A/N: this story is just a random idea that floated into my head after reading a fic where Severus was called 'sweetheart' by someone. It struck me that there were probably very few instances where anyone could get away with this, and this was my attempt at imagining one of those instances. It has not been beta'd, so apologies for any mistakes.

Things that go POP in the night, or how Hermione discovered that Severus Snape was human

Sat in the infirmary wing on a Thursday evening, helping Madam Pomfrey to restock her cupboards, Hermione Granger was startled when the door burst open, and Severus Snape strode in, hand clamped to his shoulder, blood trickling out between his fingers. His face was deathly white, and his fingers were shaking slightly.

'Severus, what on earth…' Madam Pomfrey began, but she was cut off by a glare from Snape.

'I didn't come here for your fussing Poppy. I need a blood replenishing potion, and nothing more,' he snapped. The murderous expression on his face was ruined slightly when he swayed dangerously, and was swiftly helped onto a bed by the concerned mediwitch.

'Lie down, Severus, and let me have a look,' she said in tones softer that Hermione had ever heard her use before. 'Miss Granger, can you come and take the Professor's hand?'

Hermione walked slowly over to the bed, waiting to have her head bitten off. When the storm of protests didn't come, she leaned over him, gradually easing the firm grip of his fingers, prying the hand away from the badly damaged shoulder tissue. He turned his head so that he was facing away from her, face carefully blank, not displaying the pain he must have felt as Madam Pomfrey began teasing the torn material of his robes away from the messy hole in his skin, although he squeezed her hand as she brought away several fragments of his skin with the robes.

The mediwitch muttered several charms, causing the bleeding to stop immediately, and after another few passes of her wand, the blood was siphoned off, and she was able to see the damage he had done. Hermione carefully avoided looking at the gaping mess, which somehow looked worse without the blood pouring out of it. Professor Snape didn't wince as Poppy began to feel the edges of the wound, but his grip on Hermione's hand tightened. She began to run her thumb slowly over the back of his hand, trying to comfort him. The mediwitch straightened as she completed her examination.

'Severus, look at me,' she said in the same gentle tones she had used earlier. 'I'm going to need to remove the foreign body that's lodged in your shoulder before I can begin to heal it. Can you tell me what it is?'

'Piece of ... cauldron.' His voice was harsh with pain. The mediwitch looked at him for a second. His face was grey, and he was sinking deeper into shock with every second that passed. The charms she was using to stem the blood flow ruled out any analgesic charms and any pain relieving potion would take at least twenty minutes to work. He didn't have that kind of time, so she would have to do this the old fashioned way.

'Alright. I want you to look at Miss Granger, and I want you to relax as much as you can. I'm sorry, but this is going to hurt.' He closed his eyes for a second, and then turned to face his pupil, wincing as Poppy's fingers closed around the jagged piece of iron.

'After three, Severus,' she said softly. 'Keep looking at Miss Granger, and take some nice deep breaths.'

Hermione saw a muscle tighten in his jaw, and tightened her grip on his hand in response, still drawing wide circles with her thumb on the back of his hand. He locked his eyes onto hers, and she used her free hand to gently sweep his hair back from his forehead in an attempt to help him relax a little. She heard him take a few ragged breaths to calm himself, but he couldn't mask the fear on his face as Poppy began to count to three. She pulled the piece of metal out on the count of two, causing Severus to roar in pain, and jerk away from her.

Hermione could hear the rapid breathing of her professor, and could see the panic in his eyes as his body struggled to take in oxygen.

'Professor Snape, look at me,' she began in the same quiet but commanding tones she had heard her mother use to great effect on nervous patients. 'Everything is going to be fine professor, but you need to keep on breathing for me.' His breathing began to slow slightly, and some of the mad panic left his eyes. 'That's it,' she continued in the same reassuring tone, 'just like that. You're ok now. Everything is fine now.'

'Ok Severus,' Poppy said. 'I'm going to clean and heal your wound, and then I'll be able to give you some blood replenishing potion to make you feel a bit better.' He closed his eyes, and she could see how hard he was having to work to keep his composure. 'I'll be as gentle and as fast as I can, sweetheart, I promise.' The fact that he let that pass, without any reaction at all, worried Poppy more than anything else, making her realise how much blood he must have lost. She could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she had called him sweetheart and not received some sign of displeasure at the familiarity, and more times than she could count, he had been off the bed and half way to the door, muttering curses under his breath.

Hermione was also a little unsettled by the professor's lack of reaction when the mediwitch had spoken to him so carefully, almost as though he was a child. Something about the Madam Pomfrey's face told her that the man in front of her was very ill, and when his breathing began to speed up again and tears began to leak out from his firmly closed eyelids, she knew that he was beginning to panic once more, probably as a result of shock. She began to stroke his face gently, wiping away his tears with her thumb, trying to calm him down and reassure him. 'Shhhh, it's ok, it's all right Severus, I've got you, you're going to be fine.' She carried on talking to him quietly, using every variation on 'You're fine' she could think of for what seemed like an age, until the mediwitch straightened up once more, having healed the shoulder as much as she could.

Hermione took her hand from her professor's face, and summoned a bottle of blood replenisher, uncorking it in a swift movement.

'It's all over, Severus, but you're still in shock from loosing so much blood. I have a blood replenisher here, and I need you to drink all of it for me.' She extricated her hand from his grip, and brought her hand up to support his head and neck, lifting him slightly from the bed as she did so. He reached for the small phial, raising it to his lips to drink it, sip by sip, as she continued to reassure him quietly. She saw the mediwitch's face relax slightly as Severus' hand began to tremble less violently and the deathly bluish tinge on his skin seemed to fade. She eased him back down onto the bed, using her hands to brush his hair from his face. 'Try and sleep now,' she said softly. To her surprise, he grabbed her hand tightly again. 'I'm just here,' she murmured, 'I'm not going anywhere.' This seemed to reassure him a little, as his grip on her hand loosened slightly, and she continued to talk to him in the same gentle voice, while Madam Pomfrey transfigured Severus' bloodied and torn robe into a clean, fresh hospital gown, and tried to tidy herself.

When she felt the professor's hand go limp in her own, and heard his breathing become deep and regular, she stood up slowly and quietly. He moved slightly in his sleep, and she brushed away a few strands of hair, and then, before she had time to think about what she was doing, had brushed her lips against his forehead, softly.

'He's asleep now, Madam Pomfrey,' Hermione told the older witch as she gathered her belongings and readied herself to go back to her dormitory.

'Thank you for all your help Miss Granger. I trust I do not need to remind you that anything you witnessed here tonight was confidential, and must not be spoken of again outside of these walls?' Hermione nodded, slightly hurt that the mediwitch had even felt the need to mention that. She had to smile as the mediwitch produced a large bar of Honeydukes' finest chocolate and handed it to her.

'Eat this before you go to sleep. I do not want to be treating you for delayed shock tomorrow. I will sit with the professor tonight, and by tomorrow he should be his usual charming self. He will certainly be up and about again in time for the Hogsmeade weekend, which will cheer him up no end.' Her slightly sarcastic tone was softened by the affection in her eyes, and as Hermione left the hospital wing, she heard the mediwitch begin to soothe him with similar words to those she had used earlier.

And that was how Hermione realised that her potions professor was a mortal being, who bled just like everyone else, and who was capable of being frightened just like everyone else. Consequently she developed a great respect for the professor, and eventually became his potions apprentice, wife and the mother of his children, but that, as they say, is another story.