(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Mentions of a sex toy (although no actual sexual acts).
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Snape finds the Afterlife is not quite what he expects. It's not all harps and rainbows. Being made a Guardian Angel and responsible for the health and happiness of a certain Miss Know-It-All does nothing to improve his disposition. Against all the rules, he feels a definite attraction towards his charge.
Note: Thank you to sshg_pf_mod for putting this fest together!
Summary: Severus found it quite difficult to be dead; it was turning out to be a lot of work. Not only was he assigned as Hermione Granger's Guardian Angel, but he had to constantly trick her into going on dates with her 'soulmate.'
"It has five speed settings. Ten different modes. Best part? It doesn't raid my refrigerator afterwards or ask to stay the night. We're very happy together."
"Sweetie," Ginny said, sounding exasperated. "You can't actually have a relationship with your vibrator."
She sat across the small metal table, her nose wrinkled in discomfort. Hermione couldn't tell if it was the topic itself or that they were outside of the café, where pedestrians could catch snippets of their conversation. It was likely the latter. She was, after all, a famous Quidditch star now and a role model for little girls everywhere. She probably didn't want to get overheard by passers-by as they loudly discussed sex toys.
"Why not?" Hermione took a sip of her tea. "I have just as much emotional connection with my vibrator than I did with any of my boyfriends, so it's basically the same thing. Except, now I have orgasms."
Ginny's grimace deepened, and Hermione belatedly remembered that one of those ex-boyfriends was Ginny's brother. "Sorry," she mouthed to her redheaded friend.
Ginny cleared her throat. "I just think you need to start putting yourself out there again," she said. "It's been over two years since you've been on a date, let alone a serious relationship."
Hermione shook her head as her eyes wandered to the space above her companion's head. "Can't. Too busy. Work."
"What is it you always tell me about priorities?" Ginny asked.
"That everyone has their own and shouldn't have to change them to conform to societal norms?" she asked, pasting a bright, sarcasm-ladled smile on her face.
Ginny tapped her wrist playfully. "No," she says, mimicking a stern gaze that could rival Professor McGonagall's decades-hewn expression. "That if it's important to you, then you carve time out of your schedule, no matter what else is going on in your life."
She shrugged. "Well, there you go," she said. "Must not be that important to me. At least, not as important as work. And food. Sleep. Billy Zane."
"It's what I call my vibrator."
Ginny planted her elbows on the table and cradled her chin on the heels of her palms. If they weren't in a public place, Hermione was sure she would have groaned in frustration.
She could no longer contain her laughter at her friend's increasingly red face, and she burst out laughing. "All right, Ginny," she said, as she tried to catch her breath. "What is this about? Why is my love life — or lack thereof, as it happens — such a point of interest today?"
Ginny stared at her a moment longer, chewing nervously on her top lip. She laid her left hand on the table and flicked her wand quickly over her ring finger, taking off a Disillusionment charm.
Admittedly, she didn't know much about engagement rings — it was her special form of rebellion against society, actively refusing to learn about rings and wedding planning and courting customs — so she didn't know how many carats of diamond it had, nor name the shape it was cut into. She could permit, though, that it was very shiny and pretty. And big.
"What do you think?" Ginny asked, her voice uncharacteristically high-pitched and wobbly.
"Wow," Hermione said. "I mean, that's — that's wonderful, Gin! I'm so happy for you!" She got up and enveloped her friend in a tight hug. When they pulled apart, she grabbed Ginny's hand and held the ring up to her face. "And, look at this stone! If we had this during the war, we could have kept all those Dementors away from the shine alone."
Ginny laughed as she, too, gazed at the ring in her hand. Looking a bit dazed, she said, "I know. She really outdid herself, didn't she?"
"Not at all, love." She gave her friend's shoulder a brief squeeze. "You deserve this stunning ring."
"Is it terrible that I was kind of expecting a ring made of snail shells or turnip tops or something of the sort?" Ginny giggled softly.
"I'm sure you would have worn those beautifully, too," she said. "Although Luna did a brilliant job picking that one out. You know what each other likes. One of the many reasons why you're perfect together."
Ginny's smile faltered. "That's why I'm concerned about your love life," she said, and the teasing smile came back. "Or lack thereof. I'm — we are so happy together. I just want to make sure you get your chance at happiness, too."
Hermione placed a hand gently on Ginny's arm. "Listen to me, Ginny Weasley," she said. "I am happy. I love my work. I love the time I get to spend with my family and my best friends."
Ginny gave her a wry smile. "And Billy Zane?"
"And I am absolutely enamored with Billy Zane," she said and further clarified, "Both the actor and the vibrator."
It was a bit too warm at the Burrow due to all the bodies packed inside the eat-in kitchen, but nobody seemed to mind. Between the happy news of the couple's engagement and Molly's famous Cornish pasties, spirits were high.
Spying the last pasty on the counter, she hurried over to grab it. As she reached for that crispy golden pocket, she caught a movement at the corner of her eye. She turned to look but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Her hand, still stretched out toward the last Cornish pasty, accidentally grazed the knuckles of a large hand. She jumped away, yelping in surprise.
"Oh!" She looked up and was met with Charlie Weasley's gem blue eyes. "Sorry, Charlie! Didn't see you!"
He gave her a lopsided grin. "'S'alright, Hermione," he said. He picked up the pasty and offered it to her. "Here. It's yours."
She waved her palms out. "No, no! You take it. I'm sure you miss your mum's cooking whenever you're in Romania. I can just easily pop in anytime to get Molly's homecooked meals." She felt herself flush as she admitted, "Actually, that's what I do at least once a week, since I don't have time to cook. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm taking too much advantage of being an honorary Weasley."
"Mum doesn't mind, I'm sure," he said, waving her concerns away. "With everyone out of the house, it drives her bonkers not to have anyone to fuss over. It's good of you to keep her company." He popped the entire pasty in his mouth.
They stood against the wall in the kitchen. Unnecessary, considering that they would have been in no one's way. People could just walk through them. His partner, however, claimed to hate the idea of someone passing through her body, especially those she knew in her old life.
Severus found it quite difficult to be dead; it was turning out to be a lot of work. Not only was he assigned as Hermione Granger's Guardian Angel, but he had to work closely with the Guardian of her supposed 'soul mate.'
"See?" She gestured to their charges, conversing quietly by the kitchen counter. "Easy. Now that they're talking, and he's not distracted by hunger pangs — the man's got a dragon-sized appetite — Charlie will turn on his fool-proof, dragon tamer's charm. Trust me, by this time next year, we'll have front-row seats to their wedding!" A satisfied grin bloomed on her face.
"Is that right?" Severus nudged his chin toward the would-be Lothario, who was now wandering off to the kitchen table presumably to hunt for more food. Hermione was left standing at the counter, gazing at the red platter, now empty of Cornish pasties, and looking forlorn.
"What the — where is he goi — ergh!" Tonks stomped over to where Charlie hovered over the spread, grabbing a large helping of mincemeat pie. "Oy! Idiot!" She stood directly in front of him, her body dissected by the wooden table, and waved her arms in front of his face. "Go back over there and charm her shirt off, you great, big prat!"
Charlie paused and seemed to gaze at Tonks for a moment, looking perplexed. Then he reached through her torso to grab a biscuit from a tall stack in the middle of the table.
As she skulked back to where he waited, Severus raised an eyebrow. "Should I send my R.S.V.P. to their wedding, then?"
Tonks gave him a withering glare. "So, we might have to work a bit harder than I thought. But, we'll get them down that aisle, even if it kills me." She blinked, then added, "Again."
It was the strangest thing: she had run into Charlie every day for the past week. When she went to the market early on Sunday morning, there he was, wandering the stalls, apparently with a sudden craving for fresh chevre. On Monday evening, they ran into each other at Flourish and Blott's. Tuesday night, she went to the Leaky Cauldron for fish and chips and ended up sitting next to him as he finished off a pint. Wednesday was at Gringotts, and Thursday, at Grimmauld Place. Friday, when she dropped in on Molly to say hello — and to grab some home-cooked takeout — Charlie was still there.
"I've taken a leave from the reserve," Charlie explained. He sat with her at the kitchen table as she snacked on oven-warm biscuits. Molly bustled around the kitchen, eagerly packing food for her to take home.
"Are the dragons getting boring?" Hermione teased.
He shook his head. "When I came home for Ginny's announcement, I had this sudden realization that I hadn't taken a vacation in two years! So I Owled my boss the next day and told her I'd be extending my stay."
Molly interrupted, declaring that she'll be out in the garden to pick out fresh vegetables for Hermione.
"That's great to hear," she said to Charlie as Molly left through the back door. "Sometimes, I wish I could take a vacation from work, but there's simply too much to do."
"Why don't you?" he asked. His face brightened, as if he had a brilliant idea. "I'm thinking about going to Italy for a week. Why don't you take some time off work and join me?"
Heat crawled up to her cheeks at his suggestion. "Oh, I don't know if I can do that," she stammered. "Hard to ask for vacation time. Bureaucracy, you know?"
"All right." He shrugged. "How about just dinner, then?"
In her shock, her eyes widened. "Dinner? Just the two of us?"
"Yeah," he said. A puzzled look came over his face as he leaned over. "Have you noticed that we've been running into each other since Ginny's get-together?"
Charlie gave her a lopsided smile. "This might sound a bit off, but I figured, as small as Wizarding England is, it's not that small. It's bizarre to run into you so often. Almost as if the universe has been throwing us into each other's paths. So why don't we give it a break and go on a date?"
Hermione Floo'd into her cozy Hogsmeade cottage, arms laden with meals charmed to stay fresh for a week. As she put her loot away, she considered Charlie's request.
On the one hand, it was…well, it was Charlie Weasley. Her best friend-slash-ex's older brother. While her romantic relationship with Ron was short-lived, it still took them a long time to get back to the stable foundation of their friendship. If she dated his brother…well, that was sure to make for all kinds of awkwardness between them, wouldn't it?
As she entered her bedroom and got ready for bed, she considered the alternative. It was…well, it was Charlie Weasley. As a teenaged girl, she was struck with puppy love the first time she met him. But she was no longer a teenager, and it had been a long time since she even thought about Charlie in such a way.
Her mind was still going 'round in circles as she laid in bed. Her muscles felt tense, unable to relax from the stress. She sat up and reached for the drawer of her nightstand.
Severus had been growing frustrated with the witch.
After all the effort he and Tonks had put in over the past week — mostly Tonks, as Charlie Weasley had been more susceptible to suggestion than his own charge — it had been extremely irritating to watch Hermione wander mindlessly about her house, pattering and arguing with herself about the merits and drawbacks of going out on a date.
It was incredibly vexing. He glowered at her form in the dark bedroom when she suddenly sat up and rummaged through the drawer of her bedside table. Hermione pulled out a long, pink Muggle device. Its shape was familiar, and it took Severus a minute to remember the name of it. He believed it was called a microphone, although its exact purpose escaped him at the moment.
Hermione held it in front of her, turning it over in her hand, looking lost in thought. She sighed and murmured, "What do you think, Billy? Should I go on a date with Charlie?"
An idea clicked in Severus' mind. He recalled a Muggle toy that, if one shakes it while asking a question, it would provide an answer from the universe. Perhaps this microphone was a more technologically advanced version.
Wanting to take advantage of this way to communicate with Hermione, Severus directed his voice to the microphone and said, "Yes. Do it."
When she squealed and threw the item across the room, he knew his guess was wrong, and he was grateful no one else had been around to witness his blunder. Hermione, now alert, had her wand clutched in her hand, pointing at the innocent-looking microphone on the floor. She approached it cautiously and threw out several spells to scan for horcruxes, curses, and other forms of Dark magic. He felt a twinge of admiration that she knew so many of variations of the spells that took him many years to master.
She aimed her wand, and the crease between her eyebrows told him that she was about to cast a spell to obliterate the innocuous device. At the last moment, however, her expression shifted to one of curiosity. She floated the item back into the drawer and locked it inside with a few Auror-grade locking spells she must have learned from Potter. Grabbing the blanket and a pillow from the bed, she went to the living room and settled on the couch, facing her bedroom door. Her wand remained in her grip as she went to sleep.
She wasn't surprised when she ran into Charlie at the Ministry the following afternoon.
"I came by to have lunch with Ron," he said when they stopped to greet each other in the corridor.
She nodded. "Charlie?" She wavered. After last night's strange events with Billy Zane, she decided that it would be in her best interest to listen to Ginny's good advice and start interacting with real men. "Speaking of meals, I thought about dinner — what I mean to say is, are you still available to have dinner with me sometime?"
He answered her with a sunny smile.
It was the night of their date, and Severus thought it would be best to give them space. When he sensed trouble, though, he knew he had to get to her. He closed his eyes and pictured her face. In the next moment, he was standing next to her as she unlocked the intricate spells on the drawer, a determined look in her eye. She pulled on the handle, sliding the drawer out, and hesitated only a moment before reaching in for the pink microphone.
Hermione perched on the edge of the bed, smoothing the skirt of her sensible navy dress with one hand while the other cradled the microphone in front of her face.
"Erm — Billy?" she said in a low, vacillating voice. "Are you there?"
Severus pondered his choices. Direct contact with the Living was against the rules. If he spoke with her through the microphone, however, he supposed that wouldn't count as direct contact, would it?
"Yes," he projected through the object. "I'm here. What do you want?" Hermione froze, and he realized that she wasn't truly expecting a response. He sighed. "Well? I don't have all day."
The comment snapped her out of her stupor. "My apologies," she said acerbically. "I didn't realize that I'm keeping you from an important appointment."
"You are the one who took me out of the drawer and started talking to me," he said, "so, I'm assuming you have something to say. Out with it."
"I have so many questions I need to ask you!"
"And I'll answer one of them," he replied.
She sputtered. "What — How —" She paused, a thoughtful look forming on her face, before saying, "Why did you tell me to go out with Charlie?"
"Because," he answered gravely, "he is your soulmate."
"First of all, there's no such thing as a soulmate," she said. "And, even if there was, I highly doubt that my vibrator would be the one to tell me."
"Your what?" The term was new to him.
She barked a short laugh. "Wait. Do you not know what you are?"
Hermione proceeded to tell him.
"Hello?" She gave Billy Zane a gentle shake. "Still there?"
It took almost a full minute before she got a response. "Yes," said a grim voice.
"Are you all right? Bit of shock to realize your — erm — purpose in life?" She couldn't help the mischievous smile that formed on her lips. "Billy?"
"I'm here," he said, still sounding somber. "Let's…stop talking about it."
She chuckled. "Feeling a bit self-conscious now, are you?"
"Move on, Miss Granger," he said sternly. The way he said her name was familiar, the sound of it like a melody in her mind that she couldn't quite name.
"Who are you, really?" she asked. She turned the vibrator over again in her hands, inspecting for signs of tampering. "Obviously, you're not really a sentient vibrator. You must be using this as some sort transmitter or two-way radio."
"I believe I've already answered your question for today," he said. "Go on another date with Charlie Weasley, and I'll answer another one."
Among the myriad of questions in her mind, the question she needed to get answered was, "Why did you say Charlie was my soulmate?"
"Interesting," Billy murmured.
"That wasn't the question I thought you would ask." He sounded amused.
"Well, it's the answer I need to know right now," she said. "I've just come back from my second date with Charlie. I mean, he's a nice bloke, but we have absolutely nothing in common! How can you say that we're soulmates?"
"It's what beings of higher…knowledge…have deemed would be a good match for you," he said, his tone neutral.
"Are you talking about omniscience?" she conjectured. "How else could one claim to have enough knowledge to deem one person is someone else's soulmate?"
"One date," he said, "one question."
"Hi, Billy," she said as she took him out. "How are you?"
"As well as can be expected," he said pithily, "from someone talking through your vibrator."
She grimaced. "All right, I'll make this quick, then —"
"You've already asked me a question today."
"You asked me how I was," he said. "I answered."
A gasp escaped her throat. "That's not fair! I was just being polite!"
"One date," he said, "one —"
"One question! Yes, I bloody know!" She threw him into the drawer and slammed it shut.
When she pulled him out of the drawer, she said, "Who are you?"
"No pleasantries tonight?" he asked.
"I'm not letting you trick me out of my one-question quota tonight," she said, still feeling the remnants of impatience from her dinner date. "I've had to endure a tedious conversation on Seeker endurance throughout the main course, so I'm here to collect my hard-earned answer."
There was a smirk that carried in the tone of his voice. "I'm your Guardian Angel."
"Why me?" she asked glumly, her voice muffled. She was lying on her belly on the mattress, facedown on the pillow.
"You constantly surprise me," he murmured. "Is that truly what you want to ask?"
"Yes," she said. She rolled over on her back and sighed. "Why did you have to tell me that I have a soulmate? I was perfectly fine — happy — without knowing. Now, I'm spending all these nights trying to figure out why some 'being of a higher knowledge' would say that Charlie's my soulmate when it's quite obvious that we have no shared interests — nothing at all in common except mutual friends." She turned to her side and stared at Billy, who she propped on her other pillow. "Well?" When she didn't get a response, she shook her head. "You don't know either, do you?"
Billy sighed. "You may ask me another question," he said.
"All right." She paused. "You seem familiar to me. Something about the inflections of your tone, the way you talk…Have I met you before? Did I know you before you became my Guardian Angel?"
"Who were you?"
He didn't answer; she grunted. "One date, yadda yadda," she muttered.
"How was your date?"
"Huh?" She was lying on the sofa, Billy sitting on her chest as she stared up into the ceiling.
"Your date with Charlie," he said. "How was it?"
"Hmm," she said distractedly. "He — he kissed me."
Billy didn't say anything.
She heaved a sigh. "It's just that, when I was younger," she said, "I had such a terrible crush on the man. And, now that he's actually gone and kissed me, it's just so strange…"
"I just felt nothing," she said. "As in, zero chemistry. I'm sure fifteen-year-old me would have been ecstatic, but when he pressed his lips against mine, it was little more than kissing a mannequin!"
"Perhaps he was just out of practice," Billy said dryly.
"Oh, no," she said. "I'm best friends with his siblings, and Ginny doesn't spare me any family gossip. Whatever problems that man might have, 'out of practice' with women isn't one of them."
She spent the next hour recounting her second-hand stories of his torrid affairs.
"You didn't go on a date tonight," he said, sounding amused.
"No." She snuggled deeper under her comforter as she set him on the night stand by her head. "I cancelled."
"So why did you take me out?"
She shrugged, even though she wasn't sure if he could see her. "It just seemed weird not to talk to you," she said. "Is it all right? Do you — do you not want to talk to me unless I've gone on a date with Charlie?"
He didn't speak for a long time. She was drifting off to sleep when she heard, "It's fine. What do you want to talk about?"
Hermione felt the gentle warmth of the morning light on her face but kept her eyes closed. "Billy?" she asked, her voice raspy with disuse. "Are you still there?"
A smile bloomed on her face. "Good morning."
"You're ill," he said, his tone rigid and stern.
"Yeah, sorry," she mumbled as she took him out of the drawer. She still felt dizzy and nauseated. "Have a bit of a migraine."
"It's something you suffer from regularly."
If she had the energy, she would have rolled her eyes. "Yes. You would know, as you're my bloody Guardian Angel." She waved her hand over the right side of her head, which was aching with pressure. "Can't you do something about this?"
"I am unable to take the pain away myself, if that is what you're asking," he said, and even through the haze, she could hear the regret in his voice. "I do, however, know of a potion that could ease it."
"There's not a strong enough potion," she said, her voice almost slurring from the pain.
"On the market," he corrected haughtily. "Luckily, I can teach you how to brew one that would take care of all your symptoms. Do you have a large supply of wormwood and unicorn hair?"
"How was work?" he asked.
She laid him on the counter near the sink as she reheated her leftovers from last night. "Absolutely horrible," she grumbled. "Criker was on me all day about dropping my Werewolf initiative. As if I would just abandon a project I've been working on for three years because he thinks he can bully me!"
Billy hummed. "I knew Criker when he was just a Ministry toady. I could tell you some things about him that would encourage him to give you some space. Would you like me to tell you?"
She bit her bottom lip as she contemplated her options. "I really need this initiative to get in front of the Wizengamot," she murmured, trying to convince herself. "All right. What do you know?"
"Charlie mentioned something about weekending in Dublin," she said as soon as she took him out of the drawer. "Billy?"
"I'm here," he snapped.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"What do you think?"
He was silent.
"Billy?" she asked. "Are you there?"
"Are you going to talk to me this time?" she asked. When she didn't get a response, she sighed. "It's been almost two weeks since you said anything to me."
She stared at the pink vibrator inside the drawer. With no response, she continued. "I'm heading out. Meeting Charlie at the Burrow, then we're take a Portkey to Dublin."
She was about to shut the drawer again when she heard him yell, "Wait!"
Hermione took him out and placed him on the comforter. "What?" she asked irritably.
"Is this—" He faltered. "Is this really what you want? To go with him? To be with Charlie?"
She threw her arms up in the air. "I don't know! When my bloody Guardian Angel tells me that he's my soulmate, then I should really give it my best go, shouldn't I?!" She picked up her overnight bag from the ground.
"Don't go," he said whispered. She kept walking away. "Please don't go," he said, louder.
Her feet halted at the door. "Then show yourself." She turned around and glared at the object on the bed. "Show yourself to me, and I won't leave."
He froze at his spot directly in front of her. She shook her head and pivoted on her feet. He shut his eyes, willing himself to be seen.
Her astonished face filled his vision when he opened his eyes. An incredulous smile slowly grew on her lips. "I knew it," she sighed.
Severus arched an eyebrow at her. "Did you, really?"
Hermione shrugged. "Well, eventually. I mean, you really gave yourself away with that migraine potion. I asked Professor Slughorn once if he knew of a potion to get rid of migraines, and he told me none had yet been invented. I figured only one other person would have the skills to invent something so effective."
The joy that he felt that she had known it was him — and continued to spend time with him, regardless — almost overwhelmed him.
She dropped her bag on the carpet and stepped closer to him. "So. You don't want me to go with Charlie?"
He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. Rather, he shook his head tersely.
"Even if he's supposedly my soulmate?" she asked, raising the tail of an eyebrow.
"Although he's your soulmate, does he make you happy?"
She swiveled her head slowly as she inched closer to him.
"Tell me what makes you happy," he said. Severus raised his arm and hovered a hand over her cheek.
"My work. My family and friends." The corners of her eyes crinkled with mirth. "Billy Zane."
"The actor or the vibrator?" He tried and failed to keep a straight face.
"Both," she said. Her smile was dazzling. "And you."