The Arithmancy apprentice plops herself down unceremoniously next to him on the edge of his desk, leans over and begins to massage his shoulders. "Goodness are you tense."
"Don't tell me you're done helping Septima?" He asks with a brief flare of envy. Septima was clearly the luckiest instructor in the castle to have somehow managed to rate such competent assistance. Of course some might argue Severus was the luckiest to have somehow convinced that very same competent assistant to become his girlfriend, but in the midst of grading, that fails to occur to him. Later tonight, she'll undoubtedly remind him of that fact as she does most days, simply by being herself...
Severus, quite typically, has systematically refused offers to take on apprentices over the years. For one thing, as a spy it would have been an act of sheer stupidity, for another since the war, he felt his reputation far too questioned to ever permit such a thing, and for a third, the very notion of having to deal with some dunderhead day in and out... The only student both qualified and tolerable - quite - had gone on to pursue another subject... Suspicious minds might think that was to ensure there wouldn't be a power differential between them. More tactical observers might note that mastering in a different field was also the only probable way to ensure she could work at the castle alongside him in the longer term. Severus, anything but inherently optimistic, still refuses to believe she might have made her decision on that basis; her friends know her better in that regard.
That said, she'll make a first class Arithmancer. And if it better positions her than Transfiguration, say, to collaborate with the wizard she loves? Well she's always been good at planning.
"For today I definitely am." Hermione smiles as her fingers continue to work the knots from his shoulders. There's a Charm that would mimic that, one that would render it unnecessary, and three perfectly good potions in his stores that will achieve the end result even faster, but he only feels guilty for the most fleeting of moments that he lies there enjoying the attention instead. Call him a cad, he's human. He'll make it up to her later.
As an elective, Arithmancy doesn't have anywhere near the same number of students the core curriculum courses do. She's seen to the first years' work today, it wasn't a fraction of the chore the N.E.W.T.s and O.W.L.s prove, but it's too early in her apprenticeship to be permitted to help with the N.E.W.T.s anyway - a fact that annoys her greatly; she'd achieved a perfect score, after all, not simply settling for an 'O' - and the rest will wait for another day.
"We need to go out," she informs him, her tone brooking no argument. "I was thinking dinner and a stroll, the weather is lovely." To his thinking that almost guarantees it won't be by the time they've finished dinner. If he hadn't come by his pessimism naturally - unclear at this stage - his life's experiences would have seen to it. But oddly, so very, the witch currently bossing him about seems to be changing that day by day.
Those changes aren't sufficient yet to make him forget what happened the last time they'd tried to dine outwards, however. Only his speedy Protegos had kept them from being covered in rotting veg. The tomatoes had promised to be particularly vile and likely to stain as well, his house elf's skills notwithstanding - another excellent reason to favour black if he needed one - and the Venomous Tentacula had seemed especially peckish. While he'd agree in principle that Hermione looked good enough to eat on any given day, Tentacula bites were not to be trifled with.
But then neither was he.
His face shows his reluctance to agree to her plans quite clearly, the doubts they raise only too obvious, and were he less sure of her intelligence - it's never up for debate - he'd be questioning that as well. He has an incorrigible optimist on his hands. The thought is daunting.
"We're Flooing to Borgin & Burkes and then Apparating to Muggle London. Dinner is my treat, I've already seen to the Galleons exchange. I was thinking drinks afterwards, and then a stroll along the Thames. Warming Charms if it gets too nippy, and a brolly will see to the rest..." She knows him too well. That... that's actually an excellent plan. Borgin & Burkes had become something of an alternative entrance to Diagon Alley for many who'd come under the Ministry's scrutiny during the last war. Exiting through the back door meant they needn't face even the much smaller crowds of Knockturn Alley, and downtown London was an easy Apparition away.
"Will they still be open when we want to return?" He remains ever cautious. He needn't have worried.
"I've made arrangements," she assures him, and he smirks thinking this evening is undoubtably on one of her dozens of lists. She's predictable like that. "And I wasn't planning on staying all too late. You have a lot of work to do this week, and I meant to see you home at a reasonable hour." Her smile tells him she still doesn't plan on letting him get all too much sleep. He loves that smile. He sweeps her into his lap and kisses her deeply.
"Just let me change, and we can leave immediately," he agrees when they have to stop for air. Some days he wonders if there isn't a terrestrial version of Gillyweed.
"Are you a wizard or what?" She laughs, and with that in one smooth motion he returns the impudent witch to his desktop, pushes his chair back and rises, drawing his wand to Transfigure his robes into typical Muggle streetwear. She doesn't fail to notice that the trousers do absolutely lovely things for his arse. That probably isn't coincidence.
Taking her hand he leads her back to their quarters, and asks, "Is there anything you need to grab?"
She lifts their joined hands demonstratively, "I've already got it."
"And where's that brolly you promised?" He teases.
She laughs again and pats a pocket he knows for a fact has an Undetectable Extension Charm on it, and with that they disappear into the Floo.
Dinner is delicious and delightfully uneventful. It helps, Hermione feels, that he's comfortable in Muggle environments, and there's no awkwardness that was likely to make them stand out. The two of them blended in perfectly, or as much as they could given her volumes of hair and her partner's striking looks. She likes the attention he draws. When they're done, she leads him to a hotel, and at first he questions the purpose when they have a perfectly good bed effectively minutes away. As if reading his mind, his witch laughs, "The bar, silly. They have a drink I wanted you to try."
Distant relatives had taken her there to celebrate her graduation last year. Hermione discovered firstly that she enjoyed the drink, and secondly that she'd best Obliviate said relatives if she didn't want issues to arise eventually with regards to her parents' relocation. They'd been out of touch so long, it hadn't even occurred to her at the time. Graduations have a way of bringing people out of the woodwork, however.
"Two Earl Grey Mists," she orders once they've taken a table. Severus loves the way she seems at home in any setting. Only years of exposure to Lucius and his friends had done that for him. Otherwise he thinks the lad he'd been would have felt uncomfortable in the decidedly posh hotel, but not his Hermione. Somewhere along the way, she'd grown into an elegant little thing and quite captured his heart.
The drinks, when they come, prove pleasing. They've managed to incorporate tea into a cocktail. How marvellously British. He nods in approval. "Lucius would like this," he tells her.
"Lucius doesn't like anything Muggle," she laughs.
"A Galleon says he will," Severus smirks.
"I can think of better wagers," Hermione answers, that smile he adores firmly back in place.
"Can you now?" He prompts expectantly, beginning to smile himself.
She leans closer and whispers a few options into his ear, and somehow by the time they've finished their drinks, neither feels much like a walk along the river anymore. They Apparate back to Borgin & Burkes and Floo home, managing to leave a fair bit of their clothing strewn about the lounge on their way to bed.
Sunny will happily see to it.
Severus was right, she doesn't let him get much sleep that night, and yet when he sits down to continue grading his O.W.L.s the next morning, there isn't a trace of tension left in his shoulders or anywhere else. Funny how that works.
earl grey mist
drinks | yields 3/4 cup
3 T earl grey concentrate, cooled (triple strength tea)
1 1/2 T Monin's mojito mint syrup
3 T Rose's lime syrup
3 T water
1 1/2 T rum
serve over crushed ice
optional: garnish with a lime wedge and mint leaves, or minifigs, whichever
earl grey concentrate
place three earl grey tea bags in a cup and brew as usual for four and a half minutes
For snapecentric1, because you asked 😉, and hopelesliehermn. Happy Birthday, hopelesliehermn, and many much happier returns of the day. 🎂🍰🎁🎉 (🎈Here's hoping by the time next year's birthdays roll around we're not still in lockdown. 😐)