The morning after their IHOP date, Hermione decided to get to know Severus. Each morning after that, while they opened up shop, she fired questions at him and he answered. Knowing his past with Lily Evans, she avoided speaking of the redhead and the Marauders; instead, she asked him about teachers and subjects and how he discovered the better techniques for his Potions class.
“Hermione,” he said exasperatedly, setting down a huge barrel of slugs down with a flick of his wand, “while I don’t mind the questions, I’d like to reciprocate.”
She flushed delicately around the ears as she flipped the “CLOSED” sign to “OPEN” before facing him again. “Sorry,” she muttered, tugging on a curl as she crossed the room and turned down one of the aisles. From there, she began to tidy up the ingredients by hand.
“You do know you are a witch, don’t you?” he drawled teasingly, keeping his tone light.
His joke didn’t deserve the short little glare she gave him.
“Yes, in fact, I do, but I like doing things the Muggle way. Speaking of which—” She stopped mid-sentence and looked away quickly, pressing the palm of her hand against the surface of several jars of preserved unicorn hair and grindylow scales.
“Speak of what? Muggles?” Severus stepped closer and adjusted a jar that was precariously hanging closer to the edge than he’d have liked. “You do know I am part Muggle, don't you?” he sneered suddenly, changing the subject in the drop of a hat.
Hermione blinked. “No,” she admitted, adjusting a sign that said the price of pickled bat wings. “You never pegged me as a Half Blood, and you don't exactly scream ' hey, I'm a Half Blood!'.” She shrugged absently as they headed back up the aisle to greet the first customer of the day.
Ginny stood between the baby-safe aisle and the Dark ingredients one, holding Albus on her hip and trying to keep Sirius from running off with one hand on his arm. “Hello,” she said breathlessly as she blew a wayward curl out of her red face. “I was wondering if you have any willow bark? Albus has a fever, and—” She whipped around as Sirius wiggled out of her grasp and ran toward the opposite section. “Sirius! Get back here!”
“Sirius James Potter,” Severus growled in his Teaching voice that used to stop misbehavior in its tracks, “you’d be doing yourself a favor by obeying your mother.” As he spoke, he drew himself up to his intimidating height.
A shiver branched down Hermione’s spine as she stared at her ex-professor, his square shoulders and rigid posture. It was so easy to forget who he was—her former professor. He’d seen her grow from a gangly little eleven-year-old who knew too much to a seasoned war veteran living with ghosts in her eyes and shadows of monsters across her skin. Unease filled her throat, her stomach.
“Thank you,” Ginny sighed to him, relief shining clear in her eyes.
Hermione turned away, grinding her teeth against the sudden wave of jealousy.
“No problem,” Severus said, patting down his robes. “Now, if you’ll follow me, we have some willow bark, both crushed and dried, down this aisle.” He led her down the herbology section, with lilies and gillyweed and everything in between.
Once the ends of his robes disappeared down the hall, Ginny’s voice floating into her ears, Hermione turned and stalked to the next costumer, a tiny wizard with a bushy mustache.
The day wore on, with witches and wizards coming in and out at all hours. By the time business crawled to a slow, despite the bright sunshine, the temperature had dropped into the low thirties.
Hermione scowled out the window as she swept the floor carefully, doing things the Muggle way to keep her mind occupied. Off of him. Off the way Sirius had frozen under his stare and how Ginny had beamed at him, her once sallow face turning a bit pink with relief.
Stop it, Hermione hissed to herself, you’re acting like a petty schoolgirl. Honestly, it’s like Ronald all over again. Getting jealous over another girl smiling at him? What are you, one of those overly-jealous witches who keep their men on a tight leash? And that brought the image of Severus on a leash, wearing a leather collar. She didn’t know whether to laugh or not, but she felt blood flood her cheeks, and she knew without a doubt that she was bright red.
Shaking her head fiercely at her inappropriate train of thought, she pushed the image away and instead mused about her friends. Slytherins and a Gryffindor friends? What fresh hell is this? Resting her cheek against her hands, both folded over the tip of her broom, she closed her eyes and remembered how things had come to be.
Two months after graduation, which had been postponed for two years due to the damage from the War, exactly three days before she broke it off with Ronald, Harry called Hermione up, sounding nervous and painfully panicked. Without a minute to spare, she’d rushed over his flat and found him with red-rimmed eyes and a quivering expression that threatened to crumble. As soon as she’d stepped in, she sucked in a short breath at the sight of Draco bloody Malfoy sitting on the foot stool, playing with a silver ring.
“Hermione,” Harry had choked out, his voice low and pitchy, husky. He sounded terrified. “I wanted to tell you, you know, before Ron—” He stopped mid-sentence and rubbed his sides, clutching them. “I’mgayohmygodpleasedon’tkillDraco,” he’d blurted, near hysterics.
“And you’re dating Malfoy?” Hermione had pressed gently, reaching forward to envelop the Boy-Who-Lived-Twice in a gentle, soothing hug.
He collapsed in her arms, his entire frame quivering frantically.
“How long?” she had asked Draco, running her hand up and down Harry’s back.
“Two years, since the War ended. It just sort of happened.” Draco’s gray eyes, the color of steel, met hers somberly as he spoke. He’d unfolded himself from his seat and strode over, graceful despite the tight crease between his brows, the slight quiver in his jaw.
“He told Ron, who blew up at him and insulted him.” He flexed his hand, and it was then she noticed the red on his knuckles, as though he’d punched someone.
“I take it he tried to throw a few punches?” she’d mused, wrapping her arms underneath Harry’s armpits to lug him to the couch. Draco intercepted and swung his apparent significant other into his arms.
“As much as I dislike you, Malfoy, I trust Harry’s judgement. The war changed all of us, whether it be for the better or worst. Harry’s no longer the little boy with big shoes to fill; he’s a man with a good head on his shoulders. If he’s gay, good for him. Just because he’s dating you, despite how much of a prick you were in school, doesn’t mean I’ll drop him like hippogriff dung. I’m glad though,” she continued, pressing a hand to Draco’s arm, “that you’re treating him right. I’ve never really said anything, but since you two started dating, I’ve never seen him happier. Not even with Ginny.”
“I still can’t believe she’s going to name the kids after Harry’s family members,” Draco had moaned, shaking his head.
“I know.” Hermione headed for the kitchen to make some tea; Harry would want some once he calmed down.
“I’m glad you took it better than Weasley.” Draco had looked up, his expression one of utter calm, pausing in smoothing back Harry’s messy hair.
“I’m just glad he didn’t tell me something actually horrible, like he was dating Umbridge.” She’d turned and rummaged through a cabinet, looking for tea.
“That would be a nightmare!” Harry had laughed between sobs.
After Harry calmed down, Draco answered the door around six, and a familiar, spiky-haired girl paraded in.
“Where is that git? I’ll hex him so hard that he loses every one of his freckles!” Pansy Parkinson bellowed, stomping a heavy boot down. Her nostrils flared, she twisted her face towards the fireplace, which happened to be in the same room Hermione and Harry were sitting in, and her lip curled up higher.
“Oh, the know-it-all is here! Great! I’ll—” Pansy had started for them, reaching for her wand, but Draco quickly slid between them and nudged her onto the couch.
“She took it very well, Pansy. Didn’t so much as bat an eyelash when I said I was gay, or for Draco,” Harry had explained calmly, smiling at her despite the obvious exhaustion on his tear-streaked face.
“So you’re…cool with it? ’Cause if not, I’ll be more than glad to—” Pansy had begun to get up again, and Hermione rolled her eyes at the bravado of reckless violence.
“I’m quite okay with it. Although, I think I’ll have to take you up on your offer to hex Ronald. I must say that does sound lovely. I’ve been playing with the idea of breaking things off. He’s too childish, and he has the attention span of a Snitch,” Hermione had admitted.
That stopped Pansy in her tracks and her expression shifted to incredulity. “You haven’t knocked back one too many, have you?” she asked.
Hermione snorted, ruining her carefully arranged scowl. “I’m very sure.”
Somehow, over threatening to bodily harm Hermione’s soon-to-be ex and Lavender’s soon-to-be boyfriend, Pansy and Hermione bonded and slowly became friends. Pansy eventually introduced Hermione to the gang—Daphne and Astoria Greengrass who were both studying for fashion degrees somewhere in Muggle London and used the others as dolls for their fashion experiments, Milicent Bullstrode who was like the mother of the group, ever the wealthy but hysterically dirty-minded Narcissa Malfoy, a mousy Tracey Davis who had a foul mouth like a sailor, and Flora and Hestia Carrow, who were nothing like their parents and loved to party.
The ringing of the front door pulled Hermione from her thoughts and she turned, smiling widely at the customer.
“Welcome to Snape’s Apothecary. How may I help you?” she asked.