Beta(s): teaoli, meladara, proulxes
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Unabashed fluff only slightly mitigated by Snape-y-ness.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Professor Granger is hit with a jinx that only allows her to speak in questions (which annoys Professor Snape to no end). The rest is up to you... (SS/HG or SS & HG)
Note: Thanks, as always, to my alpha/beta team and my Britpicker/Latin consultant extaordinaire. Love you all!
Summary: Questions abound when Professor Granger knocks on Professor Snape's door. But what are the answers?
"Professor? Professor Snape? Are you there?"
The voice at Severus's door sounded almost… frantic, Severus mused. Or perhaps the urgency wasn't in the tone, but in the rapid staccato on wood that accompanied the voice. He considered ignoring it—even picked up his wand to cast a Silencing Charm, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Sighing, he put aside his book.
It would never do for her to think he was going soft in his (only ever so slightly, he assured himself) advancing years, so he made certain to greet her in his most forbidding tone. "Ms Granger, what in Merlin's name is the meaning of this infernal racket?"
She raised an eyebrow, but when she opened her mouth to reply, only a strangled sound emerged. Her eyebrows then slammed down, and she gritted out, "Don't you mean 'Professor Granger', Professor Snape?"
Perplexed by her odd behaviour, he said, "Professor Granger, then, in the interest of ending this interview as expeditiously as possible. I certainly hope you have a good reason for disturbing me at this ridiculous hour on a Friday evening?"
Again, she appeared to try to speak, let out that odd sound, and then asked in a resigned tone, "Do you really think I would knock on your door at the ridiculous hour—" this was said in an unnecessarily sarcastic tone, in Severus's opinion, as she glanced at a wristwatch "—of six-forty-eight p.m. on a Friday evening if I didn't have a good reason?"
She didn't immediately continue. After a few beats passed without any explanation forthcoming, he asked, "Would you care to share your reason?"
The strange behaviour that had preceded her last two responses was repeated. Did she have some heretofore unnoticed tic? It would be understandable if she had developed one after her experiences in the war, he supposed… But no, surely he'd have noticed before now, no matter how little interaction they normally engaged in… She said, "Wouldn't I love that above all else at this moment?" Her tone said the answer should be obvious, but then why wasn't it? Why didn't she simply speak plainly?
He waited, but she just stared mutinously. "Ms Granger—" As her look darkened, he amended, "Professor Granger, I don't have all night." Never mind that he did, in fact, have all night—all weekend, in point of fact—she didn't need to know that. "State your business and then be gone."
"Do you think I wouldn't have stated it already if I could?"
He was becoming even more bewildered, a feeling he did not like in the least.
"If you can't state your business, M— Professor Granger, then why are you here?"
"Do you think I'd have come to you if anyone else could have helped me, given how you feel about me?"
"Why do you need help? And how is it you think I feel about you?"
There was that odd choking noise again—though Severus was fast becoming accustomed to it. "Isn't your disdain for me always evident?" She paused, then growled—an actual growl!—before continuing. "And why do you think I need help?" Her tone became almost pleading, and her eyes appeared to be begging him to understand… something.
"I have no idea why you need help, and if you do, I also have no idea why you don't just state the problem—"
"Can't you figure it out?" she asked, her eyes beginning to look suspiciously moist.
Stepping back, he barely restrained himself from— Well, he wasn't sure if the impulse was to slam the door in her face or to drag her inside and lock her in. As usual, he covered his confusion with sarcasm. "The last thing I need is for some second-year to think I've made you cry, M— Professor Granger, so please come inside."
Relief flitted over her expression before it was wiped neutral, and she entered quickly, as though she thought he might change his mind. "Now, why don't you begin at the beginning, and let's dispense with all the questions this time?"
Sighing, she looked resigned. If she made the strangled sound, he missed it, but then she said, "Don't you understand that's why I'm here?"
"Why?" he asked, confused again.
She thought for a long moment, then her face brightened. "If I were capable of not asking a question, don't you think I would stop asking questions?"
Suddenly, the light dawned. She's been hit with Percontatio!!!
He almost asked, but then realised she wouldn't be able to confirm his suspicion anyway. The nature of the spell wouldn't permit it—even speaking in questions, as she must, there was a limit to how much information she would be able to directly provide.
If only it weren't considered unforgivably rude to cast Finite Incantatem on another person… He doubted she was using elaborate spell-work on her hair or clothing, but one never knew, and she was upset enough already. Besides, he didn't really want her to hate him, even if he usually tried to convince himself otherwise.
As he pondered the problem, she looked at him expectantly, hopefully, like she thought he was her saviour. He found himself warming to the idea that she saw him as the solution to at least this one small problem, so he was appalled to hear himself say, "Professor Granger, when have you ever been capable of not asking questions?"
Again, her expression changed rapidly, this time from hope to hurt to resignation. She appeared about to speak, but seemed to think better of it. She turned back toward the door.
"Wait!" he said, using his first-year Potions voice. She halted reflexively, but didn't turn around. "I believe my last comment was uncalled for and unnecessarily harsh. Please do me the courtesy of accepting my apology."
She still didn't turn, but she asked in a small voice, "Why do you hate me so much? Why are you always so horrible?"
If she had turned to face him, he might have lied, but the truth was out before he could stop it. "I don't hate you. I just don't know how else to keep you at a distance."
She glanced back at him before looking away again. Her eyes appeared locked on her feet, and he strained to hear her next question. "But why keep me at a distance?"
He was surprised to realise he had never consciously considered the question. After pondering silently for a few seconds, he reached his conclusion aloud: "So you don't get close enough to—" He cut the thought off, wondering why he was being so uncharacteristically forthcoming.
"Are you afraid I would hurt you, Prof— Severus?" Turning she crossed to him and ducked until her eyes met his despite the curtain of hair he hid them under. "Do you think I don't like you? That I wouldn't be careful with your feelings?"
"No one ever has."
She thought about that for what seemed ages, opening and closing her mouth several times before her face brightened again. "Do you think I've ever been like everyone else?"
And then she caught him completely off guard—she kissed him full on the mouth. He was so startled that he didn't respond right away; it was only when she began to pull back that he clasped her tightly to him and kissed her back with all the passion that he had never realised he had suppressed his whole life.
The next several minutes comprised a cascade of sensations, all wrapped up in the wonder of discovery. In fact, the next coherent thought he managed to grasp was when she asked, "Shall we move this to the bedroom?"
Feeling guilty that he had momentarily—or rather, much longer than momentarily—lost track of her reasons for being here in the first place, he said, "We should probably take care of the hex first, don't you think?" But he supposed that his immediate return to kissing her might have led her to doubt his sincerity.
She smacked his chest, kissed him again, and asked, "Do you really think I care about a stupid hex right now?"
"I just don't want to take advantage…"
"You don't equate this minor hex with brain damage or intoxication, do you, Severus?"
He managed to shake his head between kisses. "No, Hermione, I know you're not impaired in that sense. But you are vulnerable."
She whispered, "Do you think I haven't been fantasising about you for months?" He was so stunned by that revelation that he could only stare at her. "Do you think I'm not concerned I might be taking advantage of your unexpected openness? Your willingness to let me in?" When he still couldn't respond, she pressed against him and asked, "Can we please talk about this later?"
He kissed her again—slowly this time, almost reverently—and began inching them both toward the bedroom.
Much later, he lay on his side, watching her sleep beside him. She slept deeply, and the level of trust that must take for a survivor of war humbled him. She hadn't stirred when he had used the Floo in his study to borrow Lucius's copy of Advanced Counter-Curses and Counter-Hexes, which now lay on the nightstand.
He had already memorised the counter-hex for Percontatio. All he had to do was flick and swish in a relatively simple pattern, say "Facile loquere!", and she would be able to speak normally again.
But what if she doesn't want you anymore when she doesn't need your help? What if she didn't mean it?
She stirred, and a stray curl slid across her cheek to rest on her nose. He gently moved it aside, tucking it behind her ear.
Picking up his wand, he flicked and swished and whispered the words that might take her away from him just when he had realised he wanted her here.
He would survive, after all. He always did.
Turning over, he whispered, "Nox!" and placed his wand carefully across the book.
Something is… odd, Severus thought as he woke the next morning. He liked to savour the moments before he opened his eyes to face another day, so he let them rest a few minutes more as he tried to sense what was different. He felt a bit more fuzzy-headed than usual, so he couldn't immediately identify anything. Perhaps I merely had a strange dream…
A voice intruded on his musing. "Good morning, sleepyhead!"
His eyes flew open. "H-Hermione!" he exclaimed.
She grinned from her seat against the headboard, where she was reading Lucius's book. "Did you notice? I said something that wasn't a question." She leaned over to give him a lingering kiss. "Thank you for curing me! I knew I could rely on you! But I didn't know I'd be this happy to have been hexed!" She kissed him again.
Pulling back, he asked, "So you aren't leaving?"
She frowned. "Do you want me to?"
"No!" he exclaimed. "I just thought… Well, I wasn't sure you'd still want—"
She interrupted by gently placing a finger on his lips. "Severus?" she asked.
"Stop talking now. Listen carefully: I am exactly where I want to be, and I am with the only person I want to be with. And unless you specifically tell me you want me to go away, you're stuck with me." She kissed him again.
"Hermione?" he asked after a while.
"What if I specifically ask you to stay?"
Her answering smile was radiant. "Then I'll stay."