This story was originally published in here:

Title: Gentle Rain
Author Name: Aura Illumina
Rating: R
Spoilers: None. Written between Order of Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince.
Genre: Romance, Humor
Era: Multiple Eras
Main Character(s): Hr, Snape
Ship(s): None
Summary: Severus Snape is forced to let his least favourite ex-student to help him with his post-Cruciatus effects. Contains sarcasm, humor, fury and... find out yourself!
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
I sadly admit that characters in this story don't belong to me. Only the plot is mine, everything else belongs to J.K. Rowling. I just play a little in that magnificent magical sandbox of hers. Wish I could live there... Anyway, I have small children and huge depts, don't sue me, please.
Author's notes: This story is written hudreds of yoears ago. It's my first attemp to write fanfiction. My english sucks and I thought I had a brittish Beta. She was very nice, but after what I've heard, there's lot of unbrittish expressions in the text. Anyway, if you are over 15 years old, read, enjoy and have mercy!

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Gentle Rain 
Chapter 1 - Close Call 
"Enter! What in Merlin's name took you so long, Madam Pomfrey? My post-Cruciatus effects are worse than ever, and that should say something." Severus Snape was lying half-naked on his large four poster bed in his own private quarters and his disgruntled voice sounded crooked and anguished. 
As he was positioned on his stomach with his face towards the wall, he couldn't see the terrified look on his former student and present colleague, Hermione Granger's, pale face. She was squeezing a small vial in her trembling hands, as if she could turn it into a Portkey by her power of will, and fly far away from there. 
"Uh, well… it's not exactly Madam Pomfrey…" she managed to cheep out of her mouth without stammering a lot. 
Snape turned his head as fast as possible for a man in great distress, and his muscles stiffened painfully, aching and burning. 
"Miss Granger! What are you doing in my private bedroom? Get out! Now! Immediately!" he bellowed, mostly to conceal his confusion and embarrassment with fury. 
"But Professor Snape, I'm so sorry. I knew you would hate me coming in here, and I tried to tell them, but this seemed to be the only choice," Hermione whined desperately. "I promised to help, and otherwise you would have had to go without your Analgesic Liniment," she tried to reason. 
"Where is Poppy Pomfrey? I want to see her right now!" Professor Snape hissed. 
"She isn't able to come. Do you think I would be here otherwise? Madam Pomfrey is very busy with intestinal flu epidemic of the pupils. It's terribly contagious; almost everyone has had it, myself included. However, I'm now recovered from it, so she asked if I could help and come here instead of her, since I'm not allowed to help her in the infirmary." 
"I see, but I highly disapprove this," Potions Master said snorting and continued lowering his voice to a level of vicious growl. "It is hard to choose which is more painful - having you here, in my private territory, or suffer from these dreadfully tearing pain cramps. It is like choosing between a devil and a demon." 
Just what I said about coming in here, she thought as she twisted the cork and opened the vial. 
Ointment glowed in different shades of green and gold in her palm. It seemed to be truly miraculous substance. She took a few timid steps toward her former Potions Master and placed her hands on his shoulders. 
Snape had to swallow his sigh of relief as the powerful ointment was spread onto his aching muscles. Hermione's hands felt cold. 
She is absolutely terrified, he thought, smiling inwardly, and allowed himself to relax little by little. This was exactly what he needed. Efficiently soothing liniment, killing pain in his muscles, not to mention the coolness of her gentle hands. 
If he could only forget that the woman touching his bare skin was an insufferable young witch, who seemed to know everything except how to keep her big mouth shut. Thank God she wasn't babbling now. Her hands moved softly but hesitantly- very differently than Madame Pomfrey's warm and firm touch. It made him feel strange, as though it was somehow more intimate than before- than with Poppy. 
Gods, I wish she would finish soon and leave me alone. 
Hermione had spread the ointment onto his neck, back and arms, carefully avoiding to look at his dark mark, but there was still his chest and legs left. 
Oh my God, I'm not going to survive this, she thought in slight panic. 
"Co…could you… uhm, could you please turn on your back, please?" 
"If you insist!" he snapped irascibly. 
Practically keeping her eyes closed, she spread the liniment as quickly as possible over his chest and slender stomach. She tried to be as discreet and absent as she could when she started to rub the healing lotion on his thighs. 
Suddenly he jumped up and startled Hermione nearly to death. 
"I would prefer it to be on my stomach, if you don't mind!" he snarled, so viciously that Hermione almost started to cry. 
Why was this man so mean to her? It had always been the riddle she just couldn't figure out. She had always just tried to be a good student, a nice and friendly colleague, to assist and help; she had never done anything to him, not at least that she knew of. It was so unfair. 
For over twelve years now he had managed to make her feel so miserable. He really knew how to insult her, even without any words. Just one look or tone in his voice could do it. When Hermione had finished oiling his legs, she left without saying a word. 
Once certain that she had left, Professor Snape put his hands over his gleaming face and burst out in low voice, 
"Damn, it was close." 
Chapter 2 - Lazy Chess 
Harry watched Hermione poke her fork into a boiled egg like there had been a certain someone's face painted on it. 
"Ouch, that must have hurt," he said, smiling compassionately. 
"What?" Hermione mumbled as she awakened from her reveries. 
"Nothing, never mind." Harry felt very sorry for her having had to go to help Snape, ending up to be a victim of his unfair and erratic bad temper. After all these years Harry and Hermione were still best friends, and she could confide in him about everything. She was also probably the most important person in his life, save Ron. 
Like everybody had expected, after graduation Harry had become an Auror and continued his fight against evil, as he had done from the age of eleven. Only this time it was harder, more serious, and without his closest ones. The overthrow of Voldemort had been horrible. He couldn't remember much of it, but what he did was too much. He knew that the day when he had to sort out his feelings about the events would come sooner or later, but right now he just wasn't ready for it, and gladly chose the latter option. Later. 
Three years as an Auror was enough for him, at least for a while. He had missed Ron and Hermione terribly, and Hogwarts too, his only true home. There he could feel his parents' presence more than anywhere else. There they had been happy and without worry. Harry had tried to live in Godric's Hollow, his parents' home that he had inherited after he graduated, but couldn't bear it for long. He was lonely and miserable there, like everything that those walls had witnessed had still been written all over. Certainly not the most suitable place to stay up at night or spend the rainy days doing nothing. The place where his father had been murdered, where his mother had gave her life for her baby boy. No wonder he couldn't be happy there, at least not alone. 
Hermione had stayed in Hogwarts all these years. First she had been helping Madame Pince at the library, and then she had done some temporary replacements in every subject other than Divination and Care for Magical Creatures. Luckily enough, Madame Hooch had never been ill or otherwise absent, since she couldn't have managed to teach any flying, not to mention Quidditch. After a few years, she got tenured as a teacher of the History of Magic. Dumbledore had at last managed to assure Professor Binns of the necessity of his retirement. Nobody knew what he had told him, but in regards to Professor Binns' farewell speech, he was in a supposition that it was very important and noble deed to give a chance for a young brilliant girl as Hermione Granger. And indeed, Hermione was a marvellous teacher. Students loved her lessons. She was so enthusiastic, creative and knew absolutely everything about the history of Hogwarts and other parts of the magical world as well. Her previous adventures with Harry and Ron just polished the intriguing halo around her in the eyes of her students. No need to say how happy she was with her life. A few months ago Harry had also got the post of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He had really needed the change, so he was thrilled. Here, at home, at last. If Ron could have been there, too, it would have been almost like at the good old times. 

After classes, Harry and Hermione met in her private quarters and played one lazy match of the Wizarding Chess. 
"It's December soon, what are you planning for Christmas?" Hermione asked while moving her white pawn. 
"Same as always. I can't imagine what could be merrier than to sing traditional Christmas carols with indecent lyrics made by the Weasley twins, besides, I can't live if I don't get Molly's wonderful eggnog once a year." 
"You are absolutely right! I'm planning the same. There's nothing quite like it." Hermione laughed at the happy memories, which she could still so vividly see in her imagination. 
"You are? I thought that after you broke up with Ron, we wouldn't be seeing you at the Burrow anymore." 
"Don't be ridiculous. We have always been primarily friends, secondarily lovers, and that lovers part didn't even last so long. Luckily we both realised that it wasn't really good for either one of us. I noticed that I started to be more like his mother and less like myself. I was so relieved, and I think he was too, when we agreed to return back to being good friends with no hard feelings. It isn't possible with everyone, you know." 
Harry knew perfectly well. He could never be friends again, if he ever was, with Cho, and they weren't even that much involved. Just a few dates and that one kiss. So childish, actually. He hadn't had many girls after that, just some snogging with one girl from the school and other from Auror training. Those never led to anything more serious, and deep inside he envied Ron, for being more experienced, more of a man.  
Chapter 3 - Delicious 
On Saturday morning, Hermione woke up early enough to see the most beautiful shimmering white frost covering the grass and dark leaves on the ground. What an enchanting morning, she thought, and it's all mine. I can do whatever I please. After house-elf's kind services, she climbed back to her cosy bed with a large, steaming cup of herbal tea and few freshly baked rolls. Old Croockshanks purring at her feet, she summoned a heavy old book labelled "The Greatest Transformers Ever" to land smoothly at her lap and turned the first pages with pleasure compared to a kiss of a long lost lover. After three hours of passionate reading, she sipped the last cold drops of her tea and closed the book. Something was knocking at her window. Amongst the frosty flowers on a window pane, she noticed a familiar pair of green eyes. 
"Harry, what do you think you're doing?" she screamed after using a few powerful spells to get the old, icy and stuck window open. Harry was swaying to and fro on his broom, smiling mischievously. 
"I just didn't want to wait for you anymore. We agreed to go to Hogsmeade this afternoon, remember?" Harry said, smirking boyishly. 
"Of course I remember. Come on in; I'll be ready in no time," Hermione lied as she frantically searched for her out-door clothes. 
"Yeah, right. I'm not coming in, just grab your cloak and get on board instead." 
"Not in a million years! It's me you're talking to, Hermione, bushy hair, loves to read, hates to fly…" 
"Oh, come on; it'll be fun. It's just a short trip, and as you know, I am a very steady flier. Think rationally, five minutes, and you'll be sipping warm Butterbeer in Three Broomsticks with me, instead of a long and freezing walk. Not bad, huh?" 
"Okay, you have a point there." 
Harry had said the magic word rationally, so Hermione didn't have any other choice than to agree. "Let's go, if you promise to be extra careful with that Firebolt of yours." 

After a few hours of hilarious Christmas shopping with prankish Harry, who seemed to be in an unusually good mood, they finally arrived at the Three Broomsticks. Brisk air and wandering in almost every shop in Hogsmeade had made them tired and thirsty. In no time they had emptied many glasses and a light-hearted mood sparkled between them. 
"I had forgotten how extraordinarily delicious Madam Rosmerta's Butterbeer tastes," Hermione sighed, smiling ecstatically. "It's been too long since I've been here last. I have to admit that I work too much and enjoy too little of my life. I can't even remember when I last laughed so much as today." Hermione seemed to be deep in her reveries when she continued. "It's such a pity, since it feels soooo good and it's sooooo relaxing. It's awful how good things are soon forgotten, if one doesn't do them often enough." 
Harry squirted a sip of Butterbeer out of his mouth laughing wildly. "It sounds like you were meaning something totally different than laughing or a taste of Butterbeer," he said with an insinuating tone in his voice. 
"Harry, please, I didn't say it; you just have a dirty imagination." Hermione blushed lightly, but was eager to take advantage of the situation to tease Harry a little bit back. "It seems you have been too long without it, if you hear hints everywhere. Maybe you should ask Rosmerta out, she's so… delicious, and I'm sure she just adores you." 
"Does she?" 
"I'll bet she does. Besides, who wouldn't be drooling after such a handsome and courageous young superhero as you are?" 
"You, for example," Harry replied, smiling impishly. 
"Yes, but that's only because I know what an insufferable scamp you are deep down." Her voice was full of tender fondness, so there wasn't a possibility to misunderstand this little mock. 
Harry took a horrified and offended expression on his face and yelled, trying not to laugh, "Am not!" 
"Are too!" 
"Am not!" 
"Are too!" 
They were laughing like two half-grown maniacs, without even knowing what they were laughing at or talking about anymore. Suddenly, three loud and clear beeping sounds broke the air. Startled Hermione yanked a little something from her pocket. 
"Do you have a sneakoskope in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" Harry asked, mumbling slightly and smiling like an idiot. 
"Oh gods, the level of your jokes is starting to get so low…" Hermione answered, but couldn't help giggling. "This is a Youfinder. Madam Pomfrey gave it to me when I promised to take care of Professor Snape's healing process. We agreed she could use it to reach me in a matter of emergency." 
"So you mean you have to go to pamper that slimeball and leave me here to get drunk all alone?" Harry said with a faked misery on his face. 
"I don't know about that slime and balls part, but I can tell that you are already drunk." 
"And you are not? Are you sure it's a good idea to go to that snake's nest so late in the evening, when you are in so vulnerable and in a need of…" 
"Shut up!" Hermione interrupted him laughing. "I don't know why Madam Pomfrey needs me; I'm not drunk, I never am, and… what did you say? Oh Harry, you are impossible!" 
She had already put on her cloak and was heading to the front door. "Bye, Harry, thank you so much for this day, promise me you won't fly tonight, and don't forget to take your purchases with you, and go ahead and ask Rosm… I mean delicious out…" Harry couldn't hear her last words anymore, since she had already apparated away. 
Chapter 4 - Bastard 
"So, it's you again." Severus Snape tried to sit up on his couch, but it was obviously very difficult. 
I'm not so happy to see you, either, Hermione thought bitterly. "Madam Pomfrey was feeling sick, intestinal flu is very contagious, as you know, and she didn't want to risk you getting it, too, especially now, that you are… in that condition." 
For a few unnaturally long moments there was very awkward silence between them. 
Eventually Snape opened his meanly twisted mouth: "If I wasn't in such a terrible pain, I would absolutely refuse to be taken care by… by you!" he said, stretching the word you scornfully. 
You make it sound as if there were something totally awful in me, she thought, but instead of saying it aloud, she burst out with a little bit louder voice that she had meant to. "If I wasn't such a terribly good-hearted person, I would have absolutely refused to take care of YOU!" 
Silence again. 
"As unpleasant as this is, for both of us, I assume we should get it done as quickly as possible," Snape noted and tried to walk to his bed as gracefully as possible, failing miserably. 
Even though he had just insulted her a few moments ago, she couldn't stop herself from feeling sorry for his condition. He must have been through hell. How powerful a spell could it have been, that still, after a year from the exact incidence, he suffered so enormously. Hermione looked away when Snape crawled onto his bed, and she tried to act as if she hadn't noticed anything deviant in his normally smooth motion. After a while, Snape had undressed and was laying on his front with only pair of dark grey shorts on. Hermione couldn't have cared less if he had been there wearing nothing. It was merely an obligation, a task she had promised to do in order to help Madam Pomfrey. She had always been very kind and supportive to her, so why wouldn't she want to express her gratitude by being there for her when needed. She twisted the vial open and poured the shining green liquid onto her palm. 
Hermione's soft hands made alleviating circles on his skin. Sweet relief. Her touch had a warming and cooling effect at the same time. Snape was struggling with an inner battle. Oh, how he needed this, how he wanted to let go, to forget, to just forget everything and drown in the ocean of heavenly sensations made by her hands. No, not her hand, just the magnificent ointment. This had nothing to do with her! Again, an intoxicating wave of pleasure swept over him and silenced his thoughts. 

How long had he been there? Had he really let himself be so vulnerable and needy, like a baby? He was wondering, terrified if the girl had heard his sighs of enjoyment. Had she felt his body shivering under her touch? What an absolutely nauseatingly, embarrassing thought. This had to end immediately! I'm not going to lose the remnants of my superiority and authority by starting to moan in front of her like a lovesick teenager. I have to do something about this before she gets some silly misconceptions in that pretty head of hers. 
What did I… oh, Merlin!
"So, what are you planning for the next time?" he asked matter of factly. 
"Excuse me?" Hermione couldn't understand what the man was talking about. 
"I was just wondering what you are going to make up the next time I'm in a need of… of a helping hand." Thank god, no Freudian slips with this one. 
"First you say Madam Pomfrey is busy, then sick, I just want to know what you were planning to tell me the next time you feel like coming here to torture me." 
First Hermione thought he was joking, this was such a totally absurd claim, but it didn't really sound like his natural style of humour. She looked at his face, but that stone mask of his didn't reveal even the slightest hint of amusement. Only despise and discontentment, as usual. 
Oh no, he couldn't have meant… no. She could hardly believe her ears. 
"What?! Are you suggesting that I somehow organised this? That I would have wanted to come here, to touch you? Oh, no, no, Sir… you have lost your marbles, professor. You have totally lost it!" Hermione mumbled in an astonished disbelief. 
"Well, you seemed to be quite eager…" 
That was enough. Hermione took a long deep breath in, like an otter that's about to dive to the bottom of the sea, and let her voice, trembling with fury, to fill the room. 
"You arrogant, self-centered, complacent BASTARD! Don't you dare try to flatter yourself at my expense. I was enjoying my free Saturday evening with my best friend's good company over a tasty glass of hot Butterbeer, and was involuntarily forced to come here, just because you needed me, and you DARE to insult me by suggesting that there would be some other reason, than blind madness, behind that I came here to help you! Oh, Holy Merlin on a Pogo Stick, I don't know if I should laugh or cry, but if that's all, then good night, Sir!" 
"That's not all, I'm afraid," he said with a cold and monotonous voice, where there wasn't even a hint left of the surprise and amusement he felt inside. 
"Oh my, what else?" she said with her most sarcastic and uptight voice. 
"I am not a bastard." 
The collection of small glass vials clinked on the table as she slammed the door shut, leaving the curtains of his bed to wave for a long while, after she was gone. 
Chapter 5 - Enough 
Hermione didn't want to bother Madam Pomfrey while she was still recovering from a nasty bout of intestinal flu. However, she had been boiling inside the whole day Sunday and didn't want to meet anybody. First thing on Monday morning she marched into the infirmary and tried to control herself, so as not to explode at the innocent mediwitch. 
"Poppy, dear, you know how glad I am when I'm able to return a favour to you. I'd be happy to help you in the future, too, but I am not going to go to Professor Snape anymore! I have had more than enough of his bad manners!" Hermione said, and saying it aloud tempted her to shed the rest of it too. "It's not as if I didn't know what kind of man he is, and what I was to expect, but enough is enough. I've done nothing to deserve his hatred, and now I have had it! I am never going to go to that bat's chamber again. If you need help, I'll do anything, I'll even clean bed-pans or scrub vomit from the floor, just name it, but - I – am – not – going – near – him – anymore!" 
A wide and understanding smile spread onto Madam Pomfrey's kind face. "Oh, dear girl, I was expecting you to say that. I understand, and I very much appreciate what you have done. And so does he. It may be difficult for you to believe that, but he'll be very disappointed. He likes you so much." 
Hermione was standing in front of her, amazed, and looked like thousands of questioning marks would have been tattooed on her face. "It is not how I would put it. He despises me; he always has!" 
"That's what you might think, but you don't know Severus Snape the way I do. Believe me; he really likes you. Besides, he is very grateful, because his recovery has taken a very unexpected and sudden change for the better. He said it himself. It's like a miracle. You must have some natural healing skills that you are not aware of…" 
Hermione couldn't believe her own ears. She felt as if someone had just said that in fact Dumbledore has always been a woman, and earns some extra pocket money working as a cabaret dancer. No way! 
She needed some time to digest this. Madam Pomfrey wasn't someone who liked to babble or to say inaccurate things to anyone. To get some more time to think, she fluently changed the subject. 
"I've been wondering, why is he ill in the first place? What happened to him?" 
Hermione could see a faint of sadness on Poppy's face when she started to tell her about Snape. "A few months before his downfall, Voldemort started to question Severus' loyalty. He put him through a series of hard testing, to put it mildly. Being a victim of many curses weakened his normally almost impassable energetic field and suffering from several long-termed and extreme Cruciatus' damaged his nerves very badly. Because of this, from time to time, he falls into their effects again, like some sort of flash-backs, but on a physical level." The old lady sighed and shook her head in an expression of disapproval and continued again. 
"The man is as strong as a tiger, unbelievable as it may seem. Without his natural toughness and stamina, he would have been dead a long time ago. Now, during these two weeks, his cramps and pain attacks have ceased, thanks to you. It seems as if there was something magical with your calls." Madam Pomfrey smiled a little mischievously and Hermione suddenly felt very hot as she was slightly baffled. 
"But why does the recovery take so long? One would suppose that he'd be able to brew some potion that would heal him once and for all?" Hermione asked, puzzled. 
"Yes, and he has. It just isn't capable of working perfectly as long as there is an emotional analogue inside of him." 
"Could you please be more specific, I don't quite understand." Hermione moved nearer to Madam Pomfrey, so that not a word would accidentally slip over her ear. 
"I mean, that this incredible liniment is based on a potion made by him, but it isn't able to remove all the effects of the curse as long as he carries same kind of quality in his energetic field. It is the reason he can't be completely healed, and it makes him liable for those awful residual effects. I have tried to explain it to him many times, and one would think that an intelligent man like himself would understand, but no." 
"Maybe he is just not that bright after all…" Hermione muttered more to herself, smiling inwardly. 
"You see," Poppy continued, "Cruciatus is a curse of torture. Inside himself, Severus carries a tiny part of its quality, the quality that believes in torture and feels like it is deserved." 
"You tell me, and it's not such a tiny part…" Hermione tittered quietly. 
"He'll probably be more or less sadistic for the rest of his life, but somehow he should get rid of the most part of it. Most of the bouts of pain for him are a result of negative thoughts that concern him. They are like an iron cage, where he is shut in by himself. He knows it, but doesn't admit it to anyone. He has such a very complicated psyche. He acts like he is confident and self-assured, not to mention self-satisfied, but he can't allow even a tiny bit of gentleness for himself." The old mediwitch started to look somewhat regretful that she had shared so much of her patient's personal matters to Hermione. "I wouldn't be telling you this if I wasn't absolutely sure that you needed to be told. I also know you will keep all of this to yourself." 
"Of course, you can count on my loyalty," Hermione hastened to confirm. 
"And the other reason for telling you this is that I still foster a hope that you'll change your mind, as difficult as it may be, and agree to take care of him at least one last time. You can't imagine what a difference it would make to his condition." 
"Yes, you're right, I can't!" Hermione snorted. 
"I know it's a lot to ask, but it would be so important, and he knows it himself, too. There's something in you, just the right kind of inner quality, what he needs to get better-" 
"A better person? Yeah, right," she interrupted sarcastically and was sorry the minute she had said it. 
"I meant to get well. He needs to forgive himself," Poppy continued in a calm voice, only to be interrupted again. 
"It's very hard for me to believe that he is anything less than perfect in his own eyes. I think he needs to forgive the rest of the world not to be as flawless as he is." 
"Yes, that's what he wants us to see… Although, I have come to believe that he uses these painful after-effects as a self punishment, as unconscious as it may be. So, it needs to come from outside of himself, and there you come into the picture." 
"But, but… I can't give him anything. I don't even know if I can forgive him…" Hermione stammered. 
"You don't have to forgive him, nor do you have to give him anything, except your time… The magical ointment we are using is a very incredible substance. While spreading it onto his skin, the delicate information needed to balance his systems will shift from the energetic centers of your hands into his neurones," Madam Pomfrey explained. 
"Doesn't the information move both ways, I mean, will it leave me open to get some unwanted information from his aura to mine?" Even the thought of it gave shivers to Hermione. Right then, she couldn't imagine anything more unpleasant than getting something of Snape's inside her own body. 
"What if I get an amount of his quality, and began to kick my poor old cat, execute flies in my bedroom, and sneer to my pupils? No thanks!" 
Poppy Pomfrey dried tears of laughter from the corner of her eye. "No, don't worry, the liniment is made for Severus and Severus only. It is very personal and won't work for anyone else. So, it's not possible that it could affect you in any way." 
"Unfortunately, you can't say the same about his behaviour," Hermione sneered, in very much the same way the master of sneering regularly did so. It seemed to amuse Madame Pomfrey even more. 
"So, will you agree to do it?" she asked the younger woman in a hopeful tone of voice. 
"So, you promise me it would be beneficial for his recovery, and it would be the last time?" Harry will drop his ears when he hears this… Hermione thought, not even believing it herself. 
"You'll do it?" Madam Pomfrey couldn't hide the huge relief and contentment gleaming on her face. 
"It has always been easy to talk me into the most precarious and uncomfortable situations. Why else would I have found myself fighting against mad Death Eaters in the dark corridors of the Department of Magic, winding my way past a three-headed monster dog, or have a nice evening chat with a murderer, a runaway from Azkaban and a werewolf, only to mention few of my past situations… Yes, I'll do it. I'm sure I'll regret it later, but, heck, I've been there, done it before, and here I still am." 
"Oh dear, how marvellous. I'll let him know immediately. He'll be so pleased!" Madam Pomfrey chuckled enthusiastically. 
"I don't think so, but anyway, could you be so kind and emphasise that I wasn't willing to do it, and you absolutely insisted?" 
"Of course, anything for you, my dear, but now, off you go, your lessons are about to begin any minute now. You wouldn't want to keep your students waiting, would you?" 
Hermione walked down the stairs towards her classroom, words frantically circulating in her head. She had never been more conscious about her traits of masochism. There has to be something really badly wrong with me… or maybe I just can't resist a good challenge. And I never meet a challenge without decent training… 
Chapter 6 – Training 
Hermione was really interested in challenges, as she also loved to solve puzzles and find the right answers to difficult questions, but most of all, she loved it when she could invent something totally new. Something she had never thought of before. 
"Harry, I know you think I've gone mad, but I'm not. Nor has Professor Snape put me under Imperius, and no, I'm not Luna Lovegood after consuming Polyjuice potion spiked with my hair!" Hermione tried to convince Harry, who listened in great disbelief. 
"So, you want me to teach you some Defense Against Dark Arts, so that you can make a fool of yourself, again, so that you can go on pawing Severus Snape, again, and will not feel horrible afterward, again, because you have learnt how to control your own energies while in his presence. Am I right?" Harry made his face look very long with every time he uttered again, in a ridiculous kind of whining way, and continued. "This is worse than anything I have ever read or seen in Fred's 'Wicked Playwizard' magazine. Pure sadomasochism, or no, not pure, it's dirty . Dirty, distorted and perverted. Do you hear me, perverted!" Harry rolled his eyes dramatically. 
"I knew you wouldn't understand, but it doesn't matter; please help me anyway," she pleaded. "I would like to have some kind of training, so that I won't be so sensitive and vulnerable to his antagonism. Teach me to be so prepared, that no matter how much or how outrageously he'll taunt me, I will not lose my power or lose control of my own feelings. I don't want him to be able to make me feel bad, and most of all, make me cry." 
Harry quietly listened to her request, and started to gradually figure out what she was aiming for. 
"Harry, you are the Master of the Defense Against the Dark Arts, and what else is Professor Snape than a big piece of Dark Art?" 
Harry was tempted to say something totally different than art, after the words piece of, but he managed to keep his mouth shut and let her continue. 
"If anybody is able to understand and know what to do with him, it’s you. He's horrible, we both agree on that one, so I would like you to help me to be tougher and to defend myself. I really need your help, and this plan of mine does make sense; just think about it!" 
"What you need is a few weeks in St. Mungo's, so that they can get you back down to earth… Okay, I was just kidding," Harry hastened to add, when he saw an angry sort of desperation crawling onto his friend's face. "Okay, I don't know what you did, or how you did it, but it seems that I have lost my mind as well. Meet me in my classroom tomorrow at six o'clock. Then we'll see what we can do." 

Harry had been giving D.A.D.A. lessons to Hermione for over a week, and she had made some very good progress. Hermione had always defended herself verbally, and she was good at it, too, but she had never been very good at controlling her emotions. Especially emotions such as hurt and offense. 
She was lying in her bed, watching the shadows a candle threw on her walls. Madam Pomfrey had informed her just a few hours before supper that Professor Snape had begun to receive the cramps again. It might have meant that there was a certain visit she had to make tomorrow. She repeated over and over again everything Harry had told her. She hadn't been this nervous before her final exams, back when she was still a student. She felt like she was going to do an important test, but she hadn't been able to read everything about it. Harry hadn't even allowed her to take any notes, he had said that Defense Against Dark Arts was something where books and papers didn't help. You had to know everything by heart, you had to really feel everything, feel the strength, feel the confidence growing inside you… In fact, Harry had said that you could wipe your arse with notes, but Hermione tried to forget it. What an offending thing to say. 
"The biggest secret in Defense Against the Dark Arts is that you must learn to love what you fear. It's also the one thing Voldemort didn't know; the more frightening something is, the more love you need to conquer it. It may sound sissy, but it was the main reason Voldemort fell. Love what you fear, it should be tattooed into your heart," Hermione recalled him saying. "If you learn to be yourself, and nothing but yourself, without even a slightest bit of shame, it makes a radiating shield over you that evil things can't penetrate, but instead, bounce off and go back to its source." Pulling in these thoughts, she fell asleep and dreamt that she was a large golden wall, and Snape was bouncing her against the wall with his head. 
Chapter 7 – Third Visit 
Hermione was extremely nervous the whole next day. It was the first time ever she couldn't quite concentrate on her work, and one sweet third-year Hufflepuff girl asked if she was feeling all right, because of her unusual absent-mindedness. Yes, she was all right, but she knew that Professor Snape was not, and it meant that any moment now her Youfinder could beep and send her rushing to his chambers. 
At seven past nine, it finally startled her with its unbearably high and loud voice. Oh rats, why does he always have to feel worse so late at night? I would rather have corrected History essays of fifth-years', Hermione grumbled as she grabbed her robes and directed her steps towards the door. Love what you fear… uh huh, that's not an easy one. But if Harry could love Voldemort, I certainly can force myself to love Snape… Love Snape… the combination of those two words made her shudder. Not in this lifetime, but yes, I know Harry didn't mean it that way, not so literally.  
Professor Snape was waiting for her, already lying on his bed, face down. Even though he didn't actually cry with joy because of her appearance, he didn't mock her either. In fact, he seemed to be uncharacteristically timid. Hmm, that's promising. Maybe my defense is already working, she thought hopefully. 
"So, you had a little chat with Poppy Pomfrey, I heard," he said, with an almost civilised tone in his voice. 
"Yes, it was most enlightening." Hermione saw him flinch a little and asked. "Did you mind?" 
"Why should I have?" he snarled. 
"Well, I learnt some, one might say, rather personal information about you." 
"I couldn't care less." 
The end of the conversation. 
Hermione spread the magically shining liniment, with much more respect towards it than before. Movements of her hands were so much firmer than in her earlier visits, and it wasn't left unnoticed by Professor Snape either. He needed to use all his self-control not to let even the tiniest moan to escape from between his lips. The pleasure flew into every cell of his tormented body the minute she laid her hands on him. It was gorgeous, like a gentle rain, right from heaven. He couldn't afford to let himself to drown under it, not now, not in front of her. 
"Tell me, Miss Granger, what do you think about my situation?" Professor Snape suddenly asked her. 
This can't be happening. Do I have something wrong with my ears, or did he just ask my opinion, in a civilised way? Hermione thought, puzzled. 
"Could you be more specific, please? What about it, I mean?" she managed to utter in a total astonishment. 
"Madam Pomfrey has repeatedly emphasised that there needs to be some inner change, some kind of an emancipation, before the full recovery can take place. I was curious to know, since you have already heard about it from her, and I am most certain that you have established your own point of view by now." Bollocks, I don't give a damn about her opinions; I just need something else to think about other than this… this sensation.  
"Well… she did mention something about an iron cage, and that you needed to free yourself from it," Hermione started uncertainly. "And I've been thinking, that first of all you would need a little bit of defiance to be able to do that. I mean, if one loves his prison… it's difficult to, you know, flee from there. So a little bit of wilfulness… to be free, I suppose." What on earth am I babbling about? She almost started to blame herself, but then, just in time, she recalled Harry's words: "Not to be ashamed of yourself…" Okay, I said what I said, and if it didn't make any sense, so what. At least I wasn't defending my doctoral dissertation. Hermione felt a wonderful relief when she allowed herself to be what she was at the moment, not regretting the less than perfectly ingenious words. 
"You have some nerve to come here to tell me what I need and don't need. You know nothing about my needs or about me, either. I don't want your ridiculous advice; save it for those pathetic pupils of yours, please," Severus snapped at her more quickly than a gunshot. Hermione's eyes opened in surprise for a moment, and then, something peculiar happened. She started to laugh. Not sarcastic laughter, but clear, beautiful, and pure laughter of warm amusement. 
"Excuse me then, but if I haven't had a sudden amnesia, I do believe that it was you who wanted to hear my opinion. I answered your question, remember?" Hermione saw Professor Snape's appearance darken, but she herself felt nothing but loving. It's working! I can't wait to tell Harry that his training is bearing fruit so soon. This is magnificent. I have to thank him first thing tomorrow! 
"You know, Professor, there is an old poem. I think it suits your situation very well, and no, I'm not interested if you want to hear it or not, I'll tell you anyway: 
Child knows what the sky means to the dove, 
Life pours its magic onto every wilful soul, 
Just a little bit of wilfulness, 
And it touches, 
Like a gentle rain." 
Oh my, what next, an Old Irish folkdance maybe? There seems to be something different in her, though. That's not her normal style of behaviour, or is it? I wonder what's going on with her… not that I'm interested in any way!  
"Child knows what the sky means… For me those phrases tell about the situation where everything is new and everything is possible. It's when you are not a prisoner of your thoughts or beliefs anymore. Your belief system is the worst cage there is. It will ruin your life, if you let it. Life wants to pour its magic into everyone. It's up to you to let it touch you, like a gentle rain, invigorating and refreshing your whole being, your soul!" 
Her cheeks glowing, she finished her preaching, corny or not, and straightened her spine proudly. Then she finished her job and wished Professor Snape a good night. With a smile on her face, she left for her own chambers in order to get a nice and long night's sleep. She almost danced in the corridor. This was her very first victory, and she felt like celebrating! 

The next morning, after the third treatment by Hermione, Severus Snape felt awful. Not physically, the massages had left a light and warm feeling all over his body, and he was very grateful for that. No, he felt sad, really, truly sad, maybe the first time in so many years that he couldn't even remember. Not angry, not bitter, not despising, but just sad. In fact, he felt like crying, but didn't know why and what for, so he didn't bother.