A/N: I originally wrote this story many, many moons ago. 2007 or so. I published it and then took it down to revamp it. Years passed by and it sat unfinished as real life intervened. For whatever reason, I got the urge to rewrite/finish it. The original was approximately 65k words; this version topped out at nearly 250k! For anyone who may have read the original, I hope you enjoy the changes.
This story is officially AU after Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort is dead but nothing went down as it did in canon. Snape, Dumbledore, Fred, and Remus are all still alive (your welcome!) What you need to know about the war, you will be told as the story progresses.
Thanks to my polishing beta: TheUltimateBibliophile
"Professor?" Hermione asked quietly, peering around the door of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. It was early evening and the stars were just starting to make an appearance beyond the open windows across the room.
"Hermione?" came the curious, masculine reply a moment before Remus Lupin stepped out from behind a large cabinet, a friendly grin plastered across his face. "Come in! And haven't I told you a hundred times that you don't have to call me Professor unless we're in class?"
The Head Girl smiled apologetically as she entered the room and shut the door. "At least. Sorry, Remus."
At some point, during the war and the accompanying chaos the year before, a Lycanthropy cure was finally developed and Remus had been one of the first werewolves to be rehabilitated. Once Voldemort was truly dead and his vindictive curse on the position subsequently void, one of Dumbledore's most notable acts upon reopening the school was to reinstate Lupin as the Defense professor. It was nice to have a competent teacher again, especially for their N.E.W.T. year, and Hermione's relationship with the wizard, which had been one of mutual respect as fellow Order members over the past two years, had bloomed into a comfortable friendship since his return to the castle.
"So, to what do I owe the honor this evening?" he asked, disappearing between the wooden doors of the cupboard again.
Hermione sighed wearily and sat down on top of a nearby desk. "I don't know. It's just been a long day. Thought I'd stop in for a friendly chat before my detention starts."
Remus poked his head out and frowned. "You have another detention tonight?"
She nodded again.
"Merlin, how many has that been since the start of term?" he asked as he put away the last of the Dark objects he'd brought in to show his classes. It was barely November, yet she had already served more detentions with Snape than he had had during his entire seven years as a student.
"I lost count."
Remus shook his head in disbelief. "What's it for this time?"
"I sort of talked back to him in class," the curly-haired witch muttered, diverting her eyes to the black mary-janes swinging in front of her. Even though Lupin was more of a friend than an authority figure, she knew he wouldn't condone the disrespect of any of his colleagues, even if it was the cantankerous Potions Master.
Her head darted back up and her shoulders tensed into a more defensive stance. "I know, Remus, I know. But I swear that man can be so infuriating sometimes! I honestly think he's doing it on purpose — like he's trying to make me mad enough to tell him off, just so he can give me detention!"
The former werewolf frowned again as he placed several protective wards over the cabinet. "I don't think Severus would do that. He's sacrificing his own free time for these detentions, after all."
"Hmph. He's also getting all of his paperwork done, too," Hermione grumbled bitterly. It wasn't that she minded helping Snape with his essays or any of the other tasks he had assigned her, per se; she just resented the snarky wizard's tactics.
Lupin was quiet for a moment as he took a seat behind his desk, pondering his coworker's recent conduct. "So, what was the disagreement about this time?"
"He told me that my potion was the wrong color. The text said that in the final stage, it was supposed to turn an iridescent cerulean — which it did — but Professor Snape insisted that it was cyan. I knew it was right. He was convinced that it was wrong and refused to test it for accuracy." She huffed irritably. "The debate got rather intense after that, of course, and ended with me vanishing the potion out of frustration, taking a T for the day's assignment, and receiving yet another detention."
Remus' brow furrowed as he listened to the witch. Almost all of her detentions had been the result of the same sort of dispute in which neither of them, hard-headed as they both were, would concede that they were wrong. It'd actually be somewhat humorous if the girl's disciplinary record wasn't being tarnished in the process. "Hermione, Severus is the teacher and a Potions master, if he said that the potion was incorrect, then—"
The Head Girl slammed her hand down on the table, effectively cutting off the older wizard's admonishment. "It wasn't wrong!" she cried indignantly. "That potion was perfect! Ask anyone that was in the room. It was the exact shade that the book described and he knew it! Snape is an unmitigated arse and for some reason, he's decided to concentrate that sizable talent on me this year!"
Amusement glinted in Lupin's warm hazel eyes and he held up his hands in mock surrender. "Calm down, love. I'm on your side, remember?"
Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment and her shoulders slumped. She hadn't meant to say all that but when she got worked up, things occasionally flew out of her mouth unbidden. "I'm sorry, Remus. This whole situation is just driving me crazy. It seems like every time I turn around, Professor Snape's berating me for something ridiculous." She growled in exasperation. "He's bloody lucky I haven't hexed him yet."
"Yes, quite lucky," Remus agreed with a chuckle. The Muggle-born knew a whole litany of curses — several of which he had taught her himself — and had deadly accurate aim. "Do you want me to talk to Severus about it?"
Hermione shook her head, knowing her answer to that question automatically — it was one she had been contemplating for a while now. "I refuse to give that overgrown bat the satisfaction of seeing me cower. If he wants to play this absurd game, then he's going to find that I'm not an opponent to be underestimated."
He grinned, knowing full well how stubborn the little witch could be. He had always admired her determination to tackle her own problems through whatever means proved necessary — a trait that had played a large part in the downfall of Voldemort. She had faced down Death Eaters more than twice her size and stood proudly beside her best friend as he confronted and then defeated the darkest wizard in history. This girl was not one to be easily intimidated. "Suit yourself. Just remember, I'm here for you if you change your mind."
"Thanks, I will," she replied with an appreciative smile. "For now, it's enough that you listen to my whining. Harry and Ron just get mad whenever I start to complain."
Suddenly, the tower clock rang out, reverberating through the castle walls and causing Hermione to jump up from the desk like she had been scorched by invisible Fiendfyre. "Oh, bugger! I'm gonna be late!" She ran out the door at top speed without even saying goodbye. It'd mean another detention if she didn't make it to the Potions classroom before the clock finished its hourly serenade.
The former Marauder shook his head as he watched her scamper away. He didn't know what was going on with the Potions professor, but he doubted Snape would live through the year if he kept antagonizing the woman like this. Remus was quite fond of Hermione and hated to see her being tormented, but his own relationship with his old schoolmate was strained at the best of times, and he really didn't fancy confronting the humorless man about a situation of this delicacy.
Besides, punishment within the classroom was left to the sole discretion of the teacher and no one, save the Headmaster, had the right to question another teacher's practices. So unless he went to Albus with the problem, Remus really had no recourse and he didn't want to take that step unless the witch specifically asked him to.
He sighed wearily and flicked his wand to douse the lamps before climbing the steps to his office and private quarters. There had to be a reasonable explanation for the ex-Death Eater's odd behavior. It was no secret that Snape took pleasure from tormenting his less-than-studious pupils but the Head Girl had never fallen into that category. But without further information, Remus was at a loss and decided that, for the time being at least, the best course of action would be to let things play out. Surely even Snape's snarky obstinacy couldn't hold out indefinitely.
Sprinting the entire way from the third floor, Hermione miraculously made it to the dungeons just as the final chime sounded. She was red-faced, sweaty, and panting heavily when she reached the Potions classroom, but she was triumphantly on time. Just as her fingers closed around the metal knob, though, the door swung open on its own, jerking her forward and directly into the path of a rather surprised Draco Malfoy.
"What the hell are you doing down here, Granger?" he asked, his lip curling as he took in the witch's disheveled state.
Hermione scowled at the Head Boy and took a step backwards. "Not that it's any of your business, Malfoy, but I have detention."
The Slytherin smirked. "Oh, that's right. I'd nearly forgotten about today's theatrics." He sidestepped her and strode out into the corridor before gesturing lazily towards the door. "He's all yours, then."
She scowled again at the retreating blond before entering the classroom. Leave it to bloody Malfoy to be in the way when she was already in a hurry. She sighed and quietly shut the door, knowing exactly what Snape's comment was going to be even before he had acknowledged her presence.
"You're late, Miss Granger."
Hermione dropped her head in concession. She knew there was no point in arguing with the rankling wizard. He wouldn't listen anyway. "Yes, sir."
"You will return here tomorrow night. On time."
The professor's dark eyes narrowed on her for a moment, as if trying to goad her into saying more and thus, garnering a third detention. She bit her tongue until he lowered his head and started to read the parchment in front of him then walked to his desk and picked up a stack of essays from the corner. This had become their normal routine. Her first few detentions had been spent scrubbing cauldrons and preparing less-than-appealing potion ingredients, but the Potions Master had apparently realized that those menial chores were a waste of her intellect and had since been giving her first- through fourth-year essays to grade.
In reality, she was only slightly grateful for the change. It was obvious that the majority of the younger students didn't even attempt to string coherent sentences together half the time. It had only taken a few nights of slashing mark after red mark across the scrolls of parchment before she had begun to understand Snape's usual irritability. She'd be bitter and thoroughly unpleasant too if she'd been subjected to that level of idiocy for nearly twenty years.
Oddly enough, a small part of Hermione somewhat enjoyed the quiet hours she had been spending in the dungeons as of late. The dark-haired wizard barely ever talked to her and outside the asinine assignments she had been charged with, the solitude was almost nice — better, at least, than trying to accomplish anything worthwhile amidst the nightly commotion in the Gryffindor common room. And while grading essays wasn't exactly the N.E.W.T. revision that she would have liked to be spending her free time on, it did require her to use knowledge that had been more or less dormant since she had written the same assignments herself.
The discussions — glorified shouting matches, really — that very rarely sprouted up between her and the older Slytherin, usually stemming from whatever had landed her there that night, also added an enjoyable aspect to what anyone else would've considered a miserable experience. She had always despised being told that she was wrong when she knew that she wasn't. Snape had seemed to recognize this early on in her school career and had made sure to use it against her whenever possible. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that most of the things he had been criticizing her for lately were erroneous, but without knowing why he was picking on her in this fashion, she was hard-pressed to retaliate — he was still an authority figure, after all. But when he allowed her to debate her position, she felt like it gave her a chance to redeem at least some of her self-respect, and he had yet to begrudge her that small victory.
Unfortunately, those chances had been few and far between seeing how she still, after all the weeks in his presence, hadn't been able to summon the courage to instigate such a debate herself. Instead, the Head Girl cowardly chose to follow his cue, which, most nights, left her silent and obedient. She never once noticed the wizard's frequent contemplative glances in her direction, though if she had, she wouldn't have had a clue what to make of them anyway.
Later that night, Hermione was reading a third-year paper on the properties of Bubotuber pus when she was startled by the room's other inhabitant's silky voice cutting through the silence.
"Miss Granger, why is it that certain students insist on writing far longer essays than are assigned?"
Even though the wizard usually ignored her, he was prone to caustic tirades on the stupidity of her fellow schoolmates and, since she had come to acknowledge the truth behind such observations firsthand, she usually found his sarcastic comments amusing. Of course, Gods forbid, she ever let Snape know that. He'd be more likely to hex her than permit her to giggle in his immediate proximity.
Figuring she couldn't just ignore him, Hermione looked up at the paper he was currently grading and recognized her own cramped writing. Bugger. It was apparently going to be one of those nights. Her cheeks flushed as she dropped her gaze back to her own table. "Perhaps they simply wish to be thorough, sir."
"Or perhaps," he replied, a taunting smirk weighing down each syllable, "they wish to be show-offs."
The witch's brown eyes narrowed on the parchment in front of her, but she forced her tone to remain polite. This was just one of the more taxing aspects of his little game. "I doubt that was their intention, sir."
He didn't immediately respond, and after a moment, she went back to trying to decipher the Hufflepuff's smudged handwriting through the copious red corrections she had already made. It was several minutes before he spoke again.
"You seem to have misread your source."
She looked up questioningly, unable to ignore what was sure to be more unwarranted criticism.
Snape, apparently assured that he had her full attention, kept his eyes down as he spoke. "You have a few wrong dates here and one or two misspelled names." He glanced up at her with his usual expressionless mask. "Tsk, tsk, getting sloppy in your last year. What a pity."
Anger flashed in her eyes as Hermione clenched her fist in her lap. She had read that essay five times before handing it in and was positive that there weren't any errors. He stared at her for several moments, wordlessly daring her to argue, she knew, and it took every ounce of willpower she possessed not to respond to his goading.
The rest of her detention was spent seething in silent fury, the Bubotuber essays forgotten in her irritation. When the clock chimes released her, she practically ran from the room, not even bidding the professor a good night. In her haste, she also missed the look of satisfaction on his harshly lined face.
By the time she had made it back to the Gryffindor common room, Hermione had calmed down considerably. This was all part of their routine. Snape would infuriate her time and time again, but it never lasted long. Once she was able to get away from the daunting man and breathe, her anger would dissipate. Perhaps it was the knowledge of what he had endured as a spy or had suffered through as a teacher all these years, or maybe she had simply built up a tolerance to his sarcasm. She shook her head as she crawled through the portrait hole. That was a scary thought.
As usual, her best friends were waiting up for her. Harry and Ginny were doing homework on opposite ends of the sofa by the fireplace, and Ron was camped out on the floor, polishing the racing broom that the twins had bought him at the beginning of the school year in hopes that it would help the Gryffindor team defend their title. They all looked up when they heard her come in and three pairs of sympathetic eyes followed her to the couch where the Head Girl promptly plopped down, mentally exhausted.
"How did it go tonight?" Harry asked, rolling up the essay he had just completed for Remus' class.
She shrugged. "It was fine. Quiet." She had stopped telling them the entire truth weeks ago. Harry and Ron still had their issues with Snape, despite all the man's help during the war, and it was just easier for all involved if she kept the details of her detentions to herself.
"More essays?" Ginny asked as she flipped through her History of Magic textbook in search of the dates of some ancient war or another.
Hermione nodded and the redheaded witch rolled her eyes. Ron shook his head in exasperation and went back to polishing his broom. Harry was the only one who didn't appear satisfied, which, unfortunately, wasn't the least bit surprising.
"What's Snape up to?" he muttered, more to himself than anyone else.
Hermione sighed. They had had this conversation countless times already and it was starting to grate on her nerves. She loved the raven-haired wizard more than just about anyone she knew, but his obsessiveness drove her mad sometimes. After Voldemort had been defeated, she had hoped that Harry would be able to calm down and enjoy the childhood he had missed out on — that they had all missed out on — but in the absence of an evil Dark Lord to slay, the hero had turned his focus on lesser adversaries, namely Snape, Malfoy, and the few Slytherin seventh-years that had returned to the school. It was sad, really, that he still couldn't just be the boy that he should've been.
"I don't think he's up to anything, Harry," she replied for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Have you done McGonagall's assignment yet? Let's do it together," she quickly suggested to distract him from trying to sleuth out the Potions Master's supposedly devious schemes — that was her job. Thankfully, the diversionary tactic worked like a charm and they spent the rest of the evening talking about Transfiguration.
After finishing their homework, Hermione bade her friends good night and made her way up to her private quarters at the very top of Gryffindor tower — a perk that had come with the title of Head Girl. She occasionally missed the inane, girly chatter of Lavender and Parvati, but mostly she thoroughly enjoyed the privacy of her own space. And Crookshanks thought he was the Lord of the bloody Manor, prowling the small bedroom and even smaller loo, like it was a thirty-two room mansion.
Said feline meowed when she entered the darkened room and lit the candles. He glared up at her with his large golden eyes, obviously cursing her for waking him from his seventeenth nap of the day.
"Sorry, Crooks," she mumbled, throwing her knapsack and robes on the chair and collapsing onto the bed beside the disgruntled half-Kneazle. "Don't be mad at me, okay? It's been a rotten day."
The cat, apparently feeling uncharacteristically charitable, meowed again and stretched his rather plump body out until he was curled against her chest where he promptly proceeded to lick her nose. Hermione giggled at his attempt at a peace offering and snuggled closer to his warmth. As she drifted off to sleep, still wearing her school uniform, her last hazy thought was the hope that tomorrow would be less of a disaster.