She spent the rest of Christmas morning, and most of the afternoon, out in the garden watching Ginny and the boys play Quidditch. Teddy ran around the snowy yard gleefully cheering and chasing the odd garden gnome. She’d had to bribe him with a sweet before he would come in for his nap. Again, she lay down with him, humming softly until he fell asleep.
She kept her own nap short, giving herself enough time to get ready for the party. She took her time preparing as she had for the Yule Ball. She was certain she and Severus had turned a corner in their relationship and she desperately hoped the evening would turn out better than that night.
She wore the green jumper from Harry and Ginny, mentally praising Ginny for the fit. It was snug, but not uncomfortable, with a deep V-neck that showed quite a bit of cleavage. The neckline had been charmed so that even if she bent over, it never revealed more than intended. The black skirt she chose was a little short so she added black tights and knee-high black boots. She finished the outfit by using the comb to sweep her hair off her neck. She kept her make-up very simple and understated.
She headed downstairs early to help Molly set up for the party. The kitchen, dining room and living room had been charmed to comfortably fit more people and more chairs had been brought in to accommodate their extra numbers. She took care of decorating and lighting while Molly finished cooking. When Order members started arriving, Hermione began bringing out drinks and helping in the kitchen as well. Once everything was done, she joined the others in the living area.
Her face was flushed from the heat of the kitchen and she could feel her hair curling from the humidity but there was nothing to be done about it. She had an instant to smooth her appearance in the hall mirror as much as possible before hearing Teddy’s shriek of laughter as he ran down the stairs. She stepped into the room and the child launched himself at her.
“You seem rested,” she laughed, scooping him up.
“An-mi,” he said excitedly. “There’s a party!”
“I know, darling,” she said hugging him tightly. When she bent over to put him down, he kissed her noisily on the mouth and ran away.
Still smiling, she straightened and turned to find Severus watching intently from across the room. She met his amused eyes, grinning for a moment before crossing to the punch bowl.
Good evening, Miss Granger.
Knowing he was there allowed her to relax a little. It was the first Order event she’d been to since the Ministry hearings had ended right after the Final Battle. She strengthened her resolve to move on and was able to distract herself from most of the feelings that she still connected with the war and, by association, the Order. The worst was the overwhelming sense of loss that still pervaded from time to time.
She managed to stave off most of the sadness until George had too much drink. After a few firewhiskeys, his speech became disjointed with long pauses in his sentences. When she'd first noticed over the summer, she had thought it was just normal slurring from the alcohol. Her heart broke one night when she realized it was only then that he forgot there was no longer anyone to finish his sentences. After watching his twin die, she didn't blame him for trying to forget every now and then.
Ron found her staring out a window at the snow. “How are you holding up?” he said, moving up beside her.
“Better than I thought. Just tired mostly,” she reassured him.
“Has it been every night since the ball?” She nodded slowly. “Maybe you could ask Snape if he has another potion other than Dreamless Sleep that would help. You have to start sleeping.”
“I know. I’ll ask him. Thanks, Ronald.” She smiled at him, gave him a quick peck on the cheek and rejoined the party.
It was shortly after when the Headmistress was called back to the castle for an emergency involving Peeves and some terrified Hufflepuff girls. Hermione was disappointed but immediately moved to gather her things to leave.
“One moment, Miss Granger,” the older witch said, laying a hand on her arm. “I don’t wish you to leave early because of that infuriating poltergeist. You may stay and Apparate back to the castle with Professor Snape.” She paused and looked pointedly at him, adding, “When the party is over.”
Hermione couldn’t believe her luck. She’d be walking alone at night with the professor. If only she could find some mistletoe to maneuver him under. She enjoyed rest of the night thinking of it.
As expected, she cried when Bill and Fleur left with Claire and Teddy. She was still surrounded by Order members so her tears were quick and silent. After they left, she went upstairs to collect herself and her small bag for the return to Hogwarts.
Yes. She was surprised at his curt answer but ignored it.
After hugging her adoptive family goodbye, she found Ron waiting for her by the back door.
"I can't, Ron. Professor Snape has been waiting long enough.”
"Let him go. You can stay with me, Hermione. You need me.”
She shook her head and smiled slightly. “Claire.”
“She doesn't even have to know. It doesn’t matter,” he said, laying his hands on her shoulders. “I know how hard this has been on you. I can see it in your eyes, Mione.” She shook her head again. “Fine but you know where to find me.” He pulled her in for a tight hug, burying her face in his chest. She briefly wondered how he was always so warm. Even when they had been camping, he was like a furn—
“Miss Granger, if you are still returning to the castle, I will not wait another minute.”
She pulled away from Ron to look at Severus but he was already out the door. She kissed Ron on the cheek and rushed out after him. She had to run to catch up and tried to figure out what had gone wrong.
“Sir, what—” she started, but before she could finish, he jerked her against him and Dis-Apparated. They Apparated in front of the school, where he released her with a shove and stormed away. She stared after him for a moment, feeling her blood pressure rise and her perfect evening slipping away. Suddenly livid, she raced after him, reaching him as he entered the castle. A little out of breath, she grabbed his arm to stop him. He spun on her, snatching his hand away.
“Do not touch me,” he sneered before walking away. She followed him down the stairs to the dungeons.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded.
“You will not speak to me with such insolence,” he spat, rounding on her again. She was a step above him and still wearing heels, putting them at almost the same height. She would not be intimidated by him, as hard as he tried.
“Tell me why you’re suddenly being such a ruddy prick to me,” she said, holding her ground even though she felt her anger being replaced by something else. Without consulting her, her traitorous body had realized it was very close to him in a darkened stairwell and was beginning to tense in response.
“Excuse me, Miss Granger. I suppose you think I should be apologizing to you,” he said, voice dangerous and low...and incredibly sexy, “for ruining your little reunion with Weasley.” Her mind reeled trying to understand what on earth he was babbling about. Finally grasping it, she opened her mouth to explain, but he kept going. “You didn’t appear to be the type to become the boy’s whore the moment his girlfriend leaves the house.”
“How fucking dare you!”
“Obviously, I was mistaken.” Her fury drained for the second time when she saw the hurt hiding behind his anger.
“You impossible man,” she sighed. Once again, her body acted without consent. When he opened his mouth to no doubt further insult her, she lunged at him, crushing her mouth against his. He froze in shock for a split second then wrenched his body away from her. She stumbled backwards until her back was against the spiral wall. She stood staring at him, chest heaving, wondering if she’d just made a very terrible mistake. In an instant, he was in front of her, his hands braced against the wall on either side of her head. He kissed her as hard as she’d kissed him, thrusting his tongue in her mouth when her hand fisted in his hair. He kept his body upright, not touching hers. She knew there was a chance she’d never get the opportunity again so she took full advantage of it. She moved forward, pressing her body to his. He wrapped his arms around her and pushed them both back against the opposite wall. She nipped at his bottom lip and he said her name, though she wasn’t sure if it was out loud or in her head. Letting out a slow breath, she finally tore herself away from him.
"I didn’t know how else to get you to listen,” she said with a half shrug. She chuckled when his brows shot up. “I expect we have much to discuss, but not tonight.” He was staring at her, still breathing a little fast. “I’ll come to your office after lunch. I need to go to the library in the morning.” She started back up the stairs, and then turned to face him again.
“Happy Christmas, Professor,” she said, kissing him quickly on the mouth. “Goodnight.”
Without looking back, she climbed the stairs feeling quite proud of herself. Her grin widened when she heard a quiet, muttered, “Fuck” from the stairs below.