Beta(s): articcat621, Meiri, and jamies_lady
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(Highlight to View) Prompt: The one work function Hermione is made to attend each and every year is the Yule Masquerade. This year, she finds someone intriguing enough to capture her attention away from the political manoeuvring going on all around her, but he disappears before they remove their masks. How can she find him again?
Note: So much thanks goes to all the ladies who helped me throughout this whole process, without all your help, I couldn't have done this. To the prompter, themightyflynn, thank you for this wonderful prompt. This was my first attempt at writing Hermione/Severus, so I hope this lives up to your expectations. Thank you to iulia_linnea for putting together this lovely fest for us. One last note, there are three styles of Greek clothing mentioned, here is a small explanation of each. A chiton is a simple tunic garment worn by both men and women and typically fell to the ankles, with the exception of athletes, warriors, and slaves. A himation, a simple outer garment, could be worn overtop, like a cloak. Chlamys are similar to himation, but were typically shorter in length.
Summary: Years of quiet conversation at the annual masque ball have piqued Hermione's curiosity. With a nudge from Ginny and a little meddling, she finally meets the one wizard who has ensnared her mind.
The evening was approaching midnight and Hermione continued to search for the one wizard that made these events bearable for her.
Somehow he always managed to disappear just before the big reveal and she never spotted him again until the next masquerade the following year. Tonight, she had only stepped away for a few moments to utilise the ladies room and when she returned, he had vanished. Again.
There wasn't anything particularly noticeable about her mystery wizard, although his dark brown, almost black eyes, drew her in on more than one occasion. It was his similar views on all the politicking the other guests liked to participate in during this particular event that caught her attention in the beginning. As she got to know him over the years, his dry wit and smooth voice pulled her in even more. If she was honest with herself, she'd say he reminded her of her former snarky potions professor. That was impossible since he died in the war eight and a half years ago.
The clock struck midnight and Hermione slowly removed her masque along with the rest of the guests present. She frowned. It looked like another year and masquerade had passed and she still didn't know the name of her mystery wizard.
"Hermione, you've been awfully quiet tonight. Everything okay?"
At Ginny's question, Hermione shook herself out of her thoughts. "Ginny, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ignore you."
The redheaded witch smiled at her, as she shifted a nursing Albus Severus higher in her arms. "Oh, sweetie, I know you weren't doing it on purpose. What's on your mind?"
Taking a sip from her eggnog, Hermione sighed and savoured the deeper flavour of the spiced rum and nutmeg that had been added to her drink. She looked at her friend. "He disappeared on me again last night."
Ginny knew exactly who she meant without Hermione having to go into any details. "What happened this time?"
"I stepped away to use the loo and when I came back he was gone."
Bright red eyebrows inched their way towards an equally bright red hairline. "You're kidding me! Again? How many years is this now?"
Hermione frowned. "Six."
Ginny huffed. "Hermione Jean Granger, six years? Then it's about time you figure out who this wizard is—"
"But what if, for whatever reason, he doesn't want to be found?"
Ginny smiled softly. "Hermione dear, if he truly didn't want to be found do you really think he would have attended the Yule Masquerade every year?"
"Maybe he attends the masquerade out of some kind of obligation?"
The redhead laughed. "Almost everyone that attends is there because of some kind of obligation, granted it is different for everyone, but we're all there because of one reason or another."
Hermione snorted. "That is so true. If it wasn't for it being in my job description, I probably wouldn't go."
Little Albus Severus had finished eating and before Ginny shifted him to her shoulder to burp him, she covered herself back up. Ginny nodded in agreement with her friend. "And let's not forget you being a war heroine and all."
"Oh no, we can't forget that." Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's things like the near daily reminder from the media and public that make me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, especially this time of year. Or the Grinch."
Ginny laughed. "You're not that bad. Snarky yes, but not as bad as Scrooge or the Grinch. Maybe I should start calling you Ms. Snape?" She winked at her.
Hermione laughed, but before she could respond, Ron joined them. He sat on the couch next to his sister and nephew. "Now, why would you call 'Mione, Ms. Snape? That's just cruel."
The brunette witch listened as Ginny explained to her brother what was going on. She looked down at her glass of spiked nog, thinking over what her friend had just said. This was the second time her former Potions professor had come up recently. Maybe Ginny was right, maybe she needed to figure out who this wizard was and why he continued to disappear on her.
She had the resources at her fingertips to view her memories for new clues. She knew that she could talk to Harry for some insight on who might be of some help to her in her search. Before she could start her search, she resumed her role of the doting aunt and returned her attention to her magical family. It was Christmas Eve after all.
A week after the Yule Masquerade, Hermione entered The Willow. A little before noon, her boss had poked his head out of his office and gave their whole department the rest of the year off. He told them that unless there was an emergency they were called in for that they were not to return until the second of January. That they were to be paid for their time off stopped her from questioning him. That she would have three and a half days to start her search was an added bonus.
As she sat down at her regular table, Hermione overheard an unexpected conversation. She paused, in fact, it was a conversation she was surprised to hear outside the privacy of a silencing spell.
"Is it true?"
Hermione couldn't tell who the whispered voice of the first witch belonged to, but she immediately recognized the voice of the second speaker. Pansy Nott née Parkinson.
"Is what true?"
"You know exactly who I'm talking about, Pansy." She lowered her voice even more and Hermione had to strain to hear her. "At the masquerade, I'm pretty sure I saw him, he was talking with a brunette haired witch. Is he alive? Is Severus Snape really alive?"
The rustling of bags and the sliding of bodies against the booth seats nearly drowned out Pansy's response, but Hermione heard her last three words. "…he is, Daph."
Hermione's heart stopped. Her former professor was actually alive? And quite possibly her saviour for the last six years of Yule masquerades? How could this be? She watched him die in the Shrieking Shack. Her eyes widened as she realised one crucial piece of evidence. Severus Snape's body was never recovered from the shack. When Aurors went to collect his body after the war was over, they had been unable to locate it. At the time, she, along with the rest of the Order, had thought that someone from Hogsmeade had collected his body and buried him near the forest or that unfortunately an animal had somehow got hold of him. Now, eight and a half years later, she finds out that they all may have been very wrong in their assumption.
"Miss, may I help you?"
Hermione looked up at the person who spoke. It was her waitress. Hermione looked around her and down at the menu in her hands.
"Are you okay?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, I'm not actually. And I'm so sorry to waste your time, but I need to leave."
Hermione stood up. She reached into her bag and pulled out a few coins. Before she left the café, she dropped the coins into the waitress's hand.
She stepped out into the cold December air and looked around trying to spot the two Slytherin witches that had left only seconds before her. After a moment, she spotted them just over a block away. She quickly made her way over to them, as she moved closer to the two witches, she weaved in and out of the alley shoppers. When she was within earshot of the two witches again, Hermione realised something else.
While she may get along with the two Slytherin witches much better now than she did when they were in school, she was not close enough for them to consciously divulge such information to her. She stopped walking and stepped out of the way of the bustling crowd, thinking over all the new information she had acquired over the last few minutes.
Her eyes lit up as she realised there was one witch that could help her, but first she wanted to review her memories to see if she could gather even more information. After that she would be off to see her other best female friend, Luna Malfoy née Lovegood.
Hermione sat back in her chair, shock etched across her features. She'd had a very good idea that her former potions professor was actually alive, especially after the conversation she overheard in The Willow and her subsequent review of her memories of the last six Yule masquerades, but to have actual verbal confirmation from a trusted source? Well, that definitely tilted her world on its axis.
Hermione sighed, confused. "His body was never found after the war, what happened to him? Who took him?"
Luna took a sip of her tea before she said, "Draco had asked one of their house-elves to follow Severus to keep an eye on him, worried that something might happen to his godfather, and after the three of you left the Shrieking Shack, the elf Apparated both of them to Malfoy Manor where the family healer worked to save him. Draco said that once or twice Madame Pomfrey even came over to help after things had settled down at Hogwarts."
Hermione's eyes lit up. "So that's where she went." At the question in Luna's eyes, she elaborated, "There were a couple times where Madame Pomfrey asked me and Neville to keep an eye on things while she stepped out. That must have been when she went to Malfoy Manor."
The brunette witch leaned back, her mind running over the multitude of questions she still had left. One question leapt to the forefront and she frowned. "I know that Harry and I testified on his behalf, same as Draco did, but was his name ever officially cleared? We never heard the results."
Luna nodded. "Yes, he was. After Draco's trial, he and one of the family lawyers worked tirelessly to get his name cleared. The issue wasn't that your and Harry's testimonies were not enough, but rather without a body the Wisengamot was hesitant to do anything at the time. They secured a closed trial date about eight months out from the war where Kingsley and a few select members of the Wisengamot were brought to Malfoy Manor to speak with Severus himself. They were all sworn to secrecy because Severus didn't want it public knowledge until he was ready."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "It's been over eight and a half years since the end of the war, Luna! How much longer does he intend to wait before letting the world know he's alive?"
The blonde witch shrugged. "With Severus you can never tell, he's insanely private, which is why he lives in Wales, just on the border of England, but then he goes and does the oddest things."
"Which coming from you is saying something." Hermione winked at her friend to show she was joking with her.
Luna chuckled. "Yes, yes, I know."
"By odd things, you mean like going to the Yule masquerade every year?"
"That would be a perfect example of one of Severus's odd traits. He doesn't have to go, but after that first year, he returns every year." Luna smiled. "Draco says it's because he feels obligated to go because of his part in the war, I still think he's met someone."
A light blush painted the apples of Hermione's cheeks.
Luna smiled. "So he did meet someone."
Hermione shrugged. "I don't speak for Severus, but I know I've met someone who is my intellectual match, my confidant, my saviour, and if I'm really honest with myself, the one wizard I can see myself spending the rest of my life with."
"Have you told him?"
Hermione shook her head. "What exactly would I tell him? I technically don't even know if my mystery wizard is Severus."
"It's definitely him."
Hermione looked up mortified. "How much did you hear?"
"Enough to know that all of my godfather's prattling has not been in vain." He looked at his wife. "I never denied that Severus had met someone, just that he originally attended the masquerades because he felt he needed to after his involvement in the war."
A surprised expression crossed Hermione's face. "What are you saying, Draco?"
The blond wizard returned his gaze to one of the few people he could tolerate. "That it's time for my godfather to finally come out of hiding."
Hermione stood and turned to face Draco. "Don't force him to do anything he's not ready for."
He grinned. "Don't worry, I won't force him. He might not know all the details, but he won't be forced."
"Draco!" She gasped.
Draco turned around and headed for the sitting room door. "Just wait for my owl," he called over his shoulder, before he disappeared through the doorway.
Hermione turned and looked at her friend. "I have a feeling I'm going to regret this."
Luna smiled serenely at her. "No, you won't."
Hermione slowly sat back down and took a sip from her tea; she sincerely hoped her friend's confidence would rub off on her by the time Draco was done meddling.
The first Saturday in January dawned cold and rainy. Hermione sighed, the weather matched her mood.
Today was the day she would officially meet Severus for the first time since the end of the war. To say she was feeling nervous was an understatement. She was unsure what to expect from her former potions professor and it left her wishing she really had some of Luna's confidence.
She stepped away from her window and began to prepare for her day. She was to be at Draco and Luna's for afternoon tea, but before then, she had other plans to attend to.
In the morning, she planned to meet with her parents for breakfast, while that afternoon she had a lunch and shopping date with Ginny and Molly.
Hermione sighed as she sat down in one of the overstuffed chairs in her living room, while Ginny and Molly relaxed on her couch.
The three witches had a productive afternoon of shopping in Muggle London for some of the supplies and presents for Arthur's fifty-seventh birthday. His birthday was not till the beginning of February, but Molly wanted everything ready before then. After being reminded more than once how short life could be, with the loss of her brothers in the first war and Fred, along with many others, in the second war, the Weasley matriarch did not want to lose any chance to celebrate the rest of her family, so all birthdays were celebrated. Including those of their extended family.
"Are you sure you don't mind keeping everything here until we need it?"
"Of course not, Molly. I've got the space so we might as well use it." Hermione smiled at the Weasley matriarch. "Plus we have to keep Arthur from finding anything out."
Ginny laughed. "Some people wonder where Fred and George got their penchant for mischief from and if they ever met our father then they'd know right away."
"You are quite right, my dear."
Hermione looked at the clock sitting on the mantle above her fireplace. It read almost half past four. Her eyes widened and she stood up. "I hate to cut our afternoon short, but I have to be at Draco and Luna's in a little over a half hour."
Molly stood up. "I'll put everything in your guest room and be on my way."
"Thank you, Molly." She gave the Weasley matriarch a hug and a kiss on her cheek.
Ginny also stood up. "I'll help mum and then I'll be in to help you when I'm done."
"I appreciate your help, Gin."
Ginny grinned. "That's what friends are for, plus that means Harry gets a few more minutes of alone time with the boys. Now, off to your shower."
Hermione quickly made her way to her bedroom where she took off her boots and put them in her closet. She then pulled her heavy sweater over her head and placed it in the laundry hamper. Afterwards, she made her way into her bathroom where she removed the rest of her clothes before she stepped into the shower, hoping to wash away her nerves in preparation of her upcoming meeting.
Getting lost in her thoughts, Hermione nearly missed Ginny's voice. "Hermione, hurry up in there! We don't have much time!"
She shook her head and turned off the water. Hermione reached for a towel and wrapped it around her head to keep her hair out of the way as she used a second towel to dry off.
"Have you decided what to wear yet?" Ginny's voice floated through the closed doorway again.
Hermione cracked open her door and poked her head out. "I'm not dressing scantily if that's what you're wondering." She leaned back through the door, tightening her robe around her. "I'm also not going with anything super fancy. It's tea at Draco and Luna's, so I'm thinking a tea-length dress." She opened the door all the way and stepped into her bedroom.
"I know you well enough, Hermione, to know you wouldn't wear anything like that and Luna would have your hide if you wore fancy dress robes. Remember their wedding?" She pulled out her wand. "Here, let me."
Hermione chuckled as she removed the towel from her hair, letting Ginny work her magic. "Yes, I do remember their wedding. I was honestly waiting for Narcissa to have a heart attack when she saw what we were all wearing."
She winced as Ginny pulled a little too hard.
"It's okay." She shrugged a shoulder. "But Luna wanted a Grecian-style wedding and Draco was not about to tell her no. I thought the guys looked rather handsome in their chlamys."
Ginny nodded as she finished with Hermione's hair. She tapped her wand against the low braided knot at the back of Hermione's head and smiled. "There, your hair is done and I agree with you about how handsome the guys looked, but the himation over the chiton we wore got quite warm and heavy as the day wore on."
"Yes, they did, but it was still quite fun."
Ginny stepped back. "It was, but back to the situation at hand. Like I said, I know you, Hermione, so I've taken the liberty and pulled these clothes out for you. There's just over ten minutes left till five, so let's get you dressed and off to see your wizard."
Hermione laughed at Ginny's comment as she looked over what the redhead had pulled out for her. Ginny had paired her periwinkle blue blouse with a slightly flared fawn brown skirt and a pair of nude heels.
Heading for the bedroom door, Ginny answered her unspoken question. "Yes, I charmed the colour of your skirt and shoes from their original black."
"I like it," Hermione replied, untying her robe. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, now get changed and I'll be in your living room when you're done."
After Ginny left, Hermione quickly changed into the clothes on her bed. She snickered at Ginny's choice in underclothes. She had chosen her silver satin set Hermione had purchased on a whim for anytime she felt like being daring. So far she hadn't worn them yet, but there was no time like now to wear them.
Once she was done, she slipped on her shoes grabbed her purse and made her way from her bedroom. She paused for a moment to charm her purse from black to a dark brown.
"So do I pass?" She entered her living room and waited for her friend's approval.
Ginny handed Hermione her dark brown cloak and nodded. "Yes, now go knock our former professor off his feet."
Hermione donned her cloak and watched the redhead step through the floo and was off to her boys.
Hermione hesitated for a moment, before she reset her wards and stepped into the fireplace.
"Malfoy Cottage." And she was off.
Hermione stepped out of the fireplace at Draco and Luna's and took a moment to remove her cloak and dispel any soot that might have clung to the garment.
"There you are; we were beginning to wonder if you were going to show up."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "When have you known me to shy away from the unknown, Draco?"
The blond wizard took Hermione's cloak from her and hung it on the stand next to the fireplace. He then led her from the entrance to the sitting room where Luna and tea for four waited.
"Luna, Draco seems to forget that I'm not one for backing down." Hermione raised an eyebrow at her friend.
Luna chuckled. "No you're not, no matter how nervous you are."
Hermione frowned. "Is it that obvious?"
Luna smiled at her. "A little yes, but it will be fine."
"Severus owled earlier saying he would be a few minutes late since he was at a critical stage for one of the potions he is working on," Draco explained. "He also said to start without him."
Hermione accepted a cup of tea from Luna and as she prepared it to her liking, she looked at Draco. "How did you get Severus to agree to this?"
"We have tea with Severus on a fairly regular basis, so he doesn't know this will be any different. While most of the time we're at his home, every once in a while we're able to get him out to have tea here."
Hermione sighed. "So he has no idea that I'm here?"
"No, and I am quite upset that my godson and his wife have broken their word and told you. Good day."
Before Hermione could say anything, the surly wizard turned and swept from the room.
Hermione set her tea cup on the table and stood up to follow Severus.
As she passed the doorway, she heard Luna say, "Let her handle it."
She hurried as fast as she could to try and catch the tall wizard, after a few moments, Hermione kicked off her heels so she could reach him faster. She stepped into the entrance just as Severus reached for the floo pot.
"Professor Snape, wait."
His hand disappeared into the pot.
"Severus, please. Don't leave."
He stilled, his back to her. "Why?"
"Are you the wizard that has saved me at the Ministry's Yule Masquerade every year?"
His shoulders straightened. "What if I am?"
"Then I've got a lot of things to say to you."
He removed his empty hand from the pot and turned to face her. "Such as?"
"Well for starters, thank you." At his confused look, she elaborated, "You made those masquerades bearable for me. If it had not been for you, I'm quite sure I would have bitten someone's head off long ago."
He raised an eyebrow as she took a step closer to him.
"You also provide me intellectual conversations that surpass any conversation I have with those around me." She took a deep breath. "Conversations I'd like to continue without the masques in the way."
As she watched him, she noticed a subtle movement in his stance. His shoulders relaxed just barely, but it was enough for her and she took another step closer.
"Just so you know, Draco and Luna did not tell me that you were alive. I accidentally overheard a conversation last week and that's how I found out."
Severus's eyes narrowed. "Who did you over hear?"
Hermione shook her head. "I'm not going to say. It was an accident and they should not be punished for it." She took another step closer and stood right in front of him. "It doesn't really matter, because I had already speculated on who the wizard was that I saw every year, because there were little things you did over the years that made me wonder if it was you. When I overheard the conversation, I came to Luna. I knew that out of everyone I knew, she would be the one that would know what was going on. She confirmed my suspicion and explained what had happened to you after the war when I asked."
He sighed, it was another slight movement, but Hermione was close enough to see it. "Do you have anything else to say?"
Hermione held out her hand. "Come back to tea and we can talk more."
Severus studied her silently. As the time stretched on, Hermione became more nervous, but she was not about to let him see. Eventually long, warm fingers wrapped around her own.
Hermione quietly led the way back to Draco and Luna, a small smile tugged at the corners or her lips.
It would be a month later, at the opening of a new exhibit in the wizarding wing of the British Museum that Severus would make his first appearance since the end of the second war. He surprised the masses even more when he arrived on the arm of none other than the war heroine, Hermione Granger.