Author's Note: This story was written in response to the WIKTT "Not Exactly a Sex God" challenge and is intended to be a light-hearted look at the changes that can take place in a marriage when recreational sex becomes procreational sex. It is absolutely not intended to make light of serious infertility issues. However, if infertility is, for any reason, a difficult subject for you, you may wish to skip this story.
§ § § §
Severus Snape watched his final class of the day make a swift escape from the dungeons, and it was a clear sign of the disturbed state of his mind that he found himself wishing one of them would decide to linger, perhaps to ask a question or just to talk. Ordinarily, of course, he would rather enter into a staring contest with a basilisk than talk to a student, but today he was looking for any excuse to avoid going home.
Home. It used to be such a pleasant place. He remembered fondly the time, just a few months before, when he had been eager to leave the dungeons each evening and return to his little house in Hogsmeade and his beautiful young bride. No longer burdened with responsibilities as Head of Slytherin House, he had been free to leave the castle at the end of the day, escaping the tiresome mass of hormonal adolescents and embracing the peace of home and hearth.
Now, however, he was convinced that adolescent hormones were infinitely preferable to Hermione's hormones, which had been suddenly, violently activated several months before by the silent alarm of what she called her biological clock. He wished he'd heard the damned thing ringing, just so he might have prepared himself. Instead, his first hint had been at the breakfast table one morning when she announced with a gleeful look that she'd quit taking her contraceptive potion the month before.
A row had followed, in which he had asserted his right to have some say in whether or not he was ready to become a father. She conceded the point, blamed the mysterious "biological clock" for her deception, and asked him, with eyes full of hope, if they might continue trying to conceive.
Truth be told, Severus Snape had no overwhelming desire to be a father. His spent his days with children, and he saw little to recommend them. He had detested his wife when she was a child. What if he detested his own children? What if they detested him? Most children did, after all. Still, before he married he had made his peace with the fact that Hermione probably would want children one day, and there was always hope that the blending of their genes would result in the first child he was ever able to like. It would be a Slytherin, of course; all Snapes were.
So he had agreed and had quit preparing the potion for her. He had continued making his genetic contribution to the process on a regular basis. He was secretly glad that she had deceived him because he was able to look quite magnanimous by comparison. He was a Good Husband, as any fool could see. What more could she ask?
Quite a lot, as it turned out.
She had not gotten pregnant the first month, or the second, or the third. For many women this was normal. For many women, this would not have been a cause for concern. But Hermione Snape was a planner. She made lists and ticked off items as they were accomplished, one by one. And now, she had assigned them a task and it had not been carried out. One or both of their bodies was not cooperating. This was unacceptable. This was intolerable. This meant (obviously) that they needed to Work Harder.
They were now in their second month of Working Harder, and he dreaded going home.
He knew that he probably wasn't the world's greatest lover. His premarital experiences had been few and far between, and although he had come to the marriage bed more experienced than his wife, it had not taken her long to catch up. Quickly they reached the point where they both entered into the process with enthusiasm, and it usually ended in mutual enjoyment…or at least she made him think it did…but no, he was fairly certain on that point. He doubted that his technique was the stuff of romance novels, but he had not, heretofore, had any reason to be concerned about his overall performance.
But now the focus had shifted from enjoyment to achievement. They weren't there to have fun, damn it; they were there to Create Life. They had a Schedule. They had Responsibilities. She was contributing the X. He could give an X or a Y, and she seemed to feel she was being generous in allowing him that latitude.
It turned out that Severus Snape was not terribly good at achievement-oriented sex. Hermione had once been able to induce an erection simply by smiling at him, but those days were gone. Now when she marched him to the bedroom babbling about her basal body temperature, he frantically tried to think of something stimulating enough to enable him to keep up (ahem) his end of the bargain.
Last night, both his mind and his body had threatened to fail him. He'd dealt with three exploding cauldrons that day, which led to twelve trips to the infirmary, and he had spent the afternoon cleaning his classroom. He didn't want to have sex, particularly if it meant forcing his weary brain to concoct an elaborate fantasy. He wanted to have a drink and go to bed. Preferably alone.
But of course, it wasn't to be. This was the perfect time in her cycle. They simply had to have sex every night for the next three nights. Somehow, he had managed it, but it hadn't been easy.
One night down, two more to go.
He sighed and locked his classroom, heading for home. He was, after all, a Good Husband, and he had Responsibilities.
§ § § §
Hermione wasn't home yet from her job at the Ministry, and he allowed himself a small sigh of relief. Perhaps if he had a drink, it would relax him a little, help him forget about Creating Life and remember what he'd enjoyed about good old recreational sex.
Scotch, he decided, reaching for the bottle.
He was on his third - or was it his fourth? - when she apparated into the room, scaring him nearly out of his wits. He'd known she was due home any minute, of course, but he'd rather lost track of time as the Scotch tamped down his more jarring thoughts, smoothing them into a blissful mental hum.
"Hello darling," she greeted him with a smile. She eyed the glass in his hand. "Long day?"
He arched an eyebrow. "Aren't they all? I was teaching."
"Ah, but with your passion for moulding young minds…"
He snorted. "Don't be disgusting, Hermione."
She laughed and cuddled next to him on the sofa. "I bought you a present today."
"Really?" A new book, maybe. She often surprised him with books from his favourite shop in London.
"Uh huh. Look." She reached into the bag she was holding in her hand and pulled out a handful of black silk. "See? Boxers."
What the hell…? "May I ask why?"
"Well, I was reading something that said that briefs can actually diminish sperm count. They keep the testicles too warm, you see." She handed him the boxers with a triumphant smile.
He stared at her in disbelief, unwillingly accepting the delivery. "Hermione, I don't want to wear boxers," he said carefully, enunciating around the effects of the scotch. "I hate boxers."
"Why?" Her face was completely surprised, genuinely innocent, and for a moment he felt guilty.
But on second thought…no. "I happen to like warm testicles," he snapped. "I work in a dungeon. Dungeons are, by their very nature, cold, drafty places, and there are certain parts of my body I prefer to protect from cold and draft."
"Oh." She looked sympathetic, and for a moment he thought he'd actually won this round. He should have known better. Hermione had a Plan, after all. "Well, you'll only have to wear them until I get pregnant, and I'm sure that will be soon. Then you can go back to your others."
He was never sure if it was the blazing row that followed this calm pronouncement or the effects of the Scotch, but several hours later, when they settled down to the inevitable, he just…couldn't.
The big couldn't.
The couldn't that had never happened to him before and left him curled up in flaccid mortification, completely unable to rise to the occasion.
Hermione was…well, she was sweet about it. She really was. He knew she was disappointed, and on some level he really appreciated the fact that she hid the disappointment so well, and instead expressed concern for him. On every other level, he wished she would leave him alone to die of embarrassment in peace.
"It's OK, Severus," she whispered, stroking the fine hairs on his chest. "We've just been trying so hard, is all. You just need to relax. Is there anything I can do to help you relax?"
"No. I'm just tired. I think I just need some sleep."
"Let's try this one more time…" she said, her hand moving lower.
"NO!" He rolled out of her reach. "Enough, Hermione! Just…not tonight." I love her… I love her…I married her because I love her…She's completely insane, but I still love her…she's obsessed, but I still love her…
"I'm sorry, Severus." Her voice was hurt, and despite his own humiliation, he felt a pang of regret that he'd disappointed her. He must actually love her, he thought, if he could find it in him to care about her feelings just then. She leaned over and kissed his cheek, running her fingers lightly over his jaw. "I love you," she whispered. "Good night."
"I love you, too," he said, deciding it was actually still the truth. He settled in, his body and soul yearning for sleep, but his mind perverse, as always.
Maybe it was the scotch.
Maybe it was the fact that they'd had a fight.
Maybe it was just that he was so damned sick of scheduled sex.
Maybe it was psychological…he really didn't want to have a child.
That showed promise, and he spent some little time on it, banging it into an acceptable excuse for his body's unacceptable failure. Eventually, however, it wasn't enough to push the real fear from his mind.
Maybe there was Something Wrong.
Maybe it was his age…he was in his mid-forties now and had a wife in her mid-twenties - a wife who had just begun to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and should certainly not be expected to give them up. Hermione would never be unfaithful to him…would she? He wouldn't have thought so, back in the days when she was in her right mind, but since the biological clock had begun doing her thinking for her, he wasn't exactly sure what she was capable of.
Wait a minute! He was a potions master! The right potion could take care of his problem in no time. Hell, even the Muggles had a drug for this. He planned to research it the minute he got to his office the next day, and with that off his mind, he finally joined his wife in slumber.
§ § § §
He meant to get to work early the next morning, but for the second day in a row his body conspired against him, and he overslept. Hermione overslept as well, so their morning was spent crashing into one another, flinging the proper robes at their bodies, grabbing cups of tea on the run, and then racing out the door. Well, he raced out the door and she apparated, but either way there was no time for conversation, and for that, at least, he was grateful.
He arrived at the castle to find his dungeon classroom already full of snivelling first-years, and within an hour he had given three detentions and reduced two girls to tears. But on this day, even the joys of persecuting the pre-pubescent weren't enough to lift his spirits. The minute they fled the dungeon, he raced back to his office to search for the journal article he remembered reading recently. A new potion had been developed – based on that Muggle drug, if he remembered correctly. It was supposed to be a miracle cure for those with his particular, er, problem. Of course, for him, it was just a one-time thing – of course it was - but just in case…
He found his stack of journals and his eye skimmed the contents of each one searching for those two terrible words…Erectile dysfunction. He shuddered slightly. What an appalling name for a condition that was almost certainly – in his case, at least – to do with stress and scotch and the insane pressure of his wife's biological clock.
He made it to the bottom of the stack and never found the article, and panic was beginning to set in when it hit him…Poppy! That whole issue had dealt with reproductive issues, and Poppy Pomfrey had borrowed it to read up on the latest contraceptive potions, which she often dispensed – along with stern lectures – to the older Hogwarts students. He would just have to get the journal back from her. He resolved to do that after lunch, and then stepped back into his classroom to relieve his feelings on another group of students.
He went straight to the infirmary after lunch, relieved to find Poppy – and only Poppy – there.
"I came to retrieve my journal," he said brusquely. "The one you borrowed several weeks ago."
"Oh," she said, surprised. "Certainly, Severus. I'd have gotten it back to you sooner, but you said you had little need of it."
"Just…a bit of research," he said.
"That's fine." She began searching her desk, sifting through stacks of parchment and other journals. "Hmmm. It was here just the other day. What kind of research are you doing?"
"The none-of-your-bloody-business kind," he snapped, and then he instantly regretted it when he saw her look go from bland and conversational to intensely curious.
"Is it…Hermione?" she asked, remembering the nature of the journal.
Severus felt a rush of heat to his cheeks. He was quite certain that he'd never blushed in front of a member of the Hogwarts staff before and thought, on the whole, that he should probably just go ahead and turn in his resignation. Given the way Poppy ran her mouth, his reputation with his peers was certain to be ruined by this encounter.
He mustered all the dignity he possibly could and answered her stiffly. "Hermione and I are interested in starting a family. I thought there might be something in that journal that would…help."
"Is there a problem?" She quit shifting items about on her desk and settled into her chair, entirely professional now. She waved her hand at him. "Sit, Severus, and don't be such an ass. If there's a problem, it's possible that I can help."
He deflated at that and dropped obediently into a chair. She was a mediwitch, after all, and perhaps she could help. Not with his problem, of course. There was no way he was going to discuss that, but maybe she knew of something that would help Hermione to become pregnant – quickly – and bring this reproductive nightmare to an end.
"We have been, er, trying for several months now. Hermione is becoming anxious. Do you know of something she could take to…uh…hurry the process along?"
Poppy arched her eyebrows. "I couldn't begin to prescribe a treatment without first diagnosing the problem. Several months isn't actually that long, you know, and if there is a fertility problem, it could just as easily be with you. It would be irresponsible of me to attempt to treat Hermione first, without ruling out the male factor."
She reached into a cabinet behind her desk and handed him a small container. "Go into the back room there and get me a sample. We'll start with that."
Like hell they would."I think not," he said firmly, still trying for dignity and feeling that it was a losing battle. He set the container back on her desk and started to rise.
"Oh, hello Professor," Poppy said cheerfully. Severus turned around and saw Albus Dumbledore entering the infirmary. "What can I do for you?"
"I need something for a headache, if you don't mind, Poppy." Dumbledore rubbed his temples. "Fudge was here for two hours this morning, and you know what that always does to me. Hello Severus. I hope I'm not interrupting."
"Not at all. I was just leaving." He rose to make his escape, eternally grateful for the interruption.
"Oh no you don't," Poppy said with determination. "Headmaster, please help me talk some sense into Severus. He came here with a medical concern and now he's dashing out without letting me even try to help."
"A medical concern?" Dumbledore said, worry moving over his face. "Severus, is there anything I can do?"
"There most certainly is not," he snapped. "This is no one's business but my own."
"And Hermione's," Poppy retorted. "It takes two to make babies, last I heard anyway."
"Babies!" Dumbledore exclaimed, delighted. "Is that what this is about? Severus, this is wonderful!"
"It's not wonderful yet because she's not pregnant yet," Poppy said. "And Mr. High and Mighty there won't give me a semen sample so that I can find out if he's the one to blame." She picked up the little container again and waved it around.
"Really, Severus, you should let Poppy help you if she can. Think what it will mean to Hermione."
"Headmaster, I am not going to go back there and…with you two right here…and…well, I'm just not. If there is a problem, I can assure you it isn't with me. I'll have Hermione come see Poppy for a check-up."
"Now Severus, there's no shame in admitting that the problem might be yours," Poppy said soothingly. "It's just like any other medical condition, and there are some wonderful potions out there that can help. But first I have to get a look at your sperm. Find out if there are enough of the little blokes…make sure they're strong swimmers - all that sort of thing."
Severus's eyes widened as she talked. He was in hell. He was sure of it.
Dumbledore was nodding sagely as if they were talking about the latest curriculum changes. "That's right, Severus. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Unless…" He gave Severus his most penetrating look, the one Severus had learned to hate because an unwelcome burst of extrasensory perception always followed. "Severus," he said, lowering his voice slightly, "Are you having a little trouble…er, controlling the old wand?"
"Albus! I most certainly am not! How could you even suggest…?" He could feel his cheeks burning again. Two blushes in one day was a record for him, and how the hell was he ever supposed to get an erection if all his blood was in his face? He had to get out of there…
"Severus, it happens to every man at one time or another," Dumbledore said soothingly. "Happened to me just two years ago."
Who…? No, best not allow himself to get distracted. He glared at the Headmaster. "Albus, I might find that more comforting if you weren't over 150 years old."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Now, now. That's all beside the point. I think you just need to relax. You've gotten too worked up over this whole thing."
If one more person told him to relax! How was he supposed to relax with his colleagues casually discussing his sperm count and his wife trying to freeze his balls off? He started to say something to that effect, and then decided against it. He was Severus Snape. He didn't explain things to people. He cut them with a scathing remark, gave them an icy glare, and then glided away. That was what Severus Snape did.
Except in this case, he thought he'd just skip the remark, since opening his mouth had only gotten him in trouble thus far, and go right to the part where he glared and glided away - or glared and ran away, which was something he'd never tried, but he thought this might just be the perfect time for it.
"Oh no you don't," Dumbledore said, sensing his impending flight. He took the container and handed it to Severus. "I'm curious now myself. Go get Poppy a sample please, Severus."
Severus gaped. He wasn't actually being ordered to…Surely there was some rule against that? Something in his contract…? Of course, he'd never bothered to read the fine print, but there was no way the Headmaster could make him…
"You do know what to do, don't you Severus?" Dumbledore looked a little concerned. "It's, er…just like riding a broom. You just grip the handle, you see, and…"
"ALBUS!" Severus snatched the container out of Dumbledore's hand. He decided it would be easier to do what they were asking than to sit and suffer Albus's metaphorical explanations. He barely remembered to glare before running to the back room.
He sat down on the only available stool and took deep cleansing breaths. Once he had regained his equilibrium, he remembered that he had been sent in there with a job to do…so to speak. If he took too long, that would be embarrassing. Best get it over with.
Except, if he hadn't been able to perform in his own quiet bedroom, how in the hell was he supposed to do it in the storage room of the Hogwarts infirmary with Poppy and Albus waiting right outside? He closed his eyes and thought of Hermione.
There. That was better.
He imagined her sweet smell and the way her hair felt between his fingers. He imagined the softness of her body pressed against his. He thought of how it felt to press his lips against her neck and feel her pulse accelerate at the touch…to suckle lightly and hear the soft sounds of pleasure she made. One hand worked its way under her nightshirt, over her hip, and smoothed its way up her ribcage, just firmly enough not to tickle. It had taken a while to master that…
He cupped a soft breast in his hand and teased the nipple with his thumb…Yes, this was definitely working…
He loved the way she said his name…like a caress. It went straight to his groin, along with most of the blood in his body, and he knew that there was no chance of him blushing now.
"I take it you changed your mind." She laughed - a wondrous, throaty sound - and he opened his eyes and she was there, in his arms, smiling at him.
And he was in his own bed, and that meant…it had been a dream.
No, it had been a nightmare, but it had become a dream because they were both there, and he was moments away from making love to her like he meant it. And he laughed too, a laugh of relief, yes, but also a laugh of joy.
"I've decided to try the boxers."
More Author's Notes: A debt of inspiration goes out to molly~rhitmcshanm for her recent discussions about SS/HG fertility issues and Snape's underwear and to Ehann3 for "Good Deeds," which showed me how funny capital letters can be and inspired me to try a few of my own.