Happy Birthday Gwen! Bonne Anniversaire!
It is my lovely cousin's birthday, and because I love her I wrote her a Severus/Hermione oneshot. That mutated into something a bit longer. So, this is the first part. (This happened last year too...)
If you are from FTOH (my other SS/HG fanfic) this is quite a bit different. If you aren't, just a warning that this is going to eventually develop into a relationship between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger. In this story, Hermione is 25, and Severus is 45.
This takes places six years after the Final Battle, after which Severus moved to America. For some reason, Hermione is there as well.
He hadn't expected to see her here- his refuge, his sanctuary, the place where he had run to hide from the world and all the open and painful wounds it had inflicted on him.
And yet there she was, messy tumble of curls fighting to escape the confines of what might have at one point been a strict bun, pale face with a scattering of freckles, struggling as she reached up on her tiptoes to grab a book on the top shelf. Her blouse rode up, showing a white strip of skin that contrasted harshly with her black skirt and dark green top. The look of triumph in her eyes as she plucked the teetering book off the shelf and cradled it to her chest was one he recognized after so many years of having her brilliant mind in his class.
Severus took one last look at her, and turned on his heel, stalking away.
He hadn't been prepared to see her; he hadn't been prepared to see anyone from his old life. Just seeing her face- slender, concentrated, with the scars of war and blood and pain in her eyes for anyone to see- had stirred to life things that ought to have been laid to rest. He had thought he had laid them to rest, years ago.
But now Hermione Granger was in his sleepy American town and that meant the war and all it entailed was there along with it.
The first time Severus had seen Hermione Granger in his library was a Tuesday. He had forgone his usual trip on Wednesday, but found his need for books and routine too pressing to be put off until Friday. Thursday he donned his black coat with his usual surly expression and walked along the cold and windy streets until he reached the doors of the library.
The New England winter darkened the sky early, turning the streets into a kind of dirty grey twilight that was faintly illuminated by street lamps futilely sending out faint golden glows. Even at five in the evening the clouds above were a bruised purple, and the snow that was on the grounds a malignant grey. It suited Severus's mood perfectly.
A gothic building housed the library, the inside of which was warm and cheery, carrying the faint scent of peppermint and old books and coffee. The familiarity of the place that had become his hideaway reassured Severus, banishing the uncomfortable feeling of seeing a piece of his old life amongst his new one.
Not that his new one was anything special. Severus read, did his shopping, stayed indoors when it snowed. He ventured past the walls of his drafty yet still comfortable home to go to the rattling old supermarket, a small sandwich place, and the library. Almost every day he made the walk from his house to the library, sinking into book after book with an intensity that frightened the two junior librarians.
The senior librarian, an old woman named Martha, was there when he entered. She smiled cheerily at him, unfazed by his scowl.
"We've got another English one," she told him in that flat and strange American accent that bothered him as much as it comforted only in that it was so different from the tones of England. "A girlie who seems to like reading as much as you do."
Severus's scowl deepened. "I'll be in my usual area," he said shortly.
"Closing is at eight," the librarian said simply in reply, settling into her chair.
Even as he selected a thick book and settled into the chair (comfy and worn and smelling of staleness and books) he had claimed as his upon his arrival six years ago, Severus could not shake the sensation that something was wrong. He wondered what she had touched, what she was doing here. If she had swept her fingers across the spines of the books on his right, or if she had bypassed the nonfiction for the shelves filled with frilly romances.
Hermione Granger was not supposed to be in America. Tuesday night he had gone home and raged for no reason, smashing a few of his not-so-good plates on the tile of his kitchen floor. Hermione Granger was not supposed to show up out of nowhere and remind him that on a damp little island there was a school of magic with a boathouse that had probably been torn down and rebuilt because Severus Snape had died there.
They had all left him for dead in that damp little boat house that stank of lake water and rotting wood and snake. Potter had taken his memories (his precious memories of Lily- not precious because he had loved her but precious because they reminded him that at one point he had been loved) and disappeared. The only one who had looked back had been Granger.
Pain in his neck and pain in his back and pain in his mind and just painpainpain. His memories were gone- hazy all of a sudden not there anymore and he couldn't remember why he had wanted Potter to look at him all he could remember was that the anti-venom he brewed and consumed weeks ago might have run out and stopped working. The green eyes were gone and then the warmth around him was gone and they were leaving.
Potter left first- his eyes were half closed but he could still make out the boy's form slipping out the door. The tall redhead was next, and then the slender figure of a girl, head oddly distorted by her bushy hair. Then instead of her bushy hair he was looking into her eyes.
Hard- they were hard as they looked at him. Judging. Angry. Then-
She flicked her wand, and then there was a white sheet over him, covering his face. She said something he didn't understand, and then she was gone.
Severus groaned- the sheet was over his mouth and his eyes, but at least it was making him warmer. Already it was sticky with his blood- something in the damn snake's venom made the blood refuse to clot. Either the anti-venom would work soon or he would be dead.
In the silence of the library, Severus raised his hand to his neck and brushed his fingertips over the fabric covering his ropy scars. It had worked. He had lived. He had gathered his strength and Apparated to a Muggle hospital. They had healed him and as soon as he had the strength, he left in the middle of the night and returned to Spinner's End. There he gathered his things, set fire to the house, and the next day he was in America.
He lived comfortably in Maine, in a sleepy little town that didn't pry when a tall solemn man who always wore a turtleneck or frock coat showed up and moved into a house that hadn't been lived in for nearly twenty years. Severus was glad he had made his contingency plan when he was young- he had almost forgotten about the house he had purchased in American months after Lily died and he had turned. Now it was a safe place to return to. A safe haven.
Slowly Severus lost himself in the book, long fingers tapping on the side of the chair as he brushed up on his Muggle chemistry.
Humming jolted him out of his equations and chemicals. His head shot up, with a small noise of anger.
"Oh- sorry, I didn't mean to disturb any-" the sweet clear voice trailed off, and the kind brown eyes widened. "Oh god." It was said in a high breathy voice- panicked, terrified. "It's happened, it's happened, I'm going mad-"
She sounded so absolutely broken and terrified. Severus noted the changes in her posture, in her coloring. She wavered, face paling dramatically as she dropped the books she was holding and covered her face with her hands, still talking to herself.
"Calm yourself, Miss Granger," Severus snapped. "I'm neither a ghost nor an apparition. Stop that-"
He was looking at a wand point aimed directly for his heart. The hand that held it shook terribly- explaining why it wasn't pointed at the smaller target of his head. "Explain yourself," Hermione Granger ordered, her voice no steadier than it had been before. "Severus Snape died and I saw it, so either you're someone impersonating him or I've finally snapped."
With careful, deliberate actions, Severus closed his book, remembering the page for future reference. "Wrong on both counts, Miss Granger."
"I'm not some first year afraid of getting an E," Hermione said, a dangerous sliver of something in her voice. When he looked up at her face, at her eyes, there was something there that unsettled him. Bellatrix Lestrange used to have eyes like that. "I'm a woman who fought in a war. I watched people I loved and respected die, including you, so if you don't want an Unforgiveable in the chest you'd best explain yourself."
He believed her. "Anti-venom brewed into a daily vitamin potion. Taken everyday for two and a half years," he said smoothly. "Although-"
"That would explain how you survived," Hermione said, refusing to drop her wand an inch. "But that doesn't prove that's who you say you are."
He scowled blackly at her. "You hexed me in your third year when Lupin and Black were having their little reunion. My most frequent comment on your essays were stick to the required length. You conjured me a shroud before I was dead. Sufficient?"
She stared at him for a moment, then dropped her wand. "Yes." She looked down at the books scattered around her feet, then knelt to pick them up. Severus felt vaguely bad- he was still seated and didn't move to help her.
When the books were stacked in her arms again, she stood and stared at him. Their eyes met and held for a moment, and then she turned and left.
With a sigh Severus sank into the chair, jaw clenching as he tensed then relaxed. He felt oddly weary- his bones ached and there was a tickle of worry at the base of his spine that she would tell someone in England he was alive.
He frowned at his book, then reshelved it and stalked out of the library.
The next day he braved the library again, hoping that she would have been sufficiently frightened away and would not return. He was wrong- when he arrived at the double doors, he looked through the glass to see her sitting at a table directly across from the door. Their eyes met, and his teeth met with an audible clack as he glared at her.
What didn't the chit understand? He didn't want to see anyone from there, he didn't want to be reminded of what he had done and what he hadn't done. Severus wasn't quite sure he wanted to die but he wasn't at all concerned with living much longer either. He wanted to die in peace- he wanted to live out the rest of his life in a quiet town where no one bothered him and he could be alone with his books and his potions and maybe a cat if he got lonely enough.
With a growl he spun on his heel and started walking away, thinking black thoughts at the silly little girl who thought that-
"Wait- Professor Snape, please-" She was chasing him. Impertinent girl.
He stopped, and turned around. "I have no interest in anything you have to say," he hissed at her. "Tell no one I am here." His breath made clouds in the cold air.
"I won't," she said, stumbling to halt in front of him. She was breathing hard, and her cheeks were pink. She looked disgustingly healthy. "I just-" She looked away. "I don't know."
"Obviously," he drawled. "Leave here."
Her head snapped up and her eyes met his defiantly. "No," she retorted. "I'm living here now."
That idea enraged him. "Go back to England and your precious Boy-Who-Lived and the Wonder Sidekick," he said in a low, dangerous voice. "Forget you ever saw me here, forget whatever soul searching you were trying to do."
"I will do no such thing," Hermione replied. "I'm here for a while."
"Then don't bother me," Severus muttered, rage and fury and sorrow swirling in a red and boiling haze somewhere in his ribcage. "Leave me alone."
There might have been hurt on her face, but he didn't care to search for it. "Fine," Hermione said. "I just- I wasn't sure if you were real. I thought I had gone-" She cut herself off and just looked at him. "Sorry. I'll go."
"Please do," he said cruelly. She stiffened, then walked away. He turned and continued to his house. At least now she might have the decency to stay away from the library.
From then on he only saw her once or twice every week. One day she was at the same little supermarket he used, pushing a red plastic cart filled with all manner of green leafy things and what looked to be the makings of a roast; he stalked past her without acknowledgment and finished his shopping just as she was going to the register.
Another time he saw her walking through his window- her hair was in disarray and she was tightly wrapped against the cold. There was something wrong with her movements- he watched her for a while before he realized she was crying. There was something too personal about that- he closed the curtain and moved deeper into the house to make some tea.
Most of the time though, he saw her at the library. She read as voraciously as she had at Hogwarts, devouring six or seven huge books every weeks. She would walk past his seat, determinedly looking anywhere but him, her stubborn chin mulishly set.
Spring came in a series of dripping torrents- spring storms were apparently common in the region. Severus enjoyed the thunder and lightening. However the wet made walking to the library uncomfortable- he resorted to using his wand to discreetly dry himself before entering.
Hermione had no such ideas- she carried around a large umbrella and left it propped up by the door when she walked in. He couldn't decided if her way was better, or if his was.
His notice of her was always referred to, even in the privacy of his own mind, as self interest. He monitored her for signs of happiness, for distress, for worry. He didn't want to miss something and then find Potter and Weasley in his town the next day.
But she seemed normal enough. Big smiles for the librarians, quick chats with all of them. She laughed sometimes, with a tilt of her head that sent her hair down her back. The humidity in the States did her hair no favors- it was a huge as ever, puffing out around her head and down her back in masses of disorganized curls. He found out through these conversations that she worked at the small primary school teaching first grade. He had no idea that she had the credentials to teach in the States- but it had been nearly seven years. She would have been eighteen during the war, so that would mean she would be twenty-five now. He learned that her cat- Crookshanks, such a ridiculous name- loved America. He learned that she was adapting quite nicely thank you very much, and that the American name for thongs were apparently "flip-flops" and that a thong was a type of scandalous underwear and that talking about underwear made Hermione blush.
In a fit of rebellious pique he had decided to call her Hermione in his head, not Miss Granger. He had given up any rights to being a professor in a position of respect during his last year of Hogwarts, and she was no longer a student of any kind. He would show her no formality in the sanctity of his own mind.
As summer came the days grew hotter and clearer. The spring showers stopped, flowers bloomed prettily, and his continued wearing of high-necked collars drew Severus strange looks.
Even the librarians noticed, or at the very least, Emily, the sillier of the two junior ones.
"Every day he's here," the girl's high, twittering voice told Hermione. "Brit like you, didn't I tell ya?"
Hermione's voice sounded subdued when she spoke. "Martha mentioned it once, I think. Are you coming to the play the little ones are putting on?"
"Nah. Every single day. And he's always wearing black and covering his neck- If I were ten years younger I'd swear he was a vampire!" She laughed, grating on Severus' nerves. "So weird!"
"He has every right to wear turtlenecks in the summer," Hermione said, voice soft and angry. "Just as much right as I've got to wear long sleeves. Or do you talk about my clothing choices with other people who come here?"
She left, and Severus watched her as she stormed out in a fury. Strange- in all his months of watching her he hadn't noticed she never left her arms bare. Suddenly, he wanted to know why.
In the beginning of July they were both at the library, studiously ignoring each other, when Martha walked over to Severus and the other juinor librarian to Hermione. "Library's closing early tonight," she told him. "Fireworks will be starting any minute and we all wanted to go."
"Fireworks?" Severus inquired, brow furrowing as he stood and placed his book back in its proper place, to Martha's approving nod.
"It's the fourth," Martha said, chuckling. "The Fourth of July. Usually we're closed on the Fourth but this year I had to get the girls all their hours." That explained it- American Independence Day.
Severus reached the door at the same time as Hermione- it wouldn't do to be impolite, but he hardly even thought before he opened it for her.
"Thanks," she said, surprise coloring her voice. It was the first word she had said to him in months.
"You're welcome," he said shortly. He began walking in the direction of his house, and she followed. He was about to snap at her when he realized sheepishly that almost all the houses were along the same direction.
At least she wasn't inclined toward filling every empty silence with chatter. The night was clear, if a bit too warm. Fireflies blinked in bushes and rolled lazily through the air, and cicadas chirped unseen in the trees.
The air shook with pressure, a loud rushing sounds pressing on his chest and shooting upward. A boom sounded, and the sky was alight with colored sparks. Panic darted through Severus as the girl beside him froze with fear, her expression shown starkly on a face colored red and blue from the sky. Two more booms shook the earth and without thinking he grabbed her and ran the few more steps toward his house, pulling her with him as adrenaline filled his blood and his heart pounded in his ears. His wand was in his hand before he thought and he was in the middle casting a shield when realized where he was and what was happening.
It was disconcerting, the way the war and the fighting had come back to him with sickening clarity. In the midst of the fighting he had never lost his nerve like he had then- perhaps because he had become accustomed to the sense of safety he had in this quiet little town. In England he had been constantly expecting to die- here he wasn't. He was safe, and it was just fireworks. And other series of earth shaking roars sent more colors up into the sky, with cheers from the park where a crowd of people had gathered to watch.
He realized with a start that he was still holding Hermione. "My apologies," he said, releasing her immediately.
With a broken sound, she clutched to him, eyes still wide with fear. She was shaking, he saw, trembling so hard that when he steadied her he shook himself.
"What- what-" she was trying to say, but she was having trouble breathing, she was gasping in air and her knees were buckling. He steadied her further, but feeling himself dragged down with her weight, muttered a curse and picked her up entirely.
The door opened when he sent a concentrated thought toward it; he entered and it slammed behind them, making a noise that caused Hermione to flinch dramatically in his arms. Her warmth was foreign, unsettling. Quickly he deposited her in his armchair, kneeling on the ground in front of her.
"It's the fireworks," he rasped. "Their Independence Day celebrations. It's just fireworks."
For a moment she just looked at him, haunted eyes terrified and broken and filled with tears. Then she broke down, collapsing in on herself as she sobbed. It made a pitiful picture, the girl folded in on herself, clutching her limbs and she shook with fear and heaving sobs.
It distressed him to see her in such obvious pain- it took a long time for Severus Snape to become attached to people but he had known this girl for fourteen years and she was his last link to England and magic. "Stop- stop crying. Please. It's just fireworks." He wasn't pleading, exactly, nor begging.
She was crying so hard she fell out of the chair- no wonder, it was far too big and he had placed her too close to the edge. Hermione fell on top of him, and he instinctively held her. Small fists clenched tightly in his shirt, and she wept on his shirt, in his arms.
Her form was womanly, rounded and soft in most areas. Her elbows were bony, though, and the knees that were pressing into his thighs. Silently he arranged her body until it was aligned neatly with his, and let her finish her sobs in the hollow between his shoulder and his collarbone.
Time didn't meander on slowly and last an age; instead, the sensation of holding and giving comfort and reassurance sped by until the small shoulders slowed then stopped quivering, and the hot breath on his neck came slower. Soon she was still, and the hands curled into fistfuls of his shirt loosened and she sat up tentatively.
Awkwardly, he leaned away. "Tea?" he asked.
"Please," Hermione answered, refusing to meet his eyes.
He lifted her again and set her on the chair, feeling her shame and embarrassment. The physical act of making tea was simple and calming- he spelled the snot and tears from his turtleneck and carefully set up the tea tray. Outside the window in his kitchen he could still hear the boom and see the flash of the fireworks, lighting the sky in blue, red, and white.
When he brought the tea into the sitting room, Hermione's face was dry, if still blotchy, and only her hands were trembling. "Would you like something stronger in the tea?"
She shook her head. "It wouldn't be a good idea," she said hoarsely. "Liquor- I've found that it aggravates the nerve damage from the Cruciatus."
As he handed her the cup, he did a quick calculation in his head. Cruciatus damage among young Death Eaters was not at all uncommon- in the old day the Dark Lord had restrained himself when punishing followers and his older Death Eaters had gradually built up a resistance as their lord and master descended into madness and tortured them for longer and longer periods. For Hermione to still be experiencing the consequences after almost seven years, she would have had to have been under the curse for a prolonged period of time. Then he remembered- she had been tortured by Bellatrix at Malfoy Mannor, and had escaped.
"I could brew something to help," he said, unsure if she would accept his aid.
The look she sent him was full of hope. "Really?"
"I wouldn't offer if I believe it wasn't possible," he said, a bit miffed that she would doubt him.
She immediately colored. "Sorry," she muttered. "It's just that I've been looking for something for... well, at least five years. I'd given up." She shrugged.
Now he felt bad. "It was a frequent issue among Death Eaters," he said stiltedly. "They weren't useful if they were jumpy and hallucinating. And the attacks would come on without warning-" he stopped suddenly. "How bad is it?"
Hermione looked down at her tea, white hands wrapped around the mug. "Bad," she admitted. "In the first few years it was the worst. At least two seizures a week, sometimes up to one a day. Not so bad with the hallucinations, just flashbacks. Now I'm down to maybe one or two bad seizures every six months. And I only have flashbacks when there is a trigger. Like-"
"Like the fireworks," Severus finished. "I know what can help."
She let out something that was a mix between a sigh and a laugh. "All along I was thinking that if you were alive- a Potions Master- you could invent something. And then I found you when I had finally given up and-" she did it again, but this time it sounded closer to a sob.
The feeling of guilt grew worse. "And why are you here?"
She met his eyes, her own dark in her pale face. The darkness of her masses of hair and the tiny pinpoints of her freckles made the tone of her skin stand out. "I felt out of place there. Everything and everyone reminded me of the war but everyone was moving on and I was stuck..." her voice trailed off. "I taught at Hogwarts for a year. Defense. I couldn't keep it up. Neville's doing Herbology- Sprout retired."
"So it reopened, then," Severus said, at loss for something to say.
Hermione nodded, apparently grateful to have found a safer and less personal topic. "It took almost five months of rebuilding, but the castle pulled through. They put up a monument with all the names of the fallen, Muggle and Wizarding alike."
"Is my name on there?" Severus asked, morbidly curious.
Hermione winced. "Yes," she answered. "Most of the names are in order, but Harry insisted that yours be given a place of honor because-" she winced again. "He used you to defeat Voldemort."
That confused Severus. "Used me?"
"Used the knowledge of your true loyalty," Hermione clarified. "That you weren't loyal to Voldemort because he killed Lily and you-" She stopped. "I had words with Harry after that about revealing personal things in front of large crowds."
Severus laughed bitterly. "So now I'm a hero because of an exaggeration?" he asked sarcastically. "I can see it: how tragic, it was, the the greasy bat of the dungeons had a crush on Lily Potter and his love for her saved the Boy-Who-Lived."
The tea was gone, so he gathered up the tea things and put them in the kitchen, taking a moment to settle himself. When he returned, Hermione was curled up in the armchair. "That wasn't how it really was, then?" she asked.
"No," Severus said shortly. "Nothing is as it seems, there."
"I find myself agreeing with you," Hermione said wryly. "I thought things would change after the war, that the system would change and equality for everyone would be possible... in short, I learned that I was naive and idealistic."
"I could have told you that," Severus said with a short chuckle. "Spew?"
"S.P.E.W.," Hermione retorted. "I was fifteen." There was a trace of a smile on her face. "You knew about it?"
Severus smirked. "It was a running joke among the staff," said Severus, trying to keep his tone neutral. "From hippogriffs to house elves. I thought that the next one would be harpies." It felt like a dream, to be sitting in his sitting room with a former student- quite possibly the most annoying student he had ever had- talking about house elf rights and the past.
Hermione groaned, leaning her head back on the seat the chair. His eyes were drawn the long expanse of neck that was revealed, slender and white and framed by curls. The coiling in his belly unsettled him, and he looked away toward the bookshelves.
Another firework explosion, larger this time, shook the ground, and both wizard and witch flinched. "I wasn't expecting that," Hermione admitted. "That's probably why the reaction was so bad."
"It got me too," Severus said, scowling at the window and the multicolored sky behind it. "Too bright, and too loud."
"Do they do fireworks any other time of the year?" Hermione asked, shivering. "I don't like them."
"New Year's Eve," Severus answered after a moment's thought. "You weren't here then, were you?"
"No," replied Hermione."The spring term for the school started in late January and I only just got here in time. When I saw you was my... second day here."
The two of them were quiet for a long while, the only sound their breathing in the room. Severus cast an appraising glance around the house, glad that he tidied constantly and wasn't a very messy person. The window curtains were a dark green and mostly drawn, the floor was wood that was only scuffed in a few places. The few pieces of furniture were old and soft with age, the writing desk off to the side was slightly dusty and unused. A corridor off to the side led to the bathroom and stairs that led to his bedroom, down the other way was a spare room that he used as a library. In the basement was his Potions lab, and in the attic above he stored the few things he had brought with him from England.
"It's getting late," Hermione said regretfully. "I should be getting home." She cast a worried look at the clock, and then the windows.
The fireworks were still exploding, still making noises and bright colors. Severus sighed. "I'll go with you."
At least this time she knew better than to as if he was sure. "Thank you," was all she said. They stood at the same time and left the house. Outside the sounds of the fireworks were louder, and she shivered again, despite the warm air and her thin long sleeved shirt.
The walk to her house was quick and quiet, punctuated only with the crack of fireworks. The home Hermione had chosen was tiny, cute even, with a steep A-line roof and blue shutters. "Goodnight," Severus said, pausing awkwardly at the door.
"Goodnight," said Hermione, a serious tone in her voice and a serious look on her face. "Thank you. For everything, Professor."
"Severus," he said quickly. "I'm no longer your professor."
She smiled at him. "And I'm no longer your student. Hermione, then."
He had been running through the ingredients he would need for the potion he was planning on the way to her house. A mental inventory of his stores had informed him he needed several things. "Would you like to come to Salem with me this weekend? For the potion?" As soon as the question was out he regretted it.
She brightened, and his doubts vanished. "I would love to. It's a bit of a drive, isn't it? I have a car we could take, although I hardly use it."
"Or we could Apparate," Severus suggested, amusement in his voice. Hermione colored.
"That would work too," she agreed.
He smirked. "Then I'll be here at nine on Saturday morning," he said firmly.
The three days that passed between the fourth of July and Saturday morning moved with unbearable slowness. Books bored Severus. Instead he spent his time writing down the steps for the potion, reviewing the ingredients, considering new techniques and how they might be applied to achieve his purpose.
He caught sight of Hermione once as he walked by the park on the way to the sandwich shop he sometimes picked up a sub from; she waved cautiously and he nodded in her direction. He tipped especially well that day, and although he told himself it was because the teenager manning the register was appropriately apathetic he wasn't quite convincing enough to fool himself.
On Saturday Severus rose at seven, and was finished dressing, showering, and eating by eight. He had an hour to whittle away until nine, and he spent it alternating between pacing and reviewing his list of ingredients. At nine o'clock he was knocking on Hermione's door.
When it swung open she was half out of breath, with a large smile spreading across her face. "Sorry- I'm almost ready. Come in- I just need to grab my bag and try to do something about my hair."
He ducked into the house- he was a tall man and the door was only just taller than his head. "Am I early?" A glance toward the clock on her mantle told him he wasn't.
Hermione just flushed. "I woke up late," she said in explanation. "And my hair decided to be difficult."
It had indeed- curls were flying all over the place. With a sigh, he leaned against one of the walls. "I can see."
She made a flapping gesture with her hand and drifted deeper into the house. He took the opportunity to look around- it was quaint enough- lots of lace but bare of knick-knacks. A pile of letters was on the desk, as well as what looked like lesson plans. He smirked- he was glad he had gotten out of teaching before it drove him mad. The bookshelves were overflowing and Severus could count two abandoned tea cups, one on the mantle and another on a small table. There was a telly that looked hardly used, and three or four comfortable chairs all surrounded by books. On the fridge there were several childish drawings and paintings, all lovingly placed.
Hermione rushed back, hair pinned firmly down (although some strands were already fighting to escape) and a bag on her shoulder. "Alright- I'm ready."
"Good," Severus said curtly. "Have you been to Salem before?"
"Only once, when I made the long distance Apparition," Hermione said, wrinkling her nose. "Would you like to Side-Along?"
He nodded once. "It would be best. The American government does not track Apparition like the British one does- freedom of the people, apparently. We'll be undetectable."
Severus offered Hermione his arm. She stared at it for a moment, surprised, then hooked her arm through his and clutched his bicep tightly as they were compressed through time and space. The familiar sensation of air being squeezed from his lungs as his body shot through a series of tight steel tubes was over just as the lack of air was become uncomfortable.
They arrived in an alley not far from the nondescript building that was the entrance to the Salem version of Diagon Alley. Hermione pulled away and hunched over, coughing hard. A flicker of worry lit in Severus' chest- a worry that he had Splinched her and left her lungs behind or she hadn't been prepared and-
"I'm okay," she croaked. "Ow."
Relief crashed over him in a wave that made him furious and happy at the same time. "Let's go, then."
For some reason, he offered her his arm again. Her eyes were watering as she looked up at him and beamed. "Thank you," she said happily, and took it. The feeling of small fingers resting on his arm was strange, but good.
The two of them walked down the empty street, looking both ways before walking into the small building covered in faded posters advertising a band- something he vaguely remembered from the eighties. Crossing through the illusion was like rising from under water- what had been a quiet bubble of peace and quiet and solitude (how strange it was that her presence registered differently in his senses) to a cacophony of noise that had been muted before.
Salem Village was set up like a farmer's market, almost, with vendors lining the roads and calling out offers for apple cider and fresh pie and hotdogs. For the first time in months Severus heard conversations around him filled with words impossible to find in the Muggle world- Muggle, for instance, and Firebolt, and Harry Potter-
"He's news even here?" Hermione whispered. "Merlin."
Severus' lip curled. "Even in America the Boy-Who-Lived is famous. The only person to survive two killing curses. A miracle."
Hermione's lips pursed, and she surveyed the crowd with insolent eyes. "Let's find what we need," she said finally. "I'm just glad that I'm not nearly as famous as he is."
He graced her with a mocking sneer. "You mean to say that I'm in the presence of a celebrity?"
Again she wrinkled her nose into a sort of face that looked as if it belonged on a teenager. "Prat. You're one too, you know. At least in England."
They walked down the cobbled street in companionable silence. The heat was just as oppressive here as it was in Maine; Severus cast cooling charms on the two of them. He was wearing, as was his wont even in the heat of summer, a turtleneck. Hermione wore a long sleeved tee shirt in a lovely grey color. He wondered what she was hiding on her arms.
It was quick work, finding a vendor of potions ingredients. Severus peered down at the newt's intestines and nightshade with an expert's eye, scowling at the vendor when he turned over the skin of a knewase.
"We must find another place," he told Hermione, anger showing through his voice. "These ingredients are subpar."
With a sneer, he walked away, slowing his pace so Hermione could keep up. "Next one, then?" she asked.
The next three didn't have the quality that Severus was looking for, but the fifth they tried has reasonably priced nightshade berries and hellotrope fresh enough to make his eyes water. It was half past eleven when they finished their shopping- Severus giving Hermione such an incredulous look when she offered to pay that she hastily stowed her wallet back in her purse with a mumbled apology.
"Are you hungry?" asked Severus suddenly. He didn't usually eat much, but plenty of the people around them were beginning their lunches and he wondered if she was hungry and not saying anything. She had been looking at the various food vendors, too.
She shrugged. "Are you?" Ah- she was avoiding the question.
"That isn't the answer to the question I asked," he replied snarkily. "Are you hungry?"
"Yes, then," Hermione replied trying for just as much snark. "I didn't have time to eat breakfast!" She looked horrified all of a sudden- he was confused until she explained. "My stomach wasn't making noises, was it?"
What- "No," he said. "What would you like?"
"I don't know but I'm buying," she said firmly. "My treat. For the sake of fairness." She looked up at him, craning her neck slightly. "We're in America, you know," she said seriously. "Democracy, you know. Fairness and equality and all that."
He snorted, but allowed her to buy the both of them pretzels, with a promise of lunch later. It took time to leave Salem Village, but when they finally made it to the Muggle Street the lack of the noise was almost deafening.
Lunch was had in a small eatery that offered real American seafood; he ordered clam chowder and Hermione got a kind of salad of crab and potatoes and sausage that she appeared to enjoy greatly.
He hadn't been quite sure what to expect as far as conversation with his former student would go- all he knew about her wasn't really that much. She was young, yes, but he knew that she wouldn't prattle on about the average problems of the average witch in their twenties. And she was smart, but she wasn't the kind of awkward academic who could speak only about one particular passion.
Instead, they spoke of trivial things. American habits they found strange, Hermione's job as a school teacher, the librarians, Potions theory. He was pleased to find her grasp of his art was surprisingly good, a testament to his teaching or her own research, he didn't know. Hermione was a lively conversation partner, with a wit just a quick as his if not as biting. She knew by now not to take his sarcasm seriously- in fact, she actually laughed as some of his dryer humor.
Topics that the couple avoided included the war and Wizarding folk back in England. They skirted cautiously around names and places that might cause a reaction in the other, and outright avoided certain questions. The food disappeared, but they lingered at the restaurant until their waitress brought the check with a rather pointed inquiry regarding dessert.
It was two o'clock when Severus Apparated them both into Hermione's living room, the two of them landing neatly on the wooden floor.
"The entire morning was lovely," said Hermione, a touch of wistfulness in her tone. "If you wouldn't mind- could I watch while you brew the potion?"
A tendril of doubt and self-consciousness paralyzed Severus for a moment, but he quickly regained his wits and answered. "If you would like. I had planned to begin tomorrow morning. The first portion is quite delicate and requires continued attention for more than six hours."
She beamed at him. "Then what time should I come over?"
"Ten?" he suggested. "We could prepare the ingredients, eat, then start."
She rewarded him with an even greater smile. "Perfect. I'll see you then."
He left quickly, not quite able to keep a small smile from spreading across his face. There was something to look forward to on the horizon.
This is only the first part. There will be at least one more, perhaps two.
I wanted to try a different style (such as writing only from Severus' perspective) and I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, tell me why, in a review either here or on tumblr.
Of course, if you can read in French, my cousin has some lovely stories.
Thank you for reading!