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Starkers

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Disclaimer: I don't own any Harry Potter characters and any OC's that resemble real people are entirely coincidental.


Warning: This story is a strong T with swearing and scenes of a romantic and frisky nature. 


Starkers

Awakening:

Sept 19th, 2006. 8 years after the Battle of Hogwarts…

When Severus Snape finally clawed his way up from the black and desolate abyss of absolute nothingness he’d been trapped in for what felt like an eternity, his first sensation was that of floating weightlessly in a sea of gently undulating warmth.

His second sensation was the familiar one of a flannel being run over his body, but he was almost certain it wasn’t himself doing the washing.

Why?

Because the continued darkness indicated his eyes were closed, and his limbs felt like they were in that just tingling to wakefulness stage that indicated very little muscle coordination would be possible at the moment.

Since the sensation of being carefully washed along every millimetre of his left arm and hand was pleasant and not yet alarming, his mind felt free to process another stimulant; smell.

His sensitive nose first picked up the scent of coconut, quickly followed by the more subtle scents of frankincense and copaiba. This was coming from the water he seemed to be immersed in, and he approved of the scents chosen and their many useful properties. The next scent he picked up was that of sandalwood soap as the soft terrycloth was passed across his collarbones on its way to work on his right arm.

Severus approved of that choice as well, since it was his preferred scent to bathe himself in.

And if he concentrated, he could feel the slender fingers holding that cloth, which was an enticing thought. Further enticing him was the subtle scent of lavender, chamomile, and clean female that seemed to hover above him, presumably from the person attached to the flannel.

Severus was intrigued by this mystery person who was giving him a bath. They had a good grasp of scent, oils, and their uses, if nothing else.

And they were humming softly under their breath, he realized, the subtle vibrations and sweet tone of it pleasant to his ears.

With the return of his sense of touch and smell, his hearing had suddenly decided to make a reappearance as well, like his brain was slowly but surely relearning how to interpret the signals from the world around him.

It took him a minute of concentration, but Severus felt triumphant when he finally recognized the tune as belonging to ‘The Skye Boat Song’, which just happened to be a song his mother used to sing him to sleep with when he was little.

Based on what he’d learned thus far, Severus could only conclude that he was either dreaming of when he was a young child, being bathed by his mother, or he was quite dead and an angel had chosen to personally wash him of the dirt and blood he last remembered being covered in before allowing him to continue his ascension into the Great Beyond.

As much as he’d loved his mother, Severus was kind of rooting for option two.

And not only because he was intrigued by this angel of mercy, but because he was quite done with life and all the miserable trials that he had endured thus far. He honestly had nothing to live for at this point as far as he could remember. He was done.

He’d kept his promises to Dumbledore. Endured years worth of abuse from Voldemort and his followers. Taught more imbecilic children than one should ever have to deal with in a dozen lifetimes. And he’d done his duty to Lily’s memory and assisted her son as much as he could, even going so far as to give him some of his most precious memories as he felt Nagini’s venom doing its vicious work through his systems.

Unfortunately, now that those memories were gone, Severus couldn’t quite remember what they were, only that something very important to him was now missing from his mind.

I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway, he thought with a very slight sigh that caused the one washing him to freeze her movements of the flannel over his chest, right over his heart, in fact. He only absently noticed as he continued his line of thought. If I’m dead, then those memories aren’t going to do me any good anymore anyway.

His mouth twitched up at the corner as wry amusement filled him. That was a lot of ‘anys’ in one sentence.

The flannel was removed from his body and the angel above him inhaled sharply, no longer humming. “Did it work? Did I finally find the right blend of anti-venoms to cure him?” the angel whispered.

What?

Anti-venom?

Cure?

Am I not dead?

With what felt like a considerable more effort than it should have cost him, Severus pried his eyelids open and looked up into a blurry but nicely shaped face surrounded by a halo of big hair. Very big hair. He squinted and blinked, trying to see better with how she was backlit by a light that was much too bright for his poor eyes. “Wh…” he croaked from a throat tight and unused to being exercised. He swallowed and tried again. “Who are…”

Marginally better.

“Merlin, you're awake!” the angel breathed. “I healed you! I finally healed you!” She disappeared from his line of sight, but he could still hear her talking. And pacing. “Holy shite! I can’t believe it! I actually healed him. Everyone told me to give up years ago, to take him back to St. Mungo’s and let them deal with the unresponsive Snape zombie, but I didn’t and now…”

Severus couldn’t even be mad that she hadn’t answered his question, because she was answering others all on her own.

“Circe. Eight bloody long years and over four hundred different potion experiments, and I finally healed him. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”

Eight years? EIGHT YEARS?! I’ve been, what, in a coma or something for eight years?! Holy shite is right.

And why does her voice sound disconcertingly familiar?

Wait a minute. Insane hair, talented with potions, and the stubborn determination of a lioness?

Fuck.

Inspired to kick-start his still tingling body into motion Severus convinced his arms to move enough so that he could push against the bottom of the bathtub. He managed to prop himself up just enough so that he could see over the edge of what turned out to be a tub easily big enough for two and was quite deep.

And there she was, pacing the length of the relatively large and luxurious bathroom, not looking at him at all as she pushed a lock of that crazy bush she called hair out of her eyes and mumbling to herself; Hermione Granger.

Double fuck.

But not the budding woman he last remembered her being. Oh no. Now she was definitely a full-grown witch with the curves to prove it. All barely covered in some sort of loose, white, diaphanous nightgown that left her slender arms and lower legs bare and that the bright lights in the bathroom seemed ideally suited to shine right through. His reawakening body seemed to like the sight very much.

Triple fuck.

Severus cleared his throat as deliberately as he could manage, inspiring the Gryffindor witch to look up at him, her deep whiskey eyes wide. “Professor Snape! You’re…”

“Miss Granger,” he rasped, cutting her off, his arms already shaking slightly from the effort of holding himself up, but not completely useless like he would have expected after eight years with no exercise. He spared half a second to glance at an arm and was surprised to see real muscle definition in it. And beyond that, his hair hung in long, soaked strands and had to be at least as long as Lucius’. He did an actual double take before mentally shaking it off. What the fuck? More questions. But for now… “Would you please care to explain to me why I am completely starkers in what I assume is your bathtub while you take liberties with my person?”

Hermione blushed. And not just a becoming darkening over her fine cheekbones, but an entire sweep of red from her forehead to her partially exposed and perfectly proportioned chest. Severus was secretly amused, even if he didn’t let his expression slip from the stern façade he’d adopted; he always did love to disconcert people.

“Professor I, um, crap,” she stammered before sucking in a breath and quite obviously mentally girding herself to act like an adult as she approached the tub and knelt beside it, putting them at a similar eyelevel. Her gaze was serious and piercing. “Severus.”

And apparently as equals. Interesting.

“You have been under my exclusive care for the last seven years, ever since I took you out of St. Mungo’s because they had given up on trying to heal you and were just going through the motions of keeping your body alive.”

I wouldn’t expect anything less, to be honest.

“There is not even a square millimetre of your skin that I don’t know personally.”

That… Could be intriguing, actually.

“I have fed you, clothed you, dealt with your bodily wastes,”

Cringe.

“exercised your muscles for you,”

That explains why I’m not a limp noodle.

“poured enough potions down your throat to sink a ship, and yes, even bathed you. All while still putting in six hours of work every day at the Ministry in two separate shifts. If you can’t deal with that, then all I can say to you is fuck you.”

Whoa. Just whoa. Severus was astonished at her blunt frankness, and he respected her for it. He was also seriously impressed and couldn’t seem to work up any sort of real embarrassment about her seeing to his needs either, and didn’t feel like wondering why at the moment. Maybe later.

The tingling in his limbs had finally stopped and he felt like he could maybe move to a more comfortable position. So he did, slowly but surely twisting around so that he was kneeling in the tub and looking at Hermione straight on. “I have just one question.” (He was happy his voice was working better now too.)

She raised a finely shaped eyebrow, resting her crossed arms on the edge of the tub and propping her chin on them. “And that would be?”

He leaned forward a few fractions closer, searching her eyes for the truth even as he asked his question. “Why bother with me when no one but my mother has ever cared to?”

She tilted her head slightly, eyes scanning his face in return. “That’s why. Because no one has ever cared to and you deserved so much better than that. You’re the most unselfish and self-sacrificing person I’ve ever met, a true hero, and no one knew or cared to know. If not for you, we wouldn’t have won the war and finally defeated Voldemort for good. If not for you, so many more lives would have been lost. You deserve to be properly cared for by at least one person in your adult life, and I decided that person was going to be me.”

Severus was speechless. Flat out speechless. And that very rarely happened to him. I can’t… I can’t believe that she would do this for me. Me. The most hated person to ever stalk the halls of Hogwarts. But she did, obviously. And she’s telling the truth. There’s no deceit in her thoughts. None at all. If anything, there’s a vulnerable hint of affection for me hidden at the back of her mind.

Did she actually like me as a teacher? As a person?

I would have thought it inconceivable, but her thoughts doesn’t lie. Her actions don’t lie. Her dedicated care for me most certainly doesn’t lie.

How can I ever repay her for not letting me rot in a bed somewhere indefinitely?

“Miss Granger.” He swallowed hard. “Tha…”

“Hermione,” she said, cutting him off, the beginnings of a smile curling up her lips. “You’ll probably never remember them, but we’ve had some incredible one-sided conversations, and aside from the fact that you're not my grouchy teacher anymore, I think we’ve certainly been intimate enough to be on a first name basis.”

Severus felt his own mouth curve upwards in a rare smile at the witch’s gentle teasing. He nodded once in acceptance. “Hermione then. Thank you. For everything you’ve done for me. I am forever in your debt. Whatever you want, if I can get it or do it for you, I will.”

It was strange, but unlike the previous times he’d pledged his life to someone, Severus didn’t feel like he’d just been shackled to a hundred pound iron ball. For once, he genuinely wanted to live in servitude to another person. Wanted to make this beautiful witch happy in whatever way he could.

Hermione, of course, shook her head with a smile, reaching forward with one of her elegant little hands and cupped his cheek after brushing a strand of his ridiculously long hair behind his ear. He almost jumped at the touch, but then found himself leaning into it like an attention starved cat. “No, Severus. You owe me nothing. I’ve learned a lot about myself and who my real friends are thanks to you. I’ve also patented three new potions that I invented just for you and they’ve made me quite well off. If anything, I owe you for being my guinea pig. You unknowingly helped me invent a new potion for the care of fine hair, one that cleans and whitens teeth without a toothbrush, and one that can build muscle tone even in the laziest subject.” She smiled at the last, pleased with her own wit.

He laughed softly, agreeing with her. Can’t get any more lazy than comatose.

She’d caressed his face the entire time she’d been talking, and Severus felt like he would have started purring if he could. The eight years of coma aside, it had been so very long since anyone had touched him with a loving hand. He raised his own hand and cupped hers, turning his head and pressing a kiss to her palm. “Then we’ll call it even,” he murmured against her skin.

“All right,” she whispered back, sounding breathless.

Severus looked at her eyes and found them trained on their joined hands and the very clear thought of, How many times have I imagined this? at the forefront of her mind, easy for him to read.

Is that so?

Curious, and feeling more than a little hot beneath the warm and perfectly scented water, Severus curled his fingers around hers and kissed her knuckles, keeping his eyes trained on hers. “Thank you, my angel.”

Her pupils dilated and she thought, Merlin help me.

He hid a smile behind her hand. Not Merlin, but I’ll see what I can do.

“I’m not an angel,” she protested, shaking her head and looking slightly dazed.

He rubbed his thumb over the top of her hand. “To me, you are. It was the first thing I thought as I was waking up; that there was an angel humming to me while she bathed me with the most perfect touches.”

Hermione blushed again, but this one was deliciously becoming as it spread across her cheekbones and her eyes lowered to stare at the edge of the tub. He’d embarrassed her. Oops. Too much?

"I… I guess I should leave you to finish your own bath," she stammered slightly. "The blue bottle is your soap, and the amber one is your shampoo.”

Definitely too much. Now to fix it.

I hope. 

She moved to get up, but Severus didn’t relinquish his hold on her fingers. He tugged her back down as she looked at him questioningly. “Hermione. Is there anyone in your life who would object if you were to continue bathing an awake and aware me?”

Her eyes shot to his and went wide as she understood the implications of his question. “No,” she said in a near squeak, shaking her head slowly. “No one. Ron left me when I brought you home and no one else has interested me since.”

I always knew that particular Weasley was a dunderhead.

“Is it bad of me to say that I’m glad?” Severus asked tentatively.

She shook her head again, her ruby lips starting to curve upwards again. “Are you asking me to continue your bath, Severus?”

Maybe the angel thing wasn't too much after all. He reached with his free hand to touch her humidity inspired curls, brushing some back behind her ear like she’d done to him. They were soft and felt decidedly different from his own hair, but he liked them. A lot. He’d always thought her hair was a good barometer for her mood - it tended to get bigger in a manifestation of her magic when she was passionate about something - and helped make her unique amongst thousands. “I am,” he rumbled. “In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed if you were to join me in the tub to do it. IF that’s something you would be interested in, that is.”

She smiled wider, her eyes starting to shine with happiness as she leaned closer to him. “I might be persuaded.”

His heart picked up the pace at the poorly hidden fantasies rolling through her mind. He closed the distance between them even further, wrapping one of her long curls around his fingers and tugging on her other hand to pull her even closer. “And what would it take to do that?” he breathed against her mouth, their noses almost touching.

“Not much,” she admitted, her hand tugging out of his to rest on his shoulder. Her other hand slowly joined it on his other shoulder.

Severus cupped her face and closed the last inch of distance between them, brushing his lips against hers once, then twice, and then pulling back. “Is that enough?”

Her eyes fluttered open again and she smiled at him coyly. “Hmmm. Not quite.”

“Then I shall endeavour to try a little harder,” he said, his voice sounding deeper than normal even to himself. He brushed his mouth against hers again and then stayed there as her arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him closer over the edge of the tub.

Her hum of approval was the sweetest sound he’d ever heard.