Hermione sighed as she flipped through the heavy volume and occasionally jotted down a few notes. She had finally found the book she needed to complete her potions project at the Ministry. Who would have thought that the only book with the complete instructions for this particular potion was at Hogwarts? And being here again after years of absence, she felt like she had come home. But in the end it had only given her more trouble. She had been able to find all but one ingredient on the list and that ingredient was rare, rare enough to give her a hassle finding it anywhere in Britain. So now she was attempting to find a way around using it all together and instead recreate its effects with other materials.
All of the sudden, a small green vial was placed in front of her. Blinking slowly, Hermione turned her head around and found Professor Snape standing beside her, the ever present scowl etched onto his face. "I do believe this could be of use to you." He sneered, his lank greasy hair, littered with grey streaks, was pulled back in a low ponytail and made his prominent nose stand out even more. Snape's black eyes were staring at her as though he could see right through her and she shuddered faintly.
When Snape had first been exonerated by a Pensieve memory of all things, Hermione had been stunned that he had chosen to accept the Headmistress proposal to return to Hogwarts. She thought he would have taken the opportunity to get as far away as possible. He should have. But she couldn't help feeling relieved and a bit happy that he had stayed. Hermione had come to terms with the fact that he would never be anything than spiteful, she had after all gotten to know his reasoning and motives well enough during the war.
Snape had come to their aid, it was his information and help which had given them the advantage. In the end, they had won the war… and they had hated him, barely even tolerated him throughout it all. Hermione winced inwardly when she thought of how she had treated him even after she had gotten to know him. If there hadn't been all the bad blood between them… she would probably still barely tolerate him. Snape was a difficult man to know, but she did like a challenge.
Hermione could feel the warmth of his thin body, hidden under the layers upon layers of fabric, seep into her own as Snape stood directly behind her. And for a brief moment she felt his long slim fingers run through her long, loose hair, stopping just long enough to twirl a single curl around the tip of one potions stained fingertip. And for a moment she was tempted to lean back against her chair and allow him to continue. Then the sensation stopped as his hand disappeared all together. "If you should require anything else, it would be faster to simply ask, Miss Granger." The corners of his mouth quirked slightly in the weak simile of a smile or the closest he could probably get.
Hermione could only watch as Snape stalked out of the library, his black robes billowing out behind him and his nasty glare forcing anyone in his way to move back against the walls and let him pass. Slowly, she tore her gaze away from the doorway and looked at the small vial in front of her. Picking it up, she read the label and her eyes widened in surprise. This was what she had needed, what she had searched for in every apothecary she could find. How had Snape known?
Suddenly, she remembered that she had seen him in most of the apothecaries she had visited. Had he been following her? Or was it simply a coincidence? Either way, he had just given her a highly expensive and rare ingredient… just like that, without asking anything in return. And he had touched her, well, he had touched her hair. He never touched anyone if he could avoid it. He had been kind to her, though with his own usual touch of snide words. Snape had smiled at her…
Then she was up from her chair in a shot and ran out of the library, ignoring Madam Pince's reprimands to be quiet. Hermione caught up with Snape, just as he was about to turn around a corner. She grabbed a hold of his sleeve and linked her arm with his. Smiling, she looked up into his rather stunned-looking face and asked. "I'm feeling a bit peckish. Join me for a spot of lunch in the kitchens?" All she got was the slightest incline of his head, but she kept smiling and headed toward the lower levels, dragging Snape along with her.