Prompt: Felix Felicis

Beta: fluffpanda, the most Gracious and Merciful

Luck of the Otter

Severus opened one eye as a tickling under his chin woke him up. Quiet snuffles and bristly whiskers brushed against his skin, and he sputtered. He ran his hand down the warm brown fur of the creature attacking his face with small licks and squeaky sounds that sounded like a cross between a cat purring and someone moving across a leather sofa.

"Good morning," he grunted with a rasp.

Warm brown eyes stared adoringly into his black ones, and Severus felt a stab of emotion in his heart that never failed to hit him right where it mattered. As much as he tried to hide it, Occlude it, deny it, and dismiss it as heartburn, the creature had wiggled past every shield he had ever erected for himself. Every wall that had kept the Dark Lord out, students from knowing his thoughts, Albus Dumbledore from traipsing around in his head, and countless members of the Order of the Phoenix from knowing his true allegiance had fallen to pieces to one large, brown sea otter that had once been a witch—the witch that had saved his life.

Severus had fully expected to die that one night at the Shrieking Shack. Others too, on both sides of the War, had thought him dead. Many believed him the Dark Lord's servant despite it all, and one of the masses of Death Eater-hating people had shot a nasty custom curse in his direction.

Hermione Granger, champion to the downtrodden, Know-it-all, member of the Golden Trio, had stood in the way, erecting a shield to save her ex-Professor from the curse.

To this day, Severus wondered what the curse would have done if it hit him, but the result for Hermione had been devastating. It had torn through her shields, having been customised to do so. It had been crafted specifically to tear down shields and curse the victim with its sinister magic. It had been meant to torture a Death Eater.

Severus pulled the squeaky otter into his embrace, pressing his aquiline nose into her soft and oily fur. She smelled of nutmeg and earth as well as the hint of the sea. The curse had transformed her into an otter, and the curse itself was bound to the life of the one who cast it. For as long as the wizard who cast it lived in Azkaban, Hermione would remain in the form the curse had forced her into. For the last twenty years, Hermione the Otter had stayed at Snape's side, acting is his Familiar and his confident, silent friend, and personal healing therapy.

Hermione squeaked, tugging on a lock of his long back hair, yanking his head to the side so he would get a move on. Vaguely, he remembered there was something he had to do. There was a reason for him waking up at this Merlin-forsaken hour. Hermione wasn't the type to wake him without reason— even if that reason was she wanted to go for an early morning swim in the lake before the students woke up.

Severus yawned, casting his legs down onto the floor and felt around for his slippers. Hermione flung herself down to the floor with a squeak, and made squeaky bouncing noises as she tore off into the next room on a mission known only to her.

When she had been first cursed, her friends had been awkward to her. They didn't know how to act around the animal that had always been their bushy-haired cohort for the last seven years of their life. Ron, who had tried to take her back to the Burrow with him, had neglected her terribly. He left her locked in his bedroom many times, forgetting to leave the door ajar for her. He tried to feed her people food so often she got sick trying to eat it just because she was too starved not to eat something. Then, after barely a few months, Harry Potter had brought Severus the famished otter wrapped in a towel.

He had admitted he had no idea how to care for an otter. He had begged Severus to help her. She was his best friend, but he didn't know what to do for her. He had admitted that he didn't know how to communicate with her, and perhaps, more importantly, he couldn't take her with him when he moved in with Ginny near the headquarters for the Holyhead Harpies. He had claimed he couldn't house her at the Auror's Office either. Hermione had become an inconvenience. Her silence had become something far more awkward, and her form had only served to remind Harry of his failure to protect her as his friend.

Severus had said nothing to the son of his now dead nemesis. He had simply taken the towel-wrapped otter in his arms and walked silently back into Hogwarts, dismissing Potter with his silent glare and lack of verbal repartee.

Severus walked into his main office area of the Headmaster's Office, smelling the scent of sea water, and the tap-tap-tapping of a rock against rock. Hermione lay on her back in a small pool he had constructed for her. It connected to larger aquarium tank where she could swim through the imported seaweed, sift through the sandy bottom, and most importantly hunt her favourite saltwater foods.

Hermione was crunching on the side of a prickly looking sea urchin with the sides of her teeth, making some disturbingly loud gnashing noises. She squeaked with delight as she hit pay-dirt, hungrily gobbling down the urchin's insides with glee.

Severus' lips curved up into a small smile. He had spent the first month she had come to him building the aquatic landscape for her as he tended her and nursed her back to health. He ordered a slew of books via owl-post about otters, and ordered a regular shipment of otter-friendly foods that he had hoped she would like.

Trial-and-error had him breaking open clams,urchins, and all manner of seafoods for her until she was strong enough to do it herself. He had laid her next to him in bed for weeks, being afraid that she would need tending and him not be there for her. By the time she was strong enough to move around on her own again and wrangle her own urchins from her newly built habitat, they were inseparable.

She insisted on sleeping beside him in the bed. She followed him around as he went on rounds around Hogwarts. She encroached on his lap during faculty meetings. She shared her urchin-breath to people who got too close to him, knowing that it made him smile, at least on the inside.

She would fetch him ingredients from across his potion brewing tables, fall asleep on top of the papers he was trying to sort through, and often stamped her webbed foot into the cooling sealing wax like her private sigil of approval.

And when her once best-friends had come to visit her, she had allowed no hand but Severus' to alight upon her fur. She had bitten Ron, laying his hand clear open across his palm, and she had refused to come out from under Severus' cabinet when Harry had tried to coax her out. Severus had, after becoming quite adept at reading her moods, knew she was remorseful for not coming out to greet Harry, but he also knew she would let them know when she was ready to accept them again and when she was ready to forgive.

Severus, remembering why he was up so early, clucked his tongue against his teeth. "I must check on the potion, Hermione. Are you coming?"

Hermione poked her head out of the pool of water and chirped, crunching the head off a crayfish with her mouth and devouring it completely. She leapt out onto the rock, shook herself off, and squeak-bounced over to him, putting her front feet up onto his calf.

"Lazy mammal," he scoffed, lowering down to scoop her up. She purr-squeaked, snuffling into his arm and climbing onto his shoulder. She snuggled into his neck and pressed her whiskers into his skin.

"You smell like crayfish," Severus noted, scratching her under the skin with his fingers as he walked.

Hermione rubbed her whiskers against his chin and chirped a reply.

"Hrph," he grunted, walking in the private brewing lab he had set up in an adjoining room. Despite it being his room in his private quarters, he warded the laboratory very thoroughly to prevent visitors from accidentally doing something horrible to themselves like blowing themselves up without his permission— not that he wanted to clean that sort of thing up. It was the thought that counted, right?

He looked into the cauldron and saw that the Occamy eggshell had mixed perfectly with the Ashwinder egg, squill bulb juice, Murtlap growth, and thyme tincture. Six months of patient, painstaking steps had gone into what would end within the next hour.

Hermione had jumped off his shoulder, and bounced down the table. She dodged various flasks, bowls, and cauldrons, jumped onto a shelf, tugged something down between her teeth, and made her way back. Severus raised a brow as he took the parchment paper that had been folded into a packet. Hermione chirped pleasantly as he ran his hand across her head and back.

She had learned more about brewing and his specific methods of brewing than ever she had as his student. She had sat upon his shoulder and watched him brew countless potions for Poppy Pomfrey for the school as well as St. Mungo's for many hefty commissions.

"Are you sure this is the powdered common rue?" Severus asked the otter.

Hermione chattered at him angrily, lifting her head up as if to say, "Of course it is, you dunderhead."

Severus' mouth twitched as he unfolded the end of the packet, looked inside, and wafted the scent to his nose. He wrinkled his nose at the scent and carefully tapped the powdered common rue into the cauldron. He stirred the potion vigorously, spontaneously using his wand to increase the fire under the cauldron.

The potion began to heat up, the colour changing from a strange grey-purple to a pale green. He stared at it as it continued to heat up. Just as it reached boiling, he yanked the cauldron off the heat, set it down on a stand, and waved his wand in a figure eight motion over the top.

"Felixempra!" he said clearly, controlling his wrist movement just right.

The potion's surface rippled and the green colour shifted into a stunning gold. Droplets that looked almost like goldfish leap in a beautiful arch just above the potion as though it were alive.

Severus tilted his head, his hand automatically going out to pet the otter across her back. She chirped at him curiously.

"It's finally done, Hermione," he said with a subtle smile. "Felix Felicis—Liquid Luck."

Hermione bumped into his hand like cat, squeaking encouragement.

"Enough to provide galleons to pay for your seafood for this life and the next, Hermione," the Potion Master said with a slight twitch of his mouth. He pulled over a box if ornate crystal vials and very carefully poured a measure of the potion into each. He placed each vial back into place in the special case, and nodded when all of them were filled. With exaggerated care, he pulled the lid over the cushioned crate, latched it, and sealed it with a wave of his wand.

"Whatever shall I brew now that this project is done?" Severus mused. "Perhaps, I should brew Polyjuice."

Hermione nipped his finger, glaring at him.

Severus chuckled. Hermione seemed perfectly capable of letting her thoughts be known regardless of what shape she wore, and there were many times when he considered that perhaps her old "friends" just hadn't given her a chance to communicate on her terms. Why he had, however, was an even odder mystery. To everyone else at Hogwarts, he was still as surly and annoyed by dunderheads as ever. Anyone who voiced—even in a whisper— anything about the fuzzy, brown otter following behind him in the hall, ducking under his robes, or sprawling across his office desk found that out very quickly. Back after Minerva's retirement and his resumption of Headmaster duties, students knew better than to stare too long at the otter curled up on his graded parchments lest they get points docked for paying attention to the wrong things.

Severus saw there was still a tiny bit of golden liquid at the bottom of the cauldron. It wasn't enough to do much for person, perhaps but a few minutes of luck, but perhaps—

He dipped his fingers the cauldron and coated them in the golden Felix Felicis and held it out to Hermione. "For you, Hermione," he said with a soft expression. "Even otters deserve to have great days, yes?"

Hermione snuffled his fingers and looked up into his eyes with her warm brown ones. She placed her paws on his hand, the warmth of her touch caused a feeling akin to both pleasure and pain in Severus' chest. Her tiny tongue rasped against his fingers, dutifully licking the droplets of golden liquid from them.

She squeaked up at him when she was finished, and Snape felt a warmth fill him, spreading through his body from head to toe.

A smile worked up from his lips to his eyes. "I am glad," he said in a whisper, "that you are here with me."

She bumped her head into his hand, rubbing the side of her cheek against his fingers. The little things had come to mean so much more that a book's worth of words. Her company had healed something inside the Potion Master.

He scooped her up in one arm, transferring her to his shoulder and took the crate of Felix Felicis vials under the other arm. Exiting his private potion laboratory, he closed the door, soundlessly and wandlessly warding it with well-practised automation.

He placed the crate on his desk and pulled out a small pre-written parchment to let his client know the Felix Felicis potions were done. He would make enough off the brewing for him to retire, sell off his house in Cokesworth, move to a nice place in the country, and leave all of the aspiring dunderheads to a new batch of professors with far more patience than him.

He gazed at Hermione with a tilted head. He would have more than enough to provide for Hermione for the rest of her life and keep her in the lap of otter luxury.

"How would you like to retire with me, Hermione?" he asked with a hint of a smile. "We could move to the country or perhaps to the coast. Would you like that?"

Hermione made a series of squeaky noises and bounced out of his arm and clambered up onto his bookshelf. She wiggled onto one of the shelves and pushed a book off the shelf with her body weight.

Severus eyed the book and chuckled. "Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh? Is that a yes, my web-footed friend?" he mused.

Hermione squeaked decisively, thumping her paws against the book like a judge pounding their gavel.

"Retirement to the ocean then, love," he replied, picking her up into his hands and placing a kiss upon her otter nose. "It's a promise. Just you and me."

Severus frowned as Hermione's body began to shake. Her paws clenched and unclenched in rapid succession as convulsions went up and down her elongated body.

Frantically, Severus thought back to the Felix. Large quantities of it was toxic! Had he poisoned her? How much would have been poisonous to an otter? No!

He cradled her in a panic, shuddering as she trembled against him. "Hermione," he repeated, chanting her name like a mantra. He held her in one arm as he ran across the room to the box he kept his powdered bezoar in, praying it wouldn't be too late.

She was heavy in his arms—far too heavy for an otter. He tripped over himself, and in a desperate twist to try and not crush the otter with his body weight, he landed flat on his back, cracking his head against the floor. Everything went dark.

Severus' eyes flew open in a panic, his body tense as a wound-up spring. He felt despair gathering in his chest as his hands reached out to pat down his body, searching for the soft and familiar brush of oily fur of his otter companion.

He stiffened as his hand touched soft hair and warm skin. He looked down.

A long bushy-mane of brown and silver hair that looked so much like an otter's fur cascaded down to the back of one ex-Gryffindor witch. Her body was draped across his. Her hands clutched his teaching robes in a familiar look of otter paws.

His chest seized. "Hermione?"

She stirred against him. Her warm brown eyes, both familiar and close to his heart, drowsily stared back into his face. She was still wearing the tattered remains of her robes from the fateful day she had taken the curse from him. Her face was more finely chiselled, slightly gaunt with age, but still familiar.

A stab of pain entered his heart. Would she leave him now—now that she was no longer cursed?

As if to answer his unspoken question, Hermione snuggled into his chest, rubbing her head against him as she had always done, but this time, her human hand caressed the side of his cheek.

"Will you keep your promise, Severus?" her voice whispered against his neck.

Severus clutched her tightly against himself. "Always."

Far off in Azkaban, the wizard known only as the one who cursed Hermione Granger at the end of the Second Wizarding War, breathed his last.