Disclaimer:- I neither own nor earn anything from this story, simply the pleasure of playing with well-loved characters.
A/N:- Here is a little diversion, that occurred to me while I was procrastinating about finishing, Someone To Watch Over Me. I hope you like it. Thank you to jmak119 for betaing this for me.
The Great Valentine's Disaster
"These silent bastions of knowledge, they hide all manner of secrets within their tough exteriors. If only I could open her like a book, know what she's feeling, but she guards her secrets as zealously as these books stand stoically shielding theirs." Snape was perhaps unaware he had muttered his thought aloud. It is also possible he thought he was alone in the library this late at night. He was most certainly ignorant of the fact that Hogwarts newest Professor was also pondering the same yet opposite problem, in a similar way to him just a few rows of books away.
He reflected on the whole history as he wandered through the books. He had never really expected to see the end of the war. In fact he almost hadn't. All his duties had been executed, and he was embracing the cold, welcome fingers of death as they tightened around his throat. Without warning a voice had drifted into his hearing, breaking the blessed silence of the roaring in his ears.
Some non-descript, do-gooder had found him. He had spent the battle slowly bleeding out on the floor of the Shrieking Shack; secure in the knowledge that no one would come looking for him. He found too late that his blood had very healthy coagulant properties, and as soon as its pressure had dropped sufficiently, his own traitorous body had worked against him and stopped him sinking into the longed for abyss.
When the healers were summoned, they found what should have been a mortal injury was still allowing the Potions Master of Hogwarts, to cling to life by a tenuous thread. The stupid fools had then proceeded to coach this dying ember back into a flame. He'd woken three weeks later in St. Mungo's, with a full pardon hanging with his vitals chart at the foot of his bed.
At first he'd raged against his survival; the injustice of it all! "You fools!" Bellowing helped somewhat. "I was supposed to die." He was surprised how expressive his voice still was, considering his larynx must have almost parted company with the rest of him thanks to that hideous snake. But once on a rampage, he was set, "What is there for me now?"
When none of them could answer him, and he'd showed them all exactly how adapt at wandless magic he was, even after having been in a coma for three weeks. This sent everyone scrambling from the room, fearful of their hides.
In hindsight, he realised that he may have been a little rash, and that banishing the help may not have been his wisest choice. However, he was still gratified after he had dragged his aching body to the toilet and back to his bed, that none of the minions had dared to disturb him again.
No, they did something much worse, they got him back well and truly for raspberrying at their help. Because only an hour after he'd woken up, they'd called the most fearsome witch he had ever met. She had arrived with her replacement in tow, and that witch won the title of the second most formidable in the same category. Merlin's saggy left buttock wasn't he in for it now.
His second curse had died on his lips from shock, when the newly installed Headmistress of Hogwarts easily repelled his first in a wandless display of her own. Before scolding, "Severus Snape, you will not curse me, young man."
This had caused him to bristle; he'd been Headmaster of Hogwarts, damn it. How dare she call him young man, even if she did have half a century on him, but not in front of the Granger chit. He had glanced at the younger Gryffindor, looking for the expected smirk at his discomfort with a comment ready on the tip of his tongue. The only problem was - there was no smirk.
Her countenance was deadly serious. He took a moment to pan his eyes up and down her as a man, instead of her past professor, and what he saw took him by surprise. He hadn't expected to see a fully grown, attractive woman looking back at him. There was an inner tranquillity present now; she was calmly ready for anything. He saw no pity in her gaze either, just crystal clear intelligence in her pretty amber-flecked chocolate coloured eyes. This coupled with motherly concern from the headmistress, was all too much. Despite himself Snape found he wanted what both offered. He had been so starved of everything, and if he was going to bloody live, damn it, he would have what he'd missed.
Now, one and a half years later all this brought him to this point in time. He had outgrown the motherly concern as his strength returned. Although he had mended his friendship with Minerva, which was something he had sorely missed while she thought him a loyal Death Eater, he soon found himself with a far worse predicament. He was falling in love with the witch with the amber-flecked, chocolate coloured eyes. Snape had never wooed a witch; he didn't know how and while the pair of them had been almost constant companions this last year, they were still nothing more than friends. The taciturn Professor had learned how to laugh, and how to take time out to smell the roses, but he still didn't have exactly what he wanted.
They spent every night together, either he took his marking to her office, or she brought hers to his. Once they finished their work they would have supper, and discuss Potions journals, read or just quietly converse. Severus sighed, well that was until yesterday.
Yesterday had made his world spin on a very wobbly axis, yesterday had been Valentine's Day. A day he hated with a passion, and he'd decided to skulk in his dungeons and let it pass. After all it was a holiday, and as such he was not required to attend any inane celebrations. Minerva however, had different ideas and she'd dragged him up into the land of the living.
"Why didn't you ask Hermione to the Ball?" she'd inquired.
Snape had sneered. "Why in Merlin's name would I want to do that?" The very idea made him shake in his dragon hide boots. What if she said no? All his dreams would go up in smoke once more. No, he was destined to yearn for her from afar. That was to be his lot in life. He just didn't have it in him to take that sort of rejection again. He would take the conversation, the magnificent chess games, music nights and silent reading together, oh how he loved their silent reading. The only thing he craved more would be her snuggled into his lap while they read together.
He just couldn't for the life of him work out why she was giving him the cold shoulder. Tonight, as they were leaving The Great Hall after dinner, when he'd inquired whose office they would use for their marking, she'd stuck her cute little nose in the air and snipped, "I finished mine at lunch. I don't care where you do yours." It wasn't often that Severus Snape was left dumb-founded, but this was one of those times.
What could he have possibly done? I wonder if she got wind of my feelings, and she's disgusted that a man of my age wants her? The more he pondered, the more likely it sounded. Snape sighed and absently pulled another book from the shelf then rehoused it without so much as glancing at the title.
The library was so still, without warning he was pulled from his thoughts by the clattering of wood, an alarmed squeal, and several loud bangs. Snape's wand was instantly in his hand, and his feet took him around to the next aisle.
What met his gaze made his heart jump into his mouth; there was the very witch he'd been thinking about, clinging precariously to the top of a shelf-ladder. All the rungs had somehow managed to disappear from the irritating thing, leaving her hands gripping the top and her legs swinging freely, scrambling for purchase they couldn't find.
Working quickly, Severus summoned a second ladder, he hit it with a protection spell so the same thing wouldn't happen and in a flash he was standing on the upper rungs, one arm around Hermione Granger's svelte waist, the other hanging on for both their safeties. He tried to get her to look at him, and when she finally lifted her head a moment, he could see she'd been crying. There's enough time to ask her why, when we're safely on the ground.
"Professor Granger, transfer your grip to this ladder. I have you," his only response was a terrified little squeak and a shake of her head. "Hermione, please, I won't drop you, I promise," Severus tried.
"I've never liked heights," her shaky voice told him.
"It's all right, see if you can get your foot on the rung," he glanced down at the ladder.
"Here," Snape precariously wrapped one of his long legs around her closest hanging one. He was desperate to get her onto the ladder with him before either her strength gave out or his did.
He was happy that as soon as she felt the ladder rung under her foot, she started scrambling for a grip. "That's a girl," he encouraged. A frightened little sob left her. "Shh Pet, you're safe. I'm not going to let you go."
"Promise?" Her wide eyes pleaded with him.
Trying desperately not to forget himself, and let go of his grip on the ladder to caress her face, he pulled her closer. "Promise."
Now she had both feet on the ladder, all he had to do was get her hands to let go. "Hermione, put your arms around my neck."
"But I'll fall," her voice still sounded terrified.
"No, you won't I've got you." He pulled her more securely to him. "See, not letting go. Trust me," Severus murmured.
He probably hadn't meant for it to sound so husky, but finally having her in his arms, regardless of their situation was just too good. Slowly one trembling hand, then the other wove its way around his neck, and her head buried itself in the crook of his neck. "Thank you, thank you," she kept repeating.
"That's my brave girl," he crooned. "Now I know why you have always hated flying." He told her as he encouraged her shaking form down a step.
"You're going to use this against me aren't you?" She inquired in a shaky voice.
"Why would I do that…" there was a pause. "Until yesterday, I thought we were friends," they went another step closer to the ground. Snape exhaled a heavy breath. "Hermione, why are you upset with me?" They traversed two further rungs, before she answered.
He heard her exhale, "It's silly really," but her foot slipped a little, and she let out a frightened squeak, clinging to him tighter. All thought of answering flying from her head.
"You're safe, darling. Just three more steps," having her so close was intoxicating, Snape hadn't realised what he'd said until they were safely back on terra firma.
His body stiffened, waiting for her rejection, the minute she finally saw what he felt for her. He watched her head finally come up from his neck. There were tears trickling down her face. "You hurt my feelings," she whispered. "It's silly I know, and I'm sure I'll get over it, but I was desperately hoping you might have invited me to go to the Valentine's' Day Ball." Hermione's voice was still quivering. "I dared to hope… never mind." She swallowed hard and studied the button on his frock coat in her line of vision. Releasing her grip on his neck with one hand to swipe at her tears.
Severus still had her in a tight grip, the last thing he wanted to do was let her go. When he tried, his arms disobeyed him. His heart was thumping so loudly in his ears; he almost didn't hear his voice asking her, "What did you dare to hope, Pet?" Finally one hand came up to stroke her cheek.
Her eyes seemed lost, gazing at him. Her beautiful, intelligent eyes, they were windows. They always had been. Looking into them now, he saw something he longed for. Could it be he didn't need to worship this exquisite creature from afar?
Hermione swallowed hard, her eyes captured by his. "I love you," she whispered.
Snape was so shocked to hear the words. His mouth fell open and all function inside his head ceased. It was the stifled sob and her wriggling to get out of his grip that brought him back to reality. "I'm sorry, forget I said anything. Please don't let it ruin our friendship," she was pleading.
Feeling desperate to stop her from leaving, he blurted the truth in a very un-Snape like way, "I love you too."
All movement stopped, and she glanced up at him. "Then why didn't you ask me to the Ball?"
"It honestly never occurred to me that you would wish to go. I can see now that I was mistaken."
"Mmm," his eyes were wandering the features of her face.
"Thank you for saving me," reaching up on tiptoes, she timidly pressed her lips to his.
"You're entirely welcome," he managed even though all his brain said was, Gurg. Appearing to pull himself together, he drew in a loud breath. "I would never let anything happen to you, pet." His eyes were watching her lips, that one little kiss had wet his appetite for more. Slowly his head lowered to meet hers.
As if sampling, his lips brushed a feather light touch over hers, she gave an excited little trill in the back of her throat, so he did it again. A third pass was more lingering, capturing her bottom lip between his. Severus tenderly suckled on the impossibly soft flesh a moment then broke the kiss. "Are you hurt in any way?"
Smiling Hermione shook her head, "No, but what happened to the ladder?"
They both turned to look and the innocuous looking item, still standing silently beside its mate. It had mysteriously regained its rungs while there attention had been diverted. "What the…?"
"Do you suppose the library knew what we wanted?" Hermione blinked at him.
"Well it's got a funny way of helping if it did," he caressed her cheek. Looking around at the books scattered on the floor. "Now I can see what the bangs were, but what was the initial clatter of wood I heard?"
Hermione gasped. "Oh, my wand."
Severus smile. "Accio, Hermione's wand," and her vine-wood wand came to him from under a bookcase. He handed it back, inquiring, "Do you need anything else, from the library tonight?"
"Actually, I think I have everything I need," Hermione said with a glint in her eye.
Severus grinned back, and his head lowered to hers again. This time the kiss was heated, Severus' hands drifted up and tangled in her hair. After a time his tongue boldly tickled her bottom lip and with a tiny gasp her mouth opened for him. Lost in the feel of his lips on hers and their tongues playfully sliding and wrestling, both soon forgot their trouble and what had brought them to the library this night and revelled in their newfound intimacy.
Next morning at breakfast when Professors Granger and Snape wandered into The Great Hall arm in arm. The whole hall came to a standstill to watch them walking in, and Minerva McGonagall sat presiding over breakfast that day, with a secret smile.
She'd also had reason to be in the library last night, and while she wasn't admitting to anything, and she would never have allowed her Transfiguration professor to come to any real harm. She was quietly gratified that her plan had worked.
It was interesting to note, however, that her Potions professor had been so panicked, he'd completely forgotten he was a wizard in his haste to make Hermione safe, and had rescued her Muggle style. The Headmistress saluted them both with her pumpkin juice as Severus seated his new love. She couldn't wait for the wedding invitation.