep me out," Snape said dismissively. The kitchen inspected, he brushed past her to the hallway. "Unless you modify, most warding allows family members to pass. We're family now. Or had that detail escaped you?"
Hermione bristled. She knew that, of course, not that it had ever occurred to her. She didn't have wizarding family. Hermione made a mental note to adjust her wards.
"That's the linen closet," she said with a sigh as he gave himself the grand tour.
Snape found the second bedroom she used as a home office and looked over his shoulder in scorn. "This won't do."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
The other two doors led to her bedroom and bathroom, Snape inspected them with mild curiosity.
"Is that it then?" It was nearly smaller than Spinner's End, and that was saying quite a bit.
"That's all for the east wing. My humble apologies, but the west wing, servant's quarters, and guest house are being renovated."
"Cheeky witch." He glanced in the second bedroom. The Muggle gadgetry would have to be binned. Otherwise, it would be sufficient until he could find a place of his own. With some doing, he could perhaps manage to get most of his books unpacked – once he cleared her shelves. "I'll get my things," he muttered brushing past her.
Hermione had her wand out, shrinking the boxes back down to the size of small pebbles for transportation. She levitated them to her hand and dropped them into his palm. Severus was about to thank her for her assistance when she opened her front door and gestured with her hand for him to leave.
"Look, I try not to be rude to guests in my home, but this is twice now you've shown up unannounced and uninvited, and while I appreciate you coming here to point out the inadequacies of my flat and pantry, it's time you left. You're not welcome here. You're not moving in, and as far as I'm concerned, we're not married. So if you wouldn't mind, please leave."
Severus drew himself up to intimidate the diminutive witch.
"My apologies, Miss Granger – pardon me – Mrs. Snape. Perhaps I hadn't made myself clear. Circumstances have changed."
"Right. That explains nothing. And it means absolutely nothing to me."
There was a slight tic in his cheek as Snape stood his ground, silent, but obviously considering her words.
"Fine." His posture and bearing relaxed slightly. "I am at present homeless."
"I'm very sad to hear that. How unfortunate." She had not closed the door. Delightful arse or not, she would be glad to see him leave. "Did I not sign your Gringotts account – take care of yourself, Snape! You're a grown adult and not my problem."
"Damn and damn."
Hermione watched with trepidation as Severus Snape began to tread her carpet, prowling like a tiger caught in a cage. His wand was out as he rolled it reflexively, she wondered if she needed her own wand. He caught her eyes tracking the movements of it, and as if realizing for the first time he'd been brandishing it, he stowed it in his breast pocket with a look that could only be described as embarrassment.
Snape closed his eyes and stood before her tense, as if every muscle were pulled taut. "My Gringotts account is near empty," he said with his eyes closed as if he couldn't bear to witness her judgment. "I spent it all before the Final Battle."
"You spent it all?"
She watched his teeth grind – now probably wasn't the time for her parent's lecture on bruxism.
"I spent it on the Slytherin House Indigent Book Fund; not every pure-blood family is as fortunate as Potter's to have a vault full of gold. And the Ministry has a nasty habit of repatriating the vaults of Dark wizards upon their death."
"You expected to die," Hermione said blandly. She expected as much as well.
"Imagine my surprise." His lips twisted up cruelly. "I should have left more Galleons in there to pay for better defense counsel, but I didn't think I'd have the chance to need one," he muttered.
"Sounds like a bit of bad planning, but at least you're alive." She shrugged. "Call it a win in your favor and find a job."
"Dear wife, I don't believe you fully understand the contract you signed as my next of kin. I managed to read the fine print – did you?"
"What are you talking about?" she whispered.
"The stipulations of my release were that I avowed I had a home to go to and a form of support. I was remitted into your custody. Do you not recall that you were the guarantor of my contract? It's incumbent upon you to provide for my lodgings and sustainment. When the Aurors come to bring me back to Azkaban, I believe they'll bring you along, too."
Hermione tried to read his deadpan expression to detect the lie. No, it wasn't possible. It was ridiculous that she would be forced to carry this man as her burden – to provide for him. Her stomach soured and she felt nauseous. It would be just like the Ministry to do such a thing.
"That's not true," she said weakly.
"As you like." He opened his hands in a supplicant's gesture. "I'll leave, and we can both find out together."
"You said you had your own home. You said you had your own form of employment. What do you think you're going to be – one of those kept pure-blood wives? I can't take care of you! You can take care of your own damn self."
Snape shrugged. "As they say, it's all gone tits up. My home and lab have been destroyed."
"Get a job! Get a hotel room and get out of my life." Mr. Watkins from 306 shuffled down the hallway and looked in at the disturbance; Hermione smiled and closed the door. "You want me to provide for you?"
"I'm not begging you for charity. I'm telling you to uphold your end of the contract."
Hermione crossed the room and grabbed her purse. A quick rummage produced a miniature tent small enough to be a child's toy. She'd sworn that she'd never set foot in the godforsaken tent again, but had kept it anyway – for emergencies. It had seemed like such a practical thing, after all.
She shoved it at him.
"Here. This is me providing for you."
"Is this the tent I think it is?"
"Yes, it is," she said, with false enthusiasm.
Snape scowled. "There's no bathroom."
"Make do. Improvise. You're a wizard. Figure something out. We did." Hermione deftly omitted the fact that she and the boys had not been able to come up with a real workable solution to the missing bathroom, which was just one further reason in a long litany of reasons of why she hated camping.
"Is that it then? You're putting me out?"
Hermione opened the door for him again.
As he crossed the threshold, she stopped him by placing her hand gently on his shoulder. "You know this could have ended better if you had just talked to me from the start. I'm not an unreasonable woman."
Severus stared at her hard. In truth, he had prepared himself for battle, expecting a wife – any wife of his in particular – to be a shrew. He pictured the adolescent girl she had been at school, her features just a bit more roundish and pudgy. She'd been an utter swot, ink-stained and insufferable, but not unkind. Severus took measure of the woman, his woman. No, she wasn't the bullying type, and she'd not stand for being bullied. He realized he didn't have much experience with witches like her, and Azkaban had whittled away his manners. In those six years he hadn't uttered a single thank you, nor offered a single please. He inclined his head.
"My apologies," Severus said sincerely. "It was very boorish of me to intrude and unfair to you."
Hermione blinked. "Oh, well..." Hermione flustered. "I suppose we can share the bathroom here. There's a small terraced garden out back, full of weeds and nobody uses it, but if you put up Muggle Repelling Charms, it should be all right."
"Thank you. Good night, Hermione."
"Good night -"
Hermione nodded. "Good night then, Severus."
"Come, Ushanka! We're leaving." A scruffy grey cat appeared seemingly out of nowhere and with a walk befitting a queen, sauntered past Hermione and out the door.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Hermione ran to the window that overlooked the small fenced yard, watching intently as he began warding. The tent sprang up, and then quickly shimmered from her view. She stayed there watching the patch of dead grass where she knew he was preparing for bed. At her feet, Crooks butted her legs and meowed loudly, demanding attention and producing a full accounting of his complaints.
"Good night, Severus."
She picked up the traumatized tom and retreated for bed.
Severus watched her form move away from the window and wrenched back the tent flap. Stale air hit his nostrils. "Do you see all this, Ushanka?" He gestured at the rickety camp beds and makeshift furniture. "Compliments of my dear wife."
Ushanka gave him a baleful glare, her green eyes narrowing.
"Would you prefer the streets? How about Potter's handouts? At least we're entitled to this."
Severus dropped carelessly on the closest bunk and stretched out his limbs.
Granger asked him for nothing for rent.
Good - he had not so much as a cent.
Bloody buggering wife,
She was nothing but strife.
All she gave him was that fucking tent!