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Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 31]

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Tonks woke up with a jerk - literally as well as figuratively. The dungeon air was clammy as the grave, and someone had stolen all the covers. She eyed the sleeping man beside her as she shivered resentfully. Even in sleep, his face was still completely inscrutable. It was like looking at the carved image of a dead man on his sarcophagus - only somehow much, much more horrible, because every so often Snape let out a terrible snore.

Tonks winced as she gingerly raised herself to a sitting position. She couldn’t tell what time of day it was here in the dungeons, but as far as she was concerned, it was never too early to limp back home to her own bed. She had a strange feeling that if she lingered any longer in this crypt she’d run mad and start playing with dead men’s finger joints or dash out her brains with someone’s petrified thigh bone or something... provided she somehow manage to find some. But given her suspicion that Snape probably had a ready supply of skeletons in his closet, she didn’t figure she’d have too much trouble.

Just as she was shifting her weight to get out of bed, Snape’s eyes shot open. “So you’ve managed to survive.”

“Looks like the wedding’s still on,” Tonks confirmed grimly.

Snape rolled over and buried his face in his pillow. “Go back to sleep. It’s not morning yet.”

Tonks scratched around the bandage on her shoulder. Now that she was fully awake the damn thing was really beginning to ache – and itch. “How can you bloody well tell in here?”

“My alarm hasn’t sounded,” Snape answered shortly. With his face still buried in the pillow, he reached over to his bed stand and found another corked phial, which he tossed in her general direction. “Drink and sleep. I’ll wake you in the morning.”

Tonks considered for a moment and oblivion won out. She removed the cork and then held the phial up in a mock-toast. “Come phial. Snape, I drink to thee.”

Mornings typically found Severus Snape in a foul humor. So did afternoons and evenings, of course, but mornings required significantly more self control.

First there was the blast of his alarm to silence before his instinct to kill kicked in. Then there was the portion of the morning exclusively devoted to refraining from shattering anything. This generally took him to his bath (where he continued to refrain from shattering anything while facing himself in the mirror).

Only as the rising steam from the shower began to fog his mirror did his irritation ebb and clear the way for semi-rational thought.

Blast! Snape carefully set his toothbrush down and peered out into his bedroom. As if to confirm his suspicions in the most glaringly obvious way possible, bright pink hair shone out in the gloom of the dungeon. He could also see glimpses of haphazardly-splayed limbs. There was most definitely a Tonks in his bed.

Snape closed and locked the bathroom door before stepping into the shower. There would be no towel-clad encounters or any other embarrassing run-ins if he had anything to say about it.

The hot shower did little to ease the knots of tension he had acquired as a result of the previous night’s exertion. He was getting too old for skin-of-the-tooth potions-making. It was bloody murder on the back.

Despite the warmth, a frisson of goose-pimples rose along his arms and up the back of his neck like the flurry of snowflakes preceding an avalanche. He vainly attempted to recite potions ingredients in order to distract himself from the realization he felt coming.

Aconite, acromantula venom, armadillo bile, asphodel…she’s there, right now…belladonna, bezoar, billywig stings… in my bed.

Boomslang skin, bubotuber pus, Bundimun…. Bloody hell, there’s a student in my bed. He had been more concerned last night with getting himself into the bed - it hadn’t occurred to him to be disturbed about who he invited with him. But now, in the metaphorical light of day, there was nothing to stop the full impact of that from hitting him like the aforesaid avalanche.

She’s not a student any longer. She has not been one for seven years. And I was hardly taking advantage. Still, Snape was still disturbed that he had crossed a line with a student. And that one in particular….

Tonks had been nothing short of a menace in his classroom. Worse than the Weasley twins in her own way. She had an absolute knack for breaking or exploding precisely what would annoy him the most at the time - but she carried it off with an air of blithe obliviousness that resisted all his attempts to assign more nefarious motives. She was worse than Longbottom, too, because she wasn’t an incompetent potions maker. She did manage to qualify for and pass NEWT-level Potions on her own merit. He had never forgiven her for that.

If someone out there had deliberately gone through his catalogue of former students to pair with him, they could not have found one who was more frustrating to him. When she was a student, he’d wanted to strangle her. Nothing had really changed all that much over the years, except that now she was lying in his bed, and they were going to be married. The urge to strangle, at least, persisted.

Yech, marriage. The term brought with it some unavoidable joint activities that might prove more than a little awkward.

It was unfortunate that Snape’s inner-Dumbledore chose that moment to appear. What he had done to deserve an inner-Dumbledore was beyond Snape, but the damn mental construct was even more suggestive and twinkling than the real thing.

“It’s much like riding a broomstick, my dear boy.”

“What,” Snape snarled as he suppressed the unwelcome construct, “you end up spending the following day walking oddly and pulling splinters out of your arse?”

“What you learn once you never forget, I believe.”

“Go away, old man,” Snape growled, very aware as he was doing so that he was talking to himself in the shower.

“I’m merely trying to impart some Quidditch advice… from one wizard to another.”

“You’re not a wizard. You’re a figment of my overactive imagination.”

“Really, my boy, you have nothing to worry about. You still have your equipment, after all.”

Snape chose not to justify that with an answer.

“Kept it in working order, no doubt.”

“Please be kind enough to shut it,” Snape suggested while attacking his hair with a bar of soap.

“And of course you have been practicing your moves. How’s your Sloth Grip Roll these days?”

“Deplorable, but as we’re not actually talking about Quidditch, what does it matter?”

“You’re absolutely correct; under the circumstances, a Transylvanian Tackle or Wollongong Shimmy might be more appropriate.”

Snape paused a moment to rinse the soap out of his hair. “No, I don’t believe they are.”

“Well I should stay away from using Parkin’s Pincer if I were you,” Dumbledore advised. “What about the good old Starfish and Stick?”

“Now you’re just being ridiculous,” Snape said as he turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

In that somewhat addled state of mind, Snape toweled himself dry more haphazardly than usual. Then he paused. His clean clothing was in his wardrobe. The wardrobe was in his bedroom. That, coincidentally enough, was where Tonks was.

He unlocked the bathroom door and looked out into the bedroom. Tonks’ limbs were arranged in a new anatomically improbable pose, but she appeared to be still asleep. He decided to chance it.

Before setting foot outside the door, however, Snape made sure that the towel was wrapped securely. Then, on second thought, he went back and threw his cloak over his shoulders. One could never be too careful where Tonks was concerned. The woman was a menace.

He crept across the still night-dark bedroom like a shadow and peered over at the sleeping woman. Tonks was muttering to herself. It could be a lingering after-effect of either the poison or the cure, he supposed. More than likely, however, the woman was incapable of going five minutes without emitting some sort of sound from her mouth.

Just then, she opened her eyes and stared directly at him. “Heffalumps don’t do ballet!”

Snape jumped back in surprise and then frantically grabbed for his slipping towel. “Of course they don’t,” he replied as evenly as possible, given the situation. Tonks looked satisfied with his answer and her eyes closed. She soon resumed her unintelligible murmuring. Let her sleep, Snape decided, looking down on the young woman’s drawn face and the thin line of drool trickling out of the corner of her mouth.

That had been a close thing last night, he considered. Very nearly too close. Apparently the healers at the Ministry were greater fools than he’d originally given them credit for being. Gripping his towel in one hand and clutching his cloak closed with the other, he made his way to his wardrobe. Prudence guided him to gather the clothing he needed from the wardrobe and carry it out to his office to dress there.

After dressing, he summoned a house-elf. While he was waiting for it, he pulled a roll of parchment out of his desk drawer and licked the quill.

“Professor Snape wants something?”

Snape looked up at the house-elf for a moment. “Breakfast for two - and a pot of tea.”

“Right away, Professor, sir.”

Snape made a vague noise of acknowledgement and a moment later the house-elf was gone with a pop. He returned his attention to the parchment before him.

Nymphadora Tonks finds herself indisposed and unable to work this morning as she attempts to recover from an inadvertent poisoning that the myopic, dimwitted imbeciles you call healers managed to completely overlook.

Snape found himself spelling away numerous spiteful remarks about the fact that many of these so-called “healers” would have profited from paying attention in his class, or, failing that, from removing their heads from their arses… and simply signed his name at the bottom of the letter.

When the house-elf returned with breakfast, he gave it the letter to owl to the Aurors. After casting a stasis spell on breakfast, Snape brought it out to his classroom. There were far too many precious breakable things in his office.

The debris from the previous night’s frantic potions-making was appalling. He spent over a quarter of an hour cleaning and inventorying the damage.

Tonks’ bloodstained robe was lying on the floor where he’d tossed it the previous night. While rummaging through its many pockets he discovered her wand, some coins, Muggle bubble gum and finally, a small - and miraculously unbroken - jar of powdered pearl. With her wand in pocket and the jar in hand, Snape set to work.

The potion had just begun to simmer when a telltale crash from the direction of his chambers told him that Tonks had either gotten up or managed to fall out of bed. He set the potion in stasis and turned his head in the direction of the door.

“Out here.”

Moments later, a bedraggled and sleepy-looking Tonks wandered out into the classroom, yawning ferociously. She wobbled dangerously close to a particularly precarious shelf, but managed to right herself before knocking it over. At that point Snape figured it was probably better to intervene. In a battle between Tonks and his potions stores, he knew he would be the greatest loser.

As he guided her by the elbow to the table that had been laid out with their breakfast, he could hear Tonks muttering something to herself. Snape decided to ignore her for the moment. She would likely be more coherent after her morning tea. He hadn’t quite decided whether that was a good thing or not.

Having settled her in her seat without incident, Snape took his own seat, ended the stasis spell on breakfast, and poured Tonks a cup of the tea. He watched her eyes light up and follow the liquid from the spout of the teapot to the china cup.

She reached to take the cup out of his hands before he had even set it down, but he swatted her hand away.

“What?” Tonks asked, her eyebrows drawn together in accusatory confusion.

“Let’s attempt to start today on a civil foot.”

“I suppose ‘gimme the blasted tea, you bugger’ is out of the question then?” Tonks muttered darkly.

“Very much so. Would you like any milk in your tea?”

Tonks scrunched her nose and shook her head. “No, you friggin’ control freak.”

“Sugar?” he asked, his voice saccharine.

“What’d that tea ever do to you?” He watched her fingers twitch to reach for the cup again, but she resisted the urge and folded her hands.

Snape tried to suppressed the quirk of a smile in the corner of his mouth. “Poison?”

That forced a dry chuckle out of Tonks. “Just a dollop or two, I suppose.”

Snape nodded and slid the cup across the table to her. He watched her whole body seem to relax as she first inhaled and then sipped the tea. She really was an odd woman, he decided.

“What time is it?” she asked after a moment.

“It’s a little before ten. I’ve set our appointment with Elkins for quarter after eleven.”

“You let me sleep in? Snape, I bloody well have to work this morning!” Tonks set her teacup down and managed to half-rise before crumpling over and hissing in pain.

Snape watched with a raised eyebrow. “Sit down. I sent an owl informing the Ministry that you would not be in this morning.”

At first Tonks glared at him, but then she closed her eyes and the corners of her mouth quirked. When she opened her eyes again, they were crinkled with barely suppressed amusement. “You sent a sick note for me?”

“You are obviously in no condition to work this morning.”

Tonks plopped herself down in her chair and snorted at him. “I didn’t think you knew what they were.”

“Perhaps we can use this time to discuss how we will present ourselves to the Ministry?” Snape suggested, ignoring her attempt to bait him. “Since you insist on having a big wedding, we might also want to discuss how we are going to bring that about. Amusing as the idea is, I am not willing to bankrupt myself in the process.”

Tonks scratched the side of her nose. “I figured we’d reluctantly let Mr. Elkins talk us into being the poster couple for the new Marriage Law and have the Ministry pick up the bill. They need a story to sell.”

“And what is our story?” Snape asked, dreading the answer.

“That’s the hard bit,” Tonks conceded. She stuffed a forkful of eggs into her mouth and made what she probably believed was a thoughtful face. Then she swallowed the mouthful of food and her eyes became disingenuously wide. “We’ve been pen-pals for years with out realizing each other’s identity and only recently discovered who we were and that we were hopelessly in love.”

Snape gritted his teeth. “Do I look like the type of man who writes long letters about myself and my feelings to a completely unknown person?”

Tonks appeared unfazed by his criticism. “I picked you up off the street when you were lost and alone and brought you into my home, where I gave you some tea and a reason for living. Then we fell hopelessly in love.”

“Don’t tell me you actually believe someone would fall for that drivel,” Snape said.

Tonks simply grinned at him. “We met at a BDSM club and discovered a shared passion for whips and manacles. We fell hopelessly in love.”

Snape closed his eyes for a moment and bowed his head. “I realize that this is probably demanding too much from you, but don’t be ridiculous. Just because I am not the most popular teacher in this school does not mean I have a hidden penchant for dominating my sexual partners.”

When he looked up, Tonks was grinning even more widely. “Actually, I was sort-of figuring it the other way around. Fine. No bondage. It’s not something they could really print in the Prophet anyway.” She rolled her eyes. “We met at a Ministry Ball. I was being harassed by a sloshed ex-boyfriend and you came to my defense. We talked, we had champagne, and we spent the rest of the evening dancing under the stars. Stick the hopeless love in there somewhere.”

Snape nearly snorted his tea. “That’s even less believable than your bondage suggestion. I’m hardly the knight in shining armor type. And I can tell you where to stick your hopeless love nonsense.”

“Do I look like I’ve gone barmy? Of course you aren’t, Snape. And any bloke who messed with me would be spending the rest of the night trying to fish his wand out of his left nostril. But that’s not the point. The point is that the Ministry and the Prophet will eat it up. Unless you can think of something better?” she left the suggestion hanging.

“You’re a gold-digger out for my family fortune,” Snape proposed. “No love, hopeless or otherwise.”

“You’re blackmailing me to marry you so you can ally yourself with the Black family,” Tonks shot back.

“Over my dead body, Nymphadora.”

Tonks attempted to draw her wand on him, and – not finding it – settled for a fork with a piece of bacon on the end. “Snape, if you call me that again so help me I’ll…”

“Attack me with the breakfast I am so generously providing you?” Snape grinned as he drew her own wand on her. “This might be more appropriate, dearest.”

’Dearest’? Pet names aren’t an option, Snape.”

“Indeed. If you refuse to let me call you Nymphadora, they’re a necessity.”

Tonks slammed down her fork and grabbed her wand from his hand. For his part, Snape let her take the wand and tried not to smirk too outrageously. After all, he did not want to experience firsthand what it would be like to fish his wand out of either nostril. “Do you honestly think we’re going to convince the dunderheads at the Ministry that we’re hopelessly in love when we call each other ‘Snape’ and ‘Tonks’?” he asked her.

“And stop calling everyone who works at the Ministry a dunderhead. I work there, too, y’know.”

“Believe it or not, I was aware of that, Pookie.”

“I’m definitely going to have to kill you,” Tonks said almost to herself. “Snookums.”

Snape favored her with an indulgent, vaguely feral smile. “You could always try using my first name….”

Tonks cocked her head to one side and gave him an equally mean smile. “You could always try shutting your gob, Sev’rus.”

“That’s ‘Severus’ - you missed a syllable.”

Tonks stuck her tongue out at him. “Maybe I’ll just call you Sevy.”

“What’s the matter, Nymphadora, can’t wrap your mouth around it?”

Tonks’ eyes widened before she recovered herself. He watched as her lips quirked into a rather naughty smile. “Wait and see, Snapeykins, wait and see.”

Snape inclined his head to her before rising from the table and offering her his hand. “A word of advice, Nymphadora. Do not call me anything that you will live to regret.”

Tonks accepted the hand - and punched him in the gut with her other hand. “I told you not to call me Nymphadora,” she reminded him. She then dropped his hand and sauntered back in the direction of his bedroom.

Snape stood dumbly for a moment while he attempted to catch his breath. The urge to hex her into next week was rising again, but he reminded himself forcibly that her presence was required at the meeting this morning.

“I’m raiding your wardrobe,” she called back nonchalantly.

That certainly got his attention. “Absolutely not!”

“You bloody well owe me a shirt!”

Snape groaned and followed her to the bedroom. “You can’t go to this meeting wearing my shirt.”

He found her already half-buried in his clothing. “I slept over at your place. I borrowed a shirt. What’s wrong with that?”

“I refuse to have people thinking I’m marrying a cross-dressing Metamorphmagus.”

“You can tell them our amorous activities got a bit out of hand and you caused irreparable damage to my shirt.” She pulled out a pale green shirt that Snape didn’t remember owning and held it up to her face. “D’you think this’ll make me look peckish?”

“No more than usual.” It occurred to Snape that he might as well just let her have the shirt. He abruptly pivoted and strode from the room. “Hurry and change. We have to be at the Ministry in twenty minutes - dear.”

Special thanks go out to Verity Brown for her feedback (especially on all the earlier, not-funny drafts) and Wartcap and her team of Britpickers-cum-error-spotters. Without their help, you wouldn't be reading this.

Ah, yes, and as you can see, I'm not dead. Thanks go out to those who sent flowers and brownies :) I have plenty of really good excuses for why this is so late, but suffice it to say, I will always be a slow updater. I will also never drop this story.

Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 31]

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