Chapter 1

"Who is she?"

"I don't know. Do you hear her accent?"

"I think she's American."

"Wow. A transfer student!"

"I hope she's not in our house."

Whispers continued throughout the Great Hall as an older student walked in following Albus Dumbledore. Her robes were unadorned with house colors and her eyes were trained to the floor. She was clutching books to her chest, struggling to reach a hand up to push a strand of wavy auburn hair out of her face. She stopped when Dumbledore did, and looked up into his twinkling eyes. Nodding when he said something to her, she headed over to the Hufflepuff table, to the amazement of the resident Hufflepuffs. She sat down as far away from everyone as was possible. Nobody heard a word from her rose lips, and nobody saw a smile draw gentle lines on her ivory skin. So everyone ignored her. Not like it mattered. She was used to it.

Summer was indeed from America. She transferred to Hogwarts when her muggle father was transferred to a navy base near London. She had been attending an American school of magic, and, especially because she was in her last year, wanted to continue her studies. All it had taken was a simple owl from one headmaster to another, and everything was set up. Summer had smiled when she told her father that no, she didn't mind moving. And in a way, she didn't care. Though she knew people in her old school and even considered some of them "friends", they weren't exactly people who noticed her more than someone to help with schoolwork, and they certainly didn't invite her places. Despite this, she didn't relish the notion of leaving even that simple security behind. It was her nobility and loyalty that put her into Hufflepuff, she was told. That must be the reason she didn't refute her father – even though he didn't matter much anyway.

- - -

Teachers spoke kind words to Summer as the weeks went by. People had grown accustomed to her odd presence and demeanor, so didn't notice her. Boredom started to seep in as the new-ness of the school wore off.

One evening in early December, she finally decided to stop moping around so much, and do something other than the normal schoolwork. Books, while perhaps her best friends, could only do so much. For that was how she had been passing the time – reading. Potions had always been her best subject, and still remained as such, despite Professor Snape's… encouragement. Oftentimes she heard other students grumbling about him, but she merely shrugged her shoulders and continued with her assignment, oblivious to his attitude. So why not ask Snape to give her an assignment?

- - -

Saturday morning she awoke to the smell of pine trees. Apparently it was a Hufflepuff tradition to put up a Christmas tree two weeks before the holiday. Lovely. In time for my birthday. We won't be decorating it, though, she sighed to herself as she stretched and slowly got out of bed. Summer's feet hit the cold stone and she shivered. Winter had never been her favorite season, and she wasn't accustomed to the stone of the castle. She shook her head and quickly put her slippers on, reveling in the warmth they gave her discomfited feet. I need coffee.

Summer put on her deep red dressing gown and cautiously headed into the common room. Sure enough, three seventh years were overseeing the placement of two large pine trees. Many other students were laughing and smiling in anticipation of the holiday season. She leaned against the wall away from everyone, and watched in quiet amusement. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the scent of pine needles and smoke – the scent of pure happiness and freedom. A small smile crept over her face, and she opened her eyes only to see some of the students having a fake snowball fight; the snowballs were created from their wands and disappeared after contact. Summer once again shook her head and then went back upstairs to change her out of her pajamas and into a cozy green sweater, which complemented her eyes, and a pair of jeans. Muggle clothes for the muggle, she casually thought.

Amazingly, she was able to creep through the common room without so much as a second glance. While used to her odd presence, the Hufflepuffs were ever the social creatures and, in this instance, would have tried to hit her with a snowball. Luckily, Summer escaped this time. She breathed a sigh of relief and made her way to the Great Hall for breakfast – and a cup of coffee.

She sat down at the table and quietly ate. The Hall wasn't very noisy, as most students were still enjoying a lie-in. Summer had always been a morning person, and even when allowed to sleep in, would almost always get up before 10-o-clock. So she sat and enjoyed the morning silence, sipping on her pumpkin spice coffee, a holiday favorite. She noticed there were a few teachers at the staff table, but some had already left for the holidays. Snape and McGonagall were chatting, as were Dumbledore and Professor Sprout. Naturally the heads of houses had to stay.

I need something to do over the break, Summer thought. As if on cue, Professor Snape got up from the table, reminding her that she had intended to ask him for a project. Quickly finishing the last dregs of her coffee and savoring it, she followed him out of the Great Hall and down towards the dungeons. She walked down the stone halls, her footsteps reverberating off the walls. Her breath came out in wisps, but she simply shrugged and put her hands inside the sleeves of her sweater like she normally would.

When Summer finally reached Snape's private chambers, where she assumed he would be, she knocked on the dark wooden door. The sound of papers rustling and heels clicking reached her ears, muffled through the door. It opened a crack before fully revealing a rather tempered-looking Snape.

"What do you want, Miss Sundale?" he asked in a very irritated tone. She noticed that he looked rather tired, and was leaning against the doorframe, something she didn't think he would do regularly. It almost seemed like he was relaxed – although his temper said quite the opposite.

Summer merely looked up into his dark eyes with a blank look on her face, one which she usually used anyway. It didn't require much effort.

"I was curious as to whether or not you needed any help brewing potions over the holiday." Snape seemed to roll his eyes at her and stared back with a tight scowl on his face. Evidently it was supposed to frighten her away, but after all that she'd been through, not much scared Summer.

Snape glared at her even more before finally answering her request. "I'm not sure why I should allow someone who seems to apathetic to the subject to help me with potions – many of which are beyond the seventh year level. It is highly unlikely that one such as yourself, the loyal Hufflepuff to her friends, would be interested in spending every single day down in the dungeons concocting potions."

Summer rolled her own eyes and sighed. She didn't think it would be this hard to convince the potions master to allow her to help with work she thought he didn't want to do anyway. Fine. He wants the reasons, he'll get the reasons.

"If you honestly want to know, sir, potions happens to be my favorite subject." He started to say something, but she cut him off. "It reminds me of cooking the muggle way." She smiled reminiscently. "When I was young, I would cook with my mother, and I realized that changing the recipe in the tiniest of ways could affect the outcome and taste of whatever was being prepared. So when I started to learn potions, it reminded me of my mother and the joy of making something truly yours, even in a small way.

"As for the other part, I would not have asked for a project such as this if I did not intend to be dedicated to it, or in the words you used, loyal." She stood still staring up at him, his face unchanging. He slightly shifted positions while looking her up and down, almost as if evaluating her. After a moment he grunted and quickly turned on his heel to walk back into his room. Noticing that he did not close the door, Summer shrugged and walked in after him.

Professor Snape's quarters were slightly warmer than the dungeons in which they resided. A fire was burning in the hearth on the right-hand wall. A red couch and chair surrounded a low coffee table. Summer had to smile at the though of Snape entertaining any guests in his private quarters; it simply wasn't something anyone would think him even capable of. Turning her head back to her left, she noticed two desks in either corner, both of which were piled high with both papers and tomes – light reading, she smirked – and saw Snape sitting behind the one closer to her. Between the two desks a door was hiding. That must have been the entryway to his bedroom.

Forgetting where she was, and who she was with, Summer quickly found bookshelf upon bookshelf of books; many of the like which she had never imagined. She stood in front of the desk Snape inhabited and was looking at each title with wide eyes, the way a child might look at his new toys on Christmas Day. So enraptured was she, that she didn't notice him walk up behind her.

"May I help you with something?" he asked in a silky, yet cruel voice. She quickly turned around and softly smiled, looking down at the floor.

"I'm sorry, Professor. It's just that…" Summer gestured at the books. "There are so many, and they look amazing." She looked back up at him, the scowl firmly in place on his face.

"Indeed," he sneered back. Snape turned again and sat back down. Summer thought for some reason that her behaviour unsettled him, since he never actually frightened her. It was rather entertaining to put the famed Potions Master on his toes. She rather enjoyed it.

"If you don't intend to dally all day, you may start making some Pepperup Potion for Madam Pomfrey right now." He paused as if expecting her to protest the immediate start. Appearing unsettled again, he walked over to a door on the far wall and opened it. "I will allow you to use my personal lab, but mark you this, if I find a hair out of place, I will report you immediately to Dumbledore." He seemed to be leveling a finger at her in admonishment. Oh this is too much fun, she thought to herself.

"Yes Professor. I wouldn't dream of doing otherwise," she sweetly replied. Without waiting for a response from him, she walked through the door into his personal lab. There were a few wooden tables, along with shelves filled with books, ingredients, vials, and many other artifacts she couldn't quite place.

Summer perused through the books, not forgetting the reason she was in the room in the first place, and found the book she was looking for: Mediwizardry Made Easy by Selma Thurdan. While she had never actually worked with this particular book, it was blatantly obvious that she could find the directions to make the Pepperup Potion within it. Setting to work, Summer flipped through the book (pausing once or twice at something that intrigued her), and finally found the potion she was looking for. It was a rather simple potion, but one which would take all day to fill up all of Madam Pomfrey's stores.

Quietly moving papers and books out of her way, she found the cauldrons and picked out a twelve-inch diameter one. It was pewter, so it was fairly heavy, but she managed to carry it over to the table she had decided to work at – one which enabled her to stare into either room, since she knew this potion had a fairly long brewing period (although not nearly as long as the Polyjuice Potion). Summer deftly found the ingredients she needed, and almost silently began the brewing process; adding four ounces of what she still called "distilled water", grounding the fresh peppermint, adding a few pinches of cocoa. She reveled in the process and the scents surrounding her, closing her eyes as she had done earlier that day in the common room.

Scent was the only thing she ever truly got lost in, which was perhaps another reason she loved potions – it felt tangible, according to her first five senses. You could smell it; you could taste it; you could see its crisp color and you could feel its texture. Potions were even audible, if one decided to stop tinkering long enough to listen closely.

Doing just that, Summer sat back in her stool for a moment and with her eyes still closed, allowed herself to get lost within her senses. It almost smelled like a chocolate factory, so strong was the scent of mint and cocoa, although a slight hint of aconite lingered as an after-smell. The soft bubbling of the cauldron sounded like the dull thrumming of a drum, further lulling her into reverie as her mind's eye saw the swirling colors. She could feel herself smiling, and for once, it was a truly serene smile.

- - -

Snape still sat at his desk, much as he had when the dratted Hufflepuff had disturbed his peace. If it wasn't one student, it was another which decided to be slightly more than bothersome. He grunted to himself, realizing that at least he would have one less thing to do over the winter holidays. Glancing up, he saw her sitting near the doorway to the lab, a slight smile on her face – one which made him grimace. If she wasn't actually doing something productive, he might consider throwing her out of his rooms. Scratch that, he knew he would. He shook his head, the black lanky hair falling in his face. As he reached up with a slender hand to push it back out of his face, he realized that the bothersome girl had come to stand in front of him again.

He sighed and drawled the best he could, given his current fatigue. "What is it now Miss Sundale?"

She almost seemed to fidget for once. This made Snape feel a little more like himself this morning.

"I realize that it wouldn't have been prudent for me to just get up and walk away, and thus I thought I should ask your permission before going to the kitchens to get some tea. It is teatime, you know," she replied with a smirk. The edge to her voice and behavior was back.

"As much as I'm sure other teachers would appreciate your consideration, I, however, could care less. By the end of the day I will certainly see if your work got done – which I expect it to be, or I shall not allow you further access to my private residence. That said, get gone from eyes before I deduct points from Hufflepuff. Holiday or no." Snape immediately returned his gaze to the papers in front of him, deftly picking up the brown quill and beginning to scratch marks upon the parchments. The only sound that lit the room for a moment was the crackling of the fireplace and the scratching of his quill.

More than anything, he felt her leave the chamber when the door opened to let in the damp chill of the dungeons. He glowered in that direction when the chill hit him, but shook his head once again. Oddly enough, Snape had the feeling that Summer was going to be the end of him, one way or another. With that thought, he shuddered and was glad to be rid of the girl, if only for a half hour.

Alas, he was gravely mistaken. Less than ten bloody minutes later she walked back through the door, a flash of color in his otherwise drab room. Her green eyes sparkled slightly and as she turned around after closing the door, Snape realized why. She had decided to bring teatime down here. Upon seeing his scowl and glare, Summer's face sobered slightly as she set the tray down upon the small coffee table by the fire. He watched her fidget again, her fingers toying with the auburn hair that she had actually decided to let down. She pressed her lips together before sitting down on the couch and pouring herself a cup of tea. Snape couldn't help but notice there was another cup and saucer resting in the tray.

I'll be damned if she drags me into teatime with her. If Albus couldn't for ten years, she has no ability to, he confidently thought to himself. Almost as if hearing his thoughts, she looked up at him with her dark green eyes and smiled very meekly, almost as if she was embarrassed. A hand gestured towards the empty chair and the teacup.

"I thought… well, since you've been kind enough to allow me something productive to fill my time, I though I should find a small way to thank you. I wasn't sure what kind of tea you liked, so I… asked…" Her words were left hanging as he simply continued to stare at her as if she were insane. Which he almost thought she was. She looked back at him for a moment or two before returning to her cup, her eyes now very intent on the designs offered by it. Her entire demeanor had shifted from earlier in the day.

The afternoon proved to be completely uneventful, as the girl had finally realized to stop bothering him with meddlesome questions. As soon as she had finished brewing and packaging the Pepperup Potion, she had very quickly left his chambers with a small, muttered, "Thank you, goodbye."

Change always disturbed Snape. Especially when it was one which seemed to come out of nowhere, and one which was the complete opposite of what was known. After Summer had offered him some tea, and his silent denials, her entire posture and attitude had shifted from a cheeky, friendly one, to one which could only be described as withdrawn. An emotion he knew only too well.

Snape paused in the middle of a sentence from the novel he was reading. Looking up from the armchair and into the fireplace, he furrowed his eyebrows, and couldn't help but admonish himself for even thinking about the girl. She had helped him, and that was all that mattered. Why should he care about her emotions. He had no reason to. With that slight resolution, his eyes returned to the text and put her out of mind.