AN: I wanted to post this last week, for Severus’s birthday, but I got set back by recent events in the U.S. which monopolized my attention. But here it is today, in memory of Alan, who brought this character to life for so many of us and inspired a lifelong obsession. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Hermione practically squealed with excitement, leaning back against the door the moment he was gone. He had given her an ‘O’! This had to be the fabled ‘O’ of which he had made reference so many dreams ago. Which meant… Merlin. What was it he had said? That he had tossed and turned for hours, ‘unable to turn my mind away from thoughts of you.'
She pictured him headed down to his rooms right now, his mind a buzz of confused emotions. She had bargained with him for this precise moment, so that she would know. So that she could picture him stretched out beneath his sheets, tormented by the thought of what might have happened between them, 'if I had been so bold.’
Hermione gasped . Somehow, knowing that her present Severus wanted her, and not merely that some improbable future version of him did, made a hot ache twist deep in her core. Her breath was shallow and her eyes nearly closed as she remembered his words to her that night.
‘You want me to tell you how I pictured you pulling me into your bed and climbing on top of me, your breasts bouncing as you rode me like a bucking bull? How I imagined—not inaccurately, I might add—how ecstasy would look upon your lovely face? Or how the thought of you bringing yourself to orgasm on top of me made me come harder than I had in years?’
For a moment, Hermione wished that she had done just that, dragging him to her bed instead of letting him leave. She began to strip out of her clothes, imagining his hands on her instead of her own. Severus Snape pulling her jumper over her head. Severus Snape fumbling with the zip of her jeans. Severus Snape unhooking her bra, his dark eyes tracing across her naked skin.
She collapsed into her blankets. It was a powerful feeling, knowing about his fantasy. The heady thrill of it was certainly worth the confession she had made to him back then. Knowing that elsewhere in the castle he was tormenting himself with thoughts of her; that he was regretting—as she was—not taking things further right then and there.
Hermione writhed atop her bedspread, letting her hands travel across her skin as he might have done, if he had been so bold . Gone was the feeling of inferiority that Amandine and the waitresses had inspired. She felt like a goddess. Outstanding, he had said. Outstanding , from Severus Snape; a rare compliment indeed. And he had seemed so shocked that she didn’t know this about herself. As if it were the most obvious thing in the world. It thrilled her to know that he had paid her arse such attention.
She would have him soon. The thought sprang to her mind out of nowhere and made her gasp with the force of her arousal as it fanned into flame inside her. She would have him here, in this bed, just as she had in the visions of her future with him. She moaned at the thought, dipping her hands between her legs to coax the fire within her higher until it threatened to consume her completely.
She pictured him here, covering her body with his own, kissing her face, her mouth, her neck. How he might whisper in her ear. She imagined herself tangling her fingers in his hair. The intimacy of that.
She pretended it was his hands between her legs, instead of her own. Working the magic she knew him capable of. Readying her for him . One graceful hand guiding his cock between her folds, pressing inside of her. How he would rock against her, tenderly at first, then passionately.
She pictured him down in the dungeons right now, stretched out atop his own bed, just as he had described. His hand slipping beneath the sheets to fondle himself. His cock, how it would throb and weep until he gave in to his fantasies and allowed himself to seek relief. The way his voice would sound when he growled out his release.
She cried out with abandon when she came, her body pulsing with waves of ecstasy as her breath came in panting bursts. And in minutes she was fast asleep.
They were in his kitchen, down in the dungeons, and she was perched atop one of his stools. Some official-looking paperwork was spread out on the counter in front of her, and he was on the other side of the island, rinsing herbs in the sink.
“ Severus Snape!” she squealed, hopping down off the stool and practically skipping around the island to throw herself into his arms. “ Finally! You gave me that ‘O.’”
“Did I?” he laughed. He had dropped the herbs in the sink, his wet hands landing on her waist, and the moisture was quickly soaking through her tee, but she didn’t care.
“Yes and for my arse of all things! Pig.”
“Well, it is rather a fine arse.” As if to demonstrate his point, he let his hands dip lower, giving her legging-clad bum a little squeeze before returning them to rest on her lower back.
Hermione’s eyes went wide and she could feel herself blushing. Her chest was pressed against his, the lengths of their bodies so close together. Her hands were around his neck, tickled by the length of his silky black hair. Her entire being glowed with warmth at his proximity.
It hit her then how absurd her doubts had been. Just last night she had allowed herself to wonder if she might find another bookish wizard a bit closer to her age. And perhaps it was possible. But then what did it matter if there were a million such wizards? She hadn’t fallen in love with them. Her breath escaped her in a soft gasp. Suddenly, her heart was beating wildly in her chest and her breath was short. For better or worse, she had fallen in love with Severus Snape.
And of course she had. He was brilliant , wasn’t he? Keenly intelligent, darkly funny, adoring and affectionate when he wanted to be, sexy as hell... and brave . He had fought harder than practically anyone to destroy Voldemort, and been willing to sacrifice himself in order to do it. In short, he was a singularly impressive man. How she ever could have compared him to anyone else was beyond her. She had been so stubborn this entire time.
Now, standing in his arms, wrapped in his embrace, everything seemed to fall into place. It felt right. And it was about time she stopped getting in her own damn way.
“You know,” she murmured, glancing up into his fathomless eyes, “I was thinking… about what you said about… firsts , and how you’ve been looking forward to them. And I realized… there are still a few firsts we might have together."
She nodded, smirking up at him, her eyes glinting with mischief. "It's possible, for example… that you haven’t yet experienced… the first time I kissed you. ”
His brows rose in surprise and he stilled. A faint tinge appeared high in his cheeks and he dropped his gaze, not quite able to meet her eye. Hermione’s heart gave a little squeeze. She brought one of her hands around to cup his cheek, tracing the outline of his face, and he leaned into her touch.
Slowly, she lifted up onto her tiptoes and closed the distance between them, leaning up to press her lips against his in the gentlest kiss. Pulling back just enough to look up at him, she saw that his eyes were half-shuttered and his cheeks were pink. She met his gaze, reading the need so clearly in those inky depths, and smiled.
Letting her own eyes flutter closed, she met his mouth again, first with the gentle brush of tender flesh, then with teasing nibbles of her lips until she parted them just enough to let her tongue dart out. He moaned. One of his hands left her waist and buried itself in her hair, gripping her gently as his own lips parted so that he could return her kiss. The feel of his tongue on hers was electric. A flush of desire warmed her blood, coiling with tight heat deep inside her. She whimpered into his mouth.
He leaned her back and she clung to him, tangling her hands in his hair. Rubbing her nose affectionately against his as they kissed. She marvelled at every sensation. The soft warmth of his skin. The taste of his mouth. The way his breath shook with restraint and sudden need. The way their mouths slanted eagerly against one another, their tongues exploring, pushing the boundaries, begging for more.
She didn’t realize they were moving until her bum was pressed against the counter. His hands released her, but only long enough to slip behind her thighs, lifting her up onto the cool surface. She gasped.
Something seemed to snap inside of him. His tightly controlled facade slipped away as he clutched at her, his hands massaging her hips and waist as he plundered her mouth. She could feel the hard length of his erection against her and found herself arching against him.
His mouth broke away from hers only long enough to growl out that “this counter is the perfect height.”
“It is ,” she agreed with a throaty moan.
He jerked away from her, his fingers digging into her thighs as he stared down at her with wide eyes and a furrowed brow. “ Fuck. ”
“What’s the matter?”
“Only that I’m not certain I will be able to stop if we don’t stop now.”
Hermione’s face grew warm. Part of her wondered if that would be so bad. She wanted him like she had hardly ever wanted anything in her life. But Severus Snape was too important to rush. She wanted to savor every first they had, every moment. She wanted to enjoy the gentle tease of their courtship, wringing out every ounce of pleasure along the way.
It was with much difficulty that they disentangled themselves from one another. He would back away and she would slip off the counter, stepping back into his embrace, if only to run her hands down the planes of his chest. Then she would turn away from him, giggling like a schoolgirl, the happiness bubbling out of her, too much to contain; and he would catch her around the waist and bury his nose in her hair, muffling his own astonished laughter against the tender skin of her neck.
Eventually, they found themselves standing in his kitchen, arms around each other, her cheek pressed to his chest, his chin resting atop her head. It was a compromise, they told each other. But neither felt it was anything less than perfect.
Severus Snape did not go down to breakfast. He couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her so soon. What the hell had he been thinking? Complimenting her arse, for Merlin’s sake! She must think him a complete letch.
No, he could not go down to breakfast. Nor could he manage to put in an appearance at lunch. He had even toyed with the notion of sending in his resignation and retreating to the countryside where Hermione Granger would never be able to torment him again.
And still he somehow managed to be surprised when she knocked on his door that afternoon, dressed in a soft violet jumper and her thrice-damned Muggle jeans. “I hope I’m not interrupting your recovery,” she teased, smirking up at him with a glint in her eye.
“I should think you would still be tending to your own.”
“I’m sure I would be if you hadn’t dumped half an apothecary worth of potions down my throat.”
He was struck by the visual that inspired and she must have been too, for her cheeks turned pink and she cleared her throat. “I was wondering if you were planning to make good on your promise to blend tea with me today.”
“Oh.” Somehow, he had completely forgotten. “I suppose… if you are still interested…”
“Excellent! Is now alright, or would you prefer for me to come back later?”
“Now... would be agreeable.”
Hermione followed the awkward man through his lab and into his kitchen. He was clearly second-guessing the boldness he had shown her last night. Well, she wasn’t deterred. His future self had snogged her senseless here in this very kitchen, and she was determined to have his present self, too.
He turned to face her, frowning down at her uncomfortably. “I’m… afraid I haven’t prepared…”
She nearly laughed, grinning up at him as a swell of affection warmed her chest. “This isn’t one of your lessons, Severus. Although I’m sure I would enjoy one of your famous lectures on the subject…”
He smirked. “Of course you would.”
Shaking her head, she took one slow, calculated step toward him, tilting her chin up to meet his eye. “Just… show me.”
His lips flattened into one thin line and he lifted an eyebrow at her as he turned away, leading her over to an ancient armoire made of dark wood. She had barely paid the piece any mind in the past, assuming it to be some sort of liquor cabinet or even storage for potions, perhaps. But when he turned the tiny brass knobs and pulled open the doors, her eyes fell upon shelves and shelves full of tidy jars and packages labelled in the precise fashion he used for his potions stores.
“This truly is a passion of yours, then.”
“Well, herbs and spices have many more uses than simply for tea.”
“Ah yes, you cook as well.”
He frowned at her and she caught her mistake, shaking her head at him in an attempt to turn the recollection into realization. “I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“Yes well, shall we get started?” Something in his posture changed and suddenly he was Professor Snape again. She repressed a smile. “To start, you should know that blending tea is more of an art than it is a science. By that, I do not mean that human preferences cannot be calculated, but rather… that your own senses are better adapted to the job than mathematics or even, say... Arithmancy.”
She smirked up at him, lifting a challenging eyebrow, and he suddenly noticed how very close to him she was. He couldn’t help the flash of memory from last night; how she felt wrapped up in his arms, her small frame pressed against him.
He cleared his throat. “But that is not to say that there is not an underlying science to the process.
"The first step is to start with a base. Camellia sinensis. ” He gestured to the shelf of packaged tea leaves. “One little plant that has caused so much trouble. Of course, there are regional varieties, but that mostly has to do with the fertility of the soil and the rainfall, or perhaps the particular pride a region takes in the quality of their tea. Darjeeling being a notable example.
“Past that, it is mostly the same plant the world over. What matters... is how it is processed. There are a number of ways to process tea, with varying outcomes. It can be wilted, oxidized, bruised, crushed, yellowed, or even fermented.”
He began to point out the separate packages to her as he described them. “Green tea is the least processed. It is not wilted or oxidized at all. Sometimes, it is allowed to yellow, making a yellow tea, of which, sadly, I have none. White tea is wilted, but not oxidized. Oolong tea is wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized. And your standard black tea is wilted, often crushed, and fully oxidized. Am I boring you, yet?”
Her eyes snapped up to his and her face lit up in a smile. “Are you joking? Have you forgotten who I am?”
His lips turned up at the corners, but there was still something reserved about his eyes. “Very well. There are many different reasons to choose any particular base. Caffeine content, or that of antioxidants, perhaps. Certain herbal teas have various medicinal properties, so that is a factor. But I am usually looking predominantly at the flavour. I trust I do not need to explain the differences there.”
She shook her head, giving him a wry smirk.
Severus turned back to the shelves with a frown. “Perhaps I have gone about this the wrong way. I don’t often begin with the base, after all. Usually, I choose the proper base to best suit the flavours that I have in mind.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. Let us tackle this from a different angle.”
Hermione watched him from the corner of her eye. It was clear he was passionate about the subject and wanting to convey his knowledge to her. She found it touching. And he was standing so close beside her. It was not hard to imagine wrapping her arm around his waist. Or even taking his hand. As awkward and stilted as he was being, she couldn’t help but feel that there was a new understanding between them after the events of the night before. They had each tipped their hands and it looked like the cards were all about to fall into place.
“There really are no limits to the types of ingredients one might include in one’s tea, but mostly they fall into a handful categories pertaining to the different parts of the plant whence they came. Herbs are the leaves. Spices come from the seeds, bark, or even roots. Then there are the flowers and the fruits.
“At the same time, there are different categories of flavour. Sweet versus bitter. Warm versus cold. But also sour and savory. As I mentioned, it is more of an art and personal preference has a great deal to do with it, but as a rule it is usually best to have one flavour that stands out above the rest with more mellow notes set as a sort of contrast in the background.”
“Like an accent pillow?”
Hermione rubbed her hands together. “Is that it then? Can I give it a go?”
“It is enough to begin. You may choose your ingredients. I recommend at least three, but too many and the flavours can become a tad muddy.”
“Alright,” she hummed, considering the many shelves of ingredients. It was a bit overwhelming. Obviously she wanted to impress him, but how?
The dried rosemary immediately stood out to her. That would make for a bold choice, but what to go with it? The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of a rosemary tea. As particular of a flavour as it was, it was also quite versatile. She could pair it with florals or other spices, perhaps even… chocolate .
Once she had the idea, she was sure it was the perfect choice. And perhaps another mellow flavor to go with it. Vanilla? No. That didn’t suit. She must have glanced through the jars of ingredients three full times before she decided on rosehips, the tiny fruit produced by a rose bush. Considering the other flavors, she chose black tea as a base.
Pulling her four chosen ingredients out of the cabinet, she set them all on the kitchen counter. He came to stand beside her, the placket on the front of his trousers appearing in her peripheral, and suddenly she was reminded of their realization in her dream the night before: that the counter was the perfect height. She turned her face away to hide her blush.
“An interesting combination,” he told her, his voice all rumbly and intrigued. She could tell he was impressed and couldn’t suppress a grin.
“Now for the most difficult part: the proportions. You do not want to overpower the flavour of the tea. It is customary for the blend to be about two thirds tea, and… as rosemary is rather a pungent herb, you will want to have the least of that one.”
Hermione listened to his advice as she measured her tea, rosehips, cocoa nibs, and rosemary all into the little glass jar he had provided for her. She stirred it to uniformity under his direction and closed the lid.
"Well done,” he murmured, and he had to have been aware of the effect he was having on her, standing so close and speaking so low in that velvety baritone of his. “Now it only needs a name.”
Hermione turned to look up at him from beneath her lashes. "I was thinking perhaps… Midnight Garden. For the chocolate."
"Hmm. Romantic," he murmured, holding her gaze. His face was unreadable, but his eyes held a guarded promise.
"Is it?" she teased, lifting an eyebrow at him.
He dropped his gaze and a tinge of color appeared high in his cheeks. "I only meant… in the sense of the genre. Perhaps I should have said 'poetic.'" He cleared his throat, turning away from her. "It will need to sit a while to allow the oils to blend properly. Perhaps even a full day, although it is not an exact science."
Hermione nodded, reaching up to place her jar in the cupboard with the rest of his teas before she knew what she was doing. It wasn't until she caught his expression of faint surprise that she realized he had intended for her to take it with her. Oh well, this way she'd have an excuse to visit him again.
"I have something for you," he said, striding over to the end table beside his wingback chair. Smirking, he handed her a pretty green book with vines and flowers bordering the cover and twisting together along the spine.
The Perfect Cuppa: a Guide to Blending Tea.
Hermione gasped. "You said this was something I couldn't study for!"
"You can study for anything if you know how to go about it."
Hermione took a step closer to him, leaning against the counter and lifting her chin to meet his gaze with a teasing smirk. " Anything?"
There was that tinge of color in his cheeks again. But this time he didn't pull away. If anything, he seemed to lean closer and Hermione’s lips parted in surprise. She didn’t miss the way his eyes flickered down to them before returning to her own with sudden determination. Her breath hitched as anticipation bloomed inside of her along with a rush of affection for this man. She knew the moment he made up his mind to kiss her.
A heavy knock echoed throughout the chamber, much louder than it had any right to be.
They jerked away from each other, Snape wincing with what might have been shame. "That will be a student."
"I had better answer it."
He cleared his throat. “I'll… er…” he seemed to be debating with himself, but shook the thoughts away when the knock came again, more insistent. “I’ll see you at dinner."
"Sure. Of course. I’ll… see you then."
Severus showed Hermione out through his office, glaring at Tavin Zabini, who was waiting impatiently in the corridor. He had never been more annoyed with the boy, and that was saying something.
She sent him a small wave over her shoulder and headed off toward the Entrance Hall. She cursed the Zabini name beneath her breath as she stalked away, annoyed and frustrated that her meeting with Severus had been cut so short.
Hermione headed down to dinner early that night. As she turned onto the corridor where Neville’s chambers were, she saw that he appeared to be waiting for her. There was something nervous and awkward about him, even more so than usual. It was enough to put her on her guard.
“Oh, h-hi there, Hermione. Headed to dinner?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Yes…”
“Brilliant. Want to walk down together?”
“Er… sure, Neville.”
They continued in tense silence for a couple of corridors before Neville sighed nervously. “So I was wondering…”
“If-if you’d like to… after dinner, perhaps… go out for a drink… with me. It’s er… I was hoping we could maybe… talk about… something.”
“I know we only just went out last night and all, but I was hoping… just the two of us…”
“Sure! That would be lovely, Neville. You know I’m always free to have a pint with you.”
Neville grinned at her in relief. “Excellent.”
Hermione grinned back at him, trying to rein in her excitement. Could there be any other reason for this awkward offer than that he and Draco were finally ready to tell her their secret? That had to be it! Her heart squeezed in her chest, full of happiness for her two friends. Once their secret was finally out in the open, she could stop pretending not to know about it and tell them how happy she was for them.
Severus spent the entire evening meal working up the courage to ask Hermione out for a drink. There certainly seemed to be an undercurrent of expectation to their polite conversation about the roast. He couldn’t remember ever chatting with her about something so mundane. And yet, it seemed that the true communication between them was not verbal, but rather took the form of her fluttering lashes and hesitant little smiles or the way she toyed with her hair and hummed with laughter at the slightest provocation.
When the Hall began to clear and she began to stand to leave, Severus knew this was his chance. “Hermione,” he barked a little more forcefully than he had intended.
She dropped back into her seat, looking up at him expectantly. “Yes?”
“I was wondering if perhaps… after our session tonight with the Wolfsbane… you might accompany me to Hogsmeade for a drink.
Her eyes went wide and her lips parted, forming a little ‘o’ of surprise. She hesitated. “I… I’m sorry. I would love to, but actually I… can’t tonight…”
“No matter,” he said, shaking his head as he stood to leave, “perhaps another time.”
He was halfway out into the corridor when she called after him. “Severus?” He turned back to her without a word, forcing himself to keep his eyes on her as she made her way toward him. “I, er… actually won’t be joining you for the Wolfsbane tonight, either.”
Disappointment bloomed in the cavity of his chest, but he brushed it away and managed to reply with some of his usual wit. “You fancy yourself an expert at it, now?”
To his great relief, her worried frown morphed into a cheeky grin as she stepped closer to him. “Well, I did brew it perfectly , did I not?”
"As I recall, it only merited an 'Acceptable.'”
She laughed. "Well coming from you that's practically an 'O.'"
They walked in silence through the Entrance Hall and it was only after they had parted ways that Severus allowed himself to cringe in mortification. Had he misread the signs? Had he misunderstood her? It had seemed so obvious that there was something more between them now. Hadn’t she been flirting with him? It had certainly seemed so. But then again, she had been behaving in a similar way toward Longbottom and Draco. It was possible he was simply mistaken about her.
He sighed in frustration. For someone so practiced at reading people, he had the hardest time interpreting the strange, ever-changing behavior of Hermione Granger.
Neville met her in the Entrance Hall an hour after dinner. She had never seen him so nervous. If she hadn’t known that he was in a happy, committed relationship with another man, she might have thought he considered this a date.
It was awkward at first. Neville didn’t seem to know how to act. He suggested they go back to Elixirs, and the swanky lounge was crowded with strangers. They made an awkward pair, huddled in a corner, not speaking much. She didn’t want to push him, so she waited for the subject to come up naturally. But he seemed content to chat about nothing at all, and kept glancing around as if looking for someone.
It took a couple of pints, but eventually his nervousness began to abate. They joked about old times and what their friends were up to nowadays, speculating about who would get married first and who would have children straight away.
She had almost forgotten the purpose of this outing when Draco Malfoy appeared at their table. “What a coincidence,” he said drily, looking anything but surprised.
“Draco, hi!” Hermione practically sang, suddenly remembering why they were here. “Join us! We were just talking about House Points and how silly it is that we put so much stock in that, growing up.”
Draco slid into a chair and folded his hands beneath his chin. “If anything, it makes more sense to me now. Something has to keep the little hellions in line.”
Hermione snorted. “Careful, Draco. You don’t want to end up the next Snape.”
“Don’t pretend you still think that’s a bad thing.”
Heat rose in Hermione’s cheeks at his insinuation. She hadn’t mentioned her feelings for Severus to Neville at all, an omission which suddenly seemed like a terrible oversight.
“It was strange drinking with him last night, wasn’t it?” said Neville. “I guess the three of you have been getting on well in your Wolfsbane lessons.”
Draco smirked. "Granger's as much of a know-it-all as ever. Always trying to impress her professor, aren't you Granger?"
"You're only jealous because I know more about it than you."
Draco's clever eyes were watching her carefully. "It is strange to see him praising you," he said, hiding his smirk behind his glass. "And to watch you respond."
Hermione couldn't stop the blush that crept over her face at his words.
"Come on, Hermione," Malfoy teased, "you can be honest with us."
It seemed like a challenge. Hermione glanced at Neville. He looked so confused. She felt guilty for not mentioning any of this to him before. Would he be hurt that the Slytherin had learned her secret first?
"Alright, alright," she said in a hushed tone, turning her eyes to her glass. She certainly wasn’t about to confess everything to them, but perhaps if she showed her hand a little they’d be more inclined to open up to her. "You aren't wrong, Draco. I just… don't know how right you are."
"Right about what?" asked Neville.
Hermione met Malfoy's silver eyes. "Right about… me having… perhaps a bit of a… a crush…" she broke off. The word didn't fit. What she felt for Severus Snape was so much deeper and more complex than a silly crush. But she couldn't exactly explain that to them.
"What!" cried Neville. "On who?"
Hermione made herself meet her friend's earnest gaze. It took all her nerve not to look away as she said "S-Severus."
Neville half leapt out of his chair. " What! You've got to be joking! "
“I’m not, actually,” she said, holding his gaze.
“Merlin’s balls. ”
Hermione sighed. “I don’t expect you to understand, Neville. You don’t see the same side of him that I see. He’s actually very witty and clever. We talk about all sorts of things and I never get bored…” and in the future he holds me close and kisses me with such tenderness and passion that my heart wants to explode.
“But it’s Snape, ” Neville hissed, looking aghast. “Hermione… you can’t be serious.”
"Neville," said Draco in a quiet voice, covering the other wizard's hand with his own, "who are we to judge?"
It took a moment for Neville to realize what Draco had just done, but when he did, he sat back down, angling his whole body toward the blond and covering their clasped hands with his other one. They held each other’s gaze for a long moment before Draco gave Neville a little nod. Hermione could hardly have been in any doubt over what they were about to confess, but she did her best to look surprised as she watched their interaction.
Neville turned to look at her, his hands still clasping Draco’s. He bit his lip against a sheepish smile as he registered her gaze on them. “Well, I suppose the secret’s out.”
"Do you mean…"
“Don’t pretend to be surprised, Granger. You’re a terrible liar.”
Hermione sputtered. "I… What?"
"Come on, Granger. You're such a Gryffindor. I was fairly certain you knew by the way you've been acting around me, but now I know for sure."
She huffed, put out that she had been so obvious to him. "You didn't know," she accused, shaking her head. "Maybe I was just trying to be nice to you!"
"It wasn't that. It was the way you teased me, as if you weren't worried I'd think you were flirting. At first, I thought you might be."
Hermione folded her arms across her chest. "Well," she said, "Neville didn't tell me, if that's what you think."
"Oh, I know he didn't. He's even worse of a liar than you are."
"Hey!" said Neville, bumping Draco's shoulder with his own. "I am not!"
"You are too," said Draco, smirking affectionately up at the taller man. Though no one in the crowded bar was paying their little table any mind, Hermione noticed that Draco had removed his hand from his lover's grasp. She supposed one couldn't be too careful with one’s secrets in a bar. They had learned that the hard way once before.
"Well," said Draco impatiently, "now that's taken care of, let's have another round of drinks."
They were all three rosy-faced and laughing when they left Elixirs and stumbled into The Three Broomsticks via the Floo. Hermione couldn't stop grinning. It felt so good to be out with friends—confidants—who cared about her and trusted her with their secrets. And whom she could trust with her own. It was such a relief to have someone else know. And for them to accept it and understand.
She was barely three steps out of the floo when she locked eyes with none other than Severus Snape. He was sitting at the other end of the long bar, sipping melancholically at a tumbler of amber spirits. His eyes widened and he stiffened in shock at the sight of her. Then his clever gaze flicked over the forms of Draco and Neville and his expression darkened unpleasantly.
Neville startled her by throwing his arm around her shoulders and leaning close to her ear. “Look who it is,” he hissed, his eyes on Snape, who was now glaring down into his drink.
Hermione turned back to the boys in alarm. “We should grab a table and invite him to sit with us,” she said, her eyes on Draco.
“No,” said the Slytherin with a smirk, “ you should invite him to sit with us.”
They both glanced at Neville whose eyes went wide. He glanced back and forth between the two of them, then pressed his mouth together in a flat line. “Yeah, alright,” he said, “go on, Hermione.”
Hermione grinned conspiratorially at them, then composed herself to approach their dour colleague. She tried to hide her nervousness as she strode (in what she hoped was a confident and graceful way) up to the older man.
“Hi,” she purred, setting a hand on Snape’s upper arm and leaning her other elbow on the bar between him and another man. “We’re grabbing a table over there. You should join us.”
He didn’t look at her. “I didn’t come here to be pestered by children,” he growled.
Hermione’s grin faltered. “Don’t be like that. Neville just wanted to talk about something. We'd love for you to join us now.”
He ignored her, draining his glass and signaling to Rosmerta for another.
Hermione leaned a little more against the bar, trying to meet his eye. “Come on, please? Draco is outnumbered, as it is. We need another Slytherin to neutralize our very Gryffindor party.”
Severus sniffed in disdain. “Save your dubious charm for the Misters Longbottom and Malfoy.”
Her face fell. “Wh-what?”
He accepted another tumbler from Ros with a nod. “I understand what you are doing, even if you do not recognize it, yourself.”
“What are you talking about?”
He took a long sip of his drink before turning to meet her eye. There was something cold and nasty in his drunken gaze. “It is only natural," he began, letting his eyes flicker over her form with contempt, "for you to lean into your newfound sexual power, Miss Granger. Typical behavior for someone who showed so little promise until recently."
Hermione reacted as if he had struck her, reeling back and sputtering with shock and mounting fury.
"But I am no foolish and hormonal adolescent to be strung along in your wake at the slightest chance of getting into your knickers.”
She gasped in outrage. “Is that what you think?”
The smirk that he gave her was full of malicious glee. “I hate to be the one to ruin your fun, but you can’t honestly think those two have been tailing after you like faithful dogs simply for the pleasure of your stimulating conversation.”
“So what about you, then?” she snapped. Her fists were balled so tight her arms were shaking. “You’ve been spending time with me as well! Have you been pretending interest in my stimulating… conversation? ”
The humor deserted him, leaving only a vicious sneer as ugly as any she’d ever seen on his face. “Don’t flatter yourself, Miss Granger. I have known you since you were eleven years old. That history cannot merely be swept away. To me, you will always be an obnoxious, formless, hand-waving, buck-toothed little know-it-all .”
Hermione let out a cry of outrage. “ You! Why… why are you such an arse?!”
Someone was pulling gently at her elbow. “Hermione,” said Malfoy, “come on.”
"Ah, excellent timing Draco. It seems Miss Granger is in need of comforting."
Hermione ripped out of Draco’s grip and stalked away, pushing past Neville before marching straight out the door.
Severus didn’t watch her go, but he heard the slam of the door behind her and cringed. How could he have been such a fool? How could he have thought there was anything between them when she was clearing stringing him along, the same as the other two. At least they had the excuse of being young and naive. He was plain foolish.
Women always had been his blindspot. How stupid of him to fall into that trap again? To imagine that a woman might want him, with all his ugliness and misanthropic nature. She had merely been kind to him, just as Lily had been, and he had presumed to hope that she might feel something more.
He thought of the fantasies he had entertained last night and squeezed his eyes shut in shame. If she knew what he had thought about her… she would never want to be alone with him again. She who had been so kind, so lovely. Such a light in his dreary life. And what had he done to repay that kindness?
He thought of the things he had said to her just now. Unspeakably cruel words uttered in anger and hurt. Oh gods , what the hell had he done?
Sorry for the evil twist.
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