Summary: Severus sits in the hospital wing watching over his apprentice after a failed assassination attempt.
Characters/Pairings: Severus Snape/Hermione Granger, Poppy Pomfrey
Genre: Very slightly AU, where Severus survived Nagini's attack. Some implied romance as well.
Word Count: 995 (a bit over standard ficlet length, alas! My apologies. Perhaps officially a fic?)
Can the Order post to Tumblr?: Sure.
If yes, your Tumblr username: N/A
"Simpletons," Severus growled under his breath. "Incompetent simpletons. Can't even hit their intended target for all their fancy cursework." His gaze rested fitfully on Hermione's unmoving form in the hospital bed. The curse on the chizpurfle carapaces had been subtle, true - the caster had been an artisan of subterfuge, in fact. So why hadn't he actually taken care with the curse's bloody execution?
An ugly thought occurred. No one really knows Hermione's been your apprentice, now do they? You asked her to keep it quiet for now, given the remnants of Riddle's sympathizers. The caster assumed you would be the only one at Hogwarts to open ingredients of that caliber and delicacy. This is your fault.
They had done it to punish him for his perfidy during the war, of course. His lip curled in disgust as he muttered, "Imbeciles. Maladroits."
He felt Poppy Pomfrey's warm, sympathetic presence behind him. "You know, sometimes people in this state can hear you, even if they can't respond. Why don't you talk to her, Severus?"
"And say what?" he spit out.
"Anything - it doesn't matter. Just let her hear your voice. Tell her a story, perhaps."
He cast Poppy a baleful look.
A look of wry amusement flitted across Poppy's features as she bustled off. "Try it, Severus."
He turned his attention back to Hermione, watching in brooding silence as her chest slowly rose and fell.
He snorted derisively. "A story - bah!"
After a few more moments, he cleared his throat once. "Once upon a time...that's always how these things begin, isn't it?" The words were clipped and brittle. "Well, once upon a time, there was an insufferable know-it-all. Absolutely insufferable. She - and this particular insufferable know-it-all was a young girl, because good stories need young, hearty protagonists who can survive all the adventures they set off on..." A definite note of fond derision colored his words.
"Yes, this young know-it-all was completely ignorant of many things, despite her nomenclature. Fortunately, this simple fact was brought to her attention by a thoroughly brilliant professor once she arrived at a magnificent wizarding educational institution. Of course, as is the way of stories, this brilliant professor was flawed in many ways, but not so flawed that he couldn't see her potential, for he was a potioneer of the highest caliber, and could see the hidden value in all things when he wasn't being blinded by his treacherous emotions."
"But of course, this being that kind of story, the brilliant professor was incessantly irritated by the insufferable know-it-all when she first arrived, with her stubborn inept brazenness. To say she had the social graces of a troll would be an insult to trolls. Typical young Gryffindor, really." A definite dark humor curled now through his voice. "And, as is the way of these things, the know-it-all did not think particularly highly of the brilliant professor, suffering from a certain emotion-induced blindness as well."
"But time passed, as it does, and the young know-it-all became significantly more adept and slightly less insufferable due to the exigencies of a devastating war that broke out while she was in school. Both she and the brilliant professor managed to survive it, and then - much to the surprise of the staff at the magnificent wizarding educational institution - she accepted a position after the war as his apprentice."
He closed his eyes, falling into the rhythmic cadence of performance. "Ah, gentle listener, perhaps you are surprised as well? Wasn't there mutual loathing involved prior to this? Indeed yes - but also a mutual respect, and both the brilliant professor and the now-slightly-less-insufferable know-it-all had learned things during the war that shifted the balance solidly towards respect."
"So she became his apprentice, and the brilliant professor was, secretly, thrilled to his core. Here at last was someone who could see the beauty of precision, who had both the patience and the intellect...in short, someone who could bloody well keep up with him and actually wanted to. The less-insufferable know-it-all also reminded him strongly of another Gryffindor girl he had known many years prior...and cared deeply for. As you may imagine, gentle listener, this was precious to the brilliant professor, who had known a profound loneliness for quite some time. Emotions are treacherous beasts, indeed."
He took a steadying breath. "And so the brilliant professor and the young know-it-all bickered and happily irritated each other for quite some time, as is the way of these stories, all the while making fantastic potions and preparing in secret to publish in the best journals. The brilliant professor was utterly delighted. It was all going so well."
"So clearly, that was when some cretin decided it was the time to get revenge," he said the word with utter disdain, "on the brilliant professor, and sent some cursed chizpurfle carapaces to him. But said cretin hurt the young know-it-all instead, and not the brilliant professor. Except that the brilliant professor was hurt. So terribly, terribly hurt. Again, his brilliant Gryffindor girl had been taken away, and it was his own bloody fault. Fate was cruel, indeed..."
A whisper interrupted. "Bloody Slytherins."
His eyes snapped open in shocked hope. But there was nothing, no hint of change. It was his thrice-accursed imagination.
Except another whisper came. "Bloody tragic, martyr Slytherins."
His chest rose in sudden inhalation as her eyes opened to look at him for the first time in weeks.
"How much did you hear?"
"All of it. Madame Pomfrey was right."
A flush darkened his cheeks. "You let me tell all that..."
A sly grin quirked her lips. "Well," she murmured, "I couldn't manage to get all the way back till the last round of incessant self-recrimination."
Professional curiosity overcame his embarrassment. "So you can give me a firsthand account of the effects of this curse?"
"Quite. Nasty piece of work. You're so good at making friends, aren't you?"
A smile flickered across his mouth. "Get some sleep, you insufferable girl. You can tell me all the details tomorrow."
"I shall," she said, closing her eyes again. "And that's brilliant insufferable know-it-all to you."