Actions

Work Header

The Secret Life of Daydreams

Work Text:

The door slams shut behind him, making the Kneazle on his sofa rouse from her slumber and hiss at him for disturbing her. Severus pays her no mind. What was he thinking? Professor Granger—Hermione, he is allowed to call her Hermione—is utterly lovely and so out of his league they might as well be on different planets. She split from her latest beau before the start of the school year, and he's not heard about her dating someone new. Which he would have heard about; the staff is worse than the students regarding gossip, especially of the romantic kind. Severus is smart enough to know her status won't last forever, and he needs to make his intentions known soon.

Severus has learnt many things in his fifty years on this earth, but how to court a witch is not one of them. He scrubs a hand over his face. He has no idea what to do, what to say. He throws himself on the sofa with a sigh. He's pathetic. There's a timid knock on his door.

As ill luck will have it, it's Hermione. “Are you all right? You left the staff room in a hurry.”

“Upset stomach,” are the first words that come out of his mouth after a millisecond of consideration. His subconscious sighs at him.

Her cheeks turn a becoming shade of pink. “I hope you feel better now?”

“I do, thank you.”

“Good. That's good.” She wrings her hands. “I just wanted to wish you a nice summer. I've finished my packing and the wards so I'm gonna head off.”

Something constricts in his chest. Sweet Merlin, he's not having a heart attack, is he?

“And to you,” he finds himself saying. “I will see you come August, then.”

Hermione blinks. “Yes, August. Bye Severus.”

There's a sense of finality when she leaves that he doesn't approve of. He ponders it as he walks through his quarters packing up the rest of his things. His sleeping Kneazle has no chance for protest as he picks her up and puts her in the carrier with ease.

Placing his usual wards, he heads for the Apparition point.

-

Two weeks into the summer holiday, Severus has had enough. He's made a chart—charmed to only be visible to him even though he lives alone and has no visitors—about the ways to ask Hermione out. They range from horrible to asinine. There has got to be a better way to go about it than this. Maybe there are books that will help him; ones that give advice for people as inept at courting as he is.

After lunch—chicken and rice for both him and Celia, his Kneazle—he braces himself and Apparates. It's overcast in Leicester, with a drizzle that clings to his hair and skin. He walks quickly past the clock tower towards the nearest bookstore. It's quiet, and his footsteps feel loud on the laminate floor. He wanders aimlessly, slowly approaching the section he came for without making it clear it's his target. The large words Self-Help mock him. He scans the titles. Merlin, this is mortifying.

“Can I help you find anything, duck?” One of the employees has spotted him, which can't have been difficult: he's sure he looks as lost as a bludger in a bathroom. She looks a few years older than him, her wiry hair looking like a bird's nest, but her eyes are kind.

“I'm not sure,” he replies. The irony of needing help to find self-help books is not lost on him.

“May I?”

Nodding, he steps aside.

She looks at the books like they're a great mystery for her to discover, then picks three and hands them to him. The top one reads You Deserve Love. Is he that transparent?

“Yes?”

Severus swallows hard. “Yes.”

“Lovely. I'll ring you up when you're ready.” She pats his arm and goes to help another customer.

-

Over the next few weeks, Severus goes back to the bookshop two more times.

-

Severus combs his hair before mirror-calling Hermione. He is well aware his looks aren't his best selling point, and a Floo call would be preferable, but he had to disconnect his fireplace to the Floo network when Celia managed to take a trip by herself. Twice.

It's ringing. He suppresses the urge to fling the compact mirror across the room. Then Hermione's face appears, haloed by a blue sky. A tan has brought out the tea-coloured freckles on her nose, and she's smiling widely.

“Severus, this is a nice surprise!”

“I hope I'm not interrupting anything?”

“No, not at all.” She holds up a book in front of the mirror. “Just doing some reading. How's your summer been so far?”

“Uneventful. Yours?”

“Same, pretty much. Ginny and I went to Ecuador last week for a few days to visit Luna. It was nice, but much too humid for me.” She laughs. “You should have seen my hair, even with charms in place. It was—Fuck!” She looks at something beyond the mirror. “Hold on a moment. Crooks!” She drops the mirror, and he hears a commotion. The mirror now shows only the sky.

His kitchen chair groans when he shifts, waiting. It takes a minute, maybe two, then her footsteps come closer. She picks up the mirror, and his view shifts back to her. There's a glimpse of tan skin and purple fabric. Is she wearing a bikini?

“Sorry about that,” she says, slightly out of breath. “My familiar decided to pick a fight with a bloody raven! He needed some rescuing; he's too old for fighting.”

Severus chuckles. “My familiar has done similar foolish things, which have given the effect of my fireplace being closed to the Floo network.”

Hermione laughs. “Celia's such a troublemaker. So was there something you wanted? Or did you mirror-call me just because you missed me?” Her smile turns teasing, and Severus can't breathe.

It feels like minutes before he finds his voice. “The Edinburgh book festival. Would you like to attend it with me? Jackie Baxter is speaking on the sixteenth.”

“Yes, I saw. I'm going with Ginny.”

Fuck. “I see.” Does he sound disappointed?

“I can just cancel with her; she will be relieved. Books aren't her thing. I was actually planning on asking if you were going to the festival this year, but you beat me to it.”

His mouth is very dry.

“Since I know you're going,” she continues, unaware Severus is in the middle of a crisis, “would you be interested in going to a few more of the events that day? It's much nicer to have company.”

“Of course,” he finds himself saying. “Shall we meet at 10:15 at the entrance?”

She smiles widely. “Perfect. I can't wait. I'll see you then, Severus.”

The call ends, leaving him looking at his face instead of Hermione's. Not the nicest view. Snapping it closed, he scrubs his hand over his face. That didn't go as planned. He was supposed to say the words and ask her out properly.

Celia rubs against his trouser leg and screams, demanding her dinner.

-

Severus is at the entrance to the Charlotte Square Garden at precisely 10. He stands outside the gates, hands in his pockets and trying to not look as nervous as he feels. Celia looked judgingly at him as he changed clothes three times. He resists the urge to check his watch. She'll be here. Yesterday he got an owl from Hermione, saying how much she was looking forward to today. She'll come.

He checks his watch. Five past ten.

Glancing to his right, he sees her coming towards him. She's spotted him too, and waves at him. He can't bring himself to return it. He stands—awkwardly—as she crosses the street and finally reaches him.

“Hi!”

“Hello,” he says. “You look nice.”

She smiles, and the vice around his heart loosens a bit. “Thank you. So do you. Shall we go inside? There's an event with Naomi Levy starting in a few minutes.”

Severus lets her lead the way—but pulls out two tenners at the door to the event before Hermione can reach for her purse. After finding seats, Hermione pulls her bag across her lap.

“You didn't have to pay for my ticket,” she half-whispers.

“Yes, I did.”

She huffs, but the corners of her mouth twitch.

The lights go down as the presenter takes the stage. The talk is good; engaging and fast paced, but his favourite part is Hermione whispering commentary in his ear, shoulder brushing against his. Once the talk is over, they head for the exit.

“The next one isn't until noon,” Hermione says, casually stepping closer to him to let a man with a pram walk by. “Why don't we pop by the bookstore for a bit?”

Their hands brush. Severus' shoulders tense.

“How many books should I let you pick before staging an intervention?”

“I'm thinking eight. No, ten. No, eight. Eight,” she says with finality.

Severus chuckles. “Eight it is. If you pick more I will make you choose between them, remember that.”

She gasps. “Evil.”

He shrugs and holds the door open for her to enter. “Death Eater.”

Her eyes light up at the rows and rows of books. They browse in silence. At times in the same section, then in different ones. Every once in a while she comes to him, shoving a book in his hands she thinks he'll enjoy.

He finds her in the foreign language section, a tall stack of books at her feet. He carries a similar sized stack.

“We missed the talk,” he says.

“What? No.” She checks her watch. “Oh, we did. I blame the books. Did you find anything interesting?” She taps the spine of one of them. “I've wanted to read this forever. Lend it to me when you're done?”

“Of course. Have you decided on your eight yet?”

Her cheeks turn pink. “I can't decide, Severus. It's too hard.”

He eyes her stack. “I have the two top ones, I'll lend them to you. If you like them, you can buy your own copies later.”

“I never figured you for enjoying Muggle fiction.” She puts the books in question back on the shelves and picks up the remaining ones.

“There are many things you don't know about me.”

Her smile is soft. “I know.”

-

They go for lunch in a nearby pub. It's busy, and Hermione finds them seats while Severus goes to the bar to order. Is he imagining people's looks as he pulls out the chair opposite her? She doesn't seem to notice.

“I'll pay you back later,” she says, leaning her elbows on the table.

He waves her comment away. “That will not be necessary.”

“I feel bad that you keep paying for me,” she huffs. “I'll have to take you out for dinner before the semester starts.”

“That would be acceptable.”

“Do you usually go to the book festival? I don't think I've heard you mention it before.”

He shakes his head. “Not for many years.”

She smiles. “I'm glad you decided to go now.”

After eating, they walk back to the festival. More people have arrived, making the garden feel cramped.

“I think there's another talk starting in a few minutes,” Hermione says, frowning at the programme given to her that morning. “The New World Order: from Twitter to the American Dream. Doesn't sound very exciting, does it?”

Severus frowns. “What's a twitter?”

“You haven't heard of Twitter?”

He rolls his eyes. “No,” he says slowly. “Hence my question.”

“It's an internet thing,” she says, folding the programme.

“Say no more,” he interrupts. “I'm better off not knowing.”

Hermione laughs, though not unkindly. “You really are.”

Shadows move over her face, and a big raindrop lands on the side of her nose before the heavens open up. There are shrieks from people around them at the sudden downpour. Severus raises the transfigured umbrella over their heads.

“You did that at an impressive speed!” She laughs, stepping closer to him.

She's so close—too close, not close enough—and he should look away from her face but he can't, not when she's right there and smiling at him, Merlin he really should say something.

“I detest being wet,” is all that comes out. Great job, truly.

Hermione tilts her head the way he's seen her do when marking essays, right before sharing the idiocy of whichever dunderhead wrote the offending work. The rain splatters onto his shoes.

“Severus,” she says, voice almost drowned out by the rain. “Is this a date?”

He almost drops the umbrella. His first instinct is to deny it, to deflect. Then he recalls a line from one of the self-help books.

Have the confidence to be honest with yourself and with others.

Honesty. Hermione deserves honesty.

Severus inhales deeply. “Yes.”

“Oh. That's disappointing.”

The vice around his heart tightens until he can't breathe.

“I wish you'd told me it was a date! Why didn't you tell me?”

Severus is quite sure he's having a stroke. “Would you have said yes if I did?”

Hermione smiles, a wide smile that makes the corners of her eyes crinkle. “I would.”

Then her hands are on his face and before he can react to her words, she's kissing him.

Everything fades away. All he can feel are her hands and her lips. Her lips on his. They're soft and warm and taste of Hermione, and he tilts his head to get closer because he never wants this moment to end. She sighs softly, a small exhale of air against his skin.

The rain pelts down on them, making Hermione leap back with a shriek. His conjured umbrella is nowhere to be found. She takes his hand and they run towards the closest marquee. It's packed with people escaping the rain, but they find a free spot. Severus pushes his sodden hair from his face. Hermione is as drenched as he is—it's soaking her eyelashes and dripping from her hair. Her smile widens, turns into giggles and then full blown laughter. It takes seconds for him to join her, his body feeling lighter than it has in years.

His arms go around her like they always were supposed to, and hers do the same. She smells like rain and jasmine. He relaxes into her embrace, arms tightening as if afraid she'll disappear. This wasn't at all how he expected today to turn out. She says something, but as she's pressed against his chest he can't make out the words.

“What was that?”

“Does this mean we're dating now?”

He forces himself not to panic. “If that's acceptable to you. Those are my wishes.”

She smiles again—at him, she's smiling at him. “It's more than acceptable. Since this rain isn't looking like it'll ease up anytime soon, why don't we go somewhere where the walls aren't made of plastic? Your place or mine?”

He thinks of the pile of self-help books in the sitting room, the dishes he didn't wash up before he left and the myriad of papers and books cluttering every surface. “Yours.”

Hermione steps back, but takes his hand. There's an umbrella in her hand that wasn't there earlier. “Let's go.”

Huddled together underneath the umbrella, they head quickly towards the closest Apparition spot.