"You wanted to see me, Professor Snape?"

"Yes, Miss Jackman. Please come in and shut the door." His voice was flat and cool. A shudder ran the length of her spine as she stepped into his dungeon office. She told herself that it was just the cold dampness but she knew better. "Take a seat. I'll be with you in a moment." He motioned towards the ancient battered chair that stood before his desk without glancing up from the scrolls that held his attention.

Fighting with an uneasy feeling that made her want to flee, Jessica sat in silence as he continued his work. She could certainly understand the students' distress when they faced detention with the dark wizard. It seemed like hours before his black eyes left the page to focus on hers.

"Now, Miss Jackman," he leaned back in his chair studying her closely. "I sent for you because I was curious as to your future plans."

"I'm sorry, what plans do you mean?"

"You are an excellent assistant at this school but don't you plan to move beyond that? Surely you don't wish to be a lackey for the rest of your life. Which discipline draws your interest? I hear that you are very handy at charms and in handling those great beasts of Hagrid's."

"Herbology," she broke in.

"Sorry?"

"Herbology. I enjoy working with plants." He looked at her quizzically. "Well, you need them for your potions and someone has to grow them. Anyway, I like to teach the students about their different properties. It teaches them respect for some of the more dangerous ones." Why did she feel the need to defend herself with him?

"Herbology," he muttered then gave a soft sigh. "I should have thought that you would have set your sights a bit higher then mucking around in a greenhouse."

Well there was a reason for her defensiveness. She could feel her face flush as she allowed his condescending tone to irritate her.

"You know that I plan on receiving the appointment to Defense Against the Dark Arts in the near future," he continued.

"Yes, and I am sure you will be your history," her tone held a sharp bitterness. Well aware of his dark past, Jessica was of the opinion that Severus would be a hazard in the Dark Arts position. This was an assessment that did not escape his notice.

"Who better to teach defense then one from whom you may need to defend yourself?" A cruel smile played across his thin lips as he considered her thoughtfully. "As I was saying, I am looking forward to this appointment and hope to find someone suitable as my replacement. After much consideration I was left with you as the ultimate choice. You are the best I have seen at potions and you have a remarkable knack for getting the students to work willingly."

"They work for me because I show them respect. I have never approved of your methods. I don't understand why you feel the need to bully and intimidate."

"Some day you will understand," his silky voice was soft and distant. Tilting his head slightly, he looked at her lost in thought.

"What?"

"Do I scare you?"

"No."

He rose from his chair and, with slow feline like movements, came to stand behind her. She continued to stare across the desk at the space he had just occupied, determined not to look at him and risk giving herself away. Leaning over, his voice barely a whisper in her ear, "I should." She was suddenly aware that she had been holding her breath and let it out in a soft gasp. He gave her a terrible smile taking this as a sign of her fear.

"Well you are an unconvincing liar but that does not change my opinion of you as an instructor." He slowly left her side and began to return to his seat when...

"I am not afraid of you, Severus Sydney Snape!"

He stopped and turned back towards her, something very dangerous flashing in the depths of those dark eyes. Had she really said that out loud? Shit! Now the game was on and she could see no escape. She wanted nothing more than to look away from his intense stare but would not allow herself to appear weak.

"Do not begin to think yourself my equal, Miss Jackman," he snarled. "I have many years and a lifetime of experience on you. Never speak to me in such a familiar tone unless I have given that permission to you. Do you understand me?"

Her mind reeled. What should she say? How to react to this threat? No weakness. No weakness. Must not seem weak...

"I am not one of your students, sir." It was a simple fact that he could not dispute. It was a safe ground from which she could make her stand. His face began to soften as he allowed himself the pleasure of a slight smirk. Snatching a bound stack of papers from his desk, he slid them towards her.

"You are now."

Her blood turned cold as his voice echoed in her head. Examining the paperwork she saw all forms of potion making instructions and on top an apprenticeship form signed by Albus Dumbledore. "This can't be."

"Oh, yes it most certainly can and is. Starting next week you will assist me in instructing my first, third, and seventh year classes. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after dinner you will report to my office for your continuing education. Three hours I think should be a good start."

"But..."

"You have a list of my class times. I'll expect you to be there a half an hour before the students to help me prepare the class."

"But..."

"I think that will be all, Miss Jackman. You are dismissed."

"But..."

"Oh, one more thing. It would be to your benefit not to speak out of line again. As my student, you could very well find yourself in detention. Good day."

She had no idea what to say. He had dismissed her and returned to his scrolls as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. This did not sit well with Jessica. The course of her life had changed in seconds and she had no say in the matter? How arrogant could the man be to just assume that she would jump at his offer?

"You are still here," he stated flatly without lifting his eyes from his workload. "Did you want to ask something or were my instructions not clear enough for you?"

"You can't..."

"Of course I can!" He slammed the book he was using closed and glared at her with intense rage. "It is my decision as to whom I shall train and I have made that decision."

"If I refuse?"

"There will be no refusal. The headmaster has assigned you to me. If you do not show up I shall make your life a living hell."

"As if you won't anyway," she muttered.

"What was that? I didn't catch what you said."

"Nothing," she glared at him then added, "Sir." The venom in her voice gave her feelings away. He would have to work on this with her. Snape did indeed want her for his replacement, but his plans for her went much further. He wanted her in the Order.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Albus, she could prove invaluable to us."

"If you think she is skilled, Severus, we will surely welcome her as a new recruit, but only once she has proven herself. She must be able to handle any situation. I will not have her placed in harms way with the simple tools her basic education has provided her."

"I shall take it upon myself to train her and rest assured, I will not bring her in until she has learned my lessons well."

"Tell me why you have taken such an interest in this young woman, Severus?"

"She has such potential, it is remarkable. Her talents are being sorely wasted right now. I have watched her for quite a while before approaching you, Headmaster. I know that I can turn her into a great warrior. I will need a free hand with her, of course. The task will not be an easy one but she is up to it."

"Do what you must but always remember that she is in your safe keeping. If she falters and cannot meet your expectations you must let her go with her dignity intact. Never take that from her. There are no Death Eaters here, Severus, and I will not have their ways used on an innocent. I will be watching and if necessary will end it."

"Understood." He began to take his leave then turned back towards Dumbledore. "Headmaster, with the Dark Lord's return we shall need all of our strength."

"You are correct, Severus."

"This girl may prove to be the strongest of us all."

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It was that strength which he had referred to that gave her the courage to hold his cold stare. He had not been wrong in his judgment. This defiance would take her far, but she must learn when to use it to her advantage and this was not that time. He must teach her to obey but she must not be broken. What a challenge this would be.

"I thought not. You are dismissed."

"What if I can't do it?"

"What?"

"What if I can't teach potions? What if I don't have enough skills?"

He drew a slow deep calming breath. "I have already affirmed that you are. Why would I waste my precious time training you if I was not sure of your aptitude? I will not accept failure. I have never had a student fail an O.W.L. They wouldn't dare, and you will not fail me on this." She began to continue her protest but the scowl on his face caused the words to die in her throat. "I have grown weary of this banter. You are dismissed and if I must repeat myself yet again, I shall see you in detention... this evening," he growled.

She opened her mouth but his quizzical look made her pause. Was she going to challenge his authority? No. Detention with Severus Snape could prove very nasty indeed. A night of pickling some unfortunate creature's parts was not high on her to do list. There he sat, head cocked, eyebrow raised, awaiting her decision. He irritated her in more ways then one. Giving him a slight nod she turned and headed towards the door.

"Good afternoon, Miss Jackman."

"Good day, sir," she spoke shortly and slammed the heavy door behind her causing several flasks to crash to the floor. He smiled and with a flick of his wand restored the flasks and placed them back on their shelf.

"Extraordinary girl. Annoying, but extraordinary. This challenge will be fun," he chuckled softly to himself as he turned to his paperwork once again.