i. The truth of summer's lie
He couldn't have missed it. Being a quintessential Gryffindor, she was by definition bad at dissembling.
He first noticed it when she came to his office one October afternoon. She'd knocked and opened the door an inch when he'd muttered a bored "Come in". Her wild curls caught the light, and her eyes blinked up at him. He felt the usual stir of annoyance at her appearance and returned his attention to the papers he was grading. The door creaked open and she crept in; she was so shy. From the corner of his eye he saw the gleam of her Head Girl badge and her stance as she stood uncertainly at the front of his desk, her eyes fixed on the floor as she waited to be acknowledged.
"Well, Miss Granger?" he had said, finally. "I presume you did not come here to observe the dungeon flooring."
She'd raised her eyes. They were so bright, and he saw that there was something in her expression, something that hadn't been there before. Something that he filed away for future reference because he could not decipher it now.
"Professor Dumbledore sent me, Sir," she said. "He wanted to know if you would like to accompany the head girl and boy in chaperoning this Saturday's Hogsmeade trip." She spoke a little bit too fast, the words tripping over themselves in her haste. She paused, then plunged on, her expectancy evident. "Professor Sinistra is going away for the weekend, Sir, and if you could—"
"What makes you think I would sentence myself to an entire afternoon in the company of the silliest brats in Britain?" he interrupted her, effectively dismissing her request.
She left soon after, and he was free to resume his grading with no more thought to the Head Girl and her requests. But before he'd turned his eyes to Colin Creevey's essay, before he'd sent her on her way and heard her mutter an apology for wasting his time, he had seen the corners of her mouth turn down and the brightness disappear from her eyes.
She came often after that, always with some request or question. "Professor, Madame Pomfrey is asking, have you already finished this month's stock of Pepper-Up?" "Sir, Professor McGonagall wants to know, are you coming to this afternoon's staff and student council meeting?"
With time, as the sound of her footsteps on the stones grew more and more familiar, she grew bolder with her questions. He observed her with narrowed eyes as she lied through her teeth. "Professor Snape, I'm sorry to bother you, but I've simply forgotten, when is the sleeping draught essay due again?" "Professor, is there anything I could do for extra credit?" He always snarled at her to leave, and there was always that same descent of the corners of her mouth but days later she was there again, undeterred. She was so transparent.
There came a day when even he was surprised at her audacity. She'd stood in front of his desk and inquired, "Professor Snape, Madame Pomfrey told me that you were going to brew her a batch of Dreamless Sleep."
He began to fear what her request might be, and rallied all of his intellectual forces in the formation of a suitably cutting "no". "You spend far too much time in the Hospital Wing, Miss Granger," he remarked. It occurred to him that she no longer braided her hair, but always kept it loose and visibly well-brushed. He noticed the tightness of her sweater. It was impossible; this was impossible. Yet there it was. How to turn her away? "What is the matter? Have you run out of professors to suck up to that you have resorted to the local mediwitch?"
She stiffened. He expected her to leave. But amazingly, incredibly, she relaxed, and offered him a blinding smile. He noticed the artificial evenness of her teeth.
"Professor Snape, I only wanted to ask you if you would let me assist you." She placed a hand on his desk and he looked upon it as an intruder, repulsed and disquieted. "I would appreciate the opportunity to acquire brewing experience very much."
His desk was a fortress and she was an invader. He knew her motives now; there could be no more room for doubt. He did not understand—would never really understand—why, instead of fortifying his defences, he let his territory be conquered.
"Presumptuous girl," he'd said, regretting the words as soon as they left his mouth. Only an outright refusal would have deterred her, and he had doomed himself to having her for an assistant.
Her smile widened. Coming from him, this short speech was almost an invitation.
She was always around, and she seemed to believe that his decision not to refuse her guaranteed her a special place in the dungeons. He conceded to himself that she brewed the potions competently, and to avoid spending more time with her than necessary, he let her do the brewing by herself, locking himself up in his office. He was taking severe advantage of her offer and sometimes spared a thought for all the homework that she was not doing to make time to brew, but dismissed it. Justifications weaved themselves in his mind. She needed the experience. He'd agreed because he was a very busy man, and assigning him to brew potions with no extra pay was unfair of the Headmaster in any case. She had offered to do this and he was generous enough to take her up on it.
The day that he found a shiny, red, perfect apple on his desk, he decided that things had to end.
(end of chapter)
AN: The story title is a reference to Othello and the quotation that begins: "Perdition catch my soul". The chapter title is from a poem by E. E. Cummings. Also, for those waiting for me to finish my WiPs, I am still working on Yours and Yours and Yours.