Ginny Weasley was the only Gryffindor who didn't dread potions. In fact, she looked forward to double potions where it was three hours instead of the normal hour and a half. She was exceptional at the subject. She was generally good at every subject but she'd never gotten lower than a B on any given assignment in Snape's class and even Hermione Granger struggled to pass that class. She didn't understand why her classmates feared the potions master like they did. As long as you did your work correctly and weren't cheeky, he generally left you to yourself.
For the first four of five years Ginny was at Hogwarts, Snape hardly said three words to her. He had little to insult her about but he wasn't about to praise her – she was a Gryffindor and a Weasley. She understood that. It was in the third week of her sixth year that she first noticed a change about him. They were making a particularly difficult healing potion. If it were made incorrectly, it would be even more fatal than the illness it was intending to correct. She sat near the back of the potions dungeon at a table to herself – she worked better alone without a classmate to distract her – and was concentrating intently on the cauldron before her. She added the last ingredient and the potion in her cauldron glowed golden. She expected the glow to lessen but the longer she watched the brighter it became. Suddenly Snape was at her side with an empty bottle, ladling the concoction into the glass jar and hastily putting a cork in it.
"Brilliant, Miss Weasley, just wonderful. Ten points to Gryffindor." He said, looking at the iridescent bottle that was warm in his pale hands. The class stared at him, jaws agape. He'd never given points to Gryffindor before. The Slytherins glared at her. She looked around at the other cauldrons. Some were vaguely yellow. A few were giving of a sickly green glow. In her cauldron, the glow was beginning to fade and then was gone completely. The potion inside now looked as clear as water.
"Why did it do that?" she asked Snape who had returned from his supply closet.
"It must be bottled very quickly, it has mere moments before the potency is lost." he explained in a gentle voice. She nodded her understanding.
"It breaks down in to its most basic elements, afterward, doesn't it? Hydrogen, Oxygen, perhaps Carbon because of the animal parts." she mused.
"Yes." he said. The class was still staring. He whipped his head around, his face suddenly marred by a vicious snarl. "Get back to work." he barked. He stalked back to his desk. She opened her text to read more about medicinal potions and when she looked up again, students were putting unpromising looking vials on his desks and leaving the dungeons. She packed her knapsack and moved to leave. She glanced at Snape and saw him staring intently at her. She looked down and hurried away.
She hadn't spent the summer at the burrow with her brothers and Harry and eventually Hermione. Ginny had decided to work as an intern for the ministry of magic. She got the opportunity because of her father but he worked with Muggle artifacts and she had worked in the herbology and potions lab on another floor. Mostly, she tended to plants along side Neville Longbottom. When the plants were ready, she chopped them up and stored them in labeled containers. Wizards and Witches came in and out all day, picking up orders. Sometimes she worked the front desk where she found the correct packages. Most orders were owled but some of the larger and more unstable ones were picked up in person. One week before she was due back at Hogwarts, Severus Snape billowed in to pick up an order. She jumped up when she saw him.
"Professor Snape." she greeted. She felt as if she looked a wreck – her now waist long, wavy red hair was put haphazardly into a bun, unsafely held in place by her wand. She was in her white lab robes that were covered with various stains and her glasses that she used for reading the small print on the labels of the bottles they used were sitting on the tip of her nose. She was no longer the small, straight girl who had opened the chamber of secrets. She was taller, had grown into her figure – she was a beautiful woman. But seeing the potions master now, out of Hogwarts, made her feel like a child, still.
"Miss Weasley," he said, "My parcel is ready, I assume?"
"Yes, let me get it for you." she said and went into the back storage room. Her face had flushed red even in the cool, stone room where packages were stored. Snape had never frightened her like other students, yet he made her uncomfortable. She respected him greatly and thought him to be a good, if somewhat strict, professor. She found that, most of all, she wanted to please him. She wanted him to think she was a good student. Maybe even like her as a person. She located the small box with the words 'Snape, Severus' written on in black ink and she brought it out to the front. "It's 12 sickles." she said. He reached into his robes and handed her the silver coins.
"This, this internship – for you," Snape started to say. "You are very adept in potion making. I'm glad to see you are not wasting your talent." he said. She stared at him. Why, that had almost sounded like a compliment. She blinked.
"Thank you, Professor." She said. He nodded briskly and left in much the way that he had come. Silently, in a cloud of black cloth.
She was sixteen now, and was beginning to wonder what she wanted to do with her life. She would no doubt spend her summer at the ministry again and would probably be offered a job there after graduation. She liked the work but wasn't sure she wanted to do it for the rest of her life, nor did she want to work for the ministry. She didn't want to be just another red headed Weasley. She had always wanted to, someday, come back and teach at Hogwarts but she knew that Professor Dumbledore wouldn't ask just anyone to teach for him. It was nothing to rely on, the silly dream of never having to leave the castle. She supposed she still had almost two years to think about it. It was Harry, Hermione, and Ron's last year. They were still some of her closest friends at Hogwarts. She was a loner, but she didn't mind. She spent a lot of time studying with Hermione and alone. She often tutored kids, Harry included, in potions. She was better friends with Neville after they had spent the summer together.
Now, it was after dinner and most students had filtered back to their respective common rooms to study or play wizard's chess, or do whatever students did. Neville and Ginny sat side by side. Neville was writing a three foot essay on Herbology and Ginny was studiously filling out her astrology chart. She was using the charmed ceiling to look at the night's constellations. She was lucky it was clear outside, and the great hall was a lot warmer than outside. She felt a tapping on her shoulder and she looked up from her piece of parchment. It was professor Dumbledore.
"Professor." she greeted quietly, standing to face the old headmaster.
"Ginny, would you mind taking a small break and accompanying me to my office?" he asked merrily, "I'm sure Neville wouldn't mind carrying your beautiful charts back to your common room for you."
"No, of course not." Neville said, gathering up all their work and smiling as he headed out of the great hall.
"May I ask what this is about?" Ginny asked softly, walking alongside Dumbledore.
"All in good time, my dear." he said. "How are your classes this year?"
"Good. I think I'll be very prepared for my N.E.W.T.s." she said.
"Severus tells me you took an internship at the ministry." he said. She stared up at the headmaster. Snape had been talking about her to him? "Ah, here we are." They stood at the base of the Gargoyle. "Licorice Whip." the stepped on the stairs and slowly were raised into the office. She'd never been inside before. She thought it was beautiful. She was, however, startled to see Snape waiting in the center of the warm room. She felt that he was everywhere, these days.
"Hello, Professor." she said and he raised his eyebrow.
"Hello, Virginia." he greeted. She liked the way it sounded when he said her first name. He always snarled the word 'Weasley'. She felt herself start to blush and willed her pale skin to stay calm.
"Now, Severus has made a very interesting proposition and I thought that we might all discuss it." Dumbledore said, sitting in the overstuffed chair behind his desk.
"I have accepted a part-time position with the ministry of magic just for this term." Snape said, looking at Ginny. "I will be away from Hogwarts two days a week."
"I don't understand." she said. How did this involve her.
"Severus said you made a very successful healing potion the other day." Dumbledore said. "Ginny, would you be willing to teach remedial potions while Professor Snape is away?" Ginny didn't know what to think. This is definitely not what she expected.
"It's... an honor to even be asked." she said. "But, if I'm not mistaken, you teach remedial potions when I have divination." she said.
"Yes, and it is completely up to you if you wish to drop that class from your schedule. It is not required for testing, it is an elective." Dumbledore reminded her.
"Yes, please, yes." Ginny blurted and even Snape looked amused. "I'm afraid I haven't the courage of Hermione Granger where divination is concerned but I would much rather teach potions."
"Very well. Severus, you will take it from here?" Dumbledore said. "Congratulations, Ginny." She followed Snape out of the office and down to the dungeons.
"I have lesson plans for you." he said.
"Professor, I don't mean to be rude or, or ungrateful but... why ever did you choose me?" she asked.
"You are the most proficient student I have." he said. She did not push it.
"Well... thank you. You are the most proficient professor I have." she said. He looked at her, gave her the once over. She felt as if under a magnifying glass.
"I will be back the day after tomorrow. You are allowed, for remedial students and during class times only, to take or give house points and to give detentions that will be served with me. I expect you will use good judgement." he said.
"I will help you with your grading, when I return, if you would like." he offered. They stood in the dungeons and he handed her the book of lesson plans. She looked up at him. He was looking at her almost kindly. She really did not see what was to fear about the man.
"Of course." she agreed. He did not say goodbye. She was soon alone in the classroom.