A/N So here it is… my pathetic attempts at a Hermione/Snape fic. And honestly, please don't review this if all you are going to say is "HG/SS pairings are a) wrong, b) sick, c) OOC, or d) disgusting." Yes, thankyou, I know many people think all of that. If you want my arguments with regard to all of the above, feel free to email me. I love a good debate! I wrote this with a bit of fluff in mind, but the plot took over my fingers, and what is left is basically angst. Not nearly as much fluff as I had hoped for, wanted, would have liked, planned to include, even, but going back now that I've finished the whole story would ruin it, so you'll get it how it is. I also have to apologise for my atrocious German in this chapter… yes, it's bad, and if anybody can speak German and correct my probably rather obvious mistakes, please tell me so I can change them. I don't own anything that J K Rowling does. That having been said, go and read part one!! R/R!
Hermione stared at the potion simmering gently over the fire. She felt like screaming with frustration. She nearly had it! She was so close! What could she be missing?
With resignation, she stood up. She would have to find Professor Snape. It would mean sharing her discovery, and she would only get partial credit, of course, but she had no choice. This potion was driving her crazy with frustration!
Hermione walked out of the room she was using and appeared in the Gryffindor Common room. At least this time she had her own room to brew her potion in, and didn't have to use a bathroom. The absence of Moaning Murtle was a great relief. She was heading to the portrait hole when Ron and Harry blocked her way.
"Hermione, what are you doing?" Harry asked, worry thick in his voice. "You're cutting yourself off…"
"Stop it!" Hermione said crossly. "I'm fine. I'm working on a project, that's all. I'm fine!"
"Hermione…" Ron began, but was interrupted.
"Give me a break! I'm coming to Hogsmeade this weekend, aren't I? I'm busy! Please Ron, Harry, I'm fine. Honestly."
The pair of seventh-year boys looked resigned, but their worry was slightly dissipated. "Okay, look, just be careful, okay?" Ron said, in a different tone of voice.
"I will," Hermione replied briskly, "but I've got to go now." Her voice brooked no arguments, and Harry and Ron moved aside reluctantly. Hermione continued on her way to Snape, summing up her courage. She would need all of it. She knocked briskly on the door to Snape's office, sending a prayer to any gods that might exist and be listening.
"What is it? Come in!" Snape barked from inside. Hermione felt like fleeing, but she pushed the door open and entered.
"Miss Granger? To what do I owe this pleasure?" He was, as usual, sarcastic. It was also very obvious that he did not want to be disturbed.
"I'm working of a potion of my own creation, sir," Hermione started, but Snape interrupted her.
"Indeed. I have no doubt you are proceeding admirably. Why, pray, come to me, unless to gloat?"
"It's a potion to cure vampirism, professor, but I'm stuck and I thought…"
Snape stood up, a look of anger on his face. "That potion has nothing to do with you. I need no help from a seventh-year know-it-all!"
Hermione was white, but somehow managed to hold her ground. "Please sir, I've been working on this potion for a month now, but…"
"Can you prove that you have been working on this potion for that amount of time?"
Suddenly, everything clicked into place. Snape must be working on a similar potion! "Yes, I could prove it. I bought special ingredients for it in a shop in Hogsmeade. My friends will also tell you that I've been spending much of my spare time away from them, when I've been brewing the potion."
"Very well, then. We will go to the ingredient shop and settle this. There is still half an hour before it closes." The time was seven-thirty.
"Now, sir?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"What do you think? Use your head. We're going."
Hermione thought it better not to argue, so she followed Snape to the shop, via floo powder.
It was the work of five minutes for Snape to ascertain that Hermione had been telling the truth. When they returned to his dungeon classroom, Snape regarded Hermione thoughtfully.
"So you're brewing a vampirism antidote?" Snape asked her.
"I thought it should work, in theory, but I'm missing something. So I came here- I was hoping you would be willing to… help me. I didn't realise you were working on a similar potion."
"You didn't- oh, I see. Yes, I suppose it must have been obvious." Was it Hermione's imagination, or was he actually beginning to thaw towards her? "Well then, show me your notes."
Hermione took some folded parchment out of her pocket and handed it over, gratified that he had taken it for granted that she would not only have taken notes, but brought them with her. He read in silence for a few minutes, in which time Hermione took the liberty of seating herself.
Snape stopped reading and studied her for a moment. Then he said in a strange tone of voice, "It is a careless mistake. Take a look at the last page- you ought to see it."
Hermione accepted the parchment and read over it again. Then she pulled a face at it. She muttered crossly, "Of all the incompetent-" then she realised where she was, and she said, whilst blushing, "I'm sorry, professor, to have bothered you with this. I had thought it was a missing ingredient, or it was some obscure addition I had overlooked."
She stood to leave, but Snape shook his head. "We must talk," he said. "And here is not the place. I use this room to intimidate and discourage visitors. Perhaps tomorrow evening…?"
Tomorrow was a Friday, but Hermione had no plans. "What time, professor?" she asked.
"Immediately after dinner, if you please," the words 'if you please' were a cold courtesy; he expected her to come. "And Miss Granger? Do not begin brew your potion again just yet. Dispose of it, and we shall talk tomorrow." His tone held dismissal, so Hermione thanked him and left. He had given her food for thought, not least in his attitude. Where had his sarcasm gone?
The next evening she went to Snape's office just as dinner was finishing. Harry and Ron shot her reproachful looks, but she ignored them.
Snape, when she saw him, took her to a room she hadn't yet been in. It had two armchairs and a fireplace in it, and could almost have been considered cosy if it weren't for her Potions teacher sitting upright in one of the chairs. Hermione perched on the second one and waited for Snape to speak.
At last he did so, speaking softly but perfectly audible in the quiet room. "I began the vampire antidote three weeks ago. I am currently at the same point you would be at if it were not for your unfortunate mistake. If you were to re-brew the potion, which would take perhaps a week, you would still find yourself in difficulties. I have a proposition to make. You began your potion before I did mine, so the rights and claim to it are yours. I, however, have more experience than you, and I believe I could finish the potion in less time than it would take you to do so. My proposition is this: we finish the potion together. In this arrangement, and this arrangement only, we would be partners. We would also share the credit for the new discovery."
Of course it made sense. Hermione knew it made sense. She had, however, the disconcerting sense that the floor was falling out from under her feet. This was the sensible solution, of course. It only meant that she would be spending most of her free time with one of the professors she disliked most, even if she did grudgingly admire him.
"Thankyou, sir," her traitorous tongue said. "I would be happy to accept."
"Very well. We will commence tomorrow," Snape glared at her, daring her to argue. She didn't, even though she had promised to go to Hogsmeade on Saturday. "Tomorrow, at eight a.m."
"Good, sir," Hermione replied. Tomorrow would be sheer torture. A whole day of Snape's sarcastic tongue! And she had to get up early, too! "May I look over your notes before then, please, to get an idea of how your procedure differs from mine?" She readied herself for any possible contemptuous replies.
"I expect no less. They are here." Snape handed over his notes. "You may read them now, so I can answer any questions you will have."
Hermione read over his notes carefully, wondering if he was testing her. They were similar to the ones she had written, and they only went up to the point that she had reached. It said that the final potion just simmered, unchanging, and was the 'third' green. Hermione frowned. It seemed to be exactly the same as in her potion, and something was missing.
"Sir?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"What is it?"
"I have finished your notes, but I'm wondering- what was your next step going to be?"
Snape looked at her properly for the first time, studying her face for hidden secrets, noting the ink-stains on her hands, the no-nonsense robes she wore after school hours when she was working, and her hair, tied back out of her face and staying there due to some sort of sticking charm.
At last, he said, "I do not know. I have ideas, but no solid conclusion to them. As you may have noticed, I too followed the wolfsbane potion pattern. This potion needs but one more ingredient."
"Oh," Hermione said softly, thinking.
"Oh," mocked Snape, "You will learn, I suppose. Now, Miss Granger, we will begin tomorrow. Good night." He wasn't wishing her a good night, but dismissing her. Hermione nodded and left, placing Snape's notes on the table as she did so.
"Look, I've already told you! I have no choice!" Hermione yelled at Ron and Harry. "It is not my fault that he wants me there today! I'm sorry!"
"But Hermione…" Ron said.
"But what?" she replied crossly.
"Couldn't you have said no? You promised us!"
"You try telling Snape no." she said flatly, and stormed off to the dungeons. Ron and Harry shared an exasperated look.
Snape was already in his office when she walked in. He nodded to her curtly and led the way through to his private workroom. A few hidden doors later, they were in it and standing in front of a large cauldron.
"Here it is," Snape said, "So far, following the pattern of the wolfsbane potion, it seems to have gone well. If it were the same potion, next would follow the wolfsbane plant, a drop of human blood, saliva, and a strand of wolf hair. As of yet, I am uncertain as to which ingredient follows. There is no 'vampiresbane' plant."
They spent the next hour talking of the theoretical possibilities. It was eventually decided to split up the potion and try different ingredients on it, a drop of vampire blood, bloodsbane, and garlic, among others. Hermione found it very strange having Snape actually listen to her without interrupting in his usual mocking manner.
The day finished with no success, and Hermione found herself agreeing to return tomorrow morning, but this time only until three o'clock.
Still no progress had been made, and it became routine in the next two months for them to work together on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, all day Saturdays, and on Sunday mornings. Harry and Ron had given up questioning Hermione, and she found herself slowly becoming immune to Snape's sarcasm, which was showing itself less and less frequently in their sessions. She almost liked the man sometimes, and she thought he might even be beginning to appreciate her. Of course, praise never came her way from Snape, but he did throw many less insults at her as she proved her worth.
It was two days before Christmas break when she finally had a flash of inspiration. She was at dinner on a Wednesday evening, and her friends were talking about vampires. Hermione looked around to see Snape rising from his chair at the teachers' table. She ran over to him, oblivious to the odd looks she was receiving.
"I've got it, sir! I think I know what's next!"
"Perhaps we should discuss this somewhere else? Surely the middle off the Great Hall does not lend itself to private conversation!"
Hermione didn't even blush, although she knew she should be embarrassed. She nodded and walked briskly to the doors, ignoring the open-mouthed stares she was getting from quite a few students, Ron and Harry included.
Once they were well on their way to the dungeons, Hermione said, "Sorry about that, but I was thinking… we've put vampire blood, garlic, and whatever else, but not together. What if we combined human blood with garlic, one repels and one attracts. They ought to cancel each other out and nullify the… the vampirism."
Snape looked her over searchingly, like he had that night when she had read his notes. He seemed to judge her, and Hermione felt, for the first time ever, that he didn't find her wanting.
Softly, he said, "Well done, Hermione. Very well done."
It was his first praise of her. She blushed. "We still have to try it out, professor," she said, but she had a smile on her lips. She thought he looked at her strangely again, but passed it off. Who knew what went on in the mind of Professor Snape?
They reached the dungeon workroom and faced the single remaining cauldron of potion. Then Hermione set to work crushing up garlic-flower petals, while Snape procured and cleaned a knife. The petals were crushed and Snape made a small cut on the underside of his arm. Before too much blood could fall onto the petals, Hermione said, softly but determinedly,
"Me too." He looked at her once more, startled, but then nodded. A moment later he magically sealed the cut, which healed without a scar. He cleaned the knife quickly but thoroughly, and Hermione, smiling grimly, cut her own wrist without hesitation.
If Hermione had been looking his way, she would have seen Snape look at her with another unreadable expression, but she was measuring her blood. She cut off the flow with her wand a split second before Snape said, "Stop."
Hermione smiled to herself and allowed Snape to stir the mixture. Then, in unspoken agreement with her, he poured the liquid into the cauldron. The potion turned a dark red colour. She had been right. The potion was complete. Hermione clasped her hands and grinned, laughing internally. Snape's hands were also clasped, but behind his back, and his face held a look of triumph. They stood for a moment just looking at the potion. Then, shaking her head to clear it, Hermione said,
"I suppose we had better test it. Tonight, or should we wait for the weekend?"
"Tonight, with the headmaster's permission. We can't risk some clumsy student tipping it over, now can we?"
"No student could even find his way here, let alone bypass all the spells, wards, and curses you've got on the place," Hermione said, "But I would like to test this tonight."
She knew that she could get away with a lot more when she was working with Snape, not as his pupil, so she knew he wouldn't snap at her. The look he gave her, though, did startle her. Once again, it was that look of not-quite admiration.
"Few students could sense the wards I have put on my workroom," Snape said softly.
"Few students spend all their free time brewing potions with their Potions professor, either," Hermione replied, almost-but-not-quite cheekily.
He smiled slightly, and then said, "True. Perhaps I was referring to you as the clumsy student?"
Hermione decided that he was teasing her, and responded tartly, "I've broken nothing since we began this."
"True. I think we should see the headmaster now."
"Why don't you, sir, and I'll write up the last of this potion?"
"Very well. We will meet in the entrance hall in ten minutes, Miss Granger."
He swept out, and she allowed herself to roll her eyes before continuing the write up. If she hurried, she could do that in five minutes, and bottle some potion too. Ten minutes later, she was ion the Entrance Hall. Snape arrived at the same time she did.
"If you have the potion we will walk to the gates and then use this portkey. Professor Dumbledore has it keyed for Romania. I believe he found that amusing."
Hermione snorted, and held up the potion to show him.
"You used a glass bottle, a silver stopper, and temperature and sealant charms?" he enquired.
"I did, professor," Hermione said blandly. She'd only done it a thousand times! She thought she saw Snape's lips twitch as he nodded curtly and led the way out the door.
Romania presented itself in the form of Sylvania, and, aptly, they found themselves in a forest. Hermione smiled once more, and followed Snape. He was walking east, into what Hermione assumed would be the closest human settlement.
She was right. They emerged into a village in only five minutes. It was dark, and none of the houses had lights in their windows. This was the place, then. Snape spoke to her, more loudly than he would usually have done so.
"Hopefully all it will take is a drop of this, splashed onto the vampire. If it doesn't work, I will grab you and Apparate. It may be that the potion needs to be internally consumed. Or it might not work at all. Either way, you might wish to stand closer to me and uncork the bottle."
""I will, professor," Hermione replied, making her voice louder too. As she complied, moving much closer to him than she wanted to, she continued, "talking will attract a vampire, won't it?"
"Yes. You seem to remember your lessons. As much as I detest speaking for the sake of hearing my own voice, that is we must do."
"Yes, I suppose. Ironic, isn't it, that when I have to talk, I can think of nothing?"
"Talking is not usually a problem for students, especially your friends during my- there! Get ready to throw your potion."
Hermione raised the bottle in her right arm, and felt Snape's left arm come around her waist. She kept her eyes on the vampire, trying to ignore him so close. It was nearly within range, it was drawing closer, it was baring its teeth, in three seconds, two, now! Hermione swung her arm, and succeeded in landing about a quarter of the bottle's contents on the vampire, getting its bare neck.
The monster continued on, and then it leaped… Hermione was in a forest, leaning against Snape. She stood up, and then felt Snape's arms move from where they were holding her against him. Hermione felt herself blush, but knew that it couldn't be seen in the darkness. Small blessing.
"Thankyou," she said quietly, but knowing Snape would hear. Apparition with a minor was illegal, because so many things could go wrong.
"You're welcome, Hermione."
This time Hermione registered the use of her first name. However, she didn't comment, but turned back to the business at hand.
"If you're willing to try again, Professor Snape, I can aim for its mouth. We have about three quarters left."
"I would offer to throw the potion-"
"But you need to be ready to Apparate," Hermione finished. She didn't realise she was talking to the feared and hated potions professor as she would one of her friends, albeit a respected one. This situation was too different to that of the classroom.
"Yes. Shall we go, then?"
They walked east once more, and soon were in the village. Once more, facing the mountains in which they knew the monster made its lair, Hermione uncorked the bottle. This time, when Snape's left arm came around her waist, she gripped his arm. It silently told him of her gratitude even as it reassured him of her determination.
Snape didn't shake her off, as she had half expected. Instead he said, loudly, "Come on. We know you're there.'
"I can see its eyes! It's coming," Hermione said, also loudly.
It was coming, closer and closer. Again, Hermione gauged the time and threw potion at the vampire. It hit the thing squarely on its mouth, about half of the bottle's contents.
This time, the vampire swallowed some. Immediately, it faltered, and then slowly sank to its knees. The gleam went out of its eyes, and its teeth appeared to shrink in size. Snape's arm tightened around Hermione's waist. He said 'lumos' even as Hermione corked the bottle and withdrew her own wand from her pocket. She too said the lighting spell. They slowly moved towards the form slumped on the cobbled street. The vampire didn't move, but a voice came from it,
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" Do you speak German?
Hermione laughed, this time with sheer relief. Vampires didn't talk! Snape relaxed his arm, although he didn't let go of her. He said, "Nein, sprechen Sie Englisch?" No, do you speak English?
"Mein Gott! Ich habe vergessen- Ich habe Englisch Jahren in meine Schule für dreizehn gesprecht! Sprechen Sie Französisch?" My God! I've forgotten- I spoke English for thirteen years, at school! Do you speak French?
"Nein," Snape said, in his highly accented German. "Ein Moment…" He said something Hermione couldn't catch, and then, "Can you understand me?"
"I can. What happened? I dreamed of terror," the vampire/man said.
"Do you know what a muggle is?" Snape asked.
"I do, and I am not one. Please, what happened?"
"You had an accident," Hermione put in.
"We have a portkey which will activate in two minutes. Can you sit up? We will explain soon." Snape's manner was so different to usual that Hermione could hardly believe it was him. The night was beginning to seem surreal. The man sat up, though, and Hermione saw his face. It looked haggard, and in the wand light almost scary, but it wasn't the face of a vampire. The man slowly rose to his feet and stood in front of them. He was wearing black robes, and looked unsteady on his feet. With his free hand, Snape took out the same portkey they had used to come to Sylvania. Hermione reached for it too, after putting her wand back into her pocket. The man put both of his hands onto the portkey.
"My name is Thomas. I don't know what has happened. Where do you take me?"
"Have you heard of Hogwarts?" Snape asked. "We will all go there for answers, and food,"
Thomas nodded his head and didn't ask more questions. Then Hermione felt the portkey take effect.
Hermione landed unsteadily, and found herself once again being supported in Snape's arms. She realised that he hadn't taken his arm away once the vampire had become Thomas. He quickly did so now, though, and Hermione found herself in slight regret. It was, of course, only because she had felt safer before. But now she was at the gates of Hogwarts. She was safe.
Dumbledore was there, with a scowling Madame Pomfrey and an absolutely furious professor McGonagall.
"Severus! What on earth did you think you… without consulting me… she's seventeen! She's a student! The danger… she could have been… you both could have been… oh Hermione, are you alright?"
Hermione couldn't have been more surprised. The severely stern professor had worried about her, to the point of berated a colleague in front of a student and a guest, and Snape had been positively nice!
"I'm fine, professor. It's- I wanted to do this. Honestly!" Hermione tried to reassure her.
"Minerva," Dumbledore said, "They wanted to test their potion, which seems to have been a success. Hermione was willing. Now, why don't we talk about this inside? I'm sure you," here he spoke to Thomas, "would like a hot drink and a seat. My office will do nicely, I believe. Come along!"
Thomas had said that he was thirty-six, and that he had attended Hogwarts. Snape had immediately denounced that as impossible. While the teachers spent time convincing Thomas of what had happened to him, namely the vampire bite, Hermione spent time coming to terms with the fact that Snape was thirty-six, and not much older than she was. If somebody had told Hermione yesterday that Snape was fifty-six, she would have believed him.
When Hermione had come back to reality, Thomas was convinced of the happenings, that he had lost thirty years of his life. The professors were briefly giving him the events of the last thirty years, and Hermione joined in with more vigour than she would usually have applied to the task.
Finally, Thomas excused himself, thanking them but wanting to check on his wife and daughter. He used Floo powder, and Hermione smiled to herself. She wondered if he knew about Apparition.
Then the real discussion started, with Snape and Hermione recounting the events of the night. Dumbledore listened silently, and McGonagall didn't say anything either, although she was quite white by the end.
"So basically," Hermione summed up, "the potion works as long as the vampire swallows some. It probably also works if some of the potion gets into the vampire's blood stream in any other way, too."
"That seems reasonable," McGonagall replied. Her voice was slightly strained.
"Indeed. The ministry will need to be informed, headmaster," Snape said.
"I will owl them," Dumbledore replied. "They will, of course, want to interview the both of you. If I may suggest this Saturday? You might be asked to personally teach other professionals the potion, and the Christmas holidays would be an ideal time for that."
"I have no problem with such an arrangement," Snape said, but he looked to Hermione.
"I was planning on staying at Hogwarts anyway, this last year, so my parents won't object. I don't." Hermione said.
"Then that's settled. You can take the train to King's Cross, and from there I'm sure Severus can get you to the ministry."
"I can." Snape replied.
"Then everything's arranged. You will travel with the departing students. Now, as it is currently one in the morning, I suggest you go to bed. Miss Granger, you will be excused from the first two morning classes, if you so choose. I know sleep is necessary at your age." Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling merrily. Hermione would bet that he knew that she often stayed up to two in the morning, reading or studying.
"Thankyou, professor. I'll think about it."
"No doubt. Well, goodnight to you both!"
Hermione bid goodnight to Dumbledore and McGonagall, and she rose to go, followed by Snape.
At the bottom of the stairs, where they would part ways, Snape stopped Hermione. "Do you intend to attend your second period class tomorrow, Miss Granger?"
Hermione grinned at him, while wondering where her fear and awe of him had gone. "I think if I skipped Potions tomorrow I'll find this coming Christmas much harder than otherwise. I'll come, professor."
"Good. What about first period?" If Hermione hadn't known better, she would have thought he was teasing her.
"History of Magic? No thankyou! It won't make much difference anyway; if I did go I'd just sleep at my desk. As usual."
"Old Binns was boring when he taught me, too. But I'll bid you goodnight now. I can't afford to sleep through first period tomorrow. Goodnight, Hermione. You did well tonight."
"Thankyou, professor. And- thanks for getting us out of there with Apparition."
Snape nodded to her, and she smiled and nodded back before heading to Gryffindor tower. On the way, she thought of his out-of-character behaviour. She didn't think she had heard him talk like that even to his Slytherins, and she was very surprised that she found herself joking with him. Hermione wondered how long he would continue to call her by her first name, too. There was more to him that met the eyes, that was for certain, and much more to him that the impression of most Gryffindors implied. Harry was wrong about Severus Snape. He was very wrong.
Hermione woke up at seven the next morning anyway, out of habit. She decided against History of Magic. Not only was it boring, but she already knew as much as, if not more than, Bins on the subject, anyway. Instead, Hermione chose to stay in bed and read. She had already exhausted the library of its information on vampires, so she was now reading the muggle world's very first book about vampires, Dracula.
At a quarter past eight, Hermione decided that she ought to get up, so she did so. By the time she had showered, dressed, and breakfasted, it was time for Potions. In that class, Snape was no nicer to her than he had been in her first year, at least openly. His sarcasm, however, wasn't loaded with its usual venom when directed at her. She assumed that this was because she had actually attended his class when she had an excuse not to, and so passed it off.
After class, she had some explaining to do. She didn't know how much to tell Harry and Ron and finally settled for saying,
"You know that project I'm working on with Snape? I still can't tell you what it is, but we had a breakthrough last night. We were up late testing it, so Dumbledore gave me first period off."
"Hermione, you're spending all your free time on this 'project!' At least tell us what it is!" Ron moaned.
"We've been through all this before!" Hermione said. "Besides, aren't there things you two don't tell me?"
Ron went red, and Harry had to choke back laughter before he could say, "Hermione, that's different. There are some things guys have to keep to themselves."
"Well, there are some things 'bloody know-it-alls,' to use your phraseology, Ron, have to keep to themselves. Now, I suggest you two hurry to Divination. We're late!"
Hermione went to Snape's workroom that evening, out of habit as much as anything else. He was bottling the vampire potion, and Hermione fell to. When there was only a little left, not enough to fill a full-sized bottle, Hermione poured it into a small crystal bottle she had around her neck, which she then shrunk. Snape didn't see, although she didn't make any particular effort to hide what she had done. Once everything was cleaned, Hermione thought the workroom looked empty without the cauldron over the fire. She was about to take her leave when Snape said,
"Would you care to come into my conference room for a while? I believe we have things to discuss."
Hermione accepted, and then realised which room he meant, the one with the armchairs. Once there, Snape offered her a cup of coffee, which she accepted.
"What did you have to discuss with me, sir?" she asked him.
"Firstly, about this meeting with the ministry. It might take up to a week, so I suggest you bring clothes and any homework you have been assigned. If you have been in the habit of wearing muggle clothes during the holidays, I suggest that you suspend that practice until our return. Muggle clothing will bring you down in the estimation of some ministry officials, unfortunate as that is." Snape's lips thinned, and he had a strange look in his eyes for a moment. Then he snapped back to himself. "Such is the way of life. Now, that means you ought to pack tonight. We will take the train into London tomorrow; it departs after the evening meal. A ministry car will pick us up from King's Cross, and we will be shown to our rooms there. Conferences start early the next morning."
Hermione asked, "What exactly will be happening in these conferences?"
"We will talk to a group of ministry potion-makers and officials about the theory we employed to make the potion. Then we show that the potion works; I presume they will have captured a vampire for demonstration. Then they'll talk about it a lot, and eventually decide that the potion is important. Then we will be officially recognised, and then we will have to teach a group of potion-makers how to make the potion. That is a trial worse than Hufflepuff first-years."
Hermione grinned. "And much worse than Gryffindor seventh-years, I'm sure. But you think this whole thing will take a week?" Snape smiled wryly at her before he replied.
"I believe so. It will be five days at the least, and might extend up to two weeks. Everything depends on the officials we have to deal with."
"I see." Hermione didn't think she had any more questions, and she told him that.
"There is but one other issue. Many of the professors here felt it unnecessary, but the headmaster and I both feel that this must be brought up."
He seemed to be waiting for Hermione to say something, so she said, "Okay."
"It is this; I defected from Voldemort's side quite a while ago; yes, the rumours do have some accuracy in them; I was a deatheater at one stage." His lips tightened again, and then he continued. "However, I soon realised my mistake. It was pressure that brought me to join, and pressure that made me stay. Eventually, though, something happened to make me choose to leave. I went to Dumbledore, and through his suggestion became a… I suppose you could say a spy, for our cause. I hesitate to say the 'good' cause, because nothing is wholly good." His lips twisted in a wry smile. Hermione didn't say anything, knowing that he would continue.
"Recently, news of an information leak has come to the attention of Voldemort. A few of his supporters were cast out of the circle, a temporary suspension, he assured us, while he found the source of the leak. I was one of those suspended. When he finds out that I brought news of this potion to the ministry before to him, I will be in trouble. You will be spending the next week or so in my company, there is a chance of danger. Possibly death, for me, and perhaps for you too."
"Oh," Hermione said. She didn't quite know what to say.
"Yes. So if you would now rather not go, that is perfectly acceptable. You are under no obligation to do so; I am quite capable of giving the presentation to the ministry myself."
"No," Hermione said firmly, finally having something she could answer without hesitation. "I'm going."
Again, Snape gave her a scrutinising look, wondering, perhaps, if she was being sincere. "Are you sure? It honestly makes no difference if-"
Hermione found herself interrupting again. "It does make a difference. I made the potion with you, even if all of the thinking was your doing. I was a part of it, I was there when we tested it, and I'm going."
Snape smiled and shook his head, a proper smile for all that it was rueful. "I see the headmaster was not wrong when he said you would not be persuaded into not coming. I suppose if the prospect of sharing the experience with me has not put you off, then death certainly won't."
Hermione rolled her eyes, and then realised that he'd made a joke outside of his usual sarcasm. Would wonders never cease? "That's ridiculous and you know it." She wondered if she had overstepped there, but the Potions professor didn't snap at her.
"Very well then. If you are not to be deterred, I think we have nothing more to discuss. I need not tell you to bring your working notes with you tomorrow. That having been said, I wish you a pleasant night. No doubt I will see you in class tomorrow."
"Yes, sir. Will there be Potions homework assigned?" A silly question, but she asked it anyway. With luck, he would tell her now so she could get it over and done with before it was even set.
"Of course there will." His voice was derisive. "You will receive the assignment tomorrow, with your classmates." He saw through her, then. Well, it had been worth a try. "If that is everything?"
"Yes, sir. Goodnight." And Hermione left.
Hermione stepped off the train with Snape, and suddenly felt nervous. She would be teaching a group of ministry officials how to brew a potion! She would be explaining complex magical theory to older people with more experience than she could ever hope to have! This wasn't just showing Neville how to brew a potion. It wasn't even explaining how the different charms and spells worked to Ron and Harry. This was different.
She followed Snape through the bustling crowd of people, usual on a Saturday afternoon, to the front of King's Cross Station, where a cab immediately picked them up. Neither Snape nor the driver said anything, so Hermione assumed that it was a ministry car. She sat back in her seat, opposite to Professor Snape, trying to quell her nerves. She was being silly. Nothing could go wrong- and even if it did, what was the worst that could happen? Carrying on in that line of thought was probably not a good idea. She looked out the window, watching the muggles with a smile.
They had no idea what was out there, the magical world. They wanted new discoveries and new inventions, not realising that there were so many easier ways to do things… and Hermione had nearly been one of those people. Do you believe in magic? The cycle of life was a funny thing. A muggle was born, and encouraged to believe in magic. He outgrew it, knowing that nothing of the sort existed. Then, when he became old, he began once to more to hope for magic, and then to believe… without even realising it. A powerful being, a god, with the amazing abilities of creating the earth, of flooding the earth, of influencing prophets? Magical abilities… and to think that the poor muggles had been convinced by Moses.
Before Hermione knew it, her speculation had taken her to the ministry, and the cab had stopped. She got out, feeling her nerves come back in full force, and saw Snape thank the driver. There was no exchange of money, so Hermione assumed that he was a ministry driver. A muggle certainly wouldn't drive off without being paid… at least without loud vocal protestations, and probably physical ones too.
"Follow me," Snape said, and started into the building. Hermione picked up her trunk and followed him, through the large doors up to a desk. Snape stopped, and spoke to the witch in charge behind the desk. "We are here to speak to a delegation about a new potions discovery. My assistant and I have, I believe, separate rooms reserved. What time does the conference begin?"
"Yes, sir, you have adjoining rooms on the third floor. The conference will begin in about an hour; it's in room thirty-five. Do you need help with direction? I have your room keys here…" The woman bustled on, interspersing their sleeping arrangements with information about the delegation they were to see and their schedule for the following days. Hermione stood trying not to smile; Snape was impatiently waiting for her to finish. At last she did so, handing over the keys.
"Here you are, then! Have a pleasant stay!" She reminded Hermione strongly of an airline stewardess, and Hermione had to bite back another laugh. She accepted her key gravely, and then followed Snape once more, through a door on their left, and then up to their rooms by a moving staircase similar to Dumbledore's. When they reached the third floor, a little searching found their rooms. Hermione's looked nothing like a hotel she'd ever been to. There was a huge four-poster bed (twice the size of her own at Hogwarts), a writing desk, two armchairs, an owl-cage complete with food and water (although no owl), a gilt mirror that talked incessantly, countless other objects that Hermione could find no use for, and a thick luxurious carpet.
First things first, she thought, and cast the strongest silencing charm she knew onto the mirror. Smiling happily, she proceeded to unpack all of her clothes. She was finishing when Snape came in, knocking first on the connecting door.
After casting an amused glance at her silent mirror, he said, "We will need to leave in ten minutes. Are you ready?"
"Just about," Hermione replied, and then put the last of her clothes away. "Okay, done. Shall we go?"
A/N So here endeth part one… of four parts. The fourth chapter's the end, folks… unless I suddenly get hit with inspiration. Yes, I know where I'm going, but it stops soon… three more chapters of the same length ought to conclude my little story. So go! Review!!!