Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the Harry Potter characters, I’m just borrowing them.
A/N: Yes, I know I should be working on the next chapter of ‘A Choice of Roads’ but this one-shot plot bunny refused to go away. Yes, I know it’s a bit late for Christmas-themed stories but hey, what the heck. Brownie points if you can guess the inspiration too...
It was the Christmas season.
Snow was a soft white blanket over roads and buildings, while in stores there were hordes of people on the hunt for the ‘perfect’ presents. Though there were signs of stress on many faces, the overall mood was of anticipation and cheerfulness.
For Professor Severus Snape, Head of Slytherin and known terror of first-year students, being surrounded in an upmarket Muggle department store by what seemed to be hundreds of Muggles in a state of such good cheer was enough to make him grit his teeth. However, he was determined not to shirk his duty…though really when it came down to it, he had endured worse.
When it was necessary to venture into the Muggle world as he was doing now, he reluctantly found it necessary to wear a different mode of dress. At this time of year a long black winter coat over a dark turtleneck jumper and trousers was adequate enough not to cause comment.
Though he did not overtly stand out, people nevertheless found themselves feeling it would be wise to keep their distance from the thin, black-haired man with sharp dark eyes.
This Christmas Severus had well, felt compelled to purchase a special present for his wife Hermione. In the years they had so far been together he had given her Christmas presents that would appeal to her scholarly mind, gifts such as rare spell books. He had an automatic distrust of giving overly sentimental gifts and it had never occurred to him to give jewellery, or indeed, notice until recently how much jewellery his wife wore. Or didn’t.
She had sold what jewellery she had to pay towards her education, Hermione had said with a pragmatic shrug when he had inquired in a carefully offhanded way one night. When the war had been at its height, thinking of such things as wearing jewellery had seemed the height of vanity she had explained...and the money she had obtained had gone towards valuable spell books she would not have been able to afford otherwise. After the war…Hermione had shrugged again with old shadows reappearing in her eyes. It had seemed there was no point in wearing jewellery any more and besides, these days there were other things to spend money on.
Severus had noticed though a faint wistfulness in her voice when she had said that.
He had not seen anything in Hogsmeade or other wizard shops though that he thought would be suitable for her. Despite feeling loath to ask for advice, he had approached Albus and had stiffly outlined his problem.
The eyes of the older wizard had twinkled at him and then Albus had murmured of a certain department store in a nearby Muggle city he occasionally frequented. No doubt the perfect present could be found there…certainly their sweet department provided an excellent supply of lemon drops, Albus had added.
Feeling slightly sour of the thought of having to be amongst crowds of Muggles, especially at this time of year, Severus had nevertheless conceded it would be worth a try. He had travelled by floo to a discreet wizard shop in that city, having already converted a number of galleons to the corresponding Muggle paper money at Gringotts. As far as the goblins were concerned, money had value no matter which world it came from.
Now, not for the first time he wondered how Muggles could bear the lighting in these stores which, after the brightness of candle, lamp and fire seemed unnaturally harsh to his eyes. As for the warbling of Christmas carols emanating from the ‘storeo’ he was sure Potter and Weasley could have sung better tunes.
By favourable chance he saw a map of the store displayed upon a wall, and then having worked out the sector he wanted, Severus marked its location in his mind and swept away.
Severus had decided he wished to purchase a necklace for Hermione, however, when he arrived at the jewellery section there was a near-overwhelming display to choose from. There were gold necklaces, silver ones, fine chains with bejewelled pendants hanging from them and countless more.
Necklaces made from chunky metal links – no, they would not do.
Necklaces made from the finest and most delicate of links – no, and many of them looked insipid in their fineness.
His attention was suddenly caught by a display of jewellery that was obviously modern, but crafted in the manner of a bygone era. He walked swiftly towards it, peering down through the flawless glass that barred the jewellery from casual touch or swift theft. A necklace in particular caught his eye – it was crafted from delicate yet robust looking copper links that were woven together, the gleam of garnets set amongst the shine of copper as well.
It was perfect.
A brisk cough.
“May I be of service, sir?” inquired an assistant who had appeared from behind the jewellery counter, a slightly swarthy looking man in a tidy black suit with brown hair slicked back.
Severus stood and stared with narrowed eyes down at the Muggle.
“Yes, I wish to buy this necklace,” he said curtly, indicating his choice.
The assistant (Robert appeared to be his name judging by the discreet brass name badge pinned to his suit) smiled widely.
“An excellent choice sir,” Robert said as he brought out a small cluster of silver keys upon a chain that jangled as he fitted a key to the lock of the display case. Once a section of the glass panel was moved aside, the necklace was carefully lifted out in the velvet-lined case it was lying in and placed upon the counter.
“Is this for a sweetheart perhaps? A wife?” Robert said in interest, looking at Severus attentively.
Severus flared his nostrils slightly at what he felt was impertinence.
No Crucio at Christmas, he told himself.
“It is for my wife,” he said shortly.
He was awarded – if one could apply that word here – with another wide smile.
“Your wife? But of course. Madame will be pleased with your taste,” Robert said before turning to a nearby cupboard and bringing out a flat black box. Placing it upon the counter he opened it and deftly placed the case containing the necklace inside, then shut it. Then he brought from behind the counter a small but expensive looking clear bag that Severus knew to be made of the substance called plastic, placed it upon the counter and put the box inside.
It still felt peculiar in some ways for Severus to say the words ‘my wife’ and that said wife meant Hermione Granger.
It had been easy to regard the plain, bushy-haired girl as nothing but a Know-It-All that would nevertheless be a useful tool in the war against Voldemort. Certainly all his attention and resources had been grimly devoted towards the war, his occasional need for female companionship (he was only human, after all) successfully ignored.
In the aftermath of war she had left Hogwarts for university, but when she returned years later as the new Arithmancy teacher, she had somehow lodged herself in his mind in a way that had been hard to shake. Though she appeared to have somehow tamed her hair she was still plain (though he was nothing to look at either) but she had a determined energy about her that lent her its own beauty.
She dared to make conversation with him, undeterred by his tart rejoinders and sneers. He found himself grudgingly admitting to himself that she knew how to impart knowledge to the students. Their frequent verbal sparring gave a certain…spice to his days that had long since become a dreary sameness from one week to the next.
Somehow he had found he could talk to her as an equal as well.
However, when he had found her in the grounds of Hogwarts standing by the monument to her fellow students (who had fallen in what the Ministry had trumpeted as the ‘Victorious War’), silent and with shoulders bowed, he had realised that she had the same niggling guilt he carried, that she had somehow survived when others more deserving of life had died.
She had responded to his gruff yet sincere words of sympathy (such as he had to offer) by turning and weeping silently against his chest. It had seemed quite natural, logical and right then to offer her the comfort of his arms around her.
Later on, when he had stiffly, tentatively admitted to his growing feelings for her and she had replied steadfastly (and with unexpectedly pink cheeks) that he already had her heart, well, from that point on his world had been wonderfully overturned. In turn marriage had followed, and if they had been initially awkward in their first intimacies with each other, then the depth of passion they had awoken in the other had more than made up for it.
His attention was pulled back to the present by the fact that the attendant had poured what appeared to be a gardens worth of dried pink rose petals into the plastic bag.
“Surely it is not necessary to go to all this trouble!” Severus snapped, his exasperation getting the better of him.
The assistant reacted as if Severus had just insulted his ancestors back to Adam.
“Sir,” he said stiffly, “my failure to gift wrap this present in such a way as it deserves would be unforgivable, most unforgivable.”
For once Severus could not come up with the rights words that would put this Muggle in his place.
“Well, surely you must be finished soon,” he said, his tone just short of huffiness.
The wide smile came back to Robert’s face. “Only the slightest of additions and then it is yours.”
However, Severus could only stare in mute disbelief as the assistant added to the already full plastic bag the following items:
- Sprigs of lavender (picked at dawn, of course)
- A handful of confetti
- A cinnamon stick
- A sprinkle of gold dust
Plus the “final touch” – a big pink bow that was tied around the bag.
Severus had never felt so mortified in his life, and the bag was now so damn bulky that there was no way he could hide it under his coat without looking like a shoplifter.
A couple of old ladies with blue-rinse hair that smiled fondly at him and his present as he strode past them was very nearly the last straw.
Thank the gods Christmas only came once a year.
* * * * * *
“It’s beautiful, but you shouldn’t have spoiled me like this,” Hermione protested on Christmas Day, but there was a smile on her face as she lifted her hair so that the deft, warm fingers of her husband could fasten the necklace around her neck.
Standing in front of the mirror in their bedroom she had to admit the necklace looked lovely upon her. The tall, black-clad form of Severus stood behind her and in his reflection in the mirror it was clear from the look in his black eyes that he thought so as well.
“I will do what I please,” Severus said smoothly, secretly pleased at her pleasure and her earlier kiss of thanks she had given him.
“You must have gone to a lot of trouble, though. Thank you,” Hermione said softly. Just when she thought she knew all of the ways her intelligent, sardonic husband thought and acted, he had surprised her by giving her this beautiful (but impractical by his usual standards) gift.
“You have no idea,” she thought she heard him mumble under his breath.
Bending his head Severus then said in a silky murmur near her ear, “There is though one more present for you to unwrap, my wife...”
“And just what would that be?” Hermione inquired, her breathing unsteady though as she felt as well as saw in the mirror his hands caress her sensuously and lovingly.