Title: Of Peaches and Blood

Author: Magical Me

Summary: Towards the end of her seventh year, Hermione Granger makes two unexpected discoveries – a vaccine for an unforgivable and love for a man who is as deep as he is dark.

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is the property of the brilliant JK Rowling – everything else is mine.

A/N: This is the result of my insomnia. That is to say, every night when I'm sent to go to bed, I write a story as I struggle to fall asleep. I wanted to create something as characteristic as possible – I do hope I have, so enjoy. Oh, and constructive criticism is more than welcome.

~*~

Chapter 1

She absently ran her left hand through the riot of chocolate curls piled atop her head while chewing the nails on her right. Intently, she gazed at the bubbling contents inside the stone-gray pewter cauldron.

The nervousness was simply radiating off her face and her bedroom reeked of the stench being produced from her cauldron.

Cautiously, she added the dragon snap's root to the simmering mixture and stirred it with an iron paddle. While her left hand swirled the mixture in circular motions, her right drew back to mop the sweat off her forehead.

At last, the potion turned a shocking pink. A wave of relief spread through her as the completion of brewing her discovery came nearer.

Discovery indeed.

If she had played her cards right, Hermione Granger had just brewed the vaccination to the Cruciatus curse.

~*~

"By gods, Miss Granger. I think you've really done it," Albus Dumbledore mused softly as he held the beaker up to the sunlight pouring in via the overly large bay window behind him.

"Astonishing," he murmured finally as he put the potion back on the top of his mahogany desk. He smiled at her kindly. "Pardon my asking, Miss Granger, but have you, erm – tested your discovery yet, by chance?"

She shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "Erm – no, but theoretically, my research proves that by infusing the concepts--"

His eyes danced brightly behind his half-moon shaped spectacles as he peered at her. "I have no doubt about that, my dear. Though I daresay it would be wise to test it, no?"

Her eyes were downcast as she delivered her next response. "I wouldn't dare cast an unforgivable, sir," she muttered.

The Headmaster chuckled. "Dear me, I should hope not. However, there is someone who can assist us in multiple areas of this matter."

Oh, gods – no, not…

"Severus!" Dumbledore bellowed into the roaring fire.

"Yes, Headmaster?" came the curt reply.

"I am in need of your service in my office at this minute."

"Yes, sir."

Seconds later, her Potions professor materialized out of the flames.

"Headmaster, what could be so possibly pressing for you to--"

A quick nod in Hermione's direction caused a quirk of an eyebrow and the hint of a sneer. "Well, well. Has the Gryffindor know-it-all gotten herself into yet another spot of trouble?" He scanned the room. "And where would our beloveds Potter and Weasley be?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No, no…nothing like that, Severus. Our brilliant Miss Granger has made a most remarkable discovery." He handed Snape the beaker and motioned for him to sit in the chair next to Hermione.

He sat down and studied the syrupy pink liquid. "What sort of rubbish is this?"

"For your information, Professor, you happen to be holding the vaccine to the Cruciatus curse," she answered matter-of-factly.

He snorted. "Albus, she's mad. She's only a little girl--"

He was silenced as Hermione indignantly held her wand in the air and spat, "Accio research." Seconds later, a rather large and very full folder flew into the room and with a quick flick of her wand, they landed squarely in the middle of Snape's lap.

"Read on, Professor."

Casting her a sideways glare, Snape hastily began to shuffle through the stack of parchment. By a simple scan of the top page where she had neatly listed the potion's ingredients, the Potions Master looked up at the Headmaster and said bitterly, "Sir, Miss Granger has clearly broken many rules. She used many ingredients which one could find only in my private stores--"

"Oh, honestly, Professor!" Hermione snapped. "How I came to be in possession of these substances is of no importance. And for the record, Professor Snape, there are students who make actual purchases from the Apothecary, you know. And besides, adequate research is not able to be conducted without a full store, as you should very well know."

Snape considered this, then in a menacing tone slowly asked, "Then where, Miss Granger, did you find adequate area space to conduct such an experiment?"

Her eyes narrowed. "I am, after all, Head Girl--"

"With good reason," Dumbledore inserted delightedly.

"--Which therefore entitles me to my private set of quarters."

"And you readily had proper funding?" he inquired sarcastically.

Suddenly, Hermione shot up out of her seat and yelled, "I refuse to sit here and be questioned about my credibility as though I've committed a crime! Furthermore, I would like to be respected and not insulted." She turned to Professor Dumbledore. "Sir, I thank you for your kindness all the same. Should the Potions Master cease the condescension, you know how to contact me and may do so. Good day," and with a flurry of robes, she stormed out of the Headmaster's office.

Both men who still remained were quiet at first.

"Severus," Dumbledore began warningly, "that was completely uncalled for."

"Oh, come off it, Albus!" he roared. "You think that this insufferable little girl would make a better Potions professor than I would?"

Dumbledore frowned. "Severus, never have I doubted your ability at a subject that you most certainly excel at. Potions is your forte, and I hardly think it fair for you to assume that I would employ a young lady twenty years your junior in your replacement."

He snorted. "Nevertheless, Albus. You can't possibly believe that she's created a weapon against an unforgivable."

"Ah, but I do. She has an extraordinary intellect and, as it appears, you both share that as well as a love for research."

Snape stopped. True, the Granger girl was smart, and also true was that he adored research above all things -- but to compare him to her was an absolutely absurd thought.

"Severus, I want you to read her work. We cannot simply send her away saying that you refused to look at it. And when you determine whether or not she has made a breakthrough in Potions, you will see her fit. Do I make myself clear?" he stressed.

"Perfectly," he grumbled.

"Now off you go." He made a motion with his hand. "Lemon drop?" he offered.

"No," Snape replied succinctly.

~*~

Hermione sat in the middle of her four-poster bed, silent.

What is that greasy git playing at? If I didn't know any better, I'd say he's damn well jealous!

She snorted to herself. Yeah, that'll be the day.

A soft knock came at her door just then.

"Open up, Miss Granger!" a muffled voice growled.

Snape.

"What do you want?"

"Perhaps if you would open the door, an explanation may be given," he answered crossly.

Sighing, she directed a quiet "sangue sporco" towards the closed door and looked down as it swung open.

"Italian, Miss Granger?" he queried.

She shrugged. "My grandmother."

"Ah." He hovered in the doorway.

"You're allowed to come in, Professor. Just shut the door and take a seat near the window."

"I prefer standing; at any rate, congratulations, Miss Granger. You've proven yourself to be quite the know-it-all," he bit acerbically.

Did he just compliment me?

"Your research shows no flaws as of yet. However, it would be wise for us to test the potion as soon as possible. I expect you to report to the dungeons tomorrow evening directly after dinner."

"You're going to help me?"

He sighed. "As far as the Headmaster is concerned, I don't seem to have many other options."

Ah.

"Professor, to test the potion one must actually cast the Cruciatus curse on a human subject. No other creature will do, simply due to the fact that I've structured the potion specifically for the needs--"

"Naturally," he cut in sardonically. "As much as I would like to cast the curse on your nosy little Gryffindor self, I'm afraid it would go against the school rules. Therefore, I have decided to cast the curse on myself."

Her eyes went wide. "That's highly lucrative, but also extremely dangerous! I refuse for you to put yourself in danger for the sake of my research."

He smirked. "How very Gryffindor of you. I daresay Minerva would agree with me. However, as you may or may not know, I have both been under the curse as well as cast it. Therefore, it would be in everyone's best interest for me to take that particular course of action. And besides, it's not as if your peers as well as the younger students wouldn't be most satisfied should the curse prove fatal."

"That's a disgusting way to look at things," she spat.

" 'There is no doubt that life is given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome—to be got over'."

"Schopenhauer," she said briefly, "was clearly a manic depressive. And whether or not you think you need the world, the world needs you."

Snape snorted. "Hardly that, Miss Granger. After all, it was you who just created a vaccine for the Cruciatus curse and not me."

"Is that what this is about, Professor? The fact that someone else did it before you? And a Gryffindor at that! I daresay Mr. Slytherin wouldn't approve of that, now, would he?" she cried.

"I have nothing more to say to you, Miss Granger. As previously mentioned, you are expected in the dungeons tomorrow evening. Good day. Oh, and," he added, "do try to keep your brain from imploding – after all, the 'world needs you'." With one last sneer, he vanished from her doorway.

Git.

~*~

The next day at dinner, Hermione was very quiet.

"What's eating you, 'Mione?" Ron asked noncommittally.

"Harry, please pass the butter," she said primly.

After taking a long glance between his two best friends, Harry shrugged and passed her the small plate.

"Thank you." Hermione began to slather liberal amounts of butter onto her roll. However, just as she began to use up the rest of the stick, she started violently puncturing the bread.

Harry gently took the knife from her. "It's not really like you to kill your dinner."

"I'm not killing anything," she announced.

Ron snorted.

"Calm down. Are you sure you're alright?"

"Just peachy," Hermione squeaked.

From down the table, Ginny gave her a consoling look. "It's no wonder she hasn't got any sanity left – you took it all away!" she declared, pointedly looking at her brother.

"Don't knock it, Gin," Ron said in between mouthfuls of Salisbury steak. "She's probably mad she got 125% on some ruddy assignment."

Hermione simply rolled her eyes and shoved the rest of the roll into her mouth. "If you'll excuse me, I'll be leaving to see Snape now."

Three pairs of wide eyes and dropped jaws saw her out the Great Hall.

~*~

"Enter, Miss Granger," Snape beckoned from his desk. He looked up at Hermione from the pile of rolled parchment he had been grading. "Did you bring the potion?"

"That would be terribly foolish of me if I'd have forgotten," she said pointedly, producing the phial from her robe pockets and handing it to him.

"Sit," he demanded as he accepted the bottle.

She sat in the desk closest to his and looked at him expectantly.

"Tell me how the potion will function."

Hermione took a deep breath. "You see, sir, I've taken the concept of a simple Armoring Fluid and fused it together with the idea of both pain killers and reducers. By taking only the most active and principle ingredients from such, I've created somewhat of a pain-numbing protection potion."

"And exactly how long is this little potion of yours supposed to last the person who drinks it?"

She chewed on her bottom lip. "That depends."

He looked somewhat interested. "On?" he prompted.

"How powerful the Dark Magic that produces the curse is. Well, that and how powerful the one who is being cursed is – if the person's body has already produced a few mild resistors, then the potion may take a greater effect," she said, trying to remember to breathe.

"Take Longbottom, for instance. Supposing he drank 250 milliliters of this potion and Potter hits him with Cruciatus, how long will Longbottom be able to resist the pain? Can you form a hypothesis from this, Miss Granger?"

She considered this. Harry was one of the most powerful wizards in existence while Neville being one of the least competent.

Huh.

"Well, sir, considering the fact that Harry has an incredible amount of power and Neville probably as much less as Harry having more, then I don't suppose for very long," she answered earnestly.

"Miss Granger, Potions is a science – 'not very long' is most certainly not a proper scientific response," he sneered.

"Then to give you an exact time estimate, I would say about fifteen to twenty minutes at minimum," Hermione said curtly.

His face grew somber.

Bingo.

"That powerful?" he questioned. "The fact that I can channel quite a bit of Dark Magic and the fact that I have, more than likely, developed but a few resistors means that it cancels out, therefore being able to conduct somewhat of an accurate timing, correct?"

She shrugged. "We'll never know until you drink it, will we?"

Eyeing her suspiciously, Snape stood from his desk and strode over to the middle of the classroom. "Make observations," he snapped at her.

Wincing slightly, she summoned a piece of parchment and a quill, and poised herself, ready to write.

Snape pulled the cork out of the phial and wafted the smoke pouring out of it towards his nose. "Repulsive," he muttered.

She grinned.

Realizing it was now or never, Snape wolfed down the potion and drew out his wand. "Crucio," he murmured.

Suddenly, his head began to spin and he became dizzy. Reaching for something to grab on to, he clutched the edge of his desk tightly and his vision turned into nothingness.

~*~

Poppy Pomfrey clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "Really, Albus, what were you thinking? Making the man perform an Unforgivable on himself after drinking some potion you're not even sure works? That's preposterous!" she exclaimed.

"Now, now, Poppy. He is after all a scientist. Often time experimentation will come to a point where one must take extreme measures for extreme causes," he said, patting her arm gently.

In the left hand corner of the infirmary, Hermione was looking positively sick. Spotting her sense of illness, the Headmaster walked over to her. "My dear Miss Granger," he began, "this is clearly not your fault."

"I shouldn't have let him go through with it," she said quietly.

"Severus Snape is a very stubborn man. Whether you had attempted to stop him or not, he would have ultimately taken it upon himself to conduct the experiment according to his wishes," he explained.

"My potion didn't work," Hermione simply said.

"Quite the contrary, Miss Granger," came a grouchy voice from the only currently occupied bed.

Dumbledore and Hermione looked up at the dark figure sitting up in bed in astonishment.

"I felt no pain. However, some particular ingredient in the potion caused a terrible wave of dizziness to pass through, thus resulting in my blackout."

Hermione looked eager.

He snorted. "Yes, this is something that can indeed be fixed. All that needs to be done is isolating that one ingredient and fine-tuning aspects such as duration."

"Professor Snape!" Madame Pomfrey screeched. "Lay back down in your bed this instant!"

"I'm perfectly fine, Madame," he insisted angrily. "Just give me a glass of water and some Dreamless Sleep and leave."

Dumbledore smiled. "Miss Granger, I believe the professor would like some privacy. Perhaps we may discuss this in the morning. I suggest you get some rest."

Hermione nodded dumbly and left the infirmary.

I really did it…

She smiled.

~*~

A/N: Review, please! Goodness knows I can do with many more improvements. You can send new ideas as well! Thank you for reading.