This was a collaborative effort between me and my good friend ccognett. We hope you like it!
There was confetti.
One confetti. Two confetti. Red confetti. Blue confetti.
As though a piñata bent on world domination had taken a massive, ecstatic, rainbow-colored crap all over Wizarding Britain and people thought it was miraculous and transcendent and just plain bee-YOU-tee-ful.
There were these people flopping their limbs around, most of them yelling triumphantly, some of them snogging random bewildered strangers, and all of them throwing confetti all because they'd won the war.
Which was pleasant enough, Hermione supposed.
Now, don't get her wrong. She was absolutely, pants-wettingly happy. Honest to God.
But was it really necessary to toss around all this confetti?
It was in the middle of this train of thought that she felt a warm hand slide around hers. She looked up to find Ron gazing at her in that way he sometimes did. She supposed it was all very romantic, holding Ron's hand right after winning a war. Her heart did that thing in her chest where she was sure it was trying to eat all of her other organs (Poof! there went her stomach—ba-zoom! there went her kidneys), and it was a nice enough feeling.
And she supposed she could look over the fact that Ron's eyes in the sunlight were a rather weak, watery blue, or that he had a bright red pimple on the tip of his nose, or that there was an entire crowd watching them, or that his hand felt like a blob of slightly moist, powdery dough enveloping her own.
They were having a moment, which she didn't get too many of, so she would gladly take what was thrown her way.
And the confetti wasn't at all too bad, not when her hand was being held by a tall, warm, pleasant-looking boy.
It felt like one of those moments where she is supposed to sigh blissfully, so she did.
"Sorry, didn't catch that. What did you say?" Ron yelled over the din.
"I wasn't—I was sighing," she yelled back.
"Speak up, I can't hear you over all the yelling!"
"I said I was just sighing!" she bellowed.
"Oh." He scratched the side of his nose.
"Yeah," she replied with a grimace.
He looked at her and blushed and she bit her lip and blushed.
Great job, Granger. Botch the whole thing up, why don't you. While you're at it, you might as well tell him that you have a weird thing growing between two toes on your left foot.
They had a moment going on, and now it was over.
But then he raised his hand to her hair and she felt her heart sputter again. Good on you, Ron! she wanted to cheer, because Ron could always be counted on to salvage Important Moments.
Well. Semi-Important Moments, anyway.
Actually, this was the only time he had salvaged a Moment of any kind, but she was sure that, given the opportunity, he would prove himself a right decent Moment Salvager. As of right now, he was doing an excellent job of it.
He took a step forward, looked down and smiled at his feet, then looked back up to meet her eyes. It was bloody adorable (Ka-pow! there went her adrenal glands). The crowd around them started to fade into a faceless blur. She felt her face heating up.
"You've got a little something in your hair," Ron said in a low voice. She supposed it could have been interpreted as sexy.
"Do I?" she smiled (Gently, now! Don't grin like a homicidal maniac). She stepped closer.
"Yeah... I think it's—hang on, I've got it." Ron started to bend his head down to hers. She stood on her tiptoes.
Slowly their faces grew closer and she wondered about the most optimal way to angle her head in such a manner that Ron's pimple would steer clear of her skin. One of Ron's hands found its way to her hip. She laid hers on his chest, and—
"Oww!" she howled.
"I'm sorry! I'm so, so, sorry! I think my hand's stuck in your hair. It's just... Just give me a second—"
"Ow, ow, ow, stop tugging, Ronald!"
"No, I've almost got it!" Ron looked just seconds away from a full blown anxiety attack, which would have been cute, had her eyes not been watering from the pain of her hair being yanked out of her scalp.
"Just leave it, Ron!"
"No, alright, hold still." He braced his left hand on her forehead while pulling with his right. She was sure that he was going to rip her scalp off.
"Merlin," she heard him breathe. "How the fuck is this even possible?"
And then she was free. She staggered backwards as Ron's hand came untangled from her hair. She sniffed, pressing both palms protectively against her beleaguered head.
"Hermione..." Ron bit his lip in consternation.
"I don't... Just don't, please. Jesus."
"Right," he said dejectedly.
She stepped away from him and tried not to feel too guilty as she resumed smiling and waving for the cameras.
Black confetti. Blue confetti. Old confetti. New confetti.
This one has a little car.
This one has a little star.
This one went up my nose and now I'm dying Oh God—
Hermione started to panic, then she remembered that she had these things called hands and attached to these hands were these flexible apparatuses (apparati?) called fingers, and so she pressed a finger to one nostril and blew hard. There was a flutter of yellow as the evil little bugger shot out of her nose and into hard-earned freedom. She looked around and made sure that no one saw her spasming like a three-legged giraffe that tried to take a poo, slipped in it, and died. What is it about confetti that made her think of all these fecal metaphors?
There was a white flash suddenly searing into her eyes and when she opened them again, Harry was giving her a funny look. Ron was looking at her like he'd just killed her cat.
On the front page the next day was a big, black and white photo of Hermione Granger, Order of Merlin, Second Class; Gryffindor and war heroine; brightest-witch-of-her-age and swot extraordinaire; Hermione J. Granger blowing a nostril full of snot into the cheering crowd.
It was the confetti that finally got to her and made her decide to quit her life as she knew it.
Not the words like 'responsibility' or 'paycheck' or 'rent.' Not the phrases like 'you have to' or 'employability skills' or 'but you didn't actually graduate, did you?' or 'Hermione, I'm sorry you read too much and Lavender has softer hands so I am breaking up with you.'
Ron hadn't actually said that. What he really said was, 'Marry me!'
But all she heard was, 'Please let me drag you down into the hopeless, mundane depths of my fatuity while I cheat on you with Lumpy Whore Brown!" and so she said no. And then after that came the big fight where he accused her of spending too much time with her books and having the hands of an arthritic mountain troll. Then he begged her to forgive him and take her back, and she said no again. Then he'd called her an intolerant, unfeeling bitch. She let that one pass because Ron was Ron, and it was pointless to hope for something more. But then he made a snide comment about how her tits were saggier than they used to be, and that was when she hexed him.
In retrospect, it was the cleanest break she could have hoped for, and he rather reminded her of a ginger gorilla (imagine, for a second, a red-headed, freckled gorilla waving his diddly-ho-ho at you, which is what Ron does when he's 'in the mood'; it is absolutely terrifying) with his grunting and his massive, shapeless forearms, so the whole thing was rather agreeable to her.
She couldn't, in all honesty, say that Ron was the reason she quit, though. Oh, the break-up was very messy, and a lot of other people were hurt, but after a solid three days of moping about her flat wearing nothing but a shower cap and Ron's oldest pair of sweatpants (They were comfy, okay?), it ceased to bother her.
She couldn't even say she was particularly bothered by the fact that she couldn't get a job anywhere, or the apologetic qualifiers offered up by the slack-jawed and spot-ridden clerks at every establishment she put forth her resume.
As in: "We understand…but…however…we just can't hire you... we appreciate your sacrifice for our world... perhaps another time…"
She wasn't that upset about ending up at the Ministry either. 'End up' is such a sad term.
Although, she was almost—almost—irritated when they told her that her presence would be required at all those formal functions they held to commemorate the death of Evil Snake Man, but that wasn't what got to her.
It was the confetti.
Three months after the war ended, and she was still finding bits of confetti in her pockets.
The thing is, Hermione Granger isn't known for quitting. She was really bad at it, actually. It was one of those things that she just didn't know how to do well, no matter how many books she read on the subject. Quitting and Quidditch. It was just not within her rather impressive arsenal of skills.
It had got to the point where she was sure that she'd die of misery at her little cubicle in the Ministry. It was a temporary job, and the only reason she took it was to pay the bills. Three months in and it was driving her mental.
"I am completely sure that they're going to walk in on me dead," she'd told Ginny one day. "Just dead. With my head slumped on my desk and my tongue hanging out and everything, and it'll take years to get the stench out of the carpet. No one will notice for two weeks, and then someone will go: what happened to that sweet girl who used to get me roast beef sandwiches from the canteen? And then they'll walk into my cubicle and there won't be any sandwiches for anyone because I'll be dead."
Ginny had barely looked up from the telly. It was a recent introduction into Hermione's flat, and upon beholding its many wonders, Ginny had been staying the nights over and eating her meals on the floor with her eyes glued to the football match or the soap opera or whatever happened to be playing at the moment. It didn't take very much to hold her attention, really. Even life insurance ads would do.
"Ginny!" Hermione whined. "What am I to do?"
"Hmm? Why don't you just quit?" she responded, popping a crisp into her mouth.
"What? Quit my job? How do I even—I don't think you understand—How could I possibly just up and decide to quit just like that?"
"Why can't you?"
Was it really that simple? Could she really just quit, just like that?
It turned out, it really was.
So, she did the only reasonable thing and packed her bags, packed her awards, packed her cat, and left Harry a note on the door of her flat that told him to contact the authorities if he hadn't heard from her in ten days.
Or to contact himself, really, because Harry Potter was, at the moment, the most important person in the Wizarding World.
She'd found a potential employer at an apothecary supply greenhouse. It was in a back alley of a back alley of what looked like a crack house in the dampest, most decrepit cavity of Knockturn Alley. Hence the note.
Her boss had the complexion of soured milk, a disproportionately bulbous head, and eyes that peered skeptically out of flakey grey sockets. He was a man of tremendous dignity, but he reminded her very strongly of a baked potato.
He was also completely senile, of course, which was why he'd hired her in the first place when the Ministry had proof that she couldn't even last a full three months doing mundane tasks. And aside from hiring her, he had a habit of keeping his left hand down the front of his trousers half the time he spoke. Hermione was rather wary of mentioning it because he jumped every time she made sudden movements or sounds, and she was afraid that she would cause him to rip his pud off.
Also, he kept calling her 'Scrivener' for some reason. Everybody else knew her as Hermione J. Granger, War Hero and Prissiest Prig to ever Priss the Prig, but he kept getting her confused with some ex-employee by the name of 'Scrivener.' She didn't mind so much. 'Scrivener' had a solemn ring to it that 'Hermione' did not quite approach.
And she did not want the customers to know that the dirt-streaked girl in the splotchy apron was, in fact, Hermione J. Granger, War Hero and Prissiest Prig to ever Priss the Prig. She may have quit her job, but she would never quit her dignity.
"I am a God-fearing wizard, Scrivener," baked-potato boss-man had told Hermione gravely, his goiter-ridden jowl quivering with self-righteousness. Iodine imbalance was an ailment that ceased to afflict the Wizarding World in the fifteenth century, but she was sure that he would claim that it was God's Divine Will that he be forever condemned to grow a zucchini squash under his whey-colored chin. "I understand that we cannot always help the way the Lord makes us."
Scrivener, whoever that had been, was apparently a Slytherin with the world's blackest black thumb, and it was only out of good old-fashioned Christian charity that he let her keep her job.
Hermione had nodded seriously at this, trying her best to ignore the man's liver-spotted forearm as it slowly disappeared under his waistband.
"Therefore, though there is something in your serpentine constitution that blights my Eden, I will keep you on," he'd concluded.
There must indeed have been a God, because what happened next was a miracle: the "fuck you" on her lips became a "thank you."
The point is, it was a good job. A decent job. Maybe a fairly not-unpleasant job.
Okay, so it was the one thing that stood between her and the eventuality of having to eat Crookshanks because she was seized by the sudden impulse to 'start over' at the age of twenty-five. So there.
But the one bright ray of sunshine was that, despite her boss's senility and starchy lectures on 'The Good Book'; despite the dragon dung compost whose fumes required the donning of safety goggles; despite the fact that the whole place overall smelt of the color brown; despite the abundance of fusty old customers,there was no. Bleeding. Confetti.
Thank. You. Lord. Buddah. Krishna. Merlin. Whoever the hell is in charge of this crap town.
Don't bollocks this one up, Granger.
The young Healer had perfect teeth and did not reek of Denture-Moisturising Potion like most of the other customers. He put his hands in his pockets and teetered on his heels as Hermione rang up his purchases. His lime-colored robes were pristine and only slightly more flamboyant than Harry's eyes.
They were, indeed, as green as a fresh-pickled toad.
"Splendid day for the gillyweed, eh?" He smiled when he said it.
Hermione felt a simpering grin slide across her face and looked up at him coyly from beneath her lashes. "How funny you are! I just had that thought myself!"
It was not a splendid day for the gillyweed. Gillyweed preferred shade, as any idiot would know. But the sunlight, if disastrous for the plant, did do wonders for his hair. It shone like some archetypical golden chalice, spilling over with the promise of a good old fashioned lay (A lay, Hermione! Remember what those are?). It didn't matter that he wasn't the fastest threstrel in the herd; he was...handsome.
And it wasn't a bad thing to be attracted to handsome men, was it?
It was worth it. It was worth behaving like her brains had been replaced with fatty breast tissue. It was worth behaving like Lav-Lav.
The Healer laughed as he handed over his gold, and it was a beautiful baritone that shot straight to her womb.
"Of course," said the Healer with a twinkle in his eye, "I won't pretend to know half as much as Herbology as you must!"
She ignored the urge to agree with him and focused instead on the gentle tingling in her stomach. It threatened to turn into swooping.
Hermione reached for his gold—closer, closer now, and...there—his hand was warm and dry and utterly masculine as it brushed against hers.
Prince Charming's touch lingered a little longer than was strictly necessary. She might have smiled like a shark that her posturing worked, but there was her frontal cortex going Ka-Pow!again. And there was the swooping, too, as his fingers brushed ever so shiveringly gently against her wrist before departing. He smiled winningly.
Hermione giggled most uncharacteristically—which was fine, because her nametag said 'Scrivener' anyway—and offered the daffodil bulbs with the hopes of a repeat performance.
She was not to be disappointed. The young Healer's beautiful, idiotic hand touched hers again and he even said something witty—or something she imaged was witty, she was rather distracted by the sudden need to press her thighs together-before winking.
Hermione's heart melted, sending bloody-red froth dripping down her chest cavity. She decided to be the brave one, for once.
"So, er... Are you single?"
The Healer bestowed her with a beatific smile. "No, love."
"But we've been in a rough patch lately, hence the flowers."
There is hope in the world, after all! She felt her toes tingle.
"What about you? Pretty lady like yourself..." The Healer winked again.
"Oh, yes. Very single. My ex cheated on me with a crusty trollop. His opinion on cheating was that it wasn't really cheating if I didn't find out about it. It's all very 'if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it,' except with genitalia." She beamed. She sincerely hoped that it was a charming beam, and that she didn't look like she was trying to clench all the sphincters in her body all at once, which is what Ron told her she looked like when she was happy. She wasn't even insulted when he told her that. Mostly because she was impressed that Ron knew how to use the word 'sphincter' in a coherent sentence.
"Okay..." The Healer said a little warily. "Anyway, these are lovely, thanks. Pat will love these!" he exclaimed happily.
Please God-Jesus-Krishna-Merlin let it be his grandmother.
"I'm sure she will," Hermione replied sweetly. Old ladies love daffodil bulbs, after all. Why, it's practically a prerequisite to being counted as an old lady. If there were a Handbook To Being A Lovely Old Lady published somewhere in the world, she was sure that loving daffodil bulbs would be at the top of the list. Or at least in the first chapter.
"'She?" he repeated with an amused tone and another lovely baritone laugh. "And of course this is why he prefers 'Patrick!'" he said with the air of a man who'd just had a 'Eureka' moment. "Of course!"
Of course her 'Gay-dar' was as dysfunctional as the rest of her life.
Some are thin, and some are fat.
The fat one has a yellow hat.
From there to here, From here to there.
Funny things are everywhere.
Prince Poofter patted her hand with tender care. "Have a wonderful day, darling!"
It was as good a time as any to take a break for a bit of a cry in the loo.
Hermione knew how to repot a Mandrake.
She'd known how to repot a Mandrake since she was in second year. It was not a difficult process.
So why her boss was standing there in nauseatingly bright earmuffs, waving his wizened old hands at her in what was quickly becoming a filthy-looking pantomime, she couldn't say.
"What?" she mouthed at him.
He shook his head, mouthed something that looked suspiciously like 'Whore of Babylon,' and repeated the gesture. It was like a bad comedy sketch.
Extremely frustrated, Hermione buried the Mandrake in compost with a flick of her wand, took off her own nauseatingly bright earmuffs and asked, "What was that, sir?"
"Lock up when you're done," the starchy old wizard said. "Please. I'm off home for the evening."
Which was fine. It wasn't like she had a date or anything like that. It wasn't like she wanteda date. Certainly she hadn't spent thirty futile minutes and a bottle of Sleakeazy's attempting to make herself look the Whore of Babylon. She was sure—with complete metaphysical certitude—that she hadn't tried to catch the eye of that dashing young Healer who sometimes came in to buy flowers.
She didn't even want a boyfriend. Honestly. Any relationship that is labeled with a term as puerile as 'boyfriend' surely wasn't worth the time. Besides, all she wanted was someone who thought she was the greatest, funniest, most clever person in the world and wanted to spend all his waking time in her presence. And perhaps a bit of a shag.
She looked down at herself, her fingernails packed with compost, her hair attacking anything that came within a good fifteen inches, her nose red and raw with the cold.
Bloody Prince Poofter.
Bloody job. Bloody boss. Bloody confetti. Bloody customers.
Boss-man left her alone after that to stew in her own dark mutterings and take out her frustrations on the Mandrake children.
"If ever I saw a plant with neither the will to live nor the dignity to die," sneered a voice behind her.
Well, speak of the Devil.
Hermione turned away from her potted Mandrake to regard the unwanted patron. "Sir, we actually just closed up and—oh." She blinked, because there was something that didn't make sense, and blinking was the thing to do in these occasions. She blinked again, but it was still there.
It was Snape. Smirking at her like he owned the place.
Stupid Snape. With the grease-streaked hair and the glower and the air of infinite superiority and oh how she longed to lob a house-elf sized lump of industrial grade Bobotuber pus at his face and see if he could still smirk after that.
Severus Snape, of all people, looking absurdly incongruous without his dungeon backdrop, like Harry would without his glasses, or like Malfoy without his sneer, or Ron without that big fat tumor hanging off his arm that was commonly known as Lavender Brown. Severus Snape, standing there with his stupid black eyes and his stupid black hair and that nose too big to be allowed in polite company. Severus Snape, Death Eater and Potions Master and traitor.Oh, he'd been exonerated, but, in her book, he'd hang like any Judas might.
Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad, and some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I don't know, why don't you go and ask your fucking dad, you yammering cow?
"Granger," he said, looking mildly appalled and raising an eyebrow. She wanted to rip it off and force-feed it to him. "I see you've…ah…done well for yourself."
It was the 'ah' that pissed her off. It was completely unnecessary. And the way he said things, always over-enunciating ever so slowly like people had nothing better to do than to watch his stupid mouth form words.
Oh, it would be glorious. The Bobotuber puss was just within an easy arm's reach.
Of course she wouldn't have hallucinated anything quite thatsarcastic. Hermione tried her best to play the thing off. "Oh, you know," she said, waving a filthy hand airily in her best Luna Lovegood impersonation, "plenty of fresh air and sunshine."
Next thing you knew, she'd be rambling about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks and wearing her used knickers on her head or whatever it was Luna got up to these days.
"Indeed," he replied, letting the word hang awkwardly in the air as he gave her sweaty, dirt-covered self a contemptuous appraisal. "And why exactly are you working here, Granger? I know it isn't for love of Herbology and it certainly isn't for skill."
She might have huffed indignantly at this slight on her Herbology skills and glared if the whole situation weren't completely absurd. "Christian charity," she snapped.
He raised his eyebrow even higher. "Excuse me?"
"You know, sarcasm is the refuge of bitter old codgers who can't think of anything to say."
"Is it really? Please do tell me more." He said this in complete monotone.
"Sarcasm is how losers bring winners down to their level."
"Ah. I see. And are you implying that you are a winner, Miss Granger?"
"Oh, stuff it, Snape. Aren't you a little too old to be terrorising completely defenceless twenty-five-year-old girls?"
"And aren't you a little too old to be placing dead animals on top of your head? I daresay your employer isn't too happy with this habit of yours. It's... unsanitary," he said, curling his lip around the last word with utmost scorn.
One didn't live to the age of twenty-five with hair like hers without getting used to total strangers making jokes or giving her unsolicited advice about it. She was not impressed.
"What? Oh, you mean my hair, don't you? Well, isn't that creative. Real creative, Mister Snape. What could a dead man possibly want to purchase in Poppy Cock's Greenhouse?"
"Charming as you are, Miss Granger," he began in a way that let her know his exact opinion as to her charms, "I haven't the time nor the patience to engage in witty banter with a child who has been deluded all her life into thinking that she is always the wittier one, when her wit is, in fact, rather pitifully stunted."
He cleared his throat imperiously and moved his head and shoulders in a manner reminiscent of a crow moulting.
"I wish to... That is to say..." He stopped, his brow furrowing for a second of brief confusion.
"Yes?" She said encouragingly. It was odd for Snape to hesitate like this. Though she knew nothing about him, and though she would very much like for things to remain that way, one thing she did know was that Severus Snape did not hesitate. Period.
"I wish to speak with your employer," he said. Reluctantly, like he was divulging some grave, life-altering secret.
"What? Oh he's gone..." She trailed off, because that's when she noticed something that made her reel with the cognitive dissonance.
There was confetti in his hair. And it was pink. There was bright pink confetti on Severus Snape.
She blinked again in the hopes that the fact would sink in.
It was the stupidest thing she'd ever seen in her entire life, him standing there intruding on her life and shitting his confetti shit all over her day with his sneer and his stupid flapping robes and his stupid confetti. Somewhere in the back of her head a voice was reminding her of those days when she used to read through the dictionary, that she ought to know at least five hundred and sixty-three more words than 'stupid,' but the whole thing was just... so stupid. So unbelievably bloody stupid it prompted her to have what was probably the stupidest accident she'd ever had in her entire life.
Literally taken aback, Hermione knocked into the rickety greenhouse table, felt her elbow collide with the potted mandrake, and couldn't manage to get her wand out in time.
It was stupid, really.
There was the sound of ceramic breaking on the ground, followed shortly by a blood-curdling scre—