A/N: At the beginning of the summer, I was asked to do a Muggle AU-inspired prompt courtesy of snxpe from Tumblr. I was happy to accept her request as well as some of the items she wanted her prompt to include. I've also changed a couple of them, too, such as making Hermione a little older and further into her studies than initially suggested, but hopefully these changes are minor in the grand scheme of things...
To snxpe: I sincerely hope this short story meets with your expectations. I'm sorry it took me much longer than anticipated to get the first half of it up and posted, but hopefully seeing your prompt fully fulfilled will have been worth the wait. :)
To anyone else who chooses to follow along: Thank you for your interest and giving this story (and me) a chance! :)
Lastly, I welcome your feedback! Without your thoughts, it isn't worth sharing.
Many thanks, as always, to my wonderful beta, Brittny, for taking one for the team and looking over yet another story of mine so that the rest of you don't have to be subjected to my glaring errors. Also, special thanks must go to my Scottish friend, Janette, for all of her immense help in getting my UK university settings correct.
(WINNER OF THE SSHG - "BEST ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE" IN THE FALL/WINTER 2014 HP FANFIC FAN POLL AWARDS! Thank you to ALL who voted for this little story of mine! What an honour!)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox. No money, just fun. Artwork is credited to Bodler.
Warning(s): Mild Language
Prompt: Muggle AU. Hermione is a university student and Severus has become her professor. How do they grow friendly? How does their relationship evolve? To be included: fluff, a little bit of angst, and a hurdle to overcome. (I chose to include more than one.)
Hermione mentally checked off the list in her head for probably the eighteenth time that morning. Binder. Check. Three brand new pens: red, black, navy. Check. Two uncontaminated notepads. Check. Wednesday's schedule with building locations, room numbers, and times of classes. Check. Assigned book list. Check. Well, for the first class. The second, or lack thereof... Unassigned books. Che—
Suddenly, an obnoxious twat slammed into Hermione from behind, spilling at least half of her freshly brewed hot coffee onto the walkway. She gasped and startled, sidestepping in order to prevent any of the hot liquid from splashing her front rather than the concrete.
"Blast!" she fumed and glared daggers at the daft idiot responsible for not watching where he treaded. "Watch where you're going," she exclaimed as he barrelled past her, "you tosser!"
Like most fools who'd likely overslept on the first day of the new term, the infuriating boy in question was probably in a hurry to get to his eight o'clock class; but, even if that was the case, he twirled around mid-dash to flash her an audacious, pretentious-looking grin.
"Sorry, lass!" he apologised in a cool manner of address, offering Hermione an unwanted wink to boot.
At once, Hermione stopped dead in her tracks, face flushing to the roots of her untameable curly tresses. "Don't - Don't call me that!" she stammered after him, floored by the stranger's imprudence. "I'm not your lass!"
The derisive, shaggy-haired lad shrugged her off and hiked up the steps of the nearest building along the walkway. He quickly disappeared through a pair of glass doors, but Hermione stared on, affronted by the disruption and unraveled by the abrupt loss of concentration to her morning pep talk. She huffed heatedly and reconvened her steady stride to class, repeatedly sending reminders to herself by way of the mental list she'd kept in her head.
Today would mark the start of Hermione's third year at university, and the energy on campus that morning was nearly always as predicted: nerve-racking, flighty, tense, and, for some, like Hermione, filled with excitement and anxious anticipation.
Swiftly forgetting that smug prat who'd nearly sent her toppling over onto the pavement, Hermione smiled to herself as she made her way across the picturesque Scottish landscape she knew so well, the early signs of autumn beginning to emerge, awakening her senses. Golden and crisp cherry foliage swayed upon every branch of every tree, catching the wind in their wake, whilst some ebbed and gave themselves up to the nip in the breezy September air.
Hermione's first class of the day went off without a hitch. She'd been pleased to see a sprinkle of familiar faces from last year, though she wouldn't call any of them particularly good mates. It helped that she was already well-acquainted with her History and Philosophy of Science professor, Professor Remus Lupin, whom she'd had for a previous class, so she felt thoroughly prepared; evidently, most of her peers were still in summer mode or that term's reading list had inconveniently slipped their minds. Professor Lupin was a tough but fair instructor and thought highly of Hermione, so she wasn't at all daunted by the demanding syllabus handed out at the beginning of class, unlike the rest of her classmates who griped and moaned under their breaths. She left her eight o'clock class with an extra skip in her step, for reasons entirely unknown to everyone else.
Now, she had a whole hour to kill before her second class of the day. Hermione was somewhat regretting double booking her subjects on the same day, but then, she'd have to see what this second class would entail before drawing any conclusions. If Harry or Ron were with her at the moment, though, they'd still be teasing her about her overbooked schedule.
"Overachiever!" Ron would have mocked her academic prowess, as he had done many a time over the summer hols. Unfortunately for him, Ron didn't have Hermione this morning to swing by and wake him up for his ten o'clock class, so if he didn't make it in time...
Serves him right, Hermione snickered to herself and strolled off to purchase a second cup of coffee at the nearest cafe within walking distance.
Hermione had been determined at the end of last term to study more than one subject in her third year, though her advisor had explicitly warned her against doing so, citing that she had the potential to burn herself out. However, having found herself disappointedly shut out of Geological Studies due to lack of space and technological mishaps with booking her classes online, Hermione saw no other alternative—save for adding an additional year of academic study onto her belt, something her parents would never have approved—but to opt out of her first choice and go for her second: Plant Sciences.
Ron had thought her 'barking mad' to sign up for such a 'dull' subject. Harry reserved no opinion for or against her choice of study; or so she thought she'd remembered correctly. Hermione was more grateful to him than the former.
Admittedly, it wasn't exactly a subject that satisfied her insane thirst for learning nor was it likely to keep her up late at night pondering its importance and vitality, but Hermione knew it would be engaging enough to at least retain her interest, provided her instructor wasn't too much of a bore. She suspected he wouldn't be, if the rumours she'd heard about him beforehand were at all close to the truth.
After grabbing her second cup of coffee, Hermione halted en route to her Plant Sciences class to rearrange her belongings. She was accustomed to carrying a ridiculous amount of books and supplies around with her at all times, so the few eyebrow raising stares she received from other students at the cafe weren't unfamiliar.
Afterwards, Hermione set off slowly down a small hill, passing a tranquil lake and grassy knoll where students were spread out beneath the autumn trees, reading or studying and, generally, prepping themselves for the term ahead. The building she'd be entering was in view ahead at the end of a long pathway, and Hermione recognised it as the same building that that obnoxious idiot from this morning had disappeared into. Hermione could only hope—pray, rather—that she wouldn't make contact with 'Lass' Twat a second time. She was all business-minded this morning, nervous about her less prepared for, more vaguely understood second class of the morning. Without knowing the professor's demeanour, how he lectured and graded, or what he expected of his students, every step that brought Hermione closer to Plant Sciences caused her stomach to flutter and churn.
Relax. Breathe. It'll be fine.
Hermione had heard a flitter of things about the current Head of the Department, who also happened to be her instructor for the term, which piqued her interest—and nerves—considerably. Professor Snape, that was. He had some sort of strange first name...
Sever? Serevis? Whatever.
Not that she had any right to be a tosser when it came to quirky and unusual first names.
According to the rumours flying around campus, Professor Snape was apparently critical, moody, blunt to the point of impoliteness, and without any personal charm, none of which made the subject more enticing to sign up for—well, to most sensible people. Hermione wasn't most students, however, and she refused to be intimidated by hearsay. She wasn't taking the subject for the professor's winning personality; she was taking Plant Sciences because it fascinated her...
And, because you couldn't get into your first ruddy choice, her conscience reminded her with a dismal sigh as Hermione trekked up the stairs and inside the front doors. She paused to re-situate the heavy book bag slung over her shoulder and carried on.
What she wouldn't give to be able to magically resize all her hefty books! Most were only suggested reading material anyway, not what she actually needed for the class itself, but Hermione Granger was thorough through and through; she'd read anything she could get her greedy hands on, whether it was on the required list of reading items or not.
It can't hurt.
The first floor of the building she entered was relatively quiet, with few students mucking about. Hermione wasn't surprised to find the place mostly deserted. She was at least forty-five minutes early for class, and any other classes scheduled in the building were likely already in session or upcoming, so Hermione took her time trudging up the stairs to the first floor (Room 109, specifically), sipping her coffee and enjoying the quietude, her gait unhurried. She found her lecture hall easily enough and picked out an empty seat front and centre. The large room echoed as she flung down her bag onto the table in front of her and began emptying her pouches of needed pens, markers, notebooks, and non-required books.
Once she had her things organised to her liking, Hermione plopped herself down and resumed finishing her coffee. She took the quiet, isolated opportunity afforded her by scanning the mostly bare lecture hall—one of the larger halls on campus—and the few small pamphlets scattered along the walls, announcing upcoming guest lecturers, potential research programs, and teacher assistantship opportunities.
Hermione scrunched up her nose. Somehow, she couldn't foresee herself partaking in one of Professor Snape's studies on enhanced phloem tissue production. Then again, you should take every opportunity afforded to you, Hermione unwisely reminded herself; it wasn't as though she didn't have enough riding on her coattails this term. Stretching herself too thin wouldn't be smart. You're already halfway there, though, aren't you?
Hermione grumbled into her styrofoam cup and redirected her eyes towards the front of the room. A flicker of movement startled her out of her private thoughts, though. The next second she blinked there was another figure in the room with her, and not a student.
Hermione jolted upright in her chair and chanced a quick glance at a hanging clock on the wall. There was roughly a half hour yet until the start of class, so why was this individual so early? Reality sunk in fast and furiously in the next moment, however.
"I suppose you've showed up extra early either because you feared not finding the place or in some desperate hope to impress me with your insipid punctuality?" came the deep drawl of the gentleman who'd entered the room. He moseyed over to an empty desk in the corner to unburden his shoulder of a hefty-looking leather satchel. "I should warn you right from the off that the latter won't affect me. I'm far more difficult a man to amaze than with over-excessive promptness."
Hermione ogled the back of the man's—professor's—head, intrigue and puzzlement written across her rather dumb expression. She couldn't help but to stare, however, though she did at least close her gaping mouth. Not only had Professor Snape—she had to assume it was him, for who else would venture into this particular lecture hall at random and begin making himself comfortable?—just insulted her without justification, but his appearance wasn't at all what she'd expected, either.
For one, Professor Snape was much younger than Hermione had guesstimated—well, younger in the sense that he was probably closer to forty-five rather than seventy, which seemed to be the trend amongst the male professors on campus. His clothes were conservative—a bit worn but handsome: a tan, tweeded blazer with matching waistcoat, a dark green tie, and a crisp, white shirt. His trousers—trim and long—were charcoal, and his squared-toe boots were covered in some sort of scaly print Hermione couldn't unravel, but they were attractive, unconventional...
Most striking of all, though, was Professor Snape's drastically dark hair, which fell considerably long (just past his shoulders), its black texture limp and fine. Glints of salt and pepper sprinkled throughout gave away his older age. One silver strand in particular at the front, which was presently hanging in his face, stood out markedly from the rest. Hermione had barely caught any of the front of him, however, including his face, as he was mostly turned away from her.
Realising that the man had addressed her and she hadn't yet returned his comments, for he abruptly whipped his head around to give her a most boorish glare, Hermione blinked hard and cleared her throat. Why on earth was she nervous?
"I had an earlier class and didn't know where this one was," she lied.
Professor Snape's eyes squinted from behind a pair of square-rimmed spectacles, which were also black or, at least, some type of dark grey. "You needed a full, what," he briefly eyed the same hanging clock Hermione had, "forty-five minutes to find this place?"
"No..." Hermione answered hesitantly. Why was he giving her a hard time?
Snape's strangely coloured eyes, which Hermione noticed were also richly dark, perhaps black, too, flickered towards the stack of books on her desk. "What are those?" he questioned before she'd had the chance to answer his last inquiry, his tone laced with indignation. "I haven't given you a reading list."
Hermione's hands wove around her proud book collection and pulled the stack towards her, as if she feared the professor might seize them from her straight out of thin air. "I - I know, sir. Erm, I mean... Professor...?"
"Snape, of course."
An awkward pause followed that brash introduction, one that neither sought to ramify. Professor Snape decided to inspect the books for himself and stalked over to Hermione's desk in the front row, gliding with a noticeable refinement she'd never seen in a man before. It was rather...magnetic. That odd thought was quickly snuffed out, though, for he snatched up the top book from her stack with such aggressive force that Hermione reared back. She squeaked and started to reach for the binding, but then, somehow, thought better of trying to pry it from his hands.
The intense scowl Snape wore as he stared from the title of the book to Hermione and back again was ruddy intimidating. Why was that? She'd never felt unsure of herself around a teacher before. She was normally the self-assured one in the classroom; the bright pupil the adults revered. Somehow, she and Professor Snape had managed to get off on the wrong foot, and class hadn't yet begun. In fact, unless she was simply being overly sensitive, Hermione thought the man was browbeating her, and unnecessarily, too.
For what reason?
"Where did these books come from?" he demanded, another of his strange questions trickling through her befuddled conscience.
"Erm, the library," she responded meekly, feeling utterly stupid. Did he think she'd stolen them or something?
Snape was already onto the next tome and shuffled through each title, slamming them down beside Hermione one by one. The harsh sound echoed throughout the abandoned lecture hall, causing Hermione to wince each time.
Once he was through assaulting her reading material, those beady, onyx irises honed in on Hermione, their conveyance unpleasant. He paused to adjust his glasses, pushing them farther up his rather large, hooked nose.
"What's your name?" he demanded.
"H - Hermione, sir..." she uttered quieter than ever. "Hermione Granger."
Snape blinked down at her, a glint of curiosity passing over those intriguing eyes. "What a strange name."
Hermione could feel her ears turning scarlet. How...! How rude! Her mouth staggered open and shut several times before she settled on a defiant silence. She couldn't justify the professor's thoughtlessness, so she didn't bother returning it with a reply. Snape seized the young woman's reticence as further opportunity, or seemingly so, to chastise her.
"You should only purchase books for this class that I deem suitable, Miss Granger." Snape wrapped his arms behind his back, staring down his splendidly long nose at her. "Had I provided you with a suggested reading list, I'd have never chosen any of these."
Hermione could feel the embarrassment radiating onto her cheeks. "It - It was only an assumption on my part, sir. I thought I could brush up on a few—"
"If you're taking my class, Miss Granger," he countered her with more feeling, "you shouldn't have need to 'brush up' on anything. You're here to expand your knowledge, not sidestep."
"Yes, well, I - I haven't taken one of your classes before—"
"Perhaps you should've considered that before you signed up then," Professor Snape intoned rather testily, eyebrows narrowed in challenge.
Completely befuddled, and not sure what she could say that might make this introduction go any less smoothly, Hermione frowned and pushed the books she'd picked out away from her, as if issuing defeat. "I meant no offence," she returned in a hushed voice, her face near burning with humiliation.
"Then do me the courtesy of allowing me to choose your reading material in my own classroom, Miss Granger."
The words were resolute, riddled with criticism, and all Hermione felt she could do was blush redder still. She'd somehow managed to affront a professor, all for simply desiring to be extra prepared. That was a first.
"I... Erm, I mean... Yes, Professor."
Hermione started. "Professor Snape," she hastily corrected herself.
As Hermione stared up at him, dumbfounded, she noted that Snape's facial features were excessively sharp—piercing, even, and slightly uncomfortable to look upon, though not for unconventional reasons—and, between the salt and pepper hair and his weather worn face, Hermione could tell that the man had clearly overcome a few life trials in his time. Had he been in the army at some point? Worked for the government, perhaps?
Well, whatever demons in his past he'd overcame, it didn't excuse him for being such a hard arse on her, especially when, as far as Hermione was concerned, she'd done nothing to warrant this verbal maltreatment.
Then, Snape surprised her. A sneer drew across his angular face. Was that his equivalent to a smile? If so, it was utterly terrifying (and also strangely attractive in an off-colour sort of way).
"As you were," he finished, giving Hermione a curt nod before turning his back on her.
Snape retreated to the desk at the front of the room again and extracted a number of items from inside his satchel, promptly taking a seat in the accompanying desk chair and paying a still gawking Hermione no further mind. His glasses were perched low on his nose as he proceeded to read a handful of papers in his hands—probably his own academic research—his thin lips muttering every other word under his breath in that low, velvety drawl of his that sent shivers up and down Hermione's spine.
What's wrong with you?
Hermione sat still in her own chair a while longer, chilled and uncertain of what to do with herself. The clock on the wall told her that she still had a solid twenty-five minutes till class begun, and yet, she had no desire whatsoever to remain in this room, alone, with Professor Snape for company; or did she?
No. The man was appalling and lacked any civility. And, just as unbecoming as everyone was saying!
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest, but what good would that do? Stropping like a petulant child wouldn't get her anywhere, so, begrudgingly, Hermione took her coffee cup in hand and tried to enjoy what was left of her second brew. The effort was exceptionally trying, though. She felt on pins and needles rather than relaxed. Maybe she should drop the class? Obviously, Snape didn't care for her and didn't want her there.
Oh, do shut it, Hermione. Who are you to let yourself be so easily intimidated, and on the first day?
Hermione's curious eyes kept roving to the disagreeable professor hunched in the corner, turning over pages and pages of research without giving her a second glance. Perhaps it was just as well that she stay put and ride out the first couple classes.
Maybe that's what he's doing. It's his way of trying to scare off the students he thinks aren't fit or won't pass the course, she contemplated with a cantankerous frown in his direction. Well, he's not about to scare me off!
With that, Hermione let out an audible huff and reached over to grab one of the books she'd brought that Snape disapproved of. It thudded open on her desk with a loud plop, but she turned the pages rather dramatically, settling on the opening paragraph once she came upon it, and began to read.
A few seconds later she detected Professor Snape snorting in his shadowy corner of the room, and tried to inconspicuously peer over at him. He was shaking his head, his eyes otherwise engaged elsewhere, but Hermione couldn't tell whether he was smiling or sneering. He said nothing more to her, and didn't so much as glance her way again until class got underway.
What had begun as a relatively good first day back at university wasn't even half way through before turning into what Hermione could only describe as a 'full-fledged disaster'. Her pre-class introduction to Professor Snape, and vice versa, had gotten off to a fairly shaky start, and, as Hermione's ill luck would have it, their unpleasant encounter at the off was merely the tip of the iceberg.
The self-assured young twat from earlier that morning who'd nearly ran right over Hermione on his way to class turned out to be in her Plant Sciences course, and, to add insult to injury, he recognised her upon popping his head into the lecture hall in search of an available seat shortly before class began. Hermione groaned as she slunk into the back of her seat, eying with disgust as the smug prat had the nerve to steal an open spot directly behind her. She'd tried the oblivious tactic first, ignoring him for a while and attempting to feign reading, albeit unsuccessfully, for the boy kept pestering for her attention. Since the annoying cad was rather persistent, it didn't take long for Hermione to lose her nerve.
"Oi! Hey! Psst!"
"What?" she finally hissed and turned around in her seat to glare angrily at him.
"Easy, lass! No need to bite my head off!" he snorted and shot her that unnerving self-assured smirk of his again. "I was just wondering if you had an extra pen or pencil I could borrow? I seem to have lost mine."
Either the lad was a true ignoramus or just pathetic. Hermione audibly huffed as she tossed him an extra pencil, not saying a word, though she learned, despite not wishing to know anything personal about him, that the boy went by the name of Cormac McLaggan and was a third year as well.
Brilliant. Because I don't give a damn.
Hermione redirected her attention to her book when it became awkwardly clear in the next few minutes that she and McLaggan had nothing in common to converse about; she'd only told him her first name and could see no other reason to carry on a discussion, especially when he used the term 'lass' loosely, repeatedly, and was clearly too wealthy to be using it on her.
As she turned around, Hermione fleetingly caught Snape's eye and was confounded by the peculiar smirk and shake of the head he made. Most of his sharp features were hidden behind strands of inky, long hair, but she could see beyond those dark strands that he was...pleased? Amused? Was he shaking his head at her or at McLaggan?
What does it matter? He already dislikes me.
Luckily, class soon began, so Hermione was able to avoid anymore of McLaggan's irritable disruptions—at least, for the next 90 minutes or so. Unfortunately, the class itself didn't turn out much better. Professor Snape's first lecture was mostly spent grilling the lot of them on what they supposedly should have already ascertained about Plant Sciences before. Everyone in the room, with the exception of Hermione, of course, bewildered, turned to one another, lost, as the professor intensely prattled off a number of terms and in-depth questions that nobody had the slightest inkling about.
Easily giving away how unprepared they were at being hammered by the professor, each student grumbled an answer and tried to hide his or her face when they were called upon, for no one raised their hand willingly (save for one). Virtually everyone was mortified by the incorrect or insufficient responses they gave, and Professor Snape reacted with recurrent snide jabs at their expenses.
The room quieted under a heavily strained silence that made each student less and less enthralled; but, Hermione being Hermione, she frequently dared to raise her hand high in the air a number of times in the hopes of winning back some of the approval she'd lost simply for being prompt to class. Alas, none of it worked in her favour, which stumped her as to how she might regain the professor's favour. Normally, Hermione's instructors were impressed by her rigorous knowledge and strong class preparation and participation skills. Snape, on the other hand, acted vexed and even derogatory towards her for repeatedly shooting her hand up to give an answer; or was she simply trying to garner his attention?
That gave Hermione pause for thought as she made her way out of the building and onto the campus greens an hour and a half later, the lovely September scenery of crimson reds and golden botany stretched as far as the eye could see, though she couldn't enjoy any of it.
When Hermione had answered one of Snape's inquires correctly and thoroughly—causing a flutter of commotion that served to only gall his already foul mood—the remainder of class she found her raised hand purposely snubbed and ignored. By the end of the lecture, she was nursing both a sore arm and a bruised ego.
Git. Hermione ground her teeth as she stomped her way to the library, for she had nowhere else in mind to direct her aggravation towards but a book; her honey caramel curls were practically crackling with rage. Git! Git! Git!
Hermione abruptly staunched to a halt. She'd nearly reached the entry to the library before having to whip her head around at the sound of a familiar male voice. A lanky, freckled redhead and tousled, dark-haired boy with round glasses were rushing towards her, each handsomely grinning from ear to ear.
At least someone had a pleasant morning! she reflected somewhat bitterly to herself; she put on the best smile she could muster, which, unfortunately, wasn't much. She'd never been good at disguising her emotions.
"Oi, why didn't you acknowledge us?" the redhead who'd called to her asked, giving her a funny look over. "We've been calling your name!"
Hermione blushed apologetically and some of the anger she'd been festering from class simmered. "Sorry, Ron. I was, erm, lost in my thoughts."
"Yeah, we reckoned," the one with the messy black hair chuckled and pushed up his glasses. "You only strut off to the library like that when you're in a strop. So, what happened? First day of classes didn't go well?"
"I'm not in a strop!" she argued, but the boys were already shaking off her defences.
"The day 'Mione finds academia unfulfilling will be the day I earn First-class honours!"
Hermione narrowed her eyes reprovingly. "You would if you applied yourself, Ronald."
"Hey! Don't say that too loudly!" Ron hissed, faking alarm by dramatically flailing his arms about. His friend snickered, but Hermione couldn't find any humour in Ron's behaviour. It must have showed, for the boys' smiles dropped instantly and they shuffled uneasily on the walkway. Then, the dark-haired one spoke up again, breaking the silence as amicably as possible.
"Erm, Ron and I were just going to grab some grub before hitting our next class. Care to join us?"
"Whatever it is, Hermione," he insisted gently, "you might feel better if you eat something and talk it over with us?"
"Yeah, come keep us company," added Ron with that cheesy, fun-loving grin of his.
"I suppose I could do with something to eat," Hermione conceded with a small sigh, her stomach suddenly growling in echo to those sentiments.
With a bit of lingering unwillingness, Hermione dragged her feet away from the sanctuary of the university library to join her two best mates in the school cafeteria not far off the beaten path, hoping griping over the matter and getting that morning's lousy Plant Sciences lecture off her chest might leave her feeling vindicated rather than dismally inadequate.
Unfortunately, lunch with her friends only fuelled Hermione's frustrations rather than provide her any peace of mind.
"He sounds like a right foul git, this Snape," Ron mumbled as he scarfed down his second helping of chocolate pudding. "I remember Harry here complaining about how much of hard arse he was; gave him real a lousy time, he did. You didn't last long in that class, did you, mate?"
"Oh, I'd completely forgotten you'd taken it last term!" Hermione muttered ashamedly, more to herself than to Harry. Damn it all, how could she have forgotten? More to the point, why hadn't she listened to the countless times Harry had carped on and on about the 'evil professor' in the past?
Probably because he'd gone on so much that, eventually, you just tuned him out, her mind reminded her.
In fact, Harry had grumbled and thrown such hissy fits about Professor Snape's nasty demeanour to the point of obsession. Even had Hermione had the sense to put any stock in Harry's poor opinions about a man she didn't know, all the boy's fussing should have, at the very least, provoked her to think twice about taking one of his courses.
Brilliant, Hermione. Utterly superb move. You'd been warned, and now look at you.
"I lasted for all of three weeks before I dropped that shitty course," Harry recalled with overt displeasure, pushing up his glasses again. "I'd had enough of Snape's bloody loathing and bitterness for a lifetime. I have no idea to this day what I ever did to set the wanker off, but he despised me."
"As I recall, the feeling was mutual," Hermione piped in softly, though she regretted her remark the instant Harry proceeded to glare at her.
"Unlike him, I had good reason!" he barked back, cheeks flushing red. "He was unfair and completely out of line!"
"I - I know," Hermione half lied; she really had gone deaf to most of Harry's complaints last year.
"Good riddance to the slimy grease bucket! There's a reason he's the most disliked professor at Uni: he's a bastard."
"Oh, c'mon, Harry," Hermione found herself trying to reason with him, though she frowned over her mostly unconsumed lunch that Ron was now picking at. "He can't be all that bad, surely?"
"Oi, 'Mione," Ron swallowed the last of his pudding and eyed her nervously, "do you really wanna hear Harry start up about the git again just to prove his point?" Harry shot Ron a disgruntled look, to which he shrugged. "No offence, but you were a touch obsessive about him, Harry..."
Hermione shook her head and tried to drive the conversation away from any unpleasant disagreement between the two boys. Whenever they chose to quarrel, it was bad, and Hermione normally wound up in the middle of their childish strop.
"I think I'm just being touchy and over reacting about today. It was only the first class..."
"Trust me, what you witnessed today was only the beginning," Harry insisted through a clenched jaw; Hermione wasn't sure whether she appreciated his candour or resented him for being so blunt and un-encouraging. "Snape's nothing but a spiteful arsehole, Hermione. If you managed to get on his bad side on the very first day like I did, you're in for a rough term."
"It - It might get better, though!"
Harry's 'who are you kidding?' expression, as well as Ron's unnatural pout of sympathy, squashed what little hopes Hermione clung to like a deflating balloon. So much for venting to her mates with the aim of boosting her confidence. She now felt crummier than ever.
"Whatever brings you comfort, Hermione," Harry added after a pregnant pause, "but I wouldn't count on things improving."
Thanks a lot! she wanted to retort but bit her lower lip instead.
Besides, deep down, Hermione suspected that Harry was probably right. The boy wasn't always correct, mind you, especially when it came to rightfully perceiving the personality of those he disliked, but, in this particular case, Hermione couldn't fathom Professor Snape being otherwise. He was mean; he was spiteful, though for reasons she couldn't make heads or tails of. For whatever reason, he'd had a severe aversion to her, and providing a thoroughly correct answer during his lecture had only served to shove her more onto his ghastly, disagreeable side.
Hermione wasn't accustomed to not being the teacher's pet, or, at the very least, being liked and respected by her professors. Such an uncomfortably ill position left her desperately wanting to make things right between her and Snape, if it was at all possible. Her friends clearly held little hope for that happening, and so did she.
Maybe it was just because it was the first day. Professors must get stressed on the first day, too, surely? Erm, sometimes? Yes? Maybe?
Ron and Harry had moved on in the course of Hermione's silence, jabbering on excitedly about upcoming rugby tryouts. Hermione continued to quietly browbeat herself, not remotely interested in the boring topic of rugby, the university's most renowned sport.
After heavily thinking over the matter of Snape and his class for the remainder of lunch, and well after Harry and Ron had left her to go to their afternoon class, Hermione eventually dropped her head into her hands, exhausted. She'd go back to her dormitory and read up on the syllabus Professor Snape had handed out. Yes, that was the solution. But, first, she'd expand her knowledge as much as she possibly could by hitting the library, and maybe—just maybe—at the next class, when she showed up more prepared than today, Snape would take note of how well-informed a student Hermione Granger was.
Yes. He'll see. He'll like me once I'm given another chance to prove myself.
Evidently, Hermione couldn't have been more mistaken.
In the next several classes that followed the dismal first, Hermione didn't land on any better footing with the moody, unpredictable professor. Snape was as unassuming as he was temperamental, and, though she'd spent countless hours—days, in fact—researching and reading in the library, and expounding her knowledge of the subject matter as best she could, the answers and participation she provided weren't just seemingly unimpressive to Snape but she was sneered at and even mocked sometimes for her intelligence.
Hermione studied exceptionally hard, thoroughly prepping herself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion for two of the exams they'd had so far, and received no more than satisfactory marks for her efforts, even though it was quite clear that she'd done an extraordinary job. Her overly excessive, comprehensive essays, too, and precise lab experiments during the early months of September and October were dismissed and ridiculed, whether on paper or verbally in front of the rest of her classmates. Hermione couldn't have been more dismayed by Snape's lack of interest, or incensed by his crude professional behaviour.
Git! Git! Git!
Once chilly October swirled into the beginnings of frosty November, Hermione decided it couldn't hurt to read up on Professor Snape's own published works. Perhaps if she took an interest in his research he might somehow go easier on her for a change. Harry had snickered at her 'obvious scheme', Ron blatantly called her out for being a 'kiss arse', and Hermione feigned denial on both counts.
She spent the entirety of a weekend reading through three of four of Snape's published works, and determined that they weren't half bad (if not intimidating in their fluidity, comprehension, and mastery), and she concluded her readings with several thought-provoking points she intended to mention to him at the next class, either before or after.
Hermione purposely arrived earlier than everyone else, her second morning cup of coffee in hand. Snape wasn't expected to be there for approximately another fifteen minutes, which should have provided Hermione time to prepare herself with how she would entice the volatile man into a polite academic debate, but, to her utter surprise, Snape was already present when she came barrelling into the lecture hall. He'd staked out his usual spot at the desk at the front of the classroom, that protruding, long nose burrowed in a pile of hand-written notes that, from far away, looked like nothing more than scribbles.
Snape didn't so much as peer up at Hermione when she came stalking in. She trudged to her usual spot, unloaded her belongings, and waited to be acknowledged. After several minutes went by without so much as a 'hello', though, Hermione awkwardly cleared her throat and timidly broke the silence.
"Sir? Erm, sorry to disturb whatever you're working on, but your books—"
"What of them?" Snape sharply cut her off without raising his head.
Hermione chewed her bottom lip. "Well, I... I read them. Erm, I mean, I read through three of the four you've published over the weekend..."
Finally, Snape lifted his head to give her his undivided attention, strands of straggly, raven hair dangling in his eyes, including that attractive silver strand Hermione thought rather handsome. It wasn't the first time Hermione had been taken aback by Snape's imposing good looks—and she was probably barking mad for finding him remotely attractive—and she tried to keep a blush at bay.
Quietly, Snape adjusted his spectacles and scrutinised her closely, his long, drawn scowl making her increasingly uneasy the longer he said nothing, only stared.
"Why?" he, at last, asked her after a lengthy pause.
That caught Hermione off guard and she frowned from across the room. "Why not?" Snape merely continued grimacing at her as though her simple answer were the most foolish he'd ever heard, so Hermione shifted forward in her chair and carefully took one of his published works in hand. "They were very...interesting."
"'Interesting'?" he repeated, his voice monotone.
Oh, for God's sake, Hermione, you're terrible at this!
Hermione couldn't tell if Snape was genuinely interested in what she might have to say about his books. That inscrutable, hard expression that never seemed to soften for anyone, let alone her, didn't help matters, but Hermione tried to ignore it.
Think! Say something! What the bloody hell's wrong with you?
Fumbling with how to continue the conversation, Hermione instead opted to close her mouth. She'd had several points in mind this morning that she planned to bring up, but, in the midst of their awkward exchange, all coherent thought vanished. The intensity of Snape's gaze, too, was distracting her, and Hermione found herself flustered by such probing, wondrously dark eyes. Why were they so...cryptic, as if their depths held the secrets to all the workings of the universe?
Oh, Hermione, get a grip! This is Snape!
Hermione's entire face felt flushed with intense heat. A few seconds later, Snape's rich voice had her hitching a nervous breath.
"You were saying, Granger?" he probed with surprising patience. "Something you care to remark on about my research?"
Hermione blinked. My name! He remembered my name! To her, it was a vast improvement and she jolted forward in her seat, perhaps a touch too eagerly.
"Nothing particularly illuminating, sir. Except... Well, I - I very much enjoyed reading them. You clearly have a deep understanding; it was very thought-provoking and I found a lot of what you shared...fascinating."
Snape cocked his head sideways, beady eyes narrowing into slits. "Did you?" he questioned softly, his tone abstruse. It caused Hermione further embarrassment.
Oh, good Lord, you dunderhead! Now he probably thinks you're just trying to kiss his arse!
Isn't that precisely the angle you're working, though? the inconvenient second half of her brain pointed out.
No! I really did like his books!
Yes, well, even so—
Oh, do shut up! There shouldn't be any harm in complimenting him!
"I— Well, yes. I mean it. I really enjoyed reading them."
"I see." Snape's eyes did that cryptic survey of her person before some sort of shield fell back into place. "Anything else?"
Hermione frowned and sunk back in her seat. "No," she answered, diverting her eyes to spare herself anymore humiliation. "That was all...sir."
Snape didn't utter a word. He resumed reading over his work and paid Hermione no further mind, which was just as well. Her attempt at small talk—well, to engage her professor in a literary discussion about his published work—had gone absolutely nowhere, and, now, he probably thought her a kiss-arse in addition to a 'know-it-all.' He'd called her that unpleasant nickname with obvious derision more than once during recent conductions in the laboratory.
Brilliant, Hermione. Could you possibly be more of an obvious brown-noser?
But... I honestly didn't mean it that way...
I thought you didn't like him? And wanted to get on his good side?
Well, I... Bugger.
Hermione couldn't find the words to argue with herself. She was baffled, uncertain of her own behaviour and how she felt about Snape now.
To keep herself in check, she remained silent and still in class that day, never once raising her hand to try to answer one of the professor's hard-hitting questions. She never sought eye contact from him, either, or made the slightest attempt to earn his recognition. She also told off McLaggan following the end of the lecture, when he'd tried rather assertively to entice Hermione to grab lunch with him.
Hermione didn't care if she came off as impolite. McLaggan was a prat, and she wanted nothing to do with him. Hopefully, the boy would finally get the hint. Besides, she needed to restrategise, perhaps take a serious time out to reconsider why it was so important to her to try to impress someone who was so unimpressed by everything...
The golden autumn sun was just making its unwelcome appearance—well, for the majority of a young, sleep-deprived university population based in a certain part of the world—when Hermione wearily dragged herself out of the thermal comforts of her bed, forced her grumpy self into a heavy jumper, jeans and an unflattering pair of brown boots, and trekked out of her apartment, eyes half closed.
Not even bothering to check her incontrovertible rats' nest of bed hair before leaving, Hermione batted away whatever frizzy curls had the impudence to get in her way this morning and trawled her way towards campus, foregoing even the most basic of makeup remedies that would have concealed the prominent bags on display beneath her eyes.
She'd spent the majority of the previous evening studying for Professor Snape's latest gruelling examination at the university library, slipping into her usual nook on the fourth floor, where very few other overly caffeinated, sleep-deprived individuals sought out the many cubbies in between book stacks. It was always exceedingly quiet up there and, therefore, regularly sought after by Hermione, who found her flat too distracting with all its outside noise, every day distractions, and, most importantly, the presence of her excessively chatty roommate.
Unfortunately, at about midnight, Hermione had fallen asleep—the many, many long days and weeks of intensive study and stress catching up to her—only to be shaken awake some two hours later by one of the library's highly irate security guards. He was not at all pleased to find a student still hanging around the building after it had been closed for the night, and a delirious Hermione was manhandled to the front doors, where she was then unceremoniously kicked out onto the street.
Hermione hiked back to her flat at all speed, bypassing a number of less than studious drunkards intent on pissing the night away rather than going home like any sensible person. Good grief! It's Monday and a school night! I mean, erm, morning! she huffed to herself, glaring down the obnoxious lot of them as she crossed the street towards her flat on the next block.
Hermione's own intentions were far more objective, but they hadn't gone as she planned. Upon entering her cramped, unheated flat, she was assaulted by a certain four-legged patch of orange fur that was insistent on receiving nonstop attention for the next hour.
Admitting defeat, Hermione curled up on the couch with chocolate, a heated blanket to fight off the horrible draft running through her flat, and a purring feline who went by the name of Crookshanks seated in her lap. She turned on the telly for some background noise whilst attempting to recharge to keep on studying, but, instead, a half hour later Hermione nodded off to the comforting vibrations of Crook's purrs.
Now, she was starving, had virtually nothing left to eat in her flat save for a cup of noodles (which didn't sound at all appealing at seven o'clock in the morning), and, sluggishly, was braving the November cold in pursuit of breakfast. Her first order of the day would be a stop at a nearby coffee shop not far from university, where they sold a 'smashing' egg, cheese, and bacon croissant sandwich to die for, as well as a deliciously strong cup of coffee.
Just what I need to gear up for more studying.
Hermione paused as she entered the quiet coffee shop, unsurprised that it was mostly empty. The student population would be virtually non-existent until roughly fifteen minutes before eight o'clock classes began, so Hermione was able to order a hot coffee and breakfast to go without waiting in a long queue.
Five minutes later, with the two necessities for starting her day in hand, Hermione was feeling slightly more awake. She'd just snatched up the bag containing her croissant sandwich when she happened to peer casually to her left. Someone—an older gentleman—was seated next to the large café window and typing away on his laptop.
The man's dark glasses were perched low on his distinguished nose, his face the epitome of utmost concentration as he typed with fury and without breaking. Hermione was all too happy not to disturb the prickling professor this morning, particularly before she'd ingested her much-needed caffeine that would help her ability to hold back her tongue.
Thus, Hermione quickly lowered her eyes and bolted for the exit. She'd started pushing the door open and was about to make her much-sought after escape when Snape's deep voice rung out through the coffee shop, its sound rich, strangely beguiling, and nearly welcoming compared to its usual forbiddance.
Beguiling? Golly, Hermione, you really do need your coffee this morning.
Giving a small yelp, Hermione reluctantly peered over at Snape, though his acute gaze was still transfixed on his computer screen as he typed. "Good morning, Professor," she managed with little poise.
"Enlighten me," he continued as if she hadn't spoken. "Why on earth would a lively, exuberant young student such as yourself be up and even functioning at this ghastly hour?"
Hermione was too struck to answer, and, after a pregnant pause, those piercing ebony eyes finally met hers. Perhaps it was the lack of caffeine in her system, or perhaps she simply wasn't herself yet without her morning coffee, but the curious look over Snape was directing at Hermione sent a jittery shiver up and down her spine that she swiftly sought to suppress. She smiled weakly, as though she feared Snape were some kind of mind reader and about to dissect her depraved thoughts, and stepped away from the door.
"I'm used to it," she answered as casually as possible. "Always been an early riser."
Snape seemed to doubt that comment. Hermione couldn't blame him nor the semblance of that dubious-looking eyebrow rising to attention. She probably looked a fright to him. She'd rolled herself out of bed and thrown on a hodge-podge of clothes without a second thought as to whom she might run into.
Then again, it wasn't like Hermione to give any consideration towards her conservative, if somewhat bland, wardrobe and general appearance. Why do you care how Snape sees you? her conscience inconveniently chose to point out at that moment. She reacted by brushing and scrunching at some loose curls around her head.
"I see." Thankfully, Snape moved on. "Well, if you aren't in a terrible rush, you may pull up a seat and join me." At the vacant stare that followed, which Hermione would feel badly about in another moment or two, Snape added with a half-cocked smirk, "My guess is you've been up half the night—if not the entirety of it—crunching obsessively for an exam of mine tomorrow."
Merlin, he had her pegged. Perhaps he was a damn mind reader after all, in addition to a being a snarky smart-arse.
Hermione's cheeks blushed in acknowledgement. "Only last evening," she confessed softly before tacking on without thinking, "as well as the weekend and every night last week..."
Snape's pupils widened a fraction and then resumed their normal shape. "Do sit down," he encouraged, gesturing towards the empty seat across from him.
Although apprehensive, Hermione slunk into the beckoned chair before her and shifted about uncomfortably whilst Severus proceeded to type more on his laptop. Unsure of what to say or how to fill the silence, Hermione sipped her coffee, grateful to have something handy to distract herself, albeit marginally. That beautiful silver strand of hair was dangling over the left lens of Snape's glasses, and Hermione had a sudden impulse to reach over and brush it away.
Snape abruptly blinked and looked up, and Hermione floundered in trying to disguise the severe blush marring her cheeks by hiding behind her steaming cup of coffee. When he didn't attempt to say anything, Hermione gulped down her coffee too fast, intending to say something herself but ended up hacking instead.
"Steady on, Granger," she heard the professor snort as she recovered. "I'm not going to test you here at the table. I'll refrain from tormenting you over your breakfast." He nodded to the paper bag Hermione still clasped in one hand. "Eat your sandwich before it goes cold."
With a puzzled frown, Hermione unearthed her sandwich and chewed slowly, continuing to eye Snape curiously over his laptop. He was typing again but not offering any polite conversation, which felt entirely odd. Why the bloody hell had he even asked her to sit with him? So that she could merely watch him type or he observe her stuffing her face?
After a few more minutes, Hermione awkwardly piped up, "What are you working on," before adding abruptly, "erm, if you don't mind me asking, that is?"
Snape eyed her over his laptop again and Hermione could have sworn he was actually smirking this time, though from afar it probably resembled more of a grimace of pain than a small smile of pleasure. "I intended to work on honing together a lecture I'll be giving next month when I was unfortunately...distracted." Hermione raised an eyebrow, the coming question clearly written on her face, so Snape expounded before she could get a word in, "Are you familiar with the online adventures of one Roger Wilco?"
Hermione nearly had another coughing fit and wiped at her lips. She wasn't a gamer, but she knew the name.
"From Space Quest?"
One side of Snape's mouth rose, amused. "Very good, Granger. I wouldn't have taken you for an online gamer."
"I'm not," Hermione replied, blushing redder. "Erm, my dad is, though; loves them. Mum thinks they're wonky."
Snape's side smile extended an inch or two, causing Hermione's insides to flutter. "They're highly amusing. I've gotten into them when I need to...unwind."
Hermione's own smile emerged. "I would never have taken you for someone who's into Space Quest."
"They're marginally entertaining," Snape retorted, though with good humour.
"So my dad keeps insisting to my mum." Hermione chewed her bottom lip as the conversation suddenly stilled. Then, thankfully, another question came to her. "What is the lecture you're giving?"
"A boring analysis of phenotyping technology. A colleague friend of mine from Amsterdam invited me to speak."
"Oh? How nice."
Although she felt somewhat foolish for that reply, she was rather enjoying Snape's company—so far.
Snape smirked at her civility. "Hardly. It'll be dull and boring and uneventful and, I reckon, by the time I'm through, all of the guests will be snoring or drooling on themselves, my friend, Minerva, included." Hermione was grateful she hadn't been in the midst of taking another sip of her coffee; Snape shook his head. "Still, as you say, it was 'nice' of her to invite me."
Hermione took a bite of her sandwich, using the silence to swallow and formulate her next inquiry. "Have you been to Amsterdam before?"
"I went once when I was a little girl. Mum and Dad took the weekend off—they run a dental practice—to take me to see the Arrival of Sinterklaas. It was spectacular, from what I remember. We've never been back since."
"Mmm," Snape grunted in reply, dark eyes returning to whatever was on his computer screen. "Your family celebrates Christmas, I take it?"
"We do. Mum and I really get into the spirit of the holiday. Dad likes to pretend he doesn't care."
Hermione, why on earth are you sharing this? her mind warned. I'm sure Snape doesn't give a damn.
"Not I," Snape interrupted her ill thoughts with a firm toss of his head. "Never cared for the commercialisation of Christmas. It's exceedingly off putting."
"But, the music?" Hermione suggested against her better judgement, face turing wondrous with simple thought to the coming holiday. "The pretty decorations? The lovely lights and the shows and the—"
"Too commercial for my tastes."
"Well, then how do you normally celebrate the Christmas holiday?"
Snape met Hermione's curious gaze with a rather sobering one of his own, and it was no longer light and inviting. "I don't," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Oh! Oh, I... I'm sorry; I never meant to assume that you—"
"It's all right, Granger," Snape insisted, his tone of voice and expression somewhat disengaged now. "I don't celebrate a holiday of any kind. I'm a man of science, not of faith."
Hermione frowned, though she knew in the back of her mind that she shouldn't be so surprised to learn this. Many in academia were not men or women of faith, and she wasn't necessarily herself. She and her parents enjoyed Christmas for the beautiful carols, decorations, and Santa Clause, not for the religious ties at the heart of its celebration, something that had never sat well with Hermione's conscience. Her interest in Snape was heightening with each minor personal exchange between them.
"Did you celebrate at all growing up?"
"No." Snape's black irises had unexpectedly dimmed, seemingly far away in thought. "My mother tried but my father..." Then, abruptly, they flickered back around, and Snape looked rather cross as he scowled at her from across the stable. "Christmas wasn't a long-lasting tradition in my household."
"Oh... I - I see. I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?"
"I, erm... I didn't mean to offend you by ask—"
"You haven't offended me." He nodded once more towards her half-consumed croissant. "I believe your sandwich is getting cold."
Hermione took that as her cue to quietly eat and not pry. Serves you right. You don't know how to mingle without meddling, her conscience berated.
A minute later, Snape closed his laptop and tucked it away into his leather satchel by his feet. That silver hair remained adamantly in his face, though he scooped some other straggly strands behind his ear. Hermione wasn't aware that she'd stopped eating to ogle like a daft idiot, but she at least found the decency to close her mouth once their gazes met again.
"I shan't take up more of your morning," he disappointed her by saying in the next breath. He flung his worn satchel over one shoulder and a pair of sunglasses emerged from inside one of his tweed pockets; he covered those enigmatic eyes with them and Hermione felt the breath in her lungs being snuffed out. "Good day, Granger."
Snape didn't await her response. He gracefully slid out of his chair and took off two strides at a time. By the time Hermione turned around, he was halfway out the door.
"Good day...sir," she whispered after him, aware that he probably hadn't heard her.
He hates me, she concluded as she begrudgingly resumed sipping her coffee, alone.
Oh, were you expecting a different outcome?
Maybe not but...!
Well... He seemed so different today. Engaging, even funny at times!
Until you mentioned the holidays.
Hermione frowned down at the scruffy lid of her coffee cup. So, what does this mean? Am I to be academically punished for it come exam day?
Who knows. Not an easy-going chap, though; don't kid yourself. And he's too old for you, Hermione.
Steady on! I know that! And I don't at all think—
Yes, you do.
On that brutal note, Hermione scampered out of her seat and nearly spilt hot coffee on herself as she hastened back to her flat.
Severus's highly concentrated scowl as he glided out of his office late one November evening didn't so much as draw a casual upward glance from any of his fellow late-night colleagues sharing the floor with him. Most of the university staff were accustomed to Severus Snape looking as though he was considering running over an innocent cat with his car. Mostly, they avoided him, which was just as well, for he normally opted for sidestepping them and their immense egos just the same.
Tonight was no exception to the norm, and, though he was offered a formal, stiff-sounding 'Good evening,' from a few he encountered in exiting the faculty building for his department, Severus was mostly left to pander to his own private thoughts, which, at the moment, were a mixture of rousing contemplations, and not at all to do with his latest research project.
Severus adjusted the strap to his gnarled leather satchel and trekked down the cement steps two at a time. As he reached the sidewalk, he paused to throw one half of the green, plaid-pattern scarf he wore over his shoulder and bundle it more snug about his neck. The air was brisk, making the familiar ache in his rigid joints discomforting but tolerable. Evenings like these had Severus yearning for warmer climate, for it lousily reminded him of how he tended to feel older than his actual years.
But, you are old.
With a disgruntled sigh, Severus adjusted his glasses and followed the walkway that led to the faculty parking lot, resuming his steady, strong gait and internal musings from earlier. He'd been deep in thought most of the day, his concerns increasing as the day wore on rather than lessening.
Perhaps she's ill and hasn't had the opportunity to check her e-mail yet.
Nonsense, the ever cynical portion of his brain argued. If she were unwell, she'd have contacted you first thing to beg for an extension. She'd be far too stressed and overly concerned to allow such an important matter to wait until she was actually well enough to communicate with you.
Maybe she's had a family emergency and has had little to no time to contact me.
Bollocks. You can't—you shouldn't—make excuses for her. There are none.
Face it, Severus, you're out of scenarios. None of them would excuse Hermione Granger's absence from class and not handing in the essay that was due. That girl would hand in an assignment two weeks ahead of schedule if the option were offered, even if it meant trudging to your office in a bloody blizzard without shoes or a damn coat. She'd never allow herself less than perfect attendance, either. Something's up.
...And I'm talking to myself about this why precisely?
Severus's frown was so acute he wasn't aware of the couple young folks he passed, either on their way to their flats or, more likely, to get pissed with friends, nervously stepping into the grass to avoid him. Instead, he snarled quietly as he searched for his car keys wrenched somewhere in one of his pockets.
You've been paying a little too much unwarranted attention to the absence of Miss Granger, Severus, his conscience pressed on. Is that because you feel...bad?
Touchy, aren't we? Are you alarmed to discover that you actually possess a conscience? A grain of sincere regret for your appalling behaviour towards that of another?
At last jerking his car keys free of a tweed coat pocket, Severus set off at full speed, ignoring that his glasses were starting to fall down the sharp bridge of his nose. He needed to get home and distract himself—focus on honing his research, read up on the latest catalogue of academic essays that he'd obtained from the library, or, perhaps, take the night off and watch mindless crap on the telly with a glass of his favourite Cabernet Sauvignon.
Whatever's necessary to forget about the whereabouts and doings of Hermione Granger, which is none of your bloody business or your bloody concern.
"Don't you have another essay due today?"
Hermione's tired, red-rimmed eyes flickered lazily towards the equally run down faces of Harry and Ron, both of whom looked far worse for the wear this morning than she did. Their eyes were blotched, their dirty hair sticking up in every direction, stubble lining their faces. That definitely needed attending to, but both were too busy nursing hangovers.
"Oh, yeah..." she mumbled through a yawn. "Not going."
Even a head impediment couldn't stop either hungover lad from shooting their friend startled looks. "Come again?" Ron flat-out questioned, scrunching his freckled nose, blue eyes half-closed. "You, skipping class? Again?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes in challenge. "That wasn't funny the first time, Ronald."
"Hermione, what's going on?" Harry scrubbed a hand down his face. "Are you planning to drop Snape's class or...?"
Hermione shrugged off that inquiry rather too nonchalantly. Her curls were a particularly knotted and frizzed mess this morning, but she couldn't give less of a damn about her messy appearance.
In fact, as of late, she hadn't given much of a rat's arse about anything, and it was starting to trouble those around her, particularly her two closest friends. To her, this change of mindset was a breath of fresh air, but, to Harry and Ron, who weren't on board with this newfound refusal of Hermione's to not care about her studies, her feral mop of hair, or her academic integrity was beyond their abilities to comprehend. Something had brought about this drastic change in their friend, and not for the better; but they hadn't been able to weasel the truth out of her yet.
"Erm, Hermione, you ought to, at least, go talk to your counsellor."
"What for?" Hermione shot Harry's suggestion down whilst clinging to the wonderfully hot cup of tea she was cradling between her palms.
Neither of the boys could believe they were giving their much smarter friend academic advice. "Well... To see what he recommends. Maybe you can file a complaint against Snape?"
The frown Hermione wore deepened considerably. "And, why would I want to do that?"
"Well," Ron turned to Harry, perplexed, before returning Hermione's own puzzled stare, "it's Snape's nasty treatment towards you that's had you acting out of sorts, hasn't it?"
"What on earth do you mean?" Hermione drew back and blinked, her befuddlement mounting; what were these two (mostly) loveable twats getting at?
"'Mione, you went from the point of obsessing over excelling in Snape's class that we barely saw you the past several weeks to skipping his class altogether, not turning in work when it's due, and opting to get pissed with us rather than stay in and study. We've never seen you so much as tipsy until last night! And, you've suddenly gone completely mute about discussing Snape at all, so what gives?"
Slowly, Hermione's mouth dropped open in awareness. Curse it, Ron! He had a point, and a valid one, too: her behaviour of late was rather troubling when she actually stopped to contemplate recent hair-raising events. No wonder these two party-hard fools were so concerned about her wellbeing. They may have been boys, and thereby prone to insipid excursions that, at times, went beyond reproach in Hermione's eyes, but they cared about her and knew her well enough to ascertain when she was keeping something from them.
"I..." she started, but couldn't seem to find the words; had she really become so absorbed in her dealings with Professor Snape that, to her friends, it was more than an engrossment; it was an 'obsession'? That was worrisome, the hellish reminder of the previous evening's sloppy events not withstanding.
Hermione had decided on the fly to meet up with Harry and Ron at the latest school union party, which was being hosted in an old university hospital ward that the union had transformed into their headquarters decades ago. The beer was flowing and the party buzz was in full swing when she'd arrived.
Harry was busily sweet-talking some pretty Asian girl, Cho, whom he'd just met that night. Hermione thought her nice, if not quite flaky, and was also introduced to a friend Cho had dragged along, who seemed far less enthused about being there: Lavender Brown. Ron seemed incapable of keeping his eyes off of the blonde-haired bimbo, most especially her busty tits that were practically pouring out of her dress.
Hermione had rolled her eyes and left the boys to their own devices, finding the new girls they were buying cheap drinks uninteresting. The feeling was apparently mutual, as she'd find out later.
Initially, Hermione's intention of going to the school union party that evening had been to make her rounds to the various social circles present to push her anti-fox hunting smear campaign, which she'd been fiercely crusading since her first year on campus. It may have been a banned sport, but many students and their rich parents that donated generously to the university still took part in the proscribed past time on weekends. She'd only learned recently in passing that McLaggan and his lot of particularly upper class twits were amongst those who took part in this terrible sport. Frankly, Hermione was all too happy to have another reason to add to her list for disliking the wanker.
Unfortunately, McLaggan had been at the party, spotted Hermione, and harassed her most of the night. After a series of ridicules, and being laughed at by McLaggan and his brainless band of snobs, Hermione didn't get even, but she did get inebriated. One cheap beer led to the next in order to forget McLaggan and the uninspiring company she found herself amongst. She hated the stuff—she'd never had much taste for alcohol, period—but drank anyway to the point of slurring her words and sending the room into a never-ending spin.
Thankfully, Harry and Ron had stuck around to witness Hermione's nightmarish deterioration into drunkenness and coaxed her back to their flat to crash for the night. Getting the feisty chit to leave the party had been a scene in itself, though. Hermione incoherently mumbled, hummed, and even broke out into song at one point. It had taken Ron practically pushing Hermione out of the venue to get her to leave, and the three of them had slogged back to Harry's and Ron's flat shoulder to shoulder.
After face-planting herself on their couch fully clothed and with a bit of drool running down her chin, Hermione had passed out and could barely remember how she'd gotten there the following morning. Unfortunately, she had recalled croaking at the top of her lungs at one point and giving some wanker who'd poked fun at her singing capabilities the ungraceful middle finger.
Now, Hermione was being reminded of why she preferred not to let herself get three sheets to the wind. Battling this pounding headache was dreadful, she was certain the large amount of alcohol she'd consumed was going to exit unpleasantly from either one end or the other or both, and the discovery that she was a slipshod drunk didn't sit well with her soberer conscience, even in this new phase of apathy she was testing out.
"Well, I don't intend to ever get pissed like that again," Hermione reassured the boys as she gingerly massaged her temples.
"Forget that," Harry scoffed and placed his elbows on the table. "What about Snape? What are you going to do about him?"
"I... I haven't a clue, Harry, all right?"
"Well, you need to turn in that essay for starters," Ron joined in, earning a critical scowl for getting involved, but he ignored Hermione's visible warning. "Even if it's late, you'll earn more points than you would for not turning it in at all."
"And, trust me, Hermione, you do not want Snape to give you an even harder time for not handing work in. I tried that tactic towards the end; he made my life bloody miserable."
Either it was her hangover or lack of a good night's sleep that saw Hermione not heeding her friends' words. She groaned and cautiously shook her head; the table she sat at with her friends was still leaning too heavily to the right on occasion.
"I don't care what he'd choose to do to me anymore, to be honest," she muttered into her tea cup. She was surprised by the condemning frowns she received for that.
"Yes, you do, Hermione," Harry corrected her with feeling. "You care more about your grades than anybody else here!"
"'Mione, take it from Harry. He's been through the ringer with Snape before. You need to turn in that essay or go see your advisor about dropping the class."
"All right, all right!" Hermione threw up her hands. "Golly, listen to you two suddenly acting all worried for my academic wellbeing!"
"Shut it, Hermione." Hermione's mouth dropped at Harry's testiness, but he simply pressed on, "This isn't like you; that's why we're getting on your case. Someday soon you're going to wake up and start fretting all over the place, and we're likely to receive the brunt of it. We're just looking out for you."
"Well, I've got it sorted, all right? I'll settle this soon. I promise!"
"You'd better," Harry cautioned her with a serious frown, but Ron snickered and, with dramatic flair, swept the back of his jacket forward so that it looked like a cape. He raised his arm to conceal half of his face.
"Or the bat of the science lab will fail you for your incompetence!" he mocked in a purposely deep register.
"You're wicked to poke fun at a professor like that!" Hermione scolded, though she had a hand pressed to her mouth was trying futility to hold back her laughter.
Ron rolled his eyes, not at all affected, and Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Nah, he's on point. That's what Snape is: a greasy, old bat with a permanent stick up his pucker."
Hermione didn't argue, for she knew the boys were correct on one thing: she needed to get herself together. And, she either had to face Snape (a fear that wasn't all that enticing) or, even at this late in the term, consider dropping the course and taking a penalty for doing so. Although she'd never been the weak sort to back down from a challenge, she wasn't foolish enough not to realise when she was fighting a losing battle. Snape wasn't someone who was easy to win over.
In fact, he was near impossible to win over. It was time to put a stop to this.
Severus momentarily removed his glasses to rub thoroughly at the purple bags beneath his eyes. He'd indulged in a tad too much of his favourite red wine the previous evening, treading so far in his drinking excursion as to finish the entire bottle, something he rarely allowed of himself; but, as it would turn out, he needed to drink all of the contents in order to remove a certain fresh, young face from his mind.
Yet, even after finding himself wineless and stooped over on the floor, half asleep and half on the brink of delirium, she'd still managed to penetrate his debauched thoughts.
The nerve of the woman!
This had never happened to Severus Snape before. Scratch that; it had happened once in the past, but those consuming thoughts over a certain young lady had occurred many, many years ago. It had begun as an innocent childhood whim and grown to a teenage longing that went unfulfilled. He'd been responsible for bringing about the end of their friendship, and, therefore, any chance at something potentially greater.
Since then, Severus made a point never to become entangled with another woman. Not emotionally, anyway. Physical interaction was fine, but any sort of emotional attachment wasn't permitable. He told himself it was better that way. Perhaps it was, though his more tender-sided conscience never agreed with him.
For the past several decades, this arrangement had worked perfectly fine for Severus. His sexual encounters with women were few, whether younger or, sometimes, older, but he preferred such arrangements to anything more. He refused to allow a woman to devour his mind after she left the comforts of his bed or, he, hers.
Yes. It was better this way.
Severus certainly didn't hold Granger in that potential category. Fuck, no! he started in his chair, disenchanted by his own thought process, and scrambled to open his inbox.
Sure, Hermione Granger was an attractive young woman in the sense that very few women with a bright, fiercely intellectual sense were: completely naive to their natural beauty; in Granger's case, it was an arresting combination of that untameable wild hair, ordinary makeup (if she even wore any), and plain clothing that neither hid her alluring curves nor accentuated them.
For fuck's sake, Severus, where's your head today? Focus.
Severus scrolled through a selection of unread e-mails in his inbox, stopping at one in particular that required a reply. He sneered with discontent, as if he'd tasted something most foul.
Remus Lupin. Of course. Prat.
Turning down said faculty member's invitation to an evening cocktail hour with a selection of his colleagues would be his only satisfaction for today. No, he would most certainly not be attending Lupin's monthly boozy get-together, which served only as an excuse for lengthy, dull discussions about the man's poor excuse for research for his latest book than anything remotely stimulating. The last thing Severus desired was to listen to his old school rival drone on and on for hours about a subject matter he cared little for. Besides, Lupin was merely extending an invitation to him out of obligation, like always, since they ran in similar social circles, rather than out of any shred of civility, so, as far as Severus was concerned, Remus could stuff his little staff party up his bottom.
"Consider it a favour," Severus snorted to himself after clicking 'Send'.
Then, he resumed grading the last of the essays he'd be handing back to his students at his next Plant Sciences lecture tomorrow.
No word had come in from Granger, much to Severus's surprise, and no forward mention from administrative staff as to the possibility of her choosing to drop the course. He would have been quite taken aback if that had been the case. Granger was a rare combination—an irritable swot but highly capable student; one of only a select few to come Severus's way in the some twenty years he'd been a professor. She was an exceptionally gifted intellectual; of the rare young academic breed who cared deeply for learning and expanding her knowledge. For her to have chosen to drop his class would have been an eyebrow raiser in the extreme.
So, why hasn't she bothered to turn in her essay or get in touch with me to plead for an extension? he wondered, eying his empty inbox with dissatisfaction, as if he expected an email to pop up from her at any moment.
Over the next hour Severus spent in his office no such plea came crawling into his inbox. Then, an unexpected knock at the door disrupted his concentration. Rarely did a student pay Severus a visit, whether to discuss how to boost his grades, to whine over a botched essay that didn't deserve a higher mark, or to search out opportunities to earn extra credit; so, to find someone at his office whose shadow didn't resemble a faculty member was most peculiar indeed.
"Enter," he answered and cast his grading pen aside.
To his amazement, Hermione Granger, the very woman who'd been on his mind too often of late, suddenly materialised in his doorway, looking the epitome of good health and brave collectedness. She even smiled at him, though her bright disposition was brief, and Severus drew back in his chair, confounded.
"Miss Granger," he attempted to address her in his monotone drawl; she merely nodded in return, not at all fazed when their eyes met. That probably should have tipped him off, but, initially, it hadn't. "Please, come in."
At last, he devised with a delightful sneer. She's come to barter excuses for more time to complete her assignment.
"I trust you're here regarding the essay you failed to turn in to class on time?"
"Well, I—" she started but was abruptly cut off.
"Which, I suppose, I'm duty-bound to remind you, though it was clearly written on the syllabus you received at the beginning of the year, was due nearly a week ago come tomorrow."
"Yes, I'm aware of the due date," Hermione replied just as coolly.
Severus's brow knitted together. "And? Pray, tell, what is the excuse you've brought with you?"
"I'm afraid I have no excuse, sir."
Severus blinked, confusion rippling across his features despite his intentions of not showing any feeling. "Pardon?"
To his disgruntlement, Hermione casually shrugged. "I have no legitimate reason for my tardiness, Professor."
"I heard you," he snipped and quickly adjusted his brown plaited jacket. "Then... Well... Why are you here?" he finally settled for asking.
"I've come to hand in my essay," she answered with such simplicity and frankness that Severus actually did a double-take.
"I fully understand, and expect, to be penalized for turning my essay in six days late, Professor, but I would rather receive some points for my efforts than none at all." When Severus didn't respond in the next few seconds, only continued to stare at her as if she were a complete stranger, Hermione awkwardly cleared her throat, stepped forward into his office, and plopped her essay down on his desk. "Here it is, sir."
Cautiously, Severus reared forward in his chair, picked up the essay, and examined the number of pages before frowning up at her with another one of his trademark scowls. "It's twice as long as the maximum length, Granger."
"I know, sir. Forgive me, but I think you'll find the details I've added particularly insightful."
Severus blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"For your research, sir."
"And, why would I desire your expertise," he uttered with particular disdain, "for my professional research, Granger?"
"I never meant to suggest that you would. I just thought you might find my points interesting to your research is all. You'll have to read my essay to determine whether it's worthy of your time...or not," she came back at him, again, with alarming calmness, her voice lacking any shakiness or nerves. She drew back towards the door and raised her chin. "Oh, I have something else to pass along to you, Professor."
Severus, though numb, raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Yes?"
"I'll be dropping your class. I hope it won't reflect too poorly on the essay I've presented to you. Again, I don't expect high marks; I'd just like my efforts to be treated as fairly. That is all."
In the next instant, Hermione Granger was gone, closing the door softly behind her as she floated away down the hall and out of sight. Severus stared on at the empty space in front of him where she'd been seconds ago, his mind reeling.
You've officially done it, Severus. Congratulations. You've managed to drive one of the smartest, most capable young students this university has ever encountered out of one of your classes. Bravo. Generous points to you for being such an intolerable prick that she'd choose giving up rather than continuing on.
A/N #2: I haven't determined if this will be a two-shot or a three-shot. Most likely, it will be two, but we'll see. Volume II is still in the works but should (hopefully) be coming soon...
Reviews are always greatly appreciated!