A/N: Hello and welcome to this new multi-chapter story I am working on! I have finished a few chapters and outlined the approximate direction of this story. I will be trying for weekly updates on Monday evenings but won't promise anything. Please let me know what you're thinking as you read, so that I might take possible adjustments into account while writing this story. :)
Wednesday, July 17th, 1995
It was the middle of July. Hermione had only been staying home with her parents for a little over a week before Professor Dumbledore arrived at her doorstep quite unexpectedly one warm summer evening.
Hermione had just finished clearing the table when the doorbell rang. Her parents had gone out to the terrace behind their house to enjoy a glass of wine together, so it was up to Hermione to open the door. She could not have been more surprised if Merlin himself had stood on her doorstep, so little had she expected the Headmaster to visit her in their home in the suburbs.
When she made no attempt to greet him, so stunned was she on his sudden appearance, the Headmaster wished her a good evening and showed himself to her living room. Once the swirl of his bright purple robes had passed her, Hermione snapped out of her surprise, closed the front door, and followed the wizard.
"Professor Dumbledore," she said, "what a pleasant surprise. May I offer you something to drink?"
"Thank you, Miss Granger," the Headmaster answered, "but if you will allow me, I would like to come straight to the reason for my visit."
Hermione swallowed thickly at his words, not knowing what to expect to come next. Seating herself on the couch and gesturing for Dumbledore to take a seat in the comfortable armchair across from her, she steeled herself for the upcoming talk.
As promised, the Headmaster dove right in. Without much pomp, he told her about the secret society that was the Order of the Phoenix, swore her to secrecy, especially concerning Harry, and promised to send somebody to take her to Order headquarters within the week. Hermione listened carefully, asked all the questions that came to mind, and answered appropriately to all questions he in turn posed to her. When she thought their discussion to have almost finished, Dumbledore raised his voice again.
"One last thing, Miss Granger," he spoke. "I believe it is safe for me to say that between you, Mr Potter and Mr Weasley, you are by far the most mature."
Hermione's chest swelled at the compliment, not unaware of the correctness of it, but not having expected to be acknowledged by the wizard in front of her.
"As it is, I must ask a favour of you," the Headmaster continued. "It has come to my attention – multiple times over the last years – that Harry harbours a strong dislike for my Potions Master."
Hermione bit her tongue in order not to interrupt the old wizard by blurting out that Snape entertained a rather strong dislike for Harry as well. It appeared, however, that she did not possess quite the control over her facial expression as she had hoped. Dumbledore picked up on her thoughts.
"I know, I know," his words were accompanied by a carefree wave of his hand, as if he could brush the reality of her concerns aside, "Severus has not always been very benevolent in his treatment of Harry, but that is to be expected."
As easily as he had read her expression before, Dumbledore now chose to dismiss the incredulity her face must have shown.
"For reasons I will not disclose to you," the wizard continued, "I place my complete and utter trust in Severus. I am aware that Harry will continue to antagonize him, as will Mr Weasley, I expect. It is good for Mr Weasley to support Harry in any and every way available, as he will face many hardships this year. I trust that you will do your utmost, as well, to help Harry along."
Hermione nodded her agreement at that. She certainly did not need the Headmaster to tell her to stand by Harry's side; he was her best friend, after all, and her loyalty was unwavering.
"You however, Miss Granger," Hermione perked up at the words, "will need to be the voice of reason. I will not ask you to antagonize the boys, but it is important that you do not doubt the loyalty of Severus Snape to our cause."
What was that supposed to mean? She was mature enough to oppose her own friends over whether or not to trust their most hated teacher who did nothing but bully them at every opportunity? More so, Ron was allowed to take Harry's side against Snape but she was not?
Hermione chose to voice her concerns.
"I do not believe I understand, Professor –"
Dumbledore cut her off.
"It is important for you to try and see the good in Professor Snape. I understand that this may be difficult as he is not known for his love of all things Gryffindor" – the understatement of the century, Hermione thought – "but please try to look at the situation from his perspective.
"Severus's life consists solely of his work as a Hogwarts professor and his love for potions anymore. He is the only Potions Master in the United Kingdom, the closest Master being situated in Belarus. With no one to meet his mastery of the subject and thus no one to converse with at his own level of intellect, that leaves only the staff and the students as possible conversationalists for him.
"The staff members almost all know him as their former student. You may not know it yet, but this is a role hard to escape. With them out of the picture, only his own students are left. None of them, however, even remotely pose a worthy challenge to his intellect, and if one cannot challenge Severus intellectually, there is no basis for a possible friendship.
"I expect the times to come to be very hard on our dear Severus, I'm afraid," Dumbledore continued, "and I think he will need all the friendships he can get. Of course, there are many Order members who are of an age close to Severus and who could probably hold their own in a discussion with him, but you see, Miss Granger, the distrust runs deep in them, seeing as Professor Snape is a reformed Death Eater. They tend to dismiss the reformation part and see him purely as a follower of Voldemort who escaped the horrible fate of a sentence to Azkaban."
Hermione had not noticed that her mouth had dropped open, so engaged was she in Dumbledore's story.
"You however, Miss Granger," the Headmaster reiterated, "are somewhat apart from your fellow students. You are studious to the point of obsession, possess an intellect far superior to that of your yearmates and even older students, strive to see only the best in people, show a rare strength in your loyalty to those you deem worthy, and treat everyone around you with respect, whether they do you the same favour or not."
Hermione felt the heat creep into her cheeks which must be blazing in a purple rivalling the colour of the Headmaster's robes by now.
"As it is, I believe you to be a potential friend to Severus."
The young witch's eyes shot open. Even if the Dumbledore was right, Snape would never accept her as anything even approaching an equal, and how could she be a friend to him if he was unwilling to allow her?
The wizard in front of her sensed her doubts and chuckled.
"Yes, you are right as always, Miss Granger," he agreed with a benevolent smile, "Severus would shut all thoughts of friendship down if you approached him about it. However, I believe it possible that he may take the first step towards you himself. If he does, I would implore you to accommodate him in every way that might make his life easier. It would not do to let Severus take this dark road ahead of him all alone. I'd rather he had a companion in you."
Still completely flabbergasted at his words, Hermione could vaguely remember nodding her agreement. Her memory ended with the Headmaster leaving in a flurry of purple fabric, leaving her to her thoughts.
Saturday, July 20th, 1995
Just as the Headmaster had promised, two wizards appeared on the Granger family's doorstep just a couple of days later. Hermione quickly ushered her former DADA professor Remus Lupin into her home, as well as the dark skinned wizard who introduced himself as Kingsley Shacklebolt. He struck an imposing figure and both Granger women were instantly drawn to him. Hermione's parents were upset that she wanted to leave already, after having stayed with them for only a fortnight, but let her go with little protestations.
At her request, the wizards accompanied her on a Muggle train, as Hermione was instinctively suspicious of all things airborne, which cause more than a few chuckles from the two men. They drew quite a few looks from other passengers, but secured an empty compartment for the three of them. The ride passed quickly, both wizards interested in Hermione's schoolwork and more than able to keep a captivating discussion going. They arrived at King's Cross far sooner than the young witch had anticipated or would have liked.
Remus, who was surprisingly well versed in the machinations of the Muggle world, navigated them through the maze of the London underground, changing tubes a couple of times until they arrived at a district of the city Hermione had never visited before. Evening had fallen by that time, and the wizards led her through many a dark street and mostly hidden alley, keeping to the shadows at all times. They stopped in the middle of a bleak looking square.
The three of them came to stand on an unkempt patch of grass, the men positioned on either side of her as if shielding her from view of anybody who might watch, and Kingsley reached into a hidden pocket on the inside of the right sleeve of his cloak. He withdrew a small scrap of paper and gestured for her to silently read it.
"Focus," Remus whispered into her ear.
Hermione's eyes skimmed over the words, the script familiar even though the contents were not. She concentrated on the meaning of the words and gasped when a building appeared in front of her as she read.
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.
Sunday, July 20th – Monday, September 2nd, 1995
The next couple of weeks passed in a blur. Hermione made a point to always be polite the few times she came upon Professor Snape. If he cared to acknowledge her presence at all, he would look at her as if she was mental. So far he had not made any move towards her.
Harry's arrival proved to be a highlight amidst the otherwise rather repetitive nature of her holidays. It wasn't a particularly nice highlight, though, unless one appreciated being screamed at until one broke out into tears. Hermione, on her part, didn't, although Harry appeared to care little for that. He calmed down over the next few days which were spent cleaning the Black mansion. Together with the Weasley siblings, Hermione and Harry tried to gather as much information on the secret Order meetings as possible, but their venture was met with little success. Even when Sirius willingly imparted some information on them, Molly interrupted him before they could gain any solid knowledge from what he had said.
Even though she had mostly enjoyed her stay at headquarters, Hermione was glad to escape the confines of Grimmauld Place and go and start their fifth year at Hogwarts. She practically bristled with pride at having been made prefect. She felt sorry, though, to leave Harry to search for a compartment on his own while she and Ron made their way to the front of the train where the prefect compartment was situated.
The train ride passed without incident. Hermione was long used to the insults Malfoy and his mates would hurl at her, and was thus unfazed at his and Pansy Parkinson's attempts to rile her up. Most unexpected was Harry's confusion upon seeing the horseless carriages, as was meeting the Lovegood girl. Hermione had nothing but respect for anybody from Ravenclaw House, but could not quite comprehend why the Sorting Hat had placed Luna there. Hagrid was suspiciously absent, but Hermione had not much time to ponder this before the new DADA professor, Umbridge, gave her speech at the end of the welcoming feast. Properly disgusted and enraged at the Ministry daring to interfere with school matters, Hermione went to bed that night with a lot on her mind.
The next day brought their first double lesson on Potions with it. They were brewing the Draught of Peace. Intent on showing her support for his subject, Hermione took care to follow Professor Snape's instructions in minute detail, which was in and of itself nothing she did not usually do anyway, but when he awarded her with not a single comment, Hermione took it as the reluctant compliment that it was. She graced her professor with a tentative smile as she handed in her concocted draught, and was almost looking forward to the twelve inches of homework he had assigned them.
Tuesday, September 3rd – Monday, September 9th, 1995
The next few days passed quickly. Almost every teacher would warn them about the upcoming OWLs and implore them to prepare studiously, beginning now. To make sure the students would not be able to not follow their instructions, they took care to assign them loads of homework.
All this, however, did nothing to faze Hermione who had been almost looking forward to her OWLs. For the first time, she would have the opportunity to prove herself to all the people who looked down on her, due to her birth, appearance, or gender. Of course she had been doing that for the past four years already, scoring best in almost all of their exams and ending up best of their year at the end. This, however, would be the first time she would be able to hold something of actual importance in her hands. The test results were valued highly as evidence to their academic success in the Wizarding world, only surpassed in importance by the NEWTs at the end of their seventh year.
What she would be doing afterwards, Hermione did not know. She had shown adeptness at quite a few of her subjects, and had become successful with the help of furious studying in the others as well. But first, they would have to end the war that was certain to come. After that, she hoped the world to be open for her.
It seemed, however, that the Ministry was loathe to admit that a war was coming, so intent were they on bad-mouthing Harry and Dumbledore to the public and so insistent to deny that Voldemort had come back; it made bile rise in her throat to even think about it. Umbridge was the cherry on top of the cream, so to speak, in the Ministry's campaign against reason and truth. Harry had tried to keep secret from her the evidence of the torture the horrid woman imposed on him, but Hermione would have none of that. She knew what she did to those who opposed her, hidden under the cloak of detention, and at times she almost lost hope at the thought she was unable to stop her. If the Ministry could torture Hogwarts students right under the nose of the Headmaster, the greatest wizard of their time – she did not want to think of how bad this war was yet to become before it was over.
Trying to keep on top of their homework and away from despair, Hermione threw herself into her studies. Before she knew it, a whole week had passed and she found herself back in the dungeons. The lesson on Thursday had been uneventful and Hermione knew to let Snape take the first step, but she could not help feeling she had failed in befriending him.
This lesson would have to be the one they connected on something other than a teacher-student-level. How she would make him see her as something other than the insufferable know-it-all he often proclaimed her to be, Hermione had no idea.
She had been thinking about how to make herself more approachable for Snape during the summer but had yet to come up with a solution. She had been arguing with herself in circles, always coming back to the same arguments and counterarguments, but unable to reach a conclusion. It would be best to appeal to him on an academic level, she would say. Him being the highly intelligent and intensely educated man that he was, it would be most productive to make him see her own intellect, which hugely surpassed that of her yearmates, and he would find her to be closest to an equal in all the students.
But wasn't that what she'd been doing since starting at Hogwarts, she would counter. Didn't she remember that first Potions lesson, when she had attempted to correctly answer all the questions Snape had directed at Harry, but he hadn't he simply snapped at her to 'sit down'? She remembered perfectly well being forced to miss this first and very important opportunity to prove herself to the Potions Master, and found that the academic approach in a scholastic setting would only accentuate the fact that she was still very much his student and as such subordinate to him.
But if not by prowess of intellect, how would she prove herself to him, she would ask herself? After all, there was not much one could do to draw attention to oneself in the Potions classroom. One way was to show an eagerness for answering questions, but she had already dismissed that. Another to shine with perfectly brewed potions, but she already did that, and if anything, it seemed to make him dislike her even more. A third way was to help others, but this Gryffindor selflessness had earned her some venomously hissed warnings to let her classmates fail by themselves.
The fourth and last option would be to raise attention of the negative kind – either by incorrectly preparing ingredients, or by botching up a potion, or by simply breaking one or several school rules. Naturally, none of these options appealed to Hermione. Causing trouble in a Potions classroom could have dire consequences to anyone and everyone present, depending on the severity of the issue. Not only could people get hurt if something dangerous happened, it would also most certainly cost her House points, and Hermione was unwilling to be the cause of that. Maybe Snape would be so vicious as to lay the blame on Harry or Neville; the latter being too gentle to not stress himself into an early grave at even the thought of detention with the feared Potions Master, the former too damaged due to the detention with Umbridge already to not lose his temper and probably get enough detention to have his grandchildren still scrub dirty cauldrons on his behalf.
Pretty much the same went for botching up a potion. Hermione was too reliant on book knowledge in this subject, lacking the natural predisposition for Potions, to know what exactly would happen if she added too much of this or too little of that or stirred too quickly in the wrong direction or turned the fire down too late. No, she would not be the cause of a cauldron blowing up into her and her classmates' faces. Also, it would result in a bad mark for her, and however much she was intent on following the Headmaster's request, she would not allow that with the OWLs so close.
That left the sloppy preparation of ingredients. This had much potential to go horribly wrong as well, of course, as Snape was quick to take points. Other than that, there was not much opportunity for escalation. Of course, it would diminish the perfection of her potion and thus reduce the probability to get her an Outstanding, but it would (hopefully) not create a dangerous concoction. Mostly, it would force Snape to speak to her, even if it was in a derogatory manner, but hopefully he would show her how it was done. Thus, he would have to spend a few minutes in conversation or at least interaction with her, even if unwilling.
Was Professor Snape the kind of person who saw graceful humanity in the faults of others? Would he be glad to help, to impart knowledge, on somebody as eager to learn as she? Would he revel in the fact that he was able to educate a young witch, to tickle the potential for perfection out of her?
Of course not, you stupid girl, and inner voice eerily close to the subject of her thoughts sneered. He will rejoice in the opportunity to peck you down a notch or two, seeing as much of an insufferable know-it-all you take care to be at all times.
Hermione did her best to dismiss the voice and push it out of her mind. When she failed at that, she chose to ignore it, to try and reduce it to a minimum, and concentrated on thinking as loud as she could, "You can do it. Today will be the day."