Disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR, and rightly so.
“You've ruined it, Severus. How could you?” Hermione complained as Madam Pomfrey worked on Severus' leg. He had left a trail of blood through the halls, insisting on dragging his leg at an unnatural angle. They had placed Harry in a bed on the other side of the ward to keep the two as far apart as possible. After healing his cuts, Poppy cleared Harry to rest and to go in the morning.
“Well, I bloody well didn't plan it!” Severus growled, looking up at the ceiling. The pain was excruciating, but he had no intention of letting the two worried witches hovering over him know. All he could do was hold his breath to stifle a moan whenever they moved the leg or stuffed more gauze into the wound. Poppy was busy trying to heal him as well as she could while he allowed it.
“Hermione, could you fetch more of that healing balm for me?” Poppy asked.
“Of course,” Hermione said and went to the storeroom.
“Severus, it seems the Hippogriff magic preventing my healing is wearing off. You should be much better in a few hours,” Poppy said, then added with concern, “Breathe, son. You've held your breath for too long trying to not make a sound. Your thigh is mostly torn off the bone and you expect to tell me it doesn't sting a little?”
“I'm fine. Really,” he said through clenched teeth, eyes narrowed.
“Severus, I can see right through you, just so you know. Here, drink this for the pain,” she said irritably, trying to hand him a flask.
“I don't need anything,” he said sternly, considering the discussion closed.
"Please, Severus?" she tried one last time and moved to put the potion to his mouth.
"No, Poppy. I said I'm fine! Leave me be!" Severus shouted, angry at the attention. If he wouldn't have had to crawl, he would have gotten out of bed and left.
“Oh really?" she huffed, and then brightened as she saw Minerva speaking with Hermione across the room. "We'll see about that.”
As she approached the two witches, Poppy threw a look back at Severus and said, “I've tried, and, yet again, he won't take it. What is it with him?"
"You know, I could sneak up, hex him just a little, and then force him, Minerva,” Poppy whispered, halfway serious.
Hermione laughed a bit too loudly.
"Poppy!" Minerva said, smiling. "Why, I'm surprised at you. You honestly think you're going to be able to sneak up and hex that?"
All three looked over at Severus, who was intently staring at them. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else.
"Was worth a try," Poppy said with a shrug. "What then? I can't properly heal him with him shouting at me and moving about."
"He's a man, Poppy. Clearly an incapacitation, even on a good day," Minerva said, patting Poppy on the arm to console her.
Hermione smiled as she watched Severus brooding. She gave a knowing look to Minerva, then asked, “Madam Pomfrey, if I may try?”
“Sure, Hermione,” Poppy said and handed her the bottle. “I've also added a Sleeping Potion to the mix, hoping to knock him out so I can better work on the leg.”
Hermione smiled sweetly at the two older witches. “Not a problem. One moment.”
"Minerva, I don't see how she's going to get him to take it. Even so, he most definitely will be able to tell that I've added the Sleeping Potion," Poppy said, watching Hermione move confidently over to Severus' bed. He looked more and more irritated with every step she took near him.
"Oh, I think she may persuade him," Minerva said with a grin.
"I don't see what she can do that I haven't tried... oh!" Poppy said, as she caught Minerva smiling at her.
Severus narrowed his eyes and watched Poppy join Minerva and Hermione, whisper, and then laugh as all three of them turned to look at him. Minerva was even going so far as to shake her head and proceed to discuss him as if he wasn't staring right at them. Hermione took the bottle from Poppy and approached with a strange grin on her face.
“Severus, I'm told you refuse to take the potion. Is that true?” Hermione asked with a smirk. She crossed her arms and waited.
“Do not speak to me like I'm a child. If I don't want to take it, I won't,” he growled. He leaned forward, adding loudly, “And that goes for the two of you over there as well!” He sat back and folded his arms across his chest, daring her to push the issue.
“Oh, I see,” she said in an interested voice, flicking her wand to close the curtains around the bed. Severus could hear Minerva and Poppy giggling at the end of the ward.
“Hermione..." he warned.
“Oh, Severus, take it just once?” she pleaded, smiling warmly as she sat next to him on the bed. She ran her hands over his chest, then up through his hair, raking her nails lightly over his scalp. She played with the top button on his shirt as he tried his best to ignore her. Leaning forward, she unbuttoned his shirt while kissing his forehead. She rained small kisses around his neck and along his collarbone, taking care to move very slowly.
A low growl escaped his throat.
"Hermione – quit it – they're right there. This is most embarrassing—” Severus whispered, trying to stop her from undoing his shirt completely. A struggle over the small buttons ensued, one which Hermione was winning.
She ignored him and dragged one fingertip down his chest, made circles along his sides, then back up to his neck. She could tell she was visibly giving him chills as he still tried to ignore her.
“Hermione, please!” he said in protest, but not doing a thing to truly stop her. Hermione pushed his shirt open and kissed his chest, moving her hand along his side and tracing his ribs gently.
“Oh, please don't be modest,” she whispered, laying a single kiss on his chest then working her way up to trail along his jaw line. Hermione mentally congratulated herself on her bravery before kissing him deeply, pushing his shirt off his shoulders, and dragging it down so his arms were almost pinned to his sides by the sleeves.
Finally remembering himself, Severus gently broke the kiss and while practically gasping for breath, pleading, “Please!”
Hermione smiled and looked into his eyes. She found that he was truly mortified at the thought of being even remotely affectionate around anyone. She studied him for a moment before smiling and placing a hand on his face. “Have a fever?"
“You're killing me,” he said quietly. His eyes were blazing.
She looked down at him and idly traced patterns on his chest. “I seem to remember that from somewhere," she said looking at him with an eyebrow raised.
Severus scowled and sighed deeply. He looked at the ceiling as if searching for patience.
When she reached for him again, he shouted, “Fine! Fine! I'll take it!” Lowering his voice he snarled, "Only because you're totally humiliating me in public. Let me loose and I'll take the damn thing."
With a smile of triumph, Hermione happily fixed his shirt. When finished, she patted him on the head and kissed him on the cheek. She could swear she saw him smile a little, but then it was gone. She handed him the potion and he took it without smelling it.
“Wonderful. Thanks ever so much,” she said cheerfully. She opened the curtains and showed the empty flask to Minerva and Poppy, who burst into laughter.
Severus could only glare at the three at them as they approached. As he heard Poppy comment on how she preferred him unconscious, sleep overtook him and the scowl left his face.
Severus awoke hours later and stared around the room in the darkness. His leg certainly did feel better, and he assumed they must have done something right while he was asleep. Moving his leg slightly, he could tell it should be able to hold his weight. He was still astounded at what Hermione did to him earlier and smiled to himself, considering it safe since no one could see.
He could dimly make out Potter at the far end of the ward, sitting up in bed and levitating random items around him. Severus watched him for a while, then quietly moved to get out of bed. Thankfully, his leg held.
“Quite impressive, Potter,” Severus said loudly, causing Harry to startle. The bed he was levitating crashed to the floor, and he swung his wand around, casting Lumos to light Severus' face.
Harry regarded Severus with disdain. “Did you come over here to make fun of me?”
Within an instant, Severus was in his mind, moving about with ease. He saw himself killing Dumbledore, the funeral, and himself strangling the life out of Harry. Severus released the spell and stood straighter, crossing his arms across his chest.
Harry looked completely shocked.
The two of them remained that way for a moment, watching each other in silence. The moon had risen, pouring white light across the wing below each window. Severus moved forward into one of the stripes of light.
"Why are you doing this?" Harry asked suddenly, breaking the silence.
Severus responded carefully, "Potter, you are well aware I must because of the Unbreakable Vow."
"No. This isn't just about keeping yourself alive. You're taking this too seriously. What's in it for you?" Harry pressed.
Severus thought for a moment and said quietly, "You think for a moment that I don't wish him dead as well? My only regret is it won't be my pleasure to do it."
Harry nodded then asked, "Do you think I'll be ready... sir?"
“Potter, you may have learned, the hard way I might add, to keep your mouth closed, but your mind is still wide open," Severus said thoughtfully.
“Tomorrow, we practice.”
“It's fine, Poppy. Leave it!” Severus complained, attempting to wave the mediwitch away for the fifth time. The morning sun was making its way into the ward, warming the room and sending light reflecting off of the brass beds. Harry had left already, leaving Severus and Poppy alone.
“Don't make me hex you, Severus. I haven't had my tea yet this morning and I'm in no mood for your stoic act,” Poppy said sternly and stared him in the eye to let him know she meant it. “Shall I call Hermione to persuade you?” she asked, hiding a smile.
“What? No, of course not," he said, fighting against nature to suppress the color rising to his face. He allowed her to finish inspecting the wound.
“You can go as soon as Hermione arrives to fetch you,” she stated. She began to gather up her supplies, but stopped when she noticed how he rubbed his left forearm absently.
“How many times, Severus?”
He raised an eyebrow in surprise and looked away. “Four.”
“Please don't go,” she said gravely. “We may have our disagreements, but we need you here safe.”
He furrowed his brow in deep thought, with a hand resting on his Mark. The light had gone out of his eyes and he suddenly felt so tired.
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.
“What will you do?” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. She had a soft spot for Severus, having healed him too many times to count after the Marauders' random attacks. He would come to her late at night when no one would see, even breaking curfew, to avoid facing anyone. Often, he would suffer for days before seeking her help at all. Eventually, he became adept at many counter-spells and potions out of necessity. Every day was a battle for him to survive.
After a time, he looked at her. She had never seen him look so lost.
“I don't know.”
“Good morning, Poppy. How is our patient this morning?” Hermione said, a bit too cheerfully for Severus' taste.
“You're late. Where have you been?” Severus asked accusingly.
“Now, it's not like you have a schedule to keep.” she said sweetly, ignoring his attitude, “That is my job.”
“Ah, Hermione, please take him back to his rooms. He's to walk with a cane to strengthen the muscle and rest,” Poppy said, emphasizing the last word with a glare at him. "No lurching about."
Hermione tried to not grin too much. “Of course, Poppy. I'd be happy to take him off your hands.”
“Stop discussing me as if I am not right here,” Severus growled and roughly grabbed the cane to rise.
“Oh dear, no tea yet?” Hermione smiled, ignoring his outburst. “Come along then, let's go – and try not to injure yourself on the short trip back to your rooms, would you please? Poppy's supplies are low,” Hermione said, smiling over at Poppy, who was trying not to laugh.
“Where were you?” Severus asked as they moved slowly back to his rooms.
“Did you miss me?” she said jokingly, putting her arm over his shoulder as they walked.
“Yes,” he said, concentrating on walking. After the first few steps, it had gotten harder to place his weight on the leg with each new stride.
Hermione stopped. “What?”
“You are not old enough to be suffering from hearing loss,” he said.
Smiling shyly, she said, “I thought you might be angry about the potion.”
“Oh, that? Yes, well – that was quite devious. Very Slytherin, I must say,” he remarked with the air that it had been nothing at all.
“Oh, so you're not mad about what I did then?” she said nervously, hoping to catch his eye to check his true feelings.
“Mad? Of course not, Hermione,” he said waving it off. His eyes, however, had a mischievous glint to them.
Hermione was unnerved by that look.
They stood in a shadowed portion of the corridor just around the corner from his rooms. Hermione was so caught up in trying to figure out what he was plotting she didn't notice him set the cane aside.
Suddenly, he reached up and, taking hold of her shoulders, swiftly pressed her up against the wall.
“Severus! I – um – someone could come by,” Hermione said nervously as she weakly attempted to push him off of her.
Severus' response was to lean into her, pinning her firmly against the cold stone wall. He took his robes and spread his arms, effectively surrounding her with nothing but blackness, his face, and his voice.
“Do you think so?” he murmured, and lowering his mouth to her ear, he continued, “I most definitely hope so.”
He leaned to kiss her shoulder, leisurely moved across her chest, then took her mouth to his aggressively. The heat of his body against hers conflicted with the cold stone on her back, giving her chills. She couldn't possibly move, and, frankly, didn't care.
Hermione gripped his robes as if to keep him from ever stopping. He took her hands and interlaced his fingers in hers while staring into her eyes. He then held her arms up to the wall, growling, “Do you have any idea what you do to me? I cannot have a thought without you in it in some form. It's really quite irritating; you must know. Even my dreams are tainted with you.”
Hermione mocked a gasp of surprise. “While we are on the subject: Are you aware that you, Professor Snape, are utterly unbearable?”
“Really?” he said breathlessly. “I see. That – you must know – is news to me, as I feel I've successfully surpassed 'unbearable' and moved directly into the realm of 'incorrigible.' A snarky bastard, if you will, to put it in child's terms.”
Hermione couldn't help but laugh while trying to kiss him.
He murmured, with a glimmer in his eyes, “I have references if you'd like. Mr. Potter can attest.”
"Must you mention Harry at a time like this?" she teased.
They suddenly heard footsteps.
“Severus, I need to speak with you when you're finished there, please,” Minerva said loudly. She strode by without stopping and patted him on the back.
Startled, Severus broke their kiss and stumbled backwards, trying vainly to look like nothing was happening. His hair was wild, standing at all angles, and his robes were in disarray. He looked after Minerva as she glanced back and called with laughter in her voice, “Oh, and ten points from Slytherin for snogging in the halls!”
Hermione tried valiantly to avoid laughing out loud at the shocked look on Severus' face as he tried to recover his dignity.
His intense gaze fell on her. Barely containing herself, she said, while slowly moving out of arms reach, “Um, I'll go grab some breakfast for us.”
He could hear Hermione's laughter as she turned the corner.
Smirking slightly, he grabbed his cane and made his way to his rooms.
“Good morning, Severus,” Minerva said cheerfully, with a wide grin, as he arrived in the sitting room. “I see you're feeling better today.”
“I'm glad you've found something to amuse yourself, Minerva," Severus said with a scowl as he sat across from her.
“Severus, I think we need to discuss yesterday, yes?”
“Minerva, you were well aware of what I intended to do,“ he started, getting defensive immediately. “Besides, it worked, didn't it? He finally got it.”
“We hardly discussed you strangling Harry!” she complained. “It was quite extreme, don't you think?”
“Minerva, you know as well as I do that if the boy dies, so do I. I am not going to let that happen. Potter simply needed a wake-up call.” Leaning forward, Severus lowered his voice and said with intensity in his eyes, “Did you wish for me to do it – or the Dark Lord?”
Minerva looked at him in defeat, and sighed, “Fine, but that was quite enough. Do you think he's ready?”
“No. He still needs to close his mind to me. Minerva, I can hear his thoughts across the room. The Dark Lord will leap into his mind and kill him within minutes.”
“Please, Severus? Can this be done without you two bloodying each other?” she pleaded.
He leaned back in his chair contemplating. “If I must, but I make no promises. I do believe that one full duel with both sides using everything is in order.”
“Yes, I agree, but it would help if you didn't enjoy it so,” she said, pleading with him to behave himself.
“Why Minerva, I'm surprised by you insinuating that I enjoy beating Potter,” he said, feigning shock.
Minerva frowned at him, “Severus, you know very well that you do. I only ask that you control yourself.”
“Minerva, this is not entertainment or a game. Without preparation he will die, and not a painless, instant death, either. It is easy to pass judgment from the safety of this castle on what it is like to face the Dark Lord. Believe me when I say he will not allow for any errors in the heat of battle. Potter has survived so far by sheer luck and the intelligence of his companions. If you want to send him to certain death in the interest of making his training less traumatic, then by all means, I shall hand him a book and be done with it. Is that what you wish me to do?”
“No, of course not. Severus, I only felt it was getting out of hand. I—” Minerva started.
Severus roughly snatched up his sleeve to reveal his Mark. Showing it to her, he said brutally, “Do you think that whenever I've felt this burn that complete and utter terror doesn't grip my heart? I have been cursed and left near death more times then I can count, and that was when I was favored by the Dark Lord! Do you have any idea what it would be like to be on the other side of his wand as his enemy?”
After a moment of silence, Minerva appeared to make a decision and said, “Agreed. I trust you will do what needs to be done during tonight's lesson.” She then looked at him gravely. “Poppy told me.”
“Nothing gets past you two, does it? I'll deal with that on my own,” he sneered. He tugged his sleeve back down and dropped his arm down impatiently.
“Don't go. You'll surely be killed,” she said softly, pleading with him. Her eyes began to tear up. “We need you here with us. Hermione needs you.”
“What is there for me here, Minerva?” he said shrugging and looking away. “What use am I after sending Potter off to fulfill his destiny, whether it be life or death? I should have died with Albus that night. Besides, the Order still requires a spy.”
“Severus, no. You mustn't,” she said in a rush, “I forbid you to go. You've done more than your part. This has been going on too long and needs to end. You deserve to try to lead a life of your own without this burden.”
He smiled wistfully at her standing before him, “Minerva, you sound like Hermione.”
“Do I come close enough for you to obey?” The conflict in his eyes was almost too much for her to bear.
After thinking for a long while, he finally looked to her and said, mostly to himself, “Yes.”