Hermione Granger, arithmancy mistress at Hogwarts school for witchcraft and wizardry woke up with a scratchy throat and an overall wobbly feeling. It was as if her body knew she had two childfree weeks ahead of her and had decided that the Christmas holidays would be the perfect time to succumb to the flu.
But, Gryffindor as the was, she got up and made it to the great hall for breakfast. Even if said breakfast only consisted of mugs of tea and a few bites of fruit.
The other teachers still present at the castle, too exited about the holidays themselves, did not seem to notice her predicament. They were talking and eating and laughing and thoroughly enjoying not having to set an example as to how to behave at breakfast for once.
All except for one.
Severus Snape, potions master and decorated spy, noticed the minute she walked in that Hermione wasn't feeling well. He would have liked to think he did so because of his excellent observatory talents, but deep down Severus Snape knew perfectly well that he was paying Hermione more attention than he should. Much more.
When she came back to teach at Hogwarts three years ago, she'd greeted him as an old friend.
He had not expected that.
Sure, the war had brought them all closer together and sure, he might have answered her letters when she sent him a question every now and then during the years she was studying, but the fact that she seemed generally pleased to see him surprised him greatly.
At first he hadn't been too nice to her, being his reserved self, but she didn't seem to mind and every once in a while she would knock at his office door and ask him if he wanted to get a drink. Drinks led to long conversations and the occasional argument about all sorts of academic topics, to experimenting with potions together and to trips to Diagon Alley.
And to Severus Snape falling in love.
Of course he would never tell her that. She was so 'out of his league' as the students would say that he wouldn't dare hope she would one day return his feelings. Besides, she probably had some sort of boyfriend outside of the castle, although she never mentioned anybody.
Severus Snape decided a while ago that he should just be content with what she had to offer. The Weasleys were nice, Flitwick was decent, but Minerva and Hermione were his only friends. He wasn't about to jinx that.
She really didn't look well. She was pale, and she seemed to be shivering. And she drank absurd quantities of tea.
He watched her worriedly when she left the table.
He didn't see her at lunch or at dinner.
He half expected her to turn up at his door at some point during the evening, seeing that Poppy had left for the holidays and he was the only one left with a suitable supply of potions, but she didn't.
She wasn't at breakfast the next day either.
He really did not want to overstep his boundaries, but the worry was driving him crazy. He couldn't seem to concentrate on any of the brewing and reading he had so looked forward to during term. And so late in the afternoon, he decided to knock on her door.
Hermione was having a nightmare.
After the last breakfast she had attended she had tried to get some left over work done, but when the afternoon came she was forced to admit she was truly sick. She had started sneezing, her eyes were watering and the thought of food alone made her queasy.
She would have gone to Poppy, but since she had left the castle and she really did not want Severus to see her this way – that would definitely ruin the very, very slim chance that he could ever possibly like her despite her big teeth and her unruly mob of hair – she'd decided to go to bed and stay there.
Now she was tossing and turning and not quite sure whether she was awake or dreaming. And she was hot, so hot and then five minutes later shivering from the cold. And there were spiders, and goblins and a dragon was chasing her and Severus Snape was calling out her name.
Wait. She was in bed, all tangled in the sheets and Severus Snape was really calling her name and knocking, no, pounding on her door.
She slowly untangled herself and put on her dressing gown, then made it to the door on unsteady feet.
The worry was radiating off of him when she opened the door and for a minute she was surprised.
Then: 'Granger? Hermione!' as he caught her just before she hit the floor. He lifted her up and carefully placed her on the couch, then went to shut the door.
When she came to he was leaning over her, one hand holding hers, the other placed carefully on her forehead.
'You're burning up Hermione, what happened?'
'Sick,' she rasped. Her throat had definitely closed up now.
'I can see that. Why didn't you come to me after yesterday's breakfast? I could have given you something to prevent all this.'
'Didn't want you to see me like this,' she whispered.
'Why ever not?'
He paused for a minute and filed her response away for later examination. Why was it important to her to not be seen by him as 'unattractive'? He would think about it later. Right now she needed him.
'Silly girl! Now let me take care of you', he said, stroking the hair away from her forehead.
'Now lay still, i'll be back in a moment. I promise.'
He walked to her fireplace and stepped into it, quickly Flooing to his own quarters to get some necessary supplies. When he came back she was sleeping again.
He walked into her bathroom and got a bath started. Then he went into her bedroom, seeing the bed in disarray. 'Winky!' he called, and with a pop the house elf arrived.
'Professor Granger is sick. I need you to change her sheets and then make her a large pot of tea and some toast. Put it under a stasis in her living room, can you do that?' he said to the elf.
'Of course potions master, right away potions master, Winky is on it'. she said.
'Thank you', he grumbled. Hermione would not forgive him if he were rude to an elf.
He walked back into the living room to wake her. She was trashing on the couch. 'Hermione, Hermione!' he said, gently shaking her.
And all of a sudden he had a sobbing Hermione in his arms.
'Severus! Severus!' she rasped.
'Shhh... silly girl... I'm here, I got you. What's got you so upset?'
'You were here, and then you weren't, and then the trolls came and I couldn't find you and then...'
'Shhh... don't talk too much, it'll hurt your throat. It was a nightmare. There are no trolls here. Just me and Winky. And I will not leave you until you are feeling better and kicking me out', he said, holding her tight and stroking her sweaty hair.
'Never kick you out, Severus.'
'We'll see about that. Now sit on the couch and take your medicine like a good little girl.'
He helped her get up and took off her dressing gown, then walked her into the bathroom.
'I've drawn you a bath. I'll leave you your privacy, but I don't want you locking the door, ok?'
'Careful now', he said, and left her in the bathroom.
The thought of her standing in there, taking off her pajamas and getting into the water did funny things to him and he quickly focused on other things. Like cleaning up her quarters. A few waves of his wand and the tissue strewn about disappeared. Another few waves and the dust bunnies vanished as well and her quarters smelled fresh again.
Then he knocked on the bathroom door.
'Everything ok in there?' he asked.
'Yes', came the muffled reply.
'Good. Take your time', he said and sat on the couch.
Merlin she was lovely. Even when she was sick he wanted her. More than wanted her. He was feeling fiercely protective of her and just wanted to keep her safe always. Maybe when she was better he would have to tell her. Go through the shame of her rejection and get it out of his system once and for all.
She interrupted his musings by coming out of the bathroom in a fresh set of pajamas that Winky had laid out for her. She looked shy.
'Shh... you should start to feel a little better by now. The potions should start working, but you won't be cured for another couple of hours. Maybe in the morning. I hope you can eat something, but at least drink your tea. You must be dehydrated.'
She smiled a watery smile at him and sat next to him on the couch.
She drank her tea in silence and nibbled on some toast.
Then she yawned.
'Ah, yes. I put a little dreamless sleep in your tea, so you won't be bothered by trolls anymore.'
She would have sworn he smiled a little when he said it, but that was probably the fever making her see things again.
He helped her up and walked her to her bedroom. He carefully tucked her into her freshly made bed and she yawned again.
'So sorry Severus, you...'
'Nonsense' het cut her off. 'It's nice to be needed once in a while.'
'Always need you', she whispered.
'We'll see about that in the morning', he said. 'Now sleep.'
And he didn't know what possessed him to do it, but he bent down and softly kissed her forehead before walking out of her room.
She woke up a couple of hours later with a clear head and the urgent need to go to the bathroom.
Severus Snape had been amazing. She'd been in love with him for quite a while now, but seeing this loving and caring side of him had made her heart ache more. He would never want her now though, would he? She did always try to be as mature as possible around him. Discussing academics, politics, trying to erase the memory of the child he had known. And now she had gone and made it al undone. He had called her a silly girl again, hadn't he? Although it did sound a lot different than before... And the looks he gave her, and the way he had kissed her forehead...
She relieved herself, brushed her teeth and was about to walk back to bed when she stopped. Two socked feet were hanging over the side of her couch.
Severus Snape had stayed.
She carefully approached his sleeping form, but before she had decided what to do – wake him? Throw a blanket over him? – he had lifted one eyelid.
'Feeling better?' he asked in a sleep filled voice.
'Yes,' she said, suddenly looking all shy again, 'thank you.'
'Do you want me to go?' he asked. Glad she was feeling better, but also extremely sad that their time together had come to an end. Even if she had been sleeping or delirious during most of it.
'No!' it came out faster than she wanted.
He looked amused.
'Then what do you want?' he asked softly.
And all of a sudden it seemed like the most natural question in the world for her to ask: 'Severus, will you come to bed?'
He let her lead him by the hand back to her bedroom. The single candle he'd left on was flickering by her bedside.
She climbed back in on her side and shrugging off his cloak he stepped in on the other side.
She met him in the middle. Resting her head on his shoulder and her hand on his shirt clad chest. He wrapped her in his arms like they'd been sleeping like this for years and she sighed contently.
'Severus?' she whispered.
'Why did you take care of me?'
'You needed me.'
'You could have called Minerva?'
'Would you rather I had?'
She felt his heart racing under her hand.
'Severus?' she said.
'Aren't we going to sleep girl?'
'Severus, do you have feelings for me?'
Always the Gryffindor.
This was it then, the moment of truth. He might as well admit to it now. She would either kick him out, or maybe, just maybe, he might finally get what he wanted for so long. Didn't she say she didn't want him to find her unattractive? Didn't she sob when she thought she couldn't find him? Didn't she ask him to come to bed?
'I... I would never want to burden you with my feelings, Hermione. But yes, I've been in love with you for a long time now. Loved you for a long time. And I don't seem to be able to stop. Now if that is making you uncomfortable...'
It was her time to shush him.
And then she leaned up and softly, softer than he had kissed her forehead mere hours ago, she kissed his lips.
'Didn't I say I would always need you?' she whispered against his lips.
His heart seemed to want to burst out of his chest and instinctively he tightened his grip on her.
'I'm not going anywhere Severus, I will always be here for as long as you want me.'
'Always want you' he mumbled, leaning over her and kissing her forehead again, then her ear, her cheek, her nose, her jaw and then finally her lips.
She felt hot tears on her cheeks, but didn't know if it were hers or his. His eyes glinted suspiciously in the soft candlelight.
'Are you crying, Severus?'
He stopped kissing her and buried his head in her neck.
'I'm sorry. It's just... I never thought... So lovely, so good and smart and sweet and I...'
'So strong, and brave and attractive and caring and intelligent and don't you ever apologize for your emotions Severus Snape', she said suddenly stern. 'I've acted like a sick little girl these past twelve hours and that is because I was. I get like that when I am sick. And you didn't judge me, or laugh at my unattractive pajamas and red rimmed eyes and terrible hair and silly dreams. You cared for me like nobody ever has and I started hoping that the feelings I've had for you for years might just be reciprocated just a tiny little bit. And now it seems that they are. My feelings for you are the same Severus. I want all of you. So if you're sick, I'll take care of you, and if you laugh, I'll laugh with you and if you cry, I'll lend you a shoulder.'
She was a little out of breath after that.
'For years?' he said, looking down at her seriously.
'For years' she said. 'Now can we get some sleep? I'm still not quite well yet and I'm exhausted.'
He bent over her and pressed his lips to hers again, gently flicking his tongue out. After a moment he was met by hers.
She moaned into his mouth 'Severus, I'm not getting any sleep done like this.'
'Hmm...', he said, slowly dragging his lips away and reaching to blow out the candle.
'Sleep then, silly girl.' And he wrapped her tightly in his arms.
'Severus?' she said a moment later, reaching a hand up to stroke his cheek.
'Now who's preventing us from getting some sleep?'
'Severus, I look forward to waking up with you.'
'As do I...'
And finally they let sleep take over.