"More boomslang?" she asked, holding up the vial to the light. The potion simmered in the cauldron, gurgling on low heat; it was much too early to add it in.
Snape shook his head. "Not yet, Miss Granger," he told her, looking up from his Arithmacy problems to calculate the hours it would have to be left to sit in his cellar to watch her.
He'd helped her, reluctantly albeit, braid her hair down her back and used a super-strength leather band to keep it in place; getting one's overgrown hair in a potion, especially experimental ones, was never a good idea. In jeans and an old t-shirt, she hardly looked a day over seventeen but he'd suggested they were casual clothing; he was very lax about the dress code in his apothecary. All his employees wore jeans and t-shirts they didn't care about getting dirty under their thick, dragon skin aprons.
"It'll have to sit for seventy-two hours, Severus," she told him, balanced atop her stool. Despite wearing such casual clothing, she looked very professional, if not approachable as a woman. Her face was warm and kind but her eyes were hard, like she'd been hurt too many times to let him in.
"After this," Snape said slowly, turning his attention back to the book as his scalp prickled with fear and apprehension, "would you like to have lunch with me? I know a very nice eatery with lovely club sandwiches." The only sounds for the longest time were his breathing, the scratching of his pen, and the bubbling of the potion. Damn, he thought as he controlled his breathing and squashed down the horrible feeling of rejection.
His hands were shaking slightly as he finished the equation (it was seventy-two hours, as Hermione had told him. Leave it to a know it all to calculate every damn thing in her head.) and slowly, carefully, closed the notebook. His cheeks were burning as he chanced a glance up. She'd gone still, a flickering of emotions fluttering across her eyes.
"Go," he said softly, "You don't have to have lunch with me. I've got to restock anyway." It was a bullshitted lie; he'd just had an order come in and was well stocked but she didn't need to know that. Right now, he just needed to be alone and contemplate Hermione's closed-off attitude.
He knew it had hurt her when she found out about him being a dog but he would never in a million years intentionally hurt her like that, invade her privacy and gain her trust and than shatter it.
She shifted in her seat, looking down at her hands. "Lunch sounds lovely. You're paying though." He set aside his notebook and nodded as she extinguished the flames and he took the cauldron down to the cellar for a few days' worth of settling and cooling.
Sliding on his jacket, he flipped up the collar. "Don't you have a jacket?" he asked.
She shook her head. "I forgot to bring one," she mumbled as he helped her off the stool. Where had all the self-preservation gone? Shrugging off his jacket, he placed it over her shoulders and ignored her protests.
"I don't get sick," he told her with a tiny smile.
"Don't get sick my ass," she grunted under her breath and walked ahead of him, slamming open the door to the upstairs shop.
A very pregnant Ginny Weasley nearly knocked over a display case when Hermione slammed open the door and walked out calmly, like she hadn't nearly given the pregnant woman a heart attack. Snape scowled at her curly-haired head. "Hello, Ginny. Ah, pregnant again, I see?" He flashed a wolfish grin.
"Twins," she said quietly, rubbing her belly gently.
"Hopefully they aren't as troublesome as their father," he taunted lightly. She giggled. "How are the others?" he asked.
She shrugged. "We had to cut Lily's hair the other day because Sirius thought it would be funny to stick gum in her hair," Ginny explained with a twisted look on her face.
Snape chuckled. "I get it he takes after his uncles Fred and George?"
She shrugged. "Lily was crying so much. We'd just gotten her hair long, like she wanted," the redhead murmured absently, tapping her lips.
They turned to Hermione, who stood there calmly. "What?" Snape asked and her eyes narrowed at him.
"Peanut butter gets rid of gum in the hair. My mum used it on me when I slept with gum in my mouth," she explained. "Of course, I doubt you know that. It's a Muggle thing." It's a Muggle thing.
She probably didn't realize he wasn't fully wizard; his father had been Muggle after all. "I know," he said brusquely, patting Ginny's arm. "It's a shame. Lily has such lovely hair." He paused, noticing Hermione glowering at him out of the corner of his eye, and decided it was time to leave.
"Tell the boys to be good or I'll slip Veritaserum in their drinks." He tossed the pregnant woman a smile.
"We'll find out who set off those dragon firecrackers last week," she laughed after them.
Hermione slammed the door behind her. Is she…jealous? Of Ginny? He glanced back at the woman, who was looking at baby-safe ingredients, and shook his head. Most men thought women in general were confusing; they'd never met Hermione Granger.
"Hi, Seamus," Hermione gushed to the sandy-haired cook, looking excited and happy and carefree. Snape settled down onto the seat and watched them interact out of the corner of his eye. Seamus was all smiles and laughter; Hermione flicked her hair back again and again, smiling.
"What can I get for you, Severus?"
He saw Hermione turn her head towards the other girl, a dark-skinned beauty with half a head of ink-black hair and thick, dark eyebrows. "The usual, Rachel," he told her with a smile. The waitress shook her head mockingly, her hair flying.
"How's the apothecary? Coffee?" she said.
"Yes. Black with—" he began but she interrupted him.
"Two lumps of sugar." She flashed him a crooked grin as she poured the cup. "I know," she explained, setting down the cup.
"The usual?" asked Seamus, leaning out the order window. "Yeah."
"How's your grandmother?"
"Same old, same old. Thinks you need to get a lady friend. To be honest, if she weren't with you, I'd snatch her up myself." The buxom girl grinned wolfishly at his companion. "Love girls who know how to eat," she laughed and Hermione's face went red.
She never looked so enticing.