Hannah Abbot was drunk off her ass, obviously. He watched as Hermione dropped the bottle, staring at her classmate in both horror and shock.
I don't date, he said loudly to Hermione and watched her jump, brown eyes widening before shifting towards him. As though she'd forgotten him. His resolve hardened. I do not date, he repeated in a hard voice, watching as Hannah stared at the dog curiously. Her bleary blue-grey eyes managed to focus for a moment. Recognition dawned across her freckled face.
"This dog is soooo cute!" she cried and crouched down, only to end up on her butt. Snorting with laughter, she held out a limp hand and he stepped closer, ignoring her hand (which smelled horrible, like compost).
I'm not cute, he thought darkly and Hermione snickered as Hannah buried her face in his shoulder.
"Hannah, Severus and I aren't together," the curly-haired witch said firmly.
"But the Daily Prophet—" Hannah's lazy, unfocused eyes stared in her direction.
"What? The Daily Prophet?" The frown on Hermione's mouth was growing bigger and bigger.
Snape disentangled himself from the drunken girl and trotted to the other side of the room, sitting beside Crookshanks.
The cat looked smug.
"It seems the Daily Prophet, along with Rita Skeeter, are convinced that you two are dating," the cat mused, looking humored but his tone was dull.
"What? How? Why?" Snape hissed, fur bristling. "That night at the club and, later, the café," Hannah murmured.
"Oh Merlin," Hermione groaned, pressing her hands against her eyes. "Damn Rita Skeeter and that stupid pen!" She flopped down onto the floor next to Hannah and patted her awake.
Once the other girl was up, she sent her on her way. "Well, here's to our fake and non existent relationship, Severus," Hermione muttered, mockingly lifting a shard of glass to the light.
Snape didn't say anything else, just eyeballed her with this cool stare.
"Oh," said Harry, his green eyes wide as he looked up from the newspaper at Hermione. "You and Snape?" he whispered. "Not that I've got anything against you or Snape, but I just—it's hard to wrap my head around it. He hasn't been in—"
"You idiot! It isn't true!" she snapped, her face glowing like embers as she scowled down at her coffee. They were sitting in a little coffee shop near Muggle London, after Hermione had called the Auror up to help her get rid of the accusations of her and Snape being together.
Snape stared up at them, listening to the conversation ping-pong back and forth but hardly paying attention. To be honest, he didn't mind people thinking they were in a relationship. It wasn't that he dated; he just hadn't had that many women in his life. Who would want an old, grouchy Death Eater as a boyfriend, as a romantic interest, regardless of his acts during the war, regardless of his sacrifices?
"I want this gone," Hermione hissed, drawing Snape from his internal monologue.
"I'm sorry, Hermione, I really am. I'll see what I can do," Harry said, placing a hand over hers. Snape pretended that it didn't bother him and curled up in a patch of sunlight under Hermione's chair.
"Can you believe this…this…hogwash?" Hermione sputtered as she glared down at the newspaper, crumpled from her tight grip.
Not really, Snape stated calmly, glancing up from his spot beside the fireplace as he regarded the flattering picture moving across the front page. The grainy image was dark but you could clearly see Hermione, her red halter top and gold skirt sticking out against the green background of the counter and the creamy brown of the table, and Snape, wearing all black as usual. They were talking, Snape explaining something and then Hermione smiling slowly.
The Bat of the Dungeons and the Gryffindor Princess: A secret love!
"It's complete and utter rubbish," Hermione hissed, her cheeks colored with red.
When I'm fully healed, I won't bother you with my advances, he said to her.
Her cinnamon eyes squinted at him. "You don't have—I mean—I'd like to, but I'd rather not have the whole world knowing, and especially from the mouth of that dirty, little sneak. She probably has the world convinced the worst."
Still. He tried to keep himself detached and cold. Would you wish to…He found he couldn't bring the words out and felt himself flush, like he was a schoolboy all over again, trying to speak to a crush.
"Date? I thought you didn't date?" Hermione's voice sounded a bit pitchy.
I don't…but for you, I'd make an exception. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm exhausted from this nonsense of drunken girls and fake couples, he said matter of fact as he adjusted his position, lay back down and closed his eyes.
She chuckled and quietly left but he lay awake for a great deal of time, listening to the sound of the fireplace while his brain processed the Daily Prophet's accusation.
"I managed to squeeze an apology out of the little bugger," Harry stated as he stepped out of the Floo, wiping the ash from his cheeks and shaking his head like a dog, clouds of soot rolling off him. He readjusted his coke bottle glasses and smiled.
"It's not that I…I don't want to be in a relationship, Harry," Hermione stammered, twisting a strand around her finger so tightly, Snape was surprised that it didn't cut off her circulation. "It's that I want…I want to do it of my own accord and announce when I'm ready, you know? L-Like you and Draco," she continued.
"Yeah, I guess," Harry said slowly. "Dean was surprisingly calm about finding out. You'd think he'd have exploded."
Hermione nodded. "It's been rather calm," she said, "no mail, no threats, no real looks."
Harry's brows furrowed. "It won't be long before you do, Hermione. How about Ron and I set up some precautions?" he suggested, chewing his thumbnail.
Snape watched the banter unfold, knowing Hermione was completely at ease with her old friend as he with her, and tried to piece together why she treated him differently. Was it because of before, nearly a year ago? He knew she harbored some degree of feelings for him but he wondered if it were the same as his. Don't think that way until you can turn back, he scolded himself, snorting slightly as he scowled inwardly.
"You alright?" Harry squinted down at him. Tell him I'm not used to seeing him without my grandson glued to his face, Snape said, referring to the club night so many months ago, recalling Harry and Draco making out rather provocatively. Hermione snickered and repeated what Snape had told her. Much to both of their amusements, Harry turned beet red and sputtered.
"I've gotta go," he muttered, "I'll be back in a few days." As he threw a fistful of Floo powder and shouted his destination, Hermione pouted her lips and made kissing sounds between her peals of laughter.
The last thing Snape saw was Harry's middle finger disappearing into the green flames.