Phew! Let's get caught up, shall we? We're checking back in on our beleaguered duo...
'No,' he replied hastily. 'Not at all. I am amenable to a next time.'
'Because if I'm doing this wrong, if... if...' The words were flying from Hermione's lips in a splutter of incomprehensibility. 'You could—should—invite Fiona, of course.'
His eyes grew wide. 'You want Fiona to join us?'
'I want her to come if you want her to come, and I think you probably want her to... er...' Hermione grabbed a banana for something to do, handing it to him to ring up with her coffee. 'And this, please.'
He frowned. 'And your young man?'
Young man? Hermione thought. What young man?
She didn't have a young man.
Not unless Harry's two-year-old counted. James Jabuticaba Mahatma Lovegood-Potter, bless his snotty-nosed little heart, utterly adored his Auntie Hermione. Baby Al just drooled on her.
Severus faltered at her hesitation. 'Presumably, you would wish for your... for him to accompany you.'
Running through all the people who she knew interacted with Severus over the last few weeks, the only man who even remotely fit the bill was—
'Do you mean Pip?' she asked. 'My Pip?'
Severus sneered. 'His name is... Pip? What kind of a name is that?'
Hermione's hackles were raised as she defended her friend. 'He's a lovely guy, but you'll see when you meet him. And Pip is short for Philip, but he's definitely not a Philip.'
'So...' Severus began, preparing a delicate brew for her, 'next time. When are you and... Pip'—he spat out the name like spoilt milk—'available for dinner?'
Without knowing Pip's schedule or his plans with his partner, she was hesitant to offer up an evening. 'I'm guessing that Friday would work. I'll run it by him and confirm with you tomorrow.'
'Why am I coming on your date?' Pip asked, notebook in hand.
Prepared as always, Hermione thought.
'Maybe he wants me to have somebody else on my side so that I'm not an obvious third wheel to him and Fiona.'
'Hermione, what the hell were you thinking when you asked the pair of them to dinner? It sounds like he wanted only you.'
'But I thought you said he and Fiona—'
'Years ago!' Pip interjected.
Hermione groaned. 'Fuck.'
'I shall be your wingman.' Pip took out his pen, changing the subject entirely. 'Now, Ms. Granger, shall we begin?'
The rest of the week ran smoothly.
Each day held the same routine: morning scheduling with Pip, legislative reforms before lunch, early afternoon meetings with foreign dignitaries, and late afternoon interdepartmental consults before taking off for home with a stack of files to read over dinner.
It is important work, she told herself.
She helped the ministries and governments of the world learn to work together. Surely her work made a difference in someone's life.
It was just that it was all rather monotonous.
And Hermione didn't like the sinking feeling that she was stuck.
Soon enough, the weekend arrived.
So did a sense of impending doom, looming over Hermione as she changed into her new red silk wrap dress for her upcoming dinner. This was a bad idea. A very bad idea. Why had she opened her big mouth and mentioned Fiona at all? True, she didn't want to look like she was elbowing her way into Severus and Fiona's relationship.
If there was one.
Which there might not be.
A knock alerted her to Pip's arrival, all dapper and suited up. He stared, letting out a low wolf whistle. 'Yowza, Hermione!'
'I have excellent taste, if I do say so myself,' Pip quipped, taking Hermione by the hand and twirling her around to see the full effect of the dress he'd selected for her. 'Now ditch the scarf and pull out a longish necklace that hangs right above your bristols.'
She looked down at her chest. 'Really?'
He nodded with fervor. 'It'll draw his attention to your third best feature.'
'I hate to ask what the top two are, Pip. Should I be concerned?'
'Your brain, of course,' he replied. 'And your heart. Although perhaps not in that order.'
A quick Apparition to an alley in Soho brought the pair to the address Severus had given Hermione.
She was dismayed by its name.
Which was Spanish.
That rankled a bit, especially given his cryptic comments about Spain and whatever they implied.
Nevertheless, Hermione forged ahead, entering the swanky restaurant with Pip by her side. She found the maître d'. 'Party of four at 7 o'clock?'
'Under what name?' he asked.
'Snape, I think?'
He looked in the book. 'There's no Snape here.'
'Is there a Severus?'
She thought a moment longer. 'Er... Is it under Tobias?'
She and Pip were seated at an empty table.
Before the waiter had time to walk away after dropping off menus, Pip took the liberty of ordering a bottle of the house wine. 'Just in case.'
They nibbled on some oversized toasted corn kernels set out as a starter, not making any small talk.
Hermione needed the time to focus.
Within a few minutes, she felt Pip nudge her under the table as he cleared his throat.
When she looked up, there stood Severus Snape, dashing in all grey, and the devastatingly gorgeous Fiona Bones.
In a red wrap dress.