A back-up fic, written at the request of Corinna (memoria_) as part of the Love Draughts ficathon
No Laughing Matter
Severus Snape sat in his office, glancing through the pages of Moste Potente Potions . . .
Severus Snape sat in his office, quill in hand, and glared at the stack of essays perched precariously on his desk. It wasn't this particular batch of essays which had caused his bad mood. They were unlikely to be substantially different from any of the other essays which had passed through his hands over the years he'd been teaching - no better and no worse.
That, however, was the problem. The same essays on the same topics. The same detentions handed out, day after day, to dunderheads who were virtually indistinguishable from their cretinous predecessors. The same stodgy, tasteless food prepared by the same irritatingly chirpy House-Elves. The same inane conversations with the same colleagues. The same offers of sherbet lemons from the same foolish old man. Nothing ever bloody changed.
It was almost bad enough for him to look back with nostalgic longing upon the days he was leading a double life as a spy.
Almost, but not quite.
When the knock at the door came - unwelcome, but undeniably unexpected - he had a brief moment of thinking that perhaps something was going to be different that night, but in the next instant he glanced at the clock and remembered it could be no one else but that preternaturally punctual Know-It-All, Hermione Granger, who had pleaded for an appointment that evening to discuss the mark she had received on her most recent exam
It was . . . an almost unbelievably low mark, he thought with a small glimmer of satisfaction. Entirely out of character for Miss Granger, not that it would be likely to make any difference to her upcoming N.E.W.T. results, of course, and she had been very obviously upset in class that morning.
Severus smirked. Perhaps the evening wouldn't be a total loss. Watching Miss Granger grovel in a futile attempt to get him to change the mark would provide at least a few moments of entertainment.
"Well, don't just stand there frozen in place in the corridor like a petrified rabbit," he called. "Open the door and step inside."
He watched silently as Miss Granger pushed the door open and stepped into his private office. She looked nervous, which was almost as uncharacteristic a behavior for the girl as handing in such appallingly substandard work.
He raised one eyebrow and leaned back in his chair. "Well, I'm waiting. What is it you had to say that was so important you couldn't wait to see me until your Thursday class?"
She bit worriedly at her lower lip for a moment, then brushed away a non-existent thread from her impeccable Gryffindor robes before straightening up and meeting his gaze. "I just can't understand what I did wrong, Professor Snape. I've never received such a low mark in my life. Perhaps there was some . . . mistake?"
"Oh, there was assuredly some mistake, Miss Granger," he said, his voice deceptively low, "but it was one of your making, and most certainly not one of my own. Now say what you came to say, then get out of my office, unless you have further accusations you wish to level at me."
The girl took a step back, her eyes widening at the banked anger in his voice. "Oh, I wasn't . . . I'm so sorry, Professor," she said. "I didn't mean to make it sound as if I was accusing you of . . . well, anything. I'm just at a complete loss to understand how something like this could have happened."
"Ah, well . . . let's take a look at these most recent fruits of the much-vaunted Granger intellect, shall we?" He took a sheet of parchment from the middle drawer of his desk and held it up in front of her. She reached out to take the essay from his hand, but he pulled it back immediately. "On no, not so fast, Miss Granger. I believe moments like this should be . . . savoured."
He watched as the girl endeavoured in vain to hide her annoyance at the obvious pleasure he was taking in this situation.
"We could begin, perhaps, with the fact that when asked to name a mere four of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, you could, apparently, only come up with a single one. Or that when asked for the two most common catalyzing agents covered in this year's course-work, you answered - and I quote - 'baking soda and vinegar,' which struck me as somewhat peculiar given that I cannot recall including 'making a model volcano' on my syllabus."
The girl's eyes narrowed slightly, but she remained silent.
"Nothing to say, Miss Granger? Shall I go on, or would you say you now have a better grasp of the reasoning behind your abysmal marks?"
"You needn't go on . . . Sir."
Severus raised one eyebrow. "And yet you remain in my presence. Are you perhaps awaiting the arrival of an owl bearing an engraved invitation to depart?"
"No sir, but . . . I was thinking . . . perhaps . . . "
"What is it? Get on with it."
"Would it be possible to take the exam over?"
Severus glared at the girl. "What possible reason would I have for agreeing to look once more at exam responses I didn't particularly want to read in the first place? No, I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that, Miss Granger."
"Then . . . an extra credit project, perhaps?"
He leaned forward and rested his chin on his steepled fingers. "And what, exactly, would you be willing to do to receive this . . . extra credit?"
For a moment, she said nothing, then she took a step closer to the desk and met his eyes.
"Anything, Professor Snape. I'd be willing to do anything."
Severus licked his suddenly-dry lips and took a shallow breath. He clamped down on the instinctive urge to demand her age, but no . . . that wasn't a question he could ask in these circumstances. Not at all.
"Anything?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
There was a hint of anxiety in her eyes, but she didn't look frightened, precisely. Just right, Severus thought approvingly.
He extended one hand and beckoned her closer.
"As it happens," he said, in a tone which he feared didn't sound quite so seductive as he intended it to sound, "I do have a special project in mind that requires two participants to bring it to a satisfactory end. However, this project also requires a certain amount of . . . discretion."
A half-smile reached the girl's face. "Oh, I think you already know that I can be discreet, Professor Snape. But tell me," she said, taking another step toward him, "would this project be . . . dangerous?"
"And would the work be hot? And . . . sweaty?"
He swallowed hard. Impertinent girl, he thought.
"As hot and . . . sweaty as you could possibly imagine it might be," he said, his voice little more than a harsh whisper.
"It seems to be getting rather hot in here already," she said. "Would you mind if I removed these robes?"
Without waiting for an answer, Miss Granger removed the Head Girl badge that held the edges of her outer robe together and laid it carefully on his desk, then stood waiting for him to speak.
"Come closer," he said.
She leaned in and placed both palms flat on his desk. Was she . . . yes, she was actually fluttering her eyelashes at him - quite fetchingly, too.
And then she giggled.
He scowled at her. "Do you find this situation amusing, Miss Granger?"
"Of course not! No! I . . . it's just . . . oh hell," she said, and with that, she started howling with laughter - so much so, in fact, that he feared she was in clear and present danger of hyperventilating right before his eyes.
Severus collapsed back in his chair and covered his eyes with the sleeve of his robes. "Oh, for god's sake, Hermione. Control yourself."
One of her hands across her breast and still gasping with laughter, Hermione grinned at her still-scowling husband. "I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry, Severus. But you have got to take a look at yourself when you glare. It's priceless!"
"So glad I could provide you with something to laugh at on my fiftieth birthday."
Instantly she looked contrite, although her laughter was still threatening to bubble to the surface.
"I do apologize, my darling. This was intended to amuse you. I'll tell you what . . . why don't we start over? Or . . . I know! Perhaps I could be coming in to serve detention and . . . ."
"I'm no longer in the mood," he said, crossing his arms over his chest and turning his chair away from her.
Hermione sighed, and walked around the desk, then sat in his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. She wriggled a bit, and he shifted uncomfortably beneath her.
"Ah," she said, looking pointedly in the direction of his lap and smiling a bit. "The mood is, perhaps, not entirely gone."
Severus only grunted in response, but he put his arms around her waist and drew her against his chest.
"This was all your idea, you know," he muttered into her bushy hair.
"I know," she said, in that 'I'm-only-agreeing-because-it's-your-birthday' voice he'd been hearing for the past six years. "Why don't you let me know what you'd prefer."
"I said . . . oh, never mind."
"No, come on, Severus. Just tell me."
"Fine." He nudged her off his lap, then stood up and bowed his head slightly. "I was a very bad boy."
Hermione grinned, then drew out her wand and transfigured her old Head Girl robes into something that looked far more mature - and which had a great deal more tartan.
"Young Mr. Snape," Hermione said, her mouth drawn into a tight line and with a noticeable burr in her voice. "I believe you and I need to have a little talk about your behaviour in my class this afternoon."
"Whatever you say, Professor McGonagall."