Hello, my friends! This is something a little different from what I've been writing recently and the "bunny" simply bit me until I wrote it. I am still working on Lioness Loricatus, but I'm getting into heavy chapters and needed a break. This story is mostly written already and I plan on posting a chapter a day. It's up to 16 short chapters so far, so you'll have plenty of reading material buffer before I get through. ;) This is a PWP for mature readers, please. Well, as much of a PWP that 16+ chapters can be, but apparently I just write too much ;) Let me know what you think and thank you for reading! xoxo Dena


Chapter 1

"Albus wants to speak with me at half-five, so I really should get going." She set the last of the vials in the carrier tray and turned to look at Severus.

He looked up from the base he's started at the other end of the well-worn maple worktable, to the mechanical clock on the shelf behind her. "So you should."

She sighed quietly as he bent back over the noxious fumes, wishing he'd give her more than—apparently—the time of day.

She missed the cautious, watchful gaze that followed her as she left the laboratory.

He thought about what exact subject Albus was going to broach with her and wondered in what way she would interpret what was inevitably to be a very vaguely worded request. One he'd had nothing to do with, but secretly, deep in the back of his heart—and admittedly, other parts not so noble—he was interested to see the possible misinterpretation come to fruition.

Albus didn't know he knew. Only Rolanda did and she, herself, had spilled all the gory details of what the old man was planning late one night after he'd subbed for her at the last Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw Quidditch match.

She hefted her healing leg up onto an ottoman and grunted a bit before continuing her little reveal, "Twenty quid says she'll go the innocent route. That girl's too shy to be a Gryffindor without her pest—I mean 'best' pals around."

He poured her another shot of firewhiskey while he transfigured his into tea. After finally freeing himself from the yoke of an abusive drunk of a father, he refused to touch even a butterbeer. Rolanda hadn't noticed his switch and heartily sucked down her shot with an appreciative grin.

"While I would have to agree that she's certainly...tamer...without her counterparts nearby, I think she'll be an easy mark for Albus to befuddle. He'll have her romping around in a suit in no-time."

Severus nearly gulped his tea as the flying instructor's hawk-like gaze narrowed on him. She looked like she knew something he didn't, or understood something about what he'd just said that he missed. He exhaled slowly through his rather large nostrils in frustration. There were still times when he failed to grasp certain innuendos, especially if they involved women or sex.

Imagine that, a former spy crap at understanding women.

He thought there might be a muggle song or two about that subject, but pushed on, nonetheless.

He accepted her bet of twenty pounds, citing Hermione's Gryffindor sense of duty. Rolanda snorted and argued that duty was more of a Hufflepuff thing. Over the rest of the evening, they chatted a bit longer about the game. He gave her his observations, letting her know what to watch for when next the two teams played.

His dreams that night were filled with nothing new...just...Granger.

When she'd come in for her practicum lab this afternoon, it was hard to be in the same room with her, knowing that she would have such a request laid at her feet.

And that it was for his own benefit.

Almost every stir was marked with a question: Would she do it? Would she do something for him, something like this? He felt like a fool and bent over his cauldron so his hair would hide the blush that rose every so often, especially when she moved to tuck an unruly strand of hair out of her own face.

He sighed and went back to brewing after she left.

He'd know his answer soon enough. Right now, it was time to finish Poppy's next batch of Calming Draught.

Maybe he would administer a dose for himself so he wouldn't be on tenterhooks all afternoon. Time was past for all that grousing. Not that he'd really changed all that much, but it took quite a bit of effort to remove the decades of bitterness that had engulfed him. Granger helped slough off the rough edges, unwittingly, but he'd never actually be able to acknowledge that. Unless, Saturday...

He sighed again and kept stirring.

/

Hermione's mouth probably couldn't get much longer distance between mandible and maxilla, and if she was to judge from the headmaster's expression, her eyebrows were climbing into her fringe to complete the look. She found her voice somewhere in the bowels of her affront. "No." Staring at him didn't help, especially from this vantage point, so she stood up. "No, absolutely not. I don't care how amusing you think it might be, I absolutely will not do it."

He just smiled benignly at her. Peacefully. As if she would just acquiesce under his avuncular gaze.

That made her even angrier, because it was slightly working, so she used her biggest defense, "It's debasing and-and-and vile." She threw her hands out away from her person, paced away and back again. "How could you possibly think this would be something I'd do? Me!" She emphasized that singularity with her hands and kept staring at him as if he were one of Luna's creatures. Knowing her luck right now, he probably was a Crumple Horned Snorkack. Luna would say they adored practical jokes.

Inspiration struck. That's what this was, wasn't it? "You're pulling one over on me, aren't you? This is a joke?"

He smiled at that and she thought she had a glimmer of hope but he quickly quashed it. "Alas, I am a great lover of humor, Miss Granger, but this is not one of those times. I simply think the two of you are much too engaged in your research for your apprenticeship thesis and with Severus' birthday coming up, this is an opportune time to let loose a little."

She pointed at him, "A little. A little, but this is too much, Albus. I will not—God, I can't even say it." She collapsed back into one of his infamous squashy chairs and folded her hands over her face in mortification. "Honestly! What made you think I would agree to such a thing?"

Silence met her for so long, she risked peeking out from the little fortress of her fingers to the perpetrator of her misery. He looked above her head, as if contemplating something or conversing with someone out of hearing range. Just when she was about to look over her shoulder, he looked back to her and smiled softly. "I offer you this: find one professor that will back you in not doing this, and I will withdraw my request."

She stared blankly at him in disbelief. Surely it couldn't be that easy, could it? "Only one?"

"Yes."

"And you'll drop the matter entirely?"

"I will."

"Any professor?"

"Any professor."

"You promise?"

"Yes, Miss Granger. Now, run along, I'm sure you've got a lot of convincing to do and I've got an appointment with the Australian Education Ambassador about encouraging the use of didgeridoos before bedtime to enhance magical application in students. Good day to you."

"Didgeridoos?"

"Yes, my dear. I must ask you to leave now, or I shall be late. You know we can't keep dignitaries waiting. So very impolite. Ah, one last thing, should you fail to come forth with any Hogwarts professor to aid you, you shall go forward with this, for Severus."

His bright twinkling eyes tilted up over his spectacles and she couldn't tell if it were meddling mischief or malicious mayhem deep within their glittering regard. She swallowed, remembering her obligation to Hogwarts...to Professor Dumbledore...to Severus...

Not many careers for a witch without a completed education, now, were there?

Right.

At least he'd given her this avenue, so pursue it, she would.

She nodded her most amiable good afternoons to him and went in search of Minerva. Surely she could rely on the old battle-cat for help. Women stuck together in causes such as these, didn't they?


Whoo! So what do you think Minerva will say? I played around with the idea of not actually mentioning what the request is until later, but writing it in such a manner that you could easily infer what they were talking about. I hope you like it! Thanks again! xoxo Dena