I don't own Harry Potter, am making no money from this and no infringement is intended.
Chapter 3: New BeginningsComing together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success – Henry Ford.
Hermione Granger presented herself at the door to Severus Snape's office at 8.58am on the first of August, and he made her wait there until precisely 9am before throwing open the door and scrutinizing the young woman before him without so much as a single word. If the raking of his dark eyes across her person unsettled her, she did not show it.
She was wearing the correct robes, he noted sourly. Dark grey and nondescript, they covered her slim form completely from her shoulders to her feet, their only point of interest being the dark red cauldron embroidered on the upper left hand side – the mark of a potions apprentice. Her impossible hair had been scraped into a tight bun and her skin was pink with a slightly scrubbed appearance. Judging by the solemn expression on her face she had hitherto tried very hard to meet all of Snape's requirements, but instead of feeling satisfaction he felt the beginnings of a slow burning and irrational irritation that would make Miss Granger's induction more difficult than it was already going to be.
"Miss Granger." His tone was short. "Your appearance at least is…satisfactory." He gestured to the chair before his desk. "Sit down."
She entered his office cautiously and closed the door behind her before settling herself on the edge of the proffered chair. Seated behind his desk, Snape frowned at her.
"Are your quarters adequate?" He enquired.
"Quite, sir," Hermione nodded, looking slightly pleased. Snape's mood darkened further. Dumbledore had insisted upon personally organising the provision of her rooms, and although he had not cared to enquire where she had been placed, he suspected that her destination would have been the far side of the dungeons – rooms with windows no less because the precipice that Hogwarts was built upon fell away quite sharply on that side but was higher on the other, which was coincidentally the side where Snape's office, classroom and quarters could be located.
"Are they nearby?" He managed to spit out.
"Yes, sir," she nodded again. "On the opposite side of the dungeons…with windows."
"I did not request a description, Miss Granger!" Snape barked at her. She immediately coloured.
"No, sir. I'm sorry."
"Get out your quill, and some parchment. This morning I shall go over the requirements of your apprenticeship, after which I shall require your wand oath."
"My wand oath?" She looked surprised.
"Yes, Miss Granger. Your wand oath. An apprenticeship is not something to be taken lightly, as you should well know. You will be magically bound over to complete it…" He observed her expression, and sensed her doubt. "Is there a problem, Miss Granger? Because if you are not sure…"
"No." She said firmly. "I'm sure, Professor. That's fine." With a minimum amount of fuss, she extracted parchment and a quill from her bag.
"I'm so glad," Snape muttered. "Now, if you are ready?"
Leaning back in his chair, Snape addressed the ceiling, telling it all of the requirements and specifications for Miss Granger's apprenticeship.
"You will be apprenticed to myself for four years, and during that time it is expected that you will do anything that I reasonably ask of you. This may include, but is not limited to: making and bottling potions for the hospital wing, assisting me in my classroom, grading papers, maintaining the supply cupboards for both the students and myself, harvesting ingredients when necessary and the occasional brewing of certain restricted potions when requested by the Ministry of Magic."
He waited until the scratching of her quill had ceased before looking over and speaking to her directly.
"In return, I will grant you access to the finer points of potions brewing and also to my personal and not inconsiderable library. I shall personally tutor you four evenings a week and on a Saturday; the headmaster has insisted that you have one night free to pursue whatever you wish in addition to Sundays, which will remain your own free time for the duration of the apprenticeship."
She diligently wrote down everything that he said, lifting her head to look at him when he paused.
"You will have unrestricted access to my private laboratory, which I will show to you in due course, and you will be paid something that the headmaster defines as 'the going rate' for whatever potions that you produce for either Madame Pomfrey or the Ministry. This is of course, providing that they meet the required standards." He smiled unpleasantly. "Those standards will be judged by myself."
"Yes, Professor." She glanced at him again, this time catching his eye and holding his gaze. For a moment, they stared at each other in confusion.
"Do you have a question, Miss Granger?" Snape enquired.
"I…that is…no, sir." She looked away.
"So you are clear on what is expected from you and what you will receive?"
"Then read back your notes to me."
She did so, and they were impressively concise.
"Adequate, Miss Granger," Snape had no intention of telling her so. "I also suspect that you will make a decent apprentice."
"Thank you, sir." Hermione's smile was faint.
"You already know my standards, and you know of my attitude towards failure. Do not disappoint me, Miss Granger," he warned. "You would not like the consequences."
"I understand, sir. Thank you…for giving me this opportunity. I won't let you down."
Snape snickered, without any discernible humour.
"That remains to be seen," he said. She seemed to appraise him for a moment, and then she stuck out her hand.
Snape looked at the proffered hand as though she were perhaps the carrier of some form of highly contagious disease.
"Put it away, Miss Granger," he told her wearily.
She merely shook her head and, apparently unperturbed, extended her hand halfway across the desk.
"No, Professor," she said patiently. "I just think we should shake on it…our agreement, that is."
With barely concealed impatience at Miss Granger and her stupid muggle customs, Snape reached over and grasped her small hand in his somewhat larger one and shook it firmly. He experienced the brief sensation of her warm, slightly dry palm against his own and then he released her hand, half expecting her to wipe it on her robes at the first opportunity, but she merely placed it back in her lap.
"Are you satisfied, Miss Granger?" He asked. She nodded, and Snape rose smoothly to his feet, moving around his desk with barely a rustle of robes. "Follow me, then. I will show you the private lab and then I will have your oath."
"Yes, sir," she demurred, and stood up next to him. Snape's office was not sizeable; there was little space for two people to pass, and so they stood facing each other for a bemused moment, and he only had enough time to register that she barely reached his shoulder in height before she took a small step to one side so that he could pass her without having to come into contact with any part of her.
"Thank you, Miss Granger," he sneered at her, making his thanks sound more like an insult, and accordingly her eyes flicked up to his as if to verify the statement. He returned her stare with a flinty one of his own, and was surprised to see her mouth quirk up at the corners slightly. "Is something amusing you?" He enquired in a dangerously soft voice.
"No." She turned her face away from his.
"I'm very glad to hear it, Miss Granger, and I warn you now…" she was still staring resolutely at his office door, "not to get on the wrong side of me. Four years…is a very long time."
She turned once more to face him, and this time her face was difficult to read. Her short nod, however, was terse.
"Well then, now that we understand each other…" He threw open the door and strode out into the corridor without looking back to see if she was following. "This way, Miss Granger."
A/N: Boring chapter, I know, but it sets some ground rules for later on…sort of. The perspective will switch to Hermione again in the next chapter.
Thanks so much for all of the very kind comments in the reviews – I really appreciate them and they encourage me to write more.