As always, the world and characters are Rowling's. The story is mine.
And, as always, kudos to my sainted beta, Leigh-Anne.
And – a bit of a squick advisory, if medical procedures leave you diving for the smelling salts…. By the way, do not attempt this at home. Medical procedures and ingredients are totally the product of my imagination.
A half hour later, he returned with his arms full of potions and ingredients.
If he hadn't destroyed half of his laboratory in a fit of temper, he wouldn't have had to raid the classroom lab and hospital wing for potions and ingredients, of course.
He put them on the lab table, and then retraced his steps to the bathroom where he found her, half-asleep in the tub of steaming water.
He went to the sink and turned on hot water to scrub his hands with strong soap.
"Mmmm," she said drowsily from the tub. "This smells wonderful."
"I added a little spearmint and eucalyptus." Although why she wanted to smell like his shaving soap he had no fucking idea.
Her lips curled into a soft smile as her head lolled against the back of the deep claw-footed tub. "Thank you."
"Cleanse thoroughly with this," he said, handing her the bar soap. "And then dry off and put on a robe."
She was entirely too trusting, damn it.
He ought to call Poppy and be done with it.
But he wouldn't. Couldn't.
He Accioed a couple of towels from the shelf and closed the door behind him with a sigh.
By the time he smelled her behind him, he had the necessary freezing potion ready.
He gave her a look that he knew was unadulterated resentment. "Are you determined to go through with this?"
She hopped on the bed as blithely as if he'd promised her a lolly and announced, "Without hesitation."
She scooted herself to the foot of the bed and made herself comfortable on the spread towels without his assistance, opened her thighs and leaned back on her elbows to watch.
How the fucking hell was he supposed to –
Fuck. If she watched, he could watch her. Watch her for discomfort, for pain.
"Before I get started, I need your assistance." Giving her something to do had to be a good thing. "Where's your wand?"
She pulled it from behind her ear. Her hair tumbled hither and yon in wild abandon which fully annoyed him.
He raised his hands. "Do you know the Protego Frigeo Charm?"
She gave him a haughty glare and performed it with precision and more than a bit of the insufferable show-off in her wandwork.
"Thank you." With his hands protected, he opened the freezing potion. Wispy vapors wafted from the neck of the bottle.
"Relax," he said. "This won't hurt."
As she reclined on her elbows again, he used his forearm to brace her knees apart and then poured the potion over her bruised labial folds.
"Shite!" she shrieked, trying to jerk free of his grip.
"Language, Miss Granger." He kept pouring the pearly liquid until he detected—even through the vapors—that the entire area was well coated. "Now, how does that feel?"
Her chest was heaving and her face bright red as she gasped for air. "Like bloody ice! Why don't we pour some on you, while we're at it?"
"Still like ice?"
She glared at him.
"I don't feel anything at all. It's worse than numb – it's nothing."
"And that is quite the point."
He slid one finger down the fold of her skin, through the liquid. His finger wasn't even chilled. "Have you performed Protego Frigeo charm before?"
"No." Her brow furrowed. "Didn't it work?"
"It will suffice." He spread the potion smooth, making certain no portion of her bruised skin went untreated. Then he poured more liquid over his fingers and slid them into her canal.
He probed as deeply as he could reach, until he was satisfied that he'd deadened everything within his ability.
"Now?" he asked.
She glowered. "Nothing."
"Good." He lifted his wand. If only she weren't watching so avidly, as if this were a fucking lecture. He raked through his mind for anything to distract her, and the first subject that popped up was the one that had been on his bloody mind for the past hour or so.
"Would I be safe in assuming that the Sorting Hat considered putting you in Ravenclaw?" He wiped the excess potion away and sighed. So much bruising. It would seem he'd used a battering ram instead of – enough of that. He couldn't think about it; he simply had to examine, treat and heal.
Ha bloody ha, as if it were that simple.
" … couldn't make up its mind," she was saying. "Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor – but I wanted Gryffindor and I got it."
"Of course you did," he said, restraining his snarl to half-volume. The bruising was already at the yellow and green stage. He swallowed hard. But the labial tear – how the hell had he done that? "And of course the hat listened to you. It usually does, more's the tragedy."
"Why?" she asked. "Did the same thing happen to you?"
"More or less." He took his wand and cast a wordless Segmentum. "Slytherin, Gryffindor or Ravenclaw."
"Not even a tiny bit of Hufflepuff in you?"
He shot her a withering glance, then used his wand to quickly and carefully slice away the worst of the swollen tear so that it would have clean edges, the better to heal.
He watched her face. She didn't seem to feel a thing. He swallowed thickly, forced himself to breathe slowly as fresh blood oozed. "You realize of course that had you allowed yourself to be sorted into Ravenclaw, your life would be entirely different and I must say, better suited to you and your needs."
"I think I am an excellent Gryffindor!" she huffed indignantly. "I can't imagine being half so satisfied in Ravenclaw, much less 'better suited.'" She adjusted her weight on her arms and scowled at him.
"Hold still," he commanded, and then, lest she grow too fascinated by what he might be doing between her legs he continued. "As brilliant as you are, and as stellar as your educational achievements have been," he said, dabbing at the bleeding flesh, "can you imagine what heights you would have reached had you been surrounded by those your intellectual equal rather than the idiots in Gryffindor?"
"They aren't idiots—"
"Idiots, every one." He whispered a soft "Integro" and watched intently as the two straight edges of flesh joined. He let out his breath as a silvery scar appeared and most of the bleeding stopped.
And noticed she was glaring, waiting for him to respond to whatever defense she'd made of her idiot friends.
He curled his lip. "Indeed."
That seemed to work, if her frustrated exhalation was any indication.
He poured more freezing potion, sliding a quick glance at her eyes. She didn't flinch. Good, it was still doing its job.
He finished with a light bit of cauterization to staunch the last of the bleeding and released a shuddering breath.
"Why did you choose Slytherin," she asked suddenly. "You did, didn't you?"
He considered his possible answers, and found himself speaking the truth as easily as if they were discussing the Periodic Tables of Magical Elements. "I was eleven years old and I'd just fallen in love at first sight with the most stunning blonde creature I'd ever seen."
He saw wheels turning behind her eyes. Saw her carefully guard her expression and ask without judgment, "Mister Malfoy?"
He couldn't stop the smirk, nor could he stop the snort of laughter. "No, Miss Granger. Narcissa Black."
Her mouth formed a silent oh. And she seemed a little distressed. More distressed than if it had been Lucius, which was decidedly unsettling.
"I was eleven years old. Surely you didn't expect me to exhibit a wisdom beyond my years?"
"She's still very beautiful."
"Believe me, that momentary infatuation didn't last. And yes, she is still very beautiful, if appearances count."
"Don't they always," she sighed sadly.
"I believe they often do." And shouldn't he, of all people, know that? "However, in her case, no."
"What's that smell?"
"Really? Where— oh!"
"Deep breaths, Miss Granger. It's been over for five minutes. You missed your opportunity to faint."
Her eyes threatened to swallow him whole as she stared at him, and he saw her throat working as she swallowed.
"Breathe with me," he ordered her.
He allowed his chest to swell with air until she followed suit.
Until pink came back into her cheeks and the green pallor receded.
One last deep cleansing breath. (One last glimpse of taut, peach-coloured nipple peeking from the gape of her robe.)
One last slow exhale. (Temptation removed.)
"Now." He cleared his throat thickly. "We shall brew."
He took her hands in his and pulled her up to her feet. She walked beside him to his private laboratory without hesitation or any indication that she felt discomfort.
He wished he could say the same. His own bits were cringing in sympathetic distress, with the occasional twinge of outright pain.
He handed her a mortar and pestle and a quantity of dried Corydalis yanhusuo rhizome. "Grind this to dust, if you please."
He watched her precise wrist movements and noted her strength. She ground with much more power than he would have anticipated, using her entire arm up to and including the shoulder. He set about gathering various other ingredients along with three cauldrons.
"So this is your bedroom."
"This is my laboratory."
"Yes, obviously, but it's the bedroom of your quarters, isn't it?"
"Don't get any ideas," he growled. Damn the impertinence – he could see it now; she was already mentally moving in the bedroom furniture.
"It's brilliant, isn't it?" she asked, looking around without ceasing to grind the rhizomes. "That alcove," she indicated it with a toss of her head, "is where the bed would be, but it's perfect for your desk and work table."
He didn't see any reason to respond other than to glower.
"Much more useful than a bedroom. Plus, it annoys Madam Hooch. You realize, of course, that she grilled me about your quarters and asked was it true you have a private lab, and I'm quite certain she is jealous that you have more space than she does."
He smirked at that. Hooch had grilled him similarly, and it didn't bother him a little bit that she seethed at the perceived injustice.
"I, of course, didn't answer. It's none of her business," she sniffed. And then, "Why did you ask me about Ravenclaw?" She changed subjects without warning.
"Just an idle thought."
"Professor Snape, you are not a good liar."
"I'm an excellent liar."
"Then why do I know you're lying?"
He just glared at her and continued chopping asper root.
She came at it from another direction. "How would my life have been better?"
Well. He had been the one to bring it up, after all. "You wouldn't have come close to death on more occasions than I can probably name, as I doubt I know the half of them."
That shrug was fucking annoying.
He scraped the asper root into a simmering cauldron and crossed to check over her shoulder. "More wrist action." He saw her wince, knew her wrist was probably aching by this point. He closed his hand over hers, guided her for a few rotations.
"Oh," she said. "That helps."
"Proper technique generally does." As did his silent charm to relieve tension and pressure. He withdrew his hand from hers.
"So, very well. I wouldn't have been fighting Voldemort. What else would have been better for me in Ravenclaw--in your opinion?" She added the last as if his opinion was dubious, at best.
"You wouldn't have been unappreciated." Let her try that one on for size.
She stopped grinding, her eyes wide. "But I'm not."
He fixed her with a stare. "You wouldn't have been teased for reading, for studying. You wouldn't have found yourself doing homework for all your friends and saving at least half of them from self-annihilation in my class."
She had the temerity to roll her eyes.
"And with closer proximity and less house rivalry to cloud the issue, the gentlemen of Ravenclaw would have appreciated what they had in their midst, unlike the bloody Gryffindors. You wouldn't find yourself eighteen, a seventh year in Voldemort's crosshairs, forced to marry someone you— " He broke off.
"Someone I… ?" she asked, troubled.
This time it was his turn to shrug.
She returned to her grinding, avoiding his eyes. "It still seems an odd thing for you to bring up."
"My mind has been much on the inadequacy of the Sorting Hat of late." He moved around the table and leaned over her shoulder again to check her progress. "That's enough."
He hadn't realized he was so close until she sighed and sank back against his chest.
She jerked forward, startled.
He stepped sideways, took the rhizome dust and carefully sifted it into the second cauldron, then started a stirring rod and left it to continue stirring as he sniffed the contents of the third brew.
She simply rubbed her arms, watching him.
He returned to her side with a vial. "The freezing potion will begin wearing off soon and you'll experience discomfort. It's time to drink this and go to bed."
"What about you?"
"I'll be following soon, once I've got everything here under control."
"I'll wait for you," she said quickly.
He turned his back to her. "There's no need. The longer you put off drinking the Dreamless Sleep Potion, the more likely the pain will interfere with your rest. I'd rather not give you anything more for pain right now. You've had contraindicating potions and if I bring you to harm, Poppy will kill us both."
When he didn't hear a response, he turned and saw her toying with the vial.
Finally, she quirked a smile, her eyes soft. "Thank you. For everything."
He gave her a curt nod and was returning to the first cauldron when she hopped down from the stool and gasped in pain.
Blast. He'd waited too long. He crossed to her, tilting the vial to her lips. "Drink, damn it."
She fixed him with those eyes and never looked away, even after the vial was empty.
She took a step, and flinched.
Disgusted with himself, with her and with the entire situation, he swept her into his arms and carried her to the bed.
Her weight was more substantial than he'd expected. Not heavy. She was anything but heavy.
But she filled his arms.
He settled her onto the bed as gently as he could.
"Just relax and let sleep come. You probably won't feel anything once you're asleep, but if you do, awaken me and I'll try something else."
She nodded and yawned, totally trusting.
He was halfway back to the laboratory when he heard her call for him.
Poised in the doorway he looked back at her. "What now?"
"Can I use your breath potion? The one that makes you smell so good in the morning?"
As if he cared what her breath smelled like in the morning.
He went to the bathroom to retrieve it for her.
It was easier than saying no.