The Antidote

"And now, the punishment for the traitor," hissed Voldemort.

"May I be the one?" begged Peter Pettigrew eagerly.

"No, Wormtail," said the Dark Lord seriously. "I know what you would do to Snape. It would be over far too soon. You see," he continued, suddenly smiling, "our dear Severus has a martyr complex. He would love to die. And so he will not. He will live...in shame."

The Dark Lord's eyes flicked over the circle of hooded figures in front of him. "Ah, there you are, young Master Malfoy. Step forward and receive your first task."

One of the Death Eaters stepped forward and bowed his head somewhat.

"You are to slip this into a drink of Snape's as soon as possible."

The figure nodded, stretched forth his hand, and accepted the small flask that was offered him.

"If I may be so bold to ask," drawled the aristocratic voice, "what is it?"

"An antidote," chuckled Voldemort. "Just an antidote."

***

Severus had heard nothing from the Dark Lord in weeks. He'd started worrying that his position as a spy had been uncovered.

And yet, just last night, Draco Malfoy had come into his office. Over a cup of tea, the young man had expressed his pleasure at working with him in "things that matter"—the euphemism Malfoy had used. Draco had then explained that since Severus was the senior Death Eater at Hogwarts—and had more convenient access to the Floo network—all intelligence gathered by Malfoy, Crabbe, or Goyle would be passed on to Lucius Malfoy through him.

So now, in theory, Severus Snape was Draco Malfoy's boss. Yet he still hadn't heard from Voldemort.

Severus rose from his chair and started making the rounds of the Potions classroom. "Parkinson—didn't I clearly state that the daisy roots are to be added slowly? Miss Patil, exactly what shade should your potion have turned at this stage?" Slowly he stalked up to the front of the classroom, castigating students as he went.

He glanced, as usual, at Hermione Granger, to see if she was helping Longbottom. Luckily for her (but not for Neville), she wasn't; she was tending to her own cauldron, brow furrowed, slowly adding neatly diced daisy roots.

Then it happened; she licked her lips. He saw the gesture—which, he had no doubt, was done unconsciously—and wondered how it would feel if she ran her tongue over a particular part of his body. His erection was almost instantaneous.

He retreated quickly behind his desk. What in the world could be wrong? he thought. I could make the potion in my sleep—surely I didn't make a mistake in the last brewing. Perhaps one of the ingredients was spoiled and I didn't notice. I shall have to make a new batch tonight.

He knew, of course, why he would react to Miss Granger if the potion had failed. It wasn't that she looked like his late wife—she didn't at all. Catherine had had lovely, perfectly straight, flaxen hair and blue eyes. No, it was the personality that did it. For some reason, he enjoyed bossy women.

Catherine had been terribly bossy. It had been intimidating at first (theirs had been an arranged marriage), but after a while he had realized it was a big turn-on for him. She'd often taken the initiative in lovemaking and he'd relished every moment of it.

She was gone, now, of course. She had been for many years. He missed her, in a theoretical way; missed their private conversations, their shared jokes. Intellectually he had missed her every day for the last fifteen years; he hadn't missed her physically until today.

"Class is dismissed!" he snapped, trying very hard not to look at Miss Granger. "Put your potion samples on my desk! Hurry up!" The students seemed eager enough to leave; they departed as soon as was practical.

Severus closed and locked the classroom door and fumbled with his robes. He needed release—now. And then he needed to brew that damn potion. He would have to miss dinner, but it was better than putting up with this—this—this madness any longer.

***

The next morning, he bumped into Hermione Granger at the library. Literally. This was not surprising, given that they'd both been trying to read and walk at the same time.

"Excuse me, sir!" She jumped back, retrieved her book—which she'd dropped, in her surprise—and scurried away.

His heart was racing. It wasn't the only part of his body that reacted, either.

Oh, no! he thought. It must be a bad ingredient if this dose isn't working either! I'll have to order some fresh supplies from Knockturn Alley.

He had to admit, Hermione Granger did have a lovely rear.

***

"Well, young Malfoy? Have you noticed anything odd with our friend Severus?"

"He does seem to be acting rather odd in class," said Draco pensively. "But I can't put my finger on the reason."

Voldemort cackled. "He just needs to get laid, dear boy."

***

Severus had developed the frigidity potion seventeen years ago. He had used it any time he was going to be away from Catherine for an extended period of time. He loved his wife and didn't want to betray her, but he also didn't trust his hormones. Bossy women turned him on and the wizarding world was full of bossy bitches. He would get the hots for someone else if he didn't take this precaution.

He never thought he would use the potion for fifteen years without a break. At first it had helped him to deal with Catherine's passing; now it helped him keep away from the students he knew he shouldn't touch.

He wished it would work again.

Two weeks had passed since that Potions class where his body had noticed Hermione Granger for the first time. He was getting no relief.

He'd brewed countless batches of the frigidity potion, but none seemed to work. They looked right, smelled right, tasted right; they just didn't have the right effect. What was bloody wrong with him? All of his other potions turned out correctly.

He looked at the book in front of him restlessly. He'd followed all the steps exactly. He'd tested the potency of the ingredients in other potions. Everything should be working. Nothing did.

***

Another week had passed. Severus found himself breathing a sigh of relief as the figure of Voldemort faded into nothingness. At last, that Potter brat had done his job. He was finally free of the Master he had loathed, feared for so long. He stalked forward, intending to check on Potter's condition. Such a spell had no doubt drained him of much of his power.

"I...I'm all right, really," said Harry, slumping to the ground. "Just tired. How are Ron and Hermione?"

Albus Dumbledore appeared at Harry's side. "I've just finished off Lucius and Bellatrix," he said wearily. "Come, Harry. Let me take you back to Hogwarts." Harry nodded wearily, letting the old man pick him up and carry him slowly back through the Forbidden Forest. As they disappeared down the path, a faint voice called back, "Professor? Ron and Hermione."

Severus looked around irritably at the sea of bodies. Since he had worked for both sides, he knew the identities of most of the casualties. Lupin. Bill Weasley. Nott. Avery. Macnair. Where were Potter's two sidekicks?

The sound of a sob caused him to prick up his ears. Someone was in the thicket at the edge of the clearing. Moving over to investigate, he found Hermione Granger with her arms wrapped around the still body of Ron Weasley.

"Oh, Ron," she moaned. "Why did it have to be you?"

"It didn't have to be him," interjected Severus sharply. "It could have been Bill. In fact, it was Bill. It was Remus Lupin. It was Mundungus Fletcher. The Tonks ladies—both of them, Andromeda and Nymphadora. Shall I continue?"

The girl stiffened. "I know," she said miserably. "I saw most of them fall. And I'll miss all of them. But I can live without them; I can't live without Ron."

He bowed his head, remembering. "It does feel like that," he whispered. "But you can get through it. The hurt doesn't go away, but it fades into a dull roar."

She moved the body of her lover gently to the side, stood, and looked into his eyes. "How long has it been for you?" she asked gently.

"Fifteen years." He sat down on a fallen log, buried his face in his hands.

She seated herself next to him. "Tell me," she said.

He shook his head.

"Tell me," she repeated more forcefully.

She was so like Catherine; he felt that he had no choice but to obey. "We were on vacation," he said tersely. "She went out for a walk on the beach after dinner. The local band of dark wizards picked her out as an...interesting target. I only recovered bits of her body."

Unable to restrain himself any longer, he broke out sobbing. Miss Granger was next to him, wiping his tears, holding him close to her body.

She was a lovely woman. And right now he needed a woman—badly. Before he could think through his actions, he found himself kissing her, caressing her body, throbbing with desire. Since Catherine's death he had denied the fact that he was a man; it was, in a way, denying that she had ever existed. Fifteen years of denial weighed heavily on him. He could deny his nature no longer.

He pulled the woman in his arms to the ground and undressed her roughly. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she spread her legs voluntarily and allowed him entrance. He knew she was seeking solace, too, in a way. And then he lost control of his rational mind and lost himself in pleasure.

He looked down at her, flushed with the afterglow of orgasm, and slowly regained control of his senses. What had he done? He had taken advantage of a student. One who was emotionally wounded, at that. He pulled away from her quickly, dressed, and fled to the safety of the castle.

***

His intention had been to go straight to his rooms to pack. He knew, after all, that he had just committed a serious breach of contract. He would be fired.

When he reached the Entrance Hall, however, he was met by a very serious Professor Flitwick. "Your presence is required in the Hospital Wing," the little man squeaked.

Severus frowned and began mounting the stairs. Surely Harry would not request his presence?

It was Draco—badly wounded, barely breathing, looking up at him with cold gray eyes. "Snape," he rasped. "Sit down. We need to talk. Tea?" He waved his hand weakly at a teapot sitting next to him.

Still flustered, Severus sat in the wooden chair next to the bed and poured himself a cup.

"You know," Draco began, then collapsed back against the pillows, resting.

Snape sipped at his tea nervously, then said, "Continue, Draco."

"The Master knew you were a traitor."

"I thought as much."

"Your punishment," Draco grinned weakly.

"What was it to be?"

"Disgrace. Hasn't it started?"

"Not that I know of," frowned Severus.

"One more week," gasped Draco. "One more week for it to happen...thanks to that tea you're drinking..."

Madam Pomfrey burst into the room. "Draco!" she cried frantically. "What the hell are you doing? You were supposed to take your Dreamless Sleep potion!"

Draco smiled faintly, closed his eyes, and drifted off into the Dreamless Sleep from which there is no awakening.

***

Severus sat in his office, staring at the jars of potions ingredients on the walls. He was supposed to be marking exams, but he couldn't bring himself to focus. What had Draco meant? He'd been pondering it for three weeks now, and he was no nearer to the answer.

The first two weeks following the battle had been nightmarish; at least when he was in his seventh-year NEWT class. Granger was always red-eyed and sniffly. She refused to look at him.

He liked to look at her, though. He wanted her again. He'd never have her though; she'd just finished her NEWTs, and soon she'd be leaving.

There was a tap at his door. "Come in," he said wearily.

It was Hermione Granger. "Professor?" she asked warily, closing the door behind her.

He didn't know what to say, so he fixed her with what he thought was his best withering glare.

"I...I'm pregnant," she said quietly.

"Isn't it Weasley's?" he responded quickly.

She looked at the floor and shuffled her feet. "We...we made a pact six weeks ago that we wouldn't do it again until after the NEWTs. We didn't want to get distracted, you know."

He sighed heavily. It was just the kind of thing she would have done. Catherine would have done the same in her shoes.

"I...apologize for my actions," he said slowly. "I was...overly emotional at the time."

"I could have stopped you," she replied. "But for some reason I didn't want to. I guess I was...well, overly emotional at the time. Look, I accept the fact that neither of us were thinking particularly clearly. But that doesn't change the fact that I have a child on the way."

"You could pretend it was Weasley's," Severus said seriously. He motioned to her to follow into the laboratory and pulled out his favorite cauldron. Ingredients were carefully diced, measured, and set to simmer without a word from the Potions Master. Hermione watched him warily as he added a strand of his hair and—disgustingly enough—a swab taken from the inside of his nose.

After several minutes of working in silence, he ladled out a portion and cast a cooling charm on it. "Drink," he said, pushing the greenish concoction towards her.

"What will it do?" she said, looking disgustedly at the potion in front of her.

"Keep the baby from having my hair or nose. Those are the most obvious of the Snape traits."

She raised the flask to her lips and swallowed it, grimacing. After she had set the empty vial down on the bench, her shoulders slumped. "I'm still pregnant, though."

He leaned back against the lab bench and crossed his arms over his chest. "I hear that the Muggles can fix that. There's a distinct possibility that you'll lose all or most of your magic if you did that, though."

She seemed very interested in a spot on the floor, which she poked at unmercifully. "That's why I haven't done anything about it. And yet, I...I'm not sure I can go through with my apprenticeship in my condition."

"No? I believe Miss Clearwater was at St. Mungo's while expecting."

"Penelope is in the Accidental Spell Reversal Department. I'm going to...was going to be in Medicinal Potions. You know how many potentially harmful substances I'd have to work with. And besides, aren't unwed mothers generally shunned by most wizards?"

Severus ran his hand through his hair, considering. "Were you and Mr. Weasley affianced?"

Hermione bit her lip, trying to keep from giggling at his old-fashioned language. "Yes, we were. In fact," her breath hitched as the memories came flooding back, "we would have been married a month from today."

Severus pointedly ignored the sniffles issuing from his erstwhile student and continued his questioning. "Did you or did you not have the official betrothal ceremony?"

She looked up at him. "Yes, we did. I didn't care much for it—and neither did he—but we both thought it would make his parents happy."

"Then, legally speaking, your child would not be considered a bastard. There is considerable legal precedent for this. Employers would not be allowed to discriminate against you."

Hermione let out a sigh—whether of relief or disappointment, he could not tell. "Well, I suppose that's a good thing—though what I would do for child care is beyond me. And what if it's a boy? Wouldn't he need a father figure? He'd have lots of uncles, but I'd need someone reasonable around to outweigh the influence of Fred and George..." She broke off suddenly, and looked him in the eye. "Well, you've been a help. Sort of. Thank you, I guess."

As she turned to leave, a thought struck Severus. "Miss Granger?"

"Yes?"

"You are aware that even though I contributed the genetic material, Ron is legally the child's father."

"So I gathered."

"But that doesn't mean I couldn't marry you anyway, if you thought I'd make an acceptable father."

She turned back to look at him. "I will not raise a child in these dungeons," she said sternly.

"I was actually thinking of a cottage somewhere near Oxford. Close enough to London for easy apparition but far enough away for peace and quiet. I have enough savings to cover living expenses during your maternity leave. I would take care of the child care for you."

Her jaw dropped. "You...you want to be a stay-at-home father?"

"An independent researcher," he corrected gently. "I could do a lot more research if I only had to worry about one child instead of two hundred. I assume you don't mind being a career woman all your life?"

"Are you kidding?" she said without a moment's hesitation. "Let's do it."

*** (Many years later)

Severus collapsed into his armchair with a sigh. The grandchildren were gone at last. Though the hustle and bustle of the yearly family reunion was nothing in comparison to a party in the Slytherin common room, it left him drained nonetheless. Hermione was back at St. Mungo's, so he could bask in the peace and quiet that remained.

On impulse, he pulled a photo album from the shelf and opened to the first page, where he was greeted by a yellowed clipping from The Daily Prophet.

SEVERUS SNAPE SAVES THE DAY AGAIN

Severus Snape has come to the rescue of Miss Hermione Granger, former Hogwarts Head Girl. Miss Granger had conceived a child while under betrothal contract to Mr. Ronald Weasley. When Mr. Weasley perished during the Final Battle, she found herself without means of support.

Former Professor Snape has offered to join her in wedlock to assist in the raising of the child, and to lend respectability to her name.

Severus Snape was a well-respected professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for nineteen years. He also served as a spy against Voldemort during both the first and the second Wars and is a recipient of the Order of Merlin, First Class. He recently left Hogwarts to pursue a career in independent potions research.

After all the service he has given the wizarding world, it is refreshing to see a man of Snape's caliber sacrifice yet again on behalf of Miss Granger.

Severus snorted as he thought of his "sacrifice". His suggestion to Hermione had been completely selfish in nature—he had figured that a woman as brilliant as she could easily support him, letting him live a life of leisure. He smiled as he flipped the pages of the album, glancing over his wedding pictures.

Of course, full-time fatherhood had proved to be a little harder than he'd suspected. Research had been conducted only sporadically during the first year or two of Genevieve's life; and then, four years later, during the first year or two of Sebastian's life.

He chuckled as he came to a photo of Sebastian on his first birthday, plunging both fists into his birthday cake. His son's birth had proved to all and sundry that, while his marriage to Hermione had started as one of convenience, it hadn't ended up that way. His relationship with her had been both more challenging and more rewarding than he had hoped. After thirty-five years, they were still madly in love.

Severus closed the photo album and set it back on the shelf. Leaning back in his chair, he shut his eyes and breathed in deeply. His afternoon nap was one of his favorite times of the day. Hermione insisted that he needed it because he was getting old, but Severus knew better. He always awoke from his siesta with fresh ideas for research.

He always tried to keep his mind free from his current work while drifting off to sleep. Today, he tried thinking about the day of the Final Battle. It had been his first time with Hermione, and he'd run away from her in fear. And then...Draco. That had been odd.

Memories rushed back at him all at once. Draco had been in charge of delivering his punishment. Something in his tea. What had that been about?

The answer hit him suddenly, and he opened his eyes and snorted with laughter. "Disgrace," he smirked, sitting bolt upright. "Yes, it might have worked...it might have worked had I been a man with no natural self- control. But I kept my impulses in check. I didn't go into a fucking frenzy amongst the horny Slytherin girls."

Settling back into his chair, he closed his eyes again. "No disgrace," he murmured as he nodded off. "Quite the contrary, my dear Mr. Riddle. Quite the contrary. One well-respected wife, two fine children, seven grandchildren, and many years of productive research. Thank you very much, Mr. Riddle."

He thought of his lovely wife and smiled as he went back to sleep. Hermione had been a wonderful replacement for the frigidity potion. Absolutely fantastic.