Title: The Flowers
Author: cathedral carver
Spoilers: AU past Deathly Hallows
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: She was decorated with red roses.
Three weeks after she moved into his house, he arrived home early to find her bag and shoes tossed haphazardly at the front door, her coat in a crumpled heap on the floor. She wasn't due home from the Ministry for hours. His heart skipped a beat. He took the stairs up two at a time.
"What's wrong?" he said from the doorway. It was two in the afternoon and Hermione was in bed, curled on her side, clutching a hot water bottle to her stomach. "Are you ill?"
"Not exactly," she said through clenched teeth.
"Then what is it?" He moved quickly to her side, put a cool hand on her forehead, which was moist with sweat. "You are ill."
He perched on the edge of the bed and wrapped his fingers around hers, which were white and rigid.
"No, no. Nothing serious." She closed her eyes briefly. "It's just that Aunt Flo is visiting."
"Who?" They weren't, as far as he knew, expecting any guests.
"You know. I'm being Touched By the Goddess."
"Severus, really. The Crimson Curse? Dragontime? Magic Of the Month?" She stared at him, waiting for a flicker of recognition. There was none. "Seriously? Girlie Week? Red Fairy? Expelling My Hysteria? Tummy Trouble?"
He frowned, his hand tightening slightly on hers. He was beginning to think she'd fallen at work and hit her head. "Hermione, please, what are you on about—"
"Oh, all right," she sighed, repositioning the bottle. "I'm menstruating, Severus. Are you familiar with that term?"
He swallowed and tried to look nonchalant. "Yes. Yes, I am, actually, and why you couldn't just tell me that in the first place—"
"Honestly, men are so thick. No wonder it was so easy to confound all of them at school."
He had, of course, noticed her collection of feminine products in the cupboard under the sink, but had wisely chosen to not comment. He was finding bits and pieces of her all about his house, actually, and each time he came across a sweater or a book or a stray earring his heart swelled a little with indescribable astonishment and the sweetest joy imaginable.
"We had codes at school, you see, so we could communicate with one another without the boys catching on," she explained, wincing at what he assumed was a particularly bad twinge. "The Flowers was a particular favourite amongst the Gryffindor girls."
"Yes! See, According to the Oxford English Dictionary, flowers is an obsolete word for menstrual discharge, coming from the French fleurs, but it's regarded by French scholars as a corruption of flueurs, from Latin for "flowing." "Fluor" is still used in gynecology to indicate a discharge from the vagina."
"Isn't that interesting?" she pressed.
"Quite," he said at last, hoping his voice sounded steadier than he felt.
"Actually, the French scholars are correct, I think. The first example in the OED is from about 1400: "A woman schal in the harme blede/For stopping of her flowrys."
"Ah," he said, nodding. What a fount of information she was.
"Yes! Anyway, we Gryffindors used the names of various flowers to indicate how bad our flow was. For instance, Lily meant everything was fine, that we just ending our cycle, or hadn't yet started, Lady's Slipper was mild pain and little flow. Marigold was moderate to heavy and enough pain that we could possibly miss a class. And Roses, my goodness. Roses were the worst. It pretty much meant throw me a tampon and get me to the Infirmary, right now!"
Snape closed his eyes, expelled air through his nose. You love this woman, he reminded himself. More than anything. Be patient.
"And the syncing up! I'd only just remembered." She smiled fondly.
He waited, one eyebrow cocked.
"You see, when girls live together in close quarters, they inevitably begin to all menstruate at the same time. Something to do with stress levels and smelly hormones, I'm not entirely sure, but by the time I graduated, Ginny Weasley and I were in sync down to the minute. It was the funniest thing—"
Snape resisted, and succeeded, the very strong urge to jam his fingers in his ears and shout "La La La La La!" at the top of his lungs. Supportive partner, he reminded himself. Understanding boyfriend. You love this woman, more than life itself.
"But," he cleared his throat, still confused. "I'm not sure I understand what you're doing in bed, looking as though you've been hit with a Bludger. Are you in pain?"
"Yes, my dear man. A huge amount of pain. Vast, indescribable amounts of pain. I feel as though I've ingested glass and any minute I may just vomit."
Snape's mouth fell open.
"It's happened before." She paused. "Which reminds me, if you could please fetch me a bucket, I'd be most grateful."
"You mean," he said, horrified, "you go through this every single month?"
"Well, yes," she said, pulling her knees up closer to her chest. "Ever since I was 13. I got my first period in Minerva's class. Thank goodness it wasn't yours, ha ha! I thought Draco had slipped the Draught of Living Death into my pumpkin juice that morning!" She laughed weakly. He didn't join her. "Some months are worse than others. This one, so far, is fairly tolerable."
"But…but that's ludicrous!" He pulled the blankets up higher around her shoulders. "Surely there is something you can do, some potion that would ease the suffering. Some spell?"
"Oh, I've tried everything over the years, believe me," she gave a tiny, pained laugh. "We all did. Black Cohosh and tincture of Viburnum. Of course, not everyone suffered as much as I did, but there were always girls lined up in the Infirmary, doubled over, thinking up new ways to tell the Professors why we were missing their classes."
Infirmary. Professors. A light bulb went on. "You mean…at Hogwarts?"
"Of course! What did you think?" She looked up at him. "Madam Pomfrey had a full supply of Valerian and Chamomilla draughts that we went through like water. Surely you must have noticed."
Come to think of it, now that he looked back, he did seem to remember some vague discussions with Poppy about moon blood and monthly cycles that had all sounded like New Age nonsense to him at the time.
"But I could have helped! Why didn't anyone tell me this was going on? I could have…done something."
"Severus," she said sternly, but very fondly. "Do you really think your students, your female students, would have confided in the dreaded Professor Snape the bloody details of their Monthly Monster and then requested you brew them up a potion to ease the cramps?"
She laughed at the thought, and then grimaced.
"Well, no, of course not," he said stiffly, squeezing her fingers again. "But, I could have distributed it somehow, through Poppy, or Minerva. No one would have needed to know where it came from."
"You're very sweet," she said, pulling his hand to her mouth and kissing it. "Naïve, but sweet."
"Can I do anything for you now?" He was suddenly anxious to be of some service, to make up for all the years she'd lain like this, pale and moaning, teeth clenched and uterus spasming.
"Well, very, very hot tea does help," she said, letting loose a tiny whimper. His heart twitched. "And…you could, if you wanted, rub my lower back. That's always a good plan."
"Anything," he said, inordinately relieved that this particular hurdle in their relationship had been cleared, and as his hand made slow, broad, firm circles against her tense muscles he began to formulate a plan of his own.
He knew, because he was Snape, that no effective potion had been brewed for her simply because no one skilled enough had yet attempted it.
And so it began, the following week, with books of all shapes and thicknesses, diagrams, complicated formulas and late nights, and he had to smirk when he realized how prominently the use of flowers figured in many potions brewed to ease menstrual cramps.
"Severus?" she called into the basement one afternoon where his lab was set up. "What are you doing down there?"
"Research," he replied vaguely.
"Ah," she said. "Right. Well, whenever you're ready I have the table set for tea."
The following month he was armed. As Hermione lay shivering and groaning with the bottle and tea, her face a peculiar shade of grey, he handed her a steaming cup and ordered her to drink.
"What is it?" she asked, struggling to sit and wrinkling her nose at the decidedly foul odour.
"An infusion of cimicifuga and colocynthis."
"Yummy," she said. She drank it down and promptly threw it all back up on the floor at his feet (he'd forgotten the bucket this month).
"Is this what you've been doing down cellar all month?" she asked as collapsed back on her pillow.
He sighed as he evanescoed her vomit. "Yes. But, I'm not giving up. There are hundreds of other variations I can try. Apparently," he said raising one eyebrow, and fighting back a smirk, "Calendula oil, in very small amounts, can be of some assistance."
"Oh. Well." She blushed. "Let's not dredge up unpleasant memories, shall we?" she said, shifting under the blankets. "It's very nice of you to try, though. Better luck with the next one."
The month after that it was Tiger Lily, dong quai and cinnamon (she broke out in green and blue spots), followed by Banana flower, coriander and Hermal.
"I think we can give that one a definite Troll," she said as she staggered out of the loo ten minutes later. Snape helped her back into bed, where he tucked her in and pressed his lips to her forehead, more determined than ever to brew the perfect potion.
Month after month he arrived home with armfuls of flowers: Poppies, Yarrow, Feverfew, Valerian.
"For me?" Hermione would tease, smiling shyly at him and breathing deeply of Night-Blooming Cereus.
"Yes," he'd say, kissing her cheeks, her forehead, her mouth. "For you."
Sometime during their twelfth month of cohabitation, he realized something rather startling.
They were sitting together one evening, close together, drinking tea and watching the flames dance in the fireplace.
"You…haven't had any…" he swallowed. Steady voice, Severus, he warned himself. Steady, now. "Menstrual pain lately."
She smiled at his discomfiture.
"I have not," she agreed, holding his hand. "For about two months, now." They sat in companionable silence, staring into the fireplace.
"Then," he said hopefully, "it was the last one? Bengal gram, sesame and ginger? It worked?"
"Well, yes, it certainly worked better than anything else I've tried over the years." She grinned at him. "Thank you."
She stared into the fire a bit longer, sipping her tea while he studied her profile.
"Actually," she said suddenly, "I've discovered, quite by accident, the best remedy for cramps ever, and it's so simple, actually, it's quite laughable."
"Really?" His interest was piqued.
"Yes!" She squeezed his hand. "I'm not sure Poppy would approve, however, at least not for Hogwarts' students." She paused. "I'm on stork watch!"
"Hmm. In the Pudding Club? Up the Duff?" She giggled. "I know! I'm in a delicate condition! Eating for two. In a fix! Expecting!"
"Expecting what?" he said, trying his best to not sound as aggravated as he felt. "Hermione—"
"Honestly, Severus," she stared at him. "I'm pregnant."
As his cup hit the floor and shattered into a hundred shards, she sighed and rolled her eyes and muttered disgustedly,
"Men are so thick—"