Age-Range Category: Five
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape/Hermione Granger
Beta Reader(s): shaggablesnape
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: The seven habits of highly effective witches. 1. Never play cards with George Weasley. 2. Make a to do list. 3. Do the things on the to do list. 4. Tick off the things on the to do list. 5. Don't get caught. 6. Be so organised, you don't even need 7.
There were three things you need to know about the Weasleys — they were ferociously fecund, they were terribly loyal to each other, and you didn't want to cross them.
To that, Hermione now added, that you shouldn't enter into a poker game with George unless sober, had all of your wits about you, had checked that no ghostly twin was perusing your cards behind your back, and that on no account should you enter into a wager on the last hand even if you did think you held all the aces.
"You're not going to hold me to the bet, are you?" Hermione said, aware she was whining but too feeble and hung over to master any sensible arguments as to why the bet shouldn't stand. She clasped a cool cloth to her forehead.
"Oh, yes," George said.
"Are you still sulking about me not marrying Ron? Because if you are, that's terribly unfair." Hermione thought about hangover potion, a nice cooked breakfast, and then bed.
George sniggered. "I think the only person more grateful that you didn't marry Ron than yourself is Ron."
Hermione threw the cloth at George.
"The thing is, Granger my girl, you were always a serious girl who grew up too soon, and now you're a serious woman who never had a childhood. You've never been silly, you've never really been naughty, and you're in danger of being middle aged before you're thirty."
Hermione summoned the cloth wordlessly, and threw it at George again, with more emphasis.
"Unless you think you're not up to the challenge…?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "You're not getting round me that way. I'm far too sensible to be taken in by spurious challenges to my pride."
"Which is rather my point." George grinned. "Unless you would prefer to work for me for six months for free?"
"No," Hermione said flatly. "I would not prefer that."
"Then you, Hermione Granger, have two weeks to find out the size of Severus Snape's cock, or it's six months of slave labour."
Hermione let her head fall onto the table with a thunk.
It didn't make her feel any worse.
Hermione knew that people found her habit of drawing up colour coded lists to be odd, and dull, and useful. People were happy to rely on her ability to anticipate the need for, taking an example totally at random, a bottomless bag containing all the tools someone might need to defeat a dark lord, whilst being happy to tease her about bringing along a year's supply of toilet roll.
As if wiping your bum on dock leaves somehow enhanced the experience of being on the run.
Someone needed to think of these things, and if it wasn't her, it certainly wasn't going to be the boys.
Making lists was soothing. Making lists made the impossible possible, breaking down insuperable barriers into smaller, easily tackled jobs.
So now, faced with Snape's tackle and the need to measure it, she turned to the comfort that only a list written out in four colours, three fonts, numbered and sub-numbered, with bullet points, could offer.
To Do: Measure Snape's Penis.
- Get inside leg measurement from tailor, and work through the stats using a third level recursion Arithmantic progression.
- Inspection? Can you guess cock size through trousers?
- Follow him into the loo and have a look? Polyjuice???
There was only one place that Snape would be getting his clothes, and that was Messers Smytherson and Singleston, Suppliers of Wizarding Garb to the Traditional Wizard.
Unfortunately, they were very Traditional Wizards themselves, something she had only realised once she had entered their August Premises and very nearly given the elderly wizard behind the counter a coronary.
"Madam," he said, then clutched at his breast pocket.
"Er, yes?" she replied. "I was wondering if it would be possible to…"
"Madam," he bleated again, and collapsed onto a stool behind the counter.
"I am indeed a female," she observed gravely. "And I am interested…."
"We do not serve Ladies of the Other Persuasion!"
"But I'm not a lady of any persuasion," Hermione replied. "Well, I am a lady, I suppose, but…what?"
A cough came from the changing room to the side of the counter, and the black curtain screening it from the rest of the shop trembled, as if a laughing wizard were pressed up against the cubicle listening.
"This is a GentleWizard's outfitters!" The wizard rallied, regained his feet, and leaned over the counter looking at her earnestly. "For Wizards."
"I know that," Hermione said patiently. "This is why I am here. I wish to purchase an item of clothing. For a Wizard."
The news did not seem to appease the man, who stared at her with wide, unblinking eyes, as if staring at her would make her go away.
"I want to buy something for Professor Snape. I believe you have his measurements on file."
The man, when asked to explain his behaviour later, could only ascribe his acquiescence to shock. He summoned a ledger from the walls, flicked through the pages, then poked a stubby, shaking finger at an entry. "Madam," he said again.
Hermione glanced at the entry, mentally recorded the inside leg measurement and the side to which Snape dressed. "Thank you," she said. "Is there anything that you can suggest that would be appropriate?"
The hot words 'leaving the shop' trembled on his lips. "Was there a particular reason you were seeking to send the gentleman a gift."
"Just a token of appreciation."
The man's face turned from a rictus of horror, into something that could pass for avuncular in shade. "Oh, I see. An admirer. Well, we don't usually get involved with that sort of thing, but Professor Snape is such a valued customer that we can make an exception. If I might suggest, a nice scarf?"
Hermione nodded. "Black or green?"
Hermione winced. That was an expensive price to pay for the information, but cheap at twice the price if it won her the bet.
"Very well," she said. "I assume you take a Gringotts' card?"
"That will do nicely, madam. And would madam like to include a little message with the gift?"
"Erm, if you'd just like to put something in about an anonymous admirer." Hermione leaned forward and said quietly and confidentially. "I'm a bit shy, you see, and I'd like to see if he was…receptive before I came out into the open."
"I understand," the man replied, just as quietly, running her card over the charmed ledger that recorded the transaction. "Our Professor is a little difficult isn't he?"
Another cough came from the changing room, and both Hermione and the server looked at the curtain with dismay. "I'll be with you in a moment, sir," he said, then whispered, "just leave it to me," and patted her on the hand.
Hermione scurried out of the establishment determined not to be seen and to crack on with the calculations as quickly as possible.
Owl from Hermione Granger to George Weasley
GeorgeOwl from Lucius Malfoy to Severus Snape
Snape's penis is 5 inches long. Please find attached the Arithmantic calculations that confirm this, based on a determination of inside length measurement, a normal distribution of penis size amongst the average wizard, corrected for age, House, and hair colour.
Please confirm this means I have won the bet.
My Dear SeverusOwl from George Weasley to Hermione Granger
You dark horse, you. I had no idea that you had acquired a lady friend, someone who wants to keep you warm.
Nice try, but no cigar. I want actual measurement of an actual cock.Owl from Severus Snape to Lucius Malfoy
LuciusOwl from Hermione Granger to George Weasley
I don't know what potions you have been sniffing, but I have no idea what you mean.
Bastard.Owl from Lucius Malfoy to Severus Snape
My dearest SeverusOwl from George Weasley to Hermione Granger
I assure you that I have not been sniffing any potions, unless you count the excellent Pepper Up you brewed for me only last week.
I refer, of course, to the young lady who purchased your new scarf. Cashmere, I believe.
Actual cock size, or nothing.Owl from Severus Snape to Lucius Malfoy
Count yourself lucky I am not asking for pictures.
It is such a long time since we had a little chat, caught up on the gossip. Perhaps you would care to meet for a drink, this Saturday at around 3pm in the Hog's Head?
And in a small flat in the outskirts of London, Hermione thoughtfully drew a line through Option One.
To Do: Measure Snape's Penis.Then, to make herself feel better, she charmed Obliviation to sparkle in purple and underlined option 9.
Get inside leg measurement from tailor, and work through the stats using a third level recursion Arithmantic progression.
- Inspection? Can you guess cock size through trousers?
- Follow him into the loo and have a look? Polyjuice???
- Ask him.
- Clearly not going to work unless Veritaserum is used.
And then Obliviation or he will hunt me down and make me pay.
- Stunner, followed by a tape measure. And Oblivation.
- Get him drunk, get out the tape measure. ??? Obliviation not required if enough alcohol.
- A wager? Play cards with Snape.
- A bargain.
She then drew up a second heading — What would Snape want from her?
And couldn't think of a single thing he would want, unless it was for her to go away, and that was hardly going to work as a bribe for information about the size of his cock.
Well, she had a scarf, and that could do as a small bribe to start with.
It took the mere exchange of three owls with Minerva to secure an invitation to spend a couple of weeks at Hogwarts. In return for free access to the Restricted Section, Hermione had to teach a couple of advanced classes on combining charms with Transfiguration to students in their final year.
And she was, of course, to make herself at home, including joining the staff at High Table.
Snape was not pleased to see her, and was even less pleased when she settled down next to him at dinner.
"Oh, I am pleased to see you, sir," she said, gushing worse than Lavender had ever done.
"Are you?" he replied.
"Oh yes, I wanted to ask you about the article in Potions Monthly last week. The one by Professor Schartan of Durmstrang and the uses of Dragon's blood?"
"Contrary to popular opinion, I do not spend all of my time thinking about potions," Snape replied repressively.
"Oh, dear, did I touch a nerve? I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be tactless. I know he disagreed most strongly with your suggestion as to the Thirteenth Use." Hermione arranged her face into the best semblance of sympathy she could manage.
It was wasted on Snape, who scowled at the table. "You did not touch a nerve. I would have to value the opinion of Schartan to be in any way…troubled by his assertions. He is clearly a buffoon and not worth the expense of the ink to reply."
"Did they refuse to print your response? How dreadful," Hermione said. "Clearly, you're right."
Snape did look at her then, clearly torn between irritation at her comments about his reply not being printed and gratification that she was taking his side in the dispute.
"There was some mention of intemperate language unsuited to a scholarly article," he replied.
"I could put in a good word for you if you like." Hermione waved her hand in the air, carelessly splashing Snape's cuffs with some of her wine. "If you think it would help."
"It would not." Snape's words fell like ice. "Your consideration is unnecessary."
He said nothing more to her for the rest of the evening no matter how hard Hermione tried to draw him into conversation.
He looked startled when she sat next to him again at breakfast.
And even more surprised at lunch.
By the second dinner, he seemed resigned to her presence and was even responding to some of her queries with answers that ran to more than monosyllables.
It took two more days of friendly intercourse before he finally cracked.
"Am I to get no peace from you?" he asked, slicing the top off his soft-boiled egg with unnerving attention to detail.
"None," she said cheerfully. "It's not often I get to speak to someone with such a challenging intellect."
"I'm not going to answer you, you know," he replied. "Not at breakfast. Not before I've had tea. And certainly not before double potions with Gryffindor and Slytherin."
It was hard to take a man seriously when he was probing his egg with a toast soldier.
"It's nice to meet a man who listens," she said.
"I can see that," Snape said with a thin smile. "Those two buffoons you usually associate with can only discuss Quidditch."
Hermione sighed. "That's true. Or their children. Which is interesting for the first five minutes, but I really don't need to know the details of every nappy they've filled."
Snape snorted. "You have my sympathy."
"Er, thanks." Hermione buttered her toast, trying to find something annoying to say. "They're not that bad most of the time. They do try to take an interest. But…."
"But their limited minds can't keep up with yours."
"I wouldn't quite put it like that," she said, wondering if there was an implied compliment in there somewhere.
Snape shrugged. "That's all right; I will put it like that for you."
Hermione sighed and poked her breakfast mournfully. "I had hoped that starting at the Ministry would involve meeting some people who were interested in the same sorts of things as me."
"And is this why you've taken to sitting next to me? I'm honoured." His voice was flat, but there was something in it that made her wonder how lonely he was, sitting with the same people year on year long after all conversation had been exhausted. Especially as the new topic of conversation was — how was it killing Dumbledore, or, how are your friends getting on in Azkaban?
"Yes, something like that," she said, and tried to silence the twinge of conscience by mentally crossing the use of a stunner off her To Do list.
He gave her a sharp look, then drained the last of his tea. "You can tell me what you're working on tomorrow. I have a free afternoon," he said, and left in a billow of cloak before she could reply which is just as well because her softly spoken, but heartfelt, "bugger" would have confused him.
Snape was disgruntled when Lucius suggested meeting up at a poncy wine bar that had opened in Diagon Alley as opposed to the Hog's Head.
"There had better not be any paper parasols in my drink," Snape said. "And it had better be amber coloured, and taste like Firewhiskey."
Lucius pushed a drink in front of his companion that met the conditions as stated. He was sipping at some concoction adorned with an olive on a stick. "You really are a creature of habit," he said. "Entirely predictable."
Snape, who had opened his mouth to complain at the choice of venue, bit back what he was going to say. He smiled unctuously at Lucius and said sweetly, "I do appreciate the chance to try something new, my old friend."
Lucius, who had been just on the point of taking another sip, ended up snorting hard and spraying his cocktail over the table. "You're a bastard."
Snape grinned as his friend quickly cast a cleansing charm.
"I am," he said. "It's part of my charm."
"Oh stop it," Lucius protested. "I'm trying to drink here."
"So, why the secrecy?" Snape asked. "I am not going to plot against the Ministry."
"That kind of plotting would take place in the Manor, as you very well know." Lucius smirked. "We are here to admire Granger in her natural habitat."
"And to discuss exactly what you're going to do about her?"
"This is what we are here to determine. Are you after casual shag, or something a bit more meaningful?"
It was only long experience as a spy, coupled with staff meetings of more than usual levels of irritation, that allowed Snape to hear such asinine questioning without repeating, for the whole bar to hear, the suggestion that he should shag Granger. "What do you mean, shag her?" he whispered with the kind of ferocity familiar to his pupils.
"I see you're wearing your scarf," Lucius said, his smirk widening.
"It's a nice scarf," Severus replied. "But a scarf is not an invitation to intercourse."
"I see you're wearing it."
"It's a nice scarf."
"So if it were an invitation to intercourse, you wouldn't decline?"
Severus glared at his friend. "It's just a scarf."
"Was there some sort of card with the scarf?"
Severus delved into his pocket and pushed a card over the table.
Dear Professor Snape"Not very forthcoming, I grant you. No suggestion you might like to meet for dinner, but also no suggestion that she'd like to ask you a research question. Ambiguous. Intriguing. That could be deliberate, of course."
Please accept this scarf as a gift. I hope you like it.
"She would have had to have changed an awful lot for that to be the case."
"Then it's an opening salvo in something. We shall just have to wait and see what."
Severus held out his hand for the card, then tucked it away again, carefully not noticing Lucius' grin.
"She will be here in about ten minutes, drinking with her Ministry colleagues after work. She usually stays for about an hour, drinks two glasses of dry white wine, then picks up something called a takeaway from an establishment two roads down from her flat. On the last Friday of the month, she goes out for a meal with Potter and Weasley."
Severus arched an eyebrow at Lucius.
"Draco occasionally joins the after work drinks now that he works at the Ministry."
It was eight minutes before Hermione arrived, and by then they were ready for their second round of drinks.
"Your turn," Lucius said, and nodded at the bar where Hermione was placing her order for a glass of white wine.
Faced with the arcane ritual of the round, Severus couldn't argue the point and dutifully made his way to the bar. "Two Firewhiskeys," he said. "And no parasols."
A slight squeak came from beside him, and when he turned round Hermione was dabbing ineffectually at her dress where she had spilt some wine. "Oh, Professor. I didn't see you come in."
"Possibly because I was already here."
"Ah, that would explain it." Hermione cast around for something else to say. "Er, do you come here often?"
Only the slightest hesitation in paying for his drinks showed that Severus was aware of the Muggle implications of such a comment. "Not as such, no. Lucius likes to drag me out and try something new every once in a while."
"Oh," she said, and glanced round the room, searching out the elder Malfoy. "Draco comes here sometimes. I suppose he told his Dad about it."
"Something like that." Severus levitated his drinks from the bar, ready to return to his seat. "If you're on good terms with Draco…. Perhaps you'd be prepared to join us for a drink."
"Er, I suppose I could."
Hermione followed Severus to the table, and settled on the chair that Lucius held out for her with only the slightest hint of wildness in her eyes.
"Good evening, Miss Granger," Lucius said. "I hope you are well."
"Erm, yes. And you?" she replied.
"Indeed," Lucius replied gravely.
There was an awkward silence while everyone stared at their drinks. Severus felt a sharp pain in his shin as Lucius booted him by way of subtle hint that he should say something.
Nervous, flustered, and unable to stop the words before they left his mouth, he listened in horror as he said, "So, do you come here often?"
Lucius nearly sniggered. It was only the application of boot to ankle that aborted the very UnSlytherin sound of a middle aged wizard sniggering.
"I do. A fair bit." Hermione took a deep breath. "I think it's good to have a change though."
"Yes," said Severus. "Lucius keeps telling me that."
He was surprised when Hermione grinned at him. "Draco says the same thing to me. Only with longer words, and I don't have to listen to him."
"I don't have to listen to Lucius," Severus replied.
"And yet you're here," Lucius put in. "And wearing a new scarf as well."
Lucius had clearly cast a shield charm over his shin. He didn't even wince at the next contact.
"Yes, thank you for the gift," Severus said. "It was very…er…nice of you."
"I'm glad you liked it. I thought it was your colour at least." Hermione reached out and touched the soft cashmere, running a finger along a crease of the scarf to where it was tucked into Severus' jacket.
"She does know you well," Lucius said.
Hermione blushed. "I wouldn't say that."
"Everybody knows me well," Severus said, flicking his glass irritably. "My life is an open book, especially the one written by Skeeter."
"That's not you though, is it?" Hermione said, patting him on his arm. "I'm certainly not a scarlet woman, and she keeps calling me that. It stands to reason that just about everything she says about you is wrong in some way."
"She even got my age wrong." Severus' lips twitched. "She added a year to my age."
"Women like an older man," Lucius said soothingly. "Someone more mature. Don't they Miss Granger?"
"It's certainly better than going out with someone who has the emotional range of a teaspoon and who has barely mastered eating with their mouth closed," Hermione said.
"Weasley?" Severus asked.
"Weasley. Krum. Dean Thomas for all of six weeks." Hermione shrugged. "At least Krum had better manners."
Lucius twitched the menu towards him and perused the wine list. "You could try someone…mature."
Hermione blinked at him. "Er, you don't mean you do you?"
Severus snorted, grateful he had no drink in his mouth.
"Your rejection of the idea is rather unflattering, but I was making a more general point." Lucius looked over the menu at her, his eyes wide in apparent distress.
"Oh." Hermione finished the last of her drink, her throat working as she swallowed down the wine. "I suppose you might have a point then."
"Do let me buy you another glass of wine, Miss Granger, and seek to persuade you of the strength of my arguments." Lucius smiled. "I'll even extend my generosity to include some of those fat chips fresh from the fryer that you like so much."
Hermione leaned back on her chair. "Draco?"
"Even so," Lucius replied.
Severus gave a crack of laughter. "She has you pegged, that's for sure."
Lucius talked of the advantages of an older man, and Hermione drank her wine, and then stood another round them another round and asked lots of pointed questions, and Severus was rather surprised to find that he was enjoying himself.
Hermione was entertaining, and Lucius was on his best behaviour, and he was drinking a better quality of wine than he was used to at the Hog's Head.
The fat chips were also nice.
It was the sort of thing he could get used to.
He rose to his feet and wobbled a little. "If you'll excuse me for a moment," he said magisterially, and stumbled off in search of the loo.
He was joined a couple of minutes later by Lucius, who broke the cardinal rule of men's loos about speaking to someone at the urinal. "I'd say you were well in there," he said. "I believe that is the modern terminology."
"I find it hard to believe that this is the case." Severus shook himself off and tucked his cock away. "But it does appear you may have a point."
"If you haven't noticed the way she's been staring at your crotch all evening…."
Severus stared at his friend. "Really? Gosh."
"So you'd best get back out there, and turn the charm on."
"I may have had a bit to drink, but I don't think that's very likely."
"Well try being less…." Lucius turned to the urinal, cutting off the conversation.
Severus adjusted his cravat in the mirror, and headed off in search of Hermione and putative romance.
Hermione did not have a hangover the next day, but there was something giving her a headache.
She'd enjoyed herself drinking with Severus and Lucius, and mostly with Severus, and it felt wrong to continue with stupid game that George had started.
She drew the parchment setting out her Plan out of her bag ready to update it in the light of new information.
To Do: Measure Snape's Penis.She did have some ideas, and they even involved the sight of cock.
Get inside leg measurement from tailor, and work through the stats using a third level recursion Arithmantic progression.
- Inspection? Can you guess cock size through trousers? Ans: you can have a good guess, but George isn't going to be satisfied with that.
Follow him into the loo and have a look? Polyjuice???Clearly neither appropriate, nor sanitary.
- Ask him.
- Clearly not going to work unless Veritaserum is used.
And then Obliviation or he will hunt me down and make me pay.
- Stunner, followed by a tape measure. And Obliviation.
- Get him drunk, get out the tape measure. ??? Obliviation not required if enough alcohol. Update: not really possible as he can out drink you easily.
- A wager? Play cards with Snape.
- A bargain. —Ans: — I have some ideas about that.
She spent the day in the Library, reading books and taking notes methodically, though not much of it registered. Fortunately, she was just at the stage of collating information rather than attempting to make sense of it, so the half of her brain turning over the Snape Issue wasn't missed.
The piece of paper annotated with her plans was tucked into the pages of the research, carefully Disillusioned so that only she could see the writing, and her eyes were drawn to it time and time again.
Stupefying had never really been an option, and was just on the list for completeness sake. It was illegal, immoral, and she doubted she could get the drop on him, even in peacetime.
Asking him was the counsel of last resort.
So, it was simply a question of talking to him until she had an opportunity to find out what she had to bargain with or she had another chance to get him drunk. Or play cards again, though this time with an unmarked deck.
Strip poker? She added to the list, and then added another three question marks.
Steal medical records? Was another possibility, though it was unlikely that Poppy Pomfrey thought that was the sort of thing that needed recording on a man's medical records.
Previous girlfriends? There had to be some, somewhere, and they might be prepared to be indiscreet. Bitter experience down the pub with Ginny and her mates meant that she was intimately acquainted with the details of Harry's penis, and all her friend's boyfriend's cocks to boot. Though, oddly, no one had ever wanted to know how big Ron's penis was.
By the time dinner came round, Hermione felt marginally more confident that this was achievable, and took her seat next to Snape with the sort of calm engendered by having a plan A, B, and C to M.
"How was your research?" Snape asked.
"I am only at the initial stages, scoping out sources, considering the best plan of attack," she replied, trying hard not to think about his cock, nestling in his trousers only six inches away. And then tried not to think about six inches, and whether it would be bigger or smaller.
"What is your ultimate aim?"
"I'm considering the Animagus transformation, and whether there is any way of predicting, or even deciding, what animal you ultimately end up as."
"It's a rare transformation. I wouldn't think there was enough data to form any conclusions."
"Well…" Hermione's description of her work so far took them through the soup course, and well into the main course. She finally wound to a close just as Severus was mopping up the last of his gravy with a bit of Yorkshire pudding. "I'm sorry; I've gone on about it too long."
"No, it's interesting." He smirked. "I suppose you took an interest in this line of research after the Polyjuice incident as a student."
"I…I can't manage the transformation myself, and I am curious as to why that is."
"Ah," Snape said. He said nothing more for a while, apparently concentrating on his dinner, but casting surreptitious glances in her direction.
"You have a theory," she said. "But you don't want to share it with me, because you know I won't like it."
"You really, really won't," he said. "I suggest we defer this conversation until later, perhaps in my rooms, over a glass of port."
Half of her brain should have been celebrating at her success in getting into his rooms, and getting him into close proximity of alcohol, but the other half was wondering quite what he was going to say that was going to make her so cross.
His rooms were pleasant — the fire was warm, the rug before it was soft, the chair comfortable — and the port was rich against her tongue.
And she couldn't even think of enjoying it until Snape came to the point.
He was feeling a little nervous, she supposed, because he was taking an age to get there, and had even asked after the welfare of Potter with only the slightest of sneers.
She raised an eyebrow at him, and watched him stutter to a halt. He sighed.
"Tell me, Granger, have you ever had really hot, sweaty sex?"
She blinked at him.
It was possible, she supposed, that he had been sniffing potions ingredients too closely that afternoon and had just propositioned her.
"Er, why do you ask?" she said cautiously, and then could have kicked herself for not pointing out that she only ever had hot, sweaty sex with men who had seven inch cocks, and how big was he really?
"I think that answers that question," Snape muttered. "Merlin."
"All right, not really," she said, her voice only slightly quavering. "But what has that got to do with being an Animagus?"
"Both require you to lose control, and you always have to be in control."
Hermione took a deep swallow of her port, and wheezed out a long, gasping breath when it burned like fire down her throat. She felt like she'd been punched in the stomach.
"Have you been talking to George Weasley?" she managed to gasp out eventually, grateful that the tears brought to her eyes would pass as being caused by drink and not the accuracy of what he'd said. "Because he's always on at me to loosen up and let go and stop being a prissy little prig."
Snape drew out a hanky, which he offered to Hermione. "Here," he said.
She gave a long sniff, and glared at him, then glared at him harder when he had the cheek to look amused at her glare.
"I have not been speaking to George Weasley. He was an irritating little erk at school, and he's even more of an irritating little erk now that he's encouraging a generation of school children to take after his erkish ways."
Hermione relaxed a bit, and gave another, discreet sniff.
"People are always telling me to have more fun," she said.
Snape settled in the chair next to hers and took her hand, patting it gently. "That's not bad advice in general terms."
"Spose not," she said.
"But whatever George has said to you, that's not what I was trying to…. Look, you've had to be in charge, and run the lives of two boys since you were eleven. You've never had a chance to relax, because if you had done it would have been a disaster."
"I shouldn't have brought up the sex. I just thought it would be a little less sensitive to talk about than your Potions results."
Hermione sat upright. "What about my Potions results?"
Snape grinned. "See, I told you that you'd be more upset about that."
"You were competent at Potions, but no more. Whereas, I am told by Minerva, that you are nothing short of brilliant at Arithmancy and very talented at Transfiguration. They are both subjects that require analysis and a meticulous approach."
"You're saying I'm boring, but using bigger words," she said.
"I'm saying that these disciplines, for they are disciplines, suit your approach, and once you feel you understand the principles behind a spell you can twist it and turn it and make it do everything you want. That's a skill, and a valuable one, but it's not the same as letting the magic work through you. You control the magic, and that's not what being an Animagus is about."
Hermione held out her glass for a refill and considered his words. "So what you're saying is that I'm bossy."
Severus paused in the midst of pouring the port. "That, certainly. Which is no bad thing."
"And because I boss my magic around, the transformation doesn't work. I suppose that makes sense. I need to let the magic boss me around."
Severus topped up her glass. "It won't come easy to you, but I am sure you can do it."
Hermione took another long swallow of the port. "And does this involve me having hot, sweaty sex with someone?"
"Er, well it might." Snape looked a little unsure at the direction the conversation was turning.
"Have you ever managed it?"
"Managed what?" he asked cautiously.
"Being an Animagus?"
"No, not as such."
"Want to give it a try?"
"Umm, yes," he replied.
"In which case, shouldn't we have some fun, to put us in the mood for surrendering to our magic?"
Severus downed his glass of port in one. "What did you have in mind?"
Hermione grinned. "Have you ever played strip poker?"
After half an hour, Hermione suspected that Snape had lied about not playing strip poker.
After an hour and a half, she was very grateful for the warmth of the fire, and was trying to argue that one ear ring amounted to an article of clothing.
"If I accept that, then so are cufflinks," he said.
She blinked at him. "You're still wearing your jacket."
"So, don't you think it's a bit unfair to insist that cufflinks are each an article of clothing? It's not as if you're in any danger of losing them in the next half hour."
"Not if the alternative is waiting another two rounds to see you in that rather fetching silky thing you're wearing under your shirt." He smirked. "And don't tell me that's unfair. It comes with the House."
"Rather, I was going to point out that it seems a little short sighted of you to be so keen to remove all my clothes and keep on your own."
It was his turn to blink at her.
"Do I have to spell it out, Severus?"
"All right," he said slowly. "Cufflinks are one item. Earrings are two."
She slipped one ear ring from her ear and laid it down on the table between them.
"Deal," she said.
He lost the next two rounds, and was parted from both his jacket and his waistcoat at last, easing out of them with a shy air she found rather endearing. He then pressed his advantage and won a round to force her to shed her blouse.
He lost the next round because he spent more time trying to peer down the front of her camisole than concentrate on his cards, but sacrificed his shoes to the cause with a smirk. She'd lost hers long ago.
She smirked back and stretched out her legs before her, flexing her toes. "We could raise the stakes."
"What did you have in mind? Bearing in mind the next win sees you losing your top."
She ran a finger along the lace on her camisole. "We could play for kisses."
"Oh, you're a little minx, using your wiles to get out of a losing position."
Hermione smiled in what she hoped was a seductive way, never having had to try wiles on a man before. Gryffindor boys didn't need much more than 'fancy a shag' to get them going. "But is it working?"
"If you play your cards right," he said, and smirked.
Hermione played her cards with skill, Severus countered with panache, and neither party felt the evening resulted in a loss.
Hermione woke with a headache.
It was existential in nature, due to the application of hangover potion, concerned solely with the moral dilemma in which she found herself. She was now in possession of the facts concerning Professor Snape's cock….
She gazed up at the ceiling and considered those facts in loving detail, the early morning repeat before sneaking off to her own room, and the way he'd pressed a blue vial of hangover potion into her hands whilst snogging her goodbye.
…. But now they were on better acquaintance it would be neither right nor proper to pass this information on to George. It never had been, but she'd been so caught up in the challenge that she'd not stopped to think about that.
She levered herself out of bed and prepared to face the day.
When in doubt, Hermione turned to the comforts of the library, and another list.
To do: Get Out of Bet with GeorgeHermione didn't add poison to the list, tempting though it was. She'd had enough Slytherin in her to know that leaving evidence behind was not a smart move.
- Tell him size of cock — never going to happen.
- Appeal to better nature — suspect hasn't got one.
- Argue that he's a cheat.
Breakfast at the weekends was later than on schooldays, Hermione still arrived towards the end of service. Severus was there before her, but judging by his progress through the meal, not by much.
"Morning," she said.
"Is that a good morning?" he replied.
"It has been so far." Hermione selected the full English breakfast, and started on some toast whilst waiting for it. It was a cliché, but she had worked up an appetite.
"I am pleased to hear it. My morning has also been rather good. I was hoping for a good afternoon, as well." Severus flicked a glance at her loaded plate and smirked.
"I have to see George this afternoon," Hermione said. "But I can come and see you after that. I shouldn't be long."
Severus pushed the toast rack at his end of the table towards her. "What, if you don't mind me asking, are you seeing him about?"
"I'm going to work for him for six months. I need to sort out the details."
"Tiring of the Ministry already?" Severus stirred his tea carefully, using a Potions master's figure of eight.
"Lost a bet," she said, and hoped he would leave it at that.
"Ah." Severus tapped his spoon on the edge of the cup, easing the last of the tea back into it. "Lucius was planning a visit this afternoon anyway. I would have put him off, but I was thinking he might be useful in your project."
"Lucius Malfoy? We are talking about the same Lucius, yes?"
He paused for a moment, and Hermione wondered what sort of blackmail Severus had over Lucius to make him agree to help a Muggleborn.
"I was hoping he would agree to use his special talents on your behalf," Severus added.
"What special talents?"
"He really is the most annoying person I know."
Severus was wrong. Lucius wasn't the most irritating person in the world; George was. Severus had taught George, he had to know this.
"So what you're telling me is that you're giving up," George said, having heard Hermione's careful listing of reasons why she would be coming to work with him for six months after all.
"No, you're hearing me tell you that I think it would be cruel to pursue Snape in this way, a man I have come to like as well as admire. I know that, for you, concepts like morality, and being decent to people, come second to having a laugh at their expense, but I'm not like you."
George scowled. "I'd forgotten how much of a prig you could be."
"I don't see why." Hermione glared at him, reminded of why it was she'd broken up with Ron — that Weasley inability to see the other side of the argument and admit that Hermione was right. "I always have been, according to your brother."
"Don't bring Ron into this," George snapped.
"Then don't call me a prig for wanting to treat a friend with respect."
"You're friends with Snape?"
Hermione nodded, eyes narrowed, just waiting for some smart comment.
"All right, I can see that he doesn't have much of a sense of humour, so you're perfectly suited to each other." George sighed. "Ok, let me know when you can start."
"I'll owl you once I've sorted out leave with the Ministry," she said.
Severus had not had much practice at romance, but observation suggested that it involved a certain amount of gift giving, much like male birds bringing twigs to their chosen lady birds to show their desire to bill and coo.
He had no twigs, but if Hermione wanted to be an Animagus, he would find a way for that to happen for her and Lucius' ability to annoy someone by being in the same room would be key to the whole process.
Though he'd have to find a more tactful way of putting the proposal to him than that.
Lucius liked power. Lucius liked money. And Lucius also liked gossip. He called it information gathering and networking, but what it really amounted to was gossiping worse than any seventh year Hufflepuff.
Being an experienced duellist, this opinion had not been shared with the Annoying One.
"So," Lucius said, easing himself into the comfortable chair by Severus' fireside as if he had no idea that it was Severus' usual seat. "How are things with the delectable Granger?"
Severus did not grin. He did not smirk. He did not look soppy. And yet some indefinable change in his face gave him away.
"Oho! So, that well!"
"I haven't asked you here to discuss my private life," Severus said.
"Oh, but you must, dear boy. It's the nearest that I get to any kind of romance these days."
Severus ignored him.
"Oh, very well, what favour do you want? You were very mysterious in your note."
"Hermione is studying the Animagus transformation, but she's blocked. I thought might be able to help," Severus said.
"Because I'm a powerful wizard?" Lucius asked.
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"It's the library. They always want to use the library." Lucius sighed. "All those books to run your fingers over, and none ever stray to my…."
"It's not the books. I think the problem is more fundamental than that."
Lucius flicked a glance at his friend, then recognising that he was serious, sat upright and painted an attentive look on his face. "How may I help?"
"I have her notes here." Severus pointed to a large folder on the table beside Lucius. There were coloured tabs of paper sticking out all over the place, a detailed charm indexing all the information, and a large section of Arithmantic equations that had been written in five dimensions.
"Ah," said Lucius. "They look detailed. And comprehensive. And long. Surely, you don't want me to read them all tonight."
Severus snorted. "Not hardly."
Lucius picked up the folder and flicked through it. A piece of paper tucked in at the back fluttered to the floor. Severus tutted and bent to pick it up. His eye caught by the heading, Severus unfolded it to read it more carefully.
"What is it then?" Lucius asked, holding his hand out to read the paper.
Severus said nothing, but handed over the paper, his face impassive.
"Ah, this shows a rather overwhelming interest in the size of your equipment." Lucius shrugged. "You can't blame the girl. After all, if you'd made the mistake with Weasley and found out too late that he had nothing more than an overgrown clitoris to play with, well, you'd want to be certain before you made your move."
"I don't think," Severus said, in his iciest tone, "that her interest was carnal."
Lucius turned the paper over and read the additional list, dealing with George Weasley. He sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Where is she?"
"At Weasley's," Severus snapped.
"Apparently agreeing to work for him for six months."
There was a moment of silence whilst two fine Slytherin minds processed all information and came up with an answer that made no sense.
"So, essentially, Hermione Granger seduced you to find out the size of your cock, so she could win a bet with George Weasley, and then agreed to work for him anyway?" Lucius said tentatively. "Is it just me, or is that not making any sense."
The silence grew longer and deeper, and then, eventually, Severus said, "No. It doesn't."
"I surmise that Hermione has decided that whatever passed between you is private," Lucius offered.
"I agree." Severus pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "It does not excuse her keeping secrets from me."
"Ah," Lucius said. He leaned forward in his chair. "Now, I want you to promise not to hex me."
Severus gave Lucius a long hard look before nodding his agreement.
"I know how you get with the slightest hint of criticism about Lily Evans," Lucius added, one eye on Severus' wand hand.
"Go on. You have my word. I will hear you out."
"That's all I ask."
No one commented on Lucius' wandless casting of Protego.
"You have set yourself the highest standards of personal honesty and probity, and this is…admirable, I suppose."
Severus narrowed his eyes but said nothing.
Lucius hurried on. "It's just not very accommodating or forgiving. People are not generally like that."
"So you're saying I should let this go," Severus said.
"I am saying that the girl did right by you in the end. You can't judge her for what she was doing or thinking before she got to know you better, but only by what she did afterwards."
"She should have said something."
"Merlin, she's still coming to know you as a person and not someone who can give her detention. Give the girl a chance. If you berate her about this now, the chances are that you'll throw away the best thing that's happened to you in a while. Don't do that, just because it's not perfect." Lucius folded his hands across his lap, finished with his peroration.
Severus picked up his glass, swirling the contents round and round, thinking long and hard about Lucius' comments. "Very well," he said. "We shall see what we shall see."
"Now, what is all this about the Animagus transformation you were so eager to tell me?" Lucius said.
Severus explained his theory, and Lucius tried to look intelligent and nodded in all the right places and very kindly didn't comment on how soppy he thought Severus was being.
"So, my part in this drama is to raise Hermione's aggravation to such levels that this triggers spontaneous magic, thus providing her with the necessary experience to know how to surrender to her magic, as long as neither her head nor mine explodes as a result."
Severus ignored the sarcasm, which was the only way to deal with Lucius, and focussed on the important issue. "Yes. Now, will you do it?"
"Oh, very well. It's not as if life has much excitement to offer these days," Lucius replied.
"I wouldn't say that," Severus replied. "Not in my case."
He had his silent Protego in place well before Lucius' hex hit.
Hermione was grumpy when she left George, and a sudden shower of rain that caught her by surprise on the way back to Hogwarts put the cap on her mood. It was hard to recapture the morning's optimism and happiness when you were wet for all the wrong reasons.
Her cup of joy entirely ran over when she bumped into Lucius Malfoy on his way from Severus' rooms.
"Miss Granger. A delight," he said, and almost sounded like he meant it.
Hermione bit back hard words, and managed a polite smile.
"Yes, I can see that hurt."
Hermione's smile turned a little warmer, despite herself, because it had.
"We shall have to achieve some sort of détente," he continued, "now that you are an item with Severus, and I assume that you are an item?"
Hermione nodded. She hoped they were an item.
"In which case, I shall be seeing you in the Room of Requirement later, as we have a theory test."
"Severus did say he thought you could help though he's being irritatingly silent about how. Other than by being annoying."
Lucius smirked at her. "Which I shall now demonstrate by being annoying, and not telling you what is going on."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.
"You don't like people keeping secrets, do you?" Lucius said.
"Why do I get the feeling that there's some message there?" Hermione asked.
Lucius nodded his head at her, and then walked past, headed in the direction of the Room of Requirement.
"Bugger," Hermione said softly. "I have a bad feeling about this."
The feeling that something was slightly off, and not just from having squelchy shoes, continued when she knocked on Severus' door to be greeted by a slightly distant lover who kissed her on the cheek and offered her a towel to dry her hair.
"I bumped into Lucius on the way here," she said, briskly rubbing the moisture out of her hair. "He said something about the Room of Requirement? He was being very cagey. And annoying, just as you said."
"We'd better join him then, if you're ready?" Severus said.
Hermione nodded. "Is everything all right?"
"I'm just thinking through a problem," he said.
It didn't take long to reach the Room of Requirement. It was strange to be here with permission, with a teacher, and with a Death Eater, bearing in mind all the Defence against the Dark Arts practising they had done there in their sixth year.
It all seemed so very long ago.
"So," she said. "What do you want me to do?"
"I don't want you to do anything," Lucius said. "I just want you to listen to me."
"Ok," Hermione said.
"Wand," Severus put in. "You'd better give me your wand."
Hermione was reluctant to part with her wand. It was like giving up her arm, it was such a part of her. But Severus thought this would help, so she would trust him. She gave him her wand, laying it butt first over her arm, in the approved manner.
"Now, Severus has this theory that we need to make you angry," Lucius said. "All that Muggle upbringing has blocked your access to wandless magic, and we need to break through that."
"I suppose that makes sense," she replied, feeling a flare of irritation at his wording. No doubt, deliberate.
"Mm," said Lucius. "Not enough of a reaction there. No doubt you're used to the insults to your lineage."
She flushed with aggravation, and he smiled at her again. A colder smile than the one in the corridor, a predator on the hunt for weaknesses.
"I'm surprised," he said, walking behind her as he spoke, "that Severus is happy to try this."
"Why?" she asked, keeping her voice even. "Aren't you to be trusted?"
"Oh, I am," he breathed, just behind her, his breath hot against her neck. "Unlike Severus here. He's very unreliable. He lets people down all the time."
"No, he doesn't," she said, knowing it was a trick to get under her skin, but unable to prevent the response.
"He's a bully," Lucius said.
"I don't know what you see in him."
"You wouldn't," she snapped.
"Ah, but I know him better than you," he said. "I know just what he's worth."
That mocking voice, and the things he was saying, and who he was saying them about, and Severus being there to hear his friend say those dreadful things, got all twisted up insider her and it felt like the top of her head was going to burst until this wave of fury and something else just burst out of her. She was vaguely aware of Lucius hitting the wall behind her with a loud bang and some muttered swear words before it all went dark.
The next thing she knew was the murmur of voices, and the scratchiness of wool against her cheek.
"She's coming round," Severus said, sounding relieved.
"I said she'd be fine," Lucius replied. "I, on the other hand, have a bruised…dignity."
"Is that what you call your arse these days?" Severus asked, and snorted.
"I wouldn't want to use indelicate language in front of your young lady, though I am foursquare behind the thought of using indelicate language about your young lady. That hurt."
"Uncontrolled bursts of magic frequently do. I expected you to shield yourself," Severus replied, his voice devoid of sympathy.
"Well, now," Severus said. "That is impressive."
"You sound like a teacher with a prize pupil," Lucius said dryly. "All fond indulgence."
"Ow," Hermione said.
"I rather think that's my line," Lucius said, but there was no heat in it.
"Did you hurt yourself?" she asked.
"No, you did," Lucius retorted. "And your concern would be so much more convincing if you weren't smirking as you asked."
"I could kill for some tea," Hermione said. "And a biscuit or two."
The house elves were only too pleased to bring tea and biscuits to Severus' sitting room. They fussed round him with tea, plates and doilies, which he bore with remarkable patience.
"They still think of him as Headmaster," Lucius murmured. "They place a high value on loyalty. As does Severus, of course."
Hermione had the feeling that he was trying to tell her something, and when his glance lingered on her notes, she had a sinking feeling that she knew what it was.
"I think that went rather well," Lucius observed, having had his tea poured for him, and his three chocolate biscuits arranged on a plate set by his side. "Insulting Miss Granger's background wasn't enough as a trigger, but when I started insulting you…." He shrugged. "Well, that's Gryffindors for you."
"Are we trying again?" Hermione asked brightly.
Lucius grinned, and raised his tea cup at her in salute. "I think once is enough for today."
Severus summoned her notes wandlessly, dropping them on the large coffee table between the seats. "I think if we look here, that gives us something to work on."
"Mm," Hermione said. She flipped over the pages to find the spot where her To Do list should have been. "I see you found my other notes then."
Severus went still.
"I've been to see George, and conceded the bet," she continued. "I'll be working for him for six months without pay. I had hoped the bugger would let me off, but he's adamant."
"Is it the first time he has asked you to work with him?" Lucius asked.
Hermione shook her head. "But I never thought he was that serious. It was just a bit of harmless banter between friends."
"It sounds as if he's a little more serious than you supposed." Lucius finished the last of his tea, and snaffled a biscuit. "And on that, I shall leave you to discuss things further. I have a headache that needs a cool, dark room and the soothing hand of a pretty maiden. And if I sought that here, Severus would hex my dignity off."
Hermione's lips twitched at the thought.
"I shall leave you to discuss whatever it is you need to discuss."
Lucius was barely out of the door before Hermione said, "I knew I should have told you, but the time didn't seem right, and it was stupid and childish but…."
"But," said Severus. "Very much but."
"Do you forgive me then?" she asked.
And Severus was surprised to find that he was saying yes, and that it really was that easy.
George had never heard of hubris, which was a shame because it was precisely the word he needed to describe what was about to happen to him. As it was, he had to call it Severus.
Snape had visited him before, to complain about Weasley's Wheezes product range, threatening bans and visits from Aurors. It happened every term, and was ignored every term. George had even wondered if he could get away with putting Snape's face on the side of the Wheezes, stating that Old Snapey disapproved of them.
"Mr Weasley," Snape said.
"I just wanted to congratulate you."
"I think recruiting Hermione Granger was inspired," Snape said, poking a Wheeze with a long finger to see what it did.
"Yeah," George replied. "I think she'll be really good at coming up with new ideas. It's going to be great."
"You know your business best, of course." The Wheeze, defeated by the disapproval of Snape, curled up into a ball and died.
"What do you mean?"
"Miss Granger, as I recall, was one for organisation."
"Yeah, the place could do with some of that," George said, eying the over spilling display cabinets.
"And such a stickler for rules."
"More like breaking them." George snorted. "Don't let that prissy exterior fool you."
"And don't let Hermione's actions in the service of the greater good fool you into thinking that she's not going to be over every single rule and regulation the Ministry has ever passed. Every potion will have to be tested, and tested properly, with Ministry approved paperwork. And fees." Snape smirked.
"Ah," said George. "She was very judgemental about Skiving Snackboxes, as I recall."
Snape's smile widened. "She always valued her education, yes."
"Mm." George's left eye twitched. "Do you think she has her heart set on working here?"
"You can't disappoint the woman. She'll be heartbroken at missing the chance to get you organised properly," Snape replied.
"Well, she'll just have to get used to the disappointment. I don't want her here, and you can tell her that. I release her from her promise." A small shower of sparks sputtered out of George's wand and then died.
"Thank you, Mr Weasley. I knew you would see sense eventually."
George gave Snape a long look, taking in the slightly loosened cravat and the undone top button. "She hasn't," he said, in tones of awe. "Merlin."
"I am looking forward to working with Hermione very closely," Snape said with a smirk. "And just in case you were wondering…."
George looked at Snape with wide eyes as he came closer, lips against his ear.