Disclaimer: I am not JKR, [if she knew exactly what I got up to with her characters, she could disown me, so please, let's keep it our little secret ;)] The Grinch is of couse the property of Dr Suess and the 2000 film holds all rights reserved to Universal Pictures
Note: Ah Ha! While technically speaking the time-zones in Australia mean it is no longer Boxing Day, I have decided to abandon this yard stick and console myself in the fact that the Traffic stat graph thingy names the date as the 26th, and as such, I fulfilled my promise to update on Boxing day! Thanks to everyone who followed, favourited and reviewed, and i'd like to point out that this is now my first officially complete fic! Hope you enjoy, and happy boxing day!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn't come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
For the first time that Christmas, Hermione noticed how beautifully decorated her street really was. The lights adorning the house fronts opposite her now, shone gaily against the dark night sky, the snowy ground shinning with the warm glow as windows up and down the street showed the glimmers of festivity within. The house opposite and to the left had their Christmas tree pressed directly onto the glass, showcasing the tiny flashing train at it's base and the fake-snow stenciling lining the windows.
The council had hung flags on the lamp posts, and the only sound beyond their flapping in the wind was that of toiling bells from the church Hermione knew lay unseen around the corner.
Standing numbly, her socked feet cold on the icy doorstop, Hermione felt her heart throb in her throat.
There she stood, alone on Christmas Eve, despite her exhaustive efforts to the contrary. Irony, it seemed, took no time off for the holidays.
Hermione couldn't tell what it was that kept her standing there. She didn't know what kept her rooted in the snow, staring down the mockingly empty street.
He wasn't coming back.
She knew that. She knew that even if he wanted to, Severus was a man beyond pride. That while there was no invisible tent or undisclosed location stopping him, no need for a deluminator to aid his return, Severus would not be coming down that street. A far greater force stopped him- his own sense of conviction. The idiot truly believed he was doing the right thing.
That leaving her standing in the snow with a throbbing hole threatening to swallow her chest and a clawing ache at the back of her throat was the right thing.
That she was better off with an empty apartment than the man who filled her heart with laughter; that delighted her mind and eased her troubles. That chased away the thoughts of being hunted, running and hiding, fearful for the lives of her friends and family, fearful for herself. The man who'd taught her she didn't need to be perfect; that even broken, even half put together and drenched in fears, she was wanted. She was adored, not just for her brain or for her fame but for herself- for everything.
And for her heart, as it turned out.
The same heart Hermione could feel slowly burning through her chest.
Still standing, staring at an empty street, taking in the candid beauty, the ice-cold air biting at her skin, something deep within Hermione snapped. A rage like she had never known suddenly coursed through her veins, not like fire, but ice. The hole bearing in on her chest thrummed with the frightening surge of her anger.
She was not going to let him do this. She was not going to stand helpless in the snow waiting for him to return. She was no longer a half-starved girl hiding in a tent. There were no snatchers, no death eaters, no ministry, standing between her and the stubborn frustrating man that had ripped this hole in her.
Resolved, Hermione slammed the door behind her, not bothering to fetch her coat or shoes, and spun swiftly into the cold thin air, twisting through the dark pressing tube of apparition and landing resolutely beneath the tall crooked structure of Spinner's End.
Sod his sense of conviction.
Hermione marched down the crooked cobbled street; it's dark and barren front in stark contrast to the festive boulevard she'd left behind her. Launching herself to the narrow dwelling at the very far end, Hermione climbed the stairs and hammered heavily at the peeling wooden door.
It was only the fact she had been keyed to his wards weeks ago that let Hermione this close. Anyone else would find themselves rebuffed a full three meters from the house.
When her knocking received no reply, Hermione cast a swift non-verbal Homenum revelio. The remaining wards smothered the tiniest, most imperceptible spark and were it not for the tingling feeling that crept up her wand arm, she was sure she would have misread the spell's result.
Hermione set her self against the door once more, yelling through the cracking wood as she knocked.
"I know you're in there you git, let me in!"
Losing her temper quickly, Hermione abandoned her attempts at knocking on the door and instead brandished her wand at the offending barrier.
"Bombarda!" She all but shrieked, uncaring to the empty street behind her.
The spell's only effect was to trigger the heavy warding the paranoid man kept in place, resulting in a tremendous backlash of sparks that rained down upon her from the brickwork. Hermione barely got her hands above her head in time. Stepping back onto the pavement behind her, she peered up into the window, trying to make out his figure behind the blind, straining to see a silhouette against the fraying, dusty curtains.
Hermione could imagine him, rooted in the entrance hall, listening against the door but held back by his damned skewed vision of 'the right thing to do'. Before her minds eye the vision of him less than an hour earlier appeared, his face twisted with a mix of guilt and pain. Hermione knew, beyond reason or doubt, that her wizard, her daft aggravating Severus, would be fixed with the same pained look now.
At this premonition, at the thought of him listening on, held back by guilt, Hermione let some of her anger decline, and instead addressed the still, uncaring face of the house.
"I know you're in there Severus. I'm not letting you do this. Not to you and not to me. I've told you, you're being daft."
Only the faint icy breeze rustling the branches above sounded in response.
"I want you. I am happy with you. There is nothing to protect me from, no reason to distance yourself. This, now, is upsetting me. I want to be with you, you idiot."
Again nothing could be heard from inside and Hermione's patience waned once more.
"Look, you don't get to decide what's best for me! I do! I will be the one deciding what I deserve, what makes me happy and- dammit it all to hell Severus Snape, if I say I want you, you snarky, bitter old fool, than you had better not stand in my way!"
She fairly bellowed this last pronouncement, and knew that had it's recipient been Harry or Ron, both boys would have emerged with their hands above their head, driven out by fear. As it was, Severus Snape was not afraid by her- only for her, and stupidly so.
When all her rage, her anger and somewhat more painfully, her sorrow and despair had flooded out of her, freed by her last roared words, Hermione felt a chilling empty feeling wash over her.
Perhaps this wasn't about sparing her at all. Perhaps that had been a carefully concealed cover to console her feelings. Perhaps he simply didn't want her the way she had imagined.
Hermione tried to stem the tide of self-doubt as she stood waiting in the snow. Now was not the time for self-pity. Now was not the time to give up.
But in the light of these growing doubts, Hermione felt more exposed than ever, standing in her stockinged feet alone in the snow and screaming at a seemingly empty house. A feeling that was not helped by the slowly trickling stream of tears now creeping down her face. She had no more words to give, nothing else to say to make him come out.
"Sever-rus." Her voiced cracked, and she gulped down the burning pressure at her throat before she attempted to continue. "Severus, Please. Please come home. I want you, I don't want anyone else."
Doubting he'd have even heard this last pleading cry, and somewhat thankful for it, Hermione took another step back, almost veering into the gutter.
"If, If you change you mind Severus, If you come to your senses, come and find me. If you want to, that is." Hermione called out, fighting the waver in her voice before deftly apparating away.
Severus sat, leaning with his back against the wall of his front entrance hall. With his head held in his hands and his elbows pressing down upon his updrawn knees, he was far from comfortable, but spared no thought for the cramped contortions of his body.
How could he have imagined she wouldn't follow him here and barge down the door?
How could the daft chit think he didn't want her?
Severus' resolve had almost cracked at the sharp wavering of her voice; he knew, without knowing how, that were he to look outside, the tears would stream down her lovely, puffy face, her lips pulled between her teeth to stop them from shaking. He wanted noting more, right then and there to storm outside and pull her against him, to smooth that troubled face and wrench the sadness from her voice.
The sadness he'd put there.
Eyes firmly shut, his long pale fingers pulling at the still somewhat greasy roots of his hair; Severus struggled to hold on to his resolve.
This was the right thing. Hermione was everything he had no claim to; She was light, she was brilliance and radiance and love.
She was pure love.
She didn't need to be weighed down by the likes of him. He would not let her waste that heart, that mind and that damning bloody youth on him.
So he'd ripped himself away, a clean break. He'd put the waver in her voice and the tears in her eyes and left her standing in the cold.
Because he was a bastard and she would have to find that out, one way or another.
Hermione hadn't returned to her flat. She didn't think she would be able to walk through those empty rooms, that damningly cheerful street. She wouldn't be able to sleep in her bed, not while the smell of him lined the sheets and the memories danced in the shadows. No.
Hermione Grangers was neither so strong nor so brave.
Transfiguring herself a rudimentary pair of shoes and summoning her warmest cloak to appear instantly before her, Hermione instead made her way to her second option, her Plan B. Walking through the icy muggle street, Hermione became conscious of the hour for the first time that night. It had to be at least two in the morning, judging from the sorry state of the legless Londoners winding their way home off the streets. Wiping her eyes of any tearful evidence, and hitching her coat up around her, Hermione hurried through the snow-covered pavement, finally arriving at the small muggle square. Ignoring the brightly shining Christmas lights that peered down at her, Hermione ascended the stairs and knocked firmly on the door of number 12 Grimauld place. Even with her firmest voice lecturing in her head, and the carefully constructed smile adorning her face, all it took was a sleep tousled Harry to groggily open the door before she broke out in tears.
If Harry hadn't bought her half sobbed story the night before, about being alone for Christmas and regretting her earlier decisions, he showed no sign of it this morning. As her messy haired friend brewed a much-needed cup of tea, Hermione strained herself to smile through Ginny's enthusiastic gestures of comfort and support. For all the red head implored Hermione's welcome at the Weasley's table today for Christmas lunch, as much as she conveyed her delight at now having her entire family together, Hermione could only dwell on the Christmas morning she might have been having.
As Harry and Ginny lead her, arm in arm, into the Burrow's kitchen where Hermione was met with squeals of surprise and delight, the strain of maintaining a jovial front soon became daunting. Molly began fussing over her immediately, fretting in between motherly observations as to whether or not there would be enough food. Arthur and the rest of the Weasleys were equally (if less overbearingly) welcoming, and Ron, while devoid of a date, seemed nothing if not cordial.
Contrary to her expectations, the place was not coated in mistletoe.
Regardless of the festive atmosphere and the crush of friends bustling about her, or perhaps because of it, Hermione couldn't help but feel more alone than ever. Even as she smiled along and carried out jovial conversation, even as she ate and drank her fill, a small part of her felt detached from the proceeding.
As though that tiny piece were not with her at all, but instead locked in a cold, crooked house in Cokeworth.
Hermione attempted to banish the brooding thought, and put the allusions out of her mind. He had put himself there. She had nobusiness feeling sorry for the man, and she sternly told herself that she wouldn't.
Naturally, she failed miserably.
Even spurned, even riddled with self-doubt and a slow throbbing heartache, Hermione seemed unable to shake her concern for Severus. If he had torn himself away to stop her wasting her heart away on him, he'd been far too late.
The damage was done.
Hermione ended up leaving most of her lunch on her plate, retreating from the table to sit in the corner of the living room, engaging herself in an entirely one-sided conversation with Percy. It was nearly three o'clock. As draining as the festivities had been, as strained as her false cheery demeanor had become, Hermione willed the hands on the mantle clock to swing by slower. She didn't know if she was ready yet to creep back into her apartment. She knew the return would probably be accompanied by an inextinguishable ray of hope that maybe, that just maybe, Severus would have returned, that he'd be waiting for her on the door way steps.
And Hermione knew, unaccountably and beyond certainly, that that self same ray of hope would be the last straw. Because Severus would not be coming back, he was not going to change his mind and-
A knock at the Burrow's door stopped Hermione train of thought.
The slim ray of hope she'd denied herself all this while, the dim flicker she'd attempted to subdue, to bury down beneath the surface, shot up immediately. The dull roar of the Weasley's sitting room hushed to a low murmur as Harry dutifully got up to answer it.
Percy went on talking in her ear, oblivious to Hermione's intense concentration on the front door that lay just beyond her line of sight from her current vantage point. Straining to see further into the front hall, Hermione did her best to tune the droning boy out, only to fail miserably. Unable to see or hear the unexpected visitor, Hermione sat stiffly in her chair, her muscles strung like steel cords as she waited, aflame with useless damning hope.
She was a fool.
If there was no way the man would change his mind, than there was definitely no way he would barge into the middle of Christmas lunch at the burrow to take her back.
She was a fool, and what's worse was, she knew it.
Letting out a sigh, Hermione turned her attention back to Percy, doing her best to ignore the light prickling beginning at the corner of her eyes. She would have to make up some line and excuse herself, before she made an even more profound fool of her self. Opening her mouth to cease Percy's tirade, Hermione promptly snapped it shut again as the room fell silent.
Standing in the doorway, behind a clearly distracted Harry, a figure in black muggle slacks and a deep green sweater stared directly at her. Severus Snape stood surrounded by Weasley's, anxiously gripping a slim, wrapped, Christmas present.
Hermione was dimly aware of the tears trailing down her face, and the scrape of the chair as it was pushed aside, but all else in the room was a blur to her as she threw herself into Severus' useless, awkwardly placed arms.
Eventually, lifting her head from the now tear stained front of Severus' sweater, Hermione's brain crackled into life, realizing a plethora of factors all at once: The Weasley's standing gob smacked around them, Harry's eyes wide as saucers now staring at her, the scary laughing sobs seemingly emitted from her own chest, and perhaps most surprisingly, the long, firm arms that stretched around her, drawing her closer in, uncaring of anything else. Hermione knew how much it must have cost Severus, to throw away his pride, to abandon his slightly stupid convictions, and waltz in to the Burrow.
Smiling up at him, Hermione decided in a fit of near hysterical relief that the Weasleys could wait. Perhaps Severus had reached the same conclusion, for his grip only tightened as she twirled them both into the familiar tube of disaparation.
Landing the pair of them in the middle of her sitting room, Hermione refused to remove herself from Severus' embrace, and he showed no inclination to move either.
"You bloody git." Were the first sensible words from her mouth, and uttered as they were while she clung against his chest, the meaning was slightly undermined.
"I, I was, remiss… in leaving." Severus' own voice was hoarse and Hermione read the stilted formal words for what they were- the apology he still had trouble uttering, the apology rendered unnecessary by arriving at the Burrow.
"Too bloody right you were. Don't ever do that to me again Severus, I.,," Here Hermione staggered over the bulky words bottling up in the back of her throat.
"I was.. I… I didn't think you'd come back." This last confession came out as little more than a whisper and again Hermione buried her teary face in Severus chest, hiding herself as he tightened his arms around her.
"I came back as soon as you left my home last night. Only I came here. I got all the way upstairs before I realized you had left. I, confess, I thought perhaps you'd left anticipating my return."
"No! I was upset, I couldn't deal with an empty home, alone on Christmas Eve." Hermione smiled up at him, before noticing the stricken look that pained his face at her words.
"I shouldn't have left, not like that, not on Christmas eve." He struggled once more with this would be apology and Hermione only reached up a hand to soothe the lines that creased his forehead.
"No, you shouldn't have, you idiot. But you came back."
"It turns out I'm a thoroughly selfish being, Hermione. I couldn't tear myself away for all my good intentions." He replied soberly.
As Severus' stared down at her, Hermione absently remarked that this face now, this look of awe and longing, would always be more open, more true than any mask of fear or pain. The thought was soon gone however as Severus leaned down and captured her lips passionately with his own, paying no mind to her puffy eyes or the tear tracks staining her frozen cheeks.
As the kiss broke, Hermione noticed for the first time, the slim packaged pressed uncomfortably against her ribs as he tightly held her. Reaching a hand down from around Severus' neck, she gently pulled the present from his grasp, raising an inquiring eyebrow as she did so.
"I… I wasn't entirely sure of what welcome I would receive. I thought, perhaps, this could postpone your temp- your dismay, until I got a chance to apologise."
Hermione registered his very first use of the word apology, and smiled shrewdly up at him.
"You were going to bribe me into forgiving you?"
Hermione realized then that she hadn't technically forgiven him just yet. Oh, she knew she would, indeed, she already had. But it was entirely too soon for her to formally relinquish that information. Buying time instead, her fingers deftly worked at the tightly wrapped parcel, ripping it as she fumbled with the paper slightly. Giving the whole operation up as a mess, she ripped off the wrapping paper, earning a snort of approval from Severus and revealing a brightly covered muggle VHS tape.
Staring down at the somewhat crude cartoon drawing of a Grinch, Hermione only stared up at Severus. His face was neither mocking, nor ironic and instead was filled with a beautiful, cautious, apprehension.
"I thought, if you liked, we could watch the original?"
"I'd love that, Severus."
A/N: God I hope it wasn't too soppy and too over done and too commercial but damn the rest to hell, it's christmas and if you can't have happy endings in fiction I'm afraid you simply wouldn't have them. I'd also like to credit the song So Cold by Ben Cocks which was put on repeat while I wrote this and is an absolutely fantastic song for any OTP :)