[identity profile] sshg-smutmod.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] sshg_smut
Title: Reel Around the Sun (2/3)
Author: (anonymous for now)
Summary: After years of service, Headmaster Snape steps away for the summer. The sea calls – but he is not the only staff member to answer.
Prompt: ‘Romantic Smut: a slo-oh-oh-oh burn. Severus and Hermoine both take a holiday away from their respective teaching jobs at Hogwarts. Unbeknownst to either of them, they have picked the very same seaside town to call their home-away-from-home. Crashing waves and steep cliffs, fog and long hair whipping in the wind...a thumb across a bottom lip starts it all...’
Prompter: [livejournal.com profile] snapebraille4tu
Warnings: None.
Notes: Title comes from the Bill Whelan musical masterpiece of the same name. Lyrics at the beginning of each part belong to Damien Rice’s fitting song, ‘Colour Me In’. Inspiration has also been taken from the Margaret Atwood quote: “Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.” Thank you to the incomparable group of three women who guided, edited and wrangled this into submission. Dear prompter: please forgive the long length, but I hope to give you every single one of those ‘oh’s in your slow burn request.



Well I tried to control it
And cover it up
I reached out to console it
It was never enough

So I tried to forget it
That was all part of the show
Told myself I'd regret it
But what do I know?


Part Two

From the red car parked slightly at an odd angle, Hermione knew that he was inside. She stood near the road and batted ineffectually at her hair then gave up and instead waved at the old white van approaching. A box of shrunken bottles of red was in her pocket.

“Morning,” she called to the man as he nodded gruffly and shouldered the heavy box of fruit and veg. Michael was tall with a weathered, wind-worn face; with his unkempt brown mop of curls and calloused hands, he was the opposite of Luna’s delicate beauty. It was a sight to appreciate, however, and Hermione crossed her arms and watched as he set the box down beside the door.

“Need me t—” He stopped and rubbed at the back of his neck. “’Spose you don’t. Mornin’.”

“The same to you,” she said, grinning at the shy, quiet man. By the time her smile faded, he was already back in the van and heading into Stromness. She watched the vehicle for as long as she could, though her mind was already on the man inside.

“Were you successful, Professor?”

Tensing with surprise, she turned to see Severus standing in the open doorway. He was smirking—nothing new there—and the wind thrust its way through the door, whipping midnight strands around his face.

Withdrawing the box from her pocket, she smiled widely. “Behold the fruits of my labour. Where did you go?”

“Drove to Kirkwall.” His language was slowly becoming less formal the longer he spent with her. “I bought whisky.”

“I have whisky,” she reminded him primly, slipping past him and into the house. If she slid closer to him than need be, he didn’t appear to notice. “I have good whisky – I think.”

“Yes,” he said, following her, “but I’m on holiday. Holidaying in the Orkneys – goes without saying that I should be purchasing whisky.”

Throwing him a smirk over her shoulder, Hermione placed the box on the kitchen bench and reversed the spell. Twelve dusty bottles of some of the pub’s finest red stood proudly on the gleaming marble. Severus’ grunt was deep and approving.

“Whisky and red,” he commented, sucking in a breath. “Recipe for trouble.”

“Oh,” she drawled, arching an eyebrow, “I don’t know about that.”

.
.

As a teacher, Granger could be described as a second Minerva, with slight adjustments. Fierce yet fairer than my Deputy, she remains a woman that refuses to take any shite whatsoever. When she gave me that look, with those narrowed, smirking eyes, I confess that I was utterly taken in. I’ve always had an interest in women who could walk all over me in high-heeled boots then comfort me afterwards.

Perhaps not literally.

Although I’ve never tested it – it could be literal.

I thought: I could love a woman like this.

.
.

She retreated for the afternoon, but soon enough I heard her pottering around in the kitchen as she prepared the evening meal. Her voice was light and clear as she sung to herself, though it was a trifle to convince myself that she was singing for me. Even the scent of the succulent roast served to heighten the images in my mind: a smiling Hermione, her hair thrown into a clip that barely held it back; her song; the low click of her heels on the kitchen floor.

Not for me was this, but my bedroom was quiet and the sounds from downstairs were far more beguiling than the book that stayed open on my lap, forgotten.

.
.

We dined outside under the cover of a wind that had been softened by well-cast charms, and I spent the entire meal pondering the question of how I’d been her superior for five years and missed how desirable she was. Though we worked together, we moved in different circles: she with Minerva or the younger Professors, while I tended to take my afternoon teas with Poppy or Rolanda. Our paths would cross, though in a chaotic boarding school, such events were forgettable. Truth be told, even if I were to notice her, it would’ve slid away, driven to the wayside by common sense and pragmatism. And if further ground must be dug into, I can admit that when she came for the interview, something within me warmed to her passionate, easy smiles. But five years are five years, and I had dismissed the thoughts of her almost as soon as she’d left the interview.

Granger wasn’t any of the adjectives that would throw a man off; she was lovely, and when the sun glinted in her hair, she was beautiful. Her skin was pale, but give her a day or so outside and it tanned to a colour that made me curious as to how it would look beside my own body. Her voice, sharp though it was, could spin a web of intelligence. Her eyes spoke volumes.

I knew all of this – I had categorised her long ago as attractive and interesting, but for anything further? I had, simply, missed it. Missed all of it.

It may have left me feeling oblivious and stupid, but we were surrounded by sky and wind and ocean. We dined, and the blue water fought under our gazes. Instead of kicking my own arse for barely seeing her over the years, I was focused on her mouth.

I had expected to talk of research or the tedious process of publishing.

“Is that all you think I’m good for?” she said teasingly when I asked if she’d brought work to the house. “Research and books?”

“It is an appropriate topic of conversation for two colleagues, is it not?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Sounds quite dull to me.” She pushed her hair behind her ears for the thousandth time. The full strength of the wind was held back by charms, but it still buffeted. “If I wanted to know about your own endeavours, I could check your staff profile in the newsletter.”

“Would you?” I asked steadily. “Perhaps the better question is: have you?”

She blinked, as unprepared as I was for the bluntness of my question. Granger changed tactic, and I was grateful—if somewhat disconcerted—for it.

“Tell me where you’ve been so far,” she demanded, taking a tip of wine. “I’m sure that Luna wrote up a little program for you, but so far I’ve managed to lose just about all of her instructions.”

I gave a short, sharp laugh. She was proving indeed that we could have a fairly pleasant conversation, though it was tempting to head in rather than put effort into avoiding how attractive I found her.

“I brought a guide book with me,” I said, digging in my pocket for the volume. “There wasn’t much in Flourish & Blotts.”

“Where’d you find it, then?” She took the thin book and leafed through it.

“Waterstones. Apparently I should look into getting an internet connection and searching on the line, but it seems more trouble than it’s worth.”

Granger looked at me directly and snorted. “Online, Severus, and it’s really quite easy. Want me to show you? Luna’s addicted.”

“Online, then,” I allowed, inclining my head. “And, no. Another time, perhaps.”

“Now,” she said next, setting her fork down. “What’s another appropriate topic of conversation?”

“How you ended up here,” I replied immediately, too curious to restrain my interest.

As she chewed, she nodded to acknowledge the question. Clearing her throat, she said, “Luna had the opportunity to see her father in France. Since the war, he’s preferred to travel rather than stay home.” Hermione paused, tapping one delicate fingernail to her lips as she compiled her words. I glanced at her moist lower lip, and turned my gaze to the ocean.

“Luna still… that is, I think there will always be something missing between the two of them now. They love each other fiercely, but he is passionate about not regretting doing everything he could to retrieve her during the war. She prefers to distance herself from the entire memory of it all, but he fixates on it when he visits. She keeps the house in England, see, so he can stay there when he stops in from time to time. And that house has many ghosts for the both of them. She jumped at the chance to see him on the Continent.”

“He doesn’t come here?”

“I don’t know,” she answered slowly. “I don’t think so. This is her sanctuary.”

Snorting, I offered a quiet, “She told me it was about Brexit. I’m glad to know that’s as farfetched as I thought it was.”

Hermione grinned. “Oh, no. It was about that, too. She’s got a feeling about how the vote’s going to go. It pays to remember that Luna can have many reasons for doing things, and it’s not lying if she tells you one and not the other.”

“She would have been at home in my House.”

“Do you think so? I don’t.”

I shifted in my chair, away from the ocean and giving her my full attention. “My House as it is today,” I allowed, knowing it was true. “As for your schooling years… she does not have the heart for cold subterfuge.”

“Not that they were all involved then, either!” Hermione countered. I reached for the bottle of wine and filled our glasses.

“But I do know what you mean,” she said. “She’s a sensitive person. The atmosphere of the House then would’ve been hard on her. Not that Ravenclaw was much better. Too dismissive,” she tacked on succinctly.

“Indeed.” Unsure of how to navigate the conversation now that it was slowly lowering down into personal depths, I hunched my shoulders and rubbed my hands together. The wine was more than adequate; I drank it quickly, preferring to stomach its warmth rather than savour it on my tongue. The charms were faltering, sending wind cutting into my cheeks.

Hermione leant forward, and the touch of her hand on my arm warmed my body; being unfamiliar with both the witch and women in general, I saw nothing in it.

“Are you cold, Severus?” she asked, brow wrinkling with concern.

Amused, I turned the question around. “Aren’t you? But yes. Thank you for dinner, Professor. I shall retire now, and—”

“Oh, it’s barely evening!” she said quickly, fingers curling. I stared at where she still held onto my arm, bewitched by her small, sun-kissed fingers. They looked pale; the black of my sleeve swallowed each delicate appendage. There was the flash of a thought about sucking them into my mouth, feeling the pad of her index finger with my tongue; disregarding it was effortless, given the obvious impossibility of her returning what I was beginning to recognise was tenderness.

Still, though, there was a colour to her nails that answered my initial question. Without thinking, I reached for her, and covered her small, cold hand. She breathed in sharply and I flinched, caught between shock at my daring act and focusing on each tiny ridge on her knuckles.

Deflecting my thoughts and the woman by the simple act of standing, I let go of her hand and felt the loss keenly.

“Goodnight, Hermione,” I murmured.

Her lips pursed. She looked up at me for a long moment, then turned back to the sea.

“Goodnight, Severus,” she said softly.

.
.

That night I stood by the window across from the bed and watched the figure of a woman standing near the very edge of the cliff. Her long, tussled hair whipped around her body; she did not attempt to restrain it. It snaked around her body, caressing her waist, her breasts.

Hermione stood there for over an hour as the sky finally darkened, and I watched her without reserve, hidden as I was. I wondered what she was thinking of, standing in the roaring, ferocious wind; a lover? It seemed unlikely. Her life? Possible, though I knew enough of her to know that she was content.

Her arms hugged her body. I considered going to her; I would take the wine glass that she held, and send it back to the kitchen. I would hold her to my chest, my arms around her body; she would be cradled there, warm, as she watched over the seas like a goddess monitoring her maritime domain.

Would she welcome me? Would her breath quicken? Would she turn in my arms, rest her chin on my chest, and stare at my lips with her wide, dark eyes?

A man could dream.

.
.

She had been out there thinking of the men that had passed by her. The term was more nautical than anything other women may have used, but it did seem like that. They’d come into her life, stay for a while, and then inevitably, either one would drift away. Hermione thought it was because she was already full. She was content, with life and knowledge and work, and thus far a man had only been something to pencil in for weekend evenings. When one remarked that she had more time for fiction than she had for him, she’d barely even managed to catch herself before responding that at least it was more titillating than preparing for dates that were perfunctory at best. She stood near the cliff edge and watched the waters, considering whether she ought to make more of an effort to seem interesting to the Headmaster. Perhaps they’d never established a true friendship because she gave off the vibe that she didn’t need one.

Although, she realised, it wasn’t like Minerva was any different. And Poppy. Hooch, too. In fact, Severus appeared to be a man that was at home with that – enjoyed the distinctions between separate lives, and enjoyed how they merged and separated according to each person’s wishes.

Hermione turned, and saw the flash of a curtain closing in the bedroom window upstairs. She smiled to herself.

.
.

On the fourth day, Hermione would have argued but Severus persisted. Really, she was a terrible host – only days after Severus had arrived, he was putting together breakfast while she was checking the B&B’s email in the study. There were no wizarding bookings in the tray near the window that owls had long learned to deposit them in, though she found an email from a pair of Muggle women coming to the island for the first time. With efficiency that she wished she had in other areas of her life, Hermione muttered Luna’s instructions to herself while she checked the diary on the wall and pencilled in the guests.

She then turned her attention back to the computer and typed a return email slowly and carefully. The slow pace lit her ire – she was wholly unused to being so inept, but technology was moving faster than she could keep up with it during previous summers.

Swearing under her breath, she growled with frustration.

“Problem?”

She ignored him. He would be leaning against the doorway, arms crossed, smirk in place. That infernal eyebrow would be cocked, and she’d have to look at it and know that it would be highly inappropriate to run her tongue along it.

“No,” grumbled Hermione, only halfway through the message. He chuckled as she continued to type, letter by painstaking letter. It was this that she disliked – there was no venom in it, but she was still insecure enough to flinch at his amusement. Her own years at the school were long enough in the past to be disregarded most days, but this man seemed to wreak havoc on her sensibilities.

“Breakfast is ready,” he said eventually. “On second thought, perhaps you should teach me how to use that thing. I could leave a review; say something about how I was forced to fend for myself, no hostess in sight…”

“Bah!” Hermione threw her hands up and hauled herself out of the chair. She marched over to where he was lounging by the door. He was taller than her by more than she’d ever bother to measure; it irked her, the way his black eyes glittered as he grinned down at her. There was something wolfish, something roguish, about that grin.

“I can’t work with you… with you…”

He rubbed at his mouth, failing to rid his lips of that damnable grin. “With me…?”

She couldn’t play his game – she had no idea what the game even was. But Hermione knew what she wanted it to be. Drawing breath, she took a step towards him and stuck her neck out, bringing her as close to his face as she could without standing on her toes. His eyes widened; there was barely a hair’s breadth between their bodies.

She knew he’d never believe her honesty, and it was there that she hid behind. “I can’t work with you here distracting me,” she drawled flatly. “Your good looks and charm just drive me wild.”

The mistake was evident almost immediately. He did not blink; the grin left his mouth, and his eyes were blank, shuttered. He was hurt, she realised, and it was then that she knew a deep feeling of desperate mortification.

“Oh, Severus,” she began, holding a hand over her mouth, “I didn’t mean that. I didn’t—that is, I don’t—”

“It’s all right,” he said decisively. He moved away from her and gave her a formal half-bow. “As I said: breakfast is ready. I’ll keep it under a stasis charm.” He smiled at her then, a short curve of his lips – she’d only said the exact words that Poppy or Minerva might throw at him, but somehow Hermione knew that he’d taken them very, very differently when spoken by her.

Interesting, she mused as he turned and led the way back to the kitchen. Could she have bothered him? Was it because… could it be because he had been harbouring—

No. Surely not.

“Shall we walk today?” she asked as they sat down at the table. He’d cooked a simple fare of toast and eggs, but coffee was steaming in the mugs and her customary splash of milk had already been added. She fought a flush of pleasure at how he remembered the way she took her morning cup. “This looks wonderful, by the way. Lucky me!”

Judging by the way he chuckled, she was laying it on thick. “A walk, yes. I should like that.”

“Is there anything you want to see?”

He hummed pensively. She waited while he swallowed and washed the mouthful down with coffee.

“After being at the school for so long, I do not miss the trees. The Forest is always there; ever-changing, ever-mysterious, but always there. But there aren’t many trees here. I want to see… I want to get to a higher point. It’s curious, don’t you think? A land without trees.”

“It is,” she agreed, aware that her interest in him was beginning to turn into something else. “It’s the wind. Or at least, I assume it is. Luna’s worked on it a bit though – I remember that she was a part of planting a few years ago. There’s definitely some more near Kirkwall. You would’ve seen them, I presume.”

“I did. But here…” He trailed off and gestured around them, turning along with his hand so she was presented with his face in profile. She bit her lip, searching for anything to allay the slowly rising desire; surprisingly, the sight of the harsh angles of his face only served to increase the feelings within her. She found him beautiful – harsh, arresting, striking, yes, but beautiful. She was sure that he had no equal.

Finally following his eyes, she glanced around at the grass that surrounded the house. “Well, yes. This is true. Let’s do it then,” she announced, clapping her hands. “And we can go to the beach, too.”

At his panicked look, she disregarded sense and thought and reached across the table for his hand. “The water’s far too cold for swimming in, but with a jacket we can go to Skaill for beachcombing. I think you’ll like it, Severus. Just for a walk.” It was daring, and if they were anywhere else, she wouldn’t have even asked. But Hermione could no more resist tempting him to go than she could deny herself the chance to walk beside him by the ocean, using the excuse of spying artefacts to spend the morning with him.

He frowned at her hand on his wrist; she kept her face very still as she retreated, though her stomach roiled.

“What do you think?” she said determinedly. “I’ll shout you a drink on the way home.”

Severus leaned back in his chair and snorted. “Careful, Professor Granger – I will expect you to be a witch of your word.”

“I am that,” she said, smiling openly. “Come on! Are you finished?”

He wasn’t, and so she gulped down the rest of her coffee and took her plate into the kitchen, grabbing a cooler bag as she did so. Luna lived in a constant dance between Magical and Muggle – she had no immediate neighbours, but she was certainly known in Stromness. Whether or not the local population had their own opinions of the fair-haired witch, Hermione intended to follow Luna’s advice and keep to the non-Magical side of things when venturing out of the B&B.

Making quick work out of it, she soon had the bag full of supplies for a morning out. One Weightless charm later, and she was leaving it on the counter to check her appearance over in the bathroom.

Critically, Hermione eyed her jeans and comfortable boots. It might do to change her brown blouse, but—

“Are you about done in there?” Severus called, and she shrugged at her reflection.

What will be, will be, she thought, recalling Luna’s promise of openness. She grinned once, widely and impishly, then trotted down the stairs.

.
.

The walk over the hills was warm at first; the sun shone down upon the two. When they reached the highest hill she had been able to find, they spied rain falling in the distance, though it would not reach where they were walking, head down against the wind. Severus’ face was white as a sheet from the force of the gusts, and Hermione laughed from the sheer impossibility of the weather.

She took any excuse to watch him; indeed, she stole the moments, drinking in the sight of his lean body as he shed his jacket. Even his scowl endeared him to her, for he removed and then replaced his jacket once, twice, and double that, and Hermione gave tiny gurgles of laughter that only grew and grew. By the time they gave in and he accepted her offered arm to Apparate them to the beach, he was glowering and she was beaming.

.
.

The beach was mesmerising. As the waves forced their way onto the rocks, it was effortless to imagine Skaill in the past. I had seen the romantic nods to Viking history throughout my morning walks around Stromness and Kirkwall, but it was here that I truly began to taste the salt air on my tongue, to breathe in the wind, the sea. We stood shoulder to shoulder together before the shore, hands in the pockets of sturdy jackets made for the weather. She told me what she knew of the history that surrounded us, and I listened to her voice, glad when she began to talk of other things.

Before the rolling waves, I was a small man. My worries were miniscule; my attraction to the witch was reduced to nothingness in front of the evidence that I was but one man amidst the strength of nature.

I had ached for this. For too long, I had sat atop the Headmaster’s tower and allowed myself to be the figurehead of all that we had gained. I had—begrudgingly—attended the commemorations held each five years. I had—with grinding teeth—watched one Minister take office, and accepted his handshake as if it bore meaning. Yet another Minister had been sworn in during the years, though by then I had already retreated further into the school. Then and now heralded no desire to take part in society’s fierce need to forgive themselves. Forgiveness did not come to me, though I had long set that heavy, iron-weighted mantle down.

In front of the vast sea, the world was quiet. Hermione’s hair had come loose, and I felt the strands whipping around my back, as if her hair were claiming me. She smiled sheepishly and gathered it together in her hands in an attempt to restrain it; when it resisted and again splayed on my back, she tipped her face into the sun and laughed without reserve.

I looked down at her closed eyes and smiling lips and allowed myself a faint grin. Even without being wholly aware of her shoulder pressed to mine, I was at ease. And such a feeling was new and welcome though it did nothing to sway the desire that rose within when her dark eyes opened and blinked before my scrutiny.

I retreated then, jerking my chin to her in the direction of the rocks, and she followed with the ridiculous bag that held our food.

“What are we looking for?” I asked, crouching down near the beginning of the spread of pebbles that stretched out onto the beach. I had seen beaches in Scotland before in summer—one could not possibly work with Minerva and not be dragged to Iona from time to time—but the rocks and pebbles and skies of grey were enthralling.

Hermione bent from her waist and looked over the rocks before us. “Bounty,” she answered, her previous laughter clinging to her voice. “Sea glass. Messages in bottles. Driftwood. Oh – that quirky side table in the hallway, do you know it?”

“I do.”

“Michael made it – Luna’s Michael. He made it from driftwood that they found here one day.”

We meandered around the beach; at first I did not see the allure in searching for treasures when surely a wand would have beckoned them easily. We sat down on the hard sand and ate and spoke together for perhaps an hour—time hurtled past me uncounted—and then she was off again. To avoid her passion was impossible. I sat on a rock and watched her, and all that I came away with when I meandered to her side was that an Orkney rock under the arse was bloody well cold.

But Hermione’s company called to me like a Siren, and I wished to be near her – her delighted coo when I unearthed an old cheeky bottle of Spanish red thrilled both blood and heart.

“This is what I mean!” she exclaimed, carefully taking the bottle from my hands. It had been tucked under wood and rope, glinting in the summer sun. The excitement in her voice carried over the rough wind. “Just imagine – where did this come from? Who drank it? How did it end up in the water?”

I turned slightly, giving her body shelter from the weather. We were close now, and it was inevitable that I would meet her smiling eyes and offer her an awkward half-grin of my own.

“Do you see?” she prompted, stepping closer. “Look.”

I took the bottle and examined it, finding nothing to share with her but a sardonic: “I see rubbish in the sea. It’s a shame.”

“Yes, yes,” she said, elbowing my side. I grunted, and she gave a disarming little gurgle of laughter. “But we’re taking the rubbish away with us, Severus. Just think, though: it was carried here by the currents, carried from somewhere far different than this place. Isn’t it… entrancing?”

I was unmanned. Her smile, her dark eyes, her flushed cheeks… I stared at her. My back was to the ocean, to the sun, and I felt it warming my back but it was she that heated my body more than anything else. She tucked a strand of hair behind her eyes and looked up at me; the smile slowly left her mouth.

“Entrancing,” I echoed quietly, hardly darling to raise my hand but doing so anyway. Somehow I was outside of myself – I watched, breathless, as my pale hand cupped her cheek and felt the softness of her skin. Her eyelids fluttered; my breath, when it came, was ragged and heavy.

Slowly, hesitantly, I trailed my fingers across her cheek and let my thumb sink into her lower lip. Her lip was full and it gave beneath my calloused touch; the desire I felt then was so painful that it twisted within, taunting me, inviting me to give in. I smoothed my thumb across her lip, watching as a blush rose on her cheeks. What would it be like to kiss her? To feel her mouth on mine, to run my tongue along her lip, following the path that my thumb had left?

My musings were preposterous. I could recall with perfect clarity how she’d made that biting comment about my looks and charms distracting her from work – and even then, it wasn’t so much that. We both of us were awkward in our fledging companionship here on the island. One comment may not have meant what the words dictated, and I could understand that well enough. Yet I didn’t know what she had meant, and for the sake of harmony in the staff room when we returned to Hogwarts, I turned my face away from her for long enough to slice a silver knife through the delicacy of the moment.

I stepped back, relinquishing her lip. There was silence between us.

Hermione kept her eyes on me as she brought her hand to her mouth. It was just the moment, and I commanded myself to believe it. There was the sea and the wind and the endless skies, and I’d had a hold on her lip. I’d reached for her, and I’d touched her in a compulsive movement that would have been better left alone.

I could not speak, but she heard me well enough.

“Shall we go?”

I nodded once, unsure and off-kilter. I wanted to touch her again. I wanted to kiss her.

I wanted many things, and I had no sense at all of how to navigate the changes occurring between us.

We Apparated back to the house separately. Hermione went straight for her private quarters on the ground floor—I half-heartedly wanted to ask for the bottle of old Spanish red, but it was tucked securely under her arm—and I made for the stairs and from there, to my room. I ran the bath and grabbed my book from the bedside table.

As a method of distraction, it was entirely ineffective.

.
.

The next day was bizarre. She wore a black jumper and light blue jeans; I watched her bring out breakfast, and in turn, I was unable to tear my eyes away from where the soft material clung to her breasts. The effort I had made to distance myself from her—stepping back after so foolishly touching her mouth—was for naught. In black, she seemed more minx than woman, and I was unprepared for it.

“I’ll just grab the coffee,” she murmured, setting down the two plates of eggs. And then I was a ruined man, for the sway of her hips and the curve of her backside had me out of the chair and following her in an instant.

“Allow me,” I muttered, passing her into the kitchen. “I should’ve offered.”

Something had occurred for her overnight. Something had kick-started or flipped over dramatically. Hermione made a small, appeased hum under her breath.

“You’re my guest,” said she.

I turned with a mug in each hand. She was eyeing me from the doorway, her arms folded under her breasts. I swallowed.

“Of a sort,” I managed, walking carefully out of the room and away from her all-too-knowing smile. This woman was unnerving; this woman was delectable, unforgettable.

My resolve to avoid her or to at least restrain myself, was crumbling brick by desire-sodden brick.

“I thought we’d go for a pub dinner tonight,” she said as she settled herself at the table after me. Avoiding her direct gaze, I drank deeply from the mug.

“Good,” I pronounced.

“The coffee or the pub?”

“Both,” I said. Then, without thinking: “Isn’t it always both?”

She was cutting her toast into squares; one decisive gesture had bread and egg speared neatly on her fork. “Why, I think that depends,” she said, popping it into her mouth.

“On what?”

Hermione set the cutlery down and laid her palms on the table. Barely cognizant of anything but her steady stare, I lowered the mug to the table.

“On what?” I repeated, impatient.

She smiled. “Usually when it is always both, it is because both options have the desired outcome. Such outcomes being… not unpleasant experiences. Brilliant experiences, one could say. Even… marvellous. Of course there’s always one exception.”

“And that is?” I held my breath.

Shrugging, Hermione cleared her throat. There was a faint line between her thin brown eyebrows.

“I assume,” she said steadily, “that it depends on whether the party is oblivious to all his or her options.”

“Oblivious?”

Her eyes flicked to mine, then away to the sea. “Indeed,” she whispered, finally taking a sip of her coffee.

Irritated, I finished breakfast without another word. After all, hadn’t it been she that expressed such negative sentiments about my person? If anyone at the table was oblivious, surely it was not I.

Regardless – it mattered not. I had nothing invested in whatever game she was playing, save gasping into a silenced room each night as I entertained thoughts of her body and mind.

I had nothing invested in her at all.

.
.

Hermione had not thought of how to guide her emotions through a rejection; she hadn’t prepared for it. It hadn’t even entered into her mind that she might encounter a man on her holiday that would touch her cheek and lips, and stare at her so, and then back away with a face that flamed with mortification.

Still, though, she was pleased with herself. So far she had managed to treat Severus politely, and she hoped—though it was a small hope—that they would be able to maintain their kind and distant relationship at work upon their return. They were adults; surely it wasn’t too much to hope that they could each act like one.

Hermione sighed and shoved her hands into the soft pockets of her thick grey cardigan. She’d left the B&B on foot not long after breakfast; now, she sat on an old stile atop a hill. Hoy loomed in the distance; grey clouds were gathering above. It was the wrong weather for a walk, but that was what charms were for.

Shivering, she cast another warming charm on her body and huddled into the cardigan. Despite her best efforts, her thoughts were still of the Headmaster – was he in the B&B? Had he departed it as she had, in hope of not seeing her again before dinner?

Had she been a fool to invite him to dinner?

“No,” she mumbled to herself, free to speak with no-one but the wind to hear her. “This is the last time. If nothing happens, then nothing happens.”

But then, if nothing happened… should she not try and make it happen?

Impossibly, excitement sparked rather than hesitation. Gasping, Hermione stood abruptly and stumbled back the way she had come. Her heart was racing within her chest.

Date: 2016-08-29 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mywitch.livejournal.com
Ahh, marvelous indeed! What a wonderful, romantic, enticing story. I loved the set up. Luna always seems to know what's best. And SS and HG were in fine form. A delicious delight from start to finish. And I am now dying for a trip to a place just like that... sigh

Date: 2016-08-29 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krissy-cits.livejournal.com
You have an amazing writing style! Loving this! And I'm not usually into "slow burns" but this one is quite changing my mind. :)

Date: 2016-08-30 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snapebraille4tu.livejournal.com
Dear MA....I have a pleasant hum enveloping me- the spell is deepening. I am visualizing like crazy, projecting my memories of Orkney into every word. His thumb across her lip made me sigh. This is such a delicious experience!! I don't want it to end! Heading to Part The Last, with salty wind and desire chasing me along. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Date: 2016-08-30 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] too-dle-oo.livejournal.com
Gods, this is grand. Utterly romantic without stooping to cliches and needless melodrama. The changes in voice are so affecting! Yes, we get a share of both of them, but we really only hear Severus's voice. It makes us side with him, knowing what he wants, and it makes us want for him to get what he wants.

I thought: I could love a woman like this. Love this line!

Not for me was this, but my bedroom was quiet and the sounds from downstairs were far more beguiling than the book that stayed open on my lap, forgotten.
Beguiling, eh?

I can admit that when she came for the interview, something within me warmed to her passionate, easy smiles. But five years are five years, and I had dismissed the thoughts of her almost as soon as she’d left the interview. I can picture this happening so clearly with how you've written these two. They're all fits and starts, aren't they? Feels like they're beginning something, and then both retreat.

That night I stood by the window across from the bed and watched the figure of a woman standing near the very edge of the cliff. Her long, tussled hair whipped around her body; she did not attempt to restrain it. I read this line, and I see Waterhouse's Miranda, standing at the ocean, watching the ship sink. Were you thinking of this, too?

Image

YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN, GIRL!

Edited Date: 2016-08-30 09:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-08-31 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mywitch.livejournal.com
Sigh, Waterhouse. Perfect.

Date: 2016-09-04 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snapebraille4tu.livejournal.com
I adore Waterhouse. I have Hylas and the Nymphs and Circe Invidiosa in my bathroom!! 💙💚💙💚

Date: 2016-09-04 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mywitch.livejournal.com
Oooh nice. Love those!

Date: 2016-09-01 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melodylepetit.livejournal.com
Oh MA, this fic has so much romance! I'm loving every single moment of this slow burn. Thank you so much for writing such a lovely fic. Now I'm scurrying off to read part 3! ❤️

I love this!

Date: 2016-09-09 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beffeysue.livejournal.com
Had she been a fool to invite him to dinner?

“No,” she mumbled to herself, free to speak with no-one but the wind to hear her. “This is the last time. If nothing happens, then nothing happens.”

But then, if nothing happened… should she not try and make it happen?


You go, Hermione! Sometimes one just has to appoint themselves Engineer-in-Charge of the project and make it happen.

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