Author's Note: This is a completed one-shot at approximately 2,500 words. You will need some coffee to cut the sweet with this one. You don't like your Severus sweet and fluffy, you say? I get that, I really do. But sometimes, sweet happens. Rated T for language.
Disclosure: JK Rowling created and rightfully owns Harry Potter. I simply aim to give you a few happy minutes on your day off, as we imagine our favorite book characters living on past Deathly Hallows.
A Poor Sort of Memory
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
-Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking Glass
Order of the Phoenix Meeting: Two Years, Four Months Post-War
Severus listened to Kingsley talk about how he had, "heard good things," about Hogwarts and Severus' Defense Against the Dark Arts class. He nodded politely and kept his mouth shut. In the last two years since the war, he had come to understand the value of doing both. He needed two hands to count the number of upset parents that had sent him howlers already this semester, and none of the parents had "heard good things." But it was not worth talking about it with Kingsley.
Not worth it was a phrase that had popped into his head at least a dozen times this night. It was the monthly Order meeting, and Severus had attended every one since the end of the war. Well, he corrected mentally, since he had been cleared and the Order had reinstated him. Why was he here? was the second phrase that consistently popped into his head as he scanned the room. Inwardly, he rolled his eyes at himself. He knew the answer to that question, and she was standing over in the corner, talking to Arthur. She caught his eye and he raised an eyebrow and watched as she tried not to smile. He tried to catch her eye again, but she was steadfast in her determination not to look at him again, instead finishing her conversation with Arthur. He gave up and went into the back garden, knowing that she would join him there in a few minutes.
She did not disappoint. "No fair trying to make me laugh when I'm talking to my five-minuter, Severus!" she chastised, in lieu of a greeting.
"Five-minuter?" he asked, chuckling.
"Yes, of course. You know, the Order member of the month who for some reason feels honor bound to make us feel like we're 'one of the family.' They talk to us for five minutes, give or take, and then the rest of the Order goes on and leaves us to fend for ourselves."
He groaned in response, but inwardly was shocked. "I had no idea they did that to you, too."
"It's a new development for me," she said stoically. "I knew that when I broke it off with Ron last year that the Order of the Weasleys would take it hard." She smiled when Severus laughed. "It's not their fault that their family comprises the bulk of the Order," she said softly.
"I don't know why I come anymore," Severus mused. "There's no threat, no need. It's not that I hate anyone here, I just don't know if I should be here."
"You have to come, Severus, or else I will stop coming altogether, too. You are the only thing that makes this any different than a Weasley Christmas party."
She shivered in mock fright and Severus chuckled at her antics.
"In fact, would you like to join me at the Christmas party?"
Severus scowled at her as an answer. "Won't you be with your parents? How are they doing?"
Hermione's brow knitted together in thought. "They are doing fine. But, no, I'm not going home for Christmas."
"And," Severus prompted her.
"No 'and.'" She replied. "Things are back to normal between us."
He knew that the first year after the war had been fraught with conflict between Hermione and her parents after she restored their memories.
Severus gave her a look of disbelief. He knew there was more.
"Unfortunately, back to normal means that they love me and have no way to relate to me. We don't have a lot in common. Which is why my mother keeps badgering me to get married and have children. She somehow thinks that we will have more to talk about. She's probably right…" Hermione trailed off.
"I didn't think you wanted children," Severus said levelly.
Hermione smiled sadly at him. "How did you know that?"
"You told me. It was a an Order of the Weasleys meeting shortly after you broke up with Ron."
"Wasn't that the first time we talked out here on the back porch?" she asked, surprised.
Hermione nodded and smiled, looking down at her shoes. "You have a good memory."
Order of the Phoenix Meeting: Two Years, Eight Months Post-War
He heard the door to the back porch close and knew it was Hermione without looking.
"You're doing it again, Hermione," he said cryptically.
She sat down next to him and looked at him, searching his face before deciding to ask. "Enlighten me. What am I doing again?"
"Dating a dunderhead."
"What the hell is wrong, Severus?" she asked seriously.
"What do you mean?" Severus asked levelly, looking off into the darkness of the back garden. "Surely you are used to me calling your boyfriends 'dunderheads.'"
"Well, you call most people dunderheads, but I know when you are just saying it versus when you really mean it, and I can tell you really mean it."
After a moment, Severus nodded.
"I don't think you even really meant it when you called Ron one. David is a vascular surgeon!" Hermione said hotly.
"He is a muggle. He can never fully understand you. You will never be happy with him. And if it makes you feel better, I meant it about Ron, too."
The dark look on Hermione's face told Severus immediately that he had gone too far today.
"I remember the first time you gave me that look," he said fondly.
"The look that says I've pushed you too far. I apologize. I just don't want to see you ending up…" The sentence remained unfinished.
"It's all right, Severus. I broke up with David three weeks ago. I'm just so damn tired of people telling me how to run my life." She gave him a tired look. "When did I first give you 'the look'?" she asked in a lighter tone of voice, changing the subject.
Severus chuckled. "It was years ago. You were only about a month in to your apprenticeship with Flitwick. You remember?"
Hermione shook her head.
"You will in a minute. You were very upset about something, and I was curious, because you are usually composed in a crowd. So since you were emotional and distracted and having a conversation with Flitwick, I thought I'd just,"
Hermione interrupted, "Ah, yes, you thought you'd just take a peek around in my head. Bastard," she said fondly, chuckling.
"You're laughing now, but neither of us were laughing that night." He smiled at her, something that came very easily with Hermione. "It didn't even occur to me that you would know Occlumency. The moment I felt your shields and you turned to look at me, I knew I was in trouble. That look… Merlin, you would have strung me up by my bullocks if Minerva hadn't walked in at that exact moment and called the staff meeting to order."
Hermione smiled back at him, then her smiled faltered slightly. "The war."
"I know, Hermione," he said kindly. "You wouldn't have had to learn Occlumency or be on guard all the time if you hadn't been through a war. Are you still on guard all the time?"
She shook her head. "No, you know I'm not." Then she teasingly added, "You haven't checked recently?"
Severus held his hands up in mock surrender. "Not once." He paused. "That's when I first saw you as an adult."
"And that's the first time I wanted to string you up by your bullocks," she said theatrically. "But not the last."
"Hmm… definitely not the last," Severus grinned as Hermione chuckled.
"Who was your five-minuter tonight?" Hermione asked.
"Harry and Ginevra. Do I count them together as ten-minuters?"
"Merlin, no!" Hermione rolled her eyes. "They're so obnoxiously in love they barely count as six minutes together!"
Severus smiled. "How about you?"
"I lucked out tonight! I got George. He's always good for a laugh. Of course, it took more than five minutes because then I had to go to the loo and make sure that I still had hair."
"I was wondering what took so long." Severus teasingly looked over Hermione's hair. "Still there. It looks good tonight. One of your new charms?"
Hermione playfully growled and pushed Severus' shoulder with her own as they sat side by side. He knew that she hated that most new charm work centered around housework or cosmetic improvements. She worked for the oldest and most revered Charms academic journal and frequently consulted with Severus as she developed and tested new charms. Her specialty was wards and they never lacked for things to discuss as their specialties frequently overlapped.
"How do you remember so much?" she asked quietly.
"This comes from a woman with a near eidetic memory," he said dryly.
"I mean it, Severus," she said seriously, nudging his shoulder again.
He looked at Hermione and smiled. Never in a million years did he picture himself sitting next to her, a young woman who could rightfully be called his best friend.
"I was a spy, Hermione. Remembering who said what to whom and how they said it, and what their emotional state was as they said it, kept me alive."
"All right, Severus. What else does the Master Spy remember?"
"About what?" he asked, confused.
"About me." she answered. "You told me the story a few months ago about the first time we talked out here. And you just told me when you saw me as an adult. What else?" she prompted.
Despite the dangerous path that he knew she was leading him on, he took up the challenge. "I remember when I first saw you as absolutely brilliant."
"Age 12?" she teased, smiling.
"Hmmm… no," Severus teased back. "It was also during your apprenticeship. When you needed my help."
"You thought me brilliant when I couldn't figure out my own damn Charms project?" she asked, surprised. "That was one of the lowest points of my apprenticeship. I don't know what I would have done without your help."
Severus shook his head. "Hermione, I have never worked on a problem that hard to solve. I've never seen a charms theory so complex. I was only able to help because of my knowledge of the Dark Arts, which is obviously why you had to ask me in the first place. I never told you this, but I barely slept for weeks, trying to unlock that problem. It was astoundingly difficult."
"For weeks? You didn't sleep because you were working on my problem?"
"Well," Severus smirked, "I could hardly let you, an apprentice, know that your problem had me stumped."
"I never knew," Hermione mused. After a moment she added, "But I knew something had changed."
Severus raised an eyebrow, encouraging her to go on.
"You started discussing things with me at dinner."
Severus hummed in agreement. "Dinners have dropped intellectually in half since you left Hogwarts. Now, I have to wait for your owl to give me the latest non-dunderheaded thought in the whole damn castle."
Hermione laughed. "Well, Hogwarts is still better than," but Severus finished the sentence that had become their mantra, "working for the Ministry."
"Next," Hermione prompted playfully.
"When I first saw you as friend," Severus began, "was here on this porch."
Hermione smiled. "I already know this one."
"Do tell," Severus said, looking at his shoes.
"It's the time when Harry was your five-minuter. The only time he was your five-minuter last year," she added, chuckling.
Severus nodded, still looking down, but chuckling with her.
"He had spent time pestering you again about his mother and I saw that you were being as patient as you could without hexing him. He finally let you go, and I joined you out here. We were grousing about something, probably the Ministry, and the door opened and it was Harry. I really thought you were going to hex him." Hermione laughed.
"I was going to hex him," Severus said seriously. "But then, you yelled, 'You had your five minutes, now get the hell away, Harry!' Merlin, I have gone back to watch that in the pensieve. The look on Harry's face was priceless."
Hermione laughed and shook her head, remembering. "We were all a mess after the war, but that night, Harry was driving me even crazier than I already was! His preoccupation with you and his mother is ridiculous. He didn't ask you about her tonight, did he?"
"No, he's much better on that account. Shortly after that, I sent him every memory I had of her and told him to leave me out of it."
"Good," Hermione said firmly. "Any other memories, Severus?"
Severus looked at her seriously. "Not yet."
Order of the Phoenix Meeting: Three Years, One Month Post-War
"I thought I'd never get away from Minerva," Hermione said seriously after she closed the door behind her. She walked and sat down next to Severus on the porch's half-wall like always, with her legs dangling down.
"I noticed," Severus said seriously. "Still trying to get you to come to Hogwarts?"
Hermione nodded. "I'm thinking about it, which is what I've already told her ten times."
Severus was silent, and she looked at him, searching his face to see what was wrong. "Severus?"
Severus looked at her.
Hermione's brow furrowed further at his consuming look. "Who was your five-minuter, Severus?"
"That's just it, Hermione," he began.
"That's just what?"
"I was talking to Bill Weasley, but mainly, I was watching you talk to Minerva."
"I noticed. I was trying not to laugh when you rolled your eyes at me," she said, smiling. She nudged his shoulder, which had become a habit over the years as they sat on the porch after Order meetings.
Severus was not smiling, however. "Do you know what Bill told me?"
Hermione's smile faltered. "What? Is everything all right?"
Severus nodded. "He told me that he wouldn't keep me since it was obvious I wasn't interested in talking."
Hermione looked down at the ground. "Oh my goodness. Minerva told me the same thing." She looked up at Severus. "When did we become the five-minuters?"
Severus smiled. "I'm not sure."
"I'm not either. I don't remember when it started, but I know that you're the only reason I come every month. I just want to see you and talk to you."
Severus put his hand over her hand, resting between them. "I will remember today, Hermione."
Hermione looked down at their hand, and then looked at Severus. "Why?"
"Because this was the day I realized I love you."
Author's Note: Thanks for reading!