Beta(s): reynardo and her Partner in Crime
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Swearing.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Severus' vocal cords were damaged by Nagini's attack. The one person capable of putting up with his foul moods and temper tantrums is Hermione, who is tasked with helping him learn to speak again (SS/HG).
Note: Thanks to the betas whose help was greatly appreciated.
Summary: Hermione is appointed Severus' Healer and suggests a novel course of treatment.
"Abracadabra!" Severus hissed, pointing his wand at the pasty faced, dark haired idiot who professed to be a Healer. The pale green light that struck the man's chest was a mere shadow of the original Unforgivable Curse. In spite of this, the man keeled over striking his head against the floor with a satisfying thunk.
Scowling, Severus knelt beside him and his long fingers sought out the pulse on the Healer's neck. It would have been awkward if the bloody fool had died from banging his skull. Fortunately, he was still breathing. Severus smirked and sat back on the bed to await the Healer's recovery. It would be well worth the pain if it meant that the fool refused to attend to him after being hexed.
"That is the fifth Healer in as many weeks!" the director of St. Mungo's complained. "At this rate he'll have gone through all the staff qualified to treat him before the year is out. "The man is an insufferable, ungrateful wretch. If he refuses to be helped, there is little we can do for him."
"Why don't you simply confiscate his wand?"
"The Aurors found no trace of an Unforgivable on it. Mr Snape is of sound mind and as he has caused no lasting damage to the Healers, we have no grounds for doing so."
Minerva sighed as she sipped her tea. Reluctantly, she had to agree with him. Even if a Healer was thick skinned enough to ignore the verbal barbs Severus inflicted upon them, they would refuse to work to improve the speech of a patient who tried to cast Unforgivables at them. The only reason Severus was not currently languishing in Azkaban was because so far any curse he had uttered had been mangled by his damaged vocal chords.
Who would be brave enough to ignore the danger and yet determined to try to redeem what the director thought of as a lost cause? She smiled slightly as just the right candidate sprang to mind. "Don't worry, Master Healer. Hogwarts looks after its own."
Hermione smoothed down her robes and clasped her hands in front of her to still the urge to tug at the band that held her unruly curls in check. When she had apprenticed at St Mungo's she never imagined that she would be returning to her old school. Yet, here she was in front of the Headmistress's Office door. It felt odd not to have Ron and Harry next to her, but then she was not in trouble either. Stifling a smile at that thought she raised her hand to knock.
The door swung open on silent hinges and swallowing down the butterflies that had danced from her stomach to her throat, Hermione stepped into the room.
"You wanted to see me, Headmistress?"
"Hermione, prompt as ever. Do take a seat." Professor McGonagall beckoned her over from an armchair in front of a cozy fire.
Hermione sat down in the armchair on the other side of the fireplace facing the Headmistress. The gyrating butterflies soon settled down, lulled by the gentle heat from the fire and the softness of the armchair. "It feels odd to be here and not a student any more."
"I must admit I was surprised that you chose to be a Healer rather than follow Harry and Ron into Auror training."
Hermione shrugged slightly. "I think I always just wanted to help people." She was reluctant to admit to Minerva that, after seeing the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts, she had lost all appetite for danger and excitement. Aiding the Healers that worked among the injured had opened up a whole new path for her to follow.
"Well, that is why I asked you here. You will soon have a new patient: Severus Snape."
"I didn't know he was still ill. It has been nearly two years since the Battle. I would have thought he would be recovered by now."
"Not entirely. However, he has become resistant to efforts to help him."
Hermione frowned. "I don't see how I could be of help when more experienced Healers have failed."
"You have an advantage, my dear. He is hardly likely to hex the person he owes a life debt to."
"He was hexing the Healers! Professor…." Hermione's eyes went wide with alarm.
"I know. It is dreadful of him. Apparently he is still in great pain from the effects of the bite. Every failed effort to ease it just makes him furious."
"And you think I could help him?" Hermione eyed Professor McGonagall doubtfully. Although her heart ached to think of the ordeals he must have suffered she was still uncertain how she, a half trained Healer, could be more effective, even if she really wanted to help.
"I do hope so, Hermione. After all if it were not for you, Severus would have been given up for dead."
Hermione nodded recalling all too clearly the pale, apparently lifeless body that had been brought in to the Great Hall from the Shrieking Shack. Even now she was not sure what impulse had made her try holding a mirror up in front of his face. The faint mist that formed had almost made her drop the mirror as she realised there was still life, however faint within the frame of Severus Snape. Her cries for assistance had brought the Healers to her side. Even then it had taken a further demonstration of the fogged mirror to convince them that Severus Snape still breathed.
Severus frowned as he stared into the fire. He had hoped he had exhausted the number of Healers at St Mungo's foolhardy enough to brave his unwilling company. He just wished they would finally leave him in peace. What was the point of trying to cure the incurable? Nagini's bite had made more than a monosyllabic reply painful. Why did they persist in insisting he be helped when he had made it clear all he wanted was to be left alone? If it were not for the wards confining him to the place he would have stormed out of St Mungo's several Healers ago. No, he had to wait until the Healers bloody decided he was cured!
Conversation was an overrated pastime anyway. He was no longer going to teach at Hogwarts so why in Merlin's name were the dolts trying to improve his speech? He was a Potions Master! There was no need for words while he was bent over a cauldron. Collecting potion ingredients didn't require him to say anything either.
As for customers, he would be more than happy to work from his lab at home and correspond by mail. With his standing orders from St Mungo's and from Madame Pomfrey at Hogwarts, he had enough money for a reasonably comfortable existence.
So they were going to try him with a new Healer? Well, he would treat this one just the same as all the rest. He wondered how long the fool was going to last.
"Good afternoon, Professor." Miss Granger smiled at him as she entered the room with an armful of books.
Severus deepened his scowl and did not even dignify her greeting with a response. Merlin damn them all, so that was their game! He might owe his continued existence to the nuisance that now stood before him, but that didn't mean he was not going to hex her if she deserved it. And knowing Miss Hermione bloody Granger, it would not be long before she did.
He sneered as he watched her cross the room to place her stack of books on the table. She had not changed much from when last he saw her. The Healer robes she wore were not designed to be flattering but they did show that she had curves in all the right places. Severus was so busy trying to work out why he had bothered to notice that she had any figure at all, that he almost missed that she was addressing him again with her usual cheerful Gryffindor optimism.
"I have read through your file. I must admit you seem to have had a lot of Healers before me."
Severus nodded. He'd almost begun to lose count of the ones he had chased off, one way or another. None of them had done any good after a while. In fact, the more they had tried to "help" the worse the pain had grown.
"I am going to examine you, if you do not mind. The notes don't really describe what your throat is like now."
Severus clenched his fists as he readied himself for another bout of painful prodding.
To his surprise Miss Granger did not draw out her wand. Instead she moved to stand behind his chair. Severus resisted the urge to turn his head. He was uncomfortable with the idea of anyone at his back, but had become inured to it, thanks to his long sojourn at St Mungo's. He drew in a hiss of surprise at the soft touch of her hand on his neck.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you!" Miss Granger snatched her hands away. "Well, considering how much the file has told me of you, and as I don't want to cause any more pain than necessary, perhaps we may begin with some vowel exercises," she said as she took her seat in the chair opposite him.
His lip drew back into a snarl as Snape folded his arms across his chest. "No," he rasped.
Miss Granger studied him for a long moment. He glared back in return. What were they thinking to assign him such a green Mediwitch? By the colour of the robes she wore, she had not even finished her training! Oh yes, he was not surprised that she would sooner rely on what she had read, instead of using her own senses. Did she imagine that he wouldn't hex her into next week simply because he owed her a life debt? If so, Miss Granger was totally wrong. If she hadn't interfered he wouldn't have been subjected to the tortures he had been put him through in the name of Healing. Oh yes, give him a chance and he would soon show how grateful he was to Miss Hermione Bloody Granger!
"Alright, as you clearly have had a bad night..." Miss Granger began.
Pure fury swept through him. The nerve of the girl to presume to placate him with platitudes that undoubtedly came from one of the textbooks she had brought in with her. He surged to his feet and stalked towards her.
She cringed slightly back away from him, looking for all the world like a student about to be subjected to one of his famous tongue-lashings. The reminder merely built upon the rage her impudence had caused. He would never be able to sound scathing with a voice that croaked like a frog with a bad case of tonsillitis.
Miss Granger's chin went up as her eyes met his gaze, challenging him. So, if that was the way she wanted to play it, he was not going to disappoint her. Severus drew his wand and pointed it at her chest. To her credit, she did not flinch again. Instead she stood, her own wand appearing in her hand.
"Abra.." Severus began
To his astonishment she stepped forward and placed a hand over his lips, effectively silencing the rest of the word he was about to utter. Not that it made a penny's worth of difference as a green bolt of light flashed from the tip of his wand and struck her squarely in the chest. Or, more accurately, the air just a few inches from the pale green robes she wore. Instead of stiffening and collapsing like a felled tree, Miss Granger remained where she was as the spell was absorbed by the charm she had cast.
Severus froze as his brain tried to process the fact that she had called his bluff with a shielding charm. The soft feel of her fingers as they continued to press against his lips were not helping his ability to form a coherent thought. Fortunately for his cognitive faculties, Miss Granger seemed to realise just where she had left her hand and abruptly snatched it away before flopping bonelessly back into her seat, blushing furiously.
"You won't fool me, Professor. I've read the reports of my predecessors. Unlike them, I'm Muggleborn and have watched enough magic shows to know that you were saying exactly what you meant. No shield works against the Killing Curse, but that wasn't what you cast. It is really quite clever to say one thing and think another."
"No' for a Sl'herin." Even saying such a brief sentence made his vocal cords contort in agony. Severus grimly tightened his lips,refusing to show her just how much his words had cost him.
"No, I suppose not. But why allow them to assume you were trying to kill them?"
Snape scowled and turned away. It was none of her business why he had chosen to terrorise the idiots who defined torture as therapy. He certainly was not going to put himself through the amount of pain such an explanation would exact. He stalked back to his seat. He regretted not being able to utter the scathing response she so richly deserved. However the pain was so intense he very much feared that all he could produce would be a strangled and unintelligible squawk.
He felt her eyes on him as he settled back into his chair and closed his eyes, wishing he could block out the screaming nerve endings as readily as he had Miss Granger. He kept his eyes closed, deliberately shutting her out as he tried to suppress the fire that grabbed him by the throat.
He heard her cross the room and then return back to her chair, By the slight rustle of paper he knew she was turning the pages of whichever book she had selected from the stack. Severus kept his eyes closed and listened to the gentle sound of paper and the steady breath of Miss Granger as she studied the contents of the book.
Severus was surprised to find the pain and the tension gradually ebbed away. He couldn't fathom how such gentle sounds had managed to sooth his abused throat, or why he found them quite so relaxing in the first place.
He opened his eyes and studied the young woman assigned to him. Her hair was still a disgraceful riot around her face. Her features though had lost the roundness of youth and matured into what he wouldn't consider beautiful. Striking would be more accurate, especially with that stubborn Gryffindorish chin.
He waited for a moment, expecting her to resume her duties now that he had opened his eyes. However Miss Granger seemed oblivious of his presence and totally absorbed by the content of the tome she had balanced across her knees.
Boredom and curiosity got the better of him as Miss Granger continued to be lost within her book, appearing to have forgotten her purpose in coming to his room. Severus glanced over at the stack of books on the table. He rose and began to read the titles. To his surprise, they were not Healer tomes but Muggle literature. Severus leafed through them, finally selecting an old favourite. He settled back into his chair and prepared to enjoy returning to the Shire.
"Well that ploy didn't work," Miss Granger said ruefully a short while later as she closed her book.
Severus' lips twitched as he suppressed a smile. So, she had expected him to break the silence? Miss Granger was going to discover he was not at all like Messrs Potter and Weasley. They might like the sound of their own voices, but he relished the quiet.
It had been oddly companionable to sit and read with Miss Granger. He shut his book and then sat, his arms crossed on his chest as he waited to see what she would try next.
Severus found his mouth go dry as he watched her bite her lip, her shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. Bloody Hell! He had been far too long immured in St Mungo's if he was going to find Miss Know-It-All Granger attractive. He scowled as he tried to banish the impulse he'd had to discover if her lips were as soft as they looked.
"I'm sorry, Professor, I wasn't laughing at you."
So she had misinterpreted his frown? Well he was not about to correct her misapprehension.
Severus felt a quiver of unease as Miss Granger studied him. He recognised that look. He had seen it all too frequently when the Golden Trio were plotting, usually to break school rules. He was not willing to risk the pain it would cause to have his curiosity satisfied to ask what she was thinking. She probably wouldn't tell him anyway.
"Professor, I think we might have got off on the wrong foot."
Severus stilled the urge to snap that she had no doubt got that phrase from a book. However his vocal chords hadn't recovered from the last time he had spoken. He settled for giving her a trenchant glare instead. Now she had caught onto his hexing, he was going to have to think of something more inventive to make her leave him alone.
She sighed and reached into the sleeve of her robe and drew out a tiny slate and a stylus. The slate grew into the size of a notebook and the stylus the size of an ordinary pencil. Silently she handed them to him.
Severus snatched them from her fingers and wrote. Miss Granger, you are wasting my time and yours. What makes you think that you, a trainee, could succeed where expert Healers have failed?
"I don't," Miss Granger replied. "Headmistress McGonagall asked me to try. She thought you wouldn't hex me because of the life debt you owe me. Clearly, she was wrong."
A double tap on the slate cleared the words already there and Severus' hand moved swiftly before showing Miss Granger the slate again.
The interfering old witch! Why can't you all just leave me alone! No bloody magic is going to make me speak again!
"Oh good grief!" Miss Granger's eyes widened. "Excuse me, Professor. I really must check something!" She delved into the sleeves of her robes again and pulled out a tiny, plain brown folder. A wave of her wand grew it into a thick file with his name emblazoned across it. Another rummage in her sleeve brought out a sheaf of parchment and a quill.
Severus watched her bemused as she ignored him completely for the second time. She flicked through his file, muttering occasionally to herself as she made notes on the parchment. Deciding she would let him know the fruits of her research in due course, Severus returned to the adventures of Baggins and the dwarves.
Some considerable time later Miss Granger announced, "You were right!"
Severus put down his book and picked up the slate. Could you be a little less cryptic, Miss Granger?
"Sorry, I mean that you were right. No healing magic is going to cure your throat. In fact magical interference aggravates the injury."
Severus scrawled four letters and several exclamation marks.
"Er, yes, I wouldn't put it quite like that, though. Well, if magical means won't cure you, I suppose we'll have to try Muggle cures."
What would you suggest, Miss Granger, that I should visit an ENT specialist and tell them I was bitten by a giant snake?
In spite of the fact the words were merely written down, they still somehow managed to convey the sarcasm that would have gone with them if Severus had spoken aloud.
"Umm, no, I suppose not. According to your notes, physically your neck and throat have been healed as much as they are going to. I don't think Muggle surgery is going to improve on that."
Then what? I'm stuck with bloody agony every time I speak!
"There are Muggle remedies that can help. We can start with a throat soother. What do you think of honey and lemon, with a little firewhiskey?"
You almost make me like you, Miss Granger.
"Yes, well I think I'm going to have to make up your prescription myself. The pharmacy won't dose a patient with alcohol. I will leave the slate and stylus with you and instruct the nurses that you are on complete voice rest."
"It means what it says. You are not to speak at all. At least a week is usual, though I think we may make it three in your case"
Does that mean I will not see you for nearly a month? Severus frowned slightly. Why in Merlin's name had he asked that? Three weeks not being pestered by a healer sounded like Heaven after the Hell he had been put through.
"No, you won't escape me that easily. I'll need to give you your medicine and there will be breathing exercises."
I already know how to breathe, Miss Granger.
"These exercises will help the muscles in your neck. After all, you need to limber them up before trying to talk."
Just how do you know so much about voice and singing? Please don't tell me you read it in a book.
"No. After the war, I took up singing lessons."
An odd choice, considering you were never in Flitwick's choir.
"Actually, I was invited to join. I hate singing in front of an audience though, so I declined."
Severus studied her for a long moment. Do you think it will really help me?
"I don't know. It is at least worth a try."
Miss Granger, are you deliberately trying to make me sound ridiculous?
Hermione tried to keep a straight face. It would not do to make Professor Snape think that she was laughing at him. "I know it sounds odd, but it really will help. Now don't purse your lips, relax them and blow again."
Severus glared at her and tried again. This time the sound he produced was the one she had been looking for. "That's it! Now I want you to do the exercise four or five times, then rest and repeat three times a day."
So, other than that, no attempt to talk?
"Absolutely, and we'll continue with the honey and lemon treatment."
I have no objection to that, so long as you remember the essential ingredient.
"Don't worry, Professor, I won't." Hermione smiled ruefully. She had not enjoyed explaining to her supervising Healer that her prescription was essential for her patient's recovery. It was not, as the Ward Sister thought, a result of being bribed or blackmailed by Severus Snape. Justifying her choice of Muggle methods in a Magical Maladies ward had also been an experience Hermione would not care to repeat. She fervently hoped that the series of vocal exercises and breathing drills she had outlined to her Supervisor was going to work. Especially as it appeared she had staked her career on it. Not that she was going to admit as much to Professor Snape.
Do I do these lip trill exercises before or after the breathing ones?
"I want you to do the series of breathing exercises I taught you first, and then use the same breathing technique for the lip trills. You really should be breathing from the diaphragm when doing those too."
An odd way to describe them, I sound more like a motor boat than a bird.
"I have no idea why they chose such a name. Now would you like more fiction to read, or dare I offer you copies of Potions Weekly?"
Now why would you consider that a risky proposition, Miss Granger? I am hardly likely to be able to make anything while stuck in this ward.
"I really don't want you to be provoked into a verbal outburst at an article. Do you miss brewing, cooped up in here?"
The glare the Professor gave her almost had her reaching for her wand. He had not tried to hex her since their first session, but then she had taken care up until now to keep the conversation away from personal matters. She was all too aware that her question had crossed the line again.
His stylus slashed across the slate Don't ask bloody stupid questions!
"Yes, of course, I'm sorry, Professor Snape. I just thought that ..." Hermione began.
That was as far as she got before an unseen force knocked her off her feet. She got shakily back up again, trying to ignore the ache in her knees and hands from the fall. She had forgotten a wizard need not always use a wand to work magic. For a moment she was tempted to retaliate, but then remembered her own training. A Healer did not strike a patient, unless medically necessary.
Instead of ignoring it as a Healer should, she decided on a different tack. "Wandless and wordless magic! Tell me, Professor, how does your throat feel now, any pain?"
He blinked at her and then frowned. A slight twinge, nothing more.
"Good, then perhaps you might be willing to listen to what I was going to suggest before you blasted me off my feet." Hermione crossed her arms as she met his gaze. Honestly, he was as temperamental as Ron and Harry had been after they had been cooped up in that blasted tent for months. But then, she reflected, he had spent over two years stuck in St Mungo's.
Very well, I will hear you out, this time.
"Would you like to spend time out of St. Mungo's, in a Potions Lab, if I can arrange it?"
Yes, though I am curious as to how you will persuade your superiors to allow it.
"I could claim it was part of your therapy."
I doubt they would believe that.
"True. I'll think of something, Professor. After all I don't want them to think you have been bribing or blackmailing me again."
"The ward sister jumped to that conclusion due to your prescription."
Ah, the firewhiskey! Miss Granger, if I had made up the prescription it would be the major ingredient, not a mere accent note.
"The idea is to soothe your throat, not get you drunk. Perhaps I ought to omit it altogether?"
If you want to be hexed again, be my guest.
"Now would caving in to that threat constitute being blackmailed?" Hermione smiled up at him. To her relief he smiled back. She had not been certain if he would realise she was not being serious. She wondered what Harry and Ron would make of her actually joking with their former nemesis. They would probably dispute the fact that Severus Snape had a sense of humour that did not involve inflicting pain or humiliation.
Severus drew in a deep breath and let the various scents wash through him. The Potions Lab at Hogwarts had hardly changed since he had last been in charge of it. He had not realised just how much he had missed these four walls until he had stepped across the threshold. Unconsciously his hands moved to sweep back robes that were not there. Granger caught his eye with a sympathetic smile. Severus scowled slightly and gestured as he stalked up the aisle between the desks. The shutters snapped close at his unspoken command.
"You are really very adept at that. No wonder you were against 'foolish wand waving'. You hardly seem to need one at all."
Severus snatched the stylus and slate from his pocket. The mind is what calls up and forms magic, a wand has its place in directing and channelling what the mind requires. It is a tool, not a crutch. With sufficient concentration the wand becomes as superfluous as the words used to call up a spell.
"Then why did they put such emphasis on our learning words and gestures with our wands as first years? I spent hours getting it just right."
Because you needed to learn to concentrate and guide your magic to produce the required spell. It is only after you have learnt concentration that you are taught wordless magic. Once you have mastered that, wandless magic can be attempted.
"Harry told me how easily you defeated him by countering every spell he tried before he could finish it. If he could have done them wordlessly, he might have stopped you."
I would prefer it if you did not mention his name. Now, as we only have an afternoon I do not want to waste it on idle chatter. I would like to actually brew something before we have to go back. Severus placed the slate on the bench. Damn her for bringing up his name. He was not going to allow her to spoil the time here by harping on about Harry Bloody Potter. Potter had been an abysmal student resenting everything Severus did to keep the bloody ungrateful brat alive.
"I'd like to learn to do it as well as you."
Miss Granger, from what I recollect you were a passable student who needed to learn that not everything could be found between the pages of a book. I doubt if I could impart any more skill with Potions than you already possess. Severus began setting out ingredients on the bench in front of him. The scant few hours they had would limit what he could brew. Considering the time of year, no doubt Madame Pomfrey would welcome a fresh supply of Pepper-Up Potion.
"No, I mean the wandless and wordless magic."
Severus paused and studied her. No, there was no hint of mockery in her gaze. We will return to that later. For now you can be my assistant in Brewing.
"What are we making?"
I am going to make some Pepper-Up Potion. You will assist and observe.
"Yes Professor," she replied sounding, almost meek.
Severus frowned and studied her. She was looking earnestly back. Perhaps the surroundings had reverted her to her former student status? Instead of badgering him with questions, she proved to be an able assistant, preparing and peeling the mandrake root and doing anything else he instructed her to do without demur. Once or twice her hand brushed his as Granger handed him the ingredients she had prepared. Severus was surprised at his reaction. Merlin's Balls! It was too long since he had had a woman, if he was fancying Hermione Bloody Granger. Telling his libido to take a cold shower, Severus concentrated firmly on what he was doing. He was not going to be an idiot and conceive a passion for his Healer. He was not in a trashy romance novel, the sort he used to confiscate when he taught at Hogwarts.
All too soon there was nothing left to do but let the potion simmer gently for the required time. Severus leaned on the bench being careful not to inhale the fumes coming from the cauldron. It wouldn't do to undo all of Miss Granger's efforts. He made a mental note that in future he would brew something that would not risk aggravating his throat. Do we count this as a success? I did not even feel a twinge while making the potion.
"Ah, you have me there. Yes, I did want to see if potion making would cause any problems. Not that I expected it to, as they don't tend to have a verbal component. It is odd that speaking a spell causes you pain and harm, yet non-verbal magic has no effect."
I am surprised that I am here at all, by all rights I should have died. I'm still considering how I can repay you for the gift of my life.
"Does that mean you are actually grateful, or should I keep my Shields handy? I hope that you have forgiven me for saving you. That is the only problem with writing things down, it is difficult to be certain of what you mean."
Severus grinned wolfishly. That all depends on how your therapy works out. I must admit that it is nearly a week since I last felt any pain in my throat.
"Oh, well, then perhaps we can stop your prescription."
I would not be so hasty. Severus responded almost automatically. His mind, however, was not on the words he wrote. He was still puzzling over the conundrum of how Nagini's bite could be healed if magic worked on the wound made it worse not better. The only solution he could think of implied one of the Healers at St Mungo's had seriously transgressed their oath. Miss Granger, I know it is not usual practice, but may I take a look at my file?
Severus studied her as he considered whether he could trust her with the knowledge that one of her colleagues may well have cursed him. He was not the first of Nagini's victims to grace St Mungo's, though thankfully the last. However, none of the others had been affected as he was. I am curious as to when my… affliction first manifested. If the bite reacts to magic being worked on it, then that side effect must have been dormant or the Healers would not have been able to save me.
"You are right! If magic aggravates the wound, how did the Healing magics work? It doesn't make sense!"
The file, if you please, Miss Granger.
"I don't have it on me. It's against the rules to take confidential material out of the Hospital."
Bloody Hell, Granger, you spent your school career breaking rules!
"But only when necessary, Professor! It's not like I could know you were going to ask for it."
No, I suppose not. Well, when we get back, I would like to see it.
"I'll go through it with you on one condition. You can explain just why you hexed each Healer."
Very well, Miss Granger, if that is the price I must pay. Now get the bottles ready as the Pepper-Up is nearly done.
So now I hum while trilling? I will sound even more like a motorboat.
"Don't worry, Professor, we can progress to making vowel sounds tomorrow, if you experience no pain." Hermione suppressed the urge to laugh as he complied with her instructions. The sound he made did indeed match that of a motorboat, or possibly a motorcycle. She watched him closely as he ran through the exercise. So far he seemed to be feeling no pain. Hermione suppressed the joy that sprung up inside her. There was still a long way to go before she could be certain that Professor Snape would not suffer if he tried to talk. Humming, after all, was not true speech. The acid test would come tomorrow when she would have him try a word.
Miss Granger, I have performed the exercises you set. Now I believe you did promise that we could go through my file.
"I did." Hermione sighed as she drew it from her sleeve. She was hoping that he would have forgotten. She had checked that what she was doing was not forbidden at St Mungo's, however she was uneasy as to his reaction to some of the comments the Healers had made about him. While it was unprofessional to commit anything personal on a file, some had couched their comments under "psychological assessment" of the patient. She handed it over, trying to hide her misgivings from Professor Snape.
Is it essential to put every damn thing in such a way only another Healer would understand? What the Bloody Hell is PUTT?
"That one is easy, Patient Unresponsive To Treatment." Hermione sighed slightly. She had become so used to Healer's shorthand she had forgotten it would be indecipherable to anyone unfamiliar with it. "Perhaps it would be better if I read it to you?"
Oh, all right! Though what I am looking for is prior to that entry.
"It would save a lot of time if you told me what you were looking for."
It is not that simple, Miss Granger. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for until I do find it."
"Now that is definitely cryptic. Shall I start from when you were brought into St Mungo's?"
Yes, that would be best.
Hermione began to read out loud, translating as she went. The Professor's lips thinned and she was sure he had turned a little paler as she read out the extent of the injuries Nagini had caused.
"Are you sure you are all right with this? It can be quite harrowing for a patient to hear what has happened to them."
Spare me your platitudes, Miss Granger, I am made of sterner stuff. Now continue, if you can bear it yourself.
"I would be a poor Healer if I swooned every time I read a patient's notes." As Hermione went through, page by page, she tried to puzzle out what he was searching for. When she got beyond the immediate healing of his injuries and onto Healer Renfrew's attempt at removing the Dark Mark, Professor Snape held up his hand.
Miss Granger, I want you to recount exactly what is written from the notes here, not the edited highlights.
"How did you know I was skipping anything?"
Your pace slows slightly when you reach a passage you think I should not know and then picks up again once you have moved past it.
"Oh!" Hermione blushed at having been caught out. "Well I will do my best but his penmanship is terrible." She carried on from where Severus had interrupted then stopped before she had reached the bottom of the page. "Oh dear! Oh no!"
Miss Granger, spare me your expostulations and read what is on the bloody page!
"Sorry, Professor, I was shocked by what my colleague did to you. He tried to remove your Dark Mark without your knowledge or consent. He notes that the attempt was unsuccessful, that there was actually an increase in intensity of the mark and that you clutched your neck and screamed."
So he not only made the Mark worse but somehow affected the injury as well. Bloody, fucking marvellous!
"He never should have tried to remove the Dark Mark while there was still a trace of Nagini's poison still in the bite. You were very weak and might not have survived the attempt."
I suppose you would object if I hexed the bloody bastard into the middle of next week.
"I couldn't possibly approve of a patient attacking a Healer! If it wasn't unprofessional I'd be tempted to hex him myself." Hermione glared at his folder, a distinctly martial light in her eye. Why he couldn't have waited until Professor Snape was healed was beyond her. It wasn't as if there weren't enough captured Death Eaters to experiment on. She was tempted to seek out Renfrew and demand an explanation from him there and then. "Do you want me to continue reading, or have you heard enough?"
Proceed, Miss Granger, if only to confirm that what we surmise is correct and it was indeed his bloody fault!
Hermione continued but it soon became clear that Healer Renfrew's attempt at healing the Dark Mark had indeed been the root cause of Severus Snape's throat troubles. Any magic worked directly on his neck had had a negative response. Hermione sighed as she closed the folder. "Well at least we know now, though I don't think it would be a good idea to try to reverse its effects."
No, it would not be a good idea to meddle any further. Voldemort, naturally, never divulged just how he burned in the Mark. However, unlike that bungling fool, I am rather more conversant with the dangers of trying to remove it. I at least have the benefit of first hand experience. It seems I will just have to take care not to verbalise when casting a spell.
"Considering how well you have responded to the voice therapy, I think your voice is not irrevocably damaged. So long as you can avoid verbalising a spell I think you will be able to talk without pain. I will of course add a note on your file that no magic is to be worked on your throat or neck. You do realise you can't say Abracadabra any more? The reaction doesn't distinguish between nonsense words and actual spells. It would hurt you just as badly as if you had said Stupefy instead."
Actually, it was a stunning spell. I intend to stick to Potions and as I clearly can perform the necessary magic for them without any reaction, that is no hardship for me.
"It will mean you can't return to teaching though. You couldn't go through a year at Hogwarts without speaking a single spell."
Miss Granger, the last thing I want to do is return to that blasted place! The only reason I was there was because Dumbledore insisted on it.
Hermione studied him. "So you won't miss marking essays for dunderheads."
Emphatically not! Well, actually I did enjoy telling the little brats what I thought of them and their pitiful excuses for parchment inches.
Severus glowered at Miss Granger. He was sure her latest request was another ploy to make him sound absurd. Humming had been bad enough but just enunciating vowel sounds was apparently not enough, now he had to chant the bloody things!
Is this really essential, Miss Granger?
"Yes, I know it may feel a little odd at first, but the tonal exercise does improve the vocal chords."
I sound like a bloody Tibetan monk!
"I know, and that means you are doing it right. Just be careful not to rush them, progress naturally and do not force the change between the vowel sounds."
Severus scowled and began again. After a bit he began to get a feel for what she meant by rushing and tried to slow his pace in spite of a strong desire to get the exercise over with as quickly as possible.
Now it is your turn, Miss Granger. After all, the best teachers lead by example.
"I don't recall you extensively demonstrating Potion making."
I did demonstrate techniques. You are stalling. I'd like to hear you do the tonal exercise again. To his surprise Miss Granger looked flustered. Belatedly he remembered her reason for not joining Hogwarts' choir. Come, Miss Granger, apart from myself there is no one else to hear.
Miss Granger smiled weakly, swallowed nervously and then demonstrated the tonal exercise again.
Severus was more interested in watching her than paying attention to the notes she produced. She had closed her eyes, as if to block out her audience of one, or perhaps to concentrate more on the sound. Her hair had frizzed out as usual and, with the light behind her, formed a halo framing her face.
However, the way her full lips moved turned his thoughts in a decidedly sinful direction. He told his libido sternly to behave. Lurid romances aside, he was not going to fall in love with his Healer. On the one hand, the Healing profession frowned upon such liaisons. On the other, it was Hermione Granger standing in front of him! It was not as if she was going out of her way to help him. She was just doing her job. It wasn't as if it was likely that she would be attracted to him or welcome his advances. To his dismay, that thought left him feeling decidedly flat.
Belatedly, he realised Hermione had finished and was waiting for him to follow her lead. He cleared his throat and tried to emulate her clear notes. While the sound he produced was nowhere near as melodious, it was certainly an improvement on his previous attempt.
"That was much better, Professor. At this rate you soon won't be needing my help any more!"
Severus frowned as a hollow feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. Surely he ought to be glad that he would soon be kicking the dust of St Mungo's off his heels? No, it wasn't the thought of leaving the hospital that made him feel so low. It was the realisation that their time together would soon end. He reached for the stylus and slate.
I would like nothing more! Was it his imagination, or did her face fall as she read his words? Well, there was one way to find out. His hand moved swiftly over the slate again. I look forward, eagerly to be rid of this damn place and its Healers.
He felt a glow of satisfaction as her face tightened upon reading his words. So, Miss Granger was not enamoured of the idea of his imminent departure.
"I look forward to the day too." Miss Granger smiled brightly at him.
Yes, her voice had trembled slightly and her eyes were bright with unshed tears. Severus stored the revelation away to contemplate on further once the session was over.
Hermione sighed as she stared into the flames that danced in the hearth. What was she going to do? She had fallen into the worst trap a Healer could step into. Somehow, she had tumbled head over heels for her patient. To make matters worse, he was Severus Snape. There was no way she could talk to anybody about it. He had terrorised and antagonised her friends so much they would be horrified at the idea that she could possibly care for the man. She certainly was not going to breathe a word of it to her Supervising Healer, even though according to the regulations she should do so immediately and ask to be taken off his case. A smile tugged at her lips as she remembered his comments about her eagerness to break rules. Thinking of him sent her spirits sinking even lower.
What depressed her further was the fact that Severus Snape couldn't wait to leave. He seemed all too keen at the prospect. Would he even want to see her if he wasn't her patient? She knew he held her responsible for all the suffering he had undergone. It was really unfair. When she had alerted the Healers to his survival, she could never have foreseen his treatment would prove so prolonged and traumatic.
Hermione sipped her tea and wished that she could put a little firewhiskey in it. If she did that she would find it impossible to sleep. Not that she was certain she could settle without thoughts of Severus keeping her awake. Such as the fire that leapt into his dark eyes as he contemplated hexing Renfrew. She had never thought it was possible to be both scared and aroused at the same time. Or the way his long fingers caressed the stirring rod while he brewed a potion. She shook her head to banish thoughts as to what else his long fingers could do. No, speculating like that would just give her a long, frustrating and sleepless night.
A Gryffindor never gave up without a fight. If she wanted him in her life she was going to have to try and kindle a flame between them. She still had a few more sessions with Severus Snape. Though exactly how she was even going to catch his interest totally eluded her.
"No, Professor, you are rushing it again. Repeat the phrase again, slower than you did it last time. Concentrate on your consonants as well as the vowel sounds this time."
"Miss Granger, this is not Pygmalion," Severus enunciated carefully and slowly. "I am not saying that bloody ridiculous phrase again!"
"Careful, you will strain your voice if you allow yourself to get worked up. Do you want to have to start over with the voice therapy?"
Severus opened his mouth and then closed it again. Why had a sudden elation filled him at the prospect of another eight weeks of Miss Granger's company? He drew in a deep breath and consciously relaxed his neck and chest muscles. "Miss Granger, I can talk, but I refuse to sound like an idiot."
"One moment." Miss Granger dug into the sleeves of her robes. Severus watched her, wondering if she had ensorcelled each set of robes or if there was a bag up her sleeves. To his surprise she pulled out a basic Potions Primer.
Severus scowled. "Sounding like an infant is not an improvement."
"Well, we could do poetry, if you prefer."
"It depends on the poem. Nothing saccharin or maudlin if you please."
"I could bow to stereotype and suggest Poe."
"Suitably gothic and much improved on Shaw. Do you have his collected works up your sleeves too?"
"As it happens, yes." She laughed.
Severus smiled in return. "We could always do Byron, or Shakespeare. I've always liked this sonnet. He drew a breath and began to recite:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
Severus fell silent. The dryness and constriction in his throat had naught to do with Nagini's bite and everything to do with the expression on Hermione Granger's face. Slowly, as if he feared any sudden movement might break the spell his words had woven round them, Severus brushed his lips against hers.
"Oh bugger the rules!" Hermione exclaimed as she threw her arms around him and returned his kiss with enthusiasm.
1. The poem that Severus recites is Sonnet 18, by William Shakespeare.
2. I didn't make up Hermione's therapy but took inspiration from these YouTube videos (and others) by Mark Baxter.