Severus walks past store fronts and peers into the windows. As it isn’t a Hogsmead weekend, the streets are empty. He stands in front of a dress shop looking at the clothes on a mannequin through the window. Pulling out Hermione’s mother’s letter, he moves his finger down the list. “Size nine. Floor length. Must have sleeves. NO PINK.” Hermione had nothing nice enough to wear to the Yule Ball at home. It was decided between Snape and her mother that she might as well get dress robes from the wizarding world. This is why Snape is now walking into a woman’s dress robe shop, armed with a list of requirements to surprise Hermione with. In the shop, Snape walks once around the mannequin, feels the silky material between his coarse fingers, then walks to the front counter.
“The blue dress. Size nine.”
The woman stares at Severus for a moment before fetching the dress and wrapping it.
He returns to the castle and places the package on the desk in his office. Hermione had received an owl last night to stop by her dad’s office. As usual, Hermione arrived perfectly on time as Snape finished making a pot of tea.
“You wanted to see me.” Hermione said.
“Your mother sent me a letter last week. She got me to pick this up.”
Severus handed his daughter the package. Hermione’s face turned from worry to joy as she unwrapped the dress and held it up to herself.
“It’s perfect.” She said, hugging Snape.
“What a wonderful family portrait.” Draco sneered from the doorway.
“What are you doing here, ferret?” Hermoine quickly wrapped up the dress before the ferret noticed, but she wasn’t quick enough.
“What’s that you’ve got there? Must be as big as a tent to fit over you.”
“Why are you even here?” Hermione said.
“Now, now, why don’t you two try to get along?” Snape tried to get between the two teens.
“I’m here for extra potions lessons. At least Snape wants me here. You probably barged in uninvited. Daddy issues, have we.”
“At least I don’t need extra potions lessons.” Hermione spat.
“Now Draco,” Snape reached to put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I invited Hermione to come here, but you’re early and I assumed we’d be done by the time you came.”
“At least I have a real date for the ball.” Draco said, ignoring Snape entirely.
“I have a date, if you must know.”
“Weaselbee broke down and asked you? I didn’t think he’d have the guts.”
Hermione was on the verge of tears. Snape tried to block Draco’s path from her.
“Leave her relationship with Weasley alone, Draco.”
“Hell, I didn’t think you’d have the stupidity to say yes. But I suppose when you’ve got no other choice.”
“Draco, I’m telling you to leave her alone!” Snape raised his voice.
“Viktor Krum has asked me, I’ll have you know!” Hermione shouted, then ran past both of them into the hall.
She slammed the door shut and leaned against the hallway, wiping her eyes with one hand and holding her new dress in the other. Snape followed her out, and hugged her to his chest.
“Sweet heart, you shouldn’t have said that. Lying will only set him off more.”
“Why do you think I lied? Because he could never like a girl like me? I’m not good enough?”
“Hermione, you’re actually going with...with Krum...” Severus took a step back.
“Is there something wrong with that?”
“Of course there is! He’s seventeen. He has a beard, for Christ sake.”
“Dad, it’s just a dance.”
“I was just happy someone asked me.” Hermione wiped at her eyes again. “Ron never did.”
“I’m sorry.” Snape hugged her one more time. She went upstairs to her dormitory and Snape went back into his office.
“I don’t know why you two have to say such things all the time.”
“She’s everything I hate! I can’t help it.” Draco spat.
“She was when you thought she was muggleborn.”
“She’s my mortal enemy.”
“Harry Potter is. Besides,” Snape laughed, “If either of you really hated each other, you’d do a lot more than just taunt each other.”
Severus skulked around the entrance hall as students early for the ball piled in, dolled up and giggling. He waited at the door for the visiting students who were following Igor Kakaroff up the lawn. Victor Krum followed behind him and stood next to Snape when they stopped.
“Igor, good to see you.” Snape said, “And Krum, I hear you’re taking a young Hogwarts girl to the ball tonight.”
“I hope you will treat her hospitably. Teachers here take their student’s welfare quite seriously.”
“Severus, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been sent to lead you into the great hall.” Snape cocked a fake smile, glaring sideways at Krum.
He turned quickly and walked through the huge wooden doors. He spotted Potter and Weasley, both looking perplexed by their dates. He frowned to see Hermione wasn’t with them.
Draco was skulking by the stairs and smiled at Snape when their eyes met. Draco laughed with several slytherines about some of the worst dressed people, especially the weasel in his ruffles. Draco also noticed Hermione wasn’t with the golden trio. He thought back to their argument in the dungeons and frowned. Maybe he had struck a deeper wound than he had through. She wasn’t going to go at all now.
The triwizard competitors were gathering near the doors to the hall, where Snape waited to open them. Hermione made her way down the stairway and Snape smiled at her. She smiled back and waved.
Snape turned to make sure Kakaroff didn’t see the movement. He didn’t need a deatheater knowing she was his daughter. Instead, he saw Krum gawking like an idiot and waving at his little girl. The dolt.
Draco noticed Hermione coming down in her periwinkle dress too. Good. At least now he didn’t have to feel guilt about making her miss it, and he wouldn’t have to apologize later to Snape.
Hermione strolled across to Viktor Krum and took his arm to enter the great hall. Draco’s jaw dropped. Severus’ clenched in anger.
After the dance, Viktor was dragged away by Kakaroff to get up for morning training. Hermione was left sulking on the staircase where Ron left them after their fight. Why was it that everyone thought Viktor was too old for her?
Hermione sighed, taking off her shoes, she stood and walked barefoot out into the courtyard. She heard her father’s voice behind the shrubs and cheered up as she headed toward him, then heard another voice –Kakaroff’s- and quickly hid behind the shrubs.
“You know what it means as well as I, Severus. What are we going to do about it?” Igor whispered.
“What you do is none of my business. We aren’t together in this.”
“We will always be together in this, Severus. Even you are still...”
“Quiet.” Snape hissed.
“You’re frightened.” Igor said. “After all this time. You sound like you’re protecting something. Someone.”
“You’re imagining things.” He knows something, Severus thought.
“There have been rumours. Perhaps Snape isn’t as alone as we thought.” Igor laughed.
“I’m not frightened. I tell you to hold your tongue out here, where anyone could be listening. Don’t you think?” Snape said coldly.
There were rumours. How could there be when Snape had been so careful. Only Draco and Dumbledore knew, and Dumbledore didn’t tell anyone anything. Draco was trained in occlumency, and even he wasn’t cruel enough to tell someone. Igor snarled and walked away. Snape breathed a sigh of relief. This is why he needed to keep Hermione protected, no matter what. No one could know she was really his daughter, or she would be dragged into the same mess he was now stuck in.
Hermione heard Kakaroff leave and waited a moment before stepping out from behind the bush. Snape stepped back in surprise.
“You scared me, Hermione. What are you doing still out? Nearly everyone has gone to bed.”
“I know. I was going to go, I just wasn’t tired yet.”
He patted her on the shoulder. “Was it a good Yule ball?”
“It was okay.” She shrugged.
“I thought you were excited about tonight. Did Krum do anything?”
“No, he was fine. It’s just, Ron and I had a bit of a fight.”
Severus sighed. “I never thought I’d say this, but I would rather you had gone with Weasley tonight. I would worry about you less.”
“I wish I had gone with him too.” Hermione sighed. “Why are boys always so stupid.”
“It’s just in their nature, sweet heart.”
“Do you think he’ll ever get a clue?”
“No. But you’ll get used to it.”Snape smiled. “Everything will look better tomorrow.”
He looked at the fairy lights in the trees that were all beginning to give up and fly off on their own. The band could still be heard playing through the open doors to the hall, although only a few couples and a teacher or two were up dancing. Hermione yawned and stepped back into her shoes.
“How would you like one last dance for your father, then off to bed.”
“I’d like that,” Hermione said as she reached for her dad’s hands. She wished he had been there for all her sad moments when she was growing up. He could have swung her about underneath the stars then carried her off to bed. Maybe she wouldn’t have felt like such a loner sometimes. “I’m glad you’re here,” She said.
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