(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: When Harry said he had the perfect blind date for her, Hermione figured she had nothing to lose. Of course, the last person she was expecting to see waiting for her was Severus Snape…
Hermione Granger stifled a yawn and surreptitiously checked her wrist watch. 10:12pm. There was no way she was going to be able to stay awake until Harry Potter's actual birthday started at 12 midnight.
She looked at all her friends, set as couples, out on the dance floor. They were blitzed and having a fun time. Since Harry's birthday was on a Sunday this year, he'd elected to start early. He was turning 31. He knew that he couldn't party the night away and show up to work on Monday like he could have done even five years ago.
They were getting old.
Most of them were so old, they were married with a child or two or three, which is why Hermione was a bit more tired than usual. She had come to Harry's and Ginny's house early to help set up the party in the back field but also to watch and read stories to Harry's three kids.
Unlike the others, Hermione wasn't married. No, Hermione was just boring by nature. And she liked it that way. Ron hadn't liked it that way, which is why they hadn't lasted. Hermione liked his wife, though. She watched him dance with her in a way she had always hated dancing: raucously and clumsily.
She was off guard when the second, larger yawn came out. Of course, this is the one that Harry managed to catch her out on. He left the dance floor and slid heavily next to her on the lawn sofa where she had settled in.
"Are we keeping you up, old woman?" Harry smiled and rested his head on her shoulder, looking up at the sky.
He was fairly drunk. Hermione liked it when he could relax and let go. She pushed her fingers through the hair at the back of his head, mussing it a bit. "You are. I'm about to sneak out before you notice."
"Scandal!" Harry fake-whispered, and his chin rolled toward her. "My best mate can't leave me before the birthday even starts!"
"But, like you said, she's very, very old."
Hermione hummed and smiled at Harry's overly glum face. After a long moment, his face changed. Hermione narrowed her eyes at the sudden change. Knowing someone for 20 years, one had a feeling when mischief was about to be afoot.
"I'll allow it, if…" Harry started and smiled a too-big smile.
"I don't like where this is going."
"Oh, you really won't, but it's my birthday! You kind of have to give me what I want, especially since you're about to leave."
Hermione's mouth scrunched up. She would not, would not watch the three kids for an entire weekend again. She had told him already. Not after last time…
"I want to set you up on a date," Harry announced, jarring Hermione from the horrible memory of having frozen the three Potter kids like doxies in a last-ditch attempt to stop them from burning down Godric's Hollow.
"I have someone in mind… Someone older… I know him through work. He does some contracted jobs for us. He's someone with a more nuanced appreciation for the war than you're used to dating."
"Listen, I'm turning 31 in a short time, but you, you, Hermione, are 32. So old."
Hermione rolled her eyes and looked away. "This is how he talks to me when he wants me to agree with him. This. Is. Unbelievable."
"If you say yes, I'll let you go home to your nice soft bed. Pyjamas. A book, Hermione. I bet you have a book you're just dying to read."
She did. Hermione scowled at her friend.
"I'll take care of everything. You just have to arrive and be open-minded."
"What if it doesn't work?"
"When has a plan of mine not worked?" Harry made a face as he thought of the many, many jaunts he had taken her on. He threw his arm around her shoulders. "I'll take you shopping in that antique book shop you're always salivating over."
Harry nodded. "'Tis."
"Fine, but this is the last time you're fixing me up."
"It's the first time!"
"Well, you only get one shot. Are you sure you want to use it up on this mysterious 'bloke from work'?"
Harry leaned away from her and smile in a way that she could refuse. "Very. I can't recommend this bloke enough. Honestly."
Hermione waved her hand at his face. "Fine. But I'm leaving, now. Happy birthday, Harry!"
The two stood, and Harry made a sharp whistle at the dance floor. "Hermione's leaving! Who had—" Harry paused to lift her wrist so he could see the time. "Who had 10:30?"
From the middle of the crowd, Seamus Finnigan jumped up and pumped his fists. "Me! I said 10:30!"
Hermione huffed and put her hands on her hips. "You bet on when I would leave?"
Seamus, who had had a few drinks himself, barrelled toward her, scooping her up and spinning her around. "We knew the kids would put you under. A single witch is no match for three wee ones!"
"Seamus!" Hermione shrieked as she kicked her legs. Honestly, it was like he was still seventeen, sometimes.
"Thanks for the fifty Galleons," he said as he put her down and put a big kiss on her cheek.
Hermione pulled a face before waving to the crowd on the dance floor. "If you bet on me again, Finnigan, I'd better get a cut of the winnings." She jabbed her finger into his chest, and he stuck his hands in the air, beginning to back away slowly.
"Love ya, 'Mione. Wouldn't change ya for the world."
"Of course not. I just won you fifty Galleons."
Turning to Harry, Hermione wished him one last 'happy birthday' before walking to the Apparition point and finally heading home.
Severus Snape smoothed his hands over his face and peered a bit closer in the mirror, wondering how he had let Harry Potter talk him into this.
The answer was obvious to him: Lily's eyes. The boy was so much like his father, but when Severus looked at Harry – when those eyes, so like his mother's pinned him – he could not help but think of Lily. Think of Lily and agree to things.
Severus hoped Harry never realised the peculiar hold he had over him. It would never do.
He refused to wonder at who this 'blind date' was to be with. Harry, famous as he was, could have found just about any obscure match. Why he felt inclined to play matchmaker, Severus could not guess.
It was a very curious… alliance they had formed. Of course, Severus would have never guessed to mean anything to Harry whatsoever.
After it was revealed that Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black, had revealed the Potters' location to the Dark Lord, Severus had felt absolved, in a way. Pettigrew was a dishonour to all of rat-kind.
And, yes, Severus had done many things to try to help win the war. Few of them were noble, and Severus did not consider himself a noble person. He didn't consider himself a bad person, either, just a person.
Why Harry had named his second son after him, Severus would never understand.
Deciding that his face was as shorn and smooth as he could manage, no dark patches hiding in shadows, he patted his cheeks down with a subtle aftershave of bergamot and lime.
Would she like it?
It was a scent that he thought fine for an August outing: inoffensive, but fresh.
He moved to his wardrobe and considered what to wear. Severus preferred a long-sleeved, matte-black oxford shirt to cover his faded-but-still-there Dark Mark when he could not be sure of its reception. Harry had said she would know of his role in the war, but Severus could not really believe that.
After Harry's stand-off with the Dark Lord, the questionable speech was misremembered by everyone who had been there as well as by many who hadn't been. Many still had misconceptions about Severus. On the other hand, he would not hide who he was.
It was August, which meant that he would be sweltering and out of place with his arms covered. He could do a cooling charm, but he could also dress for the season. They were meeting at the London Eye, which was touristy at best. Harry had said that she knew about Muggle London, so he suspected that they should both be dressed for the weather.
He did have a new tee shirt he could wear. He was of an era when tee shirts really came into the fashion zeitgeist. It was supposed to be a casual, some might say fun experience. Closing his jaw against the discomfort of leaving the typical behind, he pulled the luxurious cotton over his head.
Severus had never been so comforted by pulling on his pants and trousers as he was now. Black socks and black boots, and he felt not nearly as… exposed as he had just a couple short minutes ago.
He looked at himself in the mirror. The exposed feeling returned, and he could feel his ears heat as he was pre-emptively embarrassed by the low cut of the v-neck. Severus knew there was no reason to be insecure in his own bedroom, but he couldn't stop himself.
Looking into the mirror, his reflection was not what he had anticipated. So many years on his own, without the stress he had lived under for nearly forty years, Severus was not who he had imagined himself to be. He had taken up exercise a few years ago and was well-fed these days.
He was lean, but not gaunt. His arms had definition without looking like an oaf. Severus looked at himself for another moment, and he shook his head. No clear thought came to mind except, not bad.
With little experience to go from, Severus resigned himself that he was ready for his 'date.' He wondered if people even really dated anymore in 2011. As far as he had observed, courting had become a free for all. People had left the stringent gender expectations his parents had met under behind, for better or worse, but failed to find a better solution in the intervening decades.
The Internet, which he had observed in passing in his new, mostly-Muggle life, did not seem to be the solution.
Perhaps having the saviour of the wizarding world set one up was not the worst alternative.
Severus collected his things to leave, sliding his wand in a hidden pocket inside the usual pocket of his denims. Securing his flat, he Apparated to the London Eye.
Following Harry's "plan," Hermione Apparated to a little room in the attic of a bed and breakfast near the London Eye. Once her feet were underneath her, she slipped into the loo and freshened up. Her teeth had no lipstick on them. Her eyelashes were bold, and she had accented them with a bit of a cat's eye liner. Her top hid her bra, but was still suggestive. She smoothed her hands over her hair to test she'd done a nice job pulling it back into a high, 'fun' ponytail, and she was satisfied.
Checking her watch, she found it was 6:55pm, as per… The Plan.
Hermione walked down two flights of stairs and out towards the crowds, finding the right chippy to stand near as she waited for her date.
That was part of The Plan.
What was not a part of Harry Potter's Plan was Hermione's mounting anxiety. She could not believe this was happening. She hadn't dated since she'd been in her twenties. Her twenties were in the previous decade.
Although she didn't feel old, per se, her body was not what it had been when she was at all fun and now she was old and gravity had taken its toll and who could Harry have possibly set her up with!
Hermione scanned the crowd for single-looking blokes.
She tried not to make any snap judgements, but she also couldn't help imagining increasingly withered old 'intellectual' coots that Harry might think she would be interested in.
Also, because this is who Hermione had become, not only as an introvert but as a veteran, she was already looking for escape routes.
There were crowds and crowds of people, so an all-out run was unlikely to behove her. She didn't want to use magic in front of Muggles, but…
Had Harry put them in a Muggle spot as part of The Plan?
Hermione's face scrunched up as she realised that Harry Bloody Potter would do just this sort of thing. He had set her up, and she had let him. The thought made her mouth purse very tightly.
Of course, this would be the moment that Hermione would lock eyes with the only person she could imagine being a wizard in this entire crowd: Severus Snape.
She hadn't seen him in fifteen years, and Hermione's body gave a small jolt when recognition set in. It felt as though her building anxiety had been burnt up. Then, forgetting all of the pretence that this was some sort of date, she waved at her former-professor-turned-war-hero, navigating the crowd to get to where he was.
Severus had watched Hermione arrive from the security of shadows behind a stall selling remarkably low-quality sunglasses to tourists. He observed her as she emerged from the same bed and breakfast that he had Apparated to half an hour early.
Harry Potter was not the most strategic wizard Severus had ever known by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, Harry's plot for his long-time friend was followed almost exactly, right down to the chippy.
Severus had worked hard to avoid imagining who would be coming this evening. He never would have guessed it would be Harry's own best friend and heroine of the war, Hermione Granger. Severus had thought they had all up and married each other and were now repopulating Hogwarts for generations to come.
Not that Severus would have paired Hermione up with any of the blokes of her year, let alone her House. Severus shrugged. Harry was not known for his creativity, either.
Closing his eyes, Severus worked out the maths. He had turned twenty when Lily gave birth, which put that year they all started at Hogwarts as when he was thirty-one. That was twenty years ago, now, which he would not think about, except to say Hermione Granger had to be at least thirty-one, now.
Not too young, Severus decided.
Severus certainly didn't want to entertain the idea of entertaining some twit in her twenties. What an absolute shite decade when it came down to personal maturity and life ambition. It was mostly a criticism he placed on himself, but he had found most people to be significantly more tolerable in their thirties. Or, conversely, still intolerable but also old enough that he didn't need to be bothered with them anymore.
Severus observed Hermione as she waited and looked for her mysterious blind date. She'd put a bit of work into herself for this. Severus appreciated the high espadrilles, the culottes that accentuated her calves, and the cowl draped just over her bosom. Her hair was up in a ponytail and he could see her feminine neck.
She had matured well, physically. He hoped she had also matured well in other ways.
As Severus's pocket watch began to chime the hour, he noticed Hermione's face turn sour. He smiled. Like him, although requiring a great deal more time, he thought, she had realised why Harry had put them here. He imagined the jinxes her friend might receive and smirked as he revealed himself and caught her eye.
Utterly relieved that Harry hadn't been too creative in this whole ordeal, Hermione smiled up at Severus Snape when she finally reached him. Harry was going to buy her such a tome! She could smell the paper already.
"Severus, please, Hermione," Severus replied with a slight bow of his head.
"Just to make sure, Harry put you – I mean us – up to this?"
Hermione shook her head and laughed to herself as she looked around the crowds. "Well, I'm a bit famished. Harry said he put in a reservation for us, if you're ready?"
Severus agreed and turned to search for the restaurant as well. She spotted it first after taking a few steps away from their meeting place. She waved for him to follow her.
After weaving a bit through the crowd, they were finally able to walk side by side.
Hermione cleared her throat and said, "You're looking well." Her strides weren't as long as his, but he wasn't hurrying, so she was able to keep up.
He gave a sideways look at her before turning his head back toward their destination. "Thank you. You're also… no longer bedraggled by war? I'm never sure what to say here."
She smiled. Although this date was so incredibly not a date, it was actually going better than these things tended to go for her. "I've been told worse. Also, I've been told things that I can't even believe would come out of someone's mouth."
"'I thought you were dead,' for example," Severus offered wryly as they crossed the road and approached the restaurant door.
"Well, not that one, but nearly!"
Severus stepped ahead a bit and pulled a beautifully carved door open, holding it for Hermione. She ducked under his arm and greeted the hostess. Their table, in the shade on the patio, was waiting for them. Hermione gestured to ask if he preferred one side or the other, but he didn't, so she took the side closer to a basket of hanging flowers.
Once settled, she turned and took a long sniff. When she turned back, Severus was looking at her, his face very neutral.
"Red wine?" he asked.
Hermione hummed. "Yes, please," she replied, taking one last sigh to settle into her chair. She was very tempted to stare at him, somewhat disbelieving that he would be her companion tonight. Although he was not a stranger to her, the time where their lives had overlapped was aeons ago, it felt like. Although Hermione couldn't believe he might be interested in her romantically, perhaps they could forge a sort of friendship if the night went well.
Once the wine had been poured and he noticed a breeze coming from the ceiling fan inside the restaurant, Severus was quite surprised at how well this was going. There was no horrible small talk. There was no awkwardness. Hermione had shown no hesitation once she had recognised him.
In fact, she had nearly been acting as if this had all worked out in her favour. Had she, like Severus, bartered her acceptance of this 'blind date' for something? His curiosity was piqued.
However, despite his own wager, perhaps Severus found he might be happy to 'lose.' That is, if losing meant that he got to, one day, see just how narrow Hermione's waist was beneath that top. There, in fact, could be no losing here.
Not willing to admit that Harry had been right, yet, Severus wondered what he had been thinking. Did he really want to see Severus and Hermione together? Had he actually thought they would be a good match?
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked, peering over the top of her menu.
"Ruminating." Severus turned his gaze to the other side of his menu.
"Well, it's Harry's treat, so get what you like."
Now, Severus sent his gaze over the menu.
"It's because when he lived with his aunt, he was so destitute. He always felt bad about that, and he loves to treat people to things."
"Petunia," Severus grumbled.
"That's right! You knew her, then, when you were kids? What was she like?"
Severus dropped his menu to look at Hermione square on. No one had ever asked him that. She was like…
His thoughts were interrupted by the waiter. Hermione ordered the Tagliata di Manzo; Severus requested the Bocconcini di Filetto. When the waiter had taken their menus, Severus took a savouring drink from his wine glass.
Hermione waited for him to be ready. That was definitely a maturation, he knew.
"Petunia wanted nothing to do with me from the start. I was quite obviously very poor, and she didn't want any of that rubbing off on her. Beyond that, I suppose she loved her little sister very much, and wanted to protect her. However, as it became apparent that Lily had magic and Petunia did not, it put a wedge between them. Petunia was so envious."
"She was older than Lily? I always thought she was younger, since she seemed like an over-grown brat."
Severus nodded. "You're an only child, correct?"
"Yes. 'One and done,' they said."
"Imagine if there had been another wee Granger, who was more special than you."
"Impossible," Hermione said as she lifted her wine glass to her lips.
"Impertinent. Then Lily made all of these horrible weird friends at her exclusive boarding school, and suddenly, she was all of twenty-two years old, and those friends had got her sister killed."
"Doesn't excuse how she treated Harry."
"Of course not. She's just not a 'villain, stage left.' Twirling a moustache."
"Have you ever had a moustache?"
Severus lifted his eyebrow at the subject change. "No."
"Not even tried?"
Hermione grabbed a bit of her pony tail and covered her upper lip. "Lavender Brown gave me one as a prank, sixth year."
"She could be. She just didn't understand me." Hermione used her free fingers to twirl the open end of her pony tail moustache. "We all do terrible things sometimes."
Severus pulled his arms back from the table and considered her. "You're more flippant than I recall."
"Well, no one likes a shrew." Hermione matched his body posture. Then, she delicately took her glass in hand, put it to her lips, and drained it. "You're surprisingly easy to talk to, Snape."
Seeing the waiter bringing their meals, Severus waved his napkin at her, and she sat up. Once the plates were down, the cheese grated, and the waiter off to other tasks, he leaned forward and said, "Please, call me Severus."
Dinner was delicious and comfortable. For the first time in quite some time, Hermione had too much wine. She had simply enjoyed herself knowing that it wasn't a real date and Harry was getting the bill.
Still, as they were leaving, Hermione had to focus very closely on walking correctly in her tall shoes.
"You're sauced," Severus declared.
Hermione moved to lean against a lamp post in the setting sun. "So sauced. Not too sauced to Apparate home, but too sauced to do it without losing all of my delicious supper and gelato."
She watched Severus give her his full consideration. "I could Disapparate us from here if you tell me where to go."
Hermione shook her head. "I'll just take the tube."
"I cannot let you get on the tube," Severus said with a sneer. "Knight Bus."
"The tube is so easy. I just take the Northern line."
As the one who was usually conscientious, Hermione mumbled the answer. "To Morden in Surrey."
"Absolutely not. Or not alone, at the very least." Severus insisted.
"I don't want to inconvenience you."
"Having Harry Potter pound down my door because I let his highly sauced best friend get lost on the London Underground sounds like a much worse fate."
"The station is over that way."
"I have been riding the Tube since before you were on this planet."
"Longer than you've known how to Apparate?"
"You're sure you don't mind?"
"Do I need to put you over my shoulder?"
"You'd be worse for it, I assure you." Hermione pushed away from the lamp post. "The night air will help, I'm sure."
The two walked to the rail station and boarded a very crowded train. Some families were leaving the area after a long day out. Along the way, some couples were on and off the train as they went to different hot spots around the city.
Hermione and Severus both stood, their hands on the same pole. Hermione noticed someone leering at her, and turned her body and attention away from him.
Severus noticed her change of posture. He quickly surmised the source of her discomfort and moved to stand closer to her.
"It's… well, not fine, but typical, Severus," Hermione spoke so only he could hear.
"I know you could handle this yourself, but if you start hexing bollocks, I don't want to be caught in the crossfire."
He also spoke in a low tone, and she found herself leaning towards the quiet baritone. "Your bollocks are safe with me."
The railcar jostled as Hermione realised what she'd said. She was blushing hot through to her ears. "I'll just wither up and die, now."
"Just one more stop," Severus said with a chuckle. He took another half step closer to her, moving both his hands to the high rail so that she could hide from the rest of the train. Their eyes didn't meet again, until well after they had disembarked from the train.
Still, he was standing closer to her than he had perhaps in her whole life. It was nice to be shielded from a bit from the train, and able to pay close attention to her various tumultuous constitutions. He smelled nice, for someone riding the train after a hot summer's day.
When her stop finally arrived, his hand touched her back just barely as she took a large step over the gap. The night air was fresh, and she felt much better as she was able to lead them on the familiar path to her house.
"I'm next, on the right," Hermione said, breaking the easy silence they had walked in from the train. She reached down to pull her keys from her trouser pocket, and Severus watched as her arm disappeared up to the elbow.
As she was fishing around, she noticed that he had noticed her. "It's an extension charm."
Severus raised both his eyebrows and nodded. Then he watched stars start to blink in the suburban sky. When he heard her jingle the keys, he looked back her way.
"Thanks for riding the train with me. Care for a cuppa before you go?"
Happy to have evaded an awkward 'goodbye on the doorstep' moment, Severus agreed. Once they were in the front door, Hermione worked her shoes off as quickly as she could, and they clunked haphazardly by what was probably a closet. She rolled on her ankles, and he could hear the muscles and tendons popping.
Her calves were still catching his attention, even without the shoes.
"I'll put the kettle on."
Severus took off his shoes as well, moving to the settee and flexing his feet. He listened to Hermione as she got the tea tray ready.
"Chocolate biscuits all right?"
Once she had the tray set on the coffee table and tea poured, she sat at the other end of the settee, inhaling the steam from her cup. Hermione took a long drink of tea. "I hope you weren't too disappointed tonight by Harry's fix up."
"Why would I be disappointed?" Severus asked popping the second half of a chocolate biscuit between his teeth.
"Well, it's hardly the romantic success I think Harry had imagined."
"I admit I wasn't anticipating you to be at the chippy, but I wouldn't say it was a disappointment."
"Exactly! I had a surprisingly nice time tonight."
Severus, being very schooled at when to speak and when not to speak, ate another biscuit. He waited for Hermione to have more tea before he spoke again. "You are astonishingly daft."
"What's that, then?" Hermione shook her head and lowered her tea cup.
"Hermione. You are remarkably fetching."
His words caught her off-guard. "You don't have to say that." Hermione raised her cup to have a bit more tea and to cover her surprise.
"Have you ever known me to say unnecessary things?"
Hermione looked at him. His face was serious, but not severe. She felt very flattered, suddenly, but also unsettled, so she said her thanks mostly to her tea cup.
"When Harry told me that he had someone in mind who was not a twit, who knew about and understood my complex role in the war, and who was, as he put it, 'not a hag,' I found it all quite difficult to believe."
"Not a hag." Hermione puffed out her cheeks at her friend's words.
"A remarkable understatement from someone who has never been understated in his entire life." Severus turned his body towards hers. "I absolutely understand that you might not be interested in me. I do find I'm terribly interested in you."
Hermione swallowed, although her tea was already lowered nearly to her lap. Her eyes moved from her teacup to Severus's chest, and then higher, until she met his gaze.
"Why would you be interested in me?" Hermione whispered, but then shook her head. "I mean, I just reckoned you couldn't possibly be, so I thought it would just be a nice time. I didn't mean that I wouldn't be interested."
"Hermione. You're rambling."
Severus shifted closer to her on the settee. "As I was saying. You're remarkably fetching. You are definitely not a twit. You have an idea about my real history, if there is such a thing as real history. We had a nice time, did we not?"
"Well, then, much to our concurrent dismay, it appears Harry was correct, and we will have to live with that knowledge indefinitely."
Hermione's shoulders slumped as the unknown-but-wonderful-and-expensive tome became less of a possibility. "We had better be sure it's worth it." Relaxing her body ever further, she found her shoulder on the soft, black cotton of Severus's shirt. Steeling herself with a deep breath, she turned her face to his.
Their lips met.
'Twas the night the night before Severus's birthday, and all through his house… were Potters.
Harry, Ginny, their three children, and Hermione were all just standing up from a delicious dinner. James Sirius and Albus Severus were taking the "baby" — who was an absolute inquisitive little troll if he had ever met one — back through the Floo so that they could mitigate what damage had been wrought before dinner.
Severus was pouring drinks. If asked, he couldn't have answered why his glass had been refilled twice already.
Bringing the whisky to the sitting room, he watched Potter pick up bits and repair bobs, Severus considered decanting another bottle while they waited for the ladies.
"I don't know what got into everyone tonight, Severus," Harry apologised again.
"You should have given them dull names like John and Paul and Anne."
Harry smiled, counting all the couch cushions and finding he'd repaired them all. The two men sat in high-backed chairs on opposite sides of the coffee table.
Severus drank slowly, trying to have a social tenor. At least the house was quiet again.
Looking up, he spied Harry looking pleased with himself.
"Stop looking so smug."
Harry worked to change the curve of his mouth, but it was short lived. What's worse, his grin came back brighter.
"Don't jinx it, Potter."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry feigned and took a long, fast pull of his whisky.
It was Severus's turn to look smug as Harry choked a bit from the strong drink.
"Are you poisoning my husband?" Ginny shouted from the kitchen.
"He did it to himself." Severus let a loud but smooth reply fill the room.
"I'm just happy you both are happy."
"It's not been six months, even."
"Details, shmetails. You can have the wedding in our garden."
Severus stared daggers at the young man. Very bizarrely, he seemed unphased.
Ginny and Hermione came in, then, with a cake that looked like it was on fire. Harry, Ginny, and Hermione began to sing.
When they finished, Severus asked, "What have you done to my cake?"
"52 candles," Ginny smiled.
"You're going to burn down my house."
"Blow them out already!" Harry watched as the blaze grew brighter.
If Hermione's cake had been ruined after all the profanity it had caused today, Severus was going to bludgeon something. Taking a deep breath, he blew out all the candles in one breath. It took a couple passes, but he did it.
When disaster was averted and all the candles had been removed, the cake was beautiful, just as Hermione had finished it this afternoon. Severus heaved a sigh of relief. That hadn't been his birthday wish, exactly, but it would set the tone for the year to come.