Severus' love-hate relationship with coffee was well-known amongst the faculty at Hogwarts. He often slouched into the Great Hall for breakfast with nary a word to anyone, only to melt at the sight of his first cuppa, served steaming hot by one of the house-elves, with a dollop of double cream and a generous teaspoon of the finest brown sugar.
This was not to say that Severus was ever amiable. Nor was he particularly inclined toward casual conversation or outward displays of civility. But to the trained eye, one could easily spot the changes wrought in the man after his first cup of coffee. His posture sprang into his normal locked and upright position, his eyes sharpened, glaring blackly at the students over the top of his mug, his fingers became strong, his stride forceful. Oh, no, there was no denying that man and his coffee were inseparable.
Every year, Severus treated himself to something for his birthday. After all, he reasoned, it wasn't as though anyone else cared, so it was up to him to make the most of an otherwise normal day. This year, it had been the French Press. A long-awaited treasure that he planned to enjoy – slowly, sensuously.
Severus boiled the water with childlike anticipation, a small moan escaping his lips as he ground the dark coffee beans, their aroma wafting like incense throughout the room. Slowly he poured the water on top, watching the grounds as they swirled in the clear glass press. Now, he thought, to be patient for five minutes …
There was a knock at the door. Severus cursed under his breath, looking longingly at the steeping coffee, and went to the door, hoping to send whomever it was off running in terror.
“Ah, Severus,” Dumbledore said placidly. “Good to see you up. Might I have a word?”
Severus gritted his teeth, nodded silently, and waved him in.
Thirty minutes later – thirty long, torturous, excruciatingly painful minutes later – Dumbledore finally took his leave. Severus let out a pent-up breath as the door shut behind him, and with a most uncouth haste, he ran into the kitchen, grabbing the lukewarm press and groaning. “Oh, my beautiful coffee,” he murmured. “I think I can still save you ...” With a bit of wandless magic, he reheated the precious dark liquid, sighing when the aroma wafted to his overlarge nose. Transferring the brew to his favorite mug, he added the requisite double cream and brown sugar, and sipped.
Within minutes, Severus had polished off the entire press-ful of coffee. He had hoped to take his time, savor every last exquisite drop, but the old man had foiled his plan, and he was now running late. Damn that man, he grimaced as he stalked through the corridors, hands twitching at his sides.
Stopping quickly into the Great Hall for a piece of toast and a sausage or two, he ran up to the table.
“Good morning, Severus,” McGonagall said as she always did, not expecting a reply.
“Good morning, Minerva. How are the sausages today? Any good? I do like sausages,” Severus said quickly, hands tapping on the table nervously.
She gawped at him, fork falling out of her hand with a clatter. “Se-Severus?” she stammered.
“Oh good, here they come. You'll forgive me, but I'm running late. Ta!” he said, folding a few sausages into some toast and taking off briskly.
McGonagall turned to Professor Sprout. “What on earth has gotten into him?”
“More like who, you mean,” Sprout said with a conspiratorial giggle. At Minerva's cocked eyebrow, Sprout rolled her eyes and said, “I saw Albus leaving his quarters at a rather … unseemly … hour this morning, hmm?”
Minerva shut her mouth with an audible snap, then, looking Pomona in the eyes, began to laugh uproariously.
By lunchtime, there were whispers all over the school. Pomona had, of course, filled in the rest of the head table after Minerva left, tears of mirth rolling down her face. The students, though, had come up with their own reasons for Snape's disturbingly odd behavior today.
In first-year Potions, he had been suspiciously pleasant, if a bit twitchy. He awarded more points than he took, which was odd enough, but when a rather stocky girl by the name of Bassett accidentally knocked over her cauldron, he barely even blinked, even helping her vanish up the viscous liquid. The class unanimously declared him possessed.
The fourth-years were convinced they had heard him singing under his breath whilst writing instructions on the board. However, they fought almost to the point of bloodshed over lunch as to whether the cause was a student's hex or a love potion from McGonagall.
The seventh-years, who had Potions last in the day, were baffled when only half-way through the period, Severus suddenly paled. Dismissing everyone early, he proclaimed “No homework!” - words that had never before passed through those lips – and almost ran out the door connecting the classroom to his private quarters. Their own decision was that the man had become ill, but with love or with food poisoning remained to be determined.
At dinner, he was practically back to his own sulky self, a nervous tic about his left eye the only remaining evidence of the unusual behavior he had displayed today. Dumbledore sat calmly to his right, Severus spitting his usual two-word replies to the other man's long-winded natterings.
On Severus' left, Minerva and Pomona exchanged dewy glances. “Aren't they adorable?” Pomona whispered, eyes shining.
“How could we not have seen it before?” Minerva replied.
The next day, Severus had tea for breakfast.