With apologies to toblass, who asked for this ages ago and I never finished.
Title: Le Petit Mort Par Chocolat
Length: Too damn long
Summary: Whatever you do, don’t mention his birthday. I did, but I think I got away with it…
A/N: I’m sorry, I didn’t let stgulik do her job on this and it shows. But Thursday’s the Prof’s birthday, and these drabbles don’t write themselves and if they did, these characters would still belong to JKR. But I don’t think she’ll miss them for this little piece of silliness…
Hermione Granger remembered too well the first thing she was told when she began her tenure at Hogwarts as its new Transfigurations mistress.
“When dealing with the Headmaster of Hogwarts,” Minerva McGonagall said, “there is one subject we avoid like the plague: his birthday.”
It was common knowledge that Headmaster Snape despised any reference to his date of birth like most people hated the common cold – it’s something everyone knows they’ll eventually have to put up with because everyone gets one, but best left to ignore and sweat it out so that it will go away as soon as possible.
“It seems a shame to ignore it, but he’s quite firm on the subject,” the deputy headmistress continued, smiling at her former protégé. “Now that you’re here, perhaps you can help.” With a smile, the older witch left Hermione to puzzle over this cryptic statement.
Since the war and Professor Snape’s reinstatement as Headmaster, Minerva had explained, the denizens of Hogwarts had always treated January 9 like any other day, studiously avoiding the headmaster’s birthday as a sort of apology. He was usually no different either; perhaps a little more curt than usual, but completely happy to ignore the day.
Everyone from Peeves to the youngest first-year Hufflepuff was part of the school-wide conspiracy: the very mention of the word ‘birthday’ was never uttered in the headmaster’s presence on the ninth of January.
So it was with unicorn-in-the-lumos horror that the staff and students of Hogwarts watched as the Mistress Granger rose from her chair during breakfast on the day in question, pressed her wand to her throat and murmured, “Sonorus. Hello. Excuse me everyone, may I have your attention?”
The Great Hall went deadly silent. Forks halted midway to mouths. Looks of growing dismay passed from table to table.
She held her glass of pumpkin juice aloft. “Please join me in wishing our esteemed headmaster a joyous happy birthday!”
Eyes closed sympathetically, as at least a hundred souls realised that Professor Granger was about to become hippogriff food.
“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, dear Headmaster…”
Only the first years, stoned on french toast and still sleepy besides, joined in heartily, while older, wiser students murmured behind their serviettes, not wanting to be caught in the act by said headmaster. He sat motionless at the table; it was as if he’d been carved from stone.
The excruciatingly feeble singing effort thankfully petered out by the last, “Happy Birthday to you,” and the young professor led the congregation in a round of applause that was painful in its lack of enthusiasm. To refer to it as lukewarm would have required heating it up by several degrees.
With a little frown of confusion, Professor Granger sat back down and looked at the Deputy Headmistress helplessly. McGonagall patted Hermione’s hand sympathetically, as the Great Hall grew more cavernous in the following silence.
Finally, Headmaster Snape rose to his feet as if heading out to attend his own execution.
He looked down at her, his expression bland but far from unreadable. “Thank you, Professor Granger, for reminding me why I never look forward to my birthday. Students, please finish your breakfast and head toward your first class.”
The Hall burst into a nervous, giggly sort of chatter, as if the students were making up for lost time. As the last of the bacon was shoved into the last mouths, the Deputy Headmistress leaned over and whispered something into Professor Granger’s ear, which made her turn a funny shade of green, and quickly exit the room via the faculty door.
“Stupid, STUPID!” Hermione moaned in time with the pounding of her head against her chamber door. It was bad enough that she’d wanted to do something so mad as to lead the student body in a round of Happy Birthday, but she felt horrible that she’d obviously embarrassed her boss, Severus ‘War Hero’ Snape, which was never going to be a good thing.
“How could I have been such an idiot?” she hissed.
Well, of course she knew how. The realisation made her want to beat her head against her door several more times. She was mad about the man.
Oh, he still looked and sounded the way she remembered as a student, but somehow, when she returned to Hogwarts last fall to step into the role the deputy headmistress had relinquished, Hermione had seen him with a very different set of eyes.
Where he had been repressive and biting, he was merely austere. Where he’d been sallow and greasy, he was now pale and aesthetic. He was still the same man who had made her feel inadequate and unworthy, and yet the Headmaster who had welcomed her to Hogwarts during her interview was calm, tranquil – he was practically polite.
Of course, he still suffered fools not a jot, and that was the problem. She’d just made a fool of herself in front of the student body.
Afterward, Minerva had leaned over and whispered, “Hermione, when I said you might think about doing something special for the Headmaster’s birthday, that wasn’t precisely what I had in mind. You know how he deplores public displays. In truth, I was hoping for something a little less, shall we say, idiotic?”
Hermione had glanced from her former Head of House to the cool profile of the Headmaster, and fled like a first year.
She looked wistfully at her table. The Headmaster’s cake sat in a transparent box charmed to wash with the House colours at intervals: blue and gold, green and silver, red and gold, yellow and black. It threw prisms of light over the glossy surface of the cake she had so lovingly prepared. It was a gorgeous cake, if she did say so.
A specialty of sorts – her award-winning Death by Chocolate cake. She’d ordered the dark chocolate especially from Honeydukes. It was so scrumptious it was all she could do to stop sampling it long enough to ice the cake.
At least she wouldn’t be an embarrassment there – seriously, who doesn’t love chocolate?
Just to keep things interesting, she decided to deliver it herself. Who knew? Perhaps they might share…. a piece… of cake…
Hermione groaned aloud. Yes, after that incredible display of lunacy, Severus Snape would be champing at the bit to spend some private time with her. As if.
Still, it never hurt to be prepared. She put on her nicest robe (Petrol-blue with velvet lacings – she knew better than to try to tempt the Headmaster with Slytherin green), picked up the cake and started for his study.
Severus contemplated celebrating his birthday in the usual fashion, by sulking and getting slightly inebriated. If it wasn’t a school night, he sometimes pushed the boat out and got pleasantly pissed, but the sulking part was de rigeur. He poured two fingers into a glass, snorted, added another. Not like anyone gave a toss, did they? Well, perhaps Granger cared a little; enough to embarrass herself, anyway.
He tried not to remind himself of the debacle in the Great Hall. It saddened him that he was so universally feared that no one wanted to even present him with birthday wishes.
He sat, still mulling over Granger. At first, he thought she was taking the piss, but further observation showed that she was genuinely embarrassed, and the stricken look on her face when he reprimanded her made him feel guilty for the rest of the day. But why shouldn’t someone sing him birthday wishes? Every year Minerva would be the first to jump up and start croaking “Happy Birthday” to Filius or Pomona or even Hagrid, but never him.
Hell, even Tom Riddle got birthday cake. Not me. This made Severus’ sulk slide a little further down into the self-pity range.
It was as if they were still reminding him that, no matter what he’d done, no matter how much he’d proved himself to be on the side of the right, he was not worthy of something as simple, as insignificant, even, as a round of “Happy Birthday” on the ninth of January.
And yet, he still entertained the hopes that Hermione might stop by his study for a glass of wine, and perhaps, if he were very lucky, she might bring a gift, or even a birthday kiss.
Yes, he’d sort of been hoping for one of those from Granger.
Now that she was a colleague and no longer a student, he could enjoy her openly – not like the furtive pleasure he took while she was a young woman, not during a war, not that young-
Severus sighed. One lousy little gift wouldn’t kill them, would it? A pity gift would be better than nothing. Even a pity snog would feel almost real.
The clock chimed nine, and he sighed as self-pity slid further down into full-on depression. He looked at the firewhisky. Screw it, he thought, pouring himself another drink. I’ll just have to celebrate all on my lonesome.
Hermione shrunk the birthday cake box down to the size of a matchbox and tucked it into her pocket. Calling on the courage of her House’s mascot, she squared her slender shoulders, checked her reflection one last time to make sure her mad hair was at least pretending to behave, and headed for the Headmaster’s study.
She had just reached the entrance and was about to announce herself when Poppy Pomfrey walked by, her eyes lighting up at seeing Hermione.
“Good evening, Professor Granger!” She gave Hermione a knowing wink. “Don’t we look lovely tonight.”
“I’m bringing a peace offering.”
They shared a quiet laugh, and Madam Pomfrey, who had become a good friend over the years, leaned forward and whispered, “I heard about the, um, incident this morning at breakfast.”
Hermione cringed. “I know! I was trying to-“
“Say no more, dear,” Poppy interrupted, holding up a hand. “I know! The man is simply a bugbear about his birthday. I’m sorry Minerva put you on the spot like that.”
Hermione looked confused. “I ruined everything! She told me to try something different this year, but I completely misread the entire situation.” She blushed slightly. “I’m trying to make amends.”
Poppy smiled. “Well, amends are well-made by those robes, dear. I’d say you have a good sporting chance at forgiveness on your dress sense alone!”
“Thank you, Poppy.” Hermione gestured at her robe. “I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and get on his good side using the one feminine wile I’ve managed to learn.”
“I’m sure he’ll forgive you, dear. He’s not as ferocious as people think.”
Hermione smiled, and turned to alert the Headmaster of her presence. As she spoke the password, Poppy added, “At least you didn’t bring chocolate. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
Hermione froze. “What?”
Poppy shook her head sympathetically. “Can’t abide it, you know. I had had to cram massive amounts down the poor man’s throat during his career as a spy. Chocolate was one of the best panaceas for the after-effects of Cruciatus, and heaven knows Severus suffered quite a few rounds of that during his spying days with You-Know-Who.” With a laugh, she added, “I honestly think he’d rather take a round of Crucios than to ingest another ounce of chocolate.”
Hermione stared at her friend in shock as the enormous spiral staircase lifted her toward the Headmaster’s study.
Severus glanced up just as Hermione was dumped literally on his doorstep, and she could feel her face freezing in a rictus of what was supposed to be a smile. He stood immediately upon noticing her, a glass of amber liquid in hand, and as he opened his mouth to speak, she heard herself say, “IdidntknowyouhateditbutIdiditanywayandImsorry.”
He blinked, and looked at her as if she’d just grown a hump. “Pardon?” he replied.
She flushed and put her hands behind her back. “I’m so sorry, Severus! Minerva suggested I do something for your birthday, and you hate it and chocolate and—”
He, Severus decided, had drunk far too much before Hermione arrived. She was making no sense whatsoever; the deliciously form-fitting robes were doing his concentration in.
“Wait – Minerva told you WHAT?”
Flustered, Hermione said, “She told me you hated birthdays worse than the common cold?”
When she tried to stammer her apology about what happened during breakfast, she finished by explaining, “Professor McGonagall told me you hated any mention of your birthday, then Poppy told me you hated Chocolate.”
Severus stared at Hermione, then growled, “Idiotic Gryffindor furball!”
This time, it was her turn to demand, “Excuse me?”
Hermione stared at him, trying to decide whether this was a good time to leave. Indignantly, she swallowed, “Well, that’s not a very nice thing to be called, even if I did ruin your birthday!”
Severus started, then rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t talking about you, Granger. Here,” he said, pouring and passing her a glass of whisky. “Drink this. You’re as addled as I am.”
“I’m clearly not the one that’s addled!” Hermione insisted, taking a fortifying gulp of the fiery liquid. She smacked her lips and looked up at him. “I love whisky. What the hell is this?”
“Same hooch Minerva gives me every year for Christmas.” He frowned. “Why on earth did that meddling harpy tell everyone I hated my birthday?” Almost to himself, he murmured, “Is that why everyone behaves so strangely?”
Hermione, confused, took another drink. The whisky, Scottish of course, was as rough as the burr in Minerva’s brogue and burned all the way to her groin, where it settled in and pulsed merrily away, reminding her why she had long ago vowed never to drink whisky with Severus. His voice made too many parts of her body pulse inconveniently at the wrong times.
Finally, she sighed, and reached into her robe pocket. “And for the final humiliating fiasco of the evening, I baked you a cake you’re going to hate.”
Bemused, Severus gave her a hint of a smile. “Why? Are you that bad a cook?”
“No! As it so happens I am a very good baker,” she retorted, taking another drink. Sip, Hermione, sip. “However, Poppy informed me it’s your least favourite type of cake, thus completing my birthday debacle in every way.”
Severus looked pained. “Stop drinking whisky. You’re babbling like an airhead and I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”
It occurred to him at that point that perhaps he should stop drinking. He had already been pleasantly squiffy before she showed up and started telling him the most confusing story about why he hated his own birthday. He held out his hand. “Come on. Get it over with. Let’s see this odoriferous cake you’ve inflicted upon me.”
With a gleam in her eye, Hermione placed the cake in his hands and enlarged the box. The mouth-watering aroma of 70% cocoa solids reached his prodigious nose and he inhaled.
“Merlin. That the most delicious-smelling terrible cake I’ve ever encountered.”
Her eyes flew wide. “You like chocolate? Poppy said … since the war—”
“I hated it during the war. Now I never get any to hate.” He didn’t bother hiding the self-pity in his voice.
Hermione was on it like stink on a dungbomb. “So… you don’t actually hate your birthdays?”
“Only the fact that everyone insists on ignoring them.”
She took the cake from him, and moved in closer. “Perhaps we could celebrate together.”
He pretended to consider. “We could.”
“Followed by cake. Preferably using my body as a plate.”
He completely failed to keep his expression neutral.
He swiftly pulled her into his arms, and with a voice like cream he purred, “Perhaps that might go some way toward making up for lost time.” Imperiously he added, “But I insist on being fed by hand – afterward.”
She pretended to consider, but couldn’t prevent the grin stealing across her face. “I think that could be arranged. Afterward.”
Moments later, she was beckoning him toward his bed. Severus quaffed his glass of whisky, and as he spotted the chocolate cake, he retrieved it and carried it with him. Following her, he sang under his breath, “Happy birthday to me…”