A/N: While hit with writer's block on the current M&V chapter, I participated in a gift exchange – this story was written for Keladry Lupin, who had requested a HG/SS story with a romance element, H/C with Hermione on the receiving end, and not too long.
This is a story that portrays Snape in a positive light, so if that is something that bothers you, consider yourself warned. I have always considered Snape to be on the side of the angels.
Beta-read by the lovely and multi-talented Bellegeste.
When Hermione opened her eyes, slowly fighting her way out of the dark haze that threatened to engulf her again, she had no idea where she was. The room she found herself in was bathed in darkness, the window tightly shuttered. A single candle gave off feeble, flickering light.
Slowly, the shadows started to pull together and move into focus—a chest of drawers, fading wall paper, the painting of a sleeping kitten in an old-fashioned, gilded frame on the wall. The kitten yawned and turned a little as she watched—a wizarding home, then.
Memories returned with consciousness: memories of red beams of light flying in her direction, of oblivion, of waking up to find herself surrounded by darkly-shrouded figures with masks. More memories—of red eyes; of high-pitched, cold laughter; of the acrid smell of wood smoke; of wave after wave of pain, pain which hadn't stopped until her mind had short-circuited and sent her into merciful unconsciousness. She hadn't expected to wake up.
So what was she doing here, in this quiet, dark place, on a comfortable bed, covered with a light blanket? Where was she? Cautiously, she attempted to look around. The slight turn of her head sent a sharp stab of pain through the base of her skull, making her gasp. With alarm, she noticed that the sound had provoked a reaction. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone get up, black moving against black.
No. Oh no. Not him. The voice sent terror through her bones. She knew that voice; she had heard it almost every day for the six years of her time at Hogwarts, sneering, sarcastic, sour: Snape.
Instinctively, she tried to roll away, to find cover. No use. Whatever had been done to her had sapped her strength, leaving her defenseless. It took all that she had to move a bare inch.
"What do you want with me?" she asked in a shaking voice. Whatever it was, it had to be bad news. What could Severus Snape—traitor, murderer—want with her?
"Calm yourself. I'm not going to hurt you," he said sharply.
Right. Like you didn't hurt Dumbledore.
Her disbelief must have shown, because he sat down on a chair next to the bed, a weary expression on his face. "You may believe me, Granger, when I say that I would much rather not have to deal with you, but since it appears I have no choice in the matter, I suggest we make the best of it."
"Where am I?" asked Hermione cautiously.
"My house. Or more precisely, Dumbledore's house."
"Dumbledore? But you…!" She stopped abruptly. She was in his power; it wouldn't do to antagonize him. Buy time. Be calm. Be non-confrontational. Keep him talking. Standard negotiating techniques, covered in her first year of Auror Academy.
"I killed him? Is that what you are trying to say?" he asked harshly, a bitter, hard expression running over his face. "And yet Dumbledore, with admirable foresight, left me this house should I ever need a safe place to go." He ran a long-fingered hand over his face. "Look, Miss Granger, I will explain everything later, but for right now, you'll just have to take my word as a wizard that I will not try to harm you. —You were injured. Are you in any pain?"
Hermione carefully took stock. However unexpected his behavior, at least she didn't seem to be in acute danger at the moment. Whatever 'explanation' he was talking about, it was doubtful she would be able to believe a word of it, not after what he had done, but it would, for the moment, be wisest to play along. He was offering to help her, and whatever his ulterior motive — and she was sure that there was an ulterior motive — her situation could only improve if she got physically better. Right now, she could not have fought a first year and won. Even if she had had her wand.
Very well, then.
"My lower right leg," she said. Trying to move earlier had sent searing pain through her calf.
She looked at him hesitatingly for a moment. "Just about everywhere else," she admitted. Most of her joints and muscles were still ringing with the aftershocks of being Crucio'ed.
"The Cruciatus curse?"
She nodded. "Yes. And several Stunners before that, I think."
"Will you let me examine your leg?"
She gave him another wary glance before nodding cautiously.
He pulled down the blanket, then pushed up her robe to mid-thigh. It took all her self-control not to flinch at his touch. Murderer.
Yet his hands were surprisingly careful as his fingers ran over her calf. A sharp hiss escaped her as he found the injured spot.
"A torn muscle. It can happen from the convulsions." He straightened up. "I have a potion that will help."
Walking over to a cabinet in the corner and rummaging through the shelves, he pulled out two bottles, a pot of salve, and a small glass jar containing a silvery-grey powder. A flick of the wrist, and a small cup appeared on the bedside table. He carefully measured out a dram of potion from a striking, spherical bottle filled with a viscous, sickly pink potion.
"Take this. It will counteract the effects of the Cruciatus."
This time she did flinch as he slid a hand under her neck, slightly lifting her head so she could drink.
She swallowed the sticky liquid with difficulty, but the relief was almost immediate — warm tendrils snaking through her muscles and joints, calming nerves still irritated by the curse. He gently lowered her head back onto the pillow, then picked up the pot of ointment.
Dipping out a small amount of the salve, he rubbed it into her leg. It hurt when he touched her, but soon soothing heat penetrated down into the painful muscles.
He gave a satisfied nod as he watched the lines of her face relax, the tight grimace of pain fade away as the discomfort eased. Carefully pulling her robe down over her leg and covering her back up with the blanket, he then mixed the second potion with a spoonful of the grey powder. "Here." He poured some of the liquid into the cup. "This will counteract the effects of the Stunners as well as provide further pain relief."
Hermione looked up at him with raised eyebrows, the academic in her momentarily taking over. "There is a potion that actually counteracts the effect of a Stunning spell?" Last she had heard, the only way to treat multiple Stunner hits was to provide rest and palliative care, allowing the body to heal itself.
He smiled a thin smile. "If you will remember, I was the Potions master."
Her face grew hard again. "Oh, I remember."
It was possible that he had actually come up with a new potion. Harry's Potions book had shown her beyond a doubt that whatever else Snape was, he was an innovative, intuitive, extremely capable brewer.
Again she debated if this was a good idea — who knew what this potion really was! — but in the end decided to take it. She was in his power, feeble and wandless; if he wanted to harm her, there was nothing she could do about it anyway. Even with the pain abating, she was still weak as a Kneazle cub, hardly able to lift a hand, much less defend herself.
The mixture didn't taste too bad. There was a hint of — lime? Grapefruit? — in the flavor…and the texture was cool and slippery. No, really not too bad…
A moment later, her eyelids grew heavy, and the room started spinning in ever more rapid circles. "That wasn't…" she said, outrage in her voice. "You…that was…you gave me a sleeping potion!"
He took the cup from her with a nonchalant shrug. "Of course," he said with a sneer. "The only cure for a Stunning spell is to let the body rest so it can heal itself — really, Miss Granger, I should have expected you to know that?"
His smirking face faded away as she slipped into oblivion.