Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 25]
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The funny thing, Tonks thought, was that she found she didn’t really mind the idea of Apparating all the way to Hogwarts to hang out with Snape in his dungeon. It was almost as if the sheer horribleness of her day made any of Snape’s usual scathing attacks seem like nothing more than verbal pinpricks. Upon further contemplation, it occurred to her that she was actually looking forward to seeing Snape, if for no other reason than that she could safely lay into him and work out the day’s frustrations. A few more days like this, she considered, and they might actually be able to make a marriage really work.
By the time she finally bypassed a solicitous Minerva McGonagall and hobbled her way into the Hogwarts dungeons, it was well past dark. The door to the Potions classroom was closed, so Tonks rested her head against the timeworn wood and used her forehead as a doorknocker. “Open up, Snape.”
A moment later, the door was wrenched open, nearly sending Tonks flying off-balance into the arms of the black-robed man. She caught herself on the doorframe and choked back an oath as the thin scab on her injured shoulder re-opened. Her vision wavered and then refocused around a pallid, smirking face. “Was my big strong Auror fiancée incapable of opening her own door?” Snape mocked with feigned solicitousness.
Tonks squinted, trying to reconcile the many faces of Snape swimming before her. If she’d had more energy she would have glared at him – provided she could figure out which was the git himself. “Shut up.”
One of Snape’s eyebrows arched up as he took in the full extent of her bloodied and disheveled appearance. “My, my… have you finally managed to break the non-fatal splinching record?”
Tonks snorted. “Piss off, Snape. Your friend Avery nearly got a piece of me today, and then my mother found out about our engagement. She did a note-perfect impression of Grandmum Black’s painting in the Howler she sent me.” She attempted to plough past him and only managed to knock herself severely off-balance. She tottered forward for a moment and, lacking the strength to right herself, toppled over completely. Figuring Snape wasn’t going to give her a hand up anytime soon, Tonks edged over to the nearest desk and managed to pull herself up to sit on it. “And what productive work have you been putting yourself to today?” she asked with an almost Snape-like venom in her voice. “Been brewing poisons and such?”
Instead of answering her, Snape turned in a billow of robes and strode into his office. He returned a moment later with a thin phial and a supercilious expression. “In fact, I was replenishing the school’s medicinal potions.”
Tonks’ mouth formed a silent “O” of comprehension, then she narrowed her eyes in suspicion. Snape was not exactly known for selfless generosity.
“Drink this,” Snape ordered, attempting to hand her the phial.
Tonks refused to accept it. “What is it?”
“It’s always rewarding to discover you haven’t managed to get the most basic lessons through your pupils’ thick skulls.”
“You taught me that trusting anything you give me is a good way to get poisoned,” she pointed out, trying to match his dry tone of voice.
Snape looked down at her. “It’s a mild Invigoration Draught – nothing more.”
Tonks’ expression remained frozen in polite disbelief.
“Drink it and I’ll have the house-elves bring you tea,” he exhorted.
“Give it here,” she demanded, holding out her wand hand. The fingers in her left hand were tingling oddly and she didn’t want to risk breaking the fragile scab over the slice in her shoulder any more than she already had. The Ministry healers would likely want to have a few words with her in the morning about not overextending herself. Fine, then, she imagined herself telling them, next time you can deal with Severus Snape.
Snape’s eyes darkened and he pulled the phial away, baiting her. “Ask nicely.”
Tonks did the next best thing: without changing expression, she sharply kicked him in the shin with her good leg. “Don’t they teach you in Death Eater school not to taunt tired Aurors? You should bloody well know better!”
Snape’s face only showed the faintest of winces, and an instant after he recoiled he shifted forward again, coming very close and using the full effect of his height to intimidate her. “And what did they tell you about provoking Death Eaters?”
“Wait forty-five minutes after eating?” Tonks hazarded, trying to ignore the strange flutter of her heartbeat and a sudden feeling of dizziness.
“Trying to put up a brave façade, Miss Tonks?”
She smiled in mock apology, although she could feel it not-quite reach her eyes. “Not at all frightened, sir.”
Snape loomed closer. “I could frighten you.”
Tonks snorted. “Snape, right now You-Know-Who himself could be nibbling on my toes and it wouldn’t scare me.”
Snape’s eyes left her face and scanned her body. “You’re bleeding.”
“Unrivaled bloody powers of observation, here,” Tonks muttered. “No worries; they patched me up at the office.”
“Apparently not well. Do you normally have fuchsia blood?”
“You’re bleeding fuchsia blood from your shoulder. Here,” he thrust the phial into her hands, “drink the Invigoration Draught so you can answer my questions properly.”
“It’s not poisoned?”
“If you’ll recall, we went over this already, Miss Tonks. I need you to be coherent. Drink the potion.”
Tonks closed her eyes and swallowed the potion in one gulp. It tasted bitter, like adrenaline and lemon with only the slightest tinge of honey. When she opened her eyes again, Snape nodded shortly before turning his back on her and crossing the room. Tonks watched as the multiple hazy images of Snape resolved into one image and then swam out of focus again. She then watched as three distinct Snapes each selected a book from the shelves and perused it.
Three white faces turned to look at her. “How do you feel?”
“A little - maybe. Are there supposed to be three of you?”
Snape flipped the page and read for a moment. “No. How did you acquire the wound on your shoulder?”
“Avery hexed me.”
“Which hex?” Snape asked. Tonks noticed for the first time how enthralling his voice could be. She closed her eyes. “Which hex, Miss Tonks?”
“May I see it?”
Tonks’ heavy eyelids flicked open again. She hadn’t noticed him crossing the room, but now her vision was filled with Snapes in close proximity to her. Each of the Snapes set a book down beside her and turned to her with a strange expression on his face. She couldn’t quite place it. Since when was he interested in hex wounds? she wondered.
Tonks nodded and tried to shrug off her robe. She hissed in pain when the material caught on the half-healed scab. Snape’s hand stopped her. “Allow me.”
“Trying to get my clothes off…,” she mumbled.
“Yes, that’s surely my intention. There is nothing like an incoherent woman with a grotesque wound to set the pulse racing.” Before Tonks could protest, Snape had stuck a wooden stirring spoon in her mouth. “Bite down.”
“Mwht mwfll… Aaagh!”
Snape caught the spoon and put it back into her mouth. “I’m going to remove your sleeve, too. The blouse is unsalvageable.”
After Tonks blinked away the white spots in her vision, she took the spoon out of her mouth with her good hand and attempted to beat Snape with it. “That bloody hurt, you evil git!” Her first two swings passed through insubstantial Snapes, but her third made contact with his head.
Half a second later, Snape had pried the wooden spoon out of her hand and sharply rapped her knuckles with it. “You said this was from a slicing hex?” he resumed his questioning in a conversational voice. “Sectumsempra?”
Tonks nodded and shrugged as well as she could. After one attempt at shrugging, however, she decided to stick with nodding in the future.
“Sectumsempra would not cause the secondary cuts, the boils or smell like fungus and petrol.”
“In the apothecary,” Tonks said blearily. “Jars broke and fell on me.”
Snape sighed. “Don’t tell me it was Slug and Jiggers that you demolished. Did you manage to get my powdered pearl?”
“In my robe. Pocket.”
Snape’s expression was doubtful as his gaze shifted to Tonks’ bedraggled robe. “What fell on you?”
Tonks shook her head, and closed her eyes when that proved too disorienting. “Dunno. Had other things on my mind.”
“It didn’t concern you that potions ingredients fell on an open wound?”
In spite of her best efforts to maintain a semblance of normalcy, Tonks couldn’t keep her head from lolling. “I was busy trying not to die.”
Snape snorted. Suddenly Tonks felt something icy touch her face and lift it up slightly. “You could’ve saved us all a great deal of trouble… open your eyes.”
Tonks peeked open her eyes to see several Snapes staring at her clinically. With great effort, she managed to promise to try to be more considerate next time.
A slight smile touched his lips. “Do. You have a fever and your pupils are dilated.”
“Not surprised,” Tonks said. “I’m sort-of out of it.”
“We’ve noticed,” Snape responded.
“All three of me,” Snape answered, turning to his book. “There are still three, correct?”
“More when you move close.” She missed the feel of the cool hand on her face. “Felt good.”
“You realize your bloodstream is poisoned.” Tonks vaguely recognized the sound of pages flipping quickly as she concentrated on not falling over.
“Yes. The veins in your arm are a livid yellow-orange color. I’d say you’re declining rapidly now,” Snape said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh.” Tonks paused a moment, trying to wrap her mind around the incongruity of his words and his tone. “’S not good.”
“I’d say not. Of course the boils and the petrol smell come from bubotuber pus. Vile, but hardly poisonous, even when a dunderheaded Auror manages to get it directly into her blood.”
“Didn’t mean to,” she muttered in a slurred voice.
“Well, there is a distinct possibility that the swelling caused by the bubotuber pus has slowed the progress of the other ingredient, preserving your life.”
“Oh.” It took Tonks a moment to wrap her mind around what Snape had said. “The fungussy one?”
“I don’t know. I’m looking at fungi now. If you somehow survive this,” Snape said dryly, “please do recall that you managed to poison yourself without my assistance.”
“Probably starts with ‘B’,” Tonks suggested. She felt herself wobbling dangerously on the edge of the desk, but her best attempts at righting herself only seemed to make her wobble more.
All of Snape’s heads shot up to stare at her. “Why do you say that? Sit back.”
Tonks acquiesced to Snape pushing her back farther onto the desk, but not without a grumble of protest. “Ow! ‘S the alphabet… A… B… more B…”
Five pairs of beady black eyes widened until they were rimmed with white. “Slug and Jiggers organizes their potions ingredients alphabetically!” He turned and Tonks could just barely make out a flurry of turning pages and a distinctly un-reassuring hiss of indrawn breath.
“Bundimun secretions! You are by far the most stupid, unlucky fool I have ever had the misfortune of knowing!” Snape exclaimed. “It can only be that… no one is supposed to get Bundimun secretions directly into the bloodstream.”
“Didn’t do it on purpose,” Tonks protested.
Snape rounded on her. “Shut up and attempt to stay alive while I brew an antidote. Can you manage that?”
“’Sanantidote?” she asked hopefully.
“Not yet,” Snape answered as he rummaged through his stores. “And as your continued existence depends on my ability to devise one, I suggest you stop distracting me.”
“Not another word,” he commanded, “and if you feel you must collapse, do so backwards onto the table. No need to add a concussion to your list of injuries.”
“Yessir.” Snape shot her a warning glance, and Tonks repentantly clamped her mouth shut. Sitting upright was really taking too much effort, she decided, so she slowly eased herself backward and curled up on her uninjured side. It was not all that comfortable, but she reasoned dying wasn’t supposed to be comfortable.
This is not the time to be all phlegmatic! part of her mind protested, but Tonks figured that the dying process had somewhat altered her ability to think straight. She watched with almost detached interest as Snape began to chop and pour ingredients into a silver cauldron with nearly manic precision. Blimey, he’s good. Hope he’s good enough….
Her eyes drifted closed, and she woke again to Snape cleaning out the wound with a burning liquid and pressing a hot cloth with squishy bits over it.
“Ouch… whassat?” she asked weakly.
“A bezoar and phoenix tear poultice,” Snape answered while winding gauze around it.
“It should draw out some of the poison. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.”
Tonks nodded mutely, settling back down to observe the Potions master at work. It occurred to her that she had never seen him at a cauldron before – and now she had the chance to observe several of him brewing. Even in her befuddled state, she could understand a little more of his classroom demeanor. Tension oozed from his every pore, but it was wound up and tightly controlled until it was sublimated into something Tonks had never seen before. There was nothing clumsy or inexact about the way he moved; everything looked graceful and deliberate, like some arcane dance. It was no wonder he found his students lacking. Everyone’s a dunderhead compared to him.
As coherent thought lapsed into brief, half-lucid nightmares of weaving spiders wrapping her in a prismatic web and Death Eaters hunting her down a dark alley, Tonks gritted her teeth and sighed. It felt like her veins were burning from the inside out and her heart had begun to struggle erratically. “Snape,” she tried to call out warningly.
None of them turned from their cauldrons. “If you cannot wait the few short minutes until the potion is complete then your only other alternative is to go ahead and die.”
“Stupid, bloody, evil git.”
“That’s the spirit,” Snape congratulated her absently. “Now stop interrupting my concentration.”
Given the options of dying and not dying (on one hand there was a Snape, but that still didn’t quite tip the scales in favor of death) Tonks chose to keep enduring for a little while longer. Soon she felt a bottle pressed to her lips and heard Snape urging her to drink. Nearly half of the contents of the bottle ended up splattered over Snape’s robes, but the portion that she swallowed began to work immediately, spreading a cooling feeling throughout her body as it cleansed her blood.
“Still alive?” Snape asked, his sarcasm falling strangely flat.
Tonks cracked an eyelid open. “I’m going to kill you.”
She thought she caught a glimmer of some odd sort of mocking in Snape’s eyes as he trailed an icy finger down her cheek. “Wait until you’ve regained your strength, dear.”
“’Course,” Tonks agreed, letting her eyelids slide closed again as she heard his footsteps moving away. A moment later she felt herself being turned about and something like another phial being pressed to her lips. She batted it away with her good hand. “What’s--”
“Drink, Tonks,” Snape said, sounding exhausted. “Argue with me about it in the morning.”
Tonks interrupted her slow drifting out of consciousness to look at the phial critically. “It’s a dreamless sleep potion,” she pointed out to him.
“Shockingly enough, I’m aware of that. Drink,” Snape said, his voice sounding at once close and distant.
Tonks giggled slightly. The part of her mind that wasn’t completely befuddled with grogginess recognized a slightly hysterical edge to her laugh. “Can’t sleep in the classroom; you’ll take points.”
“Miss Tonks, you are no longer my student. I cannot take house points from you.”
“You will anyway,” Tonks disagreed.
Snape drew himself up straighter. “Believe it or not, I have better things to do with my time than take imaginary house points from former students… most of which involve sleeping right at the moment.”
For a moment Tonks appeared about to drink the potion, then she abruptly stopped as another thought occurred to her. “You promised me tea, you know.”
“Tea would wake you up and that would be very much contrary to my purposes.”
Snape sighed. “I want you to sleep so I can sleep. I’ll make you tea first thing tomorrow.”
“Don’t believe you.”
“Miss Tonks, I am dangerously close to pouring this potion down your throat.”
“Can’t sleep in the classroom,” she repeated stubbornly.
She heard him sigh again. “Mobilicorpus.”
Tonks suddenly found herself dangling in midair like some sort of floppy marionette. “Hey!” she cried out in protest.
“You can sleep in my room,” Snape said as he crossed the classroom. Tonks found that she had no other choice than to float along behind him. “There are no convenient guest rooms in the dungeons, I should probably monitor you for unfortunate relapses, and I suppose I will have to get used to it eventually.”
“If you are going to insist on being this deliberately obtuse for the duration of our marriage, I shall have to permanently drug one of us into oblivion,” Snape said, throwing a door open.
Tonks let that comment pass concentrating instead on not knocking her head on the lintel. She felt bloody ridiculous dangling in midair.
“You can have this side of the bed,” he said as he released the levitation spell on her and turned down one side of the covers pointedly.
Tonks landed with an undignified squeak. She was gingerly settling into bed and tucking herself in before she realized Snape had only granted her the use of half the bed. “You’re sleeping here…?”
Snape merely favored her with a put-upon expression as re-tucked tucked the covers up to her chin. “This is my bed.”
“… With me!?”
Snape flopped down face first on the other side of the great old bed and then turned to favor her with a half-hearted glare. “Yes, I believe I’ve already confessed how attractive I find injured women - especially ones who reek of blood and potions ingredients.”
Tonks stuck her bottom lip out petulantly. “You never know with you.”
She heard two thunks as Snape toed his boots off and they fell to the floor. “Remind me again what possessed me to save your life?”
“Can’t marry me if I’m dead.”
“Don’t remind me,” Snape muttered, drawing the covers up to his ears.
“But you just told me to--”
“Bundimun secretions are by no means an aphrodisiac, Nymphadora, and I refuse to give up my bed because some idiot fiancée of mine nearly got herself killed. Drink the potion and go to sleep.”
“Bloody wanker,” Tonks muttered as she uncorked the phial and tipped it back as if obedience itself was an act of rebellion.
Snape’s eyes glimmered coldly in the fading light. “Cheers.” As Tonks’ eyelids finally slid closed, she heard the Potions master, once again lying facedown into his pillow, sigh and mumble “Nox.”
Author's note. Whoops! Sorry for the delay--this chapter was wickedly difficult to write! Yes, it was darker than my usual humor, but this chapter wouldn't let me *not* write it (believe me, I tried). Hopefully you enjoyed it, though, and if you feel I'm worthy of it, you might consider voting for me on the Multifaceted Awards this week. I'm nomidated in both the Laughter (Best Humor Fic) and the Pride (Best Fluff) categories.
By the way, this story is now cheerfully AU. Why? Because it's a parody of the marriage law fics, and must follow more or less the same path. I'm not above sneaking in things we learn about the characters, though.
Many, many, many thanks go out to Verity Brown for reading the early drafts of this chapter and helping me find the funny.
Congratulations go out to my Brit-picker Andromeda on her upcoming marriage. Hopefully she won't go the Snape and Tonks route. I'll certainly miss her insight and input.
Welcome and many thanks to Wartcap, for taking over mid-story!
Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 25]