So I heard this song for the first time this week and this one-shot totally jumped the line. Not cool, dude. I have like nine others in process, including Art of War. Get out of my head, nasty plot-bunny!
As usual, listen then read. I could go on a feminist rant with this song and how its lyrics should be required reading for every incoming college freshman, but, alas, I'll spare you the lesson and just let you get to the Severus. (We all know that's why you're here…)
From the corner of the dark club her bouncing mass of curls caught his eye. Lucius had dragged him out for a drink claiming that they had needed to "catch up", yet it had been only twenty minutes into the outing when said Malfoy had disappeared to chase the short skirt of someone young enough to date Draco, leaving Severus alone in their corner booth to wait out the effects of his too-hastily consumed drinks until he was sober enough to apparate home. It was as he was mentally reciting all the different ways he could murder Lucius for abandoning him without getting caught (he was up to #74, slipping an inhibition loosening potion into the Malfoy morning coffee and letting him and Narcissa murder each other) when she caught his eye.
She was dancing with the redheaded Weasley girl, but the two were obviously in two different worlds. The redhead had a tiara and a sash which announced to the world that her wedding was the next day, in not so civilized terms. Hermione, on the other hand, was wearing the look of abject sadness, tampered by whiskey and transformed into a grotesque and unconvincing impersonation of happiness as she bounced about the dance floor. Her curls had almost doubled in length in the five years since he had seen her last, and they bounced and swayed tantalizing as she danced blindly, her eyes shut as she swayed to the pulsing beat.
Even intoxicated it was clear how her beauty had multiplied in the years since the war. Her body was that of a woman, a beautiful one at that, and he couldn't help feeling like a cat watching a flicking toy as he watched her long curls bounce. However, when he saw her face it sobered his thoughts immediately to see the spark of intelligence missing from her usually-bright eyes. He could see from the multitude of stamps on her hand that this was hardly their first bar that evening, but from the way she swayed dangerously he knew it would be her last. He could also glean from said hand that the small engagement ring which had signified her assignation with the other Weasley had disappeared, but recently enough for the tan line not yet to have faded. Come to think of it, he could remember seeing a tawdry headline about their messy split a few days prior.
Making a brief scan of the dance floor around her, he could unfortunately see that he was not the only male to see the lowering of her inhibitions due to her inebriated state. Several unsavory-looking young wizards circled her like sharks, dancing intimately with her as soon as they got close enough. It took him until the first strap of he black dress slid down one shoulder to make up his mind.
By the time he got across the crowded floor to her she was only upright due to the groping presence of the near-slobbering wizard behind her. Her eyes still shut, she looked nearly asleep as she swayed drunkenly on her heels. As he approached, putting back on his rusty, long-abandoned, dungeon bat sneer, the slimy wizard's hand quickly slithered out from under her skirt, where he was almost certain she hadn't even been able to feel its violations. By the time he was close enough to reach the young cretin he dropped the near-unconscious witch and ran, leaving Severus to catch her fall just in time.
Looking down to ensure she had her personal items on her, he gathered the now passed out witch into his arms, walked from the club and into the nearest alleyway. He fumbled in her purse for clues and was immensely grateful to find her muggle ID, complete with her home address, and quickly disapparated.
He felt out of place standing in her apartment after fumbling too long with her keys in the doorway. Dressed all in black, carrying an unconscious witch, he contrasted starkly with the all-white walls of the unfurnished apartment. It was a small, one-room flat with boxes strewn about and a mattress in the corner. Everything was clean, but nothing in the place made it feel like an actual habitation for a human. No pictures were hung, no personal items could be seen, just boxes and essentials like kitchen tools and clothes.
He walked her over to her perfectly-made mattress (it couldn't be called a bed, for there was no frame or headboard to be seen) and slid her thin frame gently under the covers after pausing to remove her shoes. He ensured she was covered properly from the neck down, freezing momentarily as she seemed to be on the verge of rousing, but the witch just mumbled something incoherent and wrapped herself around one of the pillows on the mattress. She held on to it tightly, pulling it under the covers with her, gripping it with her knees as well as her arms as she curled onto her side and fell back asleep.
Having both hands at his disposal once more, he arranged her purse carefully on the counter next to her keys and muggle pocket telephone, which he set to vibrate mode so as not to wake her. He placed her shoes carefully back into the brown box which clearly contained nothing but a jumble of shoes. He grabbed the small trash can from under the kitchen sink and placed it quietly next to the side of her mattress, just in case. On second thought, he also grabbed a bottle of water from her fridge and placed it on the floor next to the trash can. After pausing a moment to look at the sleeping witch, he begrudgingly fumbled into his pocket and retrieved the hangover potion he had brought with him preemptively expecting to imbibe a great deal while suffering the presence of the haughty Malfoy patriarch.
Looking around and declaring his work done he made towards the door, turning on a small lamp on his way out so she wouldn't awaken in the dark. On a last minute impulse, he pulled a scrap of parchment from one of the boxes and penned a quick missive using a muggle writing implement from the counter. He placed it next to her keys on the counter before letting himself quietly out the door.
Before he disapparated he spent a full five minutes setting up as many wards as he could around her house, all set to dissolve as soon as someone passed through them from the inside. He used a quick charm to lock the muggle lock on the door as well before the crack of apparition popped him out of site of the small, sad looking flat and its slumbering occupant.
When he got back to Spinner's End he indulged in one of the bottles of aged firewhiskey Lucius had given him a few Christmases ago. He sank down into the worn chair by the muggle radiator trying to keep warm while he practiced his lip-reading skills on the broken television he had never bothered to get fixed. He never really bothered with the plot of anything and his lip-reading skills were good enough to get the drift of whatever news he watched.
Right now the anchors were droning on about the trends in the muggle market while his ears picked up the sounds of the couple next door having another screaming row. Back when his phone was connected he used to call the police if it sounded the woman was being roughed up too badly, but these days it sounded like she gave as good as he got, so he left well enough alone.
Whiskey tumbler still in hand, he drifted off to a drunken slumber to the sounds of his shouting neighbors. Right before his head drooped onto his chest, his mouth twisted into the unfamiliar feeling of a small, warm smile as he pictured the innocent way she had curled herself around the spare pillow in her bed as she fell asleep, almost the way a child would clutch a cherished stuffed animal. He fell asleep with the image of her raucous curls fanning out across the bed as she slept peacefully.
Hermione woke to a raging headache. She opened her eyes in dread and was pleased to be faced with a faint light in an otherwise dark room. Grateful for not waking to pitch black and (more importantly, given her current headache) the ability to see without being blinded, she tentatively opened her eyes. Not remembering anything past going into the last club, she didn't know how she had gotten back to her flat. She knew Ginny, still cold after Hermione's painful split with Ron, wouldn't have taken time out to deliver her back to her flat. As she swung her feet over the side of her mattress her feet hit the side of what turned out to be her freshly-emptied kitchen trash can.
Upon further investigation she discovered a cold bottle of water and a small potions vial. It was unmarked and clearly had been hand-brewed, but after unstoppering it she was hit with the unmistakable odor of a hangover potion. The second it hit her lips she felt the lingering effects of alcohol leave her system, betraying a quality of hangover potion her efforts had never been able to accomplish.
She rose from the bed and, as the sheet and blanket fell away, was overwhelmed by an immediate wave of gratitude to find her dress and underwear still firmly in place. She did wonder where she had left her shoes until she saw them on the top of the box that held the rest of her still-to-be-unpacked footwear.
She saw her purse and padded over to the counter only to feel her stomach drop when she saw a spiky black script across the back of a bit of parchment. She read the note once with horror, then again through the freshly-flowing tears. It was unsigned, but she would recognize that handwriting anywhere. She sank to the floor and read it a third time from the fetal position as she sobbed. She headed into the shower to wash off the now very smudged makeup from what she knew would be her last unfortunate night of that variety, placing the note back on the counter as she left.
I intercepted you on the dance floor of The Spotted Unicorn in a state of extreme inebriation. Several young wizards had tried to take liberties with your person and your friends did not seem to be watching you with enough vigilance given your state. I would humbly suggest less alcohol or better friends should you consider further outings. You are worth far more than that. If I had a witch such as yourself on my arm I would treat you as you deserve to be treated.
One shower later she headed out the door with a fresh change of clothes, a mission, and the gleam that had been long-missing from her eyes. She noticed the wards disperse as she exited the lot of her apartment complex, feeling another wave of shame wash over her. Her pace quickened as she headed towards the nearest owlery.
By the time Severus got to his office the next morning the note was already on his desk. It was short, obviously embarrassed, and straight to the point. She offered her apologies for having inconvenienced him, a thanks for having taken her home, and another apology that stood alone, not apologizing for anything specific. She didn't respond to the carefully-hidden invitation he had hastily added into the last line of his note to her, but he supposed that was all for the best. A beautiful young witch like Hermione Granger would never be found on the arm of an old, scowling, dungen bat, albeit a former dungeon bat, such as himself. Not without the amount of alcohol she had consumed, at least, and he sincerely hoped never to see her that intoxicated ever again.
As the weeks turned into months he saw her out and about more and more frequently. About six months later she was promoted from her low-level job in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to a prestigious position clerking for one of the highest-ranked members of the Wizengamot. Both working in the ministry, he passed her in the hall often enough, and she never quite acknowledged his presence, but she never quite ignored him either. Every time she saw him she lowered her eyes, an embarrassed look would flash across her face before she schooled her features, her posture would straighten, and then she would walk just a little bit faster until they had passed each other.
As the months turned to years she was promoted again and again. As they passed in the hallways he saw her muggle jeans turn to muggle dress pants, her baggy jumpers to nice blouses. Her sensible footwear stayed sensible but now obviously came from stores more likely to be patronized by Narcissa Malfoy than Molly Weasley.
He always wished for her to talk to him as they passed in the hallways, but seemingly the only constant in her life seemed to be the embarrassed little smile-cum-grimace and downturned eyes whenever their paths crossed.
One night several years later Severus was eating dinner at his favorite greasy diner off the main drag in Diagon Alley. He could tell it was Friday night, not that he really kept track anymore, by all the paired-off witches and wizards around him. More and more as the years went by he felt that couples existed for the sole purpose of annoying him. His students across the years would swear it was because he was a soulless vampire who didn't understand love, but in the honesty of his own head he knew it was because love was the one thing he had wanted his whole life...and been denied his whole life. But Severus Snape did not deserve love. He had spent a lifetime doing unspeakable things. Lying, hurting people, cheating (the system, at least)...he hadn't done anything that would allow him to deserve love.
Actually, that wasn't quite true. He drifted into thought of the night he had found Hermione on the overcrowded floor of that dank club and smiled. Okay, maybe he had done one good thing. One noble thing. Something he didn't regret.
His eyes drifted to the entryway of the diner where a group of people had just walked in talking loudly and excitedly. They all seemed to be wearing matching buttons on their jackets as if part of a political campaign. From the number of high fives being given out it would seem as if their candidate had won whatever it was they had been running for. As they filed past his table he caught a quick glance at one of the badges and was greeted by a flash of red.
Granger for Minister
His face broke into a small, happy, and proud smile as he resumed eating his fish. Nodding to himself he continued to watch couples walk past on the busy street outside the diner, smile still lingering on his face.
A week later Severus was sitting in his office going over a journal article for publication when all the sudden his door burst open. He stood up from his desk chair as three aurors, all dressed in identical black robes, burst in to his office without acknowledging his presence. They walked the perimeter of his office as if they were looking for something and, after checking inside his store closet and out his window, still all without a word to him, nodded at the wizard at the door, who, in turn, shouted "all clear" to what he could only assume was another auror stationed out in the hallway.
A second later she was standing in his doorway, the little embarrassed smile he was used to seeing on her face transformed into one of mischief, her eyes now staring directly into his own.
"All clear, Madame Minister. We'll be outside," said the auror closest to her. She thanked him with a tilt of her head and a soft word, but never took her eyes off of those of the speechless wizard staring at her from across his desk. Once the door shut behind the three black-clad aurors she took another step towards him.
"Hello, Severus," she said, the lilt of her mischievous smile could be heard in her voice, but he still noticed a hint of nervousness as well. Her voice was deeper than the last time he had spoken with her, but as that had been before she left to go hunt horcruxes it wasn't surprising. Her expensive black pencil skirt and blazer hid just a peep of the green blouse she had on underneath. The Slytherin green blouse...he couldn't deny that it suited her, complimenting the brown waves of long curls that cascaded over one shoulder down almost to her elbows. He realized with a gulp that not only had his mouth been filling with liquid, but that he had also been staring at her for a socially-unacceptable length of time without speaking.
"Hello, Minister Granger. Congratulations on your recent victory," he managed to get out without stammering.
"I've been wanting to come and thank you for what you did for me that night," she said, the embarrassed smile he was used to seeing returning for a second.
Confusion overriding his sense of civility, he responded before thinking, "Now? We must have seen each other dozens of times in the years since I...I mean, it was nothing, Minister. I was only too glad to help-"
"Hermione," she said. He hadn't realized she had come closer to him. And when did he walk to the other side of his desk? He could now smell whatever amortentia-laced shampoo she must use wafting from her curls.
"What?" He said, swallowing again.
"Please call me Hermione."
"Alright," he paused before caressing her name on its way out of his mouth, "Hermione, why now?"
It was her turn to swallow. She stood up marginally straighter as she spoke. "You said kind things in the note you left. Kind, generous," she let out a nervous breath of air that almost bordered on a giggle, "incredibly inaccurate things. I wanted them to be true before I saw you again." She nodded, almost to herself more than to him.
"What do you mean?" he asked, inspecting her through suspicious eyes.
"You're worth more than that", she quoted. "I wasn't, not then, but I wanted to be. I wanted to be worth being on your arm before I thanked you. Before I approached you," she said, trailing off as if she wasn't sure whether more words were necessary.
"Approached me?" he said, trying not to give any credence to the feeling of hope threatening to bubble out of his chest. She straightened her back and squared her shoulders, nodding.
"Severus Snape, would you like to go to dinner with me?"
He gaped at her.
"To thank you? Well, and because I would like to go to dinner with you."
"Because I like you?"
"Why?" he asked, but seeing her confidence begin to flag he amended his statement, "I mean, for how long?"
"Since I woke up to find a hangover potion by my bed and my shoes back in their box," she said with a fond smile.
"And you've waited this long to approach me why?" he asked, still as confused as anyone had ever seen the great Severus Snape.
This made her blush with embarrassment, but her eyes didn't leave his as she answered, "I wanted to deserve you first."
"So you've liked me for years, but you became the bloody Minister for Magic before asking me out to dinner?" he asked incredulously. She nodded happily.
He stood frozen, staring at the witch in front of him before seeming to snap to his senses.
"Insane witch. You are simply out of your mind." He shook his head as he paced the few steps that remained between them before wrapping his hand around the curls at the base of her neck and cradling her head while he pressed his lips to hers. She let out a startled gasp but immediately her hands came up to his sides as she melted into his kiss. The kiss was passionate but chaste, his lips caressed hers without invading her mouth. She pressed herself to him fervently, yet not too intimately. When he pulled back her face was flushed and she was grinning.
"I'll take that as a yes, then?" she said, eyes never leaving his. He nodded, holding out his arm to her. He saw the flash of recognition as she realized the parallel, then very intentionally positioned herself on his arm as they left the office.
"Where are we going, Madam?" asked the head auror standing just outside the door.
"Auror Jenkins, this is Severus Snape. He lied repeatedly to Tom Riddle, went undercover for years, and escaped numerous duels with inner circle Death Eaters unscathed. You and your team may take the rest of the evening off."
She looked into his eyes and smiled in a way she hadn't in years.
"He's more than capable of getting me home safely...again."