Title: Toil & Trouble
Author: cathedral carver
Pairing: Snape/Hermione
Spoilers: Up to Order of the Phoenix
Rating: G

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

...

Truthfully, he'd always rather regretted the teeth comment.

He'd enjoyed, as he always did, the appreciative snickers and figurative back pats from the Slytherins, but the look of complete horror and humiliation on Granger's face had not pleased him in the least. He knew, all too well, what it felt like to wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole.

He hadn't meant to say it. He hadn't meant to say anything at all but they were all so horribly loud and annoying and his head was throbbing and of course he had no choice but to back Draco and then Potter and that red-haired nuisance demanded his compassion and understanding—

He'd wanted to scream at them all to bloody well shut up and get out of his sight, but of course he could not. Instead he'd eyed Granger, hands clamped over her rapidly elongating teeth and said coldly, indifferently:

"I see no difference."

Her eyes had filled with tears and she had turned and fled and he had watched her retreating form, heard her strangled sobs and though he knew her teeth would be fixed and she'd rally and go on as if nothing had happened, he couldn't help but feel…sorry for her.

Fleetingly.

And he hated her for making him feel anything but detached loathing, if even fleetingly.

Yes, she'd go on, but she wouldn't forget, that much he knew.

He'd been on the receiving end of cruel taunts too many times in his miserable life to not bear their deep scars.

And he remembered every single one.

...

Saturdays were reserved for detentions in his classroom and he relished them. There were always so many unpleasant punishments to bestow upon the students who'd irked him throughout the week and today was no different. It was, in fact, better. Potter was scheduled for a three-hour stint and oh, the tasks Snape had planned for him. It almost made the corners of his mouth turn upwards.

Oh, how he looked forward to Saturdays.

He clutched his books under his arm and turned the corner to the potions classroom feeling practically sprightly when something unusual caught his eye.

A single light was burning within. He moved closer. A single student was hard at work. On a Saturday morning the week before Christmas break.

Oh. Of course.

Granger.

He could see her bushy hair and hunched shoulders from his vantage point in the doorway, steam rising and curling from her cauldron as she moved hurriedly between her brew and her open book. He recalled then her anxious request for a two-hour block of time several weeks ago.

She'd approached his desk after class, shouldering her enormous bag of books and twisting her hands in front of her.

"You see, it's an extra credit project, sir. Muggle Studies."

He'd just stared at her.

"I'm writing about the Amazonian Yanomamo tribe of warriors—"

He didn't care.

"—and their use of aconitum vulparia in poison darts."

Now his interest was piqued, just a little. He raised one eyebrow. She took this as an invitation to continue.

"It's a fascinating poison. Are you…familiar with the name and its properties?" she asked eagerly.

He glared. "I am," he said. She looked embarrassed. "Aconitum vulparia is an unusual and highly toxic poison and I could find myself in trouble if certain…authorities…knew I permitted a student to meddle with it." He paused. "But, in your case I might be inclined make an exception."

"Sorry, sir. I just thought because it was Muggle-based, you might not know—"

"I am well-versed in a vast array of poisons, Granger, of which the properties and uses of most would curl your hair." He paused, his eyes moving purposely to her head. "More than usual, even."

At least she hadn't cried that time.

"Granger," he barked now by way of greeting as he swept into the dim room. She started and looked up, smiling nervously.

"Good morning, sir," she said rapidly. "I'm almost done my project for Muggle Studies and I realize it's earlier than we agreed but you do remember you said I could use the classroom this morning—"

"Fine. Just be quick about it," he snapped. "Potter is due for his detention in less than an hour and my full attention will be required to make him completely miserable."

He slammed his books down on his desk and sat, determined to ignore her presence completely. He opened his first book (101 Ways to Kill a Conversation) and lowered his head.

Ignore. Ignore.

Ignore.

Except she kept…doing…things that caught his attention. Like…talking. Out loud. To herself.

He found himself watching her from beneath his dark shelf of hair. She was muttering occasionally, and grinning. A couple of times she even laughed, obviously pleased with her work. He could see her teeth. For some reason they mesmerized him.

Finally he stood and strode to the back of the classroom under the pretence of grabbing a jar of newt eyes but really he just wanted to see what she was doing. The potion was thick and noxious green and gave off an odour of things damp and dark.

He approved.

"Interesting," he murmured as he passed and she practically glowed under the almost praise.

"I think I'm done, professor," she announced finally.

He feigned indifference.

"Congratulations."

"This is the blowpipe," she said, as if he'd asked, "that is traditionally used. I fashioned it myself out of a black willow branch. Took weeks, but I think I did a fairly passable job."

He made a low, noncommittal noise, but managed a peek at the wooden tube she was fondling. It did look rather…impressive.

"The darts, or thorns, which is what I've decided to use — a little unorthodox, maybe, but I had to improvise — are loaded into this end, and then blown out, like this—"

"Hmm."

Then he felt a sharp, piercing pain in the side of his neck.

What the—

"—rendering the victim almost immediately incapacitated," she concluded cheerfully.

He put his hand up, felt the sharp point of the thorn, the warm, slow trickle of blood, the heat of the poison as it entered his body.

—bloody hell.

Granger had shot him. He pulled the tiny thorn from his skin, dropped it on his desk, moved his head from side to side.

Bad idea. Headache. Dry mouth. Blurred vision.

He stood up, ready to shout and rave and threaten.

Very bad idea.

He swayed. He was in imminent danger of vomiting, or perhaps passing out.

"Oh…dear," he heard her say as if from far, far away. "Oh. Did I…I just…shot you, didn't I?"

"Yessss," he hissed. He staggered to the front of his desk, one hand clutching the worn wood, the other feeling for his thready pulse. She had both hands clamped over her mouth, her eyes wide and horrified above them. "Yes, you did." He could no longer feel his legs.

He fell down.

She was at his side instantly, panic brightening her eyes.

"I'm so sorry, so very sorry," she babbled. "I can fix this." She pulled out her wand. "Don't worry, sir. I think I know the spell—" She started to wave her wand and mutter incoherently.

"Apparently you do not, silly girl." He paused. "The poison has to be removed…orally."

She froze, wand in hand. The look of mortification on her face would have been almost comical if he didn't feel so utterly dreadful. "Pardon?"

"It must be removed orally! Orally means by mouth you dimwitted—"

"I'm perfectly aware of what orally means, Professor. I've just never encountered that particular antidote for—"

"Oh course you haven't! Did I not tell you that aconitum vulparia is a very dangerous Muggle poison. Why I permitted you to attempt such an endeavour in the first place is beyond me—"

"You were trying to be nice," she said quietly.

"Indeed. And now I find myself in this most reprehensible situation." He leaned back against the desk, looking even paler than usual, a long, thin hand clasped tightly to the side of his neck. Hermione peered at him. He could feel her warm breath against his cheek. He clenched his jaw, tried to breathe slowly. She smelled like spearmint.

He closed his eyes, tight.

"Orally," he muttered, sounding disgusted.

"Right," she said. "Do you need me to do it?" Her voice shook.

"Seeing as I have not yet discovered a way to get my own neck into my mouth, yes, I need you to do it and I'm suddenly questioning your considerable reputation for brains."

He heard her wand fall with a clatter, felt her move closer. "So…so to clarify, I just…"

He exhaled loudly through clenched teeth.

"Suck and spit! Put your mouth on the wound, suck out the poison and spit it on the floor. Repeat this action until the affected area is no longer swollen and green! It's not a difficult concept, Granger!"

She moved even closer. "You'll have to move your hand," she said quietly and with great reluctance he let his hand slip to his side. She moved closer still and drew in breath.

"It looks bad," she said.

"It's poison," he said, his voice sounding faint in his ears. "It's not supposed to look pretty. And you're wasting time. Quickly! You'll have…to get Madam Pomfrey when you're done, tell her I need—"

But then she had one hand flat against the front of his chest, the other curled around the back of his neck, and her warm warm mouth was over the wound and the effect was instantaneous and highly, unexpectedly erotic.

He heard her spit, and spit again and he found himself holding his breath, waiting in…anticipation?

No, no no no.

She's saving your life, that's all.

If she doesn't kill you first.

And then her mouth was back and he had to close his eyes very tight and grip his thighs very hard with his fingers and fight back a noise that might sound very much like a moan if he let it out.

Merlin, was there nothing this girl didn't excel at?

Things were going grey around the edges.

"Enough, Granger." His voice, like his nerve, was weak.

"I think I'm nearly done, sir," she said. She sounded breathless. "The green is almost gone—"

Her head dipped once more, her mouth connected once more, her tongue and teeth moved against his skin once more—

I will not become aroused. I will not

"I said enough!" he rasped and he pushed against her with the little strength he had remaining, pushed against her but somehow found his hands tangled instead in the soft folds of her sweater and her hands were still on him, her face dangerously close to his and then—

"Am I…interrupting something?"

He looked up then and focused on that most detestable of creatures standing in the doorway, heard that most detestable voice, mocking him, always mocking him.

"Harry!" Hermione cried. Snape could feel her warm breath blow across his rapidly cooling cheek. "I need your help!"

Harry crossed to them, his face registering a mixture of surprise and disgust and amusement and Snape closed his eyes and felt his heart sputter and slow in his chest.

I hate everyone and everything and they are both going to be expelled for this if it's the last thing I do—

Then he passed out.

...

Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright

Then he was awake. It was dim, but very bright to his eyes, which he realized had been closed for some time. He was in the infirmary. It was very still.

He turned his head slightly. Snow was ticking against the darkened windowpanes. He was dressed in white pajamas, lying beneath white sheets. Hermione Granger was sitting at his bedside, hands clenched in her lap, face pale and strained. She was staring out the window and…singing, quietly.

Am I dead?

"What…are you doing?" he mumbled. His tongue felt thick from disuse.

She jumped.

"You're awake!" She let out a breath. "You're awake." She smiled. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I was…singing."

"…singing?"

"Christmas carols. I find them soothing."

Christmas?

"How long have I been here?"

"A week."

"A week?"

"Almost, yes."

He struggled to sit up.

"Please, professor. Let me get Madam Pomfrey. She'll be so relieved to see you're all right."

He didn't know if all right was the correct word to use, but he was alive, nevertheless. She stood abruptly, knocking over her chair. The resounding clatter filled the too-quiet room.

"Where is everyone?" He felt disoriented, weak. He closed his eyes, tried to concentrate, tried to remember.

Granger's mouth on him, Potter and his stupid face—

Oh.

His eyes snapped open.

"Everyone's gone for the holidays, sir. It's…Christmas Eve."

He stared.

"Then…why are you still here?"

"I almost killed you, sir," Hermione wrung her hands. She looked like she might cry. "I asked Professor Dumbledore if I could stay a few extra days, just to make sure…" She swallowed audibly. "I'm leaving in an hour."

Snape continued to stare at her, unable to comprehend what she was saying. She'd stayed behind? Because she was…worried? About what?

"Professor Snape! You're conscious. Finally." Madam Pomfrey bustled in, clutching a steaming cup in her hand. "You've given us all quite a scare, I must say. Miss Granger has been simply beside herself. Could hardly get her to leave your side, let alone the room!"

Snape watched Hermione squirm in mortification.

"But it looks as if you're on the mend now. Knew it was only a matter of time." She handed him the cup. He peered at the bubbling ruby red liquid.

"Nux-Vom I presume?"

"Yes. I've been administering it three times daily. Detoxification is taking much longer than I anticipated," she said, sounding disapproving. "This Muggle poison is some of the most stubborn I've ever encountered. I'm surprised at you, actually, allowing a student to mess around with it in the first place."

"Indeed," he said avoiding Hermione's gaze. He swallowed obediently and lay back, closing his eyes. When he opened them Pomfrey was gone but Hermione was still there, watching anxiously. She righted her chair, pulled it close, sat once again.

"How are you feeling, sir?"

"I'm sure I'll live long enough to make the students' lives sufficiently miserable in the New Year."

There was an uncomfortable silence. Tickticktick went the snow against the windows.

Hermione reached into the bag at her feet and removed a scroll of parchment.

"This will cheer you up! Professor Burbage gave me the highest mark in the class for my assignment. She said she'd never seen that particular poison work so effectively."

"Professor Burbage…was here?"

"Yes! She examined you personally. Brought in the entire class, actually. They'd never seen the effects of aconitum vulparia up close. Of course, I was a little off in my calculations, otherwise you probably would have died immediately—"

"Wonderful."

For some reason she still looked agitated, her forehead creased. He sighed.

"I'm sure you won't be expelled, Granger, if that's what's worrying you." It was all he could think to say.

Her eyes found his for a long moment.

"That's not what I was worried about," she said quietly.

The Nux-Vom was taking effect, as he knew it would. He felt warm and drowsy and infinitely…relaxed. The light grew dimmer, the air heavier. Hermione leaned closer. He stared at her. She stared back. What did she want?

He tried to focus his thoughts. He wished she'd start singing again.

"Granger…" He could feel the red potion coursing through his veins, rendering him more languid and lucid than Firewhisky.

"Yes, sir?" She smiled at him.

He lifted a hand and it felt so light and floaty and it somehow found the side of her face, ever so briefly.

"You have very nice…teeth." She raised an eyebrow. "I mean even before…before the curse. They're nice now, too, of course…but…I never should have…I mean to say…they've always been…nice."

If she blushed or smirked or made gagging motions he never learned. He closed his eyes then, felt the surprising soft pressure of her hand on his fingers, heard the warm tease of her voice as he drifted away.

"I don't know," she said lightly, still holding his hand. "I see no difference."

...

January was bright and bitter.

They filed into the classroom, slow and dejected, shoulders bowed, infinitely bewildered to find themselves back so soon, their heads still stuffed with holiday nonsense. Granger marched in briskly with a straight spine of course, but he didn't let her see him watching her.

He assigned the most challenging potion from Chapter 4 (dormipotionis) and prowled the room, making as many vicious and snarky remarks as he could, just to let the little dunderheads know who was in charge and that vacation was bloody well over.

She was hunched over her cauldron, intense and bushy-haired as ever, teeth worrying her lower lip in concentration. He passed by her three times without a word and each time she glanced up in anticipation. The fourth time he eyed the sticky brown liquid churning in her cauldron and murmured, "Interesting." Potter covered his loud guffaw with a cough and Snape deducted ten points from Gryffindor.

He paused at the front of the room, stood still and quiet for just a moment, watching her. His hand moved up, up to his neck, to the bandage hidden below his high black collar, and the small scar hidden below that.

She looked up then, as if she could sense his eyes on her. She saw his hand at his throat and she flushed ruby red and then she smiled, embarrassed and relieved…and something more, perhaps.

Perhaps.

He smiled too, fleetingly. Then Potter looked up and smirked at him and quickly received six detentions for his insolence.

Oh, how he looked forward to Saturdays.

...

-30-