Title: I've Just Seen A Face
Author: cathedral carver
Spoilers: Up to Deathly Hallows
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: Falling, I keep on falling.
One of his favourite things about having his personal chambers housed deep in the bowels of the dungeons was skulking along the dark, damp corridors from his bed to his classroom without seeing a single soul. Because really, the fewer students he had to lay eyes on during the day, the better.
After his sight adjusted to the dim, murky light of the Potions classroom, he reviewed the day's lesson plans, ensured all the necessary ingredients were in plentiful supply (not that it meant the idiot children would brew Oblivious Unction with any degree of success), and waited for the dunderheads to show themselves.
Hermione Granger, of course, was first to arrive. She entered slowly, and eyed him rather cautiously, which gave him a turn, as she was usually bold and often impertinent. And instead of sweeping to the front of the classroom, as was her annoying habit, she slid into the back row, on the Slytherin side of the room of all things, and sunk down in her seat, a scowl on her face. Snape stared, unsure how to proceed.
"Miss Granger," he snapped at last. Granger didn't even flinch, though. She had her head down, hair covering her face, staring, it seemed, at her fingernails.
"Granger," he barked. Granger jumped, then looked around her, her face uncharacteristically puzzled.
"Are you talking to me?" she asked in a surly tone of voice that made Snape stop short.
"Of course I am!" he barked. "Are you daft? Are there any other Grangers in this room?" But Hermione only stared, still bewildered, and Snape's mouth dropped open then, because suddenly there were. More Grangers, that is. Five entered the room at once, of various heights and girths, all talking and flipping their hair. They stopped chatting when they saw him, and the horrified look on his face, and quickly found their seats. Two more entered, then three, then a singleton — a tall, skinny, sway-backed Granger who walked with a swagger and a stomp.
Great Gussified Merlin.
Snape took a step back, his legs making contact with the familiar and most welcome solidity of his desk. He gripped the edge of it with both hands, hanging on, he thought, for dear sanity. Everywhere he looked he saw her. And more of her. She was filling the class at this very moment. Filling and overflowing, to be exact. She was bloody everywhere.
"Are you all right, sir?" a Granger asked. She stood several feet away — just out of arm's reach, he surmised — and watched him warily.
"Are you the real Granger?" he hissed out of the corner of his mouth. Hermione looked up, eyes wide and frightened.
"Who?" she asked.
"Hermione Granger. Are you the —" He closed his eyes, wondered if he dared to repeat it. "—real one?"
The girl frowned, shuffled a tiny bit closer. "She's not in this class, sir. I'm Faith Farmer, sir. We're Third Years." She studied his steadily whitening face. "Are you all right?" she asked again.
"Is this a trick?" he asked, barely moving his mouth. Then, to the class, loudly, and he hoped, authoritatively: "You've all taken Polyjuice Potion, haven't you? Haven't you? Who put you up to this? Who?"
He scanned their — her — faces, but they all exuded the same bewildered/amused/skeptical/frightened look.
The exact same.
One of them in the back snorted.
"I think…I think I need to go to the Infirmary. Now." He looked beseechingly at the closest Granger and she jumped to, walking just ahead of him out of the Dungeons, up the long flights of stairs towards Madam Pomfrey and, Snape hoped, a plausible explanation for this nightmare.
His delusion, he found, was not confined only to his classroom. Granger was everywhere, in every form: Fat, thin, tall, short. A cacophony of voices — hers — rose and swelled around him, filling his ears, while her visage dazzled his eyes. Hair, noses, eyes, fluttering, gesticulating hands, laughter. His pulse pounded in his ears. He felt his breakfast rising.
"Here we are," Hermione said at last at the door of the Infirmary.
"Why Severus!" exclaimed yet another Hermione, hurrying towards him, dressed in Poppy's white dress robes and jaunty nursing hat. "What are you doing here?"
"He doesn't seem quite…right," said Third-Year Hermione.
"Really?" Nurse Hermione peered into his face. "You do look rather pale." She took his arm and led him to the nearest bed. He sat down. He closed his eyes. When he opened them, Nurse Hermione was waving her wand in front of him. "Vitals are normal, Severus, though your heart rate is elevated. What seems to be the problem?"
The problem. The problem. Well, where to begin, really?
He tried to speak, but even in his addled state he realized the words tumbling from his mouth were incomprehensible. So, he started laughing, instead.
"Severus?" Nurse Hermione said, looking rather alarmed. "What is it?"
"Nothing, Granger! Nothing at all!"
Hermione looked behind her. "Granger? Is Miss Granger here?"
"As a matter of fact, she is! I'm looking right at her! And she's over there, too! And there! And in the corner, vomiting into the basin, see?"
Nurse Hermione turned to look, then turned, slowly, back to Snape, a dim light of comprehension in her eyes.
"Severus," she began, "do you mean to tell me you're…ah…seeing Hermione Granger's face…everywhere?"
"Indeed I am," Snape nodded. "I am, indeed. And," he added, "hearing her voice, as well. Because, apparently, one Hermione Granger fouling my life is just not enough."
"Madam Pomfrey." The small, scrawny third-year Hermione approached, eyeing Snape with something close to terror. "Can I go now? Is Professor Snape ill?"
"You may," Nurse Hermione said briskly, "and no, not ill, exactly. Bewitched, perhaps."
"You know what ails me?" Snape asked as Hermione scampered away.
"I do." Nurse Hermione wore her smug expression smugly. "You, my dear man, have come down with a rather virulent case of Unisvisio."
Snape wracked his brain but came up with nothing.
"Well," she lowered her voice and leaned quite close, close enough that Snape could almost count the light freckles sprinkled across her rather adorable nose. If he'd wanted to, that is. "Unisvisio is rare. Very rare. In fact, I've only encountered one other case in my years of practice. Its onset is sudden, and it affects those with deeply repressed feelings of—"
She stopped, studied him, as if pondering the wisest course of explanation.
"What?" Snape couldn't look away from her face, the intriguing planes and lines, soft cheeks, sooty brows—
"Repressed feelings of lust, Severus. Yearning. Adulation. Clearly you are in love—"
"I most certainly am not!" he bellowed, making several other Hermiones jump in their beds. "I've never heard of anything so preposterous! What a ridiculous notion!"
"Well," Nurse Hermione cocked her head. "I do believe the evidence before you points to the contrary, don't you agree?"
Snape closed his mouth, pondered the facts, plumbed the depths of his emotions and realized she spoke the truth.
Bloody fucking Hades.
Hermione plowed on. "I mean the affliction can manifest itself without the sufferer's awareness of his or her own feelings. But, those feelings are there, Severus, and they're real and they're deep. Unisvisio is serious and I suggest you take it seriously—"
"All right, fine, I get it," he snapped. "We don't need to share this particular revelation with the entire Infirmary." He glanced around at the bevy of Hermiones in various states of distress. The vomiting one was now a pale shade of green, moaning, hair thrown across her pillow. "Just get me the antidote. Quickly."
Hermione pursed her sweet lips together and furrowed her brow. "Well, Severus, that's the problem. There's only one known antidote, I'm afraid, and it's rather, well…taxing. You must…you must confess these yearnings to the beloved."
"What?" Snape sat bolt upright. Grangers swam before his eyes. "Have you lost your mind, woman? Are you seriously suggesting I tell a student that I…" He couldn't bear to complete the thought. He could barely bear thinking the thought that he'd kept so well concealed, even from himself, and was now so rudely exposed. In a most embarrassing manner, too. Well, Poppy knew, but he'd be damned if Granger would ever know.
"She is of age, Severus."
He snorted. "Barely."
"Out of the question." He crossed his arms. "I won't do it."
She sighed, her expression a mixture of frustration and pity. "Then I'm afraid you're stuck like this. At least, until you talk to her."
"Fine. I'm stuck. Anything is preferable to…confessing my…" He shuddered.
"Calm yourself, Severus. You've had quite a shock, I'm sure —" Her rather sultry lips formed a tiny smile. Snape was mesmerized. "I think you should rest for a while, don't you?"
Hermione smoothed his hair back from his forehead with a practiced motion, her fingers grazing his skin. Snape shivered. She tucked the sheet in firmly around his body. Snape held his breath.
"There are worse things in the world, Severus, than falling in love."
He nodded, tersely, but at that precise moment, he was hard-pressed to think of a single one.
When he awoke, Hermione was seated beside him, a book open on her lap, hair spilling across her face. Snape eyed her with extreme caution.
"Who are you?"
Her head snapped up. She placed her finger at a spot on the page.
"Hermione Granger, sir."
"The Hermione Granger?"
"Far as I know."
"What happened to your teeth in Fourth Year?"
"I was Densaugeod, thank you very much. And horribly insulted, on top. For which I never received an apology, I might add.
"And won't now, either."
"Why are you asking me these things?"
He raised his head slightly. Hermione was seated at her desk in the corner, hat askew, making notes in her ledger. Hermione was also sprawled in a bed two away from him, snoring lightly. Vomiting Hermione was sprawled in the corner, a large, red bucket placed strategically beside her bed. Snape sighed.
"I'm not taking any chances today." He paused. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"Madam Pomfrey asked me to come."
Snape clenched his teeth to the point of pain. "Did she?"
"Did she…tell you anything?"
Hermione frowned. "Such as?"
"The, er, details of my predicament?"
"She said you were unwell, and that I could possibly offer assistance."
"Nothing else?" Snape willed his heart rate to slow.
"Only that you were having some difficulties this morning, in class."
"You could say that."
"Are you better now?"
Nurse Hermione arose from her desk and stretched, arms above her head, pert breasts straining against the fabric of her smock. Snape wished for more saliva in his mouth. He could barely swallow.
"Not in the least."
"Miss Granger." Hermione approached the bed, her face shadowed.
"Madam Pomfrey." Hermione smiled.
"How's our patient?"
"The same," Snape said. "Exactly the same. Despite your attempted—" here he sneered, "—intervention."
Both Hermiones raised their finely shaped eyebrows and looked at one another as if to say, "See? Told you it wouldn't work."
"Stop that!" Snape said, digging his chin into his chest and squeezing his eyes shut.
"Seeing double, Severus?" one of them teased. He didn't even care which, anymore.
Snape opened his eyes and scowled at the white-clad Hermione. "I think you know the answer to that."
"Ah," she said, winking. "Well, you know what you have to do about that, don't you?" She bustled away, whistling under her breath in a cheerful manner that made Snape wince.
"What do you have to do?" Hermione asked, leaning closer.
Snape found it difficult to concentrate. He cleared his throat and focused.
"Apparently I have been afflicted with a rather horrible disease."
Her eyes widened, and her hands gripped the edges of her book. Interesting.
"To which I alone hold the antidote."
She relaxed, just a bit. Very interesting, indeed. "But, that's wonderful!"
"Of course!" She was puzzled. "What is the antidote? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Oh, Merlin. He braced himself.
"Miss Granger, it appears I have something to tell you —"
She leaned closer. And closer. Those lips! Those damned lips he'd been staring at all bloody day long, were now mere inches from his own. How easy it would be to just raise himself up a bit, tilt his head, move a bit closer. What would she say? What would she do?
He paused. She waited.
He walked into the classroom, slammed his book down on his desk with a satisfying thwack, raised his eyes to the students.
"Today we brew a Sleeping Draught. Anyone who fails to meet my exceedingly high standards will join me tonight for three hours of cauldron scrubbing. By hand."
And the collective groan of 23 dismayed Hermione Grangers filled the dim room.
"Hermione! Hermione wake up! You've overslept."
Hermione groaned and opened her eyes, stared for a moment into the white depths of her pillow. Where was she? No longer in the Infirmary, no. But, that voice! A dream. In her bed, then. She'd stayed with Professor Snape until Madam Pomfrey had told her it was no use, after all, whatever that meant. He'd looked, at the end, that he was going to say something, something of importance, Miss Granger, I have something to tell you —
but had simply closed his eyes and shook his head in something like despair.
"Hermione. You're late. Lavender and I are leaving, with or without you!"
She stretched, turned, opened her eyes, and screamed.
"Hermione! What? What is it?"
Hermione closed her eyes, rubbed them viciously, then opened them.
"Professor Snape?" she said quietly, heart pounding. "What on earth are you doing in my room?"