Disclaimer: I own nothing! Nothing, I tell you!

And I have no excuses. Blush.

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Once they got to Snape's office, he took the seat behind his desk and Hermione collapsed gratefully into an upholstered armchair. His office was dank and dark, likely more for effect than because the man enjoyed living like a vampire.

Snape stared at Hermione. Hermione stared right back, until she realized her professor was trying to intimidate her into saying something stupid or thoughtless, possibly so he could take points. Honestly, how childish could a grown man get?

"Quirrell hexed Harry's broom," she finally said, mentally rolling her eyes when she saw a flash of satisfaction on her teacher's face- that she'd broken first, she supposed. Really, Slytherins. She just didn't know what to do with any of them.

"So certain it was Quirrell, Miss Granger?" he drawled. And what was it with Slytherins and drawling, anyway? And stalking and sneering and smirking? How come Gryffindors had no reserved facial expressions (other than defiant righteousness, which amounted to foolishness in Hermione Jane Granger's extensive and grammatically correct book)?

"Quite," she bit out, before adding a quick, "sir." She didn't need to be losing Gryffindor points; she didn't want her housemates to pity her and be angry at her.

"And why, Miss Granger, do you care about a Slytherin's well-being?" He sounded honestly curious, now, though he hid it under disdain and irritation.

Why couldn't people just come out and say what they meant?

"Harry's decent," she said, head held high. "He leaves us alone, and he's helped Neville once or twice. And he volunteered to bring me my homework when I was still in the infirmary."

Professor Snape sneered, ever so predictably. "Ah yes, homework. That certainly explains why you like him, Miss Granger."

Really, he was as bad as Ron.

"Besides," she said, keeping her tone as civil as possible, "I'd do the same for any fellow student. This isn't something to take lightly."

The greasy man studied her at length, before nodding very slightly. "You are correct, Miss Granger; unsurprising, considering your status as the Hogwarts know-it-all."

Hermione wondered what he'd do if she burst into tears- not that she was about to, of course. Would he smirk- another expression reserved for Slytherins- or be taken aback and concerned? Somehow she couldn't picture the man patting her shoulder and saying, "There, there."

Ron, for once in his pathetic life, was right. Severus Snape truly was a git.

"Well?" she demanded, before again hurriedly remembering to tack on a slightly less than respectful 'sir'.

"Well what, girl?" Snape snapped.

"What are you going to do about it?" she demanded, leaning forward in her seat. She couldn't suppress a slight wince as her hip twinged in protest.

Snape, of course, saw the wince. To her surprise, Hermione saw his eyes go a bit soft for a split second. "You might be interested to know, Miss Granger," he said in the stiffly formal way he employed whenever he wasn't being a bastard, "that I am currently developing a potion that may help with your leg."

She gaped at him, noting the abrupt change of subject but not caring, at least for now, that he'd gotten out of telling her what she wanted to know. "But Madam Pomfrey said nothing more could be done!"

"Madam Pomfrey employed all the usual healing methods, Miss Granger, methods that drew on your power for healing. Yes, there was only so much she could do without draining your life force away to nothing or risk crippling you entirely. But the brew I have been developing over the past several months is one that is imbued with its own energy, so the drinker's own magic is unaffected."

Her jaw dropped. "But a healing potion like that...it'd be revolutionary!"

"There is a reason I'm a Potions Master, girl," Snape said scathingly. Hermione blushed at the reprimand.

But she was too intelligent and tenacious to be led off track for long. "What will you do about Harry?"

Snape looked extremely irritated at her persistance, but answered her anyway. "Nothing, for the time being. We have no proof of Quirrell's hand in the incident, so we must wait until he slips up somewhere. In the meantime, I will guard Potter as well as I can, and you, Miss Granger, will for once keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?"

"But shouldn't Harry know?" Hermione asked, frowning.

"If Potter doesn't know already," Snape replied dryly, "then I have severely overestimated him. But I will speak with him, yes."

Hermione nodded, satisfied. "That's all then, sir," she said, levering herself up out of the armchair and grabbing her crutches, which she'd left leaning against the nearby stone wall. "I'll see you in class."

"Indeed," Snape said, sounding less than pleased.

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"You want us to what?"

Harry gazed back at his friends with the patience of a snake waiting to strike. "You heard me just fine," he said calmly.

"Harry," Blaise said, shaking his head, "you've gone and lost it, haven't you? Why, in Merlin's name, would you want us to befriend Malfoy's followers?"

"I have my reasons," Harry said, in a futile attempt to sound wise and mysterious. Millicent gave him a Look.

"All right," he grumbled, rolling his eyes. "Having Slytherin split down the middle like it is, well, it's not a good idea. It'll just push all the others farther away, and when Voldemort returns, they'll go straight for him."

"Don't say that name!" Theodore hissed. Harry rolled his eyes.

"When he returns?" Millicent repeated, bushy eyebrows raised.

"Yes, when he returns," Harry agreed, and suddenly he sounded much older and much more tired than any eleven year old had a right to sound. "He will, I don't doubt it. There's only so much muggle weaponry can do, you know, especially against a wizard like Vo- all right, Nott, calm down- like You-Know-Who."

"Look," Blaise said with admirable sense, "don't you think we should be a little more concerned with the fact that one of our teachers wants you dead, or at least seriously injured?"

"Should've known something was up with Quirrell," Millicent said darkly, cracking her knuckles as she glowered. "All that bloody stuttering..."

"Stuttering doesn't equal evil, you know," Harry pointed out.

Millicent snorted. "Yes, but you're just Gryffindor enough to think that there's good in everyone, Potter."

Harry's eyes darkened, and when he spoke, his voice was tight and hard. "I've met quite a few people without even an ounce of good in them," he said coolly. "And not a one of them stuttered."

"Merlin's balls, can we just get on with this!" Theodore snapped. "Stuttering...honestly, who cares if he stutters? It's clearly just an act. And Harry, stop getting all melodramatic; you keep on like you were, and thunder'll start crashing and lightning streaking and it'll be Transylvania before you know it."

They stared at him. Theodore sneered back.

"Right," Blaise said slowly. "Are you feeling all right?"

Theodore bared his teeth.

"Someone needs a nap," Millicent drawled.

"That's enough," Harry said quietly. "Blaise, I'll deal with Quirrell by and by. And as for Malfoy and his friends, the sooner you befriend them, the stronger their ties to you will be, right?"

"Now you're thinking like a Slytherin," Millicent said approvingly.

"And what do you know about thinking, Bulstrode?" Nott asked snidely.

Harry rolled his eyes. Why he put up with these people, he honestly couldn't say.

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Snape held Harry back after class the next time he had Potions. He was rather surprised- Snape usually only kept the students he didn't like after class, and it was pretty obvious that the Head of Slytherin favored Harry and his friends.

"Sir?" Harry asked curiously, approaching the teacher's desk. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, Potter, surprisingly you did not," Snape said in his normal irritable way. "Now. I wished to ask you if you had any concerns about certain members of the faculty...?" He trailed off, looking at Harry expectantly.

Harry knew right away what his Head of House was getting at. "I am rather worried about Quirrell," he said blandly.

"Professor Quirrell," Snape corrected coldly, but there was a little sardonic twist to his lips that belied his reprimand. "Show proper respect, Potter."

"Yes, sir," Harry agreed. "Professor Quirrell, then. He doesn't seem too terribly fond of me, you see." He wore his most innocent expression, which he knew was rather ruined by his scar.

Snape regarded him pensively, before nodding seemingly to himself and waving his wand. The door slammed shut and Harry felt his skin tingle as wards went up.

Snape leaned forward, his eyes glittering and his lips set in a hard, thin line. Harry met his gaze staunchly, wondering what was going on.

Finally, his professor spoke, in his softest and most dangerous voice.

"What I am about to tell you, Potter, must remain a secret. If I hear that you've so much as breathed a word of this to any of your friends, I will skin you alive and use your innards as potions ingredients. Do I make myself clear?"

Eyes wide, Harry nodded.

Satisfied, Snape continued. "There is an object of considerable power hidden here at Hogwarts. Can you guess where?"

Harry's brow furrowed as he thought. Dumbledore had warned them against going somewhere... "The third floor corridor?" he asked. Pleased, Snape smiled.

"Very good, Potter. There are several protections in place, protections that should serve an adequate barrier against Quirrell...but there are always ways past protections and shields, as you well know. Quirrell wants the object that is hidden; I suspect he is somehow working for the remaining Death Eaters or the Dark Lord himself."

Harry felt rather faint. "Why...why are you telling me this?" he asked quietly.

"You are a somewhat intelligent boy, Potter," Snape said, "and a naturally curious one. I would rather you know the dangers than go sniffing around and find out for yourself exactly how deadly Hogwarts' secrets are."

Harry smiled grimly. "You know me so well."

Snape's gaze was piercing, and Harry could almost imagine he was reading his mind. But that was ridiculous, really.

"It is my job to know my students, Mister Potter. And loathe though I am to admit it, you are in many ways a special case."

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. He hated being singled out, but if it meant he'd get answers...well, then he could just about stand it, he supposed.

"You will not repeat what you have learned to anyone, Potter, not even Dumbledore. The Headmaster would be less than pleased if he learned I have been so free with you."

"Right," Harry agreed, now a bit nervous. This was big. "Er...this object, it wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the Gringott's break-in, would it?"

Snape blinked, then smirked unpleasantly. "Five points to Slytherin for actually using your brain, Potter. Now get out of here." He waved his wand again, and the wards fell and the door opened. "If McGonagall asks where you've been, tell her I kept you."

"I will. And thanks, Professor," Harry said sincerely.

Severus watched the boy go with a sigh. He didn't understand Potter- he was a Slytherin, yes, but something in him was so open, so genuine, in a way that no Slytherin should be. It was...troubling.

Shaking his head, he put thoughts of Potter out of his mind. He had a class to prepare for and Potions to brew, and no time to waste wool-gathering.

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And that's that, for now. I don't know when I'll update again; I've got a severe case of writer's block, and while I seem to be able to churn out multitudes of one-shot fics (go ahead and read 'em, folks- there's something for everyone) I'm incapable of getting out a chapter of a long fic. It's terribly frustrating.

Thanks to:

ManIACjAcKaL, Numbirosa, linky2, spacecatdet, ParvisSira, Kateri1, HecateDeMort, sage-serenity, Nemi Jade, Loony Lisa Lovegood, athenakitty, Jazzylady, gallandro-83, Tonnocal, SS2 Megami-sama, Jewelclaw Lady of Wind, jennifer, Gohan00, Nytingale, E.A.V, Illucia, Shea Loner, Sariel Aleithea, Ganymade, ossini, Spezlee, lonelysltherinslowlydying, futago akuma-tenshi01, GoddessMoonLady, Riina, dave gerecke, MiruSedna, jbcna, Siri Kat, Crystal Moon Dragon, Talons, Dirbatua, The Angsty Gothic Angel, Fire Gazer, japanese-jew, Nahirta, debz, amarantha, C. Rose, everpresent, Julie Long, and Shadowed Rains. Whew. Love you all!