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Up on the Roof

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Severus liked being up on the roof. The balcony, with its little bench, was his perch, private and secluded. He could stand there, resting his elbows on the railing and look over the grounds, and think about something else besides the party dying below him. It was peaceful and most importantly, no one else knew of this spot.

At least that was what Severus had thought.

“What are you doing up here?” a voice asked him. It was high and feminine, and not immediately familiar. So Severus was surprised when he turned to see Hermione Granger, standing there in a purple gown, the wind lightly tugging at her fluffy hair.

“I could ask you the same question, Granger, though I would like to point out that this was my spot first.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, it is. This has been my thinking spot since before you were born.”

“Really? Well, if that’s the case, then I will leave you here, to ponder the mysteries of the universe by yourself.”

“Wait—” he said, though he could not believe he was saying it, “you can stay. Only if you want, of course.” He added that last bit hastily.

“Well, how can I turn down an invitation like that?” she said, leaning over the rail, mirroring his pose.

“Sorry, but now I must know how you found your way up here.”

“It’s not as if it was super well hidden. Anyone could find their way.”

“And yet not everyone has. In fact, after all of these years, I’ve never seen someone else on this balcony. You are the first.”

“That you know of.”

“That I know of,” he admitted. “But, truly, in all seriousness, how did you find the entrance?”

“I may have been… having a moment alone… to myself and sort of… fell into it, if that makes sense.”

“A moment alone? And what, pray tell, does that mean?”

“If you must know, I was having a bit of a cry. But is it really a party if you don’t cry?”

Severus looked at the woman, his fellow teacher, across from him, resting on one elbow, her hand playing with a piece of her dress. She must have been a little bit tipsy because there was no way she would normally admit to crying to him, of all people.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. He did not dislike Granger; she was a proficient enough professor, but he did not feel like he knew her well enough to talk about her feelings. And yet, in that moment, alone on the roof, it felt like the right thing to do.

But Granger merely laughed darkly in response. “No. But you can distract me by talking about something else. How did you find this place?”

“Right. If you must know, I was running from some school bullies,“ Severus did not feel like he had to specify which ones, “and I hid in an alcove, where, like you, I must have fallen into the hidden entrance. I followed the winding staircase up and suddenly I was on the roof, above the school, and above anyone who would want to hurt me.”

Granger nodded. “Well, it’s a very picturesque spot. I am sorry to have spoiled your solace by bumbling my way up here.”

“Oh, no,” he said, trying not to sound too much like a jerk. “You are not spoiling anything.”

With that, they stood there in silence, listening to the wind and looking at the stars, feeling the warmth of another’s presence.

Severus did not know how long she was up there with him, but it was a while before Granger excused herself.

“Enjoy the rest of the party,” Severus said.

But Granger only laughed in response.

Another end to the school year and Severus could finally breathe. Really he did not know why he still taught. Well, he did know. Minerva had begged him to come back with the promise that he could have fewer duties in exchange for more time for his own projects, as well as free potion ingredients. How could he say no to that?

Severus took one last trip to his roof spot before leaving for the summer. It had become a sad tradition of sorts, though it was much happier now that they had defeated the Dark Lord and he did not have to go back to an abusive home. Instead he would just be returning to his new, much nicer home that he had bought with his Order of Merlin prize money.

But when he ascended the winding staircase, it became immediately apparent that he once more was not alone on this balcony. Granger was sitting on the little bench, her feet over the wrought iron railing, book in hand, lost in thought.

“Granger?” he asked the bushy-haired woman. “What are you still doing here? Shouldn’t you be gone already?”

Severus was always one of the last teachers to leave thanks to the sheer number of books and potioneering equipment he had to move.

With a positively sheepish expression, Granger closed her book and removed her legs from the railing. “I… won’t be returning to my own lodgings this summer,” she said simply. “Professor McGonagall has allowed me to stay here until the start of next term, provided I help the house-elves, of course.”

“I see,” he said, though he did not entirely. Severus did not know if it was more polite to ask her why she was staying at the school for the summer or more polite to leave it at that, since she was not offering that information freely now. Severus was always terrible at knowing when to ask such things.

“Should be a fairly exciting summer,” she continued. “Pince has already told me I am allowed to check out books at my leisure.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t read that library top to bottom twice already.”

Granger shrugged. “Perhaps I have. But you can’t expect me to remember everything. My brain isn’t simply a database for storing and retrieving information.”

She could have had Severus fooled. “All right,” he said, “Well, I hope you have a good summer and I will see you at the start of next term.”

“I hope you have a good summer as well.”

They exchanged polite smiles and Severus was on his way.

Hermione was enjoying the feeling of the rare bit of sun on her legs while she devoured a book on the anthropology of witches and wizards. She had not seen another soul in months—except for the elves of course—and while she was worried she might have been losing what little social acumen she had previously possessed, she was pleased at how much she was learning. And despite what Snape had implied, there were books she had not yet read in the collection and she was enjoying them now.

“I don’t think you’ve moved since I’ve left,” a cool voice said, nearly scaring Hermione. She looked up, expecting to see Nick, one of her other companions, but instead she saw the long, black hair and hooked nose that marked her former potions professor.

She stood up and self-consciously tugged on her shorts—Merlin, they were short. “You’re back early,” she said.

But Snape, mercifully, was looking nowhere near her bare legs. “When I heard there were a lot of fun books to read in the library, I had to come back immediately,” he deadpanned.

Hermione crossed her arms, tucking her book under there as well. “Is that so?”

“No,” he said. “I wanted to get started on an experiment since it would take a couple of weeks and I didn’t want to have to move it in the middle of the process.”

Hermione nodded. She wondered if Snape had seen her shirt, which read “KALE” across her chest. But she doubted he would say anything.

“How was your summer?” he asked. “Reread all of the books in the library for a third time?”

“Ha,” Hermione responded. “Believe it or not but I actually found books I hadn’t read yet.” She held up her current book to prove her point. “Like this one on anthropology.” She probably had skipped over in the past it since she would never have been tested on the material as a student.

“And is this useful for your position as a transfiguration professor?”

Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes. “You know just as well as I do that a thirst for knowledge never hurt anyone.”

“Well… I don’t think that’s entirely the case. I think the quest for immortality might lead you down the wrong path.”

Hermione opened her mouth to retort until she looked at her colleague harder. There was a mischievous glint in his eye. He was teasing her, wasn’t he?

“I haven’t gotten to rereading that section of the library yet, but I will tell you when I get close so you can warn me of the follies of trying to control the uncontrollable.”

The end of the summer had arrived and unfortunately Hermione had to go back to being busy with her teaching duties, like doing lesson planning and going to meetings. When Hermione had first joined the Hogwarts staff, she had wondered why Snape never had to attend these meetings but she soon learned that part of the agreement for him to teach again was that he need not concern himself with such minor, bureaucratic details.

So, when Flitwick mentioned at the end of their start-of-term meeting that he was not able to find him in his office to invite him out for drinks, Hermione wondered if she ought to speak up.

“I know where he is,” she said. That had gotten everyone’s attention. Hermione and Snape were not friends by any stretch of the imagination, so they were surprised to say the least.

The meeting was over at this point so Flitwick said, “All right. You can invite him and then we’ll meet at the Three Broomsticks.”

It was tradition to celebrate the start of term at the pub but Hermione was not sure if she remembered Snape ever coming with them. Now she regretted even offering. If he was hiding in their—his—spot, then he probably did not want to come anyway.

But she slipped behind the suit of armor in the alcove and walked up the stairs anyway.

“You’ve found me,” he said.

It was a particularly windy day as the autumn airs were just around the corner, so her hair sort of blew into her mouth when she spoke. She tried to remove the hair in a dainty way but it was difficult not to just spit it out.

“The other teachers wanted to invite you to the Three Broomsticks to celebrate. I can tell them that you don’t want to come, if you would prefer. Or, that I couldn’t actually find you, if you would like that option more.”

The corners of Snape’s mouth quirked up slightly. “I should’ve considered this when I’d realized my hiding spot had been compromised. Now I can’t as easily avoid social situations.”

“I can Obliviate myself if that is the most preferable option.”

“As admirable as that is, it won’t be necessary. Will you also be getting drinks?”

Hermione watched as Snape’s face registered the question he had just asked, the implication being that he would only be going if Hermione was going as well.

“Obviously you must be or else you would not be out here talking to me,” he added hastily.

“Yes, while drinking with my coworkers is not my favorite, I will not begrudge myself the pleasure of some butterbeer at the end of a hard day.”

“Butterbeer?” he said, as they made their way down the stairs. “You really know how to party, don’t you, Granger?”

Hermione laughed, though the use of her surname did not go unnoticed. She could tell that both of them struggled with how to address each other and that most of the time they avoided using names altogether.

They walked through the castle and into the courtyard in silence, apparently having exhausted all points of conversation. Hermione’s mind, however, was working overtime, trying to grab onto a talking point that would be both safe and intellectually fertile.

“How have you been?” was what she ended up going with. It was definitely the safest choice but maybe it would lead him to talking about his experiments.

“Quite well. You?”

Oh, well, that was the opposite of helpful. Of course she should have expected that Snape would not be forthcoming with her.

“Pince returned this week—” she began.

“Uh oh, this doesn’t sound good.”

“Oh, no, don’t worry. As you can see, I am still walking beside you, whole and hale, so it was not that bad.”

“I can hear a ‘but.’”

“You are correct. She found a book out of place and I did get a dressing down.”

“One book?”

“One book.”

“Incredible,” Snape said, with no small amount of admiration in his voice.

“I know.” Hermione wanted to add that it was surprising that the librarian did not defeat Voldemort on her sheer ferocity alone. But she thought it might be too tactless, so she held her tongue and went a different route. “How does Pince feel about you?”

“About me? Why?” Snape asked.

“Well, the whole writing in books thing…”

“That was my own textbook though. I know better than to write in one of her books.”

“So, she trusts you?”

“I didn’t say that,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t think she trusts anyone.”

“Probably a good policy.” No, that was not what Hermione meant to say. “Hang on. I don’t actually mean that. I just mean where books are concerned. Despite everything, I still think people are generally good.”

Snape nodded but said nothing more. Hermione did not know why this was so important to her, but she really did want him to know that she was not, in fact, a jaded, cynical individual.

The rest of the trip, however, was spent in an uneasy silence. Hermione could only conclude that she had said the wrong thing. At least they would soon be among their other colleagues, where conversation could abound, and they would not be stuck trying to entertain the other. True, they had been having their scant little conversations on the balcony, but that was probably the most they had ever talked to each other in all of their years of working together.

When they arrived at the pub, Hermione was surprised that Snape held the door open for her, though why this was such a surprise was a mystery. It was not as if he had ever been rude to her, per se, but it certainly did not fit her perception of him.

But Snape was full of surprises, wasn’t he?

A small party of peers whom he had known for years was still a difficult party for Severus to get through. He nursed his butterbeer silently while his eyes danced from speaker to speaker. They had long since learned to not engage him in conversation, but he noticed that Granger was also not participating much. Occasionally their eyes met but never for very long and which also led Severus to believe that she was just as uncomfortable as him.

“Of course, Hermione would know all about that.”

Severus had, admittedly, not been following the conversation as well as he could have been, so he was not aware of what Aurora could be referring to. But when he looked at Hermione once more, he saw just how stricken she looked and knew it could not be good.

But then her grimace turned into a smile and she laughed good-naturedly. “Yes, as I’ve learned the hard way.” Her response earned her a round of laughter from everyone at the table and still Severus had no idea what they were talking about.

And it seemed he would not learn what that interaction would be about as they moved onto another topic entirely.

Severus was not afforded the opportunity to ask her because she walked back to the castle with Hagrid. He could only watch her bushy head and run through increasingly impossible scenarios about what the conversation could have been about.

The year had begun and Severus’s life had returned to normal. It was a Saturday night and he was enjoying the last bit of daylight while the setting sun painted the sky in pinks, purples, and oranges. And for a moment he could forget all about the second-year who exploded her cauldron and forgot about the essays that were sitting on his desk.

He had not seen Granger up on the balcony since that time she had come up to grab him for drinks at the Three Broomsticks. It was not as if he wanted her up there, per se—he was a consummate loner, after all—but he was sure she would appreciate the view. He debated going to find her, but thought better of it.

They were hardly friends due to his diminished responsibilities and their opposite seating positions at the Head Table. Outside of staff meetings and meals, teachers really did not socialize with one another, unless they wanted to, of course. So, who knew the next time they would actually exchange words.

When the sun had disappeared from the horizon and the stars began to dot the sky, Severus left for his chambers, to read a book by himself.

Severus was eating breakfast with his coworkers—a rare occurrence, indeed—when he overheard Filius mention something to Minerva about a cake before Minerva retorted that she—whoever she was—preferred fruit tarts.

Severus was not, by nature, nosy—save for when it had been his job to be as a spy—but their hushed tones and covert glances across the table told Severus they were talking about one of the other teachers and trying not to be overheard.

Minerva caught him staring and waved him away with the flick of her wrist. “Don’t worry about it, Severus; this is for a staff member’s birthday.”

Dumbledore had never thrown parties for his staff members when he had been Headmaster but apparently Minerva did. And apparently he had not been invited to them.

“Whose birthday is this cake and/or tart for?” he asked, even though he had a feeling he knew who, based on the fact that they kept looking in her direction.

“Hermione,” McGonagall said. “And don’t worry. You won’t be expected to be in attendance.”

“I do not mind.” The words came tumbling out of his mouth before he could even process what he was saying. Going to a coworker's birthday celebration? Who was this man he was becoming? “I am rather fond of cake.”

“Well, be prepared for fruit tart,” Filius chimed in.

“Even better,” he said. Severus did, after all, have quite the sweet tooth.

Hermione was past the age where her birthday felt different than any other day. She still had to teach and wrangle children. The only bright spot was the intimation from McGonagall that there would be a dessert in the staff lounge with her name on it waiting for her at the end of it all.

She patrolled the hallway outside of Gryffindor Tower before heading to the Headmaster’s Tower where the rest of the staff would presumably be waiting for her with a cake and maybe a bottle of butterbeer, if she was lucky.

So Hermione was quite surprised to find that not only were all of the usuals there—including Filch—but there was also a raven-haired head in the back, towering above everyone else. She could not remember Snape having attended any of her parties in the past so it, weirdly, warmed her heart to see him there, on this year of all years.

Then she had a horrible thought. What if he was just there because he felt sorry for her? Surely he must have known what happened, not only because she spent the summer at the castle but also because of Sinistra’s comment over drinks.

Hermione’s heart sank. She did not want him pitying her. Merlin, anyone but Severus Snape.

But then McGonagall and Flitwick were ushering her over to show her her cake, which was a fruit tart this year. Hermione could definitely be thankful for that—she was not a big fan of cakes—and soon the elf-made wine was flowing and laughter was abounding.

And yet, despite the fact that it was her party, Hermione found the conversation moving away from her and felt herself figuratively and literally being pushed aside.

“This is good,” she heard someone say beside her. “Maybe I will actually celebrate my birthday this school year.”

It was Snape. Of course. The only other social outcast.

“You’re still eating your first piece?” she asked.

“Oh, no, this is not my first piece.”


“Well…” he said, looking sheepish.

“You know there are other people here, right?”

“They’re not eating it. Seems a downright shame to just leave it there, uneaten.”

“Maybe I wanted the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.”

“You should’ve thought about that before you invited me.”

“I didn’t invite you!”

Hermione was quite enjoying the banter. Who knew the two of them could joke together?

“Well, isn’t that awkward. I suppose I had better be going.”

“No, I like that you’re here. Why are you here, by the way? I’ve never seen you at one of these functions before.”

“I heard there would be fruit tart.”

“I’m serious.”

“I am as well.”

“Oh. That’s a relief.”

“Why? What is that supposed to mean?”

Hermione bit her lip. She should have anticipated this sort of thing. Why had she said anything at all about it?

“Well… I was worried that you were coming because you felt bad for me. It’s stupid, I know.”

Snape made a face. Not an angry or annoyed face as one might come to expect from Severus Snape, but rather a more confused expression.

“Why would I feel sorry for you? Are your parties not usually well-attended?”

So, that meant he probably did not know, she thought. Or he was pretending to be ignorant to protect her feelings. Except that also did not seem like something he would do.

That meant she had two choices. Hermione briefly considered the first option, where she said nothing, but decided against it. What was the harm in him knowing?

“I’m no longer with Ron.”

A variety of expressions crossed Snape’s face. Confusion. Recognition. Surprise. And finally, guilt.

“I am sorry. That is unfortunate. I shouldn’t—I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Don’t be sorry; don’t say that. How would you have known? Besides, it’s been months. I’m practically over it by now.”

That was a patent, bald-faced, categorical lie, but Snape did not have to know it. Or maybe he could tell she was lying. Hermione had been told that she did not have the face for lying.

“The summer?” he asked.

Hermione nodded. “And why I was crying at the party. But McGonagall said I could stay here since it was so fresh and I didn’t have another place to live. Next summer though, I’ll have my own place.”

Snape nodded and was quiet for a moment before he said, “You can use the balcony and whenever you want, you know.”

Hermione smiled. “Is that because you feel sorry for me?”

“No, consider it a birthday present of sorts.”

“Well, thank you for your generous offer of permission to visit a public place that you have no ownership over.” But despite her sarcastic tone, Hermione appreciated the gesture. She knew what it meant to someone like Snape to open himself up to others.

Severus had never been a fan of Halloween, for obvious reasons. Despite the many years, he still could not quite get excited about the appearance of macabre decorations around the castle. The only good thing was that Minerva did not make them dress up, as he had heard of other teachers at other schools being subjected to such torture.

Still, the festivities were getting a little much and Severus needed a break. So, while the feast was in full swing, he excused himself. It was not as if anyone would miss him; he was hardly the life of the party. And he walked up to his little balcony to get some clean, autumn air.

“We have to stop meeting like this.” Severus heard some movement and then saw Granger out of the corner of his eye. “Sorry, I was taking advantage of your birthday gift; I hope that’s okay.”

“No, you are perfectly within your right to be up here,” he said. Severus found himself actually meaning what he said too. “So, why are you?”

Oh, no, was that the wrong thing to ask? He did not presume that there had to be something wrong for her to be out on the balcony, but he also did not want her to feel like she had to confess her deepest feelings to him either.

“I just needed fresh air,” she said, leaning on the railing. Granger was not looking at him, so Severus took this opportunity to get a better look at her. She looked pensive. Her hair was coming undone from her bun, whipping around her face.

“Yes, me too,” he said, mirroring her position.

It was already quite dark even at this relatively early hour and the cloudy night provided little light from the moon or stars, so there was not much for them to look at. Still, it was nice sometimes to just be in the fresh air. Even a large castle could get claustrophobic.

Then Granger gasped, startling Severus from his thoughts. “I’m sorry. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it sooner. I can go—”

“Are you referring to the date?” Severus asked. “It’s not a big deal. I’m mostly over it anyway.”

Granger’s look of pure panic was momentarily dashed when she realized that he was purposefully referring to her own words about being over the Weasley boy. But if she was upset, she did not fight him on it.

“I’m still sorry. I should have known better.”

“Nonsense. It was so long ago.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Granger sighed. “Harry—it doesn’t even register for him. I think the thought might still be there in the back of his mind, but I think he really makes the association. But he was also a baby when it happened. You were not.”

“I was most certainly not. But I was also not very old. In fact, I am more than twice that age now. Certainly doesn’t feel that way.”

“Yes. Funny how that works.”

“What is it that the Muggles say? Time heals all wounds?”

“Hmm,” Granger said. “Well, I had better get back downstairs. Don’t want to be missed.”

Hermione was in her office, grading papers, when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She looked out her window to see big, white fluffy flakes falling. The first snowfall of the season.

She opened her window, trying to feel the cold air on her face and maybe wake up a little bit, but it only helped marginally.

And then she had an even better idea.

Hermione slipped on her coat and walked into the hallway outside her office. She passed by many students who all smiled and waved. Hermione had to admit, it was nice being the teacher that students liked and she was very proud of this status.

Still, she did not want to be seen as she neared the passage to the balcony lest their secret be discovered. So she took multiple looks up and down the hallway before she entered it.

There was already a nice dusting of snow coating the railing of the balcony and more was falling. Hermione took up her post, leaning against it, and enjoying the cold prick at her exposed extremities.

Unfortunately, however, it soon became apparent that she should have brought her hat and mittens with her outside. So, she cast a warming charm and let the pulses of magical heat course through her veins, in stark contrast to the cold of the snowflakes melting on her skin.

“I’ve always loved the cold,” a voice said beside her.

“Merlin! I thought we agreed no more sneaking up on each other.”

Snape laughed. “I couldn’t help myself.” Silence. “So, I guess we had the same idea.”

Hermione nodded. “I love the snow here. So crisp and clean, not at all like the mush down south. It’s always struck me as particularly magical, and not just because we’re at Hogwarts.”

“That is an excellent point.” Another pause. “And how has your fall term been so far?”

Hermione laughed. “How has it been? I’m counting the days until it’s over. Speaking of which, it’s not long now.”

“Perhaps I should have asked you sooner,” he offered.

“Perhaps we should talk more than just out here,” she countered.

More silence, which only seemed to be amplified by the falling snow.

“If the opportunity presents itself, maybe we will,” he said. And if Hermione was not mistaken, she coul hear the hear smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Severus and Granger did not keep their promise to speak to each other outside of their scant meetings on the balcony. But not for a lack of trying on Severus’s part. He did try to speak to her when the opportunity arose but that only ever seemed to happen in the library, where they couldn’t speak, or in hallways when a misbehaving student needed attention. And every time it happened, they would just smile and shrug at each other, as if to say, “What can you do about it?”

But then it was that time, what Granger had been waiting for, for most of the students to go home and give the teachers a much needed break. Severus normally did not volunteer to stay at the school to watch over the remaining students—he had done enough of that over the years, thank you very much—but this year was different. This year he accepted the salary bonus—something new Minerva had begun doing—and spent his Christmas at the school.

Maybe it was because he was tired of spending the holiday alone. Maybe it was because he was feeling too lazy to pack up to go home. Maybe the money was its own incentive. But if he did have the opportunity to talk to Granger, he would also not be too disappointed.

Since he had not spoken to her, he did not know if her reasons for staying were similar to his own or if it was because she still did not have her own place. Not that he would ask her; Severus did not feel comfortable enough with her to ask about that.

But since McGonagall had informed him of her decision to stay, that meant he needed to get her a gift. Severus did not normally consider himself an adept gift-giver, but this year, for Granger, he knew immediately. And the best part was that he could make it himself in his lab.

Christmas morning came, snowy and bright, and Severus woke up to the usual assortment of gifts under his tree. Only this time they had been brought by house-elves rather than owls. A scarf from Minerva. A book from Filius. A bottle of firewhisky from Hagrid. A new quill from Aurora. All good stuff, practical stuff that he would definitely use.

There was noticeably nothing from Granger, which was somewhat disappointing but perhaps unsurprising. This was her first Christmas as a teacher at Hogwarts and someone must have forgotten to tell her about their tradition.

This was Hermione’s first Christmas alone. Well, not alone-alone, but she might as well have been. She was used to spending the holiday at the Burrow with all of her in-laws and nieces and nephews.

But this Christmas she woke up alone, later than normal and maybe a little hungover. To her surprise, however, when she walked into her other room a little tree had been erected and expertly decorated. Underneath the tree were gifts wrapped in an assortment of papers.

Hermione had not even been aware that teachers exchanged gifts but maybe this was a tradition specific to teachers who stayed behind. She felt bad for not sending her own gifts, but she also had not been informed about this practice. Or maybe she had missed some memo.

The first gift was a box of loose-leaf tea from Hagrid. The second was a nice quill from Sinistra. The third was a scarf knitted by McGonagall. She had clearly taken up the mantle from Dumbledore.

The final package she opened was wrapped simply in a brown paper bag and tied with twine. She removed the twine and unwrapped the paper to uncover a small box. She popped the lid of the box to find a round glass jar filled with a dark liquid.

Hermione examined the jar under the light. Was it some kind of potion? If it was, she could bet it was from Snape. But what was its purpose? She had never seen a potion of that deep mulberry color in any of her explorations into the world of potion-making. But, if it indeed came from Snape, that did not mean much of anything. He knew all sorts of potions she would be unfamiliar with.

Hermione unscrewed the lid and took a delicate whiff. The substance did not smell like much, but she was also not taking any deep breaths to err on the side of caution. She doubted Snape would be trying to poison her, but that did not mean she would forget everything she had learned about safely inhaling unknown concoctions.

Hermione recapped the jar and finished getting ready for the day. She could ask Snape about it later.

Snape was not at the breakfast table that morning, which was not an unusual occurrence for him. Hermione had the distinct feeling that Snape was not a morning person and the type to roll out of bed at the last possible minute, grab a caffeinated drink, and immediately start teaching.

Since there were fewer teachers around, however, Hermione did not want to sit in her usual spot, so she borrowed Vector’s chair to sit beside McGonagall and Flitwick who were whispering conspiratorially. Hermione cleared her throat loudly so that they knew not to say something they should not around her.

“Happy Christmas,” Hermione said. “Thank you for the gifts, by the way. I’m sorry I did not give any of my own; I had not realized the teachers did an exchange. But maybe that’s my fault for not thinking of it.”

“Nonsense,” McGonagall said. “It’s about giving not receiving.”

It had snowed the night before and Severus was going to make the most of it. He obviously loved snow normally, but even a Grinch like him could admit that snow on Christmas day was something magical.

He was wearing his pajamas still and brought up a large blanket to the roof. He had cleared off a spot on the bench for himself. Normally he would be quite cold in just pajamas, slippers, and a blanket but the piping hot coffee in his hand and his warming spell was making it just right.

However, his solemnity was interrupted when he heard footsteps beside him. Severus turned to see Granger looking rather stunned.

“I had not realized—I just wanted to thank you. But I will be going.”

At first Severus had been confused by the embarrassed look on her face but then he remembered his state of dress. Looking down, Severus hastily buttoned the undone button that was exposing his chest

“I am glad you liked it,” he said. Severus did not know why but he did not want her to leave.

“I did,” she said simply. “Thank you very much. But what is it?”

“You like it but you don’t even know what it is? Tell me how that makes sense.”

“It’s the polite thing to do. I’ve already had to apologize to our colleagues about not buying gifts of my own. I hadn’t realized it was a tradition.”

“Well, now you know for next year.”

“So, what is it? You still haven’t told me.”

Severus laughed. When he had made the gift he had thought its use would be so apparent that it would not need a label.

“It’s ink,” he explained. “I thought you would like a nice color to mark students’ essays with besides red. And I assumed that purple was your favorite.”

“Oh, well now it seems all so obvious now,” Hermione said, lightly hitting herself on the forehead. “That explains why it did not smell like anything.”

“You smelled it? What did I tell you about sniffing strange substances.”

“I would like to hope that you would not send me something too noxious, but maybe my trust was misplaced.”

“No, your trust is most certainly not misplaced. But I also did not put my name on it.”

“Well, whose fault is that?” They laughed. It warmed Severus’s heart more than any spell could.

“So, is it?” Severus asked.

“Is what?”

“Is purple your favorite color?”

“It is,” Hermione said.

Severus nodded. “I am quite fond of the shade myself.”

“I love it for its history.”

“Do you now?” Severus could sense a ramble was imminent. He loved it when Hermione got on tangents.

“Of course! You know how purple was seen as a royal color?” Severus nodded. “Because the only way to make the color was to grind up these sea snails found in the Mediterranean and it took tens of thousands snails to make enough dye to cover even the trim of the garment. Roman senators wore a toga with a single stripe made from this dye called a ‘toga praetexta,’ but, of course, the emperor had the privilege of wearing a solid purple toga and that was called a ‘toga picta.’”

Severus nodded to encourage Hermione to continue and to let her know that he was listening intently.

“It was known as Tyrian purple as the dye mainly came from Tyre. Eventually other dyes were used but they were still costly to make and not many garments were produced. That is, until, in 1859—I believe—a chemist named William Henry Perkin was trying to synthesize quinine—you know, the malaria drug—in the lab when he created the first aniline dye. At first, he was going to call it ‘Tyrian purple’ after the historical color, but instead he went with mauve, after the French name for mallow plant, which has a purple flower.

“Anyway, I digress... So, how did you make yours?”

“How did I make mine?”

“Yes. Does your contain snail mucus or a combination of four aromatic compounds?”

“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve taken organic chemistry so I’m going to pretend I know what you’re talking about.”

“Come on. You don’t remember aromatic compounds? Or benzene rings?”

Severus laughed. “You can’t expect me to remember everything. My brain isn’t simply a database for storing and retrieving information.”

Hermione made the surprising move to hit him lightly on the shoulder. “Very funny.”

They looked at each other for a beat before looking away. Silence.

“Anyway,” Hermione said. “I better get going so you can enjoy your morning without me talking your ear off about benzene rings and mollusks.”

Severus wanted to say, “You’re no bother at all. Stay up here with me all day.” But all he said was, “Happy Christmas, Hermione.”

“Happy Christmas, Severus.”

Hermione was still feeling embarrassed about interrupting Severus’s private morning as she put in her earrings later that day. In her defense, however, she had never in her wildest dreams assumed that he would be in his pajamas. Outside.. In the cold.

How had he even gotten up there? He must have disillusioned himself.

Hermione looked at both of her ears in the mirror. The Hogwarts Christmas feast was hardly a fancy event and as such, Hermione felt confident wearing just a regular sweater, but she had wanted to “Christmas it up” by wearing her dangling, reindeer earrings that Luna had made for her.

For the feast, the House tables had been removed and replaced with a single, large circular table. Hermione took a seat near where the other teachers were sitting, opposite to the seats already occupied by students. So, when someone tall with long, black hair sat down next to her, she was both surprised and unsurprised.

“I like your earrings,” he said.

“Thank you. Luna Lovegood made them for me. Remember her?”

“How could I not?”

“Well, it’s just your brain isn’t ‘simply a database for storing information.’”

Snape laughed. “No, I definitely remember Miss Lovegood. How is she?”

“Good. She was my sister-in-law. Was.” Hermione hoped she did not sound too bitter. She was merely stating a fact. “But we still talk; don’t worry.”

“Ah. And what Weasley did she have the privilege of marrying?”

“Ginny. Ginevra. You know, the youngest Weasley.”

“You act like I’ve forgotten every student after spending seven long years with them.”

“Really? What’s my name, then?”

“Very funny, Herman.”

“Wow, I think that’s the first time you’ve ever called me by my first name and you did not even get it right.”

“I’ve called you by your first name.”

“No, you have not.”

“I have.”

“No, because if you did, I would have remembered. You know, since I have that database brain.”

Hermione and Severus laughed. It was not a particularly funny joke, but inside jokes hardly ever were. Rather, Hermione thought, the joy came from having someone to enjoy the joke with.

“Are you two quite enjoying yourselves?” Hermione straightened up like she had been doing something wrong and had been caught by a teacher.

“I’m only kidding,” McGonagall said. “Merlin, you should’ve seen the looks on your faces. Like two naughty school children. You do know you’re adults, right?”

They stopped talking as much after that probably because they knew their conversations were being overheard. It was not as if they were talking about anything inappropriate, but Hermione supposed they came across as overly familiar, maybe because they were used to speaking in private on the roof. But—Merlin forbid—it was not as if they were flirting with each other, that was for certain.

Everyone had gotten up out of their chairs and were now mingling around the Great Hall, conversing in small groups. After being called out by Minerva, Severus and Hermione had sort of drifted apart. If she felt anything like he did, she was probably supremely embarrassed by the interaction, even if there was nothing really to be embarrassed by. It was not as if they were flirting, or anything.

Severus tuned out Hagrid’s diatribe about flesh-eating slugs and cast his eyes about the room to look for her now. Hermione was talking to a group of older students, who, based on their postures, probably had a crush on her. Not that Severus blamed them. If he had had Hermione as a teacher, he would have been the same way.

But that thought gave Severus some pause. Was that a weird thing to think about? A hypothetical in which you were younger and found your coworker attractive? No. Was it? It was purely hypothetical, after all.

Severus returned to his conversation with Hagrid and tried not to think about it any longer.

Later that evening, as the party drew to a close, Severus saw Hermione was once more alone. Despite everything else that had occurred that night, he was not going to leave her standing alone. He was not a complete bastard, in his defense.

She was in the middle of taking a sip from her drink as he walked over, but when she noticed him approaching, she put it down to give him her most dazzling smile. Severus was taken aback by the gesture yet he tried not to show it as he neared, because it was really not out of the ordinary to be smiled at by your friend/coworker.

“You must be having a good time,” she said. Severus’s face fell. What did she know?

“Is it that obvious?” he said with an awkward laugh.

“Well, I mean, you’re still here. You haven’t left to go to our spot once.”

“Oh, it’s our spot now, is it? And how did you know? Have you been watching me all night?”

It was Hermione’s turn to get flustered. “No. Not really. It’s not like there are a lot of people here. So, it wouldn’t have been too hard to notice you were missing.”

“Oh, is that so?” Severus said with a smirk.

“It looks like the two of you have been caught under the mistletoe,” Filius said, interrupting their conversation.

Severus and Hermione looked up at the same time to see that they were, indeed, standing under the mistletoe. They exchanged grimaces before taking a few steps back from the offending plant.

“All right then,” Filius said, apparently dissatisfied with their reaction and leaving them alone once more.

Only Severus and Hermione did not seem to want to continue their conversation after that interruption. And really, what were they supposed to do? They were coworkers with almost two decades separating the two of them. But most importantly, they were just friends.

Mistletoe at work parties was the epitome of foolishness, Severus thought. Even if he knew, deep down, that he would not mind kissing Hermione.

New Year’s Eve might have been Hermione’s favorite holiday. She loved the idea of new beginnings and she could get excited about her goals—the loftier, the better. There was nothing that Hermione loved more than getting excited about her very lofty goals, of which she always had many. Well, usually.

This year she was having trouble thinking about what she wanted to accomplish this year beyond finding her own place. But maybe that had to be enough. It could be enough, she told herself.

This would also be the first year, in many years, that she did not have anyone to kiss at midnight. It was not the end of the world—she had spent years before that without someone to kiss—but the thought still made her a little sad.

Of course kissing also made her think about the unfortunate night of the Christmas party when she and Severus had been standing under the mistletoe. They still had not really spoken since then, which was disappointing since Hermioner really liked him.

But the longer she had dwelled on that moment, the more she realized that she would not have been entirely opposed to kissing him. He was handsome, with his high cheekbones, angular face, and aquiline nose, but she had also realized that he had been the bright spot of a pretty terrible year for her.

Was it terrible to think of a friend in such a way? Was it wrong to imagine kissing him? She knew she could never act on that impulse—there was no way he felt the same—so it would probably be beneficial for her to stop thinking about Severus like that.

Her promise to herself did not stop her beating heart, however, when she saw him later that day at dinner. He did not look any different than he normally did, but the fact that Hermione now saw him in a new light only seemed to enhance his attractiveness.

And of course, he caught her staring. Hermione felt her cheeks get hot, but he smiled at her crookedly and gave a little wave, which she returned before taking her own seat at the other side of Hagrid. They had not sat next to each other since Christmas, probably because they were afraid of rousing their colleagues’ suspicion. Not that there was anything to be suspicious of—at least, on the part of Severus.

There was no formal New Year’s party at Hogwarts, but the teachers did gather in the staff room and open bottles of champagne. And maybe it was the multiple glasses of champagne, but Hermione could have sworn that every time she snuck a glance at Severus, he seemed to be doing the same thing to her.

But then, she looked one time, and he seemed to have disappeared entirely. Hermione smiled to herself. She knew exactly where he had gone. Hermione excused herself from the polite conversation to make a beeline for the secret entrance to the balcony.

“I was not gone five minutes,” Severus said, when she made it up there.

Hermione was winded from practically sprinting up the stairs but she tried to hide her excitement. After all, what was she expecting to happen? It was not as if they were about to confess their mutual attraction to each other.

“I’m sorry, but the way you were staring at me made me think you had something you were dying to tell me in private,” Hermione replied, the champagne making her bold.

“I was staring at you? I thought you were staring at me.”

“No, I’m fairly certain it’s the former.”

“Well, maybe I was staring because you had something on your face.”

Hermione wiped the area around her mouth reflexively, even if she knew Severus was making a joke. “Well, maybe I was only staring back at you because it’s the polite thing to do.”

“Really? That’s the polite thing to do?”

“I think so, yes,” Hermione said. She shivered. “It was not smart of me to come up without a coat.”

“I can warm you up,” Severus said, apparently before he understood the full meaning of his words. “With magic, of course,” he amended.

“Of course,” Hermione replied, taking a step closer. “And I presume I need to be close to get it to work.”


Hermione inched even closer until they were standing a hair’s breadth apart, close enough to touch. They remained like that for several moments, neither of them daring to make the first move.

And then one of them, though Hermione could not remember who it was, took the other’s hand and held it. But both seemed too scared to look at each other, let alone speak another word. With that, they stood there in silence, listening to the wind and looking at the stars, feeling the warmth of each other’s presence.

This quiet contemplation was how they both were able to see the shooting star streaking across the sky, which they pointed out at the same time. They bumped shoulders and laughed, before they were finally looking at each other. Really, truly looking at each other. Hermione took in every inch of Severus’s face, but they both seemed to enjoy lingering on the other’s eyes and mouth.

Before she knew it, they were leaning in for a kiss and Hermione could feel Severus’s warm lips on her own while the bells of the clock tower pealed in the distance. Midnight.

“Happy New Year, Severus.”

“Happy New Year, Hermione.”

After their kiss the previous evening, Severus had not been able to sleep. All he could think about was how he had ruined their friendship and that she would probably never speak to him again. Severus also did not know if he would be able to speak to her either, let alone look at her, without thinking about her lips on his.

So, up to his spot, he went. Severus told himself it was because he needed to clear his head, but a small voice in the back of his mind told him that it was because he hoped he would see Hermione there. In fact, the whole way there, he kept telling his heart to pump slower, since she would not, in fact, be waiting for him.

But when he saw her there, wrapped in a blanket, snow already dotting her hair, his heart nearly stopped.

“Saved you a seat,” she said, turning to smile at him. Hermione, smiling at him, lit by the morning light, might have been the most beautiful thing Severus had ever seen. He did not know if he wanted to look at anything else.

They ran up the stairs together, giggling like naughty school children all of the while. Hemione leaned over the railing, taking a sip of her drink. Ostensibly she was doing it to get a better look of the grounds, but she knew if she turned just right, he would get a good view of her chest.

“It’s beautiful out tonight,” she said, breathlessly.

“Yes, you are,” Severus said.

Hermione rolled her eyes, but secretly she loved the comment, as cliché as it was.

“Do you want to dance?” he asked.

“What? Up here?”

“Yes, why not?”

“For one thing, there’s not a lot of room. And there’s no music.”

“That’s preferable, actually,” Severus said. “I don’t have any rhythm and music would only make that more obvious.”

After putting her drink down, Hermione laced the fingers of one hand in his and placed the other on his shoulder, while his remaining hand rested on the curve of her back. His touch sent a delicious shiver down her spine. Hermione loved that, even after all of this time, his touch was still electric to her.

Either Severus had been lying about having no rhythm or Hermione herself was a terrible dancer, because she did not notice anything off as they waltzed under the pale moonlight. He even spun her a few times which made Hermione slightly dizzy in her intoxicated state.

Severus finished with an overdramatic dip and a kiss on the neck, which warmed her thoroughly from the inside out.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve found this place. Think how much has changed since then.”

“Move in with me,” Severus said.


“Move in with me,” he said, a bit louder.

“No, I heard you the first time. I can’t believe you’re asking me now after I just signed a lease.”

Severus shrugged. “Obliviate the realtor.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Sneak into their office and destroy the document.”

“You know they probably have a second, digital copy.”

“All right. Well, I suppose you can keep the flat in case I annoy you too much and you need somewhere quiet to go.”

Hermione punched Severus lightly on the shoulder but the motion sent a reverberation throughout her whole body, causing wine to spill onto her dress. All she could do was stare in horror, even the strongest Evanesco could not get elf-made wine fully out of fabric.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “And I liked this dress too.”

“Why don’t we go downstairs and soak it in some water? It’s not a lost cause yet.”

“No, you’re right,” Hermione said with a sigh. “Let’s go.”

“Besides, I think you might look even more beautiful with that dress off.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “And to think, I assumed your intentions were pure.”

“Do you blame me?” he asked, giving her his best, roguish look.

“No,” she said, leaning in for a kiss. “I love you, Severus.”

“I love you, Hermione.”