As you would expect from a bit of fan fiction, I own nothing, and make no money from this.
Takes place post-DH, with a few obvious deviations from canon… Also, please note this fiction is rated M as it contains mature content including domestic abuse and PTSD (mostly off-screen, and none of which is between SS & HG). I won't be posting individual chapter warnings, so please don't read if you are underage or if these themes are upsetting to you.
Severus Snape, Potions Master, former Headmaster and current Defence against the Dark Arts Professor of Hogwarts School, was on his way to the Owlery. As was his habit, he walked silently and kept to the shadows, even though the halls were empty at that late hour. His mind was on the Apothecary's order he was posting, debating internally on whether he should have ordered an extra weight of newt's eyes for his private stores. As he strode down the hallway he heard something out of place. At first he dismissed the noise as one of those you inevitably got on quiet corridors in old buildings with many occupants, but he soon identified the sound as a female student's voice and… one close to tears. The Professor sighed. He had plans for the rest of the evening and didn't want to get caught up in whatever teenage melodrama the child was undoubtably involved in. It didn't bode well if she was hiding in such an out of the way part of the castle, whoever she was.
'I wonder if I can get away with just pretending I didn't hear for once?' he thought disgruntledly, scowling as he recalled how much time he'd spent awkwardly attempting to comfort teary Slytherins that year. The war might be over but it had cast a long shadow, especially in his own house. Almost all the children had lost someone in battle or in the buildup to it, on both sides. The Dark Lord had been particularly unforgiving of those he considered traitors to his cause who had ties to the House of Snakes and many a Slytherin's family had become victims to the Death Eaters when they refused to join.
Despite his misgivings, the Professor detoured from his path to find the child - 'no doubt homesick or suffering from some kind of teenage heartbreak,' he thought with his customary sneer firmly in place. If it was one of his House, she would be gently chivvied into returning to the common room with a suggestion to seek out one of his more trusted seventh year Prefects known for her patience with the younger crowd. If they were from another house he'd deal with them in pretty much the same way, only with more sarcasm, less sympathy, and definitely a substantial point loss from the offending house.
The corridor he was on was one with several abandoned classrooms. The first door he tried was locked, the second opened to a dusty room filled with broken desks. It was the next that provided him with the culprit. Hearing the voice again as he approached the third room, he cast a silencing spell on himself before opening the door and gliding in. Again, the place was clearly no longer in use, with old furniture stacked up against the walls. In the middle of the room there was a girl sitting on the dusty floor surrounded by hovering blue flames in bubbles, illuminating her as she tried to cast a spell again and again, banging her fist on the floor in frustration when it didn't work.
Snape had just drawn breath ready to lift the spell keeping his presence from the girl so he could berate her properly for interrupting his evening when he realised exactly who it was sitting on the stone floor - none other than the female member of the golden trio herself, Hermione Granger. He paused before revealing himself, keen to know what spell the Gryffindor know-it-all was having trouble with.
"Percuro" She shouted, pointing her wand to her left wrist. "Work, dammit, why won't you work?"
The Professor could see that Hermione had tears pouring down her face as she tried to get the spell to work. But still he held back from revealing himself, somewhat confused. 'Percuro is a basic healing spell, third year stuff. Why does she need it, and why on earth is Granger, highest rated student in this school, having problems casting it?' he mused.
He watched her for a moment or so longer, curious to see what type of injury she was trying to heal. Unable to see, he quickly tired of hiding and stepped out, cancelling the silencing spell as he did.
Hermione heard a footstep from behind her and swung around, jumping to her feet with her wand out - instantly alert and battle ready.
"Miss Granger, I do hope you aren't intending to hex a teacher," drawled Snape as he stepped further into the room and towards her. "The point loss for attempting to do so would be…" he paused theatrically, "…considerable."
Seeing her DADA Professor in front of her, Hermione relaxed her stance and lowered her wand slightly, although the wary expression on her face didn't change.
"Professor Snape," She greeted him cautiously.
"Granger, what exactly are you doing in this part of the castle so late at night? It is almost curfew and you are a long way from the Gryffindor dorms."
"I, uh," Hermione stalled, trying to think of a good excuse for her presence. Nothing came instantly to mind - she was trapped. Feeling defeated, Hermione's shoulders slumped and she looked down at the floor and with a quiet voice apologised. "I'm sorry Sir, I'll go straight back to my room now."
Snape frowned again. No brash justifications? No instant answer from the know-it-all as to why it was completely essential she was in the deserted classroom and how he couldn't possibly take points. The work they had done for the Order after the battle - countless hours brewing healing potions and strengthening draughts together in his lab after he had recovered from that blasted snake bite - had promoted a slightly more familiar relationship than teacher-student. That she was being so formal with him was in itself an oddity. Much to his disgust, a tendril of worry snaked through his mind. Something wasn't right with Miss Granger.
Still, it wouldn't do to show her that, so he kept a stern expression on his face. "Come now, Granger," he said brusquely, "I'll walk you back. I wouldn't want you to get lost on your way and end up somewhere else you aren't supposed to be," he added with a half-hearted sneer, more out of habit than anything else.
Professor Snape walked to the door and opened it, indicating to Hermione to exit in front of him. Severus happened to glance down at her just as she walked through and narrowed his eyes. He had caught a glimpse of her left wrist… which was dark with bruises.
As they walked back through the castle, both were silent, each deep in thought. Eventually Snape spoke.
"Granger, I couldn't help but hear you were casting a healing spell. Should we be heading to the infirmary rather than your dorm?"
Hermione looked up at him, her face pale and her eyes wide with poorly disguised emotion. "No Sir," she replied, "It's nothing, really. I was just… practicing." She said lamely, knowing full well he would see straight through her.
"Practicing?" Snape sneered, "After a year spent camping with your two miscreant friends I find it hard to believe you need any practice for basic healing spells."
Hermione smiled briefly in acknowledgement. "I had a very good book with me with a wide variety of healing spells and general first aid, and yes we did end up using almost all of them at some point." She added conversationally, "Although I'm sure you would be the last person to be surprised at how much trouble Harry and Ron can get into simply by being alive. I swear some days all they had to do was stand up and someone got hurt."
Although Severus showed disapproval at the conversation inwardly he was pleased that she was opening up. Now perhaps he could find out what was going on.
"So why then, Miss Granger, did you need to practice this evening? Perhaps you could tell me the truth this time?"
At this her smile fell and she looked down at the floor again. "It wouldn't work for me." She told him in a near whisper. "I can't get my magic to work."
Snape thought back to where he had found her. "You can cast flames though? You were surrounded by them. So it isn't all spells?"
"No Sir, the basics seem to be okay. I think I might just be tired Sir"
The Professor allowed them to continue in silence, waiting to see if she would elaborate further. Sure enough, before they reached the next staircase she cautiously spoke again.
"Could you… could you help me please?"
He paused and looked down at her, raising one eyebrow in inquiry.
Hermione spoke in a rush, "The reason why I was casting was because I, uh, I caught my hand in a door earlier and hurt it. I don't want to bother Madam Pomfrey for something so minor. Would you mind?"
With a long-suffering sigh, the Professor capitulated. He knew something didn't add up with what she was telling him, but it was late and he still had his letter to owl. He stopped in the corridor and indicated to Hermione to stand and face him. With a quick wave of his wand he silently cast a quick diagnostic spell over her, more out of habit than anything else before preparing to cast a localised healing spell.
The results were not what he'd expected.
With a gasp he unthinkingly grabbed her extended hand and she shrieked with pain, unable to suppress it.
"Granger!" He admonished as she pulled her hand away and cradled the wrist protectively in her other hand.
"I'm sorry Professor," she replied, holding her hand out again. "I'll be quiet, I promise."
'What? She thinks I'm angry with her for making a noise when in pain?' "Granger, don't been an idiot. What do you think I am? I'm not telling you off for that. What in Merlins name did you do? Throw yourself down a flight of stairs? I can only assume given your reticence to seek professional care and that half-baked story about a door, that it was while you up to something you shouldn't have been. Not only have you got what looks like two cracked ribs and a bruised and sprained wrist, but your magical reserves are far too low. No wonder you couldn't heal yourself. We are going straight to the infirmary."
And with that he stalked off in the opposite direction to the one they had been heading, clearly expecting Hermione to follow. She cast a longing look at the way to her room, before allowing her shoulders to slump as she turned to walk to the infirmary. It was exactly where she had hoped she wouldn't end up that night.
Snape was waiting for her at the entrance to the infirmary when she finally caught up. He opened the door and once again indicated she was to precede him into the room. Once he had closed the door behind them he range the bell to summon Madam Pomfrey.
"Ah, Severus," she cried in greeting as she appeared from out of her office, "What can I do for you this evening."
"Poppy," He greeted her in return. "You can have a look at Miss Granger for me. I caught her somewhere she shouldn't have been and it appears she's been up to no good. Cracked ribs, bruises, and depleted magic. My guess is that she fell down the stairwell - not that she has admitted such foolishness." With this summary he looked at the girl disapprovingly.
"Don't you worry dear," Madam Pomfrey reassured Hermione as she steered her towards a bed, casting a diagnostic spell as she went. "I'll soon get you back to normal. You won't be the first this term who has ended up here thanks to those blasted moving staircases. I swear when they rebuilt the second floor stairwell after the battle they managed to misalign it completely. Now just you hop up onto that bed and I'll see about a healing draught or two…"
Before Hermione knew it she was tucked up in a bed, dosed up on bone-healing potions and sipping hot cocoa. Snape was still there, leaning against Pomfrey's office door, watching her. He frowned. There was something he was missing - she had given in far too quickly, and he noticed she'd never actually given an explanation for her injuries, merely accepting the supposition she had fallen on the stairs. None of it explained her magic drain either, which would typically be due to severe emotional strain.
'This can all wait for another day,' Snape told himself, 'it's nearly 10pm and I still haven't owled my blasted order. Besides, I know Granger far too well to think she'll tell me what's going on tonight. I'll get it out of her later.'
He strode over to Hermione's bed and stood by her, towering over her in his most intimidating fashion.
"Miss Granger, I hope I don't find you doing anything as foolish again. I would hate to have to put one of the golden trio," - he sneered at the nickname - "In detention for the rest of the year. Or be forced to take away an excess of house points."
"No Sir, you won't." She agreed, avoiding eye contact and looking contrite.
With a nod he swept away, his robes billowing behind him. He paused in the doorway of the infirmary and turned to face her again.
"You'll join me on Thursday evening to brew?"
For the first time that evening Hermione looked up at him with something akin to her usual expression. "Oh, yes Professor," she replied with enthusiasm, "I'm sure I'll be feeling better by then. It's my turn to choose isn't it?"
He nodded, pleased to see her enthusiasm for their brewing sessions was still there. She had approached him at the start of the year to supervise some extra lab time - Professor Slughorn being unwilling to do anything more than his standard Potions classes - and a one-off had evolved into a weekly event. They took it in turns to choose a potion for her to create which led to some good natured competition to find the most obscure recipes to try. Some were a success, others a distinct failure, but they both enjoyed the process and the debriefs over tea in the corner of the lab afterwards where they discussed possible improvements and potions theory. For Severus it was a chance to mentor a student beyond the syllabus of the NEWTS - something he finally had the time for now he wasn't busy trying to survive whilst spying on Voldemort, or indeed the Order. For Hermione, a chance for one-on-one tuition by a highly skilled Potions Master.
"I'll leave you to rest," Snape said as he turned again to leave, his voice more gentle now.
"Thank you Sir," replied Hermione as she snuggled down in the bed with a yawn.
"Oh, and Miss Granger?"
"You know I can't let something of this severity this go unpunished… Five points from Gryffindor."
As he closed the door he quickly suppressed a grin at the sound of Hermione giggling in her bed at his paltry point-taking. It wouldn't do for the other inhabitants of the castle to know the most feared teacher, the dungeon bat, was capable of a smile, after all.