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FIC: A Vertical Expression (PG-13)

Title: A Vertical Expression
Type: Fic
Prompter: dragoon811
Creator: thornedhuntress
Beta(s): gaeilgerua
Rating: PG-13
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Adult language.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Severus hasn't danced with anyone since, well, Lily. Unfortunately the 5th year anniversary of the war is coming and not only is he expected to dance, he's expected to do so with a date. Perhaps a deal can be reached with his equally-unattached colleague, Professor Granger (SS & HG with potential for SS/HG).
Note: Much thanks to the small village it took to raise this particular baby.
Summary: Dancing is nothing more than a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.



"I can't believe you would even say that!"

"What, like it's not true? Everyone knows you'd rather be locked up in that castle with your books than bother with actual people!"

"Oh for goodness sakes, Ronald, now you're just being ridiculous."

"Ridiculous? I'm ridiculous? You're the one who–"

The increasingly loud argument echoed down the Ministry corridor, admittedly not a rare occurrence in a department where Aurors roamed freely.

Moments later, an obviously irate witch came storming down the hallway, the fire in her gaze sending Ministry peons scurrying from her path like so many cockroaches. As she approached, Snape pushed off the wall where he had taken up waiting and fell into step, his long strides easily matching her hurried gait.

"Trouble in paradise?" He drawled inquiringly.

"Oh shut it, Severus," she snapped, not even bothering to look in his direction. Which was well enough in itself, as he didn't bother to disguise the smirk her display of temper elicited.

They had nearly made it to the Atrium when the expected outburst finally occurred.

"He's just…he's just such a pig!" Hermione burst out of nowhere. "It's not as if I complain about him doing his job. At least people aren't trying to kill me when I show up to work. Well," she amended as Snape raised a single brow. "At least they don't very often, and it's never on purpose!"

He snorted. He couldn't count the number of occasions on which his students had tried to cause him harm, and could even name a time or two his current companion had been involved. Then again, it was a generally well-known fact that Hogwarts' Arithmancy professor was infinitely more well-liked than the resident Potions Master. No terrible shock there.

The witch's rant continued on as they reached the Apparition Chamber "I just don't see why he has to be such a git about it. You'd think I was–" POP "–threatening to burn the Quidditch stadium down instead of just staying at the castle for Easter hols."

"For Merlin's sake, take a breath, Granger," he interrupted as he held the heavy gate open for her. "Weasley's been a git since he was eleven, it's not as if it's a shock."

"Severus! There's no need to be rude."

Snape could hardly keep from rolling his eyes. Their argument was an old one, unlikely to change anytime soon. As he opened his mouth to offer another scathing remark on the somewhat questionable personality of her beloved Weasley, the witch cut him off.

"Oh would you just hurry up please? McGonagall will be upset if we're late."

The man did roll his eyes at that. Who the hell called a staff meeting on a Saturday afternoon? Wasn't one scheduled torture session a week enough for their intractable headmistress? As the pair reached the towering entrance to the castle, Hermione paused at the bottom of the steps, the fire suddenly gone from her expression, to be replaced by a sad sobriety.

"I'm going to have to end things with him, aren't I? I know you don't care," she rushed, "but it's not like I can tell Ginny or Harry, and I have to tell someone, and–"

"Granger!" He snapped, bringing her painful rambling to an abrupt halt, her wide eyes turning up to meet his. "Yes, Weasley is a git. Yes, you should get rid of him, surely I haven't been the only one telling you that for years. And no, I'm not going to let you blame me when we're late, so please for the love of all things holy, stop your blathering. And for Merlin's sake, do something about that mess you call hair. It's been crackling since we hit the grounds."

With that, he spun on his heel and set a path for his dungeons, not allowing a smug smirk to break through until he was certain the witch couldn't see him.

&&&

Severus was, as usual, the last to arrive at the staff meeting. Exactly three minutes late in fact, a time he had carefully calculated to annoy Minerva but not so much that she found it necessary to chastise him.

As he slipped into his customary armchair nearest to the door, Hermione leaned over and hissed under her breath, "You're an ass, Severus Snape." She then settled back in her chair, pointedly ignoring him.

"Thank you for being so kind as to join us, Severus." Professor McGonagall intoned from her spot near the fireplace. "As I was saying before we were interrupted, as I'm sure you're all aware, this May will mark the passing of the fifth year since the defeat of Voldemort and the end of the War."

A number of the staff members shifted uncomfortably at the mention, no doubt there were old memories being dredged from the depths, he noticed more than one glance in his direction.

Nevertheless, the headmistress forged on. "As such, the Ministry has organized a series of events to commemorate the event, the culmination of which will be a ball hosted here at Hogwarts."

This pronouncement garnered mixed reactions from the gathered staff, though the majority of the excited tittering filling the room seemed to be coming solely from that insipid Brown girl. He wasn't sure who had appointed her to the Divination position but they clearly hadn't spent much time in the same room as the witch.

Professor McGonagall waited patiently for the furor to die down before she again spoke, dropping a second bomb on her staff. "Of course, as the castle will be providing the venue for this illustrious event," here her tone dripped with sarcasm, the woman knew exactly how ridiculous the entire idea sounded. She continued after allowing for an appreciative snicker from the others. "Our staff will, of course, be expected to act as host for the event. This will entail a number of responsibilities of course, but the one that will require the most preparation will be the dancing to open the event. You will each be expected to bring a partner and–"

"What?" Snape burst, his voice rising above the mutterings of the room's other occupants as he stood suddenly.

"Dancing, Severus." The headmistress replied calmly. "I'm sure you're aware of the term."

"I don't dance," he snarled. And it was true, he hadn't participated in the insipid activity for too many years to count. Not since the Yule Ball with Lily their fourth year. If the idea had been preposterous in his youth, it was downright insufferable now.

"You don't have a choice, Severus; we'll all have to do it."

"Like hell!" He spat. "Not going to happen."

"Oh for Merlin's sake, Snape, be reasonable," Caldwell, the Muggle Studies professor remarked. "It's not like you're not used to people staring."

At that, Snape stiffened and, gathering his disdain about him like a cloak, he turned and swept from the room without another word. The last thing he heard from the staff lounge was a muffled, entirely uncharacteristic expletive from the headmistress.

As he stormed down the stairs, headed for the quiet sanctity of his dungeons, the sound of rapid footsteps chasing after him dragged him from the deep pool of his thoughts.

"Severus, wait! Merlin, you're fast."

He slowed his steps only slightly, just enough to allow the bushy-haired witch to catch up, her heavy breathing belying the fact that she had run after him. "What do you want, Granger?"

"Minerva sent me," she explained, still panting. "Said something about you at least tolerating me," she tacked on with a wry grin.

Snape snorted. Their friendship, her word, not his, could be categorized at anything from unusual to downright horrifying, depending upon whom you asked. Not that he had ever really had a choice in the matter. The witch had gotten a job at Hogwarts shortly after the Reconstruction and she hadn't left him alone since. But she did make a damned good cup of tea.

"So do you really hate dancing or is this a Lily thing?" The witch asked abruptly, breaking him away from his reverie.

He sent her a sharp glance as they set off down another set of stairs. "What makes you ask that?"

She shrugged. "Dancing is a romantic topic. You're not a romantic person."

He raised a single brow but paused before commenting on the observation. Merlin only knew the woman didn't need any more ammunition against his lack of personal life. "That's irrelevant. I simply don't dance."

"Well, it might be fun you know, if you just give it a chance." "Do shut up, Granger."

&&&

Merlin's saggy y-fronts, this was mortifying. Weeks had passed, during which he had tried every method short of infecting himself with scrofungulus to get out of being forced to attend the damned Ministry ball. And yet somehow, he was standing in the Great Hall on the first day of the Easter holidays, preparing to waltz with an enchanted dummy. Absolutely fucking mortifying.

"Right then." McGonagall clapped from the front of the group. "I know you all know how to do this, but it certainly never hurts to practice, and we want to put on a good show. Now arms up!" With an overly dramatic flourish of her wand, the headmistress started the record player with an air of sadistic glee.

As the light music filled the air and the assembled teachers began to move as a cohesive unit, it was all Severus could do to keep his obscenities muffled enough so as to not draw the attention of the headmistress. There was no masking his dark scowl however, as evidenced by the brow Hermione raised as she whirled gracefully past him.

"Smile," she mouthed with a silly waggle of her brows the next time she passed. This, of course, only encouraged his frown, as Severus Snape most certainly did not smile while being forced to dance.

As their practice carried on, the witch continued to pull more and more ridiculous faces at him until, when they were finally allowed a break, he was forced to pull her off to the side.

"You do realize how unbecomingly foolish you've made yourself look, yes?" He questioned baldly, earning only a rich peal of laughter from her in response.

As several faces turned towards them at the commotion, she stifled her giggles and spoke. "I'm sorry, Severus." She caught a gasping breath. "You just look so absolutely miserable out there. But you really are a wonderful dancer, it's a shame you don't enjoy it more."

Severus cast his gaze upwards in a silent plea for patience. "Granger, it's safe to assume that I would enjoy being trapped in a pit with Hagrid's skrewts more."

&&&

Severus knocked at the heavy door barring his way before pushing it open without being welcomed anyways. It wasn't as if the woman wasn't expecting him. "Ah, yes, Severus, there you are." The headmistress remarked without looking up. "The Ministry is requiring me to compile a guest list within the week, for security reasons. Have you managed to arrange for someone to attend with you yet?"

Well fuck. Did the woman actually expect him to show up with a date? It wasn't as if he was exactly known for being sociable. Hell, Merlin only knew how long it had been since he'd conversed with a woman outside of Hogwarts… Suddenly, he was struck by a moment of genius, entirely Slytherin inspiration.

Waiting until the headmistress finally looked up at him and looking her dead in the eye, he replied evenly, "I'll be escorting Professor Granger that evening."

A shocked silence filled the room for a long moment, McGonagall's brows flying to meet her hairline.

"Oh. Oh well I see. Well I suppose we'll have to do some rearranging then, if that's alright with Miss Granger, of course."

Snape rolled his eyes. You'd never know Hermione Granger was a wildly capable, fully-grown witch judging by the way the headmistress coddled her. "I've no intention of damaging your precious Gryffindor cub, Minerva," he drawled. "You can stop your clucking any time now."

This observation, loaded with all the snark he thought it deserved, earned him a nasty glare from the former head of Gryffindor in the room but served his purpose of distracting her anyways.

"Honestly, Severus," she huffed. "There's no need to be rude. But that will be all, have a lovely evening."

Severus left the office with due haste, temporarily considering going to inform the Arithmancy professor of the decision he had made, only to quickly discard the idea. She would find out soon enough on her own, no doubt, courtesy of her mentor. Why invite that battle before its time? He wasn't an idiot, and he did rather enjoy his balls in their current location.

His reprieve wasn't to last long however, he hadn't even made it to breakfast the next morning when the irate witch caught up to him.

"Severus Snape!" Shit. So much for that.

He turned, his face carefully expressionless. "Yes, Miss Granger?"

"What the hell did you do?" The witch exploded as she stormed down the corridor.

He regarded her calmly. "I thought that was rather self-evident, even for a Gryffindor. I'll be escorting you to our Ministry's farce of a celebration."

"You….you…" Hermione sputtered. "You can't just make assumptions. I had plans." At this, his brows rose sharply and she blushed. "Well I was planning on asking Viktor. I just hadn't had the time yet, and–"

"And yet still I don't see the problem." Snape smoothly interrupted her defense. "Unless you've adopted Mister Krum as your latest paramour?"

The sarcasm in his tone hung heavy between them as Hermione flushed hotly, undoubtedly mentally composing an angry retort. And no doubt starting an entirely ridiculous screaming match in the middle of the Entry Hall, ridiculous witch.

Instead, before she could attack, he interrupted again. "Have a nice morning, Miss Granger." With that, he spun on a booted heel and swept away, undoubtedly leaving an angry, gaping witch staring after him.

&&&

Severus scowled at his reflection, tugging uncomfortably at the lapels of his dress robes. The damn things hadn't been out of his wardrobe in practically a decade and he couldn't believe he was wearing them now.

Damn the Ministry and their fucking parties.

He was bound for what was undoubtedly going to be one of the more miserable events in recent history, with a witch who had found a great deal of joy in making him pay for his machinations over the past fortnight. Fucking perfect.

"You might try not looking so much like you're in pain," his overly-surly mirror advised. "Things are bad enough as it is."

Severus growled, fingering his wand and briefly debating the merits of a well-placed Blasting Jinx. Instead, he snatched his cravat from where it hung over the mirror and carefully knotted it around his neck. With one last look and a muttered "Fuck it", he left to go meet his foul-tempered witch.

The Entry Hall was packed with over-excited students, one could practically see the hormones as they thronged eagerly together. Idiots, all of them. As was the Ministry for allowing them to attend.

Scanning the gathered crowd, he cursed. Where the hell was Hermione? The witch was hardly taller than most of her students and her unmanageable head of hair was nowhere to be seen. With a resigned sigh, he forged forward, any student in his way the recipient of an icy glare.

"Longbottom!" He called out, grabbing the arm of the Herbology professor as he hurried by. The other man turned reluctantly to face the Potions Master, looking as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. Even after working as colleagues for a number of years, the boy still looked as if he expected to be sent to detention every time they passed in the halls.

"Did you need something, Professor?"

"Have you seen Hermione?"

Surprise flashed across the younger man's face. "You mean you didn't meet her at her rooms?" He blurted incredulously.

As a glower darkened Snape's visage, the man rushed on. "No, no I haven't seen her, sorry."

Snape scowled and released the man's sleeve, pushing past him without another word. Why in Merlin's name would he meet her at her rooms? The woman was perfectly capable of walking down the stairs by herself. At least he assumed she was, though she had yet to make an appearance.

"Severus!" He heard suddenly over the dull roar of the crowd. Turning, he saw Hermione hurrying towards him, though he might never have known it was her if not for the fact she was the only person at Hogwarts under the age of eighty who dared use his given name. Insufferable witch.

Nevertheless, the woman hurrying towards him was nearly unrecognizable, her hair swept smoothly atop her head and her petite form draped in a fitted amber gown.

"There you are!" She exclaimed as she drew nearer, a flush of excitement coloring her cheeks. "Crowded, isn't it? I don't think I've ever seen so many people here all at once!"

"Careful, Miss Granger," he remarked drily. "People might think you're actually planning on enjoying the evening."

Hermione rolled her eyes and looped her arm through his, tugging him after her. "Honestly, Severus, it's not going to be that bad. It's just one dance, and then I promise I'll leave you to your sulking."

He scowled, but followed her through the crowd without complaining, feeling for all the world like a dog on the end of a leash and steadfastly keeping his eyes away from the view presented by her arse clad in satin. Friend or not, he wasn't a monk.

Eventually they reached the spot just outside the doors to the Great Hall where the rest of the staff had gathered. His spirits were only marginally lifted by the realization that at least half his colleagues looked as displeased with the situation as he was.

"Hermione?" He heard a gratingly familiar voice sputter behind him.

Turning in unison with the witch, they were met by the sight of a very red Ronald Weasley barreling towards them, Lavender Brown clinging to his side like a leech.

"Hello, Ronald." Hermione greeted, her voice eerily calm when one considered the blow-up that had marked their separation several weeks earlier.

"What are you doing with him?" The obviously irate man spat out, ignoring her greeting.

Hermione arched one sculpted brow as Severus tightened his grip on her arm to keep her from lunging after him. He was ready to offer a scathing retort, but the witch beat him to the punch.

"Oh honestly," she huffed. "Ten years and you still haven't figured it out. You see, generally a man asks a woman to accompany him, and then she agrees. It's not as if it's a particularly difficult concept."

Snape snorted loudly, earning a glare from the ginger dimwit. He couldn't help but notice the witch's complete avoidance of the fact that he had never actually asked her anything. Not that it mattered either way, her set-down had caused the idiot's face to turn a rather entertaining shade of puce.

Never one to be outdone, Snape chose that moment to dig up the remnants of etiquette lessons long past, half-bowing and offering an arm to the witch at his side.

"Shall we, Miss Granger? Weasley, Miss Brown." He dismissed the two curtly, mentally thanking whoever was listening that McGonagall chose that moment to announce it was time for things to begin.

"He's a prat." He murmured in a low tone. His companion offered him a brittle smile, her earlier joy clearly tarnished by the confrontation with the idiot.

"I know," she said, the slight waver in her voice belying her seeming confidence.

"I could poison him, if you'd like." Snape offered conversationally as his hand wrapped about her slim waist, pulling her closer for their infernal dance. His murderous proposition, so casually offered, garnered a laugh from the witch as she squeezed his shoulder affectionately.

"That's terribly kind of you, Severus, but I can't imagine Minerva would be pleased if you were to get arrested tonight."

He scoffed as the music started, leading the witch into the first sweeping steps of a waltz."Relax, Granger, it's not as if these dunderheads could ever actually catch me." He smirked. The witch rolled her eyes at him, but her smile was absolutely brilliant as they spun about the room.

They danced the rest of the song in a comfortable silence. The music eventually faded to a close, to be followed by the thunderous applause of the hundreds of other guests. As custom dictated, Snape bowed low over Hermione's hand, though he rejected the traditional thanks in favor of muttering, "Well that could have been worse."

Hermione's delighted laughter drew glances from the thronging crowd, a number of which, he couldn't help but notice, lingered over-long. "So dramatic," she chided. "But you've paid your dues, even McGonagall can't argue that. Thank you for the lovely dance." She looked as if she was going to say something else, her eyes sparkling with teasing glee, but she was interrupted by the gangly young man tapping on her shoulder.

"Miss Granger," he declared, sweeping an all too obsequious bow. "It would be an absolute pleasure if you would honor me with a dance."

A pleased smile curved the witch's lips as she placed her hand in the one proffered. "Gladly. Enjoy your evening, Severus!" She called over her shoulder as the Ministry toady led her away. Enjoy your evening. He sneered at her retreating back. Really, it was as if the witch didn't know him at all.

&&&

The clock tolled midnight, unheeded by all but one in the overcrowded ballroom. Snape had taken up a position against the far wall, glowering darkly at anyone who looked as if they might come too close. He should have left hours ago.

What he wouldn’t give to leave this insufferable party with its self-righteous speeches and self-congratulatory Ministry peacocks. But instead he was stuck in the midst of the overdressed masses, watching as they whirled past. His eye was drawn to one reveler in particular over and over again, for reasons he would rather not examine.

Hermione hadn't lacked for partners over the course of the evening, her slim form drawing his eye to the dance floor with nearly every song that played, dancing with everyone from fourth-year students who looked as if they might drool on her chest to doddering men old enough to be his grandfather.

"You're glaring, Severus," a voice remarked from beside him. "You could go ask her for a turn yourself, you know." His glare shifted away from the dancing witch to the one at his side.

"Sod off, Minerva," he grumbled, taking a swig of the bourbon he'd nursed all night.

The elderly witch snorted at him. "I most certainly won't, you've been standing over here all evening looking as if someone killed your puppy, it's ridiculous. Go, dance, and then I'll let you leave."

Snape raised a brow, regarding the woman for a long moment. "You're an evil woman, I hope you know that."

"So I've been told," she remarked calmly, plucking the glass from his hand and taking a healthy drink. "Now get to it."

"I'm sure she'd rather dance with one of her swains."

"Really, Severus? Her swains? I'd like to think she has better taste than that."

Fuck. The woman was right. "I hate you," he snapped as he pushed away from the wall.

"Good luck!" He heard the infernal woman call after him.

&&&

Ernest Farnsby crept down the hallway as quietly as he could manage, the eerie silence of the dungeons bringing all sorts of horrible scenarios to mind. He should have known better than to make that bet, he could still be asleep in his bed instead of sneaking around with a bag of erumpent dung destined for the Potions classroom. He wouldn't live to enjoy a month free of homework if Snape caught him.

He had just rounded the corner that would lead him to his goal when a loud, ominous creak echoed down the corridor. He froze, his eyes going wide as images of his imminent doom flashed before him. The portrait that guarded Professor Snape's chambers swung open only feet away, and out stepped…

"Professor Granger?" The witch cursed and spun to face him, nearly tripping over the robes she wore, they had to be twice her size.

"Farnsby! What are you doing out of bed?"

"I…I..." He stammered.

"Nevermind," she snapped. "Get back to the tower." Stunned but unwilling to question his sudden good fortune, the boy nodded before turning and hurrying away without saying a thing.

"Oh, and Farnsby?" He heard her call after him. "I'll tell Professor Snape you needed to see him."
Tags: 2014 summer fanwork, fic
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