A/N: Special thanks to tambrathegreat for reminding me that I should have said that although this story can be read by itself, I'd love for any readers who haven't read Sweet Anger and Too Much is Never Enough to find out how Tonks and Snape got together!
It happened every year. Some idiot child added porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire and gave themselves boils instead of brewing a potion to cure them. Why didn't students listen when he told them potion-making was an exact art? Did they think he spoke for dramatic effect? That brewing potions was like their mum's cookery, tossing ingredients into the pot willy-nilly to produce an edible stew? It was enough to drive a man to drink.
"Young Mr. Torpidson will recover nicely."
Madam Pomfrey's cheery announcement halted Severus' pacing. He looked back down the corridor to where the mediwitch stood in the doorway to the hospital wing. "They always do," he said.
"You sound disappointed." Her tone was arch.
Severus ignored the attempt at flirtation. He was used to female staff temporarily casting their eyes his way, and did not flatter himself that genuine attraction prompted the overtures. He was only regarded as a viable partner when compared with Dumbledore and Flitwick.
Taking her words at face value, he said, "I am. I would prefer one less dunderhead to teach."
He pivoted on his heel, leaving the woman staring after him. Inwardly, he smirked. Perhaps now she would cease requesting his "advice" on which new potions she should ask Dumbledore to add to the hospital supply.
The rest of the day passed in a mix of annoyance and expectation. The ignorance and lack of skill displayed in every class—some in their seventh year—was frustrating. Had no one opened a book all summer holiday? Did they think that he would go easy on them because it was the first week of term? The points he deducted from every House revealed to students that he would not. If, on occasion, he subtracted one point instead of five, the leniency was inspired by the anticipation he felt. After dinner, when he was free of duties and responsibilities, he would receive a very welcome visitor.
When Severus opened the door to his private quarters, his faint smile vanished. His lover's arms were defensively crossed, her appearance not as he had expected. Instead of bubblegum pink spikes, her hair was an unattractive bleached-blonde. The heavy kohl outlining her eyes and wine-red lipstick painting her mouth should have given delicate features a hard look, but didn't. The makeup highlighted the vulnerability in her eyes.
Instead of greeting him with a kiss, Nymphadora said almost defiantly, "I put Filch's cat inside a suit of armour in the entry."
He reached out to run the back of a finger down her cheek. "I am sure she deserved it."
"She wouldn't stop yowling at me." Her lips trembled. "I've had enough of being yelled at today."
Severus took a step back. "Come inside and tell me about it." He walked over to the drinks cabinet. "Would you care for a glass of red wine?"
"Why didn't you offer me what you're having?"
He uncorked a bottle of elf wine. The aromatic complexities were a fitting match to the complex woman at his side. He poured the wine, saying calmly, "You don't drink Firewhisky."
"I did tonight." Her mouth turned down. "It tastes so much better on your lips."
Severus left the wine to clasp both her hands in his. "What happened?"
"At the end of the day, a couple of Aurors came into class, asking for a volunteer to play decoy. A suspected Dark wizard had been making the rounds of Muggle pubs, leaving with a certain type of woman, and they wanted to prove he was using enchantment spells."
"You have only just begun training."
The statement was matter-of-fact, not condemnatory, but tears sprang to her eyes. "I know. I was awful. They wanted me to smoke and drink if he offered s—so I did, and nearly coughed up a lung. The bloke spent more time pounding me on the back than chatting me up." Anger and humiliation coloured her voice and expression. "After they arrested the wizard, the Aurors gave me hell for almost ruining—"
"What?" Severus wasn't asking what she had almost ruined. He was incredulous at their gall. "Without your assistance, there would have been no arrest."
She shook her head. "They said I was no good at being a slag and was lucky the bloke was into pity f—"
"Don't say it. Those men were cretins, and if you would ever like to repay their ingratitude, I have several potions that would meet your requirements." Severus pulled Nymphadora across the lounge, through the bedchamber, and into the bathroom. A nonverbal spell engaged the water charm for the shower. He briskly removed her witch's robes, lifting an eyebrow over the single-strapped bodice of her short dress. "Did you use the other strap to make the bracelet?" he said, unfastening the strip of black velvet around her wrist.
She gave a watery chuckle. "No, but it had a matching choker I could have worn too. I was going for subtle slag, though, not gagging desperate."
"Are you joining me in the shower?" she asked in a small voice.
He gestured for her to step out of her high heels while he unbuttoned his shirt. "Yes."
A ghost of a cheeky smile played across her lips. "Are you planning to let the water wash away my bad experience?"
"Along with the smell of smoke." He pulled off his shirt and unfastened his trousers, admiring the heart-shaped view as she bent to wash off her makeup in the sink.
"You'll need lots of soap," she said, lifting the flannel streaked with cosmetics.
"But not the cloth." He framed her face with his fingers. "I plan to use my hands." Severus' lips turned up at the corners when colour washed over her cheeks and streaked her hair.
Later, in the candlelit bedroom, Severus shared the frustrations of his day and huffed with laughter when the pink-haired nymph in his arms said, "Isn't torpid another word for stupid?"
"Yes, it is."
"Merlin. Compared to "stupid's son," Nymphadora is a fabulous name."
"It is a lovely name which matches its bearer perfectly."
Her pleased smile turned impish. "You're not just saying that, are you?" She bit her lower lip. "You know—out of pity?"
He curled his lip at her feigned distress, hiding amusement when she giggled. He lowered his voice. "I do nothing out of pity."
"Want to prove it?"
Severus pressed Nymphadora onto her back, kissing her with a slow thoroughness that had her clutching his shoulders. "Yes, love," he whispered, smiling when she sought his mouth again.