Snape is forced to take a trip to the Hospital Wing and receives some unintentional advice from an unlikely source.

The enchanted brass bell that hung, magically suspended, above the Matron's desk chimed softly, announcing the arrival of a visitor to the Hospital Wing. Glancing up from the pages of a book on the theoretical medicinal uses of Basilisk venom, Hermione Granger cast her calculative gaze at the clock. It was almost lunchtime but Madame Pomfrey had said that didn't know when she would be back and had packed her own lunch, along with her medical supplies, just in case. That left Hermione in charge.

The bell tinkled again, slightly more forcefully this time, intent on having the in-house nurse respond to the emergency that was (possibly) at hand.

"Er...Madame Pomfrey?" an uncertain voice called out.

Hermione smiled softly to herself while rising to her feet. First Year she thought. They were almost a month into the beginning of term and so far there hadn't been a single day on which (at least) one First Year was not required to take a trip to the Hospital Wing. Yesterday a pair of them had been dragged in after they had somehow managed to fuse themselves together during a Transfiguration lesson. The solution had been somewhat messy and time consuming but when the two students departed Hermione had been in no doubt that the start of a firm friendship had been formed somewhere along the way..

"Madame Pomfrey?" The enquiry was made a second time.

Hermione gathered up her robe that had been casually thrown over the back of her chair and shrugged it on. Checking that her wand was still safely secure in her pocket she assembled her features into a calm, professional expression and then strolled purposely towards the door just as the voice said:

"Professor, I don't think she's here."

"Don't be foolish boy," snapped the Professor in a fractious tone. "Of course she's here, just because you've failed to find her-"

"Actually Professor, the boy is right," Hermione interrupted, emerging from the office and taking in the mismatched pair who stood before her. Professor Snape was situated over by the door, swamped in a mass of dark material and glaring balefully a young boy who hovered just a few feet left of his elbow (carefully out of reaching distance), "Madame Pomfrey is not available at the moment. Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked, rolling up her sleeves and sweeping her hair back into an untidy bun.

"I highly doubt that," the immovable column of black robes remarked snidely, glaring at the young mediwitch while the First Year shifted uncomfortably, watching with unabashed curiosity.

Hermione's mouth twitched. "Yes well, while I appreciate your unwavering belief in my capabilities Professor," she pronounced airily, watching Snape's eyebrow rise by a fraction of a millimetre. "I am here on placement as Madame Profrey's apprentice, which easily makes me the most qualified healer in the room. One presumes that the need for a healer is what brought you here."

The Potions instructor said nothing, scrutinising the young woman closely and fixing her with one of his most chilling stares. Hermione remained silent also, her face a mask of pleasant passivity. The small Hufflepuff first year held his breath, wondering who would be so brave and yet so stupid to stand up to Professor Snape. Surely he would not allow her to get away with such insolence? Eventually however, it was in fact Snape who broke the ineffectual stillness of the room, feeling somewhat disgruntled at Hermione's reaction, or lack thereof. He nodded towards the boy.

"Mister Drewe here seems to think himself a very enterprising young man," the Professor said, turning his blatant distain towards a more susceptible target. The boy flinched. "He tried to experiment by using the wrong potions ingredients and ended up causing an impressive amount of damage, not own to my classroom but also to himself. Show Miss Granger your injuries boy so she can deal with them and you can then begin your punishment. I will not have any parents complaining that I disciplined a child who was in ill health."

"How very compassionate you are Professor," Hermione quipped before placing a hand on Drewe's shoulder and leading him gently over to the closest bed, eyeing the red burns that the boy obediently presented to her.

Snape snorted but refrained from commenting, instead folding his arms across his chest and taking up a steadfast position.

"There really is no need for you to stay," Hermione told him, taking note of her patient's nervous glance as he settled himself. "I am quite capable of taking care of...?" She looked down at the boy and raised a questioning eyebrow.

It took at moment for her meaning to click. "Oh," he blushed. "Drewe Miss...Jasper Drewe."

"...Jasper," Hermione concluded, giving the poor boy a comforting smile which he returned shyly.

"Trying to get rid of me Miss Granger?" Snape sneered, casually observing her as she bustled around, propping several pillows behind Drewe's head so he could sit up comfortably.

"Not really," she replied, while carefully helping Drewe out of his somewhat dishevelled robes. "I don't care either way. I do however think my patient would be more comfortable if you were not here. Besides, I'm sure you have much more important things to be doing."

"True as that may be," Snape replied silkily, "as a teacher I cannot in good conscience leave a student unsupervised while in the care of an, as of yet, unqualified mediwitch." The comment was meant to be a barb and it certainly caused the young woman to turn and meet his eyes. Other than that however, her reaction was not what he had expected. She paused, seemed to consider his statement for a moment and then nodded in agreement.

"Fair enough," she conceded, before she turned her back on him again, shrugging apologetically at Drewe. "I tried," she sighed dramatically, setting about her work in a calm, easy manner.

Jasper Drewe's Potions accident had given him a series of burns up the right hand side of his body and had eaten holes in various articles of his clothing. Hermione was forced to divest him of his school shirt and jumper, as well as his trousers. The unfortunate boy flushed bright pink under the watchful eye of the girl and his Professor. He absolutely refused, however, to give the latter any other reason for amused satisfaction. He raised his chin stubbornly and kept his gaze fixed straight ahead while Hermione took her time cleansing the wounds with a cloth soaked in cool water.

She continued to chat casually to Jasper as she worked, trying to sooth the tension in his body. She told him he was being very brave and asked if he would like anything to ease the pain. He then admitted that he'd already been given something by Professor Snape and could barely feel any of what she was doing which was probably why he seemed so composed.

"If I could feel anything I think I'd be a mess right now," he admitted quietly.

"Oh, I doubt that," Hermione reassured in an equally lowered tone, glancing swiftly towards the Potions Master. He returned her curious look scathingly but didn't deign to answer the silent question asked. Smiling inwardly, Hermione wondered idly what it would take to get a rise out of the studiously controlled man.

Her gaze travelled back to Jasper and something about his stubborn, determined demeanour suddenly caught her attention, reminding her of someone very close to her heart.

"You remind me of someone, did you know that?" she asked lightly, causing both the boy and the man to look at her. "Someone I met when I was at Hogwarts. I'm not sure what it is but you seem quite like him." She reached up and tousled the boy's sandy blonde hair affectionately.

"Merlin preserve us if another Neville Longbottom has wormed his way into our midst," Snape sniped. "He has certainly proved himself worthy of the title so far."

"No, not Neville," Hermione replied evenly, summoning a burn slave from a nearby cupboard with her wand. "Harry."

"Harry?" Jasper queried, quite at a loss as to who they were talking about.

"Please do not fill the boy's head with such nonsense Miss Ganger," the Professor instructed coolly. "He has enough of that already. Besides the last thing this world needs is another Mr Potter. One is more than sufficient I assure you."

"Potter?" Again it took a moment for the words to sink in. "Harry Potter?" Jasper exclaimed excitedly, eyes going wide. "You knew Harry Potter?"

"I still do," Hermione assured him, rubbing in the last of the salve and then casting a few quick healing spells to speed up the natural process. "He's one of my closest friends."

"Wow," he said simply, staring at her with a new found awe. He continued to do so even after she had moved away and started packing up the instruments she had used, telling him he was free to go.

"I must commend your skill Miss Granger. It seems you've somehow managed to send the boy into a state of shock. Drewe!" Snape barked.

The boy jumped, quickly sliding from the bed, clutching the remains of his robes to his exposed body. "Yes sir?" he replied with an admirably steady voice.

"Go to your common room and get a change of clothes. Then go back to your lessons. You are to report to my office for detention immediately after dinner. Understood? Now, get out of my sight."

"Yes sir," Drewe nodded and quickly scampered out of the Hospital Wing, but not before offering Hermione a quick 'thank you' and a, cheeky grin.

With the boy gone Hermione and Snape were left alone, facing each other across the wide extent of the room. Still he hadn't moved.

"You have seen to the welfare of your student Professor, your duty is done. Was there anything else you wanted?" she questioned, thinking he would be eager to away from her if nothing else. It was an understatement to say that they had never got on well.

"When will Poppy be back?" he asked without preamble.

"I don't know," she told him honestly, hoping that if she gave him a simple, straightforward answer he'd leave. He didn't. Instead he remained standing exactly where he was, apparently waiting for her to continue. Hermione sighed. "The Seventh Years are having a Care of Magical Creatures lesson out in the field. Madame Pomfrey went along in case anyone got hurt. She'll be back when the lesson is finished. Why?" she wanted to know suddenly. "Were any other students hurt in the accident?"

"No, Miss Granger. I assure you that the rest of the class were not harmed."

"But you were," Hermione stated instinctively as she saw him shift his arms in discomfort, surprised that she had missed it before. "Sit," she ordered, retrieving all that she had put away only moments before.

"I will not-"

"Sit," she repeated more firmly, indicating a fresh bed. "Or I shall make you sit," she threatened, pulling out her wand and pointing it directly at her ex-Professor's chest.

The thunderous scowl he threw in her direction would have very likely sent any of his students scurrying to their parents, be they First or Seventh year. Hermione however had not been his student for the better part of four years and felt quite capable of deflecting his murderous intentions.

"Glare at me all you want, it won't make any difference. You're not nearly as scary as you think you are. Now park yourself on that bed and let me do my job."

Surprisingly the Professor sat, eyeing the apprentice mediwitch with a certain amount of speculation and uncertainty. His arms were still folded tightly and he sat bolt upright, his feet placed squarely on the floor. Hermione doubted there was anything she could do to make him lay back so she didn't bother trying. She came to stand in front of him and the pair of them remained like that for some time, watching each other closely. Hermione sighed; of course he wasn't going to make this easy.

"Show me," she instructed.

For a moment she thought he was going to refuse but then he unfolded his arms stiffly and raised them in front of him. Still holding her gaze he reached out and gingerly peeled back the long sleeves of his black robes. When his hands came into view Hermione only just managed to stifle a gasp. The skin was raw and badly burnt, his fingers curled in a pained, reflexive position. Tutting absently under her breath (a habit she had already picked up from the older matron) Hermione disappeared into the office and came back with a chair which she sat opposite the Professor. She then transfigured herself a suitably tall yet thin table from one of the pillows Drewe had used. She dipped a clean cloth in cold water, folded it and placed it on the table in between Snape and her chair.

"Place your hands on that," she told him, hurrying off to find a more powerful burn salve in the largest storage cupboard. Just before she made as if to head back a thought struck her and she grabbed another bottle from just inside the door.

She presented it to Snape when she returned, giving him an accusatory stare. "You gave Drewe something for the pain but didn't take anything yourself, did you?" His expression remained carefully blank but she had her answer. "You know, I had hoped your penchant for self sacrifice would have at least dulled a bit since the war. Apparently not," she commented dryly, undoing the stopper and holding it to his lips. "If you keep this up Professor people might be inclined to think you actually care."

Snape snorted disdainfully and took the bottle from her grasp, wincing even as he did so.

"Drink it," Hermione ordered. "If not for your own sake then for mine. My work will be much quicker if I don't have to listen to you moaning and groaning."

Snape's lips curled into a snarl but he did as he was told, swallowing the potion and dropping the now empty bottle down onto the table. Hermione sent the bottle away with a flick of her wand and then sat down, extending her hands to take one of Snape's in her own. Instinctively the Professor pulled his injured skin back, out of reach, hissing as her fingers brushed over his palm.

Hermione dropped her own hands and waited patiently. Understanding that the next move was his Snape steeled himself, extending his burnt digits to well within her reach. This time Hermione placed her fingers carefully around Snape's wrists, guiding the hands down onto the table where she applied a cool cloth and began to clean them. The Potion's Master winced slightly but less so than before.

"Is this really necessary?" he asked at length. "Surely the use of magic would help to speed up this process?"

"It would," Hermione agreed, carefully dabbing the area around the base of his left thumb. "But considering that I don't know the ingredients used to cause this I don't want to risk it. Mixing the two together could result in absolutely no side effects whatsoever or it could result in you losing both of your hands completely. Your choice."

There was a pause while Snape took the time to consider this. "Your logic is acceptable," he acquiesced at last.

"Why thank you Professor," Hermione simpered, peering up at him with a fake smile.

Professor Snape sniffed and turned his head away but Hermione could have sworn she saw the corner of his mouth twitch.

After a few minutes Snape was once again the one to break the silence.

"You do realise that, after what you said to him, I am never going to have an easy time with Drewe for the next seven years? You putting glorified ideas in his head means my job just became that much harder."

"I guess," Hermione conceded, turning her attention to a tear in Snape's skin that was weeping steadily. "It would have happened eventually though. I just sped things along. Give them a few years and those First Years just aren't going to be scared of you anymore."

"Is that so?" Snape demanded, archly.

"Yes, that is so," she said, imitating his dry tone. "You are a disease Professor Snape."

The muscles beneath her fingers twitched. "I beg your pardon?"

"Sorry," Hermione apologised, her warm eyes flickering towards his. "That was meant to be a comparison not an insult. You are like a disease."

Failing to see how this statement was any better than the previous one Snape calmly questioned her line of reasoning. His voice was raised to barely more than a whisper, which most knew to mean trouble but Hermione smiled to herself and ignored this obvious warning sign.

"Given time and exposure it is possible for the human body to develop immunity to certain diseases," she told him factually, sounding, not for the first time, like a talking text book. "The same applies to you Professor. You continue to use the same techniques to quell your students and eventually they become desensitised, their minds forming a natural barrier against all that you endeavour to throw at them. I, myself, am a perfect example of this, as I find you in no way intimidating. Now if you were more like a virus," she continued, without really thinking, "things would be quite different. Viruses mutate, so while it is possible to develop an immunity to one strain of the virus that does not stop you from catching another. Meaning if you were to change your scare tactics and alternate between them you would be more likely to be successful."

There was silence for a long time. Unaware that she had just given Professor Snape clear instructions on how to more effectually torment his students Hermione disposed of the cloth and reached for the salve. Pouring some of the viscous substance out onto her palm she took up Snape's left hand and began to massage the remedy into his skin. Starting at the base she worked her way up, over the palm and the back of his hand, leaving the fingers until last. Oddly enough she found Snape's fingers to be quite fascinating. They were long and yet thin. Delicate, she thought, knowing the Professor would probably not approve of this description. Elegant, perhaps? She imagined them to be quite capable and wondered at how they didn't seem at all fragile when theory said they should have been.

Meticulously she went over each finger from knuckle to tip, careful not to forget the soft, webbed skin in between. When she was finally satisfied with the first hand she moved onto the second, moving through the same procedure. Her attention caught when she came across a faint scar that ran over the pad of his index and she raised her head, ready to question him on it.

Deep black eyes met her own in a somewhat unfathomable expression as Snape raised a single eyebrow in a silent question.

A self deprecating smile slipped onto her features but she didn't shy away from his scrutiny. "Sorry. I was just admiring your fingers. Really it's no wonder you're such a marvel at potions. I actually think I may be quite envious of you." She raised his unresisting hand and casually placed her palm against his own, comparing sizes. "If I had fingers like yours I've no doubt that my healing remedies would be much more precise and therefore much more effective." She studied their hands pressed together for some time, her brow furrowing slightly. "Oh well," she concluded, eventually. "No point wasting time on wishes. I guess I'll just have to make do with what I've got." She wiggled her own, shorter fingers at him. "They've got me this far so I shouldn't complain really. Right, that's you done Professor," she announced at the end of her ramble, casting a few quick spells before getting to her feet and once again packing everything away.

The Potions Master stayed, seated on the bed, flexing his hands experimentally, while his mind turned over the last few minutes.

"You might experience some limited motor function for a couple of days but after that everything should go back to normal. Feel free to come back and have Madame Promfrey look over them if you don't believe me."

"That won't be necessary," he said, catching the mild look of surprise that flickered across her features. "You always were somewhat of a perfectionist Miss Granger; I doubt a few years have changed that."

"True," she admitted, sending him a cheeky smile that would have rivalled Potter's, even in his heyday.

Snape blinked and voiced the concern that had been pressing against his thoughts. "You aren't intimidated by me at all, are you?"

"Nope, not anymore," she declared, cheerfully. "I am immune."

A thoughtful look drifted over his face.

"Don't let it upset you Professor," she said sympathetically, mistaking the expression entirely. "Things have changed. We're both older and I'm not your student anymore."

Older. Yes they certainly were older. Both of them. Feeling a spike of potential triumph Snape stood and put on a cool but somewhat resigned look. "Quite right Miss Granger," he said. "You and I are both older and things are not as they were. Will you be joining us in the Great Hall for lunch?"

Hermione wondered what would make him ask since she hadn't taken a single meal in the Great Hall since she arrived. Madame Pomfrey insisted she sit at the teacher's table and the idea of it made Hermione uncomfortable so she took all her meals in her room.

"I doubt it Professor. I really should stay here until Madame Pomfrey returns," she lied smoothly.

"Perhaps some other time then?" He extended one of his now almost completely healed hands towards her and patiently waited for her to take it.

Immediately suspicious of this sudden change in behaviour, Hermione hesitated and then berated herself for being so foolish. She was letting him get to her again. She just couldn't work out if he was doing it on purpose or not. Determinately she placed her hand in his once more and shook.

"Perhaps," she said evasively. "Goodbye Professor. I 'm glad I could be of use."

"Quite," Snape murmured, not releasing her eyes or her hand. They stood like that for an undetermined amount of time. As the seconds ticked past Hermione felt herself becoming more and more uneasy. She tried to dismiss the feeling but the Professor still held her gaze and refused to give her the chance of escape.

A familiar uncertainty flickered in her irises and without warning Snape stepped forward, pulling her towards him at the same time. They were so close their bodies were almost touching and the intensity of his gaze, when pressed so close to her own, sent a tingle of goose bumps skittering up her arms. He leaned in slowly, until she was able to feel the warmth of his breath on her face. Then he turned, his mouth coming to rest next to her ear.

"I have a theory Miss Granger," he whispered in a deep, dark tone. "If you'd care to hear it."

She made no response.

"I think that maybe..." He trailed off, bringing his head down to her neck and inhaling deeply before then expelling a purposeful sigh over the delicate skin beneath her earlobe. Hermione flinched. "Maybe," he continued calmly. "You are not quite as immune as you think you are."

And with that he was gone. Before Hermione even had time to blink and register the absence of his heat he was already several feet away, striding casually towards the door. Just as he was leaving Madame Pomfrey entered, escorting four students who were moaning loudly and clutching at their stomachs.

"Severus!" she exclaimed, surprised. "What are you doing here?" Glancing over his shoulder she saw her apprentice standing on the other side of the room. "Hermione dear, can you give me a hand? Just set them each up in a bed; I'll explain what happened in moment. Severus is something wrong?" she asked, turning back to the Potions Master. "Was there another accident? Was anyone hurt?"

"Everything is quite alright Poppy, don't fuss. Someone was injured but only mildly. Miss Granger dealt with him and he will be fit and well for his detention this evening," Snape assured the Matron, casting a swift glance over at the young woman mentioned, who was currently helping a groaning Ravenclaw Seventh Year into bed. He noted, with no small amount of satisfaction, that her cheeks were still slightly tinged.

"What about you, are you alright?"

"I am fine. I only stayed to oversee Miss Granger's treatment of the student in question. It seems I needn't have bothered. It seems Miss Granger has quite capable hands." Snape smirked inwardly when Hermione's flush returned in full force but she said nothing. Her attention focused (almost) entirely on her new patients.

"What creature caused this mess?" he asked out a mild sense of curiosity, indicating the wriggling students and wondering if he could reproduce a similar effect in some of his own classes.

"Oh, none of the creatures did this. This is all down to one spiked water canister." Madame Pomfrey scowled. "I don't know who it was or what they did but these four have been hiccupping multicoloured soap bubbles for the last half an hour, all at the same time. I'm not sure whether the sickness was intended or not but if not it seems to have been a rather unpleasant side effect."

"I'll leave you to it then," Snape said wisely as a synchronised fit of hiccups befell all four students and the room slowly started to fill with brightly coloured bubbles. Looking both flustered and frustrated Madame Pomfrey just nodded and bustled off to attend to her patients.

Just as he turned to go a thought occurred to the Potions Professor and a smile tugged at the corner of his thin lips. "One last thing," he called. "Miss Granger." Hermione looked up involuntarily, swiping at the curtain of bubbles that floated in front of her, blocking her view of the man who addressed her.

"Yes Professor?" she questioned, almost cautiously, unsure of what to expect.

"Thank you," he said solemnly.

"What for?" she asked automatically, assuming that he meant his hands.

Snape's smile widened. "Your advice."

Author's Note:

Ok so I've never written a Harry Potter FanFiction before, hell I haven't even read all of the books, but this thought popped into my head the other day and just had to be written. If there are any major (unintentional) discrepancies then I apologise. Otherwise please let me know what you think. A yay or nay will do but feel free to elaborate.

Happy writing.


P.S. Yes I am aware that the science of this piece isn't accurate but hey it's fantasy right? :P

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters and/or matching accessories, as well you know.