Disclaimer: purely written for fun, no copyright infringement intended.
AN: just a short story I started writing a little while ago. As I finish this it is almost three in the morning. I so am going to pay for this tomorrow.
Oh well. Promise I will check the spelling a little better later on. For now, I am just going to post this and go to sleep! ;-)
Hermione gently slipped her hand under his head and supported it as she placed the cup against his lips.
"Take a sip," she spoke softly to the man in the bed, "It's rose hip tea, you like that, don't you?"
Obediently, the man sipped the warm beverage. The young woman sitting by his side hummed her approval.
She had spent hours and hours beside his bed. At first, immediately after the battle, it was for her: she had needed so badly to feel useful, to be needed. So she did the first thing that came to mind: she helped taking care of the wounded as best she could.
Before this, she had never seen him in any other way than in complete control of himself and the situation, even when he was exhausted from the combination of his late night meetings and his busy class schedule. The contrast on seeing him here was beyond description.
When she had seen him for the first time, after the battle, it had been a huge shock. His face was even paler than it was usually and a stark contrast with his ravenblack hair and the angry red cuts and bruises on his skin. Seeing him dressed, first in hardly anything but bandages and later on in a white nightshirt, instead of his normal choice of all-black attire had driven home the point that he was human. Just like the rest of them.
For the first week and a half, they were not even sure he was going to make it. Some people thought she was wasting her time, although nobody had been foolish enough to actually say that out loud to her. If she were honest, deep down in a place that she hardly dared acknowledge even existed, she herself had doubted that he was going to survive as well. Somehow it had only made her want to fight even harder for him.
She wasn't sure how it had happened, but after a while he became something of a special case to her. Still doing her best to help out Madam Pomfrey with as many patients as she could, he was taking up more and more of her time. Even as his survival was doubtful, it never stopped her from visiting him, taking care of him. She would change his bandages and wipe his face with a cool cloth, she administered the potions he needed to heal and rubbed the fragrant salve, meant to speed up the healing process of his bruises into his skin. Often, she prepared the potions and the salve herself.
And late at night, when everything was quiet and there was no more work for her to do, when she was reluctant to go to her room, where she'd be alone, she went to his bed, drew up a chair and read to him.
She read everything she could get her hands on; the damage to the library was extensive, but there were still books to be had. Besides, she had her own, private collection as well. On those nights, he'd lie perfectly still, giving no indication whatsoever that he was conscious of the fact that someone was reading to him. Every once in a while, she'd look up from her book and look at him. Her gaze would rest on his pale face, then glide to his long and elegant fingers. Sometimes she'd wonder idly why she'd never before noticed how beautiful his hands were. She'd sigh at the sight of them lying motionless on the blanket instead of mesmerizing her as they deftly worked in a field of magic that was as much science as it was an art.
In time, the bruises faded and healed and she noticed how he got stronger. Unfortunately this also caused a problem: at times he would be very agitated and when he was in such a state it was impossible to get him to eat or drink or even calm down. Madam Pomfrey tried every trick in the book, short of spelling him to calm down, but nothing worked.
That is, nothing worked until one day Hermione happened to show up next to her and started questioning the medi-witch on what was going on and whether or not the Professor had taken a turn for the worse. It was then that they noticed that he calmed down when he heard her voice. It was not a conscious reaction, as his mind was probably still too befuddled for that. Besides, she thought that if he were to have picked any person to be the one to soothe him, it would most definitely not have been her.
But, seeing how the situation was, that didn't matter. He needed to hear her voice speak to him softly, needed her to be there. He simply needed her. And to her, it was all that mattered at first.
He saved her.
Now, as his strength gradually increased, he still hadn't regained consciousness yet. But if she asked him to drink, he would. She was the only one he responded to in that way.
And so they became dependant on each other: he needed her to take care of him and she needed him simply to need her.
So on this particular Saturday morning, while others used their free time to attend to personal matters, Hermione Granger could be found next to the bed of 'her' patient. She sat the teacup down on the small bedside table. Picking up a wet cloth, she placed his right arm over his stomach, so she could sit down on the edge of the bed beside him. Carefully she wiped his face, gently pressing the cloth to his temples and forehead.
"I think you are going to wake up soon," she told him. Her hands repeated their actions, soothing and refreshing.
"I don't know what I'll do if you don't need me anymore. It was nice to be needed," she continued thoughtfully.
She put down the cloth and having finished her tasks, sat still for a moment, looking at his face. There were a couple of strands of wet hair plastered against his skin and, without thinking she started smoothing them back, her fingertips gently brushing the skin of his temples.
She was so engrossed by her thoughts, that she never saw Madam Pomfrey watch her from the doorway. The older witch had watched the young girl coaxing the man into drinking some tea. Again, she marvelled at how readily he obeyed her. She'd had him under her care for more times than she'd care to admit over the years, but never even once had he responded to her voice like he did to the young woman's sitting on his bed now.
The medi-witch shook her head in sympathy: the poor girl had needed to feel useful so badly those first few days. But look at her now: her movements so sure and comforting, her presence serene and soothing. She would be an excellent medi-witch, should she ever choose the profession. She watched as the girl slipped off the bed gracefully and started to move towards her.
Hermione felt her heart suddenly beating in her throat as she heard the small noise coming from just behind her back. Had she really heard that? Turning back, she watched his face anxiously.
"Professor?" she asked, searching for a reaction, "Professor, can you hear me?"
Again there was a small noise, a low indistinct grumble, like a person trying to speak and not quite succeeding.
Hermione felt her heart rate double in apprehension and tentative joy.
"Hold on, I'll get you something that'll help you," she said, squeezing his hand reassuringly, "Stay with me now." Quickly she added a few drops of a potion to the now almost cold tea and stirred it hastily.
"Here, drink this," she told him softly as she once again supported his head with her hand and held the cup to his lips. As always, he sipped the liquid obediently.
She removed her hand from his head and blindly placed the cup back on the nightstand, her eyes never leaving his face.
"Professor, can you hear me?" she asked again.
And again she was rewarded with the low sound of him trying to speak, then his eyelids fluttered... and he opened his eyes slowly.
"Professor?" Hermione said faintly, hardly believing he was finally awake. His eyes focused on her face with some trouble. For a moment her own sight was blurred by an unexpected onslaught of tears and without thinking, she grabbed his hand and held it tight between her own.
"Oh Professor, it is so wonderful that you're awake. We were so worried about you!" she said, furiously blinking away tears and feeling a couple of them spill on her cheeks.
"Miss Granger...." His voice was barely audible and rusty from disuse, "are you trying to get Potter and Weasley out of trouble?"
At this Hermione Granger started grinning madly and before she could think better of it, she pressed her lips against his hand in a heartfelt kiss.
"No, Professor, I'm just being outrageously happy."
"Really Miss Granger, there is no reason for you to hang around here all the time. I am quite capable of feeding myself now," a slightly annoyed Severus Snape said one afternoon.
Madam Pomfrey, who heard the comment, softly sighed to herself. She should have known this newfound docility of him would be short-lived the moment he started to recover. It was a pity though; she had rather liked the obedient version of the Potions master. And Merlin knew it did the girl a world of good when he allowed her to help him. Harry and Ron were celebrated for their parts in the final battle against Voldemort, but Hermione had decided she didn't want any part in the fame and frenzy around the Boy-Who-Lived-Again. Her need for recognition by the wizarding world at large had died the night her parents were murdered in a raid. It really was a pity Severus Snape didn't see how badly she needed to help him.
The medi-witch sighed in resignation when she heard the sound of the doors of the infirmary shut quietly.
"Was that really necessary, Severus?" she asked disapprovingly.
The Potions Professor scowled at her.
"Poppy, she is driving me crazy with her incessant asking if I need anything and 'making me as comfortable as possible.' The girl's a menace!"
At this the medi-witch exploded: "Severus Snape! Do you have any idea how many hours the poor child spent at your bedside? If it were not for her, I doubt you would have made such a speedy recovery. She took care of you for weeks on end, hardly taking the time to sleep herself! Surely you have seen how pale and skinny she has become?"
The Potions Master grumbled an unintelligible answer, but there were two faint pink spots on his cheeks, showing the words had struck a chord.
"I think you should apologize, when she comes back here," said madam Pomfrey. The dark-haired man opened his mouth as if to protest, but one look at her stern gaze and he grudgingly mumbled: "Oh, very well."
"Poppy, have you seen her?"
The medi-witch need not ask who he was talking about. "No Severus, she hasn't been here all week. Irma Pince told me she's helping to catalogue what is still left of the library and repair some of the damage."
If she had not known how utterly miserable Hermione Granger was at the moment, the uneasy look on the Potions Master's face would have been very amusing.
"Miss Granger," a voice behind her said softly. She had not heard anyone approach and she most certainly had not expected - him - to come and find her. She assumed he had a message for her from Madam Pomfrey or something like that.
"Yes Professor?" she asked, turning around, but keeping her gaze firmly fixed at the dark robes covering his chest rather than look at his face.
"I need your assistance, Miss Granger," he said calmly.
She had not expected that. And what was more, she felt the anger she had kept inside at his unjust treatment of her, rising to the surface.
"I thought I was a menace, Professor?" she asked scathingly.
"Miss Granger... Hermione... Look at me," he asked.
She lifted her gaze to meet his, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"I need your assistance in a matter of personal interest," he told her softly. "You see, I've inadvertently insulted a young lady who has been very generous to me and I'd like you to advise me on how to make it up to her."
"From what I've heard, this young lady was hurt pretty badly, Professor, I am not sure the situation can be mended."
"I would fully understand any reluctance in her accepting my apology, but I would like the chance to explain to this young lady that I appreciate her efforts very much indeed and that my ill-advised comments on her behaviour are a result of my volatile temper and directed at the situation I found myself in rather than at her."
"Maybe if you explained it to her like that, she might be inclined to listen to you, Professor. But I would advise you, apart from explaining your disposition to her, to apologize for what you said."
"I think you have a valid point there, Miss Granger," he responded.
Hermione just stood there, looking at him, his features so familiar to her now, after all the hours spent in the infirmary next to his bed. And yet this was the strangest situation she had ever found herself in, where her former Potions Professor was concerned. For once, his eyes were not the unreadable obsidian pools, but she could see the sincerity in them.
"I treated you unfairly, Miss Granger and I apologize," his voice was soft and silky and in combination with the intense emotions she could now read in his eyes, she felt the most wonderful sensation of being drawn to him. However, she only said: "Apology accepted, Professor," and turned back to the bookshelves she had been organizing.
"These baked potatoes are excellent, don't you think?"
She pulled up her eyebrows at him in surprise.
"What?" he said impatiently, "I'm only trying to make conversation, it is considered polite, I am told."
"I never thought you would care enough to try and be polite, Professor," she replied.
He scowled at her and turned his attention to his plate, massacring the prized baked potatoes. A small hand on his arm stopped his movements, although he doggedly kept staring straight ahead.
"I am sorry, that was uncalled for," she apologized, smiling as she felt the muscles beneath her fingers relax.
"I never thought I'd appreciate baked potatoes so much, but after the whole ordeal, everything seems to taste better," she picked up on his topic of conversation.
He turned his head back to her and a corner of his mouth twitched up ever so slightly, before he put another piece of potato in his mouth and started chewing with obvious pleasure.
"Professor, I was just wondering, could I borrow your copy of 'Most potente potions'? My copy was lost and the ones in the library have been severely damaged."
"And what would you want with a Potions book, Miss Granger?" he asked, a hint of amusement in his voice. "You are not going to brew Polyjuice Potion again, are you? I have just replenished my stocks of Boomslang skin."
Hermione blushed a bright red, but nevertheless bravely went on: "I was just reading up on some potions, Professor, nothing more."
"Very well, Miss Granger, I trust you will be careful not to damage my property. And what book, may I ask, would you offer to lend to me in return?"
"Well, I have found a most interesting book in the library. It is called 'When roses will blossom again'", she told him cheekily, naming the title of what obviously was a pretty bad romance novel.
Severus Snape looked at her with mild disgust, while handing her his copy of the requested book. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that."
"The baked potatoes are excellent again, this evening, don't you agree, Professor?"
"I do, Miss Granger, the house elves truly outdid themselves this time."
Minerva McGonagall and Hyacinth Hooch stared unabashedly at the Potions Professor and the former Head Girl.
"What?" the two asked in unison, confusion on their faces.
"The baked potatoes really are excellent," said Hermione and took another bite.
"Indeed they are," agreed Severus Snape and resumed eating as well.
"Oh! That is so not true!" said Hermione indignantly.
"Of course it is and you know it."
"Neville would never have needed my help, if it hadn't been for the fact that he was scared out of his wits of you!"
"Admit it Hermione, the boy is completely hopeless when it comes to Potions."
"He did just fine as long as you were not around!"
"Pity for him than, that I am the Potions Master."
"Why do you always wear black robes?"
"Why do you always start asking questions when I am quietly reading a book?"
"Because when you are reading, your face relaxes and you look very accessible. Now, why don't you ever wear any colour?"
"I look accessible when I'm reading? I am going to have to work on that."
"Aren't you going to answer my question?"
"Aren't you going to stop badgering me about it?"
"I don't intend to."
"Well, I don't intend to answer."
"I am so sorry!"
"Are you hurt?"
"No, not at all: I apologize I bumped in to you like that, Professor."
"Don't apologize, it is... quite al right."
"Speechless, Miss Granger?"
"I was just thinking you have very nice eyes, Professor."
"Oh god, I didn't really say that out loud, did I?"
"I'm afraid you did, Miss Granger."
"I am so sorry, Professor."
"Don't apologize, it is... quite al right."
"Miss Granger, are you all right?"
Hermione did not respond, but kept staring at the book lying open in front of her.
"Hermione." She jumped when he put his hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Professor, you startled me."
"Care to tell me what you were thinking about?" he asked softly. To his horror, her eyes filled with tears and she started crying.
"Hermione, I didn't mean to make you cry!" he said, horrified, as he clumsily patted her shoulder.
"It...is not... your fault," the girl sniffed, "it's just that... today it is exactly one year... ago that my parents... died." She turned towards him and buried her face against his shoulder, her hands nestling themselves between the folds of his robes. He looked at the girl holding onto him, her shoulders shaking with her sobs, his astonishment clearly etched on his features.
In a moment, he collected himself, gathered her in his arms and carried her over to his favourite chair, where he sat down with her on his lap.
"It's all right, little one, just cry. Mourn your parents. It is all right." he whispered against her ear as his hands gently caressed her unruly hair.
"Miss Granger, I..."
"Don't you dare 'Miss Granger' me, Severus Snape! You do this every time I try to explain and I am fed up with it."
"Hermione, please... don't make this any harder on me than it already is!"
"Merlin! Dear man... don't you see: you don't have to keep your distance anymore. The days of you leading your life in solitude are over. You don't have to hide your true colours anymore... At least... if you'd like...."
"If I'd like? Do you have any idea? I have wanted this from the day I woke up in the infirmary to find you next to my bed and kissing my hand and generally being overjoyed I was awake!"
"Oh, my sweet... How can you not have noticed?"
"Maybe because I was afraid?"
"Call me that again?"
The rays of the early morning sun cast a rosy glow on the bed, softly illuminating the two people lying close together. A big orange fur ball jumped onto the bed and rubbed with its head against his mistress' hand.
"Not now, Crooks..." murmured Hermione Granger, as she vaguely gestured for him to get off the bed. The ginger creature ignored her comment and butted his head against her hand again, this time more impatiently.
A pale hand with long elegant fingers reached over and pushed the bothersome animal off the bed with a firm shove. Crookshanks let out an indignant 'meow' before leaving the room with his bottlebrush tail held up proudly.
"Mmm... good morning, love," Hermione mumbled as she turned around and snuggled closer against the warm, naked chest of her companion.
His response was a warm, languid kiss on the lips and she felt a feeling of intense contentment drift over her as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"You have such nice lips..." she murmured as they finally broke apart.
He chuckled at that.
"You say that every morning."
"That's because every morning when I wake up beside you, for some part of me it still feels as though it were the first time."
He buried his nose in her neck with obvious enjoyment, planting small kisses on her collarbone.
"My love, waking up with you feels so good, I think I will never get used to it," he murmured, the smooth, silky voice resonating against her skin.
"I love you, Severus."
"I love you too, my sweet," he responded. He sighed deeply and rolled onto his back. Hermione wrapped her leg around his and nestled herself against his body, her head resting on his chest.
"Will you stay in bed with me for a little while longer?" she begged.
His arms encircled her and pulled her close to him as he kissed her on the top of her head.
"Believe me love, there's nothing I'd rather do."
She sighed in contentment and only moments later both of them were sleeping peacefully.