Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter.
A/N: This is a SEQUEL folks. Maybe it stands on its own, maybe it wobbles slightly before toppling over, or maybe you should just read "Under the Mistletoe." Either way I hope you enjoy it, but even if you don't please let me know in a review at the end…it's the only way I'll ever get better.
Chapter One—St. Mungo's
"I hope you're happy," Severus Snape snarled from his hospital bed while the Healer flitted around, waving her wand and muttering diagnostic charms.
"Of course I'm not happy," Hermione snapped back. She stood in the corner of the room, wringing her hands. "For one thing the potion is completely ruined."
She stepped out of the way as the Healer left the room, leaving the two of them alone. Hermione suddenly felt nervous. She didn't know how he would react; she hadn't meant to throw that last hex, not really, anyway. But he could be so infuriating sometimes. She knew that working together wouldn't be a good idea. She had tried to tell him that but he refused to listen.
"You seem to be alright," he said with only a slight trace of bitterness in his voice.
"Yes, well, just a quick counter-charm and they let me go," she said a bit chagrined.
"Your dueling skills have improved considerably."
Was that a bit of admiration in his voice? Maybe he had forgiven her. She debated if she should tell him she was sorry. It wasn't true of course; he had started it after all, constantly griping at her. She couldn't help it if his handwriting was indecipherable. It had happened in the past and it had happened today with disastrous results. It really was a good thing that she liked him, otherwise he might never be leaving that hospital bed. But maybe a quick apology would be in order to smooth things over.
'No,' she thought, 'If I apologize every time he ended up in a snit then I would never say anything else.' Of course this fight, argument, all out battle, however she wanted to term it had ended somewhat differently than their others. This time no one had walked in on them, complaining about the noise. Perhaps it really would be better if they didn't work in such close proximity.
"I don't think…," she started. She really didn't know how to tell him that she had accepted a job working for the Weasley twins.
He quirked his eyebrow at her, melting her irritation that had built over the last two hours, resulting in her having to have her nose charmed back on and him lying in a hospital bed.
"I don't think we should work together anymore," she said quickly. His mouth turned slightly upwards in what Hermione suspected was a suppressed smile before his expression turned sour.
"Please, I'm too tired to handle your melodrama right now," he said.
She forced a smile. Taking his hand in hers, she sat in the chair next to his bed.
"I'm not being melodramatic," she said. "I'm being serious."
Explaining her position carefully, it went almost exactly like she had planned, (having had written an outline and practiced several times throughout the week.) And today only solidified her argument.
For one moment she wondered if she was doing the right thing, he looked so distressed at her words. But then she reminded herself and him that it was better this way. This way they were free to pursue their relationship outside of class. He begrudgingly agreed and she promised to make it up to him.
"I'll let you try my new potions before they hit the shelves," she promised with a sly grin.
"If you even try and slip me one of those Weasley products you're going to lose more than your nose," he threatened.
Her smile widened. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her chest. No longer hindered by their unequal relationship of apprentice and master, they could focus on getting to know each other better. It made her happy and a little nervous.
When Severus had plotted to convince Hermione to find another apprenticeship he never envisioned he would find himself in St. Mungo's where the Healers were scrambling to put his insides back in order. Apparently, it wasn't healthy to have your heart and liver swap spots.
"And here I thought Scary Snape didn't have a heart," the nurse had said while she filled out the admission forms. She had been a former student, though he couldn't remember which house. If he had, he would have been sure to deduct points the moment he was released, but as it was he was stuck in bed. If they hadn't relieved him of his wand, he certainly would have showed her his idea of 'scary.'
When Hermione came in, he couldn't help but feel a little aggravated to see that she appeared just fine, her nose firmly attached to her face, while he still lay in this bed subject to the ministrations of the less than qualified staff of St. Mungo's, if the nurse was any indication.
But another feeling soon overcame his exasperation and it took him a moment to realize that it was relief. He was relieved to see that she was okay. It had been unsettling to see her with her nose half hanging from her face, especially knowing that he had been the one to cause it. He wasn't used to this feeling and he almost preferred the irritation. Irritation was his old friend, it was comfortable, and he knew what to do with it.
But then she smiled and held his hand and he decided that he would trade comfortable irritation for worried affection any day. Besides that, the plan he had put into motion was proving to be a success.
"It's not that I don't want to be around you," she explained.
"Then what?" he asked snidely. He couldn't let her think that he liked the idea. He didn't want to contemplate what she might say if she learned that he had been trying to get rid of her this entire time.
"Well, to be honest…I don't really like Professor Snape," she said.
His chest tightened suddenly and his airway constricted. Had he taken it too far? He had yet to fail any of her potions but that hadn't stopped him from criticizing every little mistake she made, and some that she didn't.
"But I really like Severus," she finished. He let out a small sigh, hoping she hadn't seen his momentary panic. In truth, he agreed with her. He liked Professor Snape alright, but Miss Granger grated at his nerves until he, well, hexed her nose right off.
"I really think…" he started to agree.
"No, let me finish," she interrupted before launching back into her speech. He realized with amusement that she had carefully prepared her argument. Picturing her practicing it in front of a mirror, he almost smiled. He didn't of course, he couldn't give himself away. When she finished he tried to look dismayed rather than delighted.
"I suppose in consideration for my future safety I should agree," he said, looking at her sternly. He didn't want her to forget that she was the reason he was lying in this hospital bed. She nodded.
"I'll still see you?" he asked, sounding a little too desperate for his own taste. Whatever potion they had given him must be affecting both his tongue and his mind.
"Of course you will," she reassured him. He hoped he would be seeing a lot more of her actually, letting his eyes drift down to her chest. Professor Snape would never sleep with one of his students, but luckily for him, as of today Hermione was no longer his student.