(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: A storm traps Severus and Hermione in an isolated location (SS/HG or SS & HG).
Summary: Hermione stumbles upon a recluse Snape as a storm stumbles upon them both.
Hermione pulled her hood a little higher as she eyed the path leading to the last house of the day. Stumping for support had never been her idea of the best way to spend a Saturday, but she knew it was something she was good at. Frowning at her list of addresses, she started up the path, hoping to outrun the impending rain.
Hermione Granger was grateful to lead a relatively normal life. She commuted to work through the Floo, had a job she enjoyed, and went home each night to a good book and her cat. On the weekends she could take time to visit her friends or her parents. There were no exams to cram for, she didn’t have to do the schoolwork of her friends, and there wasn’t an evil Dark Lord to vanquish anymore. Things were pretty good.
Truth be told, Hermione was bored.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have a purpose. She loved her job working for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. She was making a difference there in ways she wasn’t able to with her misguided attempts at school. A tentative alliance was formed with the house-elves that allowed to her assess what their needs really were, not what she thought they were. She was rising through the ranks. People respected her.
Alright. She basically felt like she didn’t have a purpose.
Well, not a purpose exactly. She had a purpose. House-elves were important. It was a subject she cared about but it wasn’t a subject she had a passion for. Not anymore.
Harry told her maybe she needed to go back to school but after sitting her NEWTs a year after her classmates, she couldn’t fathom sitting back in a pupil’s desk. She was ten years out of school, she had a wizard degree. School wasn’t the answer.
Ron told her to go on vacation but where would she go? Who would go with her? Who would do her paperwork while she was gone? That wasn’t the answer either.
When she talked to George Weasley, the answer came a little more into focus.
Hermione shook her head at the memory of that conversation. Her lank hair stuck to her wet cheek, making her return from her reverie. It was beginning to rain. While she loved the smell of wet leaves and the asphalt of the small lane, she did not relish her current appearance or the fact her hair would be unmanageable for days following the rain. Ducking her head down and holding her papers close, she made a mad dash for the small cottage in the distance.
Her footsteps didn’t falter until she reached the carved wooden door and rapped on the old bronze knocker.
"Hello?" she called. "I’m with the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. My name is Hermione-"
Hermione gasped involuntarily. She knew that voice. Her eyes rose until they reached the nose she never expected to expect to see. "Professor-"
"-Snape," the man continued again.
"It’s only been ten years, Professor. I quite remember who you are."
He scowled with his arms crossed protectively across his chest. "I’m not your Professor, Granger. Or anyone's. I’m just Snape now."
"Okay then, Just Snape. It’s down-pouring and only going to get worse so I’ll make this quick. I’m getting a petition together to have a set of standards for Elvish ownership that we would like passed through the Ministry and I was hoping you’d sign. Before I drown."
"I’m not interested."
He started to shut the door but she quickly caught it before it latched. It seemed she had some practice with this.
"Wait! But you’re a registered owner of house-elves and you’ve stop by our office with inquiries. We have records."
"Good for you, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want my name on anything intended for the Ministry. Good day, Granger."
The door latched with a final click before Hermione could think it through. She was the one left scowling on Professor Snape’s doorstep.
A crack of thunder in the not-so-far distance quickly reminded her that if she wasn’t going to get a signature, she might as well leave. Putting her papers in her bag, still scowling at the door, she turned on the spot to Apparate.
When she opened her eyes still on the stoop, her scowl deepened and she rapped on the door again.
"Go away, Granger!"
"I can’t!" she hollered back.
"The wards extend for one hundred feet," came the exasperated reply.
With a huff to match her scowl, she calculated one hundred feet off the stoop. Near a grove of trees some yards off. Well, still better than walking back. Pulling her bag close, she mad a dash for the grove of trees. After at least a hundred feet, she spun on the spot.
Hermione, now completely irate as well as thoroughly soaked, marched backed up to Snape's door and gave it a firm knock. Was anything involving this man ever going to be easy?
"WHAT, GRANGER?" came a bellow she was just a tad familiar with as the door was hastily swung open for an angry ex-Potions master.
"I still can't Apparate. It must be the storm. Let me use your Floo." After a moment she remembered through her anger that honey worked better than vinegar. "Please."
"Please?" she asked again. Hermione hadn't realized how desperate she was to reach home until she
realized her bottom lip was wobbling and her eyes moist. Not that anyone could tell through the rain. Snape may not have noticed her tears but he noticed the wobble. Snape was a sucker for a lip wobble. "Fine," he told her sharply, stepping back to let her pass. "But you tell no one I'm here."
"Done. I don't think they'd believe me anyway."
She stepped in, ignoring the face he made as she dripped on his carpet. The storm was really howling now. It was odd. There didn’t seem to be a mention of it on the morning news but these things happened up in the north. If she would have known, she would have stayed home.
It was tempting to gawk around the home of her recluse professor. She had never really thought about him having his own home, though they knew he did. If she would have thought about what it would look like, she might have pictured something like this. Wall to wall book cases. Hard wood floors, in need of a good polish. Most things were slightly dusty. She figured she could probably discern his daily routine by the lack of dust. A well-worn chair in the corner with good light, obviously to read it. She spied a pair of reading glasses on the table beside it and remembered he always had his head close to the paper. A product of too much reading. She worn contacts herself. At last, a fireplace.
"Some Floo powder, please?" Hermione asked as kindly as possible. There was a generally feeling of depression about the place and she couldn’t wait to leave.
"In the pot on the mantle," he told her. He had yet to move from the door and was no doubt scrutinizing her every action.
Taking a bit of powder, she called, "To Hermione Granger’s residence. Three Ninety Four Magnolia Drive." She tossed the powder into the flames and stepped inside. Only to hit the wall with a very solid thump.
Hermione hollered and quickly jumped out of the fire, patting off her pants which were becoming a bit singed. "What are you playing at, Snape?" she asked, not as kindly this time.
"I could ask you the same! You’re the one who showed up on my doorstep and won’t leave!"
"I can’t! Nothing activated! When is the last time you used your Floo?" she inquired, waving her arm at the fireplace.
He crossed his arms. "I make regular shipments and errands almost daily. My Floo was fine this morning."
"Before the storm."
"Yes," he said. "Before the storm."
"Lightening?" she asked. "Could that be interfering with the magic?" She heard a whispered epithet. "I guess, I’ll just…" She waved a hand at the door. It was a long walk back to any form of transportation and it would be hard to come by in the weather, but he clearly and understandably wanted her gone.
"Sit down, Granger. I’ll put the kettle on." She sat on the couch before she registered the fact he was offering to let her stay. "Do you have a towel, sir? I don’t want to get everything wet."
"Loo at the top of the stairs. Try not to touch anything." Sticking her tongue out at the doorway he disappeared through, she walked up the creaky old steps and eyed the outdated wall paper. Why had he never done anything to the place? This was where he had grown up, if she recalled correctly. His parents were obviously gone. Surely he could redecorate a bit if he wanted to. Or clean up a bit.
And why was he letting her stay? Something about this whole day was way off. Flipping on the light switch illuminated pink and black tile and old laminate floors. Her nose involuntarily wrinkled as she grabbed a worn but clean towel off the rack. Her eyes were drawn to the various eyes lining the vanity.
"Hello, Sweetie..." Hermione jumped as she gasped from the strange voice.
A brief glimpse of a face was caught in a reflection in the mirror but she couldn't even tell if it was male or female. She wasn't a stranger to ghosts, but this one had almost a malevolent feel about it. Her hair was quickly dried and she bolted downstairs. Snape met her at the bottom with a cup of hot tea.
"Well, you were quicker than expected. Have you actually matured beyond the point of meddling where you don't belong?"
"Is your house haunted?" she blurted, completely ignoring his barb.
"Don't be ridiculous," he scoffed, a little quicker than she expected at her dramatic change in subject.
"Are you sure?" He made a face as he turned and went to sit in what was clearly 'his chair'. "I've been living here almost fifty years. I think I'd know." Hermione began to doubt her experience in the bathroom. It wasn't a hard stretch to think that she might be easily spooked, being in this house during the storm.
"It's just...I saw a face reflected in the mirror. Not mine," she clarified before he could retort. "And it spoke to me."
"Maybe you brought the spirit with you, Granger. To my knowledge, this house is as silent as the grave."
She nodded and finally stepped away from the staircase with one final look to the bathroom. Nothing happened. She took a seat on the dingy sofa across from him and sipped on a most excellent cup of tea.
Time seemed to crawl. The tea warmed her from the inside out but there wasn't anything to do besides listen to the rain and thunder clash around them. The windows would shudder, making her jump a little on the couch, almost spilling her tea but she was afraid to set it down. He did, after all, tell her not to touch anything and she wanted to prove to him that she could listen to direction, to the letter, as always.
"For Merlin's sake, pick up a book. It should be over soon," he hissed at her as she twitched again at a clap of thunder.
The sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, making the clouds glow an eerie blue and green through the rain as Hermione went to examine the various books. She couldn't shake the feeling of being watched, though Snape was very studiously burrowed in some old leather bound volume. Grabbing some random text, she went back to her seat. The text proved to be rather interesting. She wasn't sure why she was surprised. Some people would pick other things but in her case, if she had to sum up Severus Snape in one word, it would probably be interesting. As she continued to read, she would occasionally peek over her book to watch the man across from her.
He was thinner, she noticed. If that were possible. A few strands of gray touched his temples but he was really still in his prime. His clothes were still black. He seemed melancholy. Remorseful, almost. She watched as he casually turned a page, trying her darnedest not to pester him, and couldn't help but wonder what he was doing here. Surely he had a fair sum of money. He didn't seem one to throw it all a way. If his house was any indication, he was a hoarder. Her fingers itched to grab a dust pan or broom. It was during her next peek that he shocked her. His stomach let out a rumble audible even over the storm. Her eyes went wide.
"You're probably hungry," he offered, as though his body betrayed nothing of his own state. "I'll go fix something."
"Oh, let me," she quickly shot back, before realizing offering to cook in his house was probably strange to him. "You've been very kind in letting me borrow a spot on your sofa, even if you haven't signed my petition, and it's the least I could do to fix something for supper." He sat back down in a huff from where he had half raised himself to head in the kitchen. She took that to mean he was agreeable and quickly sat her book down.
Did she love to read by a cozy fire during a storm? Yes. Did she like to do it in a strange and creepy house with Snape? Not really.
Looking around the antique kitchen, she noticed it was at least tidy. She opened all the cupboards, seeing what she had to work with. Not a lot – clearly a bachelor’s kitchen. He would frown if he knew she was comparing him to Ron. She found a few vegetables - slightly wilted but serviceable, a few potatoes – she could cut out the bad spots, and a few pieces of chicken that looked fresh. A bit of butter, a few herbs from the pots growing in the windowsill and she was set to make a right proper meal.
Some women hummed in the kitchen but not Hermione. She was intent, and focused, and not thinking about the fact she was cooking for Professor Snape in his house in a rainstorm or what her still damp hair was going to look like after it was dried over the stove. An old apron was behind a door and she grabbed it and put her hair up with her wand in an attempt to salvage her appearance. Not that she was worried about her appearance in front of Professor Snape. Or just Snape. Or whoever he was now.
"Like this," came a voice behind her as a set of hands firmly grasped her hair into a style she wasn’t familiar with. Hermione almost dropped the hot pan and used her wooden spoon to lash out at the person behind her, fully prepared to give Snape a verbal lashing for touching her but she swiped at nothing but air. This was getting seriously creepy.
She couldn’t tell him. She would look like an idiot. He was going to think she was a nutter for sure, or perhaps that she had been more rattled by the storm than she was letting on. It was simply her overworked nerves and the whole bizarre situation. It was nothing. Or so she patted her hair and tried to convince herself.
In no time at all, she plated two meals and brought one out to him. There was a small table with two chairs in the kitchen but it was piled with papers and other assorted items. It was clearly not where he took his meals, if he took them at all.
He set his book aside and raised an eyebrow. "You found all this is my kitchen?"
"Well, I couldn't exactly pop out to the market, could I? Eat up. I’m famished." She sat and prepared to tuck into her meal, balancing the plate on her knees.
The professor sat with his steaming plate while he eyed her appearance.
"Oh! The apron. Sorry. I’m not always a very clean cook." She ran it back to the hook in the kitchen before returning to her meal.
"That’s an interesting way to wear your hair. Not very in fashion now, is it?" he commented curiously before taking a bite.
She felt the blush rise to her cheeks and hoped he would assume she had been insulted. "And I’m not very in fashion, am I?" was her quiet response.
He harrumphed and began to eat, slowly at first but then with gusto as her skills in the kitchen made themselves known. He acted like he hadn’t had a decent meal in years. Maybe even since his time at Hogwarts, Hermione thought sadly.
"There’s more," she offered. "If you’re still hungry. It’s under a warming charm on the counter."
He gazed at her steadily before leaving to making himself a second helping. She was quite full after her first, but still wished she was able to make a few biscuits or something to go with it.
She risked a closer inspection of the room while he was gone. The fire warmed her hands as she inspected the items on the mantle. Suddenly, a feeling of great sorrow overcame her and she also began to weep. Every terrible thing from her childhood, from the war, and after was brought to mind. Her eyes began to well. She looked after herself in the mirror over the mantle and couldn’t help but gasp.
There were eyes staring back at her, but they weren’t hers.
"What is it, Granger?" Snape asked, quickly coming out of the kitchen.
"Uh, nothing. Nothing. I just thought I saw something in the mirror for a moment. So what are you doing now?" Hermione asked after he had been seated, trying to discretely rub her eyes. What was her problem?
He waited for a particularly loud thunderclap before answering. "Brewing potions, as always. Under my own label and for prescription."
"Doing well then?"
He shrugged. "I get by." He ignored her glance around the room and it’s outdated furnishings.
"Do you have a store or somewhere to brew?" Her curiosity was getting the best of her and he hadn’t tossed her yet, so she would keep trying her luck.
"The cellar," he said, pushing a bit of hair out his face to finish his meal.
Well, he may not be tossing her out but he wasn’t exactly chatty.
"Can I see it?" she asked, hopefully to move to a subject he would be interested in.
"If you wish."
Hermione was concerned by his lack of vigor. She wasn’t out on her ear, he hadn’t cursed at her, insulted her or anything really since she came upon his suddenly this afternoon. He was short with her when she had surprised him but nothing at all like she knew he could be.
He took her down a narrow staircase, lit by a single bulb, into the one area of the house he had clearly had a hand in and the only space that reminded her of the Snape of Hogwarts legend. Tons of jars lined shelves in various sizes. Racks of vials, a few cauldrons, and assorted stirring rods lined the free wall space, all neatly hung. This was where a wizard lived.
Hermione didn’t feel quite as sad as she did upstairs, but it certainly wasn’t cheery. However she could tell, this was his haven; the space in which every thing had its' place.
He mentioned several potions that he had created and she was jealous of his ability to run his own business and work on his own. Someday, maybe, she would have to just break out of the office and let her mind run free.
She was so caught up in herself that she almost didn’t hear him talking to her. Lecturing her, really, on why this was an adequate space to brew and what potions he was working on. She reached to pick up a nearby potion as he was grabbing the stirring rod next to it. Their hands brushed briefly across the table.
"Sorry," she said as he stopped talking mid-sentence. Her blush was returning. She had never touched him before. She suddenly knew that with certainty, just as she knew she would remember if she had.
She coughed to cover the silence. "I should make sure to put away supper," she told him and pulled away to head up the stairs.
"I don’t think there is any left," Snape said in a mildly sheepish voice.
"Then I’ll just wash up," she said with a smile.
He was putting away a few bottles as she reached the top of the stairs. No sooner did her foot touch the top step than the door slammed shut in her face, taking the single light bulb with it.
"Really?!" yelled Hermione. "Snape, I can’t open the door."
She heard the soft susurrus of his hand running through his hair and imagined the pinched expression on his face.
"Mother, let Miss Granger through the door."
He heard the sound of Hermione rattling the door but it still wouldn’t budge.
Then he could hear her picking her way carefully down the stairs before she incredulously asked, "Your mother?"
A sigh in the dark. "Take a seat, Granger."
"I don’t know where I am."
She heard him shuffle his way over, footsteps muffled with the patter of the rain on the windows. There was an involuntary flinch when he grabbed her hand. She hadn’t realized he was that close.
"Step carefully, but the path is pretty clear," he said as he led her to an old chair she remembered seeing in the corner. There must have been another or he conjured one, because she heard the rustle of fabric as he sat beside her.
"Yes. You could say this house is haunted."
"I knew it!" she yelled. "See? I’m not crazy."
"No. Not about this, at least. My mother’s spirit never left after her passing when I was a boy. Barely a teenager."
"I’m sorry. That must be hard for you." She longed to find his hand for comfort but with the darkness, she didn’t think he’d relish her pawing his person to find it. "She did my hair earlier." she mused.
"What?" incredulity woven into his tone.
"In the kitchen. She is the one who put up my hair when I was putting on the apron. I didn’t tell you. I figured you’d think I was crazy and throw me out."
She felt a hand brush her knee and was grateful to the darkness for covering the surprised look and the near-comical bulging of her eyes. ‘Professor Snape just brushed your knee!’ came the warning bells in her mind. How lonely must he be if he was coming on to her? But surely that isn’t what he was doing.
"She must like you," he offered, sounding tired/.
Hermione scoffed. "She has a funny way of showing it."
"She always has."
There was the ache in her heart again, remembering what she had been told of his childhood. She ignored her hesitation and proceeded to paw his person, first his chest then sliding down his rail thin arms until she was able to clasp his hand. "Tell me about her."
The first thing he said was, "I look like her. Black hair, black eyes. Same skin. Same temperament. One of the strikes against me. She was quiet. My mum used to bake, when I was younger. That was her apron."
"I didn’t think it was yours but I wasn’t going to ask."
"Very few things outside this room are mine."
Hermione still held his lightly in his, pondering if she would wake up at any moment.
"I can’t bring myself to change anything."
She squeezed his hand, thinking that he probably meant a lot more than the furnishings.
"Sometimes we need a change," she told him kindly. "A friend can help."
A gravelly voice responded with a dry, "I shall have to mention it to the vast social circle that I move within."
"You can never be happy when you can only feel her sadness. Mrs. Snape?" Hermione called out. She recalled her first name from learning about the Half-blood Prince "Um, Eileen? You don’t have to stay here anymore. I promise to keep an eye out on him. He can’t move on until you do, you see. But I know you worry about him. I promise to make sure he’s taking care of himself and I’ll even try to air him out every so often. I’ll try to make sure he’s happy. He loves you, but It’s time to let him go for a while." The two humans in the cellar held their breaths, waiting for any small sign of acknowledgement from the spirit.
The light flicked back on, taking the darkness and sadness with it.
The old house on the end of the row was the talk of all it’s neighbors. They often wondered if the man inside had died, for over the years there was so little activity for months at a time. Now, all of a sudden, it was a hub of activity, as a young woman with wild chestnut curls came out the back door. The older man stood leaning against the doorframe as her laughter rang through the old neighborhood. She tossed another load of old rugs and wallpaper on the bonfire.