SUMMARY: Seventh year for Hermione, and her studies take a turn for the unexpected. Severus Snape becomes the dominant authority to which Hermione's academic mind swears fealty, and the obstacles he means to throw in her path will be many and difficult. Hermione's struggles, however, will soon transcend the walls of Hogwarts as her dark, taciturn Professor is grudgingly forced into accepting the role of protector. Protector being a relative term. Hermione does her fair share of saving an ungrateful life as well.

DISCLAIMER: Just for fun.

A/N: I understand that the whole "private lessons" thing is absurdly over-used, and perhaps lost some of its magic in this regard, but I beg of you to bear with me. I always do my best to keep things as fresh and surprising as I possibly can.

A/N(2): I also hope, due to the ungodly length of this story, to have achieved some manner of character progression throughout. Hermione has always seemed (to me at least) mature, intelligent, passionate, caring - and, I think it's safe to say, quite emotional at times. She is also young and relatively inexperienced in the world of, for want of a better word, romance. In short, it is not an accident that Hermione may exhibit behavior that borders on girlish or temperamental at the beginning, because the intention is that, through the long haul of this particular adventure, she achieves some manner of emotional growth.

The same goes for Snape - though his progression will, I am certain, not come off quite so dramatically or obviously as Hermione's. And anyway, I have always felt for some reason or another that this fic is really Hermione's story. Even though we get a great deal of insight into Snape's world and how he sees it.

In any case, as stated in the disclaimer, this is all just for amusement and delight! And I sincerely hope you have just as much fun reading as I had fun writing.


Chapter One

Severus Snape stifled a yawn as he stacked his paperwork into neat, albeit precariously balanced piles on top of his desk and put away his favorite quill. Easing himself out of his armchair, he took a moment to indulge in a languid stretch, stubbornly ignoring the twinge of discomfort in his back that immediately followed. Years of bending over cauldrons had finally managed to catch up with him it seemed, and sitting at his cramped little desk for hours on end no longer agreed with him in his...

Old age, he finished with disgust as he methodically returned books to their shelves and caps to their ink bottles. Damn it.

It had been a long day.

To begin with, Severus had spent most of first period dousing cauldron fires for imbecilic First Years, only to be later chastised by Minerva for what were, as she deemed, "unjustifiably harsh criticisms." At lunch, he had done nothing but sit in pensive silence at the staff table, minding his own business, when Hooch's little bitch of a Peregrine Falcon decided to gobble up his last piece of toast from right underneath his unsuspecting nose. Hooch had laughed and ruffled the bird's feathers with a sickening degree of affection, while Severus stared incredulously down at his empty plate. And while this had not been an altogether extraordinary act of malice on Hooch's part, Severus was still rather upset over the flight instructor's appalling lack of table manners.

However, hands down, the most taxing event of the day had arrived outside his laboratory door promptly following dinner, all wrapped up as usual in her various red-and-gold-colored clothing assortments, beaming like a buffoon, and asking more questions than any person had a right to wonder.

Tonight had been his very first two-hour session with Hermione Granger, an exercise that only served to confirm how deeply he wished to strangle the tenacious little twit. How his colleagues managed to stomach her incessant yammering day after day, he hadn't the faintest idea. She was exhaustive and batty, stubborn in all the wrong ways. No matter that she was graduating in only a year, Severus wanted her gone now.


There was something to be said for horrors unrealized. In all honesty, their lesson had not been as entirely unbearable as he initially anticipated. For, while it was indeed true that Hermione Granger continued to remain ever-insufferable and a shameless, know-it-all show-off to boot (as was her nature, no doubt, she had emerged from the womb as nothing less), she put on a good show of listening attentively. She never needed to be told anything twice, and she seemed able to grasp a concept almost before Severus could finish proposing it. Furthermore, he was very nearly impressed with her knowledge of the history and theory behind the craft of potion-making itself, rather than simply the names of the ingredients and their individual properties. Exhaustive, yes. But, tenacity had its uses, particularly in the study of this subtle and dangerous craft.

Admittedly, these attributes also served to make the girl twice as annoying as usual. There was only so much noise he could take from one person, after all. But Severus thought that if things continued to progress as they were, he might be able to survive the rest of the semester. Or, at the very least, manage to refrain from putting the girl through a wall.

And yet... Why? Potions. Granger. A girl of passing intelligence, this he could not deny, but she had a sweet temperament, one bathed in a haze of stupefying optimism and aggressive naivety. Potions was a devious art, full of shadows. Such deep wells of dark powers were not meant to intrigue those pure of heart. Yet, here they were anyway, Granger and Potions: Here he was, haplessly stirring them together in his very own laboratory with a nonchalance that would put the likes of Lockhart to a test of idiocy. What had possessed him to think that taking her on would somehow bypass this inevitable catastrophic calamity that seemed to be looming now, vaguely, somewhere in the not-so-distant future? Just the thought of a faithful flunky of Wonderboy Potter flittering around in his personal stores was enough to bring bile to the back of his throat. But, persistence was not an unfamiliar concept to one such as Granger: Every single day, at the end of class, she had come to his desk with over-flowing book bag slung over her shoulder and Potions text in hand. She had gazed dolefully up at him with those stupidly big brown eyes and begged him to give her private lessons: "Please, Professor Snape, it would only be once a week," and, "Oh, please, I would really like to get my Masters in Potions like you, but I need more experience."

Perhaps his irritation caused Severus to exaggerate, upon reflection, the pathetic nature of her whine a bit more than was fair… Still. Even without exaggeration, the constant sound of Granger's voice was enough to make him want to grab an enormous pair of cymbals and start madly bashing her head between them.

Maybe this was the reason he had finally given in. His poor grated nerves had simply thrown in the towel and said, "Fuck it, Severus — give the damn girl what she wants, and then at least the spectacle will cease."

Then again, perhaps deep down he had taken Granger on because he could honestly use the extra pair of hands.

Either way, it hardly mattered now. What was done was done, and there was little he could do about it. Though he could not seem to banish this feeling of blistering injustice that, despite it all, he would not be receiving a single knut for all that trouble.

Certainly, he recognized how uncouth his colleagues would find him if he dared to demand money from a student in order for him to do a job that he was already "technically" being paid to do. But it wasn't as though he were rolling in Galleons or anything. The only recompense he was sure to receive for his efforts were Minerva's prickly, disgruntled looks, telling him just how much she appreciated him exploiting her precious little prodigy.

Hard be it for the fickle old woman to imagine that it actually wasn't his life's ambition to ruin the future of Hermione Granger.

Though perhaps worth a passing effort, he thought with an amused grunt.

Severus then reconsidered for a moment. Did Minerva see him as exploiting the girl or adopting her? Students like Granger were exceptionally rare, and it was with glowing pride and joy that Minerva found this particular academic juggernaut in her own House, someone she could guide and groom and stroke to greatness. Perhaps the idea that Severus might be the one to whom Granger now looked for guidance was what stoked the old woman's fury - the idea that Severus might ultimately get credit for this girl's eventual success (whatever that success may turn out to be).

Severus flicked his wand as he left the room, the numerous candles on the walls sputtering faithfully out behind him.

As he prepared for bed, one last question still remained lodged and unanswered in the back of his head. Why? Why did Granger all of a sudden wish to become a Potions Mistress? Granted, she made decent marks in the subject (a great vexation, as he always did his best to ensure that no Gryffindor had a shot in hell of scraping any manner of admirable mark in his class), but it wasn't as though she had ever seemed particularly keen on the darker arts.

Severus gave an uncharacteristic sigh as, at last, he slipped into bed and buried himself beneath the thick duvet. It had been a long day, and trying to puzzle out the madness behind the madness of Hermione Granger only seemed to be making it longer. So, closing his eyes, and allowing himself to sink slowly into his mattress, Severus vowed solemnly not to think again about said know-it-all until at least the next morning.

He cracked an eyelid and glanced at the clock, the hands of which plainly indicated that it was well after four.

Bloody hell and damn it all.

And with that last thought, Severus rolled over on his side and promptly went to sleep.

"Voluntarily, though. Extra lessons. With Snape. I mean voluntarily..." Ron was making his thoughts known for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning as Hermione munched cheerily on a slice of buttered toast and read The Prophet's daily headlines.

"Isn't class enough?" Harry muttered into his pumpkin juice. "There is a masochistic streak in you that baffles me sometimes, Hermione."

"Stop it," Hermione snapped. "And, if you please, that's Professor Snape to the both of you." She shot a disapproving look at them from across the table.

Ron did not answer. Instead, he shoved another spoonful of porridge in his mouth and proceeded to chew around a heavy scowl.

Harry raised his eyebrows. "Even with us? Honestly, why do you always..." He squinted suddenly and, using his breakfast spoon for emphasis, pointed at her accusingly. "You've been acting strange this week. Haven't got a temperature, have you?"

Hermione batted his spoon away with the end of the folded newspaper. "I am in perfect health, Harry, thank you." She wiped her mouth delicately on a red and gold fringed napkin, then reached over and used her fork to retrieve another omelet from the platter in the middle of the table. She took a moment to wrinkle her nose at Seamus Finnegan, who was currently drowning his own plate of eggs and sausages in a growing pool of ketchup.

This was disconcerting to Hermione — the fact that Harry had noticed something "strange" about her. She had thought her efforts thus far to appear normal had been mostly successful, if not admirable. But it was hard to get perspective. It was hard to tell what was different or strange in her behavior when she wasn't used to studying herself.

Then again, her keen sense of reason had admittedly not been up to snuff lately — this owing to the fact that she spent the majority of her time feeling very… confused. Emotionally, hormonally, monumentally confused. All of this with origins she had a hard time locating.

When she thought very, very hard on the subject, and if her brain was in a particular state of calmness, she was able to track it all back to where it must have begun — which was, as with most things, at the beginning: The very first day she had met him (this man, this professor, this cause of all things disconcerting).

Tall, dark, sinister, fierce and imposing, powerful, brilliant, Master in his field. As an eager young student, bedazzled by the wonder and glamour of a new world, those words had come easily to Hermione when she first glimpsed that intimidating figure striding so boldly through the classroom doors. Those words were the very essence of her first impression of Severus Snape, and a strong impression it was to be sure. So strong, in fact, that despite the man's perverse cruelty over the years, it had managed to imprint itself deep into her subconscious mind. Somehow that image of dauntless perfection had remained buried within her, hidden away behind a thick layer of forced indifference. She had successfully ignored it for a long time, forgotten it even, and yet, somehow, it stayed, quiet but persistent, lurking, waiting for a moment to break free again. For there was no denying that it had been trapped; so many walls had been built since that first day — walls of anger, of betrayal and hurt. All of those feelings had come together to form a sort of impenetrable forcefield around that initial image of divine cleverness.

Now, somehow, over the last year, those rigid walls had disappeared.

She had no idea if this had happened all at once, or gradually over time, the point of it was, the walls were gone, reduced to nothing more than a crumbled heap of ill-humor and bruised pride. She used to be able to look at Snape and feel nothing but indifference, occasionally anger or a profound sense of injustice. Now when she looked at him, she felt half-blinded by that initial, striking impression. It was that collective core, that aura of shrewd awareness and confidence and steely intelligence that seemed to radiate so fiercely from him now — an aura that never failed to give her delightful little shivers down her spine.

Why did it give her shivers? she wondered. And what did those shivers even mean? Hermione had been cold before — shivered from a frosty wind, shivered from fear, shivered from anticipation. But this was none of those things. She wasn't cold. She was, perhaps on occasion, a little afraid (not that afraid), and she never anticipated anything from Snape beyond dark looks, an occasional sneer, and a plethora of thinly-veiled insults. This new shiver was something else entirely and she had no idea where to categorize it in her mind. Nothing about this made the slightest bit of sense.

Another cause for concern was what exactly had demolished those carefully constructed walls of hers in the first place. Could it have been a specific event? Or did the barrier simply deteriorate on its own? Worn slowly away by the occasional (yet forceful) waves of awe and admiration he sometimes inspired in her. But, most importantly, why, Hermione obsessed, why couldn't she just leave him alone? Ignore him like she used to. She was no longer able to just bow her head and read her textbook, lose herself in diligent study. He was magnetic now, like an electric charge that hummed quietly from wherever he stood in the room. Why did she all of a sudden find this impulse to watch him out of the corner of her eye irresistible? Or the need to impress him even greater than it ever had been before? None if it made sense, and that did not sit well with Hermione, for she did not know where to turn in order to puzzle it all out.

Who knew if this feeling was even attraction. Was it him as a person that appealed to her (though 'person' was rather a relative term), or was it the position and power he held? Was what she was feeling normal? Was it okay? Who could possibly understand what she was going through if she couldn't even understand it herself?

While Hermione made valid attempts at convincing herself that what she was feeling was, at most, just a passing infatuation with the man's intelligence, she equally understood that whatever this ridiculous emotion was, she needed to get it under control, and soon. She couldn't have a crush on Snape — he was a Hogwarts professor! And a bastard besides.

Her reasoning therefore, was this: A person could never make an accurate analysis of something until they had all the facts. Therefore, Hermione's first objective was to do what she did best. Research. Then, once she had all the information (though she was not quite sure what sort of information she was looking for in this situation), she could piece everything together and draw some notion of a coherent conclusion.

That was her analytical approach, anyway.

Her other approach, her emotional approach, was perhaps a bit more unorthodox. Although this one, at least, provided a much more immediate solution.

Instead of trying her best to stay away from Snape and hope that this unwanted emotion faded on its own, Hermione decided to exploit the man's biting personality by spending more time with him rather than less in the hopes that her heart would soon realize what a twisted pain in the side he really was and leave her alone. She hoped that perhaps she could replace that initial image of dauntless perfection with something a bit less… admirable.

After her first couple of lessons in Snape's gloomy dungeon — all of which were awkward and sometimes downright miserable — Hermione found that her theory proved to be outstandingly wrong. This was through no lack of trying on Snape's part, however. Even after she had proved herself innumerable times, showing him that she was not your average anything-to-scrape-by Gryffindor chest-thumper, and that she could indeed bubble a cauldron just as well as any Slytherin, he still continued to treat her like an ignorant child. (And if there was anything that Hermione hated most, it was being treated as though she were ignorant).

Yet, in a twisted way, the fact that Snape knew her greatest peeve and wielded it for all it was worth also gave Hermione a glimmer of encouragement. Perhaps that proved that her emotional approach wasn't too far off after all. Maybe she just needed to keep on with her lessons, and her hatred for the bitter and prickly man would eventually overcome the infatuation.

Yes, keep on with the lessons — that sounded like as good a plan as any.

It was quiet as usual in the cold, dark dungeon, with the exception of the soft scratching of Snape's quill and the gentle hiss of the simmering cauldron Hermione was so intently bending over.

When the outer rim turns green, add the ginger root, she recited mentally to herself, trying not to be distracted by the constant tapping of her professor's booted toe. There it goes. Quickly. With a swift proficiency, Hermione scraped the finely cut roots off her cutting board and into the cauldron, where the paper-thin slices disintegrated almost instantly. Turn blue, turn blue, she silently urged it. Turn blue, turn— "Yes!" she squealed as the bubbling liquid turned a pleasing shade of navy.


Snape's voice startled her and she whirled around, her elbow catching the edge of a finely made crystal container of Armadillo bile, which toppled almost apologetically off the table. With a swoop of her arm and a sigh of relief, Hermione caught it and set it tenderly back on the counter, deeply grateful it had not broken. She knew only too well how mortifying it was to drop a valuable ingredient in Snape's presence.

"Oh, nothing," she replied, forcing nonchalance, hoping that he had been too engrossed in his paperwork to witness her near accident. "That is, it seems that the first stage of the burn salve extract is nearly finished."

"You needn't inform me when something is nearly finished, Miss Granger," Snape stated bluntly (and rather nastily, Hermione thought). He finished grading a paper with what looked like a depressingly extravagant 'D' and transferred it into the steadily growing stack of papers at his side which each bore such a flourishing letter upon them. "Nearly will never get you anywhere." He glanced up briefly to scowl her way before turning back to his Fourth Years' essays on the applications of Billywig Stings, and resuming his furious, yet admittedly elegant, scrawling.

"My mistake," she said lightly, determined not to let him bother her.

Normally, Hermione would have been thrilled that Snape was in such a foul mood, as that would mean almost no work on her part in trying to goad him into rudeness, but she had been having a good day thus far, and for once she would actually like to concentrate on a lesson instead of wasting time attempting to sabotage her heart. Urgh, how revolting, she thought to herself with disgust, and then suppressed a giggle at what she imagined Ron's expression might be if he heard her talking like this.

Her life, it seemed, had become quite the soap opera. Well, in her own head at least.

Hermione hummed lightly as she stirred the burn salve extract, which was beginning to form itself into a thin, cream-like paste. She was in fact unaware that she had been making any noise at all until Snape slammed his palm down on the table and startled her once again out of a reverie.

"Would you desist," he hissed.

"Yes, alright," Hermione replied, a little stung despite herself. "No need to get snippy," she added in an undertone.

"What was that?"

A sigh. "Oh, nothing."

Snape made a sharp noise of disbelief and returned to his papers, once again grading with such fury that Hermione thought it a wonder he didn't rip straight through the parchment. She watched the curve of his slender hand as it gripped the quill, and found herself, quite unexpectedly, wondering what his skin felt like. Was it warm like hers? She had always imagined his skin feeling cold, like marble or a smooth metal. But obviously he was every bit as much a human she was (physically speaking anyway, she was not entirely sure what qualified in terms of moral fiber), and he certainly had veins, and blood, and a pulse just as she did, so surely he—

"Eyes on your cauldron, Miss Granger," Snape said suddenly without looking up.

Hermione frowned and shook her head, mentally urging herself to get a grip. She turned back to the salve and resumed stirring in a rhythmic, clockwise motion, repeating the instructions in her head over, and over, and over, and over…

It was not long before Hermione's lessons grew steadily less awkward, and she eventually found herself forming a genuine interest in her new studies.

She also came to find that her dark and brooding professor was aptly titled Potions Master, for he was wickedly cunning and so intelligent that she often had conversations with him that she did not fully understand until days afterwards. (Though she presumed that unwarranted insults lay beneath just about everything he said to her).

Another revelation Hermione discovered about her professor, and to her great surprise, was that he did a great deal of potions-related work in his spare time that had nothing to do with either teaching or personal experiments. St. Mungo's owled Snape at the first of every other week with a long list of of cures and remedies in need of replacement, after which he would singlehandedly brew, bottle, and send back each one within the confines of fourteen days (sometimes more when the potion required a longer time to make). And what was most surprising of all, was that he, Severus Snape, was never paid a single knut for all that trouble.

Despite herself, Hermione was impressed.

Of course, Snape hardly went without making his few extra Galleons. He was also entangled in a rather important-sounding deal with the Ministry. A deal that consisted of experimenting with potions that might counter a particularly bad hex or make the drinker invisible — in short, anything to help an Auror in action. This, he was paid very handsomely for.

Prior to these lessons, Hermione would have been staggered to think that she might learn this much about the morbidly secretive Professor Snape. However, when a person spends as much time with the man as she did, there are some things that simply cannot be kept hidden. He had owls flying in at every turn of the head, screeching and fluttering as they swooped down through a specially created pipe that led like a chimney to the outside. In fact, the owls were usually in such a rush that they would oftentimes mistakenly deliver their burden directly to Hermione. In every such event, Snape would instantly snatch the letter away, glaring daggers at Hermione as though it was her fault the owl had become confused.

It was during just such an accident, when Snape, by chance, was not in the room, that Hermione finally had a chance to see the Ministry seal on the envelope, as well as the enormous bag of galleons attached. Confused at first, not only because of the money, but also because the only letters Hermione had seen prior to that were from St. Mungo's — letters with order forms she had become entirely too familiar with, as Snape had recently taken to letting her deal with those relatively unsupervised. At first, she had figured that these solo assignments were a reward, a show of confidence in her growing medicinal skills. Then she began to get the feeling that Snape simply did not seem to think those letters quite as important. And when the first Ministry bird arrived, Hermione immediately realized why.

In any case, Hermione's lessons continued. Soon, she and the Professor progressed to the point where long silences were comfortable rather than awkward, and most of the time they would go the entire two hours without saying more than three words put together.

This should have made Hermione furious. After all, was she not supposed to be hating him by now? Instead, it made her happy, and she truly began to enjoy her time in the dungeons. These lessons were arguably more exciting than any of her other classes.

Until now, she had never had the opportunity to work so intimately with such powerful ingredients and concoctions. It was a thrill she had never fully been granted, and she charged it as one of the greatest highs she had ever experienced. The closest she had come to anything of this nature was the Polyjuice Potion that she had brewed for Harry and Ron in their second year. Even then, Hermione had found it almost below her skill level.

Now, at last, she had thousands of ingredients at her fingertips, and hundreds of books detailing every facet of fascinating potion imaginable, the likes of which made her head spin with ambition, determination and excitement. At last, she had found something to test her knowledge.

And, most unfortunately, her patience as well…

"Not like that, like this. Foolish girl, do you mean to ruin it entirely?" Snape snatched the ladle out of Hermione's hand and proceeded to stir the plum-colored potion in what was apparently the appropriate manner (which honestly did not look very different in Hermione's opinion). Though a second later proved that she was indeed mistaken, and she felt her ears burn as Snape went on to explain.

"The angle of the wrist is very important, Miss Granger, I know I've told you before. See how I turn it out rather than in?"

Hermione nodded, intrigued despite her irritation at being caught doing something wrong.

"I cannot hear your head rattling, Girl, speak up."

She jumped. "Oh, yes. Of course. I see."

Snape gave her an irritable look and shoved the ladle back into her hand. "I have other matters to attend to, so I'll trust you to finish up." He sneered. "Assuming you can bother yourself to remember even the simplest wisdoms of the lesson. You did say you wanted to learn, did you not? I can only do my share of the work, Granger, and if you cannot keep pace, if I am indeed wasting my time, do be kind enough to let me know. I'd rather we set you up in a study room with a kiddie cauldron and a reading list and be done with it. Speaking of—" Snape pointed toward his desk. "I have written out another list of sources for you to research in the coming week. If you are unable to secure the books I have set, you needn't trouble yourself pursuing this charade any further. Either you are capable of the work or you are not. There isn't room in my schedule for mediocrity. And I am ill suited to excuses."

Hermione glowered as Snape left the room, resisting the strong urge to pick up the bowl of frog eyes next to her and hurl it as hard as she could at the back of his head.

A moment later however, she found herself smiling, and she turned back to stirring her potion with renewed zeal (though she paid particular attention to how her wrist was angled).

If that's any indication, she thought proudly, things are well on track. Well done, Hermione.

Or so she thought, anyway.