I wanted to take you
And make you my all
I was no good then.
I was smoking alone.
Oh, beautiful trash.
"Severus? Is everything all right?"
"Why would anything be wrong?"
"Well, you've been...antsy is the only word for it," she tells him, her eyes sweeping over his form as he fiddles with his tankard. It had been unbelievably difficult to convince him to stop for lunch in the Leaky Cauldron and she had briefly wondered if she would have to drag him, kicking and screaming.
"I am not."
"Are we actually going to have this argument?"
"You are the one who insists on arguing."
She arches both her eyebrows at him. "You do realise that sounds incredibly petulant."
"Granger, if I wanted your opinion, I'd ask for it."
She sighs and reaches across the table, placing her hand on his. He freezes up, something he hasn't done in a long time, but she puts it down to being in public together for the first time and ignores it.
"Severus, please. What's bothering you?"
He looks at her warily and then down to their hands, but he doesn't pull away. She waits, trying very hard not to push him. Finally, he sighs softly.
"I am unused to being outside the grounds. I find myself cautious of the public reaction, though aside from the looks I must admit it has gone better than expected."
She frowns and there's something niggling in the back of her mind that tells her he's not giving her the full truth, but she decides not to go there. Instead, she curls her fingers around his hand.
"Severus, fuck them."
He blinks and looks up at her sharply. "I beg your pardon?"
She smiles sweetly. "You heard me. Fuck. Them. They don't like you? Why do you care? It's far easier for people to judge when they weren't there, when they weren't involved." She squeezes his hand. "You did what you had to do. You protected us. There's no shame in it."
He looks away from her, clearly recognising his own words. "It's a lot easier said than done, Granger."
Her smile turns sad and she reaches for him with her other hand, wrapping his in the warmth of her two. "I know it is," she agrees. "But you know what they say?"
She waits until he meets her eyes, his expression tired beyond words. "What do they say?" he asks.
"That the best revenge is living well."
He snorts softly. "I don't know how."
"Why don't you start with just being happy?"
"At the risk of sounding redundant as well as maudlin, I don't know how," he says, finally pulling his hand out from between hers. He sits back, eyes on his pint.
"Do you know why I accepted the position at Hogwarts?" she asks suddenly, leaning forward.
"Because I was unhappy at the Ministry, and I needed a change."
"And are you happy now?" he challenges.
She cocks her head and thinks about it for a second. "Yes. I am. Not incandescently, but it will do for now."
"Again, easier said than done, Granger."
She leans farther forward so that almost all of her upper body is on the table, trying to get his attention. "Nothing worth having ever is."
He snorts and looks away from her. "You seem to be full of clichés this evening."
"But they're true."
He says nothing.
Reaching out, she snags his hand once more, twining her fingers through his. "Here's another for you: you'll never know if you don't try. You'll remain unhappy and stuck until the day you die. Is that what you want?"
Still, he says nothing. But he looks at her. He looks, and slowly he shakes his head.
He doesn't know what to do with her.
Funny. He's felt that way ever since he found her invading his lab space.
She wears the pewter grey robes, pairing them with voluminous black top robes not unlike his own. The additional layer hides the fact that the grey material clings to her upper body, but he knows that it must and he finds himself looking for it. Instead, he catches glimpses of the delicate silver chain that hangs about her waist.
He doesn't know what to do with himself.
Nights previously spent either marking, overseeing detentions, or doing his own leisure reading are now used up with endless pacing, muttering, and thoughts that chase themselves around his head. He thinks of her, but he also thinks of her terribly, terribly cliché words.
For all the fact that they could have been taken from a flowery greeting card, they ring with truth.
And he wants it.
But what could it possibly yield? Hadn't he done that before? He'd tried to branch out, to be more than Professor Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts. It hadn't worked last time; no one had wanted him, and what was to say that anything had changed in the last half-dozen years?
He paces. He mutters. He thinks.
Occasionally, he swears.
She brings out the best in him, apparently.
Despite his misgivings, he finds a quill in his hand and several blank sheets of parchment before him.
Pushing aside doubt, he dips the sharpened tip into a fresh pot of ink and begins writing.
"Why are you here, Granger?"
His brow furrows and her lips twitch in a smile. "My name is Hermione," she clarifies. "Severus."
"Why are you here, Hermione?" he asks again with a pointed look.
She shrugs and scrapes the powdered beetle eyes out of her mortar and into her cauldron. "I needed a change from the Ministry, I was going nowhere but brain dead there, and I find that I quite like teaching. I'm not sure I want to do it forever but...it will do for now."
"Not at Hogwarts, witch. Here. In my lab."
She smirks at him. "I like potions. And I like you."
The look he favours her with could wither stone. "No one likes me, Granger."
"Hermione," she corrects. "And people don't like you because you're a git to them."
"I'm a git to you."
She laughs at that, because it's mostly true. "Yes, but sometimes you forget to be a git, and then you're actually quite nice, Severus."
"What?" He stops the marking he had been doing, the marking that could have been done in his office at the desk that is actually meant for it.
"You are," she grins. He almost looks offended. With one hand she stirs her potion, with the other she begins ticking off her points. "You help me when I need it, and for all the times you call me stupid, you never actually insult my intelligence. You bring me tea without being asked, and I know you started getting the Green blend that I like when you found out that I hate Earl Grey. You adjusted the height of your work benches because I'm shorter than you, and you purposely ordered the ingredients that I needed even though you don't usually stock them. Not to mention the fact that you let me work in your lab when you knew that Minerva had purposefully told me I could work here without your permission." She looks over her shoulder at him. "Oh, and you always pull my chair out at dinner. Shall I continue?"
Where she expects him to be flummoxed, she instead finds him thoughtful. Chin propped on his hand, he's stares off into the distance and, presumably, thinks about what she's said. Taking the opportunity granted to her, she watches him without concern that he'll catch her and become defensive.
Somewhere along the line she grew fond of him. It was a slow realisation, but after finding herself looking forward to her lab time with a nervous sort of energy she had to acknowledge it for what it is. She doesn't find him handsome, exactly, because he isn't, but nor is he the hideous man of her childhood. Perception and time, she realises, can do wonders. The more time she spends with him the less she cares that he has frown lines around his mouth and greasy hair. She's come to enjoy the fact that he smells of soap, that his voice is rich, deep, and smooth, that he's equal measures of sarcastic and intelligent. Most of all, she's discovered that she wants to know more.
"So you're telling me that you just decided to come down to my lab on the belief that I'm not actually as much of an arsehole as I've always shown myself to be?" he asks finally, doubt in his voice.
"No. I had experiments to do. Discovering that you're secretly a nice guy was just a perk."
His eyebrow arches. "You expect me to believe that you're actually running experiments? You're a Charms Mistress."
"Charms can be used with potions!" she protests and he scoffs derisively.
"Your experiment is done, isn't it?" he asks, looking pointedly at her cauldron.
One side of her mouth curves up into a devious smile. "Maybe. Maybe not."
The envelope seems to burn him from the pocket of his robes where he'd secreted it away the moment the owl dropped it into his breakfast. He rarely recieves mail and he hadn't wanted any undue questions when he didn't know who it was from, or what it would say.
Quickly, he finishes up with his coffee, leaving his plate mostly untouched. He hadn't intended on coming to breakfast that morning but found himself there nonetheless. Hermione was not present and thoughts on her whereabouts had occupied him until that envelope.
He has only made it a few steps into the Entrance Hall when he gives up on pretense and pulls the parchment from his pocket. A quick look at the seal tells him exactly who it is from and he feels a jolt of nerves shoot through his gut, the like of which he hasn't experienced since he was a lad. He breaks the seal and quickly skims the letter, hardly daring to believe the words.
Doubt had wormed its way in as the weeks slipped by and he heard nothing from any of his several inquiries, not even a flat out refusal. And now this.
He has to find her.
His wand is in his hand in a heartbeat. "Point me," he tells it, watching it spin on his flat palm. She is outside.
The air is cool and crisp, a hint of warmth in the April air, as he stands on the steps leading up to the castle. His height and her hair is an advantage, it doesn't take him long to find her, walking slowly about the edge of the lake. He sets off for her, robes billowing in his wake.
"Severus?" She sees him long before he reaches her and there is a hint of concern in her tone.
He doesn't say anything. Instead, he holds the letter out to her. With a frown, she takes it and begins to read. He watches her face carefully and there is no mistaking the moment she realises exactly what it is that she's reading. She looks up at him, a smile fit to split her face.
"St. Mungo's, Severus!?"
She makes an inarticulate sound, not unlike a squeal, and launches herself at him. He lets out a soft grunt as they make contact but she doesn't seem to notice as she does her level best to strangle him.
Her actions startle a laugh out of him and he wraps his arms around her, hugging her tighter to his body.
"Severus, what are you laughing about!?" she demands, pulling back to look at him. Her smile is infectious.
"You," he confesses. "What was that sound you just made?"
"Shut up," she shoves him playfully, looking back down at the paper in her hand. "Medicinal potions research? Oh, gods, Severus, this is fantastic!" All of a sudden, her smile drops and she frowns. "Wait, is this something you actually want to do, or are you just doing it because you're good at it?"
He thinks about it for a second, and then shrugs. "I am not wholly sure. I do know that it is time for a change, however, and this cannot be worse than teaching rudimentary potions to a bunch of brats."
Her grin returns with force and before he can do a thing about it, she reaches up with both hands and pulls him down for a kiss.
It's hard, their faces press against each other, and he barely has time to register what's happening, before she pulls back, still grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"I'm happy for you, Severus."
With a heavy sigh, Hermione flops gracelessly into the chair by her cold fireplace. The hectic rush of the final month of the year always leaves her exhausted, never more so than when she became a teacher. It makes her laugh to think back on her days as a student and how harried she had felt then. She hadn't really understood the meaning of the word until she'd been faced with several hundred final essays to mark. She lets out another sigh, her eyes roving over her chambers once more, looking for any odd bits that need to be put away or packed.
Her bags lay in wait next to the door, ready for her yearly trip. She could have waited a bit longer, left in a couple of days, but as it always happens she finds herself nearly chomping at the bit to get moving. The Hogwarts Express had only left an hour before, but she is ready to be gone.
A knock at the door forces her into movement and her suspicions are confirmed when she opens the door to find Severus on the other side. She smiles and steps aside for him to join her.
"Severus! I was going to come find you before I left but you've saved me a trip!"
He seems slightly nervous. It is nothing overt, nothing to anyone who hadn't spent months upon months in his company, but the way his fingers tap out a rhythm on his thighs and the fact that he cannot seem to look at her for long give him away.
"I thought I would walk you to the Apparition point, if you do not mind," he tells her, a question in his voice.
"That sounds lovely, but I will be taking a Portkey," she says, pulling out an empty plastic water bottle from the pocket of her robes.
"Ah. I see. Well, then I wish you a good holiday."
"Severus." She reaches out for him, grabbing his forearm as he moves to turn away. "I wanted to ask you a question."
"What is it?"
She lifts the hand holding the Portkey. "Every year I go to Australia. I...I go to see them. They don't know I'm about but...I usually stop in and see them for a bit before finding something terribly touristy and mundane to do with myself instead of wallowing and crying my eyes out because, really, what good is that going to do anyone, right? And I know it probably comes off a bit stalker-esque but I really just hang about Dad's shop for a bit, just so I can see them and..." she trails off, realising that she's babbling. Severus is watching her intently though, his expression genuinely interested, and she takes a deep breath before going on. "What I'm trying to say is that I was hoping you might want to come with me this year."
A light frown creases his brow. "Don't you want to see them on your own?"
She smiles, a bit sadly, and shakes her head. "Actually, no. I hate going alone. I...I could really use the company."
"Potter or Weasley don't—"
"I'm asking you, Severus."
His eyes search her face, perhaps looking for sincerity, before dropping to the hand on his forearm. Without looking at her, he answers. "I think I would like that. I have never been."
Her relief is so strong that she immediately steps into his personal space and embraces him. Since the day she had bodily thrown herself at him their personal contact had been steadily increasing, though there had been no repeat of the rushed kiss, and she enjoyed the fact that there was no hesitation in Severus when he returns her affection. His arms settle comfortably around her shoulders as she presses her face against his chest, inhaling the scent of clean laundry and the warmth of his skin.
"Thank you," she murmurs, squeezing him ever tighter.
"It is hardly an inconvenience," he says and the sound of his voice resonates through his chest
Pulling back just enough to see his face, she smiles brilliantly at him. "Still. It means a lot to me."
"To me, as well. I could really use a tan."
She blinks at him for a second before a laugh rips out of her. "Severus Snape! Did you just make a joke?"
His lips curl ever so slightly at the corners of his mouth. "What are you blathering about, witch? You've lost all sense."
Still laughing, it seems completely natural to lean up on to her toes when he dips his head towards her. Their lips meet at the same time that he tangles his hand into her hair, the pads of his fingers sliding along her scalp. His kiss is hesitant, chaste, and sweet. Slipping her arms around his neck, she changes the angle and nips gently at his lips. The sound of his light chuckle makes her smile against his mouth.
"Is there more where that came from?" he asks softly.
Instead of answering, she pulls him down and claims his mouth once more.
*** I am entertaining the idea of continuing this but after a bit of a jump in time. Thoughts? At the same time, I've been issued a challenge along the lines of 'I bet you can't do a crossover of SS/HG and Beauty & the Beast without it being corny'. I'm sorely tempted to try but also pretty sure that I'd fail. We shall see.
*** Many thanks for all of the feedback! I always appreciate it when you take the time to leave your thoughts. Cheers!