Story Disclaimer: This story is based off characters and locations owned and created by J. K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Publishing, Warner Brothers or any other company that own copyright to the Harry Potter series. The story may include characters and locations owned/created by other parties including but not limited to Joss Whedon, George Lucas, Lucasfilm, Fox, Paramount, Random House, Penguin Putnam, Inc., Ballantine Books, and a variety of other people. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
"Professor." A very prim and businesslike voice sliced through Severus Snape's concentration.
It was Thursday afternoon, his free period, which was a time when students might drop in and ask for help with homework or a particularly confusing concept from sometime during the week. Luckily for him, most students made it a point not to spend time tête-à-tête with the Potions Master, even if it meant a poor grade for the term.
Thank Merlin for that. He treasured these quiet moments, and had been quite engrossed in filling out the next supply order for his classroom. He looked toward the speaker, and found a pair of brown eyes looking somewhere past his left shoulder. Accompanying said eyes was a pile of curly brown hair, and a small, pinched mouth that strangely mirrored Headmaster McGonagall at her sternest.
Hermione Granger. He sighed with irritation.
"Speak. If you must."
Miss Granger held a small purple form in her hand. Was that truly…?
"I'm dropping Potions. I'll need your signature, if you please."
Hermione pushed the drop card forward.
Snape detected a hint of sarcasm, and that ever-present ridiculous amount of formality in her tone. However, he chose to ignore it in the light of more interesting news. Dropping Potions? She was an irritating know-it-all, but as much as he hated to admit it, she was the most gifted student in all of his classes.
Not that he would ever admit that. It had been an almost all-out war between them since this school term started.
Snape slid his fingertips over one corner of the card. The card bore the signature of Minerva McGonagall. Well. He bent his head and tersely signed his name. Without looking back up, he held it out toward her.
She ripped the card from his fingers. "Thank you so much, Sir." Her voice dripped with affected sweetness. "And may I say how sorry I'll be not to have the privilege of your instruction any longer."
Flounce, and exit. Chit. He didn't even have to look up to see it occur — Her hair and uniform whirling to catch up behind her as she pranced out of his Potions classroom. He'd seen her leave in the same fashion dozens of times throughout the previous six years in which he'd taught her. Usually after a particularly acidic exchange between the two of them, which seemed to be increasing in number the more years that passed.
From the first day she'd entered his classroom she had irked him. Her eager hand was always first in the air, always accompanied by the appropriate answer to whatever he could throw at her. Miss Granger's one redeeming quality was that the Potter boy seemed to dislike her, and she him. Of course, that had all changed a few weeks later. She'd been a rotten little show off since.
Unfortunately, she'd been almost infallible in her studies. He'd often try to make her feel foolish in front of the class by asking her questions to which she should not know the answer. He firmly believed that Miss Granger memorized her schoolbooks before the start of each term. It rankled.
During the first few years she had remained sufficiently intimidated. She'd never openly challenged him or his teachings, and beyond the constant interference with Longbottom's hopeless ministrations, he'd had little to complain about. She'd simply annoyed him.
Then, three years ago, he'd come upon the effects of a confrontation between Potter and Draco Malfoy, which had instead afflicted Miss Granger and Goyle. He'd made a small crack then about the size of her teeth, which were not abnormally large…simply noticeable.
Ever since then, her eyes had refused to meet his for more than a brief millisecond. Her work was, as always, exceptional. Her hand continued to rise in class, but not nearly as often. Her eager-to-impress attitude was severely dampened, and there was a tone of insouciance in all her dealings in the classroom from then on. She was so damned subtle that there was never anything concrete to punish. Any other teacher would never have sensed the impudence that radiated from her small form, seated primly at her desk. Her papers had become increasingly saucy, and two weeks ago she did the absolute unthinkable.
Term had just begun. He had assigned the class a rather complicated glamour potion dealing with changing the appearance of an item temporarily. The staff meeting before class had run long and he had found himself hurrying to prepare the lesson before the Gryffindors and Slytherins arrived for double Potions. The instructions were hastily scrawled on the board in front of the room in barely legible writing. He needed to complete some notes from the previous meeting, and his mind was absorbed completely by them. He had "suggested" the students work quietly and efficiently.
Quiet indeed. He could hear the rustle of her robes as she raised her hand.
"Sir, I regret that I am unable to complete this potion."
Always that damnable saucy tone. That overly polite jargon.
"Sir, I have no phluxweed."
The students' heads remained bowed, slowly chopping and preparing the myriad of ingredients. Every word was being absorbed, however.
"It's none of my concern if you were unable to procure the items on your supply list, Miss Granger."
"Sir, phluxweed was not included on the l-"
"Don't be silly, girl." He cut her off quite rudely. "It certainly was."
Her eyes were downcast and she managed to look sorrowful. "I regret that the supplies listed only fluxweed, Sir. F-L-U-X-weed. I was actually unaware that a P-H-L-U-X-weed was in existence."
At this point every one of the Gryffindors (and several of the Slytherins) strangled into their respective cauldrons very loud and rude-sounding sniggers. Longbottom sat next to her, not daring to laugh, eyes large in a frightened face. He'd always been terrified of Snape. Potter had no such reservations. He had grasped onto the bottom of Weasley's sweater and was pulling down emphatically as his shoulders shuddered in stifled laughter. Pinned by his clothes, Weasley was forced to lay his head on the table as fat tears rolled out of his crinkled eyes and pooled on his desk. Hermione Granger continued to look somewhere in the direction of Professor Snape, ever well mannered with an expression of polite indifference, hands folded on desk.
What little color that was in Professor Snape's face slowly drained. His crooked teeth showed through a mouth slightly parted with astonishment. His voice fell to an almost inaudible whisper.
"There will be silence in this classroom."
It was so. Silent, but with many Gryffindor shoulders still shaking, heads bowed. This only incensed Snape even more. His eyes were solid black chips that seemed to sputter as he spoke with a frigidly low voice.
"Twenty points from Gryffindor. And detention for a week."
"Am I to assume that these 'weeds' are one in the same?"
"Fifty. And if I hear you speak once more this day, I will make it one hundred."
Oh, she had angered him that day. And embarrassed him badly in front of students of his own house. He'd scribbled those lines so hastily on the board. That it was a legitimate mistake on his part made it all the worse. That Miss Granger had noticed it and had the monumental cheek to point it out in front of the class was well, infuriating.
She'd flounced out of the room that day as well. So damned proud of herself though there was no outward emotion indicating such. He could tell just from the way her hair bounced from the back. The fifty points lost would be a pittance compared to bitty Hermione Granger besting the Potions Master and the prestige it would lend Gryffindor. Her week of detention with Filch was served with no complaints from either party. Pity. He'd have liked to assign detention to her for the rest of her Hogwarts career.
Severus scowled at the memory. He pulled out his ledger and turned to the Gryffindor sixth years. Granger, Hermione J. was found without difficulty, and he paused a moment before scratching the name off with a bold slash. Good riddance.
"Dropped Potions? Are you mental?" Harry stared at Hermione over a forkful of mashed turnip in the Great Hall.
"Yes, I'm mental." Hermione busied herself with a dish of clotted cream.
"In your Sixth Year?" Harry's fork was still raised to his mouth.
"Pfeh," said Ron. "Why didn't anyone tell me we could drop core classes? I'd have skipped the dungeon altogether starting first year."
"You can't," said Hermione. "I've had to beg McGonagall since the end of last term to let me drop it. Honestly, Harry, either put the fork into your mouth or onto your plate."
"And she let you?" Ron looked incredulous.
"Only after I promised a spectacular grade on my NEWTS in Potions. I think I'll be able to study enough on my own to get an E at the very least. And I'm picking up Astronomy again in its place."
"Lucky," said Harry, with not a small amount of jealousy in his words.
"Wish I had the Headmistress in my pocket," grumbled Ron.
"Who's to say you can't? I heard she's looking for a new pool boy for her private estate," said Harry.
"Yes, I've often thought you'd look fetching in a Speedo, Ronald," said Hermione sincerely.
"I've just remembered; a Speedo doesn't have pockets."
"Oh good point, Harry. I could probably knit him one with a pocket on the bum though. Put an 'R' on it as well. My own special twist on a Weasley sweater."
Harry and Hermione chortled as Ron rolled his eyes and continued to shovel turnips into his mouth. "Merlin, don't ever tell me what a Speedo is."
The three became engrossed in their meal for a short while, until Harry exclaimed, "Wait! You can't quit Potions! Who's to help us with the work?"
Ron suddenly looked quite worried. "Yeah, you know we uh, need your notes to double-check ours with."
Hermione glanced at the two through lowered eyes. They were so lazy. "Between the two of you I'm sure you can come up with a full set of notes."
"But yours are so much more…" Ron's hands gestured in the air, "er-Complete!"
"Oh please. I will look over your homework from now on if you two promise me one thing. Neville. You've got to help him in that class; he's no good at it. What's more, he's so scared of Snape that he can't think straight as soon as he walks into the dungeon."
Harry and Ron agreed eagerly and miraculously found their appetites again.
"I don't think he'd be half bad at Potions if Snape wasn't such an arse to him," said Harry.
Ron nodded. "Yeah, I've seen his hands shake so bad that he couldn't cut his sneezewort straight."
Hermione was silent as the two boys began a spirited argument about the merits of broom polish. She'd seen Neville's hands shake too. It was so ridiculous and unneeded, all of Snape's posturing and nastiness toward his students. It made her sick, the way he treated them. She couldn't stand to watch it any longer.
Of course, to be perfectly honest with herself, that's not why she'd dropped the class. Her motives were much more self-centered. In short, she detested Snape and didn't want to be in the same room with the man. She found it harder and harder to control her own mutinous remarks in his classroom.
Oh, she knew it was childish to hold a grudge, but his cruel comment about her teeth in fourth year was not forgotten. Her eyes winced simply recalling the incident. She'd promised herself after her first Potions class that Snape would never make her cry, but that day he'd succeeded. Luckily, she had escaped to the Hospital Wing before the tears could fall silently down her cheeks.
Not that she hadn't been called worse in her life, she thought ruefully. Insults from Malfoy and his cronies were one thing. She cared very little for their opinion. But while she'd always found Snape to be rude and domineering, she'd also admired his abilities very much. He was a talented wizard, and she'd learned a great deal from his instruction. She'd had a fair amount of respect for him, if not for his method of teaching. He'd been indispensable in the Order, and more importantly, to Dumbledore. One dreadful night last term, he had made the sacrifice that many would have shirked from when he obeyed Albus Dumbledore's plea. Snape had been a wanted man for almost a month before the prophecy was discovered in Dumbledore's office, one that exonerated Snape and eventually led Harry to the discovery and shattering of Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Still, many loyal to Voldemort still sought to uphold his ideals in a new master: Lucius Malfoy. The Death Eaters were still very much a powerful presence in the Wizarding world. Snape found that many in the Wizard Community distrusted him as result of this, not completely believing that he had indeed remained loyal to Dumbledore. Finding himself faced with exile and scorn, he'd returned to the relative safety of Hogwarts. As luck would have it, the Defense Against the Dark Arts position had already been filled, leaving Potions as his only alternative. Hermione knew that it must have been hard, expecting a hero's welcome, only to find suspicion.
Still, he'd hurt her dreadfully that day in her fourth year. She was still angry to think that he'd insulted her so, and had continued to pick on her in class. She'd carefully avoided eye contact with him during the school year and during Order activities unless it was absolutely necessary.
Spurred by her thoughts, she quickly glanced up at the High Table.
Snape was looking straight at her, eyes dark and squinting.
Damn! Hermione quickly looked away.
Snape had found himself thinking on Miss Granger often throughout today. Dropping Potions. But why? It seemed to be an unsound plan. It was no secret that Hermione Granger cared very much about her schoolwork. It seemed uncharacteristic of her to risk a low grade on the NEWTS in Potions.
Before lunch, he had sought out a certain tartan-clad matron in the Staff Room. "Minerva, a word," said Snape.
"I've just had Hermione Granger in my classroom."
"Oh!" Minerva straightened her glasses. "My goodness, how very vexing of me. I'd meant to tell you that she'd be coming 'round with a drop card. Miss Granger has expressed a very fervent interest in Metal Charming. She'll need to pick up Astronomy and make up some lost time. Potions was the only place we could see to make space. The girl has excellent marks in your class. I thought that she could study Potions sufficiently on her own time before her NEWTS."
Snape was silent. Metal Charming? Of all the asinine and insipid subjects to choose for an occupation! What a waste of ability. Miss Granger may be an insufferable know-it-all, but she was certainly bound for better than a career of making teapots and coal hods.
"Of course Severus, if you feel she's not capable, I'll put her back in directly. I'm not entirely satisfied with her selection of occupation either, but it is her choice, after all."
"No, Minerva. That's not necessary."
Minerva paused before she continued. "Perhaps you'd review her progress in a few months time. If she's not up to speed we can put her back into class."
Snape grunted. "I can think of more agreeable ways of spending my time. But I suppose I could pose her a few questions. Analyze a vial of potion or two."
Minerva looked pleased. "Excellent, Severus."
Snape swept into the Great Hall for lunch and took his seat to the right of the headmistress. Roast beef and mashed turnips. Again. The house elves truly needed a greater variety of menu. He was tired of the same food, year after year. Instead of dishing up a plate, Snape opted for a mug of tea and a buttered scone.
He ate rapidly and found himself idly gazing about the Hall. He glared at Hufflepuff Wayne Hopkins, who was about to dribble a dollop of marmalade down Megan Jones's back. Hopkins quickly resumed his meal, ears burning. Young Mr. Creevey was perched on the end of his bench, talking animatedly and waving his hands about. Unfortunately, one hand contained a rather large spoonful of turnip, which was soon airborne. A thunderous bellow erupted from the Hufflepuff table as Owen Cauldwell wiped off his face.
Luckily, Creevey had managed not to splatter the rest of his tablemates, which included Miss Granger and her two friends. She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear as she spoke with Potter and Weasley. Suddenly, she and Potter were laughing. She had even, white teeth. The hefty buckteeth that he had mocked years ago were now sized to an ordinary dimension.
Snape ran his tongue over his own crooked teeth. Her face was bent over her plate now, apparently deep in thought. Abruptly she glanced up from her plate to look directly at him. She swiftly lowered her eyes and turned away. Severus scowled. Idiot girl. Metal Charming indeed.