Author's Notes: I wrote this quick story last year as my little way of celebrating the illustrious professor's birthday. This year, I thought I'd polish it up a bit and publish it so that you can all celebrate with me.
As is evident by the context, books six and seven have no bearing on this story. And as always, I retain no rights to any of Ms. Rowling's genius.
A special thanks to my awesome beta, SometimesSelkie. You rock, chick!
The Potions master awoke in the familiar darkness of his dungeon home. To him, this was one of the primary benefits of living in the bowels of an ancient castle. There was no pesky sunlight streaming through the windows, hell-bent on waking the inhabitants, here. No, it was dark and quiet, cold at times and potentially dreary, and that was just how the chief resident liked it. He was well aware that this preference for the shadows had played a large part in earning him the title of “Vampire” or “Bat of the Dungeons”, but those rumors had never bothered him, per se – that type of intimidation worked in his favor, after all. In reality, he just despised being startled from his dreams by the rays of heat and blinding light that seemed to penetrate every crack and crevice in the stone walls on the floors above him. He had grown accustomed to the muted light of the dungeons during his seven years of residing in the Slytherin dormitories, and when he returned as a teacher, there was nowhere else within the castle he could imagine feeling comfortable in.
Of course, being an authority figure in an institution chockablock full of hormonal adolescents didn't allow for many opportunities to enjoy the unnatural lack of light. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he had been able to nap during the day or sleep past breakfast while school was in session, even though he could hardly be considered a morning person.
But this day, this day of all days, the fear-inspiring professor had every intention of staying in bed until physical necessity forced him out. The whole blasted school could go down in flames for all he cared. With any luck, he'd be able to sleep until class on Monday morning and ignore the calendar entirely. Yes, that sounded like a glorious plan.
Unfortunately, Snape had never been very lucky, though he doubted that even a dose of Felix Felicis would've provided enough assistance to recapture the sleep that seemed to elude him, no matter how much he willed his mind to relax.
Letting out a growl of frustration, he sat up and rubbed his eyes before pulling his wand from under his pillow. With a wordless flick, fiery numerals sprang into being on the far wall, announcing the time as 8:07 A.M.
“Great,” he spat, releasing the charm and casting the room into darkness once more. “I didn't even manage to sleep through the morning.”
Before he was able to summon enough willpower to push himself out of bed and begin his morning routine, or at the very least, retrieve a Sleeping Draught from his stores, the warning bell on his wards echoed through the dank chamber, alerting him to someone's lingering presence outside his office door.
“Who would disturb me this bloody early on a Saturday?” he muttered as he disentangled himself from the bed sheets. Especially this Saturday.
Grimacing as his bare feet came in contact with the cold stone floor, he wrapped his black linen robe around his bare torso and tucked his wand into the belt, before stalking off towards his office.
After unwarding the door, he wrenched it open with a nasty sneer aimed at whoever dared to be on the other side, and was therefore caught slightly off guard when he found himself staring into the familiar chocolate eyes of his recently appointed apprentice, Hermione Granger. Out of all the numerous, meddlesome visitors he could expect to see at this absurd hour on a weekend, she was not one of them. This was the one student that knew better than any not to disturb him, save for her allotted tutorial hours. He couldn't tolerate the girl's endless chatter any more than was strictly necessary, and had established that rule early on, after agreeing to mentor her. Mercifully, she had never dared to push that particular boundary, before now, at least.
“Granger, what are you doing down here on a Saturday?” he snapped, already feeling the precursors of a headache starting to build between his temples. “Have you taken complete leave of your senses, girl?”
Her bright smile faltered only for a second. “I wanted to wish you a happy birthday, Professor Snape, and to give you your gift.” She held out a rectangular box, neatly wrapped in dark green paper and adorned with a delicate silver ribbon.
As his mouth fell open ever so slightly, his eyes darted from her smiling face to the package she was holding, and then back again. Scowling as if the mere suggestion of accepting graciously would bring him immediate death, he asked, “Is this some sort of joke? Is it going to blow up in my face or something equally insulting?”
“Of course not, sir,” she answered softly, her smile wavering again. “It's just a birthday present...nothing special. I made it myself,” she added, casting her eyes to the ground as her cheeks turned noticeably pinker.
He stared down at the top of her chestnut-colored head. “Miss Granger,” he began, his tone a bit less cold than before. “Why on earth would you give me a present? How did you even know it was my birthday?”
He hadn't received a gift or acknowledgement of his birthday in years – mainly due to the fact that he had threatened all of his colleagues against ever mentioning it in his presence – and he himself had been trying to forget its existence just moments ago. If this were a lesser student, he'd think she was trying to bribe him for better grades or preferential treatment, but she already held an O in his class and had been granted an apprenticeship – a feat which had required intense, relentless persuasion on Minerva McGonagall's part to obtain. What more could she possibly want from him?
Hermione looked up and met his questioning eyes. “It's just a token of my gratitude, sir. A rather meager means of thanking you for all that you've taught me over the years and for the time you've given up this term because of me. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate all of your effort and sacrifice.” She took a deep breath and smiled brightly again before adding, “Besides, everyone should celebrate their birthday,” as she gently laid the box in his hands.
Severus Snape didn't often find himself at a loss for words – words had been his weapons, both offensive and defensive, since he was younger than the girl standing before him – but at that moment, he couldn't muster a single syllable.
“I hope you have a good day, Professor,” she chirped as she turned and strode back out of the dungeons, leaving the still-speechless wizard frozen in the doorway.
The Potions master watched the witch's glossy curls bounce with every retreating step, until they were completely out of sight. He looked down at the package in his pale hands, and the corners of his mouth twitched upward into a vague smile, but only for a moment, before he replaced his trademark tight-lipped scowl and shut the door.
Later that afternoon, the forbidding professor could be seen trudging through the snow towards the Quidditch pitch for the day's match, sporting a brand new, hand-knitted silver and green scarf and a slightly less vicious sneer. Perhaps there was something to be said for birthdays after all.
I'd like to hope that this has inspired you all to raise your glasses on January ninth and send up a toast to one of the bravest men we've ever known. Oh yeah, and also to review!