This week's prompt was also from ljpjcg, a challenge to flip this classic trope: After a Death Eater meeting, Hermione stumbles across an unconscious Snape.
For those who are used to them under a different name like "canapés," vol-au-vents are puff pastry bites filled with savory delights like chicken or mushrooms or something along those lines. Finger foods for parties. Imagine a tray with three dozen of these little fellows lined up for people to nibble on.
These events take place during OoTP.
A body lay facedown on the cold stone floor.
Hermione hadn't known what to expect while sneaking back to her common room from an after-hours trip to the library, but it certainly hadn't been that. She had been minding her own business, just reading a few extra books about the Goblin wars of the fourteenth century and another on irregular verbs in Mermish. Hermione had been so focused on her reading that she'd missed supper completely. She was a bit hungry, but learning the Mermish subjunctive case had been worth it.
She crept up to the body, inspecting it more closely.
Dressed in black from head to toe, it was probably an older student. Maybe even an adult. Based on the haircut and the build, she guessed that it must have been a man. His face was covered by voluminous robes, so she couldn't make out just who had passed out in the first-floor corridor.
Whoever it was wasn't moving. Was he breathing? She couldn't tell.
Steeling herself, Hermione took a few steps closer and nudged his leg with her foot.
He didn't stir.
She really hoped he wasn't dead.
Up close, she recognized the robes as those belonging to the Hogwarts professors. Tugging at the fabric, it slipped away to reveal a shock of straight black hair. Professor Snape? she thought. He never lets anyone see his weaknesses. Why would he be here, she wondered, unless—
Hermione gasped aloud. Since spending part of the summer at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, she knew that the professor was regularly heading off to Death Eater meetings in order to spy on Voldemort for Professor Dumbledore.
Her poor, brave professor.
He was so gallant, sacrificing himself for a pack of Gryffindors that didn't seem to appreciate anything he did. Willingly ostracized by people who didn't know he was protecting them, sort of like Professor Lupin was, but it seemed so much harder on Professor Snape. At least people in the Order valued Professor Lupin, but Hermione overheard snide remarks about Professor Snape from Sirius and Harry and even once from Mad-Eye Moody.
Certainly, Snape was still wretched to them all in classes, but it was a part of his cover for the war, wasn't it? He'd been forced to make Neville cry, insult her teeth, and strip House points from Harry every chance he got. Underneath his brusque exterior, he probably hated every cruel word that spewed from his beautiful mouth, but he did it anyway because he was fighting for all of wizarding kind. If he had his choice in the matter, he would probably encourage the weaker brewers with gentle words, guiding them as they learned, and he would praise the skills of meticulous students such as herself. She could just picture his spiky handwriting across her essays, scribbling all the things he had wanted to say to her over the years: "Excellent work, Miss Granger. Your attention to detail is simply unmatched. How very fortunate I am to have the privilege of teaching a gifted mind like yours."
At least, that's what Hermione told herself. That's what she'd been telling herself ever since she discovered her valiant professor's double life.
Now here he was, back safe at Hogwarts after surviving atrocities the likes of which she could barely fathom. What horrors had he seen this very night? What had he been forced to do in order to maintain his cover? Had he been tortured at the hands of the other Death Eaters?
Moreover, did he need the dedicated hands of a talented young witch to heal his wounds and soothe his weary soul? She knelt beside him, determined to make him accept her assistance. Oh, he was a proud man. She knew that. When was the last time he'd ever had any tenderness in his sad, lonely life?
She placed a hand on his back, careful not to do any more damage than whatever he'd already known that evening. Feeling his chest rise and fall beneath her fingers, she released a sigh of relief.He was still alive! In fact, he was sort of moving around a bit. Looking down at the man now shaking on the floor, she knew she had to act fast. Should she take him to the hospital wing? To his quarters? Could she support his heavier body using only her small frame?
Her thoughts began drifting ever so slightly off topic. She wondered if she would she get to see his bedroom as she stripped him of all his bloodied clothes. For that matter, would she run a tub of soapy hot water for him? Would he have a hairy chest? Would he submit himself to her faithful hands as she massaged bruise paste into his muscles, and would he look at her with gratitude for her acts of kindness, seeing her as a grown woman for the first time?
Then he made a sort of strangled moan, but still, the man didn't wake.
She shook him gingerly, trying to stir him to rise. "Professor? Are you all right?"
His head jerked back, and he slowly rotated it to the left where she was kneeling at his side.
"Mish Gerrange!" he snapped, his eyes focussing on something somewhere near her ear.
Hermione swallowed. Oh, Merlin, she thought. Something's wrong with his speech. Did the Death Eaters cut off part of his tongue? The barbarians!
"Wha choo doin' here, Gerrange?" Professor Snape asked, closing his eyes again.
Hermione blinked. He recognized her in his delirium. HER. That meant something, didn't it?
"Let's get you to the infirmary, Professor," she said. She grasped his arms at the elbows and pulled him up to a sitting position.
"Ohhhh, nnnno," he whinged, placing his hands beneath him as he tried to stand, teetering. A minute later, and he was finally upright, although leaning against the wall. "Nnno. Nat mayme nish Poppy."
Hermione was terribly confused. What did he say? What did he want? Clearly, not the hospital wing. She propped herself under the man's arm as he lurched to one side. "Should I take you to your quarters, sir?"
He grunted his assent.
A few minutes later, Hermione had managed to pull her dear, longsuffering professor down a flight of stairs and around the corner to his door. He could barely walk! He couldn't even relate what the Death Eaters had done to him, but she could tell that he'd been brutalized.
When they reached the door, the professor pulled out his wand and pressed it to the door frame. The entrance swung open wide, and Hermione continued to serve as a human crutch for the man as he headed in.
It was an elegant room, Hermione thought. Dark wooden everything, with a solid wall of bookcases built in around a stone fireplace. Instead of windows, there were glass panes that showed the water of the lake, and fish swam by in the light of the moon. A leather sofa facing the fire, with some sheepskin rugs laid out between the sofa and the flagstone hearth.
She could make herself quite cozy in here, studying quietly in front of the fire while he marked papers. Perhaps reading a book on that rug while he—
"Couch, Mish Gerrange," he said.
Hermione could understand all three of those words. "Yes, sir. To the couch. Of course, sir!"
After some creative maneuvering, she deposited him on the sofa. Then she picked up his legs, straightening the man out so he'd be more comfortable.
Tugging off his boots was not the wisest of choices, as his feet smelled ripe and one of his socks needed darning. As she lined the boots up on the floor, his Death Eater mask fluttered to the ground. At first, she was afraid to touch it. Could there be some sort of residual evil on the thing?
She shook her head. Snap out of it, Hermione! she reprimanded herself. Buck up! If your professor can go to these meetings and suffer abuses at their hands, the least you can do is fold his things neatly when he returns.
Folding the mask was more challenging than she had expected, so she rolled it up and laid it beside the boots. It would have to do.
Would he like a fluffed pillow, she wondered? Just in case, she summoned one and, lifting his head up with care, slid it under his neck. Her hand lingered there, and she let her fingers comb through his hair in a way she would never have dared in other circumstances. Hermione decided that she needed to give the man a full body inspection. Just to make sure he was all right.
She didn't think he would appreciate her taking liberties with his body, so she made sure to explain what she was doing out loud. "Professor, I'm just checking your arms now for broken bones. And your legs." Patting up and down his limbs, she determined that, no, he hadn't broken anything. She also determined that they were very nice legs.
He emitted a strange, high-pitched noise when her hands were on his knees.
If the noise had come from anyone else, she would have said that it was a giggle. Snape wasn't giggling, was he?
Hermione had never heard of laughter as a reaction to trauma before, but she also had no experience with Unforgivables. Perhaps they affected people's nerves and emotions?
Next, she needed to check him for bruises or blood loss. She slid her hands through his fine hair, matted down as it was with sweat. "I'm checking you for injuries, sir. Any scrapes on your head?" Lightly scraping her fingers along his scalp, she heard a faint sigh from his lips.
Should she remove his robes? He might have cuts on his chest from a nasty hex.
"Er..." she began, a bit hesitant as her hands hovered over his body. "Professor, what should I do next?"
He didn't answer.
When she leaned in to press a small hand to caress his cheek, she caught a whiff of something that smelled very much like her Great Aunt Eunice on Christmas Eve.
No, it couldn't be.
She sniffed again, just to make sure.
She frowned. "Are you... Are you drunk, sir?"
He groaned, rolling over onto his side before attempting to stand. He tipped off the couch altogether, nearly landing in her lap.
"Are you even injured at all?"
From his position on the floor, Professor Snape glared at her, a cold stare that would have cut her to the core had it not been aimed at her nose rather than her eyes. "Why yoo heren my quarsh, Mish Gerrange?" He looked around the room, as though he were making sure he was actually in his own quarters.
Hermione gasped then, prodding his chest with her finger. "You are drunk!"
She was torn. A part of of her wanted to smack the man upside the head, like she would surely do if he were Harry or Ron or Sirius. This man, however, had captured her attention in ways that no man had before. He also held her grades in the palm of his hand, and well, he was still a misunderstood hero, wasn't he?
"But you were at a Death Eater meeting, spying for the Order!" she cried.
"Yep." He hiccuped and loosened his collar, unbuttoning two at his throat. "Butta man's gotta have somefing to derrink."
Hermione's eyes were drawn to her professor's exposed neck. She'd never seen his this informal, and she wasn't sure quite how to take it.
"Liss, Gerrange, I don' think you know wha' these meetings arr. Mebbe someday they'll be danejrus, but not so much now. Right now, 'smosely Lucius Malf... Malf..."
"Malfoy?" she supplied.
He nodded. "Like I said, 'smosely Malf showing the Dark Lorrid how sorrrrrry he is. A lot of whisky an' there's snooty wine an' vol-de-mores..."
"Voldemores?" she repeated. "Did you mean 'Voldemorts'?"
Professor Snape frowned. "Thass not right. I meant Vol-de-vars."
"Hors d'oevres?" she asked. Her stomach growled. Missing supper in the Great Hall was finally catching up with her, and she was hungry.
He looked at her stomach as though it were a great mystery to be solved. Then he tried again. "Voldy-vawns."
Hermione thought about it for a minute, but she still couldn't figured out what the Death Eaters had with their alcohol.
Professor Snape pushed himself up to a seated position with his back against the couch, his head dropping off as he tried to stay awake. Then he reached into his robes, pulling a small box from his inner coat pocket and setting it on the floor between them.
Hermione watched as he drew his wand, holding it from the wrong end. "Gorjoo!" he said, unable to pronounce the spell "Engorgio!" in his current state. "Gorj!"
When nothing happened, he picked up the tiny box and placed it in Hermione's hand. "For you, Mish Gerrange. I don' needit."
"What is it?" she asked.
He hiccuped again.
She looked at the box, confused, and slipped it into her pocket.
Professor Snape pulled out his wand again. "Achoo Sobrup!" he cried, flicking his wrist towards an open door. "Achoo!"
Hermione read through the lines, repeating the spell for him. "Accio Sober Up Potion!"
A tiny vial of purple liquid flew into her outstretched palm. She took out the stopper and passed it over.
It took Professor Snape roughly fifteen seconds of aiming before he swallowed a mouthful of the stuff.
It took roughly two seconds for the potion to kick in.
The mood changed rather instantaneously after that, and the room was tense.
Hermione shrank back, still kneeling, as her professor rose to his full height.
"Would you care to explain just what in the name of all that is holy happened here tonight?"
She looked up at him, eyes wide. "I only wanted to help, sir. You were having trou..."
He raised his eyebrow, daring her to finish the word.
"Er..." she said, fidgeting in place. "I found you in the hallway, and—"
"Rather late for a student to be out, isn't it, Miss Granger? Curfew was over an hour ago." His arms were crossed in front of his chest, and he did not look happy. Not that he ever did, but it was worse than usual when he was looming over her on the floor.
She gulped. There was no way to salvage this, and there certainly wasn't a way for her to answer his question without landing in detention.
For a moment, something in him relaxed as he brushed the dirt off his outer robes and looked down at his bootless feet. Hermione stayed silent as he glanced around the room, his eyes resting on the boots beside the couch and the neatly rolled-up mask. His fingers drifted up to touch his unbuttoned collar and the base of his neck, and he looked at her with a question in his eyes.
She kept her trap shut while he put the pieces together and his memory filled in the blanks.
His brow scrunched up a bit, and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Hermione was expecting the worst, but then he did something that surprised her. Professor Snape extended a hand to her, helping her to her feet. Maybe, Hermione thought, he was a little bit gallant, after all.
When she was standing beside him, he released her hand and looked her in the eye."We will never, ever speak of this night again, Miss Granger."
Hermione nodded. "Yes, sir."
He walked her to the door. "Do I need to send for your House ghost to accompany you back where you belong?"
She shook her head. "No, sir."
It didn't take long for Hermione to make it down the length of the castle and up several stories to Gryffindor Tower. The Fat Lady scolded her as she tiptoed across the threshold, and when Hermione got inside, she found the common room empty.
She looked around to see if any of her housemates had left things to munch on. Her stomach was rumbling, and she had hoped that there would be some digestives or fruit or something. Anything, really. Even a dry biscuit would be better than nothing.
No such luck.
It was not until she was safely tucked away behind her bed curtains that she remembered the box Professor Snape had given her. She pulled it out of her pocket and placed it on her bedspread.
"Engorgio," she whispered. It grew ten times bigger, roughly the size of a shoebox. Hermione removed the lid and peered inside.
She smiled, pulling out three stacked trays of perfectly formed puff pastry delights. Vol-au-vents! she realized. The first tray had vol-au-vents filled with mushrooms and chicken, while the second was smoked salmon and cream cheese, and the third? Prawns.
She would have been happy with an apple or a piece of bread, but this? This was a feast. She began to nibble at the delicate pastries.
Professor Snape had noticed her grumbling stomach, hadn't he? He had.
Hermione decided then and there that her professor was most definitely gallant, but she wasn't telling anyone.
She chuckled to herself.
Nobody would believe her, anyway.
Ljpjcg, I hope this anti-Florence Nightingale take on Hermione healing Severus after a DE meeting worked for you!
Thanks especially to you lovely readers who have taken the time to leave reviews on my stories! (It's always refreshing to hear if someone liked a story enough to read it through to the end.)