Disclaimer:- I neither own nor own anything from this story. My plot is my own but the world of Harry Potter is the intellectual property of JK Rowling and associates.
A/N:- Hello again. This story is mostly written, and it will not be longer than perhaps ten chapters, so a moderate sized offering. Thank you to my beta, Golden Asp, for her wonderful work with my spelling and grammar, and also thank you to jenniferlyncobb for her encouragement with this story. I will be posting this story here and on AO3, but I do not think there will be any need for a rating change between the sites, it is firmly an M rated story.
Chapter One – Keeping Busy
Keeping busy, that was the key; Hermione Granger was certain of that. She was so glad that the war was over and that they were now free, but she had thought that life would settle quicker than this. She was living at Grimmauld Place with her friends Harry, Ginny and Ron, and splitting her time between catch-up studies in preparation for when the next sitting of NEWT examinations took place, and helping in the Hogwarts library and the infirmary.
She should have been happy—ecstatic actually—they were no longer running for their lives, Ron had finally committed to her, and Harry and Ginny were a couple. Life should be good, only it wasn't. It had merely settled into a hollow imitation of what she thought it should be.
There were shadows constantly chasing her. She suspected that part of the problem was the stain of dark magic in the Black residence, but nothing seemed right. Her parents were in Australia and didn't know that she existed, Ron was drinking too heavily and she was already uncertain that they belonged together. There was something important missing, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. All of this was not even mentioning that she couldn't bring herself to unpack her little beaded bag, or that they were mourning the loss of so many people.
She concentrated for a moment on the boiling disquiet in her stomach that told her something was missing. Missing may not have been the correct word… perhaps not right, but she didn't know what. It was a little like that feeling that something was going on but it was escaping her grasp to fathom what.
Her current hypothesis of the situation was that she knew she was settling into the next phase of her life, and the strange closed-off feeling in her throat must be the dust she was constantly inhaling in the Hogwarts library as she worked amongst the debris helping to rebuild the precious resource. However, it was all conspiring to rob her of her peace of mind, but being Hermione Granger she kept swallowing hard on the feeling that her throat was closing off and she kept trudging onward.
She had volunteered to assist Madam Pomfrey immediately after the battle, and then Madam Pince as well, and since then had been splitting her time between helping the two witches. But today, two weeks later, as she arrived at the infirmary at eight o'clock in the morning to help with breakfasts, and the matron greeted her differently, and this made Hermione's underlying panic ratchet up another notch.
"Oh, Hermione, I'm not sure I'll need you today, just about everyone has been released, there is only one transfer back from St. Mungos and that still only makes three patients left."
Hermione couldn't stop the disappointment passing over her face, but she swallowed it down into the churning cauldron of emotion inside her and asked, "Who's transferred back?"
"Professor Snape has been transferred back from St. Mungos… but I'm dealing with him," the matron told her in a voice that said don't argue. "If you really do wish to keep helping, you can roll the bandages."
"Oh okay, Madam," Hermione replied. The fact that the professor was back made Hermione happy, and while she did not want to examine why too closely, she had to ask, "So he's going to be all right then?"
"Yes, I believe he is." The matron saw Hermione looking around the empty ward. "I've given him one of the private rooms at the back, and you are not to bother him."
"Oh… o-okay," Hermione said, as hurt lanced through her at being dismissed so offhandedly. She turned towards the storeroom and as she walked the whole whirlwind that had been the hour after the battle came back to her mind with crystal clarity. As soon as the dust settled Harry had grabbed her and Ron.
"We need to see if he's really dead," he had whispered solemnly. There was no guessing as to who he was talking about, the contents of the man's memories had rattled Harry terribly. "I've misjudged him so badly," her exhausted friend had huffed.
"We all did," Hermione remembered saying.
But then Ron had cut in. "Well, I'm not fooled by the greasy git, and I'm not goin' with you," and he grabbed Hermione by the arm as he said it. "You shouldn't be goin' either, what's the bastard ever done for you?"
Tears prickled her eyes as she walked towards the infirmary storeroom to roll the bandages as the matron had asked her to, and she did recall what the man had done for them and how they had relegated him to an evil git for his trouble. How angry she was with herself because she should have worked his alliances out after the incident with Lupin in their third year, but she'd been blinded by the Potions master's campaign of hate towards them. A deception that she realised now had been a cover for his true alliance, but as children they had not fathomed it.
Then her words to Ron the day of the battle had come back to her mind again. "No, Professor Dumbledore was right," and she'd pulled away from Ron and gone with Harry.
Now, after much thinking she had decided that that was also the moment that her brand spanking new relationship with Ron had hit rocky waters, but she could not have not gone with Harry, they owed this man more than she thought she could ever repay.
Dumbledore had always told them Professor Snape was loyal and they trusted the old headmaster, even if they had refused to believe it. Oh the folly of youth, thinking you know everything definitively, when indeed you do not, she thought.
Then something else struck her in her short journey to the storeroom. She was very happy that the professor was stable and back at Hogwarts, and there was an element about that that made her stomach feel very uncomfortable. Then she thought of the reason for her stomach's rebellion; Ron.
He had not modified his opinion in any way, and he had railed loud and long about how stupid he thought she was for saving the professor. "He's just an evil Death Eater wanting to be on the winning side, and you two saved him when good people like Fred were killed," he said once they'd returned from getting help for Professor Snape the day of the battle.
Hermione very much wanted to be with Ron. She thought she did anyway, but after the memories and everything, even when Dumbledore's portrait had given the evidence that had pardoned him, Ron still wouldn't see reason about any of it, and she had been gutted by each of his negative comments. It was as if he was personally blaming the professor for his brother's death, and it was slowly driving a wedge between them.
She had made it to the door of the storeroom now, and she silently completed her task. Every once in a while she glanced out of the storeroom to the closed door that Madam Pomfrey kept bustling in and out of.
Hermione knew she should have left well enough alone, but something kept bringing her back each morning. She noticed that the matron seemed to be getting rather snappy with her, and she resigned herself to the fact that she might have to just stop coming, but she really wanted to speak with Professor Snape. She wanted to apologise for doubting him. It must have been such a lonely existence that he'd led, knowing everyone despised him, and she wanted him to know that he was appreciated for what he'd endured.
Then just as she'd suspected, Madam Pomfrey informed her bluntly that she could now manage the infirmary again without assistance, and Hermione had no other option than to oblige. She could not have told anyone why, but the matron's dismissal crushed her.
She swallowed hard as she wandered towards the library, but it all became too much for her and she flopped into a window seat along the hallway and curled her legs up under her. She was not certain how long she sat there staring with unseeing eyes at the lake, trying to make sense of what was in her head.
"Hermione, why are you sitting there?" the headmistress' voice said.
It brought Hermione back from her thoughts. "Oh hello, Ma'am, I'm sorry, I'm just… never mind," Hermione responded, and pushed herself to her feet.
Hearing the distress in the young witch's voice Minerva caught her arm. "Hermione, have you ever considered that perhaps you should take some time off. You and Ronald Weasley are a couple, are you not, perhaps the two of you should take a holiday somewhere? Get away for a while."
"No!" came her quick and panicked answer. "I couldn't think of anything worse."
Her elder sat next to her after guiding Hermione back into the seat she had just risen from. "Is there something you might need to discuss?"
Hermione sighed. "I knew almost as soon as I accepted Ron that I'd done the wrong thing… and now… umm." Her eyes glanced back at the infirmary. "I'm not sure I can explain it."
"Try me," Minerva said. "You have been a godsend, my dear, a true daughter of Gryffindor, the least I can do is offer you some advice in return if I'm able to."
Hermione wasn't certain, but she really did need some independent advice. She sighed. "There are so many thing not right. Ron's an idiot, my family d-doesn't know I exist…" she paused trying to get her emotions under control. "And…"
"And for some reason I really want to see Professor Snape, I can't think why, and I can't."
"Why can't you?"
"Madam Pomfrey won't let me, and now she's told me not to come back and help." Hermione swallowed hard. "I know that sounds childish, but something is making me want to see him, but I don't know why."
Minerva covered Hermione's hand and squeezed. "Poppy has always been very protective of Severus, and it is true that with only a couple of patients left she does not require the help she did early on. However, your need to see Professor Snape is not childish, if I am told correctly it was your magic that sustained him until Poppy arrived, yes?"
Hermione nodded, but didn't dare speak of the peace she found for that small amount of time while her magic anchored him to this world.
Minerva smiled, knowing what must have passed between them, but she didn't push, she simply said, "Then it is your magic pushing you to see him."
"You have been assured that Severus is fine, but for some reason your magic is not convinced. Don't worry, Hermione, I am fairly sure that Severus will not tolerate Poppy's clucking over him for too long, he never does, but I could speak to him," and she smiled. "Would you like me to speak to him on your behalf?"
"No, I do not wish to be a bother, I can wait." Her head lowered. "He probably won't want to see me anyway," she whispered.
"Hermione, you will find that Severus was never what he appeared to be, I can speak to him, if you want."
Hermione thought about this, and finally said, "Thank you, I would appreciate that."
Hermione's former head of house came to the library approximately an hour later and quietly took her aside. "Professor Snape has informed Madam Pomfrey that he requires a reader, and he has charged me to ask you if you might like the job."
"A reader?" Hermione smiled. "Oh yes, thank you, Ma'am."
"Here, I've written down the books and journals he wishes you to read, it's in order of importance."
"Okay, I'll search them out before I go. What time?"
So, this was how—a short time later—Hermione found herself finally being admitted into the hospital room of Severus Snape. She had listened to the lecture Madam Pomfrey gave her about not over-exciting him and how she was only to stay for one hour. She nodded and turned towards his room, but found butterflies swooping around her stomach now she was finally in front of the door to his room.
Tentatively she peeked in and found him watching her calmly, but she almost dropped the books she had in shock. He looked different, certainly his nose was the same size it had always been, but it was now dead straight. Oh the Roman hook of the rather magnificent appendage was still there, but it no longer looked abused as it always had. To add to this his hair was clean and shiny, and his teeth, while still not exactly white were now relatively straight. He also somehow looked more serene than she remembered, but most importantly there was no sign of the scowl he usually wore.
She suddenly realised that she was staring rudely, and she forced her mouth to speak. "Umm, hello, Professor."
"Good day, Miss Granger," he replied quietly, obviously still trying to be careful with his voice, and he attempted to sit up.
Hermione quickly placed the books down on the table over the end of the bed, and without thinking said, "Here, allow me to assist you," and she was reaching for him and helping him pull himself more upright. It wasn't until she found herself with her arms full of wizard that she realised how very close they were and that he fitted into her arms perfectly.
In his current state he was very frail, but she also found at that moment—with her face mere inches away from his—that he was definitely a very male man and that she was suddenly thinking things she should not be thinking.
She blushed heatedly. "My apologies, Professor, I should have obtained your permission before I pounced on you."
He cleared his throat delicately and took a moment to settle himself before answering. "I did not mind being… pounced on, Miss Granger," as he regarded her with a kind of interest that she had never seen before.
For her part, Hermione was certain he had used that not quite healed, but still magnificent voice of his to carefully caress the syllables of the word 'pounced', and even if his voice wasn't completely healed yet it still moved her, and to her mortification her blush deepened as her mind immediately went straight to the gutter.
She quickly placed some distance between them as the word still stroked her mind, and she tried to get her emotions back under control and regain her professionalism. "Do you require any further assistance?"
"No, but I will be certain to ask if I do," he replied, regarding her in a very personal way with his dark eyes and a tilt of his lips.
Hermione was immediately struck by the fact that there was no malice in his words, and there was what could have been a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth, and she found herself returning the expression and adding cheekily. "Please do, I would love to help you." She stiffened, wondering if an axe was going to fall following her comment, but she was more confused than she cared to admit when he merely raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed," he replied.
She was currently reading the first article he asked for; it was a ridiculous article about toadstools and how one should dress while collecting them. As she read she pondered that some people printed absolute garbage, and she failed to hold in her contempt after reading 'that in order to collect the Siberian soft top, you had to be naked'. She snorted derisively.
"A comment, perhaps, Miss Granger," Severus smoothed silkily.
Hermione's eyes shot up to his, hoping she wasn't about to be scolded for her utterance. To her surprise she found his lips pursed and the corner of his mouth twitching in mirth, so she risked telling him what she was thinking. "Well, I was just thinking that the toadstool would not be the only soft thing present if you got your kit off in the snow of Siberia to collect it. You'd have to be soft in the head as well."
"I believe I would agree. Just because something is published does not make it correct, you know. Continue, please."
Hermione gaped, Severus Snape had just agreed with her, and he said, please.
By the time she'd finished reading he looked very tired, and he said, "I need to rest now, when you return tomorrow, and could you bring parchment and a quill for notes?"
Hermione smiled, satisfied. "Yes, sir, certainly. What time would you like me to come?"
"Eleven, if you please."
"Very good, sir, see you tomorrow."
"Good day, Miss Granger."
As she walked down the driveway towards the gates Hermione pondered that her time with her former professor could not have gone better. All morning she had been on edge because a worrying thought had kept cropping up today as she finished her work in the library. There was really very little left for her to do in the library as well, and she was certain that Madam Pince would soon give her marching orders as well.
So apparently she was going to have a new daily routine, and this was something that pleased her greatly. As much as she hated to admit it, apart from the needed occupation to fill in her day because she was not a person who could sit idly, the thought of spending time with Ron was becoming more and more difficult, and she really hoped that spending time with Professor Snape might become a regular part of her day.
Hermione had been reading and taking notes for the professor for almost a week without incident. She was enjoying her new task, and the time she spent with him had slowly increased in length. Some days she stayed all morning when he requested that she come just after breakfast. She had not said anything to Ron about her new task at Hogwarts, and he had showed little interest in her, in fact he was not often around. The problem with that was that she found that she didn't care if he was there or not.
When she arrived, Hermione met the matron as she entered the infirmary. "Back again, Miss Granger, you certainly are monopolising the professor's time. Remember he is convalescing, you shouldn't be bothering him so much."
"Madam Pomfrey, Professor Snape requested me to be here now. I'm certain if I'm bothering him by attending when he has requested me to do so that he will be the first person to tell me."
A voice from within the room containing the professor suddenly barked, "Poppy, are you detaining my assistant? Miss Granger is here to assist me with my research not to be lectured to by you unnecessarily."
Hermione saw slight panic spread through the mediwitch's eyes, and her lips tightened. She thrust the mug of tea she was carrying into Hermione's hands and glared at her. "Better not keep the professor waiting then, Miss Granger. Be good enough to deliver this if you're going in."
Hermione entered the room to see Severus glaring at the door, and without thinking she looked back out the door and commented, "What's in her bonnet?"
"I assure you, Miss Granger, what is ailing Poppy Pomfrey is most certainly not in her bonnet."
"Oh," Hermione said, but then the knut dropped. "OH!"
"Yes," he replied. "Let's get to work, shall we?"
Hermione then became aware that she was still holding the mug of tea. "Oh, she sent this in for you," she said placing it on the bedside table.
His face twisted into one of his patent scowls. "Ugh, tea again," he muttered more to himself than her.
"You would prefer coffee?"
He snorted. "Yes that, Firewhisky, fags and a good…" his eyes examined her, and his lips pursed. "Well perhaps that's better left unsaid," he decided.
Hermione found herself shocked by his admission, and even more so by the fact that it did not revolt her as she thought it should. She knew the importance of a good cup of coffee, so she sympathised with him. "Would you like me to see if I can get you some?"
"What coffee, smokes, whisky or…" and his perfect raven eyebrow rose in question.
Hermione pursed her lips, he was teasing her. "Just the coffee, I do not think you're robust enough yet for any of your other suggestions."
"Mmm, but I don't like your chances for even coffee, and I'm certain that Pomfrey would blow a gasket," he replied, and then sighed. "In all probability she has decreed that no one shall have the staples of civilised life at their disposal whilst in her blasted infirmary."
"I suppose you could be right," Hermione mused quietly.
"Could be?" he replied imperiously, his raven eyebrow rising sharply. "Have you not learned by now, Miss Granger? I am always right."
Hermione giggled, she couldn't help it. "Of course, sir, how very silly of me to forget that fact," and smiled at him.
His lips twitched. "I believe I am finding this arrangement more and more acceptable," he told her.
"I hope so, sir," and she picked up the journal they had left unfinished yesterday. "Where would you like me to start?" In truth all she wanted was some time to collect her thoughts, because right at this moment she was certain that she had just fallen down another rabbit hole, another universe, where Severus Snape was even more human than she had already come to realise.
"Miss Granger, does Poppy's jealousy bother you?" he asked, ignoring her question.
She sat down and spread the required journal and her notes from yesterday over the little table she'd transfigured from the second chair while they'd been talking. She thought about his question while she had been doing so, and she answered, "I suspect that if it were a known fact that I was spending hours per day with you all to myself that there would be many, many witches trying to take my place, and yes, that bothers me a lot. I very much enjoy the time we spend together, and I would hate to see it ruined by someone's jealously."
"Then allow me to say that I feel the same." He inhaled slowly before speaking again. "Miss Granger, I am planning to release myself from here this afternoon. I would like our arrangement to continue, would you feel comfortable meeting me in my new rooms and not here where it is more public?"
"I have no concerns about meeting you anywhere," Hermione said. "But I would have thought that here was the last place you would want to stay."
"It is, but until I am back to full strength, the before-mentioned witches are the least of my problems."
Hermione gasped. "Oh, of course, if there are any Death Eaters out there… oh no!" Hermione brought her hand up to either side of her face to demonstrate her shock, as a jolt of something terrible shot through her at the thought of him coming up against Death Eaters who now all knew he was a traitor to their cause, and that wasn't the least of it. What about people like Ron, too stupid to fathom things. She hadn't realised that she'd said that out loud until he snorted.
"The day I can't handle a cretin like Ronald Weasley, is the day I should pack away the shingle that says 'wizard'," he laughed. "Never fear, Miss Granger, the headmistress has dedicated herself to my wellbeing, and as a past headmaster I am entitled to reside here for as long as I wish to."
"I'm pleased," Hermione said, but then wondered, "Why are you waiting until this afternoon to move?"
He grimaced and leant in closer. "I haven't exactly told Pomfrey yet, and I didn't want to risk ruining your visit, so I decided to wait until after lunch."
The next day, Hermione knocked on the door she had been told to come to the day before by her former professor, and after some time she heard his slightly husky voice say, "Come."
She dithered, wondering why he sounded like that, but finally she entered and found him blinking at her. Then she realised why. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir, did I wake you? Would you prefer me to leave?" Even though he was dressed and sitting in what was probably his favourite chair by the fire, he had been snoozing, and he looked like he'd just woken up. Her eyes panned over him, he was deliciously dishevelled, but then Hermione scolded herself. What the hell is wrong with me?
"No, Miss Granger, it is fine. Yesterday afternoon took more effort than I thought it would, but I must become more active, even if my condition requires much more time spent in sleep than I would like," he said, looking at the pile of papers in her hands. "Those front gates and freedom are still obviously a long way off." He sighed. "You may choose what you read to me today."
"Oh umm," and her lip slipped between her teeth.
Severus watched that lip with her teeth marking it and unaccountably wanted to reach forward and smooth it out from between her teeth with his thumb. She certainly has grown into a comely young woman, he considered for not the first time. I would like to nibble on that lip myself, but his thoughts derailed with that. What the fuck is getting into me? But even as he scolded himself, his eyes took in the swing of her hips as he watched her walking forward to sit opposite him.
"Umm, y-you're still planning to leave?"
"And why the deuce shouldn't I when I am well enough?"
"N-No reason, it's only that I've just started to get to know you," and her lip was back between her teeth.
He had no intention of losing her from his life, but he decided to dig a little. "Miss Granger, why would you wish to get to know me?"
"I… I-I've always wanted to get to know you, you're so brilliant and capable," she sat forward in her chair, so animated. "Who would not want to get to know you?" she added.
"Many people," he stated sensibly, but he pursed his lips and surveyed her quietly, before continuing to speak. "However, I am not averse to allowing you… access to me if that is what you wish. I'll warn you though, you may not like what you find."
"But I might too, you never know," she replied, blushing.
Severus gave her an 'I think you're loopy look' but the corner of his lips rose a fraction. "Read, Miss Granger, we shall see."
She smiled happily. "Umm, how about the article on the uses of sea water as a replacement for distilled water in the brewing of calming draughts?"
He nodded and closed his eyes to listen.
As Hermione started to read the article aloud, her mind was quickly trying to catch up with what her mouth had just proclaimed. She did not know that it was true, but she could not have not said it, and she had a strange fluttering sensation happening in her lower stomach. As she read she became aware that his eyes had opened again and were resting on her, on the rising and falling of her chest to be precise. She had the book in her lap and her legs crossed, and she should have taken him to task for his blatant perusal, but she somehow wanted his eyes on her, and her breasts tingled under her clothing in response to being watched. This man was pulling sensations from her that no one had ever elicited, and as she read she was aware that not only had her breathing increased but the nipples on said breasts were as hard as rocks and craving release from their confines.
By the end of the article, she realised that she had not noticed a single word that she'd read and she looked up to find his amused gaze now on her face.
"Miss Granger, do you own any female clothing?"
Now she hadn't been expecting that. She spluttered and stuttered and then huffed. "W-what's that got to do with anything?"
"It strikes me that it would be most becoming on you. Do you have any?"
"Umm, n-no, it wasn't practical for running around the countryside last year, and… umm," She paused. "Umm, I'm afraid I grew out of what I had while I was running around the countryside last year."
"I see, pity." As he said this there was a knock on his door, and then the matron came brusquely in through the door.
Hermione watched his face pinch as she sat his potions down on the table next to him and picked up his wrist.
"Unhand me, woman," he stated irritatedly. "There is nothing wrong with me."
"Oh hush, Severus," and she responded motherly, "You should drink all of your potions." Then she turned to Hermione with a disapproving glare on her face. "You shouldn't be bothering Professor Snape, he needs to rest, Miss Granger."
Severus' eyes narrowed. "Miss Granger is my invited guest, kindly respect that."
She huffed and bustled back towards the door, as he lifted the first potion to his nose. "Bloody cow," he snapped. "Miss Granger, kindly tip this down the sink."
"What is it?"
"Smell it, look at the colour and consistency; see if you can work it out." He held the potion phial out to her.
"A sleeping potion?" Hermione's expression changed to concerned. "Surely she would not dope you?"
"Never underestimate the medical profession," and there was a flash of his old smirk.
"No, but that's unethical."
"Pomfrey is used to dealing with children, so she treats everyone the same."
"Oh, yes… I see."
"Mmm," he replied.
Severus took his potions while Hermione wandered into his kitchen to dispose of the sleeping draft. As he watched her walking across the room over the rim of the second phial he pondered why he kept the Gryffindor witch returning each day. He found himself strangely drawn to her, but he wondered if that was because she had shown an interest in him. Yet, Pomfrey and the healers and nurses at St. Mungos showed an interest in him and he didn't feel anything towards any of them except mild irritation. There was something special about little Miss Granger, and he was determined to find out what it was.