Hermione realized that she was in love with Snape when she found herself admiring his nose. His NOSE? A protruberance that everyone agreed was both much too large and too badly shaped for beauty? She was mooning over his nose? Oh, Merlin, she had it bad!
Of course, Hermione wasn't shallow enough to love only Snape's nose. Not even Hermione's harshest critic — Hermione herself — could call her shallow or overly preoccupied with the physical. She admired Snape's intelligence and had done so since she was eleven. She'd admired his bravery and Occlumency skill ever since learning of his role as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix during her fifth year. At the end of the war, upon discovering that he'd been on their side all along, she was impressed anew by his bravery, as well as by his commitment, his resilience and his acting ability. She'd been sincerely amazed that he'd managed to fool Voldemort for so long, had managed to fool all of the Hogwarts professors after Dumbledore's death, and had managed to withstand the extreme emotional strain that all of this would have caused.
Since coming to Hogwarts to teach Charms upon Flitwick's retirement six months ago, she'd admired everything from Snape's sarcastic wit to his sense of drama to his command of invective. Her perspective as a teacher was necessarily different than that of a student, and of course thirty-year-olds saw the world differently than eleven-year-olds did. As a teacher, she admired the ease with which Snape controlled a classroom, the way he used everything from his clothes to his walk to give himself an intimidating air, and the way he could shred someone with only a few well-chosen words, uttered in the weaponized silk that was his voice. Mercifully, the post-war Snape only shredded those who deserved it, rather than insulting people gratuitously, as he'd done when she was a student, and this change had made it far easier for her to genuinely enjoy having him as a colleague.
Hermione herself preferred a gentler teaching style, but then, she didn't have a storeroom full of expensive and potentially dangerous ingredients to guard. Teaching her students to levitate a feather or to turn vinegar into wine didn't require her to make sure that no one would ever even think about filching a feather or a bottle of vinegar from her stores, so she could afford to teach in a warmer style. But when you had everything from Bubotuber pus to Erumpent horns in your charge, the stakes were considerably higher and the need for strict discipline considerably greater.
She was trying to distract herself, wasn't she? Trying to avoid the squirmingly embarrassed feeling that her realization provoked. She looked again at Snape's face and was again struck with love for the man in general and for his nose in particular.
What was it about that nose that so enthralled her? Snape's nose was massively large and extravagantly hooked, and Hermione was surprised to find herself wanting to press a kiss to the tip of it. Snape's nose was unusual and extreme and demanded to be accepted on its own terms or not at all, much like the man himself. Snape's nose was Snape in microcosm, and perhaps that was why she loved it so.
Hermione puffed out a breath in a silent laugh at herself and continued walking towards the high table for breakfast. It's true that Snape was seated at the end of the table nearest the door she entered by, so his profile had been in view since she entered the room several moments before. But she'd seen that profile at meals and at staff meetings and in the corridors for the past six months, and always in the past it had simply been Snape's face. Yet today for some reason, his face arrested her, and her feelings of affection, admiration, and respect had somehow crystallized, and she realized that what she felt was love.
Hermione snuck a glance at Neville's face and found that it was the face of her good friend, just as it had always been. So she hadn't been charmed or hexed or slipped a potion that made her look upon every face with love; it was only Snape's face that she was seeing with new eyes, only Snape that she felt this way about. She supposed that was good news ... though curing her of a love potion would probably be easier than a romantic relationship with Snape, even the new, post-war Snape.
She reached the high table and took her usual seat between Snape and Neville. Neville gave her his usual cheerful "Good morning," while Snape gave her a long, assessing look. Oh, dear, he must have noticed her staring. But he sat at the end of the table nearest the door, after all, so he was right in her field of view as she walked in ... it would have taken a spy's hyperawareness of his surroundings to have noticed that there was anything different about the way she had looked at him as she walked across the room.
As soon as she sat down, Snape passed her the toast, and Neville passed her the tea. They chatted about last night's staff meeting as they ate breakfast, and Hermione found that the easy camaraderie she had with both of them had not changed. She could do this. She could talk intelligently about the issues facing the school with him. She could be Snape's cordial colleague and love him. She hadn't lost anything; she had only added something.
Well. Time to see if Snape was or could become interested in her. Neither one to procrastinate nor one to flee from difficult tasks, Hermione turned to Snape once they'd finished breakfast. "I have first period free, and I think you do, too. Could we talk?"
Snape gave her a long look, black eyes inscrutable, then nodded curtly. "Your office is closer, I believe."
Hermione swallowed. This wasn't a professional topic, and talking about it in her office felt inappropriate. "Actually, I'd prefer to talk in my quarters, if you don't mind." She smiled. "Though I think mine are still closer."
That earned her an eyebrow, but all he said was, "Lead the way."
Once they reached her quarters, Hermione flicked her wand to light a fire in her fireplace, then gestured towards a chair. "Please have a seat."
Snape seated himself in the blue wingback chair she kept for visitors, and Hermione took the matching chair opposite him. He gave her another inscrutable look, giving nothing away, and she leaned forward in her chair, looking earnestly into his face. "Severus, I've enjoyed working with you these past several months, and I've especially enjoyed getting to know you as an adult and a colleague." She looked down briefly, gathered her courage, then looked back up. "I've enjoyed it so much that I'd like to take our relationship to the next level, if you're interested. Would you be willing to explore a romantic relationship between us?"
Snape chuckled, and at first she feared that he was laughing at the idea of a romantic relationship with her, but then he spoke. "A true Gryffindor approach, direct and immediate."
Hermione felt herself blush. "Well, yes, that's who I am. I didn't want to be dishonest with you, and given our somewhat awkward past history, I didn't want to leave room for misinterpretation."
He eyed her for a moment, then nodded. "That is, in fact, probably wise, given that past history. Very well, I will gather my few shreds of Gryffindorish straightforwardness and reply that I should be a fool to turn you down, and it is a very long time since I have been a fool."
Hermione smiled at Severus. "I appreciate your giving me a clear answer. So, how would you like to do this? Do we go out for dinner in Hogsmeade? Do I take you dancing at a club in Diagon Alley? Or do I simply sit on your lap and kiss you?"
Snape smirked at her. "I believe the rules of courtship imply that it is the lady's choice. I would be amenable to either the first course of action or the last, but I have no desire to dance for the delight of a clubful of idiots."
She stood up and walked over to him, standing looking down at him. "Could your Slytherin heart stand it if I were to implement Choice 3 right now, or is that too Gryffindor for you?"
He smirked up at her. "Slytherins are nothing if not opportunists, so Choice 3 is actually at least as Slytherin as it is Gryffindor."
Hermione smiled. "Perfect for the pair of us, then." She straddled his legs and lowered herself to his lap. Before giving him the more usual kind of kiss, she first treated herself to a kiss on the tip of his nose. Snape blinked at her in astonishment, and she chuckled at his expression. "I can't help it; I love your nose," she confessed.
He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her away slightly, the better to see her face. "What are you playing at? No one likes my nose; my own mother didn't even like my nose."
Hermione smiled and caressed the nose in question gently with the tip of her finger. She shook her head. "I can't help it, but I'm not lying; I do love your nose. It's unusual and extreme and makes no excuses for itself."
He raised an eyebrow. "Rather like myself."
She nodded. "Exactly like yourself."
He stopped holding back then, evidently convinced that anyone who could love his nose truly cared for him, and he cupped her face in surprisingly gentle hands and kissed her as if he'd been waiting his whole life to do that very thing.
When her head stopped spinning, she said, "Great Merlin, why is a man who can kiss like that still single?"
He gave her a sour smile. "Not many could see past my nose long enough to take me on."
Hermione caressed his nose again. "I'm lucky you have it, then, if it kept you single long enough for me to snap you up!"
He chuckled and kissed her again, and the second kiss proved that the first wasn't a fluke; kissing him turned her on the way nothing else had ever done.
It was partly because of his nose that he wasn't already taken, wasn't already married to some other witch who could appreciate his intelligence, his power, his voice, and his wardrobe. Bless that nose that had kept him free until SHE came along to scoop him up!
Which she would do real soon now ... as soon as she could stop kissing him.
1. This story was written as a birthday present for MyWitch. Since I didn't decide to write it until the morning of her birthday, and since I wanted it to be finished and posted before her birthday ended, this story isn't quite as obsessively re-written as most of my work. But I hope she'll enjoy it anyway!
2. I have a chronic illness that leaves me non-functional most of the time, which means that I am rarely able to reply to comments. I do read them all with great attention, though, and I do cherish every single one of them, even when my health doesn't permit me to reply. I apologize for being so limited in what I can do.
3. Everything Harry Potter belongs to the illustrious Ms. Rowling. I'm just a fan playing in the sandbox that she designed, built and owns, and I make no money from the strange little stories that I write.
4. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed anything about this story, I'd love to know what you liked or found interesting.
5. MyWitch has posted some really fun art, which you can find on Archive of Our Own under that name; please go wish her a happy birthday ... and enjoy the cute things she's drawn.