CoS era. Severus and Minerva discover Ms. Bred is actually an adult Hermione Granger whom Albus has knowingly had working at the school all term as Gilderoy Lockhart's DADA apprentice in an attempt to save Potter from eventual petrification. Perhaps understandably, Severus distances himself from the witch somewhat thereafter.
09 January, 1993
Severus holds the door to his chambers open for her, and Hermione precedes him into his lounge with a smile. It's new enough to still be thrilled by the developments, but it's also become enough of a routine in the past several days the she doesn't stand on formality, taking a seat unasked on his couch. She's confident enough with their arrangement, in fact, that she takes his customary spot and orders a pot of tea from the unseen house elf. It gives Severus a moment's pause, but he's grown sufficiently comfortable with her presence - and more to the point: fond enough of her presence - that he prefers to take the seat beside her as opposed to retreating to the wingback as he used to.
As she pours the tea for them both, she drops her Glamours - it wouldn't do to be seen in the corridors without now that classes have resumed - happy for the chance to 'wear' her own face again, although it does rather simplify the hair taming process in the mornings... There is that to be said for it. One of these days, she really must learn a spell to put her unruly mane to better advantage.
She passes him his tea, which, expectedly, he takes in his left hand; his right remains empty beside her own left on the couch.
Whatever else, she's a good observer, and Hermione had noticed over the course of the last term working with Severus that, given a choice, he prefers to keep his wand hand free. It had seemed a wise enough precaution that she's adopted the habit as well, although it had helped, greatly, that her wand hand isn't her dominant hand anymore (silver linings), and for the most part she'd done so naturally anyway. Now she's just a bit more dogmatic about it. That, too, comes naturally.
On reflection, she suspects it was one of the things that had drawn him to her, this small sign of like-mindedness, a demonstration of her preparedness, come what may and undoubtably will. Once she started paying attention to such things, she couldn't help noticing Gilderoy took no such precautions. He was far more likely to be caught wielding a quill for autographs than his wand, which said everything, really, about his priorities and so succinctly, too.
And when she'd said as much in passing last week, Severus had positively beamed.
She thinks she's beginning to get his number.
Which doesn't explain why she hasn't made much more progress with the taciturn Potions Master, beyond the regular invites round to his for a nice warm cuppa. Pleasant, surely, but hardly... satisfying.
That kiss they'd shared two weeks ago? Had been strictly a one-off. And after the thoroughly surprising discovery that Severus was a magnificent kisser - or perhaps she'd just been that invested, it's hard to distinguish one aspect from the other, and the net result had been literally breathtaking - she rather desperately wishes to address that.
So they find themselves this evening seated together on his couch - surprisingly comfy, she's half certain it's charmed - wand hands lying free and idle between them.
Surreptitiously she extends a finger and runs it along the backs of his, a restrained but unmistakable sign of intent, quite pleased with her opening gambit.
Pleased, that is, until he virtually flinches from the touch.
Her patience exhausted with the waiting game, it was never her strong suit, she turns to ask him, 'Severus, what's wrong?'
His hand now held primly in his lap like some scandalised old maid, presumably safe from unwanted advances there, seemingly apropos of nothing he replies, Miss Granger submitted twenty inches more than I'd required on the subject of the proper handling of lacewing flies when brewing Polyjuice. Hermione smirks, both at the mention and the recollection; Severus, however, appears not the least bit amused.
'Yes,' she responds, still smiling and failing to see his reason for concern. 'I was most keen to prove I hadn't been utterly gormless in brewing the stuff.'
Severus' lips press together in a tight line of dismay.
How do you imagine I should respond?
She shakes her head. 'I don't follow?'
What would be the appropriate response?
'Oh, well an 'O' for the excellent effort would be nice...'
And highly atypical, wouldn't you agree?
'I said it would be 'nice'. I never said a thing about it being typical.' She's still smiling at the thought, Severus on the other hand seems to be growing increasingly more perturbed.
She captures his hand in hers now, not allowing him to withdraw once again. 'What's wrong, Severus? I don't understand why you're cross.'
His answer is quiet. Twenty surplus inches. Three times the assigned length. How do you expect me to react to her flagrant disregard for the simple parameters of the assignment?
And what do you suppose will be the result?
She appears puzzled and he tries again. I've accepted that you and Miss Granger are - presently - not one and the same person, Hermione, but surely you can understand that it's... concerning to think that our interactions, hers and mine, how I treat her could affect...
'Us?' She supplies, rather hopefully. He lifts his hand, gesturing somewhat helplessly and then letting it fall back into his lap. She never relinquishes her hold and squeezes it now reassuringly.
'You're worried that you could scare me off? Somehow... retroactively change my opinion of you based on how you behave towards her?' He doesn't reply, but his eyes dart to hers, and there's a tightness about them that assures her she's right.
If I'm too... harsh... how could the woman she'll one day become ever... He seems unable or more likely unwilling to finish, presumably reluctant to express doubts predicated on a relationship they do not yet - and may never - have. For all his discomfort, Hermione finds that very encouraging. And if I'm too... kind, she's effectively being groomed. The last is almost hissed, his disgust at the very thought patent, and Hermione has to struggle to bite back her laughter at the absurdity of the suggestion - Severus, too kind to a student? - in the face of his obvious unease. Her eyes feel like they're about to tear up from the effort.
'If it will soothe your mind any, Severus, I actually remember this. You gave me a 'T' for... How did you put it? 'My unmitigated and truly unparalleled inability to follow even the most elementary of instructions', which - you were good enough to add - doubtless explained how I had ended up as a half cat person in the first place, just in case I was less than clear on that point.' He winces, that sounds just like him, and she squeezes his hand again. 'And as you can see, it didn't put me off you in the least. Do your worst, Severus. It won't change a thing. I'm afraid you're stuck with me.' She smiles kindly at him, but he still hasn't relaxed.
Placing her tea on the couch table before them, she divests him of his as well and then puts her second hand over the both of theirs, clasping him tighter. 'Further, I then negotiated with you,' that gets her a raised brow of frank disbelief, 'or rather, Professor Dumbledore intervened, I was in the Infirmary after all, and I was allowed to plead my case.' That's greeted by a derisive scoff, but he can picture it only too well, 'You relented and eventually gave me an 'E', grumbling that as the whole thing was only to be expected, by definition I should never receive that particular mark, but I was pleased enough with the result,' she adds with a soft smile.
With an 'E'?
'From you? Absolutely. Particularly as I was in fact a cat person at the time. That's remarkably hard to argue with as arguments go. And you were brewing quite a lot to assist my recovery,' she chuckles, 'as you never failed to remind me.' Her grin is improbably wide, her hand squeezes his again reflexively. 'Speaking of, should I perhaps be helping you with that? The brewing? It only seems fair.'
Possibly, he answers slowly, thawing. Particularly as you seem to be taking up a good amount of my free time just at the moment...
She laughs at his cheek. 'I was thinking it would be fair for having made the error with Miss Bullstrode's cat's fur in the first place, but certainly, I won't argue with your logic either.
'Especially not if you allow me to take up more of your time,' she concludes mischievously.
She lifts their hands to her lips and places a fairly chaste kiss on his fingers, but there's nothing chaste about the familiarity behind the gesture. She's encouraged still more when he doesn't attempt to flee this time.
'Two things, Severus. One, your classroom is your affair. Do as you see fit; I assure you I won't think any less of you. Ever. Two, even if you could change Miss Granger's opinion of you, which from personal and highly relevant experience I sincerely doubt, it wouldn't make any difference. That's the logical result of the true Time-turner. This is a different reality, a parallel universe, she will never become me. In fact, with any luck, she'll lead a very different life to mine.'
'Which seems fortunate, really, as there's only the one of you, and I shouldn't like to share.' His breath catches as she leans in and carefully nuzzles his cheek with the tip of her nose, whether from her words or the soft contact is unclear. When he still doesn't flinch at her touch, she plants a soft kiss below his cheekbone. And then another travelling up towards his ear.
Those two are followed by several more.
She's begun to nibble on his earlobe when he finally moans softly in reply, which she takes as an irrefutable sign of success. She releases his hand to cup his face and gently turn him towards her and finally, finally gets to revisit that kiss.
He's every bit as good as she thought.
When they come up for air, she's startled to realise she's now straddling his lap. That discovery puts a broad smile of achievement on her face, she's never denied her ambition. She needs a moment to gather her thoughts - his proximity, or possibly his kisses seem to have thoroughly addled them - before she finally recalls the thin package stashed next to her wand sheath. She produces it with a slightly breathy sigh, 'Happy Birthday, Severus.'
He takes it with some surprise, not expecting she'd have been aware of the date, and even less that she'd have thought to mark it with a present of all things. He sits there staring at the package in wonder. If his fingers and his knowledge of human nature don't deceive him, it will be the the titanium stirring rod from the Slug and Jiggers owl catalogue that he'd been eyeing only last week. He can just make out its distinctive pattern of snakes and ivy beneath the wrappings.
Eventually he tears his eyes away from the shiny green and silver paper, a nod to their 'shared' House and a gesture he knows enough to appreciate, and sits there staring at her, clearly moved by the gift.
Contrarily, she's reassured by his silence. After all, he never has any great difficulty expressing his dismay...
When he can't seem to find any words, eyes gleaming she finally prods, 'Well?'
He has to swallow before he can speak. It's just what I'd have wanted, he answers. She finds the subconscious use of the subjunctive a little sad and kisses his forehead tenderly. She leans back and runs her thumbs over his magnificently sharp cheekbones before threading her fingers into his fine hair.
'Don't you want to unwrap your present?' She tries to give him a nudge.
As though goaded into action, a mite tentatively he begins undoing the buttons on her robe. She squeaks in delight, just shy of a giggle, 'Not quite what I meant, but by all means, carry on....'
Despite her encouragement he hesitates. You don't want me to stop? The ever so foolish man still seems unsure.
In answer she manages only a single word before her lips crash down on his, 'Never.'
Neither minds in the least that smiling wildly makes it all the more difficult to kiss.
Happy 60th Birthday, Severus.