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The Continuing Adventures of Severus Snape, Barista Extraordinaire

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Hermione Jean Granger was a creature of habit.

Her alarm clock rang every morning at 6:04 A.M., a perfectly reasonable time that made her feel as though she was luxuriously sleeping in. This was followed by some hot water with a squeeze of lemon juice, ten minutes of stretching like her elderly cat, a five-and-a-half minute shower, and a bowl of muesli.

This routine was necessary if she was to arrive at her office at the Ministry each day at 7 o'clock on the nose.

There was time for a coffee on the way.

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Ordinarily, Hermione would have preferred to patronise a mom and pop coffee shop in her neighbourhood. Since the only place open before 7 was an evergreen-aproned chain near her flat, it would have to do.

There she placed her regular order at the counter: a tall chai latte with a double shot of espresso.

It was always a pimple-faced boy named Kevin, just out of his teens, who took her order. He was a passable barista, and it had taken Hermione less than two weeks to train him to spell her name accurately on her to-go cup.

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One morning, Kevin was simply gone.

A new woman, one with violet-streaked hair, worked the register. 'First name?'

'Hermione,' she replied, dropping her spare change in the tip jar. After ordering, she meandered to the end of the counter, waiting for her drink.

'Harmony?' she heard a man's voice say. 'Is there a Harmony here?'

Wincing, Hermione calculated how long it would take to train this barista. Another two weeks.

'It's you!' she gasped. She saw Severus Snape holding out her cup.

'Granger.' He scowled and shoved the cup at her. 'Take your latte and get out!'

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The shocking appearance of her former professor in her neighbourhood coffee shop knocked all the words right out of her mouth. Instead of producing something intelligible, like 'Thank you!' or a witty retort about his apron, she simply stood at the counter, gaping at him like a gulping plimpy.

He shooed her out the door. 'Toddle off now, Granger.'

Before she knew it, she was walking aimlessly up and down the city streets, contemplating the existence of Severus Snape.

Just then, a taxi horn stirred her to attention.

She hopped out of the road and glanced at her watch.

Fuck.

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Hermione was late.

Well, she arrived earlier than her colleagues at the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and was behind her desk ten minutes before the office technically opened, but stillSome people had standards, unlike those inattentive slouches over at the Department of Magical Transportation.

She didn't notice her assistant Pip until he was standing directly in front of her with a notepad and a trimmed quill for their morning meeting.

'Ms. Granger?' he asked, his eyes scanning her desk, empty of the Ministry files that normally sprawled across it. 'Is... Is everything all right?'

She frowned. 'No.'

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No, Hermione thought, I am certainly not all right.

'Pip?' she asked, draining the last dregs from her latte cup before tossing it in the recycling bin behind her desk. 'You follow the gossip mills at the Ministry, don't you?'

A delighted gleam flashed across the young man's face, and he leaned down close to share any helpful, salacious news. 'What do you need to know, Ms. Granger?'

Ten years had passed since Hermione had seen Severus Snape in public, and his presence at her coffee shop made zero sense.

She paused. 'What do you know of Snape?'

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'Severus Snape?' Pip asked.

'No,' Hermione replied, rolling her eyes. 'Bartholomew Snape.'

The young man missed the edge in her voice. 'I've never even heard of a Bartholomew Snape! Is he the professor's bastard child? Distant relation?'

She sighed, regretting that she'd never mastered the fine art of sarcasm. 'Sorry, Pip. I was asking about Severus. The last I heard, he refused a post in Shacklebolt's cabinet, but that was right after the war.'

Pip sat on the chair across from her. 'Right. So... Snape?'

'Snape.'

He looked around the room shiftily. 'I've heard... things.'

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'Things?' Hermione asked, trying to feel out her assistant's tone of voice. He was a bit melodramatic over the least consequential things, so it was hard to say just how incriminating his material on Snape was. 'What kind of things?'

Pip scooted his chair so that his knees were bang up against her desk. 'All sorts of things. You know about the Shacklebolt cabinet offer, but do you know why he refused it?'

She shook her head.

'Some say that he joined the Unspeakables. Others say he fled the country after the war.'

Hermione frowned. 'So which is true?'

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'That's just it,' Pip said, relaxing in his chair just a smidge. 'Nobody knows for sure. A certain blonde bombshell from International Magical Finance apparently met up with Snape in Spain a few years ago for something or other, and the whole department still teases her about her torrid affair with the man.'

Hermione drummed her fingers on the edge of her desk. 'Snape, a debonair international man of mystery?'

'Well,' Pip offered matter-of-factly, 'he was a sort of domestic man of mystery before the war, wasn't he? With all that spying on Voldemort and whatnot.'

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Pip rummaged through the candy dish on her desk, pulling out a wrapped toffee.

'How long ago was this?' Hermione asked.

Teeth now glued together, he garbled out a reply. 'Three yearsh, maybe? Shomething like that.'

Curious, Hermione thought. 'Does anyone in Magical Finance know what Snape was doing in Spain?'

Pip thought about it for a minute. 'You know, I never asked.'

Hermione sighed.

He perked up again. 'Are you investigating Snape for some kind of wrongdoing?'

'No!' she quickly said. 'There's no official inquiry. I merely have... questions.'

'Talk to Fiona,' he said. 'She might have answers.'

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Fiona Bones, Hermione thought, trying to remain cool and collected. The woman was the elder sister to her classmate Susan, and was one of the Hufflepuff prefects when she arrived at Hogwarts as a firstie. She was smart and savvy, as well as being the only Fiona working in International Magical Finance, and she absolutely fit Pip's description of Snape's woman: a bombshell.

She was the kind of woman who intimidated Hermione without even trying.

'Pip, do I have any meetings today?' Hermione asked.

'Nothing before noon, Ms. Granger.'

She groaned, knowing where she had to go next.

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Hermione spent ten minutes talking herself into paying Fiona Bones a visit. After all, Hermione told herself, You are Hermione Granger! You are an intelligent, kind woman, and you do important work for your fellow witches and wizards. You can do this!

She checked her appearance in the mirror, with her hair a little out of control and a beige stain on her collar. A spell or two should tidy things up, shouldn't it?

And then she chickened out.

After all, she could always talk to Fiona later.

What Hermione really needed to do was chat with Severus Snape.

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On the walk home from work, Hermione popped into the coffee shop.

Just to check.

Snape wasn't there, which didn't surprise her. After all, the sun was setting now. The thought of a 12-hour shift fixing mochaccinos was ridiculous for a normal person, but completely out of the question for a man with Snape's inability to tolerate strangers.

Instead, Kevin stood proudly behind the counter. 'What will you have, Hermione? The regular?'

'Yes, please.' She smiled. 'Kevin, why are you here for the late shift?'

He shrugged. 'Morning and evening shifts have swapped places all month.'

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Hermione walked home, barely containing herself. She had a whole month of Snape fixing her lattes? A month of small talk and questions?

While she reheated yesterday's takeout in the microwave, she pulled out a ballpoint pen and spiral notepad. Then she began making a list of all the things she wanted to know.

1. Where have you been since the war?

2. Why did you skip out on your Order of Merlin ceremony?

3. How well do you know Fiona Bones?

Could she ask that last one? Probably not.

3. Why are you working in a coffee shop?

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The next morning, Hermione woke up a full ten minutes before her alarm. She gobbled down her breakfast, dressed for the day in a flattering new jumper, and practically ran down the street to the coffee shop.

He was there.

In the flesh.

Behind the register, his green apron secure, there stood Severus Snape. She queued up behind a handful of morning regulars, trying to make eye contact with him from a distance.

He didn't glance her way.

When she made it to the front of the line, he merely quirked an eyebrow at her. 'What do you want?'

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Hermione smiled brightly. 'Hello to you, too.'

Now that she wasn't startled by Snape's presence in her coffee shop, she had the time to drink in his appearance. A few inches taller than her, he'd filled out nicely from the days when he glowered at her in class. His hair was black, shot through with the odd grey strand, and it was long, tied back so she could see his face.

Looking over her shoulder at the three people behind her, he picked up a paper cup and black pen, repeating his question. 'What do you want?'

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'Let me guess, Granger,' Snape said, narrowing his eyes. 'You were always... high maintenance.'

Hermione huffed in annoyance. 'I think you would agree that managing Harry and Ronald was a full-time job.'

'Still,' he continued, twirling the pen in his hand, 'I would assume that your order is an absurd mouthfull.'

'Perhaps I want a cup of the house blend,' she said.

'Do you?'

She blushed. 'Well, no, but that's beside the point.'

Smirking, he said, 'I'd venture that you're a caramel macchiato, skim, extra hot. Sans sugar.'

Hermione groaned. 'You think that little of me?'

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'I would never,' Hermione declared imperiously, 'put caramel in a coffee beverage. That defies all logic.'

Snape began scribbling something on the paper cup. When he was through, he passed it to another barista in a green apron, and he asked for payment. 'Your card, Granger?'

She frowned. 'How do you know what I wanted?'

He rolled his eyes. 'Granger, you are a creature of habit. You also seem to forget that I prepared your beverage just 24 hours ago.'

After paying with her mobile, she walked the length of the counter.

There sat a dirty chai latte labeled 'Herman.'

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That smug bastard.

She pried the lid off. After a single sip, she knew that he'd remembered her drink exactly. Most doused their tea with only one shot of espresso, but Hermione had never found that terribly effective. She also had the perfect amount of foam at the top: just enough to make the drink feel indulgent, but not enough to make it seem like one of those frou-frou holiday specials.

Squeezing the lid back on with a minimum of spillage, she called out to the man. 'Thanks again, Silvius!'

He scowled as she swept out the door.

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The next morning was a Saturday, so there was technically no need to show up for some caffeine at the crack of dawn.

Hermione never went there on a weekend for Kevin. Instead, she slept in like a duchess, usually past 7 o'clock. Once, back in March of 2011, she even refused to change out of her pyjamas until noon.

But Snape was no Kevin.

After she woke, she decided to lounge around her flat for a while, listening to BBC Radio Four while she tidied up.

Then she threw on some warmer clothes and headed out for coffee.

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Snape wasn't there.

But Kevin was.

'Say, Kev,' Hermione said, striking up a conversation while the young man prepared a pour-over for another customer, 'you wouldn't be interested in coming back to weekday mornings, would you? The bloke who replaced you is perpetually grumpy, and I'd like you back.'

Kevin frowned. 'Tobias?'

Hermione shrugged. Perhaps that was what Snape was going by these days. 'Yep.'

'That doesn't sound like him,' Kevin said, hesitant. 'He reads stories to kids and makes balloon animals.'

Confused, she decided to clarify. 'Tobias is the pale man with black hair?'

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Kevin nodded. 'Mid-forties? Quiet, but terrifyingly efficient?'

Well, Hermione thought, that certainly sounds like Snape. 'He really reads books to kids?'

'Truthfully, he might be doing that to get out of cleaning up spills,' Kevin conceded. 'The first time Tobias pulled a story out to read to a child, it was because the toddler knocked a strawberry frappé all over the floor. He read to the little girl while her mum stared at her mobile, ignoring everything her kid was doing. I was stuck with the mop.'

Hermione smiled, mulling over this unexpected image. 'That was big of him.'

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'How has Tobias ended up on your bad side so quickly?' Kevin asked.

Hermione shrugged, knowing that she couldn't tell him the whole truth about her former professor. Instead, she settled for the part that was allowable under the Statute of Secrecy. 'Well, he... He spelled my name wrong on the cup.'

He chuckled under his breath. 'You don't have the easiest name. It would be one thing if you were an Emily or something, but a Hermione?'

'Still,' she said, determined to win this point, 'I don't look like a Herman, do I?'

Kevin simply laughed.

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'And the balloon animals?' Hermione asked, pressing the matter.

Kevin handed over her latte. 'That was just the one time.'

'Why did he even have balloons?' she asked. She took a slow sip from the piping hot beverage. 'Was he carrying them?'

He shook his head. 'My memory of that day... It's foggy.'

'Try me.'

'Well...' he began. 'Someone came into the shop, yelling something about death... death... I don't remember. He was crazy, and Tobias tried to stop him. I hit my head, but when I came to, Tobias was calming the kids down with the balloons.'

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Hermione felt the wind knocked out of her. This new information shook her deeply, and she didn't trust herself to walk home just yet. She took her drink to a corner table, picking up a newspaper. Just what was Kevin forgetting?

It sounded like Obliviation.

To be honest, it sounded like whoever was causing troubles might have been yelling at Severus. Did they know who he was? Could the mysterious invader been yelling about Death Eaters?

It had been years since Hermione had given them more than a passing thought. That was all in the past.

Wasn't it?

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Hermione paced the rooms of her flat all evening long, debating whether or not to talk to Harry about this turn of events.

As the Head Auror, surely he would have heard about an incident amongst Muggles at a coffee shop. Then again, Harry knew where she lived. Wouldn't he have told her if he had handled a Death Eater threat just blocks away from his best friend?

Too tired to focus on cookery, she dug through her stack of takeout menus.

She could talk to Harry in the morning.

It was time for some Moo goo gai pan.

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The next day was a Sunday.

That meant having a lie-in whilst reading the newspaper, followed by a leisurely walk, wandering through Hampstead Heath. After an hour or so there, she headed to her favourite book shop, a little joint called A Novel Idea that was crammed full of old leather-bound books and the smell of paper.

In the evening, she Floo'd directly to the Burrow for dinner with the extended Weasley clan.

When she arrived, she looked around for Harry, who usually arrived early with Luna and their boys. To her disappointment, he wasn't there.

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Monday morning rolled around again, and Hermione found herself standing at a familiar counter looking at a familiar face.

'Good morning, Tobias,' she said, emphasising his assumed name.

'Yes, yes,' he muttered, writing her order on the cup he passed along to the barista beside him. 'You're very clever, Granger. Would you care for the merit badge you believe you've earned for your investigative skills?'

Hermione frowned. 'I don't need your approval and have long since given up on ever receiving it.'

He rang up her order.

She leaned in closer, whispering quietly. 'I want some answers.'

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'What a pity there's a line of paying customers behind you,' Snape said, rolling his eyes. 'And you asked so politely, too.'

Hermione wasn't going to give up so easily. The questions rattled out, one after the other. 'After work tonight? Are you free? How about dinner?'

His gaze fixed on her, he stared her down in a challenge. Then he cracked, smirking at her with a knowing grin. 'Are you asking me out on a date, Granger?'

She sighed, trying to keep the blush from her cheeks. 'No? Yes. I don't particularly care, you exasperating man.'

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'You really know how to woo a man,' Severus replied.

'It's not a date,' Hermione said, protesting.

'Six o'clock,' he said. 'And just where are you taking me, Granger? A man needs to know which dress shirt to wear.'

'It's not a date.'

'So you said.'

She thought about it for a minute. Would it be easier to talk if she invited him to her flat? No. Then he really would think it a date. 'Do you know the Indian place two blocks north?'

He frowned. 'I think I'm worth more than a cheap Indian dinner.'

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'Fine,' Hermione replied. She looked over her shoulder at the line of people waiting to order, which had grown significantly longer while she and Severus hashed out dinner plans. 'How about French food?'

He raised his eyebrow, his expression unreadable. 'I suppose that will do.'

'Six o'clock it is,' she said, confirming the time of their meeting.

'Six o'clock,' he repeated. Then he tapped her on the shoulder. 'Your tea is likely cold by now, since you were determined to yammer at me this whole time.'

She rolled her eyes and went to pick up her cup.

Heloise.


 A question for you all: what do you think Snape drinks? Coffee or tea? If coffee, is it one of those sugar-laden flavoured mochas, or plain black coffee? Caf or decaf? If it's tea, what does he brew and how does he prepare it? Oolang, green, tisane, herbal, black tea? With honey or sugar? With or without milk?

Of course, maybe he waltzes up to the counter, plonks his cash on the counter, and orders a caramel macchiato, venti, skim, extra shot, extra-hot, extra-whip, sugar-free?

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Rather than heading to her own office at the Ministry, Hermione made a beeline for the Auror floor.

Harry wasn't in yet, but she expected that. He usually arrived at the last minute, spattered with whatever he'd been feeding his sons James and Albus for breakfast.

She puttered around, admiring the wall of moving photographs behind his desk.

The door opened, and there he was.

'Harry James Potter!' she cried, running to him. 'What have you heard about Death Eaters in London? Why I am learning about them from Severus Snape?'

Harry dropped his briefcase and gulped. 'Er...'

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'What do you want to know, Hermione?' Harry asked, inching his way around the office with his back to the wall.

'Has anything interesting happened at my local coffee shop lately? South End Street, just across from Hampstead Heath?' she asked, making herself at home on the sofa.

He hung up his overcoat and collapsed into his squashy office chair. 'Er... yeah. So... There was a thing about a month ago.'

'A thing, Harry?'

'A kind of ugly thing.'

Hermione leaned forward, quite concerned. 'Was anybody hurt?'

He reached up, running his fingers through his already messy hair. 'Er... no?'

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'Listen, Hermione,' Harry said, opening a drawer and pulling out a thick file folder, 'no Muggles got hurt that day.'

'But someone else did?' she asked. She gasped. 'It was Snape, wasn't it?'

He drummed his fingers on the file folder, clearly mulling something over. 'As a fellow Ministry worker, you might need to know about this event. Er... because it happened close to your home. But it's top secret, so no telling anyone else, okay?'

'Mum's the word.'

He handed it over. 'Here's the report.'

She plucked it from his hand and began to read.

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It was maddeningly brief.

The file read like any other Auror report, dry and factual, but Hermione read through the lines, imagining the events of the day.

One witness, the civilian Severus Snape, was working in a London coffee shop. According to his sworn testimony, he claimed that four wizards entered the establishment, high on life and Firewhisky and anger about the past. They drew their wands on him, one accidentally fired off a loose spell, and Severus intervened.

He incapacitated the intruders and sent his Patronus to the Aurors.

Obliviated the entire cafe.

And went back to pouring coffee.

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'You see,' Harry said, explaining the account, 'our Auror didn't arrive until after it was over. By then, the attackers were tied up in the corner, the Muggles had been given false memories about hooligans acting out, and Snape was making balloon animals for a crying kid.'

Hermione handed the file folder back to Harry. 'So... This doesn't mention Snape getting injured.'

Harry leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. 'He didn't press charges, but according to my Auror, that stray spell grazed his forehead.'

She paused. 'Why wouldn't he press charges?'

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'Dunno,' Harry replied. With a flick of his wand, he refiled the folder. 'I gave up on trying to understand Snape.'

Hermione folded her hands in her lap. 'Who were the people arrested that day? What connection did they have to the Death Eaters?'

Her friend shook his head. 'Nothing that we know of.'

'Nothing?'

'Listen, Hermione,' he said, his voice steady, 'this would be easier if I could tell you that they were some of Voldemort's supporters coming out of the woodwork to yell at the man who betrayed them years ago. These people were low-level nobodies.'

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Hermione gave Harry a hug before leaving his office. 'I'm sorry to be so pushy on this. I just... I have this feeling that there's a lot more going on than meets the eye.'

Harry sighed. 'We don't know much more than you do, Hermione. The people who did this served their time, and Snape doesn't have anything else to say on the matter. We're out of leads.'

'I'm sure he won't tell me anything new at dinner, then.'

Harry grinned. 'You asked Snape out?'

She groaned. 'It's not a date, Harry.'

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'If it's not a date,' Harry continued, 'where are you two meeting up for dinner?'

Hermione kicked at nonexistent dust on the ground as she mumbled her reply. 'It's a little frumph plumph meno nominuff.'

Snorting aloud, he said, 'Sorry, but I missed that. Where are you not taking Snape out on a date?'

She looked at the corner, enunciating with quiet, but crisp tones, 'It's a little French place in my neighborhood.'

Harry burst out laughing, his entire body shaking with delight, and Hermione fretted the whole walk back to the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

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All day long, Hermione tried to block Severus from her mind. Severus? she wondered. No, Snape. She didn't think he would take too kindly to informality.

She took a few Floo calls from her counterparts, fellow magical diplomats from abroad. The lovely bloke from Canada wanted to renegotiate trade alliances, and the woman from Japan called to set up meetings between their Minister for Magic and some representatives from the British Isles.

When the end of the work day came, Hermione's nerves returned with full force. She renewed her Hair-straightening Charm and set off to meet Snape.

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Snape had changed his clothing.

Well, of course he had, she thought to herself. It's not like he would show up in his green cafe apron. Still, he looked nice. A crisp black Oxford shirt with one button open, a fitted navy jacket and black slacks.

When Hermione walked up to him, she felt her voice catch in her throat, standing in front of him, at a loss for words.

'No pithy greeting or unwarranted demands?' he asked.

'I've made enough of those, don't you think?'

He raised an eyebrow, silent.

'Thank you for coming, Mister Snape.'

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'I know there is absolutely no reason for you to have agreed to dinner with me,' Hermione said, 'but I'm glad that you did.'

Snape eyed her suspiciously. 'You seem to have calmed down considerably since I last saw you. Did Potter slip something in your tea?'

Hermione smiled. 'Harry knows not to try any funny business with me. He and Luna would still like a few more children.'

'Ah,' he replied, meeting her gaze. 'I see.'

'Besides,' Hermione added, knowing she was pushing her luck with the man, 'nothing really calms me down like a nice balloon animal.'

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'Potter told you about that?' Snape asked, much more calmly than she expected.

Since they were a few blocks from the restaurant, Hermione started walking with him. 'Actually,' she said, heading off down the street with Snape by her side, 'it was Kevin who first mentioned it to me. He says that you're good with children, which I must admit I found surprising.'

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. 'I find that other people's children are often... acceptable when they are under the age of five or over the age of twenty-five.'

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'It's a lucky thing, then' Hermione replied, trying to keep conversation light, 'that I'm almost thirty.'

His eye twitched.

'And it's a shame,' she continued, 'that you had to teach Hogwarts' little darlings for so long.'

He shuddered. 'I still find it incomprehensible that Albus coerced me into teaching. I hated it, and he knew it.'

Hermione didn't have an appropriate response, so they walked on in silence. After turning down a side street, they stopped at an awning with 'Café Brasserie' emblazoned in gold lettering in the window.

'Well,' Hermione said, gesturing towards the door, 'here we are.'

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Once the wine was poured and the duck confit was ordered, Hermione got down to brass tacks. 'How have you been, Snape?'

His face remained unreadable. 'Is that really what you wanted to know, Granger? Surely you could have asked about my emotional well-being while you were caffeinating yourself.'

Her eyebrows rose at that.

'I thought,' Snape continued, 'that you were demanding answers. That is what you said, wasn't it? Answers?'

'I'm sorry.' She blushed. 'I get rude and snippy when I don't understand things. I'm curious about you, yes, but could we start fresh?'

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'Fresh...' he repeated after her.

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. 'I may have overreacted when I first saw you that day in the coffee shop.'

Snape nodded, and then helped himself to a little pâté. 'You do possess that tendency.'

'Anyway,' Hermione said, deciding that she'd kickstart the conversation by revealing some of her own story, 'I've been fairly busy since the war ended. Everyone thought I'd become an Auror, but I was done fighting.'

'That sounds logical, Granger.'

A soft flush crept up her neck. 'Could you... that is, would you mind calling me Hermione?'

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A beat passed before he answered. 'Hermione. Yes, I can do that.'

It sounded lovely to her ears, and she smiled. 'So...' What had she been saying before? Ah, yes, she thought. Work. 'So instead of becoming an Auror, I now try to ask all the witches and wizards of the world to get along.'

He snorted. 'A pointless task.'

'And you?' she asked. 'What have you been doing with yourself?'

He poured himself a second glass of red wine, and took a long sip. 'Is that a polite way of inquiring as to why I prepare coffee for Muggles?'

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Hermione looked at him directly. 'You're a brilliant man. I would be interested in whatever you did, no matter what it was, just because it was you who was doing it.'

He snorted. 'Sure, Granger.'

'That didn't last long, did it?' she asked, sighing as the waiter brought a shared platter of cassoulet to the table.

'What?' he asked.

'The two of us getting on a first-name basis.'

'Hermione,' he stated again. 'Hermione. My apologies. It may take me... some time before I can look at you and see anything but a hand waving in the air.'

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She sighed, disappointed. Clearly, Harry was wrong and this wasn't a date. 'Do I need to show you my investment portfolio and retirement plan to prove that I'm an adult?'

Severus had the decency to look flustered. 'Of course not.'

'Well, that's a relief,' she replied, slumping in her chair. 'My Plan B to prove that I'm not a child any longer was to parade around in a low-cut dress. Or whisk you off to a beach somewhere in Mallorca where you'd be forced to spend time with me while I'm wearing a bikini.'

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His jaw dropped.

Quite literally falling right open, completely lost for words.

Hermione smiled, pleased as punch at his startled response. 'I'm glad you take my word for it, although I do have well-balanced assets if I do say so myself.'

His eyes dropped to her lips and the column of her throat before retreating northwards once more.

She coughed, moving the stew around her plate with her fork. Flirting wasn't her strong suit. 'Er... I sought some really solid investing advice after the war, what with the money we were given with the Order of Merlin.'

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Severus shook himself out of it. 'They gave you an award prize with your Order?'

'Of course.' Her nostrils flared as she realised the implication of his question. 'Are you telling me that the Ministry did not give you some Galleons with yours?'

He shook his head. 'The gift of being cleared of all criminal charges was supposed to suffice. The Wizengamot expected my fucking gratitude for their leniency.'

Indignant, Hermione threw her napkin on the table, nearly overturning it as she stood. 'What?'

Gently grabbing her wrist, he pulled her down to her chair. 'Are you really surprised, Hermione?'

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Surprised? No, when Hermione considered her low opinion of the Wizengamot, she wasn't surprised to hear that they had withheld Ministry gold from the man across the table. Sighing, she said, 'I'm... I'm just disappointed.'

His fingers were still wrapped loosely around her wrist, the warmth of him seeping into her bones. Something about his touch electrified her skin, and yet his steady presence calmed her.

It was disconcerting.

Before she had time to reflect on it any longer, he withdrew his hand, picked up his utensils, and took another bite. 'I am no stranger to disappointment.'

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'No,' Hermione said, her gaze holding his. His eyes were weary, and yet there was such life in them. 'No, I suppose not.'

A few moments of silence passed between them.

After a while, the waiter returned with the dessert they ordered, a luscious tarte Tatin with caramelised apples. 'Coffee, madame?' he asked.

Hermione glanced at the smirk on Severus's face before replying. 'Yes, please. I'd like a cup of decaf, though.'

The waiter turned to her dining partner. 'And for you, sir?'

Severus looked up. 'No, thank you. I'll have a cup of tea instead, please.'

Chapter Text

 

Having finished the last bite of her apple tarte, Hermione now looked at him over the rim of her coffee cup. 'Do you refuse coffee because of the late hour, or is it out of principle?'

He stirred a spot of milk into his tisane. 'It's difficult to ruin a cup of tea, particularly in England. The lowest simpleton can brew tea.'

'Do you like coffee?' she asked.

'When properly made, it's a gift to mankind. When brewed poorly? The most unpalatable dreck on the planet. I trust its preparation to very few people, especially in this country.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione took a sip of her coffee. 'It's true that coffee is infinitely better in, say, Italy, than in England. I spent two weeks in Milan on a work project last year, and I was dumbfounded by how beautiful a cup of espresso could be.'

'Italy, yes,' Severus agreed, 'but the Vietnamese also brew a decent cup of coffee, as do the Portuguese and the Spanish.'

Spain.

Something flashed in Hermione's brain about Fiona Bones and Snape and a torrid affair. What had Pip said about it? Steeling herself, Hermione asked, 'Er... Do you travel to Spain often?'

Chapter Text

 

There was a long pause while Severus chose his words, and Hermione began to second guess her words. It was an innocent enough question, wasn't it?

Then he spoke, carefully and methodically. 'I travel.'

He was not particularly forthcoming, so Hermione pressed on. 'Did you enjoy Spain? Where did you go? I've only been the once, and it was a long weekend in Barcelona in August, so I'm sure I saw the worst of it. The tourists and the heat were unbearable.'

He took a sip of his tea. 'I found my time in Spain immensely gratifying.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione gulped down a slow swallow. 'Oh.'

Well, he certainly had the right to enjoy life. If he wanted to 'immensely gratify' himself in Spain, he deserved it, didn't he? Still, it contradicted the mental image she'd built of the man as a monk, living alone as he pursued knowledge.

Perhaps she had been projecting herself onto him.

She scraped up the last bits of pastry with her fork, resigned to accept that this whole evening was a bust. She'd learned absolutely nothing new, and no matter what Harry thought, Snape clearly wasn't interested in her.

Chapter Text

 

The waiter returned with the bill in a little folder.

Hermione was ready to leave, so she reached for it, prepared to drop her credit card to cover the cost.

At the same time, Severus was reaching for the folder, and his hand landed atop hers. A delicious tingle of awareness shook her.

She glanced up, hand still curled around the prize. 'I'm paying for us.'

'You can't do that,' he said. His brow furrowed and his grip tightened over her fingers.

'I invited you out, Severus,' she stated, tugging the bill from his grasp. 'I'm paying.'

Chapter Text

 

Severus grumbled under his breath.

'What was that?' Hermione asked, leaning forward to catch his words.

A soft pink tinged his cheeks. 'I might not have all your Ministry gold, but I can afford a damn dinner.'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, oblivious that he might misinterpret her gesture as an insult. 'I wasn't even thinking of that.'

He quirked his eyebrow, doubtful.

This date was a nightmare.

Hermione spoke up again. 'I always planned on paying. It's only polite, since it was my invitation.'

'Fine,' he said, his voice curt. 'However, I must insist that I pay next time.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione nearly choked. 'Next time?'

And here she'd thought that their evening had been a disaster. Was she particularly bad at reading people, or was Severus simply that enigmatic?

'Yes,' he declared. 'I insist on some semblance of equity.'

She blushed. 'Next time sounds perfect. I should tell you that I love a cheap Indian dinner. I'm apparently much less demanding than you are. Who would have expected that after you accused me of being high maintenance?'

He stood, helping her on with her coat.

'Next time,' she added, 'you can tell me how you became a barista.'

Chapter Text

 

A slow smirk spread across Severus's face. 'I can, can I?' he asked.

Oh, fuck. Hermione knew she'd just muffed it again. He wouldn't take kindly to demands for information. 'Or not,' she replied quickly. 'I'd really just enjoy getting to know you a bit better.'

He led them out of the restaurant and into the evening, all street lamps and lit signs reflecting off the shop windows. 'It's going to drive you mad, isn't it? Not knowing?'

She sidled up beside him as they walked on. 'I shall endeavour to restrain my curiosity.'

Chapter Text

 

Within a few minutes, they were standing outside Hermione's flat.

At the door.

The place for decisions.

Decisions about kisses and whether or not they were supposed to occur on after the first dinner out with someone.

Hermione's anxiety had been ratcheting up since they left the restaurant, notch by notch by notch. Did she even want him to kiss her? She wasn't sure. After all, she hadn't gone into the evening expecting anything romantically. And while there was something indefinable, some spark between them, it hadn't been an evening of freely flowing conversation and wine.

Chapter Text

 

'Well, this is me,' Hermione said. Back to the door, she couldn't quite compel herself to open her purse and fish out her keys.

Severus placed a hand upon the door frame. 'This is when I am supposed to thank you for dinner.'

'Oh,' she said, hoping he couldn't hear the steady tattoo of her nervous heart beating down her ribcage. 'Is it?'

A moment passed as Hermione stared at his shoes: black loafers, well polished.

He leaned in close enough for her to feel the heat of his breath on the delicate shell of her ear. 'Thank you for dinner, Hermione.'

Chapter Text

 

He lingered for a long moment before stepping back and Apparating away into the night.

And Hermione slumped against her door, feeling befuddled and bereft.

What was that?

Had he decided not to kiss her outright? Or had he been handing control over to her, letting her decide whether or not she wanted something more?

She dearly hoped the neighbours hadn't been watching as a mysterious stranger disappeared into thin air. What would they say? Mrs Dalrymple, in particular, was the nosiest woman alive. Thankfully, she also ate dinner at 5 o'clock every night and was likely asleep.

Chapter Text

 

Perhaps the neighbourhood biddies were already asleep, but Hermione wasn't going to drift off to slumber anytime soon. Mulling over the evening, she changed into her pyjamas and yanked on the comfy dragon slippers Harry had given her for Christmas.

Then fixed herself a cup of tea with a side of brandy.

She munched on some carrots and hummus.

Brushed her teeth.

Thought of Severus.

Peeled herself an orange, forgetting that she'd just cleaned her teeth. She bit in, spitting out the fruit almost as quickly as it touched her tongue.

Mint and orange tasted foul when combined together.

Chapter Text

 

Somewhere long after midnight, Hermione finally drifted off to sleep. Visions of Death Eaters danced in her head, filling her dreams with spells and promises and unanswered questions. With Dark Marks and dark roasts and balloon animals.


When she awoke the next morning, it was already peculiarly bright in her bedroom, the morning sun shining down through her blinds as though it were already midday.

Oh, shit.

She glanced at the clock.

It was almost 9 o'clock, and if she wanted to make it to the Ministry before her departmental meeting, she had no time for her daily coffee.

Chapter Text

 

Three and a half minutes.

That was the amount of time she had between running into her office at the Ministry and the start of the biggest meeting of the year: budgetary assessments. Going by the name alone, the meeting sounded like a total snoozefest, but it determined everything.

Pip looked alarmed at her appearance. 'Ms. Granger?' he asked, politely ignoring the fact that she was out of breath from running up the halls.

'Yes?'

He waved his wand over her, sending spells to iron her blouse and fix her hair. 'Er... I'll go fetch your tea, shall I?'

Chapter Text

 

Dozens of Ministry department heads were wedged around the conference table as the Minister of Finance went through all their budgetary requests. Everyone had hunkered down for the long haul, as the meeting always ran all day.

Twenty minutes in, Hermione felt a tap on her shoulder. It was Pip, bless him, with a takeaway cup.

Labelled 'Howard.'

She smiled, thinking of Severus and his unorthodox flirting techniques. When she took a sip, she nearly spat it out all over the head of the Goblin Liaison Office sitting beside her.

It was the most vile thing she'd ever tasted.

Chapter Text

 

Trying not to lose focus, Hermione jotted something on her notepad and passed it to Pip, sitting with the other assistants around the periphery of the room.

- What did you order for me? This doesn't taste like tea.


When he replied, it was in all capital letters and riddled with extra punctuation.

- YOU DIDN'T FEEL THE NEED TO TELL ME SNAPE IS YOUR BARISTA?! SNAPE?!


- It's a very recent development, Pip.


- IT'S A STRANGE DEVELOPMENT! WHY COFFEE?!


- Unsure. Did Snape fix this cup himself?


- YES.


Hermione frowned. Last night, things had been looking up.

Something had changed.

Chapter Text

 

As Hermione sipped the lukewarm, weakly brewed dirty chai tea, she considered the possibilities.

A) Pip grabbed the wrong cup by mistake.

After all, Severus had finally taken to calling her 'Hermione.' Then again, maybe 'Howard' was another pet name?

B) Severus was upset with her.

Perhaps she should have kissed him? But he was honourable, and he wouldn't be angry with a woman for not being ready to kiss on a date.

Then it hit her.

Like a bolt of lightning.

Oh, fuck, she thought, remembering a word that rhymed with 'Howard.'

He thought she was avoiding him.

Chapter Text

 

Well.

Well, that explained the crap cup of tea.

Hermione Banished the liquid to a nearby bathroom sink with a wave of her hand.

'...do you, Ms. Granger?' The monotone voice of Sandrine Quesnel, the centenarian in charge of Ministry finance, rang out over the room.

Hermione gathered her wits about her, refocussing on the meeting. 'Yes, Madame Quesnel?'

'I was asking if you approved of the proposed budget cut to your department?'

Shit. Her budget was plenty scant as is, and she needed to fight for every last Knut.

She would think about how to explain to Severus later.

Chapter Text

 

Normally, the budget meeting broke around noonish for lunch.

That was what Hermione was counting on. She could wait out a few hours of tedious haggling over Galleons here and there, and at lunch, she could pop over to her coffee shop and explain to Severus what had happened. Hell, he'd probably be flattered to learn that he had flustered her so.

Maybe they could plan their next time together.

This year was different.

The committee was running so far behind that Madame Quesnel had the assistants placed food orders for all so they could work through the hour.

Chapter Text

 

Hermione glared at the clock as the minute hand wound its way around the circle again and again.

When the meeting finally wrapped, she was exhausted. Still, she wanted to talk to Severus tonight, which was easier said than done. He wouldn't be at the coffee shop anymore, and while he had her address, she didn't know where he lived.

Packing up her folders and saying goodbye to her colleagues, Hermione resolved to send him a message by Patronus.

She marched down the hall, rehearsing the words.

Until she saw him.

In the Ministry.

Talking to Fiona Bones.

Chapter Text

 

Hermione ducked behind a pillar, hoping they hadn't spotted her.

Her heart beating out of her chest, she wondered why Snape had come to the Ministry. She had never seen him there herself, and she'd been a Ministry drudge since she was just twenty years old.

It couldn't be a coincidence that he appeared at her workplace today of all days. Was Severus seeking her out?

Distracted by her thoughts, she was lulled by the clacking of footsteps as people left for home. When she looked up, Severus was standing at her right.

Fiona was at her left.

Chapter Text

 

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Hermione did the only thing she could think of, plastering a grin on her face as she tried to stay upbeat.

He frowned.

Fiona smiled warmly. 'Is the budget meeting over, Granger? I need to talk to Porpington before I take off for the evening.'

'He should still be in the conference room,' Hermione said. She held her breath as Fiona waltzed over to Severus, threading her beautiful, alabaster, and perfect arm around his waist.

Fiona kissed him on the cheek and went to find her boss, leaving Hermione alone with Severus.

Chapter Text

 

They stood together, silence stretching awkwardly before them like a giraffe getting up from a nap.

Then Severus spoke up, avoiding eye contact as he spoke, his voice quiet. 'I came to apologise for the abysmal tea I prepared for your... young man this morning.'

Hermione shifted to glance at him. 'I'm sorry I missed you. I was restless after dinner last night, and I overslept.'

He nodded.

Watching the impossibly beautiful woman through the door, Hermione's curiosity overtook her sense of propriety. 'So... Fiona?'

He nodded again. 'I ran into her while I was looking for you.'

Chapter Text

 

Fighting her worst instincts, Hermione decided to take the high road. 'I remember the first time I met Fiona. She was a prefect and I was a homesick firstie without any friends, crying in one of the corridors. She brought me to a cosy little alcove near the Hufflepuff common room, a spot lined with cushions, and she fetched me a pot of tea and a plate of chocolate biscuits.'

Severus glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.

'She's also a knockout,' Hermione continued, 'so congratulations on that. I hope you two enjoy your evening out.'

Chapter Text

 

Worn out and vaguely disappointed, Hermione put the kettle on, collapsing on her couch with a bag of carrots and the remainder of the mint Viennetta from her freezer.

Not even layers of rippled ice cream could quell the unsettling feeling she had seeing Fiona and Severus together.

Did she have the right to feel upset? It wasn't like she and Severus had even gotten whatever it was between them off the ground. Still, it was the perhaps of him that shook her so.

She resolved to be as friendly as possible whilst getting coffee tomorrow.

And the kettle whistle blew.

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Hermione practised her expression in the mirror to ensure that the unperturbed smile she was planning would look authentic.

At the coffee shop, she grinned at him with all the false enthusiasm she could muster. 'Good morning! The usual, please.'

He wrote her name and order on the cup before passing it down. 'Good morning.'

'I... Er... It's rather nice weather we're having today, isn't it?'

He chuckled. 'Your small talk is shit.'

She sighed. 'I'll work on it for tomorrow.'

When she picked up her dirty chai, the cup plainly said 'Hermione.'

Chapter Text

 

After dropping her things in her office, Hermione meandered up to the Auror floor. Harry hadn't arrived yet, so she let herself in and curled up in his chair. Yesterday's Daily Prophet was crumpled up on his desk.

She skimmed the articles on the back page while she waited.

The doorknob turned, and her dear friend entered, wearing the mismatched uniform of a young father. 'Hermione?' he asked, concerned.

She stood abruptly. 'May I borrow your arms and torso for a minute?'

'Of course,' he replied, hanging up his coat.

And she hugged him tightly, whispering, 'Thanks, Harry.'

Chapter Text

 

Harry spoke into her hair. 'Is this about Snape?'

Hermione nodded, still tucked under his chin.

'That felt like a yes,' he said, patting her back like she were one of his children.

She pulled back and looked him in the eye. 'It wasn't a date. Except that it might have been. And did you know that the Ministry swindled him out of his Order of Merlin money and that he may or may not be in a relationship with Fiona Bones?'

Harry frowned, leaning against his desk. 'Snape was due ten thousand Galleons.'

Her eyes widened. 'Those bastards.'

Chapter Text

 

'But they gave each of us five thousand,' Hermione said.

Harry nodded. 'Snape's commendation was for services during both wars. Doubles the cash reward, doesn't it?'

Hermione crossed her arms. 'Did the Ministry stiff any other war heroes, or was it just Severus?'

Shaking his head, Harry said, 'I don't know of any others. Then again, I didn't know they'd done this to Snape before today, so...'

A few office memos dressed as paper aeroplanes flew onto Harry's desk.

'I'll go,' Hermione said.

'Wait,' Harry said. 'What's this about Snape and Fiona?'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione's eyes drifted to the photos on Harry's desk, landing on a picture of her friend with Luna on a beach somewhere, dressed in peculiar striped robes and looking at one another adoringly.

They were so happy together.

'Well,' she said, 'I took Severus to dinner, as you know...'

Harry nodded. 'And?'

Her thoughts drifted back to the awkward conversation and his breath on her skin.

'You're blushing, Hermione,' Harry said, eyes smiling.

She shrugged. 'I like him. He's rather extraordinary, isn't he?'

Harry put his hands on her shoulders. 'You're pretty extraordinary yourself.'

Chapter Text

 

'At any rate,' Hermione continued, absent-mindedly twirling a curl around her finger, 'there was a moment at the end where I thought he was going to kiss me.'

Harry's eyes opened wide. She could tell he was a tad uncomfortable with the topic of conversation, but he was a trooper. 'But he didn't?'

She shook her head. 'And I may or may not have it on good authority that Fiona and Severus were an item a few years ago—'

'You do know that Pip's gossip,' he said, interrupting her, 'is only right half the time, right?'

Chapter Text

 

 

Hermione looked wary, but tried to smile with optimism. 'Yes. Yes, of course, Harry!'

Plopping down in his chair, Harry opened the file atop a teetering stack.

'After all,' she continued, 'he asked me yesterday if you and Luna had come up with names for your next baby, and I had to tell him that you weren't pregnant.'

Harry froze in place. 'Dammit!'

'What?' she asked.

He rubbed the back of his neck. 'We were going to tell people next month, but...'

'Congratulations!' Hermione cried. Then she paused. 'How did Pip know?'

Harry shrugged. 'How does Pip know anything?'

Chapter Text

 

 

The next morning, Hermione came prepared to the coffee shop.

As she queued up at Severus's—or Tobias's—register, she took out a small stack of notecards and started looking through them.

The first two questions were dull, but the third wasn't so bad.

'Good morning, Tobias,' she said with a wink.

'The usual?' he asked.

'You know me,' she replied. Then she glanced at the card in her hands. 'So... What's the spiciest thing you've ever eaten?'

He smirked. 'That's quite the non sequitur.'

She shrugged. 'Somebody had to get the ball rolling.'

Chapter Text

 

 

'I suppose I should have seen this coming,' Severus said, scribbling on her takeaway cup with a flourish.

Hermione crossed her arms across in satisfaction. 'You graded my essays for years, Severus. When did I ever skimp on research?'

'Touché.'

She waited a moment. 'Well?'

'Well, what?' he asked.

'Spiciest food, Severus,' she said, repeating her question with a roll of her eyes. 'Honestly, you think I'm shite at small talk? You're one to talk. I know the question is inane, but it's supposed to encourage you to open up with an adventurous tale from your past.'

Chapter Text

 

'There's no one else in line,' Hermione added, 'so you have no excuses. Regale me with a story from the last decade. I'd like a good one, please.'

Severus barked out a laugh, more out of sheer surprise than anything else. 'You seem confident that I have wiled away my days in Patagonia or the Mekong Delta or some such place. How do you know I haven't holed up in an underground lair, perfecting potions to sell on the black market?'

She shrugged. 'I don't know. I just have a feeling about you with a tan.'

Chapter Text

 

'After all,' Hermione added, paying for her dirty chai latte, 'I'm still developing a working theory about where you went after the war.'

'Which is...?' he asked, wry amusement on his features.

She put forward her hypothesis. 'You burned out after the war and said "Sod off!" to England, selling your belongings and travelling the world.'

'I did, did I?' he asked. 'Pray, where did I go first?'

'You tell me.'

He mulled it over, drumming his fingers on the counter. 'Singapore.'

'What?'

'There's where I went first,' he stated, waving her aside as another customer stepped up.

Chapter Text

 

She was not so easily moved.

While the other barista worked her magic with steamed milk and espresso, Hermione stood her ground in front of Severus's till. 'I'm sorry, but did you say Singapore?'

The man trying to order gave her a glare that could strip paint from a bus. 'Do you mind?'

'Oh, don't mind me,' she replied. 'Please order.'

He did. 'I'll have a caramel macchiato, venti, skim, extra shot, extra hot, extra whip.'

Severus rolled his eyes when the man wasn't looking and scribbled out the lengthy instructions.

'And make it sugar free.'

Chapter Text

 

 

Hermione stared at Severus, willing him to read her thoughts. Wasn't that what Legilimency was for, anyway? Hoping he'd pick up on what she was doing, she thought words at him:That order is ridiculous and that man is absurd.

A slight smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, and Severus stood back as the customer paid for his drink with his mobile.

When he was out of earshot, Hermione whispered, 'Are they all that bad, or is he an anomaly?'

Severus smirked. 'I add a much needed sedative to every order over sixteen syllables in length.'

Chapter Text

 

'Narcissistic windbags are treated to a laxative in their coffee,' Severus said, explaining his barista philosophy to Hermione. 'Magical, of course, so that the effects don't register for at least twenty-four hours.'

'Clever,' she replied, enjoying this shared moment. 'That way, they can't trace it back to you, hmm?'

'Precisely.'

'And how frequently are the vainglorious numpties of London shitting themselves thanks to a visit to Tobias's coffee stand?'

He scoffed. 'I don't do it regularly. Or without cause. Believe me when I say that every last one of them has it coming to them.'

Chapter Text

 

Pip cornered Hermione at lunch with Indian takeaway. He plopped the boxes on her desk and pulled up a chair. 'So Snape is your barista.'

'Are you asking me to spill the beans?' Hermione asked, wiping away a tear as she laughed at her own joke.

Pip rolled his eyes.

'There's nothing between us,' she insisted.

Just then, an aeroplane memo whizzed in. Pip caught it mid-air, handing it over, and when she unfolded the note, she discovered Harry's sloppy handwriting: Snape's reward is under review. Will keep you posted!

'So...' Pip said. 'You were saying?'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione blushed. 'It's not what it looks like.'

'Reaaaaally?' Pip asked, eyeing her with skepticism. 'Because it looks like you've been chatting up Severus Snape at your coffee shop and coming to me for inside information on the man.'

'Well...' she stammered.

'Have you made your move yet?' he asked, loading his paper plate with aloo gobi.

Hermione sighed. 'Pip, I have no moves. Besides, he's with Fiona, so I am simply enjoying getting to know the man again. As a friend.'

'Anyone can learn to make a move.'

She snorted in disbelief and helped herself to another samosa.

Pip grinned. 'Perhaps I can help.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione nibbled her curry. 'I don't need help, Pip.'

'Of course you don't,' he replied, winking slyly.

'Maybe Fiona is making him happy,' she said, stabbing a piece of roasted cauliflower with her fork.

He winked again, saying, 'Maybe she is.'

'I want him—them—I want them both to be happy.'

Another saucy wink from Pip. 'Sure you do.'

'Everything is tickety-boo,' Hermione insisted. 'I'm chuffed just befriending the man.'

And another. 'Of course you are.'

'What are all these winks for?' she cried, passing him the remaining samosas. 'You're making me nervous, Pip.'

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Hermione saw posters everywhere advertising a rather pink and sparkly beverage topped with whipped cream. She grimaced at the lurid concoction before making eye contact with a certain barista behind the counter.

He had a streak of purple glitter on his cheek, and he did not look pleased.

When Hermione made it to the second spot in the queue, she heard the woman in front of her ordering the Unicorn Something-or-other.

'Did you say you wanted a macchiato?' Severus asked, waving his hand before her eyes.

The woman, dazed, spoke up again. 'Yes. A macchiato.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione snorted to herself while the woman slowly staggered to the end of the counter for her coffee.

'I'm assuming it's a dirty chai for you?' he asked.

'Actually, I'd like that unicorn drink,' she said playfully, reaching up to wipe the purple glitter from his cheek.

As she touched his face, his body remained still.

Was he holding his breath?

'There,' she said. Then she showed him her thumb. 'Clearly, you have made at least one today.'

'One and only one.' He grimaced. 'I refuse to make another until the recipe includes bits of real unicorn.'

Chapter Text

 

'Since I have no desire to torture you,' she said, 'please make mine a dirty chai.'

'So predictable, Hermione,' he tutted.

She paused a moment. 'You could change it to something else on the menu you think I'd like. I trust your judgment.'

Looking at her as though she had grown a second head, Severus merely nodded, writing something on her cup.

'In the meanwhile,' Hermione continued, leaning against the counter, 'would you like to elaborate on Singapore? Were you conducting some impressive research of your own, or were you on assignment from the government in some clandestine affairs?'

Chapter Text

 

'Perhaps my reasons were more mundane,' Severus stated.

'Indeed?' she asked. 'Do tell.'

'Perhaps Singapore was the only International Po—' Here he stopped himself, looking around at the Muggles surrounding them. Then he corrected himself. 'Perhaps it was the only international plane ticket available at the last minute when I was finally ready to leave England.'

Hermione gave her imagination free rein, filling in the blanks as she imagined his life. 'And you found a tiny, overpriced flat there, but you stayed awhile because you loved the night markets? Perhaps you met a woman? Or cured a deadly contagious disease.'

Chapter Text

 

In the silence after her speculation, Hermione found herself thinking that he had kind eyes.

He interrupted her thoughts. 'I think I've allowed you enough leeway for the day, Granger.'

'Hermione,' she insisted.

He met her gaze. 'Hermione.'

So she left him at the till and headed to the end of the counter to pick up the drink he had chosen for her: a simple cup of coffee. Nothing fancy, really. It was tall, dark, and strong, just the way she liked it.

And although she'd had the same thing every morning for years, Hermione started to think it was time for a change.

Chapter Text

 

These days, Hermione found that she simply didn't have as much time in the mornings as she used to.

The alarm was still set at 6:04.

The shower was still brief.

The getting dressed... might take a bit longer now that her hair regimen included more bottles of goop.

But what threw her schedule off was the coffee shop. Every day she asked Severus a different question, and sometimes he even answered them. He brewed her the rarest coffee beans, and she found that his taste was impeccable.

They chatted.

And she arrived to work at 7:15.

Chapter Text

 

One morning, she traipsed into her office at 7:30, just thirty minutes before it opened.

Pip was behind her desk. 'I've noticed that you're not here quite as early as usual, Ms. Granger.'

'I... I've had a bit more to do in the morning,' she stammered. She wasn't giving away secrets if she didn't have to.

He tilted his head, his gaze settling on her hair. 'You've spent more effort on yourself this week, haven't you?'

She gulped. 'Maybe.'

'We are going to land you your man!' he exclaimed, grinning. 'I know what men like.'

Chapter Text

 

Hermione evaluated Pip. 'You do know men, don't you?'

He leaned back in her chair, crossing his arms. 'I do.'

Hesitating, she voiced her question. 'Is Severus... your type?'

'In that he's male?' Pip asked. 'Yes. In that he's straight and sort of grumpy? No and no.'

'What do you go for? she asked him, curious.

He smirked. 'A sense of humour.'

Thinking it over, she nodded. 'I can see that. Although Severus does have a sense of humour buried under that intensity.'

'Defending him already!' Pip declared. 'Well, let's get to work on your wardrobe.'

Chapter Text

 

Ugh.

After work, Pip dragged Hermione to Selfridges department store for an updated undergarment fitting and forty minutes of trying on clothing. He was in cahoots with Madge, the woman loading her arms with dresses, blouses, and skirts. By the time they were through with her, Hermione had replaced a third of her wardrobe.

While paying, Hermione noticed something surprising. 'Pip, is that a wedding ring?'

He shoved his hands in his pockets. 'Er...'

Hermione threw her arms around him. 'Congratulations to you! You sly thing! I never knew you were seeing anyone. When do I get to meet him?'

Chapter Text

 

Pip blushed, something Hermione didn't even know he was capable of. 'Er...'

'Or not!' Hermione exclaimed, retracting her request. 'I don't have to meet him.'

He straightened his tie in the mirror. 'It's not you, Hermione.'

She smiled, glad that he called her by her first name when they were off duty.

'We haven't told his family yet.'

Frowning, she gave him a little squeeze. 'They should be so lucky to have you, Pip.'

'His mum's a bit old-fashioned.'

'Is he from your Beauxbatons years, or Hogwarts?'

Pip hesitated to confirm it. 'Er... Hogwarts.'

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And that was how Hermione ended up wearing a sheer navy blouse in public.

Sheerish.

With a tasteful camisole underneath.

Pip was sure it would drive Severus mad with desire.

Meanwhile, Hermione was only sure it would shock the Ministry receptionist when she clocked in later. Regardless, it was worth it to watch Severus's eyes linger on her clavicle.

She ordered, adding, 'I never liked my coffee black before. Why is this so delicious?'

'These are small batch roasts of select beans from family farmers,' he said, glancing up at her messy hair. 'I only brew the best.'

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'So when are we going to have our next time?' Hermione asked, a bit concerned that he was staring at her hair. She hadn't tamed it that morning with the new cream she'd found, and it was wilder than usual.

'Next time?' Severus asked. He looked confused, and yet Hermione was convinced that he knew what she was referring to.

'Next time,' she repeated, waving her hands in the air as though it would jog his memory. 'I took you out for dinner, and you suggested that we would have a next time. Am I bollocksing this up?'

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'No,' he replied hastily. 'Not at all. I am amenable to a next time.'

'Because if I'm doing this wrong, if... if...' The words were flying from Hermione's lips in a splutter of incomprehensibility. 'You could—should—invite Fiona, of course.'

His eyes grew wide. 'You want Fiona to join us?'

'I want her to come if you want her to come, and I think you probably want her to... er...' Hermione grabbed a banana for something to do, handing it to him to ring up with her coffee. 'And this, please.'

He frowned. 'And your young man?'

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Young man? Hermione thought. What young man?

She didn't have a young man.

Not unless Harry's two-year-old counted. James Jabuticaba Mahatma Lovegood-Potter, bless his snotty-nosed little heart, utterly adored his Auntie Hermione. Baby Al just drooled on her.

Severus faltered at her hesitation. 'Presumably, you would wish for your... for him to accompany you.'

Running through all the people who she knew interacted with Severus over the last few weeks, the only man who even remotely fit the bill was—

'Do you mean Pip?' she asked. 'My Pip?'

Severus sneered. 'His name is... Pip? What kind of a name is that?'

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Hermione's hackles were raised as she defended her friend. 'He's a lovely guy, but you'll see when you meet him. And Pip is short for Philip, but he's definitely not a Philip.'

'So...' Severus began, preparing a delicate brew for her, 'next time. When are you and... Pip'—he spat out the name like spoilt milk—'available for dinner?'

Without knowing Pip's schedule or his plans with his partner, she was hesitant to offer up an evening. 'I'm guessing that Friday would work. I'll run it by him and confirm with you tomorrow.'

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'Why am I coming on your date?' Pip asked, notebook in hand.

Prepared as always, Hermione thought.

She sighed.

'Maybe he wants me to have somebody else on my side so that I'm not an obvious third wheel to him and Fiona.'

'Hermione, what the hell were you thinking when you asked the pair of them to dinner? It sounds like he wanted only you.'

'But I thought you said he and Fiona—'

'Years ago!' Pip interjected.

Hermione groaned. 'Fuck.'

'I shall be your wingman.' Pip took out his pen, changing the subject entirely. 'Now, Ms. Granger, shall we begin?'

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The rest of the week ran smoothly.

Each day held the same routine: morning scheduling with Pip, legislative reforms before lunch, early afternoon meetings with foreign dignitaries, and late afternoon interdepartmental consults before taking off for home with a stack of files to read over dinner.

It is important work, she told herself.

She helped the ministries and governments of the world learn to work together. Surely her work made a difference in someone's life.

Didn't it?

It was just that it was all rather monotonous.

And Hermione didn't like the sinking feeling that she was stuck.

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Soon enough, the weekend arrived.

So did a sense of impending doom, looming over Hermione as she changed into her new red silk wrap dress for her upcoming dinner. This was a bad idea. A very bad idea. Why had she opened her big mouth and mentioned Fiona at all? True, she didn't want to look like she was elbowing her way into Severus and Fiona's relationship.

If there was one.

Which there might not be.

A knock alerted her to Pip's arrival, all dapper and suited up. He stared, letting out a low wolf whistle. 'Yowza, Hermione!'

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'I have excellent taste, if I do say so myself,' Pip quipped, taking Hermione by the hand and twirling her around to see the full effect of the dress he'd selected for her. 'Now ditch the scarf and pull out a longish necklace that hangs right above your bristols.'

She looked down at her chest. 'Really?'

He nodded with fervor. 'It'll draw his attention to your third best feature.'

'I hate to ask what the top two are, Pip. Should I be concerned?'

'Your brain, of course,' he replied. 'And your heart. Although perhaps not in that order.'

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A quick Apparition to an alley in Soho brought the pair to the address Severus had given Hermione.

She was dismayed by its name.

Which was Spanish.

That rankled a bit, especially given his cryptic comments about Spain and whatever they implied.

Nevertheless, Hermione forged ahead, entering the swanky restaurant with Pip by her side. She found the maître d'. 'Party of four at 7 o'clock?'

'Under what name?' he asked.

'Snape, I think?'

He looked in the book. 'There's no Snape here.'

'Is there a Severus?'

'No.'

She thought a moment longer. 'Er... Is it under Tobias?'

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She and Pip were seated at an empty table.

Before the waiter had time to walk away after dropping off menus, Pip took the liberty of ordering a bottle of the house wine. 'Just in case.'

They nibbled on some oversized toasted corn kernels set out as a starter, not making any small talk.

Hermione needed the time to focus.

Within a few minutes, she felt Pip nudge her under the table as he cleared his throat.

When she looked up, there stood Severus Snape, dashing in all grey, and the devastatingly gorgeous Fiona Bones.

In a red wrap dress.

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In a red dress, in fact, that was even slinkier than Hermione's.

Pangs of insecurity beat on her chest as she stared up at what a handsome couple Severus and Fiona made.

Then she saw Fiona's eyes settle on her own red dress, and a blush stole across her cheeks.

Hermione burst into laughter at the absurdity of the coincidence, determined not to let it get her down. 'Fiona!' she declared, standing up. 'You look lovely. I don't know where your impeccable taste comes from, but I'm wearing this because Pip picked it out for me.'

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Fiona's face fell. 'He picked that out for you?'

Hermione nodded, watching jealously as chivalry kicked in and Severus pulled out a chair for the woman to sit down.

And a moment passed.

And another.

'Er...' Hermione faltered as she dropped to her seat. 'Fiona, you know Pip, of course.'

'Just in passing,' she said, giving him a shy smile.

'And Pip,' Hermione continued, 'you know Severus.'

The men nodded at one another across the table with a stalwart silence.

'Or maybe you don't?' Hermione asked. 'Pip, when you transferred from Beauxbatons, was Severus still teaching at Hogwarts?'

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Pip glanced at Hermione. 'No. I came to Hogwarts as a sixth year, right after...'

After the war ended.

After Headmaster Snape left for good.

Whatever Pip was going to say, he thought otherwise and restrained himself.

Wanting to avoid any trouble, Fiona redirected Pip to move conversation back towards friendlier territory. 'Beauxbatons must have been a fascinating experience. Did you enjoy living in France, Pip?'

With little effort, the pair began chatting about all things French: the gentile language, the rich food, and sneaking off to ride Madame Maxime's gargantuan horses.

Snape sat sullenly, mulling over the menu.

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While Pip and Fiona nattered on, Hermione examined her choices. 'I thought I knew Spanish cuisine,' she said offhandedly to Severus, 'but I haven't heard of most of these dishes.'

'I've stumped Hermione Granger? That is a triumph,' he declared, smirking as he set down his menu. 'This place is Peruvian.'

Well, that explained why she didn't know any of the options. 'You can order for me, then.'

He nodded. 'By now, I know your taste.'

'Have you been to Peru before?' she asked.

'Yes. After Singapore. But before Spain.'

Fiona looked up. 'Did you say Spain?'

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Hermione refrained from gasping aloud. Would she finally learn about Severus's time in Spain?

'Yes, Fiona,' Pip said, nudging her on. 'Do tell. You've had work projects in Madrid, yes?'

The blonde woman laughed aloud. 'Indeed. It was the only exciting travel I've ever had for the Ministry.'

Hermione smiled sympathetically. 'There's no glamour in the Department of International Finance?'

Shaking her head, Fiona said, 'I'm a glorified accountant. It's probably the most boring job in the Ministry. Anyway, I was there on an audit, and...'

'And?' Hermione prompted her.

'And I was abducted.'

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'What?' Hermione cried. 'How did you keep that quiet?'

Fiona shrugged. 'The Ministry didn't want the Prophet to report on an employee kidnapping on the job, and I wanted a down payment for my apartment. We struck a deal.'

'Well done, you,' Pip said appraisingly.

'That's actually where I met up with Severus again,' Fiona said, continuing her tale. She reached over, resting her hand on his arm affectionately, and the warmth in her smile as she looked into his face could have thawed icebergs in Greenland. 'You see...'

'Yes?' Hermione asked.

Fiona blushed. 'He saved my life.'

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Pip glanced at Severus. 'Saving all of humanity twice wasn't enough for you?'

And the stoic man straightened out his flatware, clearly uncomfortable.

'He's saved my life on more than a few occasions as well,' Hermione added. 'Two times that I know about, although there could be more.'

Fiona downplayed her story. 'It sounds more dramatic than it was. I was held for about ten hours by people demanding ransom from the Ministry. I blacked out, and then—miraculously—I woke up in Severus's arms as he carried me to safety.'

Hermione sighed, forlorn. It sounded so romantic.

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Fiona chuckled. 'That's how Severus became the older brother I never knew I needed.'

Pip spit out his water.

And Hermione's heart soared out of her chest. 'What?'

'Oh, you know what I mean,' Fiona replied. 'I'm the eldest in my family and I was a prefect, so I've taken care of other people my entire life. It was such a relief to have an overly protective wizard watching out for me for a change.'

Pip elbowed Hermione in the ribs.

Fiona looked fondly at Severus. 'Even if you can be a surly git at times.'

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Fiona spoke up again. 'He even intimidates the men I date.'

'Belby was a Ministry sycophant and Emmerton failed to respect you,' Severus said firmly. 'Neither was acceptable.'

A million thoughts raced through Hermione's brain. Severus and Fiona weren't attracted to one another? How was that possible? And yet it was like her friendship with Harry and Ron. No matter how many gossipy articles Rita Skeeter sold to the public, Hermione could never, ever see them as anything but family.

'Before our food arrives,' Fiona said, standing, 'I'm going to freshen up. Hermione, would you like to join me?'

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When the ladies entered the loo, Fiona swept the room and locked the door. Blessedly, she was blunt. 'Why does Severus think you're seeing Pip when it's evident the man is gay?'

'Wait... What?' Hermione spluttered out. 'Why would he think that?'

Fiona shook her head. 'He jumps to conclusions sometimes, although I tried to tell him days ago that you'd never seriously date your assistant. Had I known then what I know now, I would have just told him that you definitely aren't Pip's type.'

'And here I thought Severus was seeing you,' Hermione said.

Fiona snorted inelegantly. 'No. Absolutely not.'

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'If you're not with Severus,' Hermione asked, 'and you didn't think I was with Pip, why did you agree to come out for dinner tonight?'

At this, Fiona began to giggle. 'This is a bit mortifying, but I thought Pip was this clever, funny, lovely guy, and—'

'What?!' Hermione said, interrupting the other woman. 'He is lovely, but—'

'You need to keep in mind that I didn't know him at all before,' Fiona continued, still laughing, 'and I overheard him at work saying he adored a woman in a red wrap dress, and—'

Hermione finally cracked up. 'That wasn't your first clue?'

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'Sometimes we're blind to the truth of things, yeah?' Fiona asked. She touched up her lipstick in the mirror. 'I haven't been out with a new guy in ages, and Pip seemed like fun.'

'He's the best,' Hermione agreed, fixing her hair, 'but he's taken.'

Fiona grinned. 'Taken?'

'Married, even.'

Good for him.'

As they emerged from the loo, Hermione saw the waiter loading up their table with Pisco sours, ceviches, and brightly coloured causa.

She also spotted Pip. He turned around in his chair towards them, and he was melodramatically mouthing the words, 'Help me!'

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Fiona took her seat. 'What have you two been discussing?'

Unwilling to make eye contact, Pip took a slow sip of his Pisco sour.

Severus merely began loading his plate with octopus.

'Severus!' Fiona cried. 'Have you been interrogating poor Pip here?'

The man grumbled something under his breath.

'I certainly hope not,' Fiona continued. 'What will Pip's husband say if he thinks you're threatening him?'

With a loud clatter, Severus dropped his fork. Then he turned to Hermione. 'I thought you said he was your... your...'

Hermione smiled. 'My assistant. And my friend. Pip will take over the department eventually.'

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'And I swear,' Pip said vehemently, defending himself to Severus, 'that I have always treated her with the utmost respect, both in the office and out of it. After all, she could magically demolish me without breaking a sweat, and I am not a stupid man.'

Severus didn't reply.

'Pip's been working with me for awhile now,' Hermione said. She chose a green-and-yellow-striped causa, putting it on her plate. 'And for the last three years, he's been my associate director... or...' She interrupted herself. 'What did you call him? Young man?... my young man in the department.'

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'Anyhow,' said Fiona, 'Hermione, how did you reconnect with Severus?'

Hermione was grateful for this redirection. 'Er... He didn't tell you?'

Fiona shook her head.

'Believe it or not, I ran into Severus a month ago at my local coffee shop.' Hermione glanced at Severus. ''Thanks to him, I now enjoy black coffee, and when the line isn't long, he regales me with stories of his world travels.'

'Really?' Fiona asked. 'I haven't heard many of those.'

'You aren't nearly are persistent as she is. Then again,' Severus stated, catching her eye, 'very few people are.'

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Hermione leaned in. 'I wish you'd write your memoirs, Severus.'

He shuddered. 'Self-revelation to a public intent on assuming the worst? I think not.'

'Not like that,' Hermione said, clarifying herself. 'It wouldn't be about exposure, but controlling your own story. The last thing written about you was Rita Skeeter's dreadful tell-all.'

Pip scowled. 'Was that the Snape: Sinner or Saint book? That woman is a menace.'

Quiet as he spoke, Severus corrected Pip. 'Scoundrel or Saint.'

'Either way,' Pip continued, 'most people know she spouts lies.'

Severus regarded Pip with something like a smile.

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'Besides,' Hermione said, 'you'd have more luck securing your Order of Merlin funds if you went public with how you rescued Fiona in Spain.'

His eyes grew wide. 'While I... appreciate your desire to clear my name, I do not want any additional attention at the moment.'

'I'll need to talk to Harry,' Hermione said, nibbling at her causa. 'He raised the issue with somebody-or-other in the Ministry, and you know how everyone panders to his whims. If I were you, I'd expect a large cheque sometime soon. Without a ceremony or press, of course.'

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Severus sighed. 'As long as there is no publicity. Absolutely nothing.'

With that, Hermione laid her hand on his to reassure him. 'I should have talked to you first. I'm sorry. I'll talk to Harry first thing tomorrow, so there shouldn't be a problem.'

Severus nodded.

'I understand wanting to avoid the public eye,' she said. Her thumb had a mind of its own, stroking the back of his hand. When Hermione realised what she was doing, she blushed and pulled away.

Perhaps she was being too forward?

After a moment, Severus pulled a notecard from his jacket. 'Er... What would constitute a perfect day for you, Hermione?'

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Before long, Severus had asked Hermione about her family, her work. Her hopes for the future.

It was wonderful.

And unsettling.

She hadn't had much experience with being pursued, and Severus's undivided attention made her aware of herself in a way that she hadn't been in years.

When Pip and Fiona excused themselves, dropping a few pound notes on the table, Hermione barely noticed. Severus merely waved them along.

Their waiter returned with the dessert menu. 'Would the lady and the gentleman like something more?'

Hermione's gaze dropped to Severus's lips.

Would she?

'Yes, please.'

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Soon enough, the pair were splitting a cherimoya semifreddo as Severus reminisced about his time in Lima.

'It was only three weeks, but it confirmed everything I'd ever suspected about the deficiencies of British cuisine.'

Hermione chuckled. 'I don't know if you've yet mentioned what you were doing in Peru.'

'Oh, haven't I?' he asked, one eyebrow raised in challenge.

'It's just...' Hermione scrambled for words. 'I don't want to pry if you can't tell me, but I want you to know that I want to know you. I like your knowing me.'

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'Hermione, I...' He leaned forward to take a curl of her hair between his fingers.

She felt a heat in her skin, desperately wanting to be alone with him.

He spoke again. 'Hermione, I want—'

'My, my.' A sharp voice interrupted him. 'What have we here?'

Severus and Hermione whipped around in their seats only to spot the last person on earth either of them wanted there.

Rita Skeeter.

In the flesh.

In the trouble-making, pot-stirring, attention-seeking flesh, staring at the two of them like a Niffler on the hunt.

And she'd just found her golden treasure.

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'Do my eyes deceive me, or is Little Miss Granger seducing the Professor of Ill Repute?' Rita asked, practically salivating over her scoop. 'I suppose Potter ended up with that nut job, and Krum came out of the closet, so it was time to head to greener pastures.'

Hermione grimaced. Skeeter had gone public with her Animagus status a few years ago, thereby obliterating Hermione's blackmail material. She bit her tongue, allowing Severus to take the lead if he wanted to.

He did.

He stood, whispering something into her ear that made her turn the colour of pea soup.

Chapter Text

Snape turned to Hermione, still seated. 'I believe we're through here. Wouldn't you agree, Ms. Granger?'

Hermione stood, giving Skeeter one last glare before heading out.


When they were clear of the restaurant, Severus slipped his arm around her waist, leading her away from the bustle of the city street.

He wasn't saying anything even after several blocks, so Hermione piped up before she lost her nerve. 'Er... Severus?'

'Yes?' he murmured softly.

'What were you going to say back there? You wanted... what?'

He turned to her with fire in his eyes. 'Why, you, of course.'

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Hermione stared at him then, surprised that he would be so forthright.

His eyes, softly crinkling at the corners, were focussed on hers, yes, but there was a hint of doubt in them. There was an unspoken question there.

She knew then that he was as nervous as she was about whatever this was that was blossoming between them, and she could feel his fingers toying with the fabric of her dress, just—there!—at her waist. Turning to face him, she reached up to tuck a strand of his hair behind his ear.

And she smiled. 'Take me away?'

Chapter Text

Severus smiled at her then—truly smiled, as if lit from within—and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest.

What he was about to do registered with Hermione just in time, and she buried her face in his neck as the familiar tug of Apparition took them away. When they landed, she clung to him, breathing in his scent while her balance sorted itself out.

With a gentle touch, he traced her jawline, and she opened her eyes to a simple, elegant flat.

He led her to a worn leather sofa. 'Welcome to my home, Hermione.'

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It was all ivories, greys, and warm woods, with a wall of books on one side and a another of windows on the other.

With a flick of his wand, the fireplace in the corner roared to life, and Hermione turned back to find him waiting for her response.

'I like it,' she said, kicking off her heels and tucking her feet up beneath her. 'It suits you.'

Methodically, he folded his jacket and toed off his shoes. Then he sat beside her, pulling her close, threading his fingers through hers.

Her heart beat wildly, waiting for him to act.

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First kisses were extraordinary things.

Some were like the London winter—wet and uncomfortable. Others were were all heat and passion, teeth clacking together.

This was neither.

His fingers delved into curls at the base of her neck, and he moved towards her slowly, giving her the chance to back away if she wanted to.

She didn't.

Her eyes fluttered closed, and when his lips touched hers, it was soft and tender. Just a whisper of a kiss, really. He kissed her sweetly, as though she were precious to him.

And Hermione knew that this—that he—was good.

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Her skin heating up, Hermione wanted more. She opened her mouth to Severus, inviting him, asking for his passion in return. He pulled her to sit astride him, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him fiercely.

It was wonderful and surreal.

There was this whole new side to Severus that she'd only suspected before, and now here he was, pursuing her.

Wanting her.

Laying her down on the sofa as he covered her body with his.

And gradually, the heat between them subsided into something sweeter and more innocent, and they both drifted off to sleep.

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Hermione woke up the next morning with a crick in her neck and a hot, lumpy pillow under her leg.

And the taste of old fish in her mouth.

She hadn't yet brought herself to open her eyes, but her place was much brighter than usual. Had she left the drapes open yesterday?

Her head hurt, too. It wasn't a full out headache per se, since Hermione Granger didn't get headaches, but she wasn't going to run a marathon anytime soon.

Perhaps she'd let herself sleep in a bit.

That was when the pillow groaned.

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It all came back to her: the double date, Fiona's revelations about Snape, Skeeter buzzing about their table. Oh, gods, had she really spent the night snogging Severus Snape on his sofa?

As covertly as possible, she opened one eye to check.

Yep.

He was awake, though, and he was staring at her, so she couldn't close her eyes and pretend to sleep. One of his arms was thrown over her body, and their legs were still intertwined.

'Good morning,' he said.

She clapped a hand over her mouth so he wouldn't smell her fish breath. 'Hi.'

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With a jerk, Hermione toppled out of the couch, landing on the floor with a thud.

'Hermione?' he asked. He reached down to help her.

Blushing, she stammered, 'I'd really love a shower. Would you mind?'

He pointed to a door. 'It's through there, and clean towels are under the sink.'

She squirmed in the wrinkled dress she'd slept in. 'Could I borrow some clothes to change into? Freshening Charms are just not that fresh.'

'Of course.'

After a hot shower, she felt rejuvenated. She dried off, changing into the soft grey nightshirt he'd left her.

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When she emerged, her hair was damp, her face was bereft of makeup, and her figure was swimming in the grey nightshirt he'd given her.

She had questions about that shirt: Did he really sleep in it? Why not traditional pyjamas? Maybe he slept in the nude?

That train of thought was cut off by the savoury aroma wafting from the kitchen. There was Severus, miraculously clean shaven and fresh as a daisy, juggling multiple pans atop the stove.

'You cook?' she asked.

He looked up. 'Omelettes are simple. Will caramelized onions and chicken suffice?'

She sat at the counter, gazing upon his handiwork. 'This is divine.'

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The kettle whistle blew, and Severus poured it into a Brown Betty teapot. He slid it across the counter to Hermione, along with a teacup and a box of loose leaf mint.

'Can you read my mind?' she asked, prying the lid off and portioning out the tea in a strainer. 'Mint is perfect. I desperately wanted—'

'To brush your teeth?' he asked, completing her sentence.

She nodded. 'Er... So...'

'So...' he repeated, beating some eggs.

'So...' she said, trying to find the words as her tea steeped. Any words would do, really, and yet she was coming up blank.

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'Do you still have your notecards?' Hermione asked him.

Severus plated the omelettes and sat in the stool beside her. 'Do we need them?'

'Well,' she said slowly, tucking in, 'I love talking with you. And kissing you. I'm... quite eager to keep doing both. If you are. Interested. If you're interested in that... with me.'

'I rarely let people in,' he replied. 'Most aren't worth the time. I find, however, that you are... unique.'

'My place, next time,' she said, her hand on his knee. 'I have half a frozen Viennetta with your name on it.'

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He smirked. 'There's something at which the great Hermione Granger doesn't excel?'

'I'll have you know that I'm much better at accepting my limitations these days. After the war, I finally felt I had nothing left to prove about my worth as a witch.' Hermione took another bite of her omelette. 'I don't cook, I still hate brooms, and I work ludicrous hours.'

'I... understand the juvenile desire to prove one's worth.'

She nodded. 'So what's your Achilles heel, Severus? It's clearly not cookery.'

He paused. 'I failed Herbology as a boy.'

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'Really?' Hermione asked, incredulous.

'Really,' Severus stated. 'I was a firstie, possessed of the blackest thumb in all of Hogwarts.'

'What happened?'

His face softened. 'Pomona insisted that I assist her in the greenhouses for extra credit. Afterwards she plied me with biscuits and tea.'

Hermione laughed aloud. 'That's the Hufflepuff way.'

He nodded. 'By second year, I was one of her top students.'

After a pause, Hermione said, 'By second year, I had accidentally turned myself into a cat.'

He chuckled. 'Who do you think brewed the antidote to your potion?'

With a gasp, Hermione stood. 'You did?'

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He nodded. 'I was quite impressed.'

Hermione cleared their plates to the sink and began the washing up. 'By my prodigious talent?'

Grabbing a towel to dry, he snorted. 'By Lockhart's idiocy. How could any professor sign off on a twelve-year—'

'Thirteen at the time,' she interjected.

'—a bloody thirteen-year-old heading off into the Restricted Section unattended?'

'I flattered his ego,' she replied. 'I was such a manipulative thing then. It took years before I realised this about myself, but knowing yourself takes time, doesn't it?'

He slipped his arm around her waist. 'It does.'

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Forty minutes later, they found themselves back on his sofa trading questions.

'Favourite band?' she asked.

'The Clash,' he replied, no sign of hesitation. 'You?'

'Er... My parents often played the Beatles around the house. Also Beethoven.'

'You never developed your own taste?' he asked.

She shook her head. 'Not really.'

'How about cuisine?' he asked.

'Anything that delivers to my flat.'

He cringed at the thought of perpetual takeout.

'Although Peruvian was delicious,' she added.

He glanced at her. 'We'll have to do it again.'

Smiling, she leaned against him, drawing his arm over her shoulders. 'I'd like that.'

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After dozens of questions, Hermione steered the conversation to shark-infested waters. 'How was your first kiss, Severus?'

He examined her. 'How or who?'

She shrugged. 'Either. Both? Whatever you're comfortable with. For the record, mine was Viktor Krum, and his ring caught on my hair. I had a tiny bald patch until George Weasley gave me something to regrow what I'd lost.'

'Lucinda Rosier, sixth year.'

Brow furrowed, Hermione failed to recognise the name. 'Was she your housemate?'

'Ravenclaw,' he said. 'I'd finally given up hope on... who I wanted, and Lucinda was pretty and kind.'

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'How about the most regrettable kiss you ever had?' Hermione said.

'Do you have an answer yourself?'

'That's easy—Ronald. He said something about defending house-elves, and apparently that sends my heart aflutter.' Hermione shuddered, remembering it. 'It was like kissing my brother, not that I have a brother. I imagine it would be as awkward as kissing Harry, not that I could ever kiss him either. Ever.'

Severus perked up at that. 'Never kissed Potter, hmm?'

'Nope.' She took his hand. 'Your worst kiss?'

'On the same grounds of familial resemblance,' he said, 'mine would be Fiona.'

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Hermione's chest collapsed in on itself, even though she knew it shouldn't. 'Oh? Fiona?'

He watched her with cautious eyes. 'During our one failed attempt at dating.'

'After Spain?'

Nodding, he continued. 'It was so peculiar. We promised one other we'd forget it ever happened.'

Hermione reached up to smooth out nonexistent wrinkles in his shirt. 'I see.'

In one swift move, he grasped her hand and brought it to his lips. 'I don't want to talk about her. Is that acceptable?'

She sighed, content. 'Totally and completely.'

And he placed a kiss on her wrist.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Something about Severus made Hermione feel like a teenager again.

It could have been the physical resemblance to Viktor, the first boy to set her heart aflutter. Of course, where Viktor was inexperienced and fumbling, Severus was deliberate and so methodical.

He kissed her palm—just there!—his lips found her neck, and Hermione trembled in his arms.

Viktor who?

Hermione's mind went blank as Severus's fingers moved up her thighs, finding no knickers beneath the grey nightshirt.

THWACK!

Hermione looked up, dazed. 'What was that?'

Through the window, they spotted an owl shaking itself off as it regrouped on Severus's terrace.

Chapter Text

With a wave of his hand, Severus wandlessly opened the door.

The owl tottered over to them and collapsed.

Hermione removed the note addressed to her before scooping up the creature and setting it down on the sofa to recover. When she opened it, she saw Pip's scrawling hand inviting her to a late lunch for some big news and an introduction.

She showed the note to Severus. 'Are you up for lunch with Pip and his husband?'

'Not for all the jewels and Galleons in Lucius Malfoy's vault.'

She slid off his lap, deciding what to do.

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'Oh,' Hermione replied, a touch disappointed. Of course, perhaps Severus had plans for the day. It wasn't as though either of them had planned on still being together.

'Go,' he said. 'Philip—'

'—Pip!—'

'—Pip did not request my presence.'

She leaned her head on his shoulder. 'That's only because he thought I'd be alone at home now.'

He squeezed her hand. 'I have to go to the coffee shop later anyway.'

'Oh, do you?' she asked. 'Are you ever going to tell me how you got started there?'

He kissed her cheek. 'It's a long story.'

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Hermione stood, fingering the nightshirt. 'I can't wear my red dress from last night. Would you mind if I Transfigured this a bit?'

He looked her up and down. 'Do your worst.'

Quick as a wink, she grabbed her wand, pulling the dress in at the waist, adding a belt, and making the fabric rather thicker.

Was Severus... pouting?

Uncertain, she looked down. 'Is something wrong?'

He shook his head. 'Just return it in its original state.'

She nodded. 'Of course.'

'I haven't worn it in years,' he added, 'but it can be yours when you're here.'

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Twenty minutes past noon, Hermione found cafe Pip had mentioned.

Across the room, she saw her friend sitting across from—

'George Weasley!'

The redhead squeezed her in a bear hug. 'You're looking good, Granger. Pull up a chair.'

She did.

Then she pinched Pip playfully. 'I can't believe it! When did you two get together?'

Pip laughed. 'It started back in sixth year.'

Hermione was confused. 'George wasn't at Hogwarts then.'

'No,' Pip said, 'but that's when I first saw the most remarkable bit of magic en route from Slytherin to the library. You see, there was this tiny swamp...'

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Halfway through the meal, Pip mentioned her attire. 'New dress, Hermione?'

She blushed. 'Maybe.'

'I haven't seen it at the office.'

George stole a piece of asparagus off his husband's plate. 'Do you know Granger's entire wardrobe?'

'Well, I just overhauled it singlehandedly, so yes. Yes, I do.'

'The Granger I know wouldn't shop willingly,' George said, skeptical.

Pip gasped, poking her in the side. 'You stayed over at his place last night! You jammy cow!'

Hermione threw her hands up in surrender. 'You got me!'

And George grinned. 'Good on you. He'll be able to challenge and support you.'

Chapter Text

By dessert, Hermione was stuffed. 'You mentioned news, Pip?' she asked.

'Er... about that,' he stammered, glancing at George. 'My whole family already knows, but we're going to tell his next weekend.'

'Bill knows,' George said, 'and I'm sure Dad knows, too. Luna knows everything without even trying, so Harry knows.'

'I took Fiona dancing after we left you lovebirds,' Pip added. 'She knows.'

'So it's mostly your mum?'

They nodded.


When she returned home, Hermione found a photo of herself embracing George splashed across a page in the Daily Prophet, under the article "A Clandestine Affair" by Rita Skeeter.

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Hermione blasted the newspaper to smithereens before even reading the article.

Then she Floo'd over to Harry's place to read his copy.

'Why read it?' Harry asked. 'We both know it's shite.'

Luna poured some medicinal Firewhisky and beet juice into a teacup for Hermione. 'Nobody who knows either of you will believe any of it.'

Hermione took a big swig. 'I don't understand. She saw me out with Severus yesterday, and nothing. Today was George, and I get this?'

Harry shrugged.

'So why would she do this?'

Just then, an owl appeared with a red envelope.

Chapter Text

It was from Molly.

A voice rang out over the noise. 'Hermione, my dear girl! How could you not tell us? I am so happy to hear this news! Arthur couldn't believe it himself! You two must come to the house for supper tonight and we can all celebrate!'

Then it burst into flames.

Harry frowned. 'You know George just got an earful, too.'

'Ugh,' Hermione said. 'Why me? Listen, I need to find Severus and ask him about Rita.'

'Hermione?'

'Yes, Harry?'

He smiled sheepishly. 'Er... This is still a little weird for me, but I'm happy for you.'

Chapter Text

Hadn't he said he was going to the coffee shop? Hermione queued up for the counter, but Severus—er, Tobias—was nowhere to be found.

Kevin the barista was manning the register. 'Hi, Hermione.'

She smiled brightly. 'Kevin! It's good to see you again.'

'You want your regular? Dirty chai, right?'

She paused for a moment. 'You know, I've been branching out lately. Trying new things.'

The young man laughed. 'What would you like instead?'

And she thought for a moment. What would she like? Right now, all she wanted was Severus.

But he wasn't there.

Chapter Text

'I don't know,' she replied, 'so just make mine a dirty chai.'

She paid with her mobile.

Severus hadn't been specific about when he'd be at the coffee shop. Perhaps he'd already headed home.

'Say, Kevin?' she asked. 'Have you seen Tobias lately?'

'Not today. Our work week shifts overlap a lot, so I can give him a message from you on Monday.'

Hermione sighed. 'Nah. Thanks anyway.'

'You gone soft on old Toby?' Kevin asked.

She grinned. 'That's none of your business!'

As she headed toward the door, her cup buzzed in her hands. Hermione spilled the tea everywhere.

Chapter Text

Another one of the baristas, a lanky fellow sporting an immaculately groomed beard and curly moustache, rushed over to help her tidy up. He looked like the sort who would smoke clove cigarettes and who would have ridden into work on a unicycle.

'Thank you,' she said, accepting the napkins he'd given her.

'It's all for the best, really,' he said. 'The drink you chose was laden with sugar—an unpalatable dreck.'

Hermione glanced at him.

And down at her cup.

Where Kevin had written 'Hermione,' this man had scratched it out and scribbled 'Herman' in its place.

Chapter Text

It was Severus.

'Allow me to brew you a worthier replacement,' he said, offering her his hand.

Hermione nodded. The questions came quickly: Why was he in disguise? Why spill her drink? Since he was in disguise, why reveal himself to her now?

A moment later, he returned with a cup. 'On the house.'

The paper sleeve felt strangely cold to the touch.

'Thank you.'

'You should go home now,' he said pointedly, 'where you will be safe.'

'Safe from what?' she asked, wondering what was really going on.

He winked at her. 'From spilling your coffee, of course.'

Chapter Text

Hermione walked back to her flat with the speed of an incontinent tourist trying to find a public loo. She sipped her hot coffee the whole way, confused by the cooler temperature of the sleeve.

When she crossed the threshold, she felt a familiar magic washing over her, the tingle of the protective spells she place on her home.

In light of Severus's cryptic words, she was grateful for it.

With a wave of her wand, she closed the drapes.

She removed the paper sleeve from her cup, only to have it unfold like a flower in her hand.

Chapter Text

I suspect that you're being followed by Skeeter. When I am through here at ten o'clock, I believe we should talk. If you are free, Floo to my home then. The password is 'Buzzcocks.'

Then it shattered into millions of tiny pieces, disappearing into thin air.

Hermione stared at the clock on the wall reading 6:49. She had a bloody long time to wait.

In the meanwhile, she jotted off a note to Molly, explaining that while she adored George, they were only friends. Another went to Pip and George: Ugh, Skeeter! We'll sort this out.