In no way, shape, or form, do the characters below belong to me. I have borrowed them to play with and have every intention of returning them in their original packaging. They belong to JK Rowling and whoever else feels the need to claim them.

This is just a short one I felt like writing. NOT HBP compliant, because it's my world and I said so. :-)

Read on (and review, please?)!

Professor Hermione Granger awakens slowly, vaguely aware of her surroundings – dark walls, high windows, warm blankets, the constant movement of a woman in what resembles a nurse's uniform. After a moment's thought, she realizes she's in the infirmary, wearing a hospital gown and feeling very much like a gnome attacked her with a pint-sized hammer. Poppy, the woman in white, is running around as though her robes are on fire and Hermione smiles through the pain at the imagery. She takes stock of her situation and tries to remember the events that preceded it.

Her teaching robes and underclothes are nowhere to be seen and she wonders what sort of event would demand the removal of her clothing. There are no bandages, save for a small one around her left thumb, which she flexes and hisses at the instant dull ache that arrives.

"I would be careful with that, if I were you," a familiar voice states from her right and she turns her head, slowly, to see who has been keeping watch over her.

Severus Snape is reclined in a wooden chair beside her bed, a crossword puzzle laid out across his lap, a pencil behind his right ear. The sight makes her smile and she wonders just how long he's been there.

"I've been waiting for quite awhile for you to wake up, Hermione," he says, finally looking at her with an expression she can catalogue as 'amused'.

"So sorry to have inconvenienced you, Severus," she says with a small smile.

He waves his hand, dismissing her mock apology. "Understandable."

She would laugh if she wasn't so sure it would hurt like a bludger to the chest.

He leans forward slightly and takes the pencil from behind his ear. He taps the crossword puzzle – tap, tap, tap – and frowns at the paper. "Do you realize I've been in a constant state of vexation since you had the most inconvenient notion to lapse into a coma?"

She tries to steel her features but is having a hard time of it. "A coma, you say?"

He nods. "Yes, for four days."

This surprises her and her eyebrows rise. "Four days?" Another nod. "What the hell happened?"

At this he smirks. "Pomona's new crop of mandrakes and your infernal clumsy streak."

She remembers it instantly and she covers her face with her hands to hide the flush of embarrassment that creeps up her cheeks. She had offered to help Pomona Sprout with the new crop of mandrakes months earlier but hadn't thought Pomona would actually take her up on her offer. So, on Saturday morning, she dressed in the most comfortable gardening clothing she could find and made her way down to the greenhouses. It was in the middle of a debate about the best fertilizer for roses that she lost her concentration while pulling a mandrake from the soil. The bastard lanced her thumb and Pomona instantly brought her over to the sink and cleaned it out. The older witch dressed the cut and Hermione thought that everything was fine.

Apparently, if the four day coma was any notion of things, it wasn't fine.

"But, why…" she begins to ask.

"You're allergic," he states succinctly and with more of a smile than she finds polite.

"Lovely," she says and crosses her arms. His smile widens and she frowns. "I'm thrilled that you find this amusing."

He taps the crossword puzzle absently – tap, tap, tap – and she's tempted to rip from his hands.

"I'm sure in a couple of days you'll find this whole thing just as amusing as I do."

She throws him her best imitation of his own death glare and is pleased to see him lean back an inch or so.

"Then again, perhaps not."

They fall into a comfortable, companionable silence. He stares at the crossword puzzle once again – tap, tap, tap – and she finally allows her curiosity to swallow her whole.

"You said you were vexed?" He nods. "I'm touched at your concern, Severus."

At this, he looks up from the paper, one eyebrow arched perfectly. "Yes, well, while I was worried for your health – who else would fill my days with needless conversation and chocolate tea biscuits? – the source of my vexation was something else entirely."

She matches his expression. "Oh really?"

He leans forward again, places the crossword puzzle on the bed beside her and points to it. "Number twelve down, 'goose synonym', seven letters."

She stares at him, the corners of her mouth twitching as she tries desperately not to smile at his idiocy. It took years of hard work for him to see her as an equal, years of proving herself to be as good as he was, and in the span of ten minutes she's discovered that he's terrible at Muggle crossword puzzles. It's…endearing.

He looks up at her, his face serious. "I do realize you've just revived from a coma, but I was under the impression your overfilled brain was constantly working. Any ideas?"

She smiles sweetly and nods at the paper. He readies his pencil.

"Jackass," she says, meaning it in every sense of the word.

His laughter, which is a rare sound to be heard, is music to her ears.