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One Way to Lift Your Holiday Spirit

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~~~SSHG~~~

Hermione paid for her purchases and made her way out of the Covent Garden Tesco's. She was going to be late to work, but there was nothing for it. It was a Friday Christmas Eve morning and she needed to pick up a few groceries (and wine, must have wine—was three bottles enough?) for her lonely Christmas weekend. She had decided to shop before work because she knew she'd be knackered after and wouldn't want to bother. And she didn't fancy going to the Express location at Charing Cross, the one that was closer to the Ministry. That shop was tiny in comparison to this one, and always so full of people that you could really only shop in one direction. If you decided you needed chocolate biscuits after you'd passed them, you had to walk all the way around again. She knew this from bitter experience. Not to mention it was more expensive too, because of the tourist trade.

She stepped outside and, thank Merlin, there was a delivery lorry parked in the street. She might make it to work on time after all. She strolled between it and the store. A quick look up and down the sidewalk told her the coast was clear. She smiled and Disapparated.

~~~SSHG~~~

Hermione signed the report and placed it in the 'out' basket on her desk with a satisfied sigh. She knew that most of the other people in her department had families waiting for them at home so she had volunteered to stay until the end of the day. Besides, her parents weren't coming from Australia this year, nor was she going there. She had a standing invitation from Molly, even though she and Ron had broken up years before. It didn't matter in the long run. They had all been through too much together to let a failed romance destroy their relationships.

No, this year she chose to be on her own. She had some serious thinking to do. She was unhappy with her job and knew she needed a change.

Hermione put her head into her hand with a snort. Who was she kidding? She was unhappy with her whole life.

Things had seemed so great after graduation, when she had been hired to work for the Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures (House-Elf Relocation Division). She smiled grimly when she recalled the starry-eyed optimism with which she'd begun her "career". It had taken three years of mistrust from the House-Elves to sour her on the position. She spent another three years spinning her wheels until this position in the Department of International Magical Cooperation (International Magical Trading Standards Body) had opened. She had transferred, believing at the time that she would be helping protect people from shoddy goods.

More naïve idealism. Hermione rolled her eyes. How could she have forgotten Percy's comment during their Fourth year about the thickness of cauldron bottoms? She had spent the last five years transcribing the MOM's legislation and regulations for the Ministries in other countries, and sinking into a bottomless pit of paperwork.

When her manager had brought in a cake for her fifth year in the department, Hermione realized that her life was slipping past without much input on her part. Now that she recognized what was happening, she had to do something about it. The problem was that the only job offers she'd had recently were from Minerva, to become a professor at Hogwarts; and George Weasley, who was trying to coax her to join him in research and development for his products. The thought of the first made her shudder. She wasn't desperate enough yet to consider the second.

Hermione shook those thoughts from her head with a scowl and checked the time. Six o'clock.

Unspeakable Snape was late.

The former Potions Master of Hogwarts worked in the Department of Mysteries. Hermione had to admit that the intervening years since he'd left Hogwarts had been kind to Snape. After he recovered from his injury, he retired from teaching. Rumor was that he had travelled outside of the country for a few years. When he returned, he was recruited and hired by the DoM. Hermione still remembered the first time she'd seen him at the Ministry. Snape had put on weight and his skin has lost its pallor. He practically glowed with health and vigor. His hair was longer, past his shoulders and usually tied back, which suited him. His black eyes glittered from behind wire-rimmed spectacles. He had traded his school robes for those of the Ministry, but still wore the familiar white shirt and black frock coat and trousers underneath.

It seemed that once he had gotten out from under his two former masters, Severus Snape had become quite a splendid wizard, indeed.

Hermione scowled. Just because she found him more attractive these days didn't mean he wasn't still a bloody git sometimes. This wasn't the first time he had kept her cooling her heels past the end of her work day. Any other time, she would just leave, but her manager had specifically asked her to wait. Apparently, the Minister was expecting to receive the report that Snape was supposed to bring over tonight. So, she was trapped at her desk until he deigned to show up with it. The special express owl was waiting too, on a perch in the corner, its feathers ruffled. Why the hell Snape couldn't send an owl directly instead of it going through her manager's office had never been adequately explained to her. The "that's the way it's always been done" excuse was trotted out every time she asked and bitter experience had taught Hermione it was pointless to argue. There had been a multitude of changes at the Ministry since Voldemort's defeat, but its infinite layers of bureaucracy remained. She refreshed the cooling charm on her groceries with bad grace, Accioed a book from her handbag and began to read.

~~~SSHG~~~

"Miss Granger?"

Hermione started and looked up from "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" to find Snape standing in front of her desk, looking at her.

"Finally," she muttered as she marked her place and closed the book. A glance at the clock told her it was nearly seven. "I don't know why this couldn't wait until after the holidays." She grumbled as she stood and held out her hand.

Snape raised an eyebrow. "You don't know because your clearance level isn't high enough, Miss Granger." He handed the roll of parchment to her. "And as long as you continue to...do whatever it is you do here...you never will."

Hermione bent to made an entry in the log book, writing slowly and carefully in order to keep her temper in check. When she finished, she turned it around and handed Snape the quill. She put the parchment into a bag, sealed it with a special charm, and then handed it to the waiting owl. The raptor hooted its displeasure at Snape, and then took flight. It flew out of the department and upward toward the special exit for owls in the ceiling. When Hermione turned around to face Snape once again, he had finished signing the book and was looking at her.

"What?" She said, more defensively than she'd intended. His barb about her clearance level still stung.

"Why do you work here?" He asked seriously. "I've often wondered."

"I have bills to pay, Mr. Snape. Just like you and every other witch and wizard in the world." Hermione put away the log book, locked her desk and gathered her things...anything to avoid looking at him directly and finding judgment, or worse, pity in his gaze. The fact that she contemplated the same thing on a daily basis caused her cheeks to redden as she brushed past him and headed for the lift down the hall.

"Don't be thick, Miss Granger." He retorted outside the lift. "You know what I mean. Why that department instead of the Ministry Archives, the Auror office or the Department of Mysteries?"

The lift arrived and they entered. The door closed and it started upward toward the Atrium.

"The Archive hasn't had an opening in fifty years and probably won't for another thirty at least," she said through her teeth. "I never wanted to be an Auror—had enough excitement during the War, thanks—and I wasn't recruited by the Department of Mysteries, if you must know." That last one still stung.

She was interrupted by a loud grinding noise. The lift lurched to a stop nearly unbalancing her, and then the lights went out. "What the hell--?" She retrieved her wand. "Lumos!"

Light bloomed from the tip and illuminated Snape who had steadied himself against the corner next to the control panel. He found and pushed the 'call' button and the speaker crackled to life.

"The maintenance department is closed for the holidays. No calls will be answered until Monday, December 27th. We apologize for any inconvenience. Have a Merry Christmas!"

Hermione raised her eyebrows and met Snape's sardonic gaze with incredulity. "'Merry Christmas?' Are they serious? When no one can Apparate or Disapparate from this building anymore?"

Snape looked around the lift, then went to the door and attempted to pry it open. When that didn't work, he tried using his wand. He went through all of the spells Hermione knew and a few she didn't, but the doors remained stubbornly closed. His magic couldn't shift the panel on the roof either. He heaved a sigh, turned toward Hermione and straightened his glasses.

"It appears that we are going to be stuck here until Monday."

If Snape couldn't open the door, no one could. Hermione decided she could waste time and energy being angry or just go with it. She hefted her bags with a rueful grin. "I've got provisions."

"Excellent. I can do a couple of things to make it a bit more comfortable in here." Snape raised his wand and murmured Capacious Extremis, which enlarged the size of the lift space inside. Then he took his glasses case out of a pocket in his robes and transfigured it into a sofa that extended the length of one wall. He removed his robes and his coat and lay them over the back of the sofa. Then he unbuttoned and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. He stepped over to the opposite corner of the lift. He took a folded piece of parchment from his waistcoat pocket, tore a bit off, and then transfigured the rest into walls, with an opening at the far end. He moved behind it, performed more magic and then came out again. He used the torn bit of paper to create a door.

Hermione looked at him quizzically.

"A loo," he said. He removed his waistcoat and unbuttoned his top shirt button as he seated himself on the sofa. "We'll have to Scourgify every time, but it'll do the job for a few days."

"I'm glad you thought of it."

Hermione created some bluebell flames and guided them toward the ceiling, positioning them so they cast their soft light over the still-small space. She tucked her wand under her arm before she dug into her handbag and found a compact, a quill, a couple of galleons, some sickles and tissues. She stuffed the money and tissues into her trouser pocket, and then transfigured the compact into a sofa table and set her bags down on it. Next, she transformed a quill into a coatrack and dispatched it into the corner. A twitch of her hand sent Snape's robes, jacket and waistcoat sailing over to hang themselves on it. Her own Ministry robes and suit jacket joined them a moment later.

From one shopping bag, she pulled out a bottle of wine and a package of snowflake-decorated wine glasses and set them on the table in front of Snape. At his questioning glance, she said, "Hey, I needed some wine glasses and these were festive. Don't judge."

"Who's judging?" He said as he removed them from the box. "I'm delighted that we won't have to drink from the bottle." He picked up the wine, looked at the label, and nodded. "Not bad. Shall I pour?"

"Please." Hermione set a container of Tesco's Classic Cheese selection down, then closed and refreshed the cooling charm on that bag. From another she removed a bag of crisps and a box of assorted crackers. A jar of plum chutney and another of Dijon mustard followed. She hesitated for a moment, and then sighed with bad grace as she added a bag of Maltesers to the table. A wave of her hand sent both bags into the corner beneath the coatrack. She removed the money and tissues from her pocket and set a galleon, two knuts and a tissue in two piles on the table. She sat beside Snape on the sofa and then she transfigured them into plates, cutlery and napkins.

The result was a place setting fit for the Queen.

Severus handed her a wineglass. "Miss Granger, I thank you. This is a lovely tea—with my favorite sweet for afters."

"You're welcome. And please—call me 'Hermione'. I don't think I could stand you 'Miss Granger-ing' me all weekend." She sipped her wine.

"As you wish—and you may call me Unspeakable Snape." He chuckled at her glare. "I'm having you on. Call me Severus."

~~~SSHG~~~

They ate.

They drank.

They talked.

They opened another bottle of wine and drank some more.

And Hermione couldn't remember when she'd passed a more pleasant evening.

Severus regaled her with stories of his travels (Africa, Tibet and America) and some of the work he did for the DOM (still occasionally brewing and spying among other things he couldn't talk about). As the wine worked its magic on her, she told him horror stories of bureaucracy run amok complete with impersonations of her co-workers, some of whom Snape recognized, which made him chuckle.

The chuckle drew her glance to him. She discovered that he was gazing at her with a look of desire so palpable, it ignited a flame that heated her blood like Fiendfyre. She moved closer to him, never breaking eye contact, and when her lips were only millimeters from his, she paused.

"Severus," she murmured. "Do you mind if I kiss you?"

"I was going to ask you the same question, Hermione." His voice was low and rumbly and his hot breath on her lips stoked the fire. "Please do."

She removed his glasses carefully and floated them to the table. Next, she pulled the tie out of his hair, tossed it over her shoulder, and then she ran her fingers through his silken locks. His black eyes were as fathomless as the night sky and she felt his mind brush hers in the moment before she kissed him.

His lips were softer than she expected and they parted willingly when she teased them with her tongue. She squeaked when his arms encircled her and pulled her onto his lap. Severus' very impressive erection pressed against her bum and a thrill shot straight to her core. She straddled his lap and ground herself against it. He growled, buried his hands in her hair, and took control. His kiss was hard and hot and after he spent some time exploring her mouth, his hand tightened in her hair and he pulled her head back, exposing her throat.

Severus kissed, sucked and nibbled his way down her neck. He released her hair as he paid particular attention to her clavicle. After which he made his slow way back up to her ear. He sucked her earlobe for a moment before he leaned back and looked into her eyes once again. Hermione was surprised to see uncertainty and even vulnerability there and it almost broke her heart. She winked at him cheekily.

"Fancy a shag, Unspeakable Snape?"

The uncertainty disappeared and his smile became predatory. "As you wish." Their clothing vanished from their bodies. He kissed her hard and cupped her breasts, teasing her nipples with his thumbs.

Hermione moaned and explored him by touch—his surprisingly well-muscled shoulders, the silky hair that dusted his chest. She trailed her hand down the path along his stomach until she felt the crinkly texture of his pubic hair. She lifted herself up and took his cock into her hand. Merlin's balls!

It was Severus' turn to groan when she started to stroke him, easing the way with his pre-come. He replaced a hand with his hot mouth on one nipple and sucked. Hermione reveled in the sensation then keened with delight when his finger found her clit. She let go of him, arched her back and felt herself spiraling up and up. Severus applied more pressure then eased it as his finger circled the taut bundle of nerves relentlessly.

"Oh, god...oh, god...please don't stop..."

"Come for me, Hermione," he said hoarsely.

She shattered and her entire body shook with the force of her orgasm. Hermione met his gaze with her fevered one, grabbed his shoulders for support, and positioned herself above his jutting cock. Her voice was ragged. "I need you in me."

Then she impaled herself on him with a guttural groan. She was soaked and he slipped in easily in spite of his girth. Hermione opened her eyes as she began to ride him, and discovered that his were closed and his face a rictus of pleasure. She varied her rhythm, teasing and taunting him with her body. It wasn't long before he grabbed her hips with a growl, and pistoned into her hard and fast. Hermione's eyes rolled back and she pinched her nipples, the sensations adding to her pleasure until she was close to coming again. Severus released one hip in order to stroke her clitoris, which sent her over the edge once more. Her orgasm triggered his and, with a last thrust, he came with a shout. Hermione collapsed onto his chest, and was gratified to observe that his heart was hammering as hard as hers. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his head between her neck and shoulder.

When her breathing returned to normal she murmured, "Bloody hell, Severus. That was brilliant."

He chuckled and squeezed her. "You're right, as usual, Hermione." He loosened his grip, murmured a cleansing charm, then levitated and positioned them so they were stretched out lengthwise on the sofa. She fell asleep with her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

~~~SSHG~~~

As Hermione woke, she became aware of a warm body next to her and her memories of the night before prodded her into consciousness. A smile she couldn't restrain spread across her face as she opened her eyes to find Severus looking at her.

She reached up and cupped his cheek. "I sincerely hope last night wasn't a one off."

"Certainly not!" He replied, affronted. "I'll have you know I've been trying to get your attention for months."

"You have? By keeping me past my work day and being stroppy?"

"Took you long enough to notice," he huffed with a smirk.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "All you had to do was ask me to dinner or something. I was getting right put out with your shenanigans, you know."

"Then I'm exceedingly glad this lift malfunctioned."

"Me too."

"Hermione..." His voice was hesitant. "...are you happy in your work? Honestly?"

She laid her head down on his chest again and sighed. "No. But I have no idea what I want to do instead. As it happens, that is what I was going to try to thrash out with myself over the holiday."

Severus kissed the top of her head. "Would you consider the Department of Mysteries?"

"Severus, they have never tried to recruit me."

"You didn't answer my question."

"Fine. Yes. I would consider it."

"Excellent. Because the director has told your manager several times that she is interested in engaging you, but since you never responded..."

"That bloody bastard." Hermione was furious. "He never told me!"

Severus' voice was sardonic. "Apparently, he doesn't want to give you up."

"He's in for a very big surprise come the New Year."

His chuckle rumbled through her and she couldn't restrain a smile. "Happy Christmas, Severus."

Severus tipped her face up, bent and kissed her. "Happy Christmas, Hermione."