A friend of mine is working on an original piece and needed a bit of motivation to finish her writing today. She asked me to word war with her. I asked friends for a prompt since I have nothing in progress. They gave me "Sprinkles, marshmallow and a waterfall." This happened. It's unbeta'd, so expect errors. It's late, and I'm sunburned. Thanks to my alpha, , (Isn't that a stupid long name? It's a stupid long name. Tell her she needs something shorter.) for entertaining me on a moment's notice.
Snape walked into the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. It was a typical summer day in the house, meaning you could hear a niffler drop. Potter and his cohorts were in the back playing Quidditch per usual. He felt their minds should be applied to a more arduous task but it was a 'last hurrah' as Arthur called it before they went to Auror training in the fall.
Well, a last hurrah for some. Miss Granger was, also as usual, set up on the large kitchen table. He always could tell it was her by the atrocious bubble gum pink laptop with the waterfall wallpaper. It was her happy place, she told him, for when she needed a break and couldn't actually get away. He should try it, she told him.
Anywhere right now was a happy place for Severus. Voldemort was gone. Dumbledore was gone. His neck was recovering slowly but surely. He even just got released for a more solid diet. An upgrade from his porridge and mashed potatoes. Molly was quite creative, but it was getting dull.
As Snape entered, hanging his knee length black trench coat on a nearby hook, he saw Miss Granger – not so usually but not completely out of place – standing in the kitchen, meal in mid preparation.
She jumped as she heard him enter. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Professor! I wasn't expecting you back so quick! Molly asked me if you wouldn't mind making a few potions to replenish the cupboard upstairs. She said especially the, erm, preventative ones. I think she is concerned about Harry and Ginny," she ended in a whisper.
He snorted. "And with good reason. Very well. I'll start at once."
He missed Hermione's sigh of relief as he turned an about face and went out to his lab in the little outbuilding in the corner of the yard. His little Fortress of Solitude.
Hermione was glad she had a readymade and honest excuse to get him out of the kitchen. She was making a surprise and it simply wouldn't do to have him ruining it too soon.
It was easy to let her mind drift to her careworn professor as her finger slid around the inside edge of the bowl. Ex-professor, her mind reminded her as she carefully measured out the exact proportion of cake batter into each of the little paper cups. He would notice such a thing.
They had formed a loose friendship since the war had ended. She had never properly thanked him for his contribution to them, but he had never acknowledged their part either. It was just left unsaid that a bit of respect had been built between them, though Harry and Ron chose not to acknowledge it and Snape just ignored them in return. It was better for everyone that way really.
Hermione opened the oven and placed the tin inside, setting the Muggle timer beside it. One of the things she brought from her family home.
While the boys and several of their visiting classmates were taking a bit of a summer break, it simply wasn't in Hermione's nature to be idle regardless of any scholastic commitment. She spent the summer revising over the material that would have been covered in a normal seventh year at Hogwarts, her NEWTS already scheduled in a private test before term began. Her mind often wandered into different tangents on subjects, curious to learn more about the topics nor covered in depth in class. And so she would grab a book and burrow into an overstuffed chair or pull out her laptop in the middle of the dining room table. That was a good place to spend an afternoon as she was in the centre of the household activity and thus couldn't be scolded for her antisocial tendencies.
Snape's chin always rose a little as he saw her tooling away the daylight and midnight hours. Very much similar to himself, had he been given leave to spend his free hours as he wished. He was careful not to let his pride in her show, especially when she would find her way out to his lab or into whatever room he had found a chair to burrow into with a book – much more gracefully and disdainfully, of course, than she did.
Hermione always respectfully asked an intelligent question and soon someone would be ferreting them out to join the evening meal. She would bubble up and out of the room as he would slink behind. She took her chair in the sea of gingers while he served up a bowl of whatever was cooked for him, often a soup or a stew, and could return to his chair or his room in a less companionable silence.
He didn't know that not all of her questions were asked simply in pursuit of knowledge. She didn't know he would feign no knowledge simply so they could search for the answer together.
Hermione spent the time her pan was in the oven expertly crafting her mother's marshmallow frosting. It could be fickle, baking with Muggle appliances in a magical household but slowly she was working the kinks out. A few drops of food colouring and it would be perfect.
"Crooks!" she hollered a little too late as her fluffy orange cat jumped down off the counter, his long bottle brush tail taking a jar of silver nonpareils with it. She swore he did that on purpose. He would eye something he wanted but couldn't have and oops, his tail just happened to swipe it off the counter or table. Kneazles! They were as bad as children.
She muttered under her breath as she used her wand to suck up all the spilled sprinkles off the floor, noticing again that Snape – or Severus, as she secretly referred to him – was coming back inside.
"Finished already?" she asked as nonchalantly as possible, hiding the hand with the confections in it behind her back, aware she sounded a little breathless.
Snape looked at the tiny silver balls on the ground with a frown, not entirely sure of their origin or their purpose. What was she making? A potions experiment? Foolish as she knew he had a lab just outside the door.
Did she just not want to be around him for than needed to quench her desire for knowledge?
His frown deepened.
"You must be tired!" Hermione continued. "I know it's a warm one out there today, and your lab doesn't have modern air conditioning. Why don't you bring those bottles up to the powder room and I'll meet you in the parlour with a snack?"
His spine straightened as he looked down to her. "I can see where I'm not wanted. As you wish, Miss Granger."
He swept out of the room as Hermione hollered after him, "That's not what I meant!"
He didn't respond and she stomped her foot against the hewn floor before suddenly remembering her oven. The timer rang and rushed to grab the pan before it burned. That man was going to be the death of her. Setting it out on the counter to cool, she whipped up a few chicken salad sandwiches from last night's leftovers. Chips would still be too scratchy, she thought, and opted for some fresh sliced fruit and cheeses.
Giving one last peek around the corner to ensure that he was gone, she used a charm to cool her cupcakes instantly. The frosting went on smooth and she liberally added adornments, using the back of her hand to brush the hair out of her eyes. Grabbing both plates and leaving a few cupcakes on a platter in the kitchen, she left to go find the man in question.
"Severus?" she called, biting her lip instantly as she realised her faux pas. She found him around the next corner, in his preferred chair with the brown broken in leather. It was a favourite of Hermione as well.
"Sorry," she said as soon as their eyes met. "I didn't mean to be so informal."
"It does not bother me that you chose to do so," he answered, setting the Prophet down and she added the plate of sandwiches on top of it. He eyed them like a starved man and it made her heart happy to see him pleased by her actions.
"And for dessert!" she added and set the small plate of fresh cupcakes beside it, as though they had just happened to be in the kitchen and not that she had planned for this day for weeks, ensuring she had all the ingredients on hand for whenever the day came that Severus could eat normal food again.
"Is this what you were working on?" he tentatively asked as she sat herself in the chair beside his.
"Yeah, just something I thought I would wipe up for the occasion," she told him, hoping she still seemed like it was no big deal.
"Yes! Your special occasion. You can eat again! I thought it would be nice for you to have a little something for dessert that wasn't applesauce."
He resisted asking the first thought that came to mind which was if they were made just for him and making himself sound like a dunce. His eyes softened as he remembered her as she stirred, and as she shooed him out of the kitchen. That she sacrificed her afternoon to make something strictly for his enjoyment was touching in a way he hadn't experienced.
He took one of the confections, covered in a cloud of soft Slytherin green with the little silver balls he saw earlier. He was going to take a leap of faith as assume they were edible. There were much better ways if she wanted to ensure his demise. He wasn't Crabbe or Goyle.
Biting into the pillowy cake and sugary sweet, creamy frosting, he had to stifle a moan. Were his senses that bereft that a simple sweet could cause such pleasure? The proportions were exact, it was baked to perfection, the fresh vanilla flavour was exquisite and comforting.
Hermione resisted blurting out if it was alright. She knew her baking was passable and her mother's recipe was sound. She would just bite her tongue and wait for him to respond. His fluttered closed and she gave a relieved sigh with a smile as he seemed to swallow without pain. Without a conscious direction, the back of her hand softly brushed the corner of his mouth and cheek.
Startled brown eyes met black.
"Frosting," she stuttered. "On your cheek."
"Oh." He paused, cupcake still in his hand. "These are very good. Have you had one?" He held the cupcake up to her as though offering her a bite. Without breaking eye contact, she leaned forward and took a small sample.
"You're right," she said. "Very good." She felt like she should say something more but her brain seemed to be off on holiday. "I hope you enjoy them...Severus. You should have a little bit of happiness."
It was a though a light bulb went off for him. She was asking right. Of course she was. She was a know-it-all, wasn't she?
He leaned forward as the cupcake was returned to its plate and his lips brushed across the tip of her nose.
Her stunned face made him break into a genuine smile. "Sorry," he said unapologetic. "Frosting."