Becoming Familiar With a Man of Misery Part 1

"Miss Granger, I do not believe you. Even if I did, I would not want you. Now, leave me before you force me to do something you'll regret," Professor Snape snarled at the witch seated in front of his desk.

"But Professor, you don't have to be alone," the chestnut-haired witch said to him, not rising, "that's all I want you to know. I admire and respect you so much…and…well, I can't help what I feel."

This was too much.

Severus rose from behind his desk, walked up to the seated witch and grasped her by the chin so hard his fingers dug into her flesh. He lifted her from the chair painfully by her face.

"Listen you idiot woman. I don't care how you feel about me. I am a wizard that has NO interest in in any relationship with witches. They are not to be trusted, no matter how innocent the package they come wrapped in. Eventually the ribbon drops off and the ugly truth pours out. I have enough pain to deal with, Miss Granger. You will not come to me with your youth and innocence, dangling your virginity in front of me like a lure, offering love and sex to add my misery."

He still held her chin tight in his fingers, his black eyes flashing at her in derision.

"Plus, you were my student. How did you ever think I would be interested in a relationship with a former student? Miss Granger, your know-it-allness has failed you in this instance. You have no idea of the kind of man I am if you think that offering yourself to me like a living martyr would make me happy, or better my condition. I am not, nor have I ever been attracted to you, though I've been aware of your obsession for me since your seventh year for quite a while. And I've noticed you at Headquarters watching me with those big amber eyes, trying to draw me into conversation…trying to arrange 'alone time' with me in the library by pretending to be looking for books. You are stalking me, Miss Granger, invading my space and my privacy. Other wizards might be drawn to your charms, but you hold no charm for me."

He stared into her wide amber eyes. They were confused and frightened. This seemed to infuriate the dark wizard even more. He snarled at her, almost ravening at her like a beast in pain.

"Get out of my classroom, Miss Granger! Get out now!" he gasped, throwing her backwards, making the witch stumble and almost fall.

Hermione stumbled back, stunned at the rage in the Potions Master's black eyes as he stalked toward her menacingly as if ready to beat her within an inch of her life. The witch had thought honest confession would be the answer. It had taken her months to get up the courage to approach him. She believed telling the Professor how she truly felt would move him to accept her. She thought…she thought he would not be able to resist her gift. Wasn't a sexual relationship with a young, pretty witch what all men wanted? That was what she had been led to believe. Obviously the Professor wasn't all men.

"I'm…I'm sorry Professor. I just thought…" she began as she backed toward the door, the wizard still advancing on her.

"You just thought I'd shag you and be grateful," he seethed, "Unlike most wizards Miss Granger, bedding women who've barely reached maturity is not my goal in life…and bedding you has never crossed my mind…your willingness doesn't change that at all. I have enough trial in my life, I don't need you to add to it. Now go! Before I hex you!"

He pulled out his wand and pointed it at her.

Hermione turned and bolted out the classroom door, leaving it wide open in her haste. The Professor slammed it shut behind her, panting heavily. He had been close to actually hexing the witch. He replaced his wand in his robes pocket, stalked back to his desk and sat down, rubbing his hand over his face as he tried to calm himself. When he heard Hermione was coming back to Hogwarts for a year to earn credit as a rotating teacher's assistant for her Liberal Magical Arts degree, he knew it would mean trouble for him. The witch wouldn't leave him alone as it was.

Now she comes to his classroom declaring she loved him? That was preposterous. What did the girl, yes the 'girl' despite her being twenty years old, know about love? Being willing to let a man twice her age stick his tool in her because she thought him some kind of hero and in need of female companionship was not love. It was ignorance. It was stupidity. And saving herself for him? Whatever for? The witch was out of her mind if she thought that he would fall on her just because she hadn't been touched yet, though he had suspected either Ron or Harry or maybe both had popped her cherry years ago.

Severus had sworn off women and relationships long ago after he began his second service to the Dark Lord, and had an affair with a woman who was leading him on and was in fact quite promiscuous. She had seemed sweet, innocent and worthy of his love. Actually, Hermione reminded him of her somewhat. He caught the witch having sex with not one, but two men in the bed they had shared. One of the men was Lucius Malfoy, the most twisted sexual deviant he knew. The other was Theodore Knotts. The wizards had her in a truly compromising position, both tools shoved firmly in both orifices. She hadn't let the Potions Master anywhere near her ass.

The Professor couldn't kill the pair, since they were fellow deatheaters. So he joined them, and together they brutalized his love mercilessly. She survived the encounter, but his heart was a complete casualty as he walked away from her sobbing, battered and bruised body. Yes, his heart died that night, though it didn't cease to beat. From that day forward, women were all but dead to him, the exception being the prostitutes in Knockturn alley who were, in his opinion, the most honest women on earth. They admitted they were whores who would shag anybody. They didn't pretend to love him, and he didn't need to be loved beyond getting a blowjob on occasion.

Now here this silly chit comes, offering herself, thinking she could end his bitterness and give his life meaning. It already had meaning. He was a spy whose job was to be tortured and beaten for the sake of a thankless wizarding world. He would probably die for it in the end, and his death be celebrated by those who didn't know his role in the war against Voldemort. Hermione had no idea how deep his bitterness ran, how deeply rooted it was in the bedrock of his soul, and how those roots branched out into every aspect of his life, filling him with a cold dislike of those who had the balm of blissful ignorance to sustain them, who didn't know just how ugly and twisted the world really was. Those idealistic bubbleheads like Hermione Granger who believed a few kisses and a night of sex could cure the ills of a wizard who had absorbed the world's sickness into his very bones.

Albus tried to convince him of the same thing.

"For gods sake, Severus, go get laid!" the Headmaster had exclaimed to him in a fit of exasperation at the Potions Master's crabby attitude. "Find some sweet, young thing to bring you a little joy, and balance out the evil you live with day to day. There are quite a few witches that find your darkness attractive."

The Professor scowled. He wouldn't be surprised if the old coot had encouraged Hermione to come to him, thinking he would find the brilliant girl irresistible, thinking his dark side would come out and he would take what she offered if only to find release. Hermione Granger was considered quite a prize, and the male members of the Order could often be heard discussing her in hushed tones. They cared little about the witch's brain, the curmudgeons. It was her physical attributes that got their brooms running. But his own broom remained grounded when it came to the witch. Her beauty didn't move him at all. There was no real beauty in the world.

Severus knew beauty was only a mask nature granted women to attract men, like the colors of the Venus Flytrap attracted hapless insects to be trapped in its jaws. It was no coincidence that the treacherous carnivorous plant was named for the Goddess of Love.

Beauty had nothing to do what was inside. Women could not be trusted. They weakened men physically, mentally and emotionally. He had seen the strongest men reduced to sniveling, simpering shells of themselves behind loving women. He had also seen a trusted deatheater betrayed and put to death on the word of a female deatheater, who, seeking to move up in the ranks, revealed pillow talk they shared after sex in which the doomed deatheater stated he was unsure if Voldemort's plans for the wizarding world was in their best interest. He died horribly.

And the bitches in service to the Dark Lord wondered why he never indulged them. His life might not be much, but he still clung to it. There was already enough treachery in his life between Dumbledore and Voldemort. He needed no female to add to an already heavy load of problems. If Hermione Granger knew what was good for her, she would leave him alone completely. Now that he knew her agenda for certain, his tolerance level for the witch had dropped to zero. She'd be wise to stay out of his way. Just as everyone else did. Let him live his life of misery in peace.

The Potions Master returned to marking his students' parchments, his head lowered, his lank black hair falling forward, and a scowl plastered on his angular pale face.

Hermione Granger returned to her rooms, located just down the dungeon hallway below the Potions Master's private quarters. Her rooms were smaller, just a sitting area, a bedroom and a bathroom. She had no library and a regular tub and shower. Hermione was an intern, so she had none of the perks of a full staff member.

Hermione was so embarrassed and hurt by the Potions Master's reaction to her feelings toward him, her entire body was flushed red. She entered her rooms and sat down in the armchair, curling her legs under her, thinking about what had just transpired between herself and Professor Snape.

He was so full of anger and bitterness. Hermione could see it in his eyes as he walked toward her…and it wasn't as if he were seeing her as who she was, but what she represented to him as a woman. Betrayal, dishonesty, empty temptation. But she was none of those things. She was loyal, honest and would never offer anything she had no intention of following through on. If was as if the Professor couldn't see her because he was looking at her through the color of his personal pain. And it painted her as ugly as the rest of his world.

Hermione sighed, and her eyes became a bit wet. It wasn't because the Potions Master had rejected her so harshly, but because she felt no one should have to live a life like he lived…one that was so hurtful and hateful that it made him turn away anything that hinted of good.

The Professor was such a courageous, selfless man…yes he was dark, sarcastic, cruel and cold, but there had to be something else, something that could be connected to, something that could bring him closer to the light. He was so immersed in darkness. His work as a spy, his life in the dungeons, his role as a deatheater, all took him out of the light. He was like a pale, dark sun, radiating a black light of his own over those who came in contact with him, dulling their light, their happiness. No wonder people drew away from him, fled his presence…he sucked joy out of others like a vampire sucked blood.

He had shunned her. Ran her out of his presence with a cold, hard bitterness that she felt shoot straight to her heart. Hermione ached for the wizard, and it wasn't all desire. Mostly, it was empathy for his aloneness, for his unwillingness to even try to find a bit of happiness for himself. He lived as if he were dead. Sequestered beneath the earth in his dungeons, pale as a corpse, radiating no warmth, no spirit, simply existing. Yes, he interacted with his students, a forced interaction that consisted of teaching, browbeating, punishing and dressing down. He seemed to find a perverse joy in taking points and assigning detentions, taking his students out of the carefree cycle of youth and curtailing them with his bitterness under the guise of authority.

Hermione dabbed at her eyes with the corner of her robes sleeve. Surely there was something she could do to make his life less dark, even if he refused her. Albus had been right. He had told her he doubted the Professor would return her feelings, or give her a chance to show him how she felt about him. The dark wizard found comfort in his misery. It was his pain and his balm. It was as if bitterness was the only thing that sustained him. It was familiar. It was the guiding force of his dark, lonely life. He wanted nothing to disrupt it.

Hermione sat in the armchair deep in thought. There had to be some way to open him up. The key was to give him an interest in something other than his own miserable state of affairs. Her eyebrows rose.

Familiar. His bitterness was familiar.

She had an idea. Tomorrow she would head out to Diagon Alley. Once there, she would find the perfect gift for the snarky, cold Professor. Something that might open a crack in his stony exterior.

If she could make a crack, maybe she could slip inside too.

Hermione dressed warmly. The autumn weather was quite cool this year. She put on her cloak, and headed out of her rooms anxious to get to Diagon Alley. She had just passed the Potions Master's rooms when his door opened, and he emerged.

His black eyes fell on the witch, and Hermione could feel his malice burning a hole into her back. She quickened her pace, hoping that he wouldn't catch up to her. She couldn't hear him. The Professor glided like a ghost through the halls of Hogwarts, his steps always silent. Hermione couldn't hear him, but could feel him behind her and wondered what thoughts were going through his head after last night's debacle. She just wanted to avoid the dark wizard for now.

Severus had been highly displeased to see the witch. It was as if she purposely inserted herself in his path. He knew she hadn't and it was just a matter of coincidence that they had left their rooms at almost the same time but she was the last person he wanted to see first thing in the morning. All of the anger of the previous night came back to him as he watched the small witch walk quickly in front of him, dressed in a traveling cloak. Obviously she was shirking her assistant duties this morning and going someplace. He could have passed her, but he wanted to make her nervous. He despised the little twit, but it gave him pleasure to know he made her uncomfortable.

Severus imagined he threw her for a loop by turning down her offer of companionship and sex. Hermione seemed to have everything handed to her on a platter. What the Gryffindor Princess wanted, the Gryffindor Princess got. This was unfair of the Potions Master. Every thing Hermione acquired, she worked hard for it. She earned the preferential treatment she received from the Headmaster and the other staff members. She had shown herself to be hardworking and dedicated to completing any task she was given, and she was driven to succeed.

That drive was what was taking her to Diagon Alley. She wanted to be with the dark wizard. She knew she would be good for the Potions Master, and he for her. She wasn't drawn to the young wizards who constantly hit on her. Most didn't have a full brain cell between them. She was a rather serious young woman, who spent a lot of time thinking about the wizarding world's plight and the threat of Voldemort. The fact that he wanted to take it over and destroy muggle-borns was an issue that was always at the forefront of her mind. Professor Snape was right, she did consider him a hero, and felt that he was risking his life for her personal survival as well as for others. And unlike most, she was extremely grateful to him, and wouldn't mind giving herself to such a courageous, brilliant man. She believed she loved him for what he was so selflessly doing, and if one believed hard enough, it seemed a reality.

Hermione didn't know the difference between love and infatuation, nor did she care to. The way she felt when in his presence was enough to drive her into his arms. She was the epitome of the trembling little virgin discovering her own sexuality. His dark eyes, smooth voice, sensuous mouth, beautiful hands, and dominating presence made her go hot all over. When she first returned to Hogwarts and walked into the Great Hall, Severus had been eating lunch. The witch felt a jolt of electricity skitter through her body when his piercing black eyes lifted and rested on her. Hermione thought she had gotten over her seventh year attraction, but she felt his heat immediately.

Most of the women her age she knew had already lost their virtue to some randy young wizard. But Hermione didn't want that. She wanted the loss of her virginity to be to someone of consequence. Someone of experience. Someone who excited her to the point of distraction. Someone like the Professor. She wanted her deflowerer to be the Professor. A wizard who wanted nothing, absolutely nothing to do with her. Hermione never, ever seemed to take the easy path in anything she did. Well, this would be a true test of her ability to overcome the odds, which at this point in time were leaning heavily in favor of the Professor.

Hermione turned left at the dungeon entrance and headed toward the main doors that led to the grounds of Hogwarts. Like Lot's wife, she couldn't resist looking back. The Potions Master emerged and gave her a black look that would have transformed her into a pillar of salt if it were possible. The witch turned away quickly and exited the castle, her cheeks flaming.

The Professor continued on to the Great Hall, wishing to make an entrance through the main doors rather than use the staff entrance. He was in the perfect mood to ruin the students' morning.

Hermione apparated to Diagon Alley. It was very early and many shops had not opened yet. She walked along the sidewalk, peering in the various windows, watching as the shopkeepers prepared for their day. As she approached the Magical Menagerie, she heard a deep male voice yelling and ran toward the noise. The shop door was open and she darted in to find a red-faced, balding wizard with a handlebar mustache, shaking his fist in the air, looking upward.

"You…you demon spawn!" he cried, "No wonder they brought you back!

Hermione heard a loud raucous caw, and a dark form swooped down at the wizard, who ducked then rose again spouting obscenities as it passed. Startled, Hermione looked up to see a raven clinging to the rafters, making a noise that sounded like evil laughter. The bird leaned toward the shopkeeper, then leaped off the beam and swooped toward him again, this time planting a large, dripping bird dropping smack in the middle of the wizard's head. It dripped down his forehead, over his wide nose and lips. The wizard turned an even darker shade of red.

"Gods damn it. That's it, Raucous! Say goodbye you bloody raven from hell!"

The wizard drew his wand and fired a blast at the bird, who hopped out of the way, screeching in terror as the wood splintered. The wizard cursed and fired another shot, winging the bird who fell. Hermione ran forward and caught it before it hit the floor.

The irate wizard pointed his wand at her, his eyes wild.

"What are you doing?" Hermione yelled at him, holding the bird protectively.

The crazed wizard seemed to come back to himself, and half-lowered his wand. He looked at the witch and the raven in her arms. Its beady black eyes looked at him maliciously, and it clipped its sharp beak at him.

"I am doing the wizarding world a favor, sending that black bastard back to the devil that hatched him," the wizard breathed, "he is the evilest, vilest avian to ever fly the earth. He has been returned to this shop seven times. Seven! Because he can't behave himself. What kind of familiar is returned seven times, I ask you?"

He pulled a handkerchief out of his robes pocket and wiped the bird shit from his face.

"That's it. I'm not wasting another crust of bread on him. Maybe I can make my money back selling his feathers for quills," the wizard breathed. "Now put him down so I can blast him to bloody bits."

Hermione scowled at the wizard, tightening her arms around the raven protectively.

"I will do no such thing!" she said, "I won't let you kill him."

The raven looked up at Hermione with rather narrowed, calculating eyes for a bird, then back at the wizard, its beak opened tauntingly.

"He won't be grateful, believe me. He's been biting the hands that fed him ever since he was a fledgling. I think his egg went bad but he hatched anyway," the wizard said, lowering his wand completely. He walked behind the counter and took out a cage.

"If you don't want him dead, take him with you. If he shows up here again, he's worm food," the wizard said, opening the cage door. Hermione walked over and put the raven inside.

"Fine, how much?" she asked the wizard, taking out her purse.

"Two knuts," he said.

The raven squawked in indignation. How dare he sell him for so little?

Hermione looked at the shopkeeper incredulously.

"Only two knuts?" she asked him, her eyebrows raised.

"That's all he's worth," the wizard said, walking around the counter and taking the two coins from Hermione's hand.

The shopkeeper didn't realize his ass was right in front of the raven's cage. He let out a howl and leaped away as the raven drove his beak home, stabbing him in the buttocks.

The wizard scowled at the bird murderously, rubbing his stuck ass ruefully. He looked at Hermione, who had covered her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. The bird sure was snarky.

Hermione peered into the cage.

"What's his name?" she asked the angry wizard.

"Raucous. It means rough sounding, harsh, boisterous and disorderly. And those are his good points," the wizard said, "I'm telling you, that bird's no good. He'd make a better stew than familiar."

Raucous fluffed up his feathers angrily and made a disparaging sound at the wizard. Hermione was almost sure it was a birdie obscenity. She leaned a little closer and Raucous snapped his beak at her savagely. She jerked back. The wizard nodded.

"I told you. That bird doesn't appreciate anything. He's possessed, I tell you. You just ought to let me finish him off," the wizard said.

Hermione looked at the bird. He was a familiar. He would understand her.

"Listen Raucous. If I leave you here, you're going to be killed. Die. Be no more. Do you understand that?" she asked the bird.

Raucous looked at the wizard with one bright eye, then back at Hermione and nodded slightly.

"Be good and come with me, and I promise you, I'll find you a master that is just as mean and rotten as you are. You'll get along with him famously. He'll probably let you do all the mischief you want. All I ask is that you cooperate, don't peck me and don't raise a ruckus until I can get you to him. Does that sound good to you?" Hermione asked the raven.

Raucous looked thoughtful. He was tired of all the goodie-two-shoes wizards and witches the shopkeeper tried to saddle him with. Someone nasty would suit him just fine.

The bird squawked his compliance.

"Good," Hermione said. Then she looked at the shopkeeper.

"Can I have something to cover the cage with? I want to keep him calm as I apparate with him.

The shopkeeper gave her a cloth, and Hermione covered Raucous' cage.

"Nobody's going to keep that damn bird," the shopkeeper predicted. "He's just no good to anybody."

Hermione disillusioned the cage with her wand and picked it up.

"Oh, I don't know about that. He seems tailor-made for a certain wizard I know," she replied, smirking a bit.

"I hope so. If he brings him back here, then it's torches out for the blinking twerp," the wizard said darkly.

Raucous cawed a scathing insult from beneath the covering. Too bad the shopkeeper didn't understand Raven.

Hermione thanked the doubtful shopkeeper and exited the shop. The wizard looked out the door behind her, shaking his head.

"That witch just don't know what she's in for with that bloody bird. If birds had a devil, it would be him, that's for blinking sure," he muttered. He picked up a broom and starting sweeping.

Down the block, Hermione and Raucous apparated back to Hogwarts.

Hermione hurried down the dungeon corridor. Raucous was disillusioned, but it was easy to see she was carrying something. If the Professor appeared, he'd ask her what she was doing. She didn't want to show her hand. She slowed when she realized that the Professor was in class. Raucous was silent in the dark cage. He was used to this, being transported in the dark, then the cover lifted to reveal several idiotically smiling faces staring in at him. He was a perfect gentleman until he was let out and fed. He immediately would set about testing the limits of his new owners' patience. Since he had been brought back to the shop seven times, the irate purchaser(s) failed the test badly.

This was a different situation. He didn't like the witch who had him. She was soft, he could tell. He wanted a master who was worthy of him, someone strong and preferably ill tempered. Someone who would appreciate his mischievous ways. Well, the witch wasn't his type, but her offer had been interesting…he would behave himself as long as it was in his best interest. He hoped she wasn't leading him on, if she was, she'd have a lot of bird shit to clean up.

Raucous felt the cage being set down and stood up expectantly. The cover came off and he was looking into the wide, amber eyes of the witch who had purchased him for two knuts. Raucous was an extremely bright raven, and although he didn't grasp the full concept of money, he knew that knuts were the lowest form of it and it was better that he be bought with galleons. Ah well.

Hermione peered in the cage at the bird, wondering if it were safe to let him out, considering the hell he was raising at the Magical Menagerie.

"If I let you out, Raucous, will you behave yourself?" she asked the bird.

Raucous tilted his head at her as if to ask, "What do you think?"

Hermione's eyes darkened. She was not about to get shit on.

Raucous saw the witch was hesitant about letting him out, and cawed, scrabbling at the cage with his clawed foot.

"All right, I'll let you out, but I warn you Raucous, I am good with a wand, faster than the shopkeeper was. I want us to stay on good terms, but if you start acting out, I will stun you. Understand?"

Hm. Maybe the witch wasn't as soft as he thought. He still didn't like her. He cawed assent, and Hermione opened the cage door. Raucous hopped out and stretched his wings to their full extent. Hermione admired the bird. His feathers were very glossy, and he looked quite impressive with his wings spread out.

Raucous folded his wings and looked about the tiny room with distaste. He hoped the wizard she had referred to had better accommodations. He looked up. Ah, there were rafters. He hopped off the table and flew up to inspect them. Yes, they would do just fine. There was no way he was going back in that cage if he could help it.

Hermione looked up at the bird, who was walking the rafters as if counting off paces. Her stomach growled. She was famished. She walked to the floo and picked up some floo powder and tossed it into the fireplace.

"The kitchens," she said.

Raucous cocked his head at this. He knew that word. Kitchen meant food, and he was starving. He watched as Hermione ordered a sandwich and a glass of pumpkin juice. A squeaky voice replied. Presently, a house elf winked in holding a platter with a sandwich on it and a glass of juice. It sat it down on the table. Hermione thanked the elf and was just about to sit down in the armchair to eat, when Raucous dove down, grabbed the entire sandwich and flew back up to the rafters, where he sat the sandwich down and tore great pieces from it, wolfing them down. Mmm. Ham. One of his favorites.

Hermione scowled up at the feeding bird, her hands on her hips. Well, he couldn't very well tell her he was hungry, but he could have been more polite about the sandwich. He was a familiar, so he knew what he did was wrong. She thought about the Potions Master, who probably would have enjoyed seeing the raven steal the food of her plate. Yes, Raucous would be perfect for him. Hermione went back to the floo and ordered another sandwich. The house elf appeared again, looking at the small witch with interest. It had only been about two minutes since he brought the first sandwich. She must be very hungry.

Hermione looked up at Raucous, who had finished her sandwich and was leaning over the rafter, eyeing her plate again. The witch pulled the sandwich close to her breast protectively, picked up her pumpkin juice and walked into her bedroom. Raucous soared in after the witch and perched on her dresser, watching her eat rather hungrily. Raucous really wasn't hungry, but he was a covetous bird. He'd gladly take Hermione's sandwich just because he could. But the witch was watching him closely as she ate, and gave him no snatching opportunities.

Finally she finished, and drank down her pumpkin juice. She gave a satisfied sigh and looked at the raven. He was very large.

"Raucous, we need to talk," she said.

The bird cocked his head at her, then flew over to the bed, perching on the headboard and looking at the witch intently. Her hair was very shiny. He liked shiny things, and was considering plucking out a couple of her hairs to take with him back to the rafters.

"The name of the wizard I want to give you to is Professor Severus Snape. But I can't let him know that it is me who is giving you to him. He is a very cold, angry wizard. He hates everything," she said.

Raucous cawed appreciatively at this. A wizard after his own heart.

"You are going to have to make him want to keep you. He's not going to want you. Hopefully he won't hex you when he finds you in his classroom. But I suggest you behave yourself and show him how useful you can be," she said, "This afternoon I am assigned to his class as an assistant. I want to disillusion you so you can observe him and see what he is like for yourself. You'll need to fly to a high spot and stay in one place for the entire class so no one will see your shimmer. If after watching him, you don't want to be with him, I can release you. I won't take you back to the shop. You can live in the wild, a free bird."

Raucous looked at Hermione as if she were mad, but the witch couldn't tell. The wild? To fend for himself and compete with other animals for food? Not to mention be on the constant lookout for predators who would love to get their jaws on his glossy feathers. No. He was a domesticated bird. He didn't do 'wild'. He would go with the wizard no matter how bad he was. The badder the better.

The raven didn't even consider Hermione as a master. She already annoyed him. The witch obviously was one of those anal human know-it-alls that had to plan everything out to the smallest detail. And how dare she even suggest he be released into the wild? Raucous felt like pecking her in the head.

The raven snapped his beak at Hermione.

"Oh. You aren't too keen on the 'released to the wild' idea. Well, we can always look into adoption," she said.

Raucous thought he might prefer going back to the shop and being killed. He could only imagine the kind of family she'd find for him. He really needed to get on this evil wizard's good side and fast. He nodded at Hermione just to keep her from making more unwanted suggestions as to what to do with him if the Snape wizard didn't take him.

Since there was no more food, and the witch had told him what he needed to do, Raucous soared back into the sitting room and roosted up in the rafters, ready for a nap. He looked down and positioned himself over the cage on the small table. There were no windows to fly out of to do his business, so he made sure if he shit, it would land in the cage. He didn't want the witch to hex him. He stuck his head under his wing and drifted off.

In her bedroom, Hermione was pacing back and forth. She wasn't feeling too happy about her class assignment under the Professor this afternoon. She hoped he would act as if nothing happened between them and not treat her too badly in front of the class. He was usually made sure to have horrible jobs for her to do, like scooping out entrails, or demonstrating how to dissect small animals. She was used to dissecting already dead animals, but he insisted she use live ones because the body parts were fresher.

She sat down on the bed and sighed. Why did she want the wizard so badly? Even if he did accept her, he would probably be cruel to her, probably make her do all kinds of twisted acts to him. She felt herself heating up at the thought of him ordering her to undress him, then making her kneel and…

The clock on her wall chimed. It was time to go to Professor McGonagal and grade yesterday's transfiguration assignments.

First she needed to change her knickers.

Hermione hurried back to her rooms. Potions class started in fifteen minutes. The Professor usually took a break between classes. Most likely he wouldn't be there when she arrived with Raucous and could get him situated before class started.

She walked into her study and looked up at the sleeping raven.

"Raucous, wake up! We need to go!" she called up to the bird.

Raucous pulled his head out from under his wing and blinked down at the witch for a moment as he remembered where he was. He stretched every part of his body, fluffed his feathers a couple of times, then dropped down, landing on top of the cage. It had served its purpose all right. He looked up at the witch and cawed.

"Hold still," Hermione said, drawing out her wand and tapping the bird lightly with it. A cold feeling washed over him.

"All right, hop on my shoulder," Hermione said to the shimmer. Raucous complied, holding on to her a little tighter than necessary with his claws.

"Ow!" Hermione said, pushing at the bird until he adjusted his hold. He made a little chuckling noise as the witch walked out of her rooms and up the hall to the Potions classroom. She entered and as she had hoped, no one was there. She looked around and her amber eyes fell on a tall bookshelf in the corner.

"Go up there, Raucous," she said pointing at it. The bird flew over and settled on the top of the shelf just as the Professor walked in. He narrowed his eyes at Hermione.

"Talking to yourself, Miss Granger?" he sneered at her, walking toward his desk and opening a drawer, taking out some parchments..

"Just thinking out loud, Professor," Hermione replied, willing her voice not to shake.

The Professor thrust the stack of parchments at her.

"If you have to be in my class, then make yourself useful. Mark these papers, and don't be a bleeding heart about it, Miss Granger. If they are in error, they are in error. There is no partial credit for an answer that isn't absolutely correct. Do I make myself clear, or am I going to have to re-mark the parchments like I did last time? If I do, I will put in a request that you not assist me…your university credits be damned," he said to her snarkily.

Raucous liked this wizard. He put the witch in her place right away with no apologies. And he had done it in a smooth, low voice that was very commanding.

"You won't have to go over them sir. I am very aware of your methods of marking," she said, "I just thought it would encourage the students if…" Hermione began.

The Potions Master cut her off, his black eyes flashing with loathing as he looked at the witch.

"Don't think, Miss Granger. You'll hurt yourself. This is my class, and I do things my way. I don't coddle these dunderheads. No one coddled me and I learned. Keep your useless ideas to yourself," he said dismissively, sitting down at his desk, opening his drawer and taking out another piece of parchment and reading it.

Scowling slightly, Hermione walked to the back of the room and took her seat behind a small table. She set down the parchments, opened up a small bottle of red ink, picked up a quill, dipped it into the ink and began to mark them as students slowly filed in.

Raucous noticed how quiet the students were as they took their seats. The raven had been around youngsters before. They were usually much louder than this, almost as raucous as he was, but not this group. He also noticed not one sat in the front row, but filled up the chair in the back rows first. Each student would enter and anxiously scan the rows, then each face would light up with relief as they found a seat in the back. The faces became more anxious and less relieved as the students seated themselves closer to the front. A look of absolute dread darkened the countenances of the late arrivals, who found themselves regulated to the second and first rows of the class.

The wizard hadn't moved from his desk or looked up as the students arrived. But he seemed to know when they were all seated because he looked up slowly and glared at each and every one of them. The pupils all stiffened, a few going white under his gaze. Raucous was particularly impressed when a young black wizard's face went good and pale. Now that was fear. Obviously the class was terrified of the wizard.

Professor Snape rose slowly from his desk, and walked around it, standing directly in front of the class. His movements were unhurried and deliberate, but had a distinct air of threat about them. The class all leaned back as if one entity of many heads. The Professor's eyes swept the class slowly, falling on each and every student with a look of disdain.

He began to speak in a low, quiet voice.

"The parchments you handed into me two days ago on the uses of Bubertuber Puss were abominable. Not one of you wrote anything beyond 'it causes boils to erupt'. Have none of you heard of the library? It is a place with books that provides detailed information about different subjects. You go there, find a book on your topic, open it and READ. Then you process the information and apply it to your assignment. Of course, processing information requires a brain, and it is obvious that brains in this class are in very short supply.

"You have all received failing marks for this assignment. Each and every one of you. I am reassigning this paper, for half marks only. Those of you who do not find at least ten uses or reactions for Bubertuber Puss, will find yourselves with a failing mark and spending detention in the Forbidden Forest harvesting Thorny Night Blooming Zedock Root without gloves. Am I understood?"

A whisper of "Yes, Professor," flowed across the classroom.

The Professor's dark eyes rested on Hermione, who was busily marking parchments at the back table. A small, cruel grin flashed across his features before his cold expression returned. Raucous noticed it.

"Miss Granger," the Professor called.

Hermione looked up at him.

"Yes sir?" she answered.

"Kindly go into the lab and wheel the covered cart into the classroom," he purred at her, "We are having a hands on lesson today."

As Hermione left the class to retrieve the cart, the Professor looked at his students imperiously and started to pace.

"The art of Potions Making requires much more than brewing. The Potions Master must gather his ingredients from an assortment of different media, and knowing the composition of that media is very important. What we are going to do today is extract various items from the media of my choice, set them aside and identify them," he said silkily, his black eyes glittering.

Hermione rolled the covered cart in. There seemed to be a pile of something underneath. What it was Hermione had no idea, but it was soft when she pressed down on it, the impression of her fingertips remaining after she withdrew her hands. As she approached the Professor held up his pale hand, indicating she should stop where she was. Under the cart was a large scoop, and a number of platters.

"Miss Granger, you can remove the cover and distribute the media to the students," the Professor said, a small, unpleasant smirk on his face.

Hermione removed the cover and immediately gagged, covering her nose and stumbling back from the cart. It was loaded with fresh, fragrant dragon dung. Little bits of things were sticking out of it, some of them moving. The entire class had a similar reaction, and Raucous danced on top of the shelf with glee. Oh, this wizard was GOOD.

"Miss Granger, collect yourself. You are supposed to be my assistant. Surely you can act in a more mature manner," Severus said derisively. "Now, serve up the ingredients for the students."

The students in the first row formed a line in front of the cart, their noses wrinkled in disgust as Hermione scooped up large portions of dragon dung, plopped it on the platters and handed them to the students, who returned to their seats, placing the dung in front of them. After every one of them had been seated, the Professor told them what they had to do.

"You are going to remove all foreign objects from the dung and set them aside. The dung must be left smooth and objectless. Miss Granger will then collect the processed dung and store it. It has very magical properties and is useful in a number of ways, which I will go over with you all tomorrow. Now, because the objects in the dung are not always visible, you will need to feel your way through it and find the objects using the sense of touch as well as your eyes. You will not be able to wear gloves, which would desensitize the sense of touch," he said, a small smile playing around his pale features as the students issued small protestations of disgust.

He looked at Hermione who was watching him with a look of pure dislike on her face. He was punishing the class for their abysmal performance on the Bubertuber reports.

"Miss Granger, please demonstrate," he purred at her.

Raucous could have shit, he was so delighted.

Hermione slowly scooped up a pile of the smelly dung, put it on a platter and stuck her hands into the stinking mess. It was wet and sticky like mud. She felt around, working it between her fingers, and pulled out a bit of bone, setting it to the side. Then she removed a long, pink worm, and almost puked as she set that aside as well. For ten minutes she sifted through the dung, removing object after object. Finally, there was nothing left in the dung.

The Professor smirked at her.

"Miss Granger, you performed that task as if you've been doing it your whole life," he commented, then turned to the class.

"Begin!" he said imperiously, "And you will receive failing marks for the day if the dung is not totally object free. Even one small sliver of bone can ruin the batch, so I expect you all to be very thorough. I will return by the end of class."

He walked over to Hermione who was wringing her shit-covered hands.

"Miss Granger, tag every returned platter with the student's name, then after class I want you to check their dung to be sure they have removed all objects from it before storing it in the vat I have sitting on the counter in my lab," he said to her before exiting the class and heading for his potions office.

Hermione scowled after him.

Raucous was rolling silently with mirth on his feathered back, his claws in the air as he writhed on the top of the bookshelf. It was difficult for him to keep quiet, he wanted to squawk loudly with laughter. If ravens could cry, tears would be streaming uncontrollably down his beak. This was just too damn good. Dragon dung.

The Professor was the Master he had always dreamed of. So vindictive, so sarcastic, so very, very evil. He was smooth too. It was obvious he was punishing both the class and the witch, but had done so within his authority as a teacher. Raucous was in love. He particularly liked how the Professor excused himself from the stench. Nice touch.

As he watched the students work with the dung, a couple of them throwing up in the process, the raven knew he had found the Master he'd been looking for his whole life.

He just had to get accepted by the dark wizard. Nothing else would do.

After class was dismissed, a delighted Raucous remained with Hermione as she went through pile after pile of dragon dung, cursing the Professor as she did so. After about two shit-filled hours, she finally finished. The witch stunk to high heaven. She rolled the cart into the lab, dumped the platters of cleaned dung into the vat, and sealed it securely.

She exited the lab and the Potions classroom, using her robes to turn the knobs as she did so. Raucous flew behind her. There was no way he was sitting on the shoulder of the stinky witch. Some Slytherin students were passing as Hermione stepped into the dungeons.

"I think I smell a Gryffindor," one of them remarked as they all covered their noses.

Hermione frowned at them. She really needed to talk to Dumbledore about being given the right to take points and assign detentions.

She walked to her rooms and entered them, holding the door open so Raucous could wing in. The raven landed on the back of the armchair, looking at Hermione, grinning. She started to walk by him and he cawed imperiously.

"Oh. Sorry Raucous," Hermione said, withdrawing her wand and removing the disillusionment spell from him. She looked at the bird.

"So, how did you like Professor Snape?" she asked the bird.

Raucous cawed enthusiastically. Hermione frowned slightly at the bird. Obviously he approved of the Professor's methods. They deserved each other.

"All right. I'll slip you into his classroom tomorrow morning before class starts. I have a morning assignment with him, so I'll be there. Just act like you don't know me," she said to the bird.

Raucous cawed. That would be quite easy to do.

"I've got to shower," Hermione said, walking into her room. Raucous followed her and watched as she disrobed. She was a good example of a human female. He watched as the nude witch walked into the shower, then set about investigating her dresser. There were a lot of shiny things. Earrings. He turned them over and over with his beak, letting the torchlight flash off of them prettily. He selected an earring and flew off into the sitting room with it, placing it on the rafter beside him, where he turned it over and over, amusing himself.

Finally the witch reappeared, dressed like a muggle. Raucous clipped his beak disapprovingly. He preferred robes on witches and wizards. He was a traditionalist. He was sure the wizard never dressed in such a manner. Robes suited him.

Hermione ordered dinner, making sure to give Raucous his own meal of fish and potatoes as well. She set his plate on the floor, sat in the armchair and ate her meal deep in thought. The Professor had certainly put her through the paces today. She could tell he enjoyed seeing her up to her elbows in dragon dung by the way his black eyes were glittering, and the sexy little smirk that played across his lips.

She scowled at herself. Even when she was pissed at him, she thought the wizard was sexy. Damn him. She looked at Raucous, who was busily polishing off his potatoes. She needed to talk to someone. Hell, he was a raven, but he understood her.

"Raucous, do you know why I am giving you to the Professor?" she asked the bird, who looked up at her tiredly. He really didn't care why, so long as he wouldn't be saddled with her for much longer. He hoped she wasn't going to tell him.

"Because, he's alone and needs something or someone to care about," she said.

The bird sighed. Even he could see the wizard was perfectly content the way he was. He went back to eating his potatoes.

"I was hoping that you could crack the ice around his heart. If he opens himself up to you, he might open himself up to me in the future," she said rather wistfully.

The bird looked up at her, comprehending the situation immediately. This witch wanted to mate with the dark wizard. Raucous let out a caw of laughter. She was not the Professor's type at all. Other than being a female, she could hold no attraction for the man. Though the bird thought that he was evil enough to mate with her once and abandon her. He saw nothing wrong with that at all. As a raven, he operated the same way. He looked at the witch consideringly.

So, he was being used as therapy. The witch had her own agenda, and wasn't giving Raucous to the wizard out of the goodness of her heart after all. He was being used. His birdie brain started percolating. He didn't like being used. The witch would pay for her duplicity. Raucous knew just what to do in that classroom tomorrow.

Raucous looked at Hermione balefully, trembling as he fought to keep from pecking her hand as she put the tag around his neck. She had read it to him.

"My name is Raucous. I am a familiar and a gift for you."

How lame was that? He shifted uncomfortably as the witch looked at the bright yellow tag with approval. She had even tied the pink ribbon in a pretty bow.

"There, you look adorable," Hermione breathed.

Adorable? Raucous' beak dropped open for a moment. Then he snapped it shut in exasperation. He really needed to get away from this witch before he did something that would definitely get him hexed.

"All right. Hop up Raucous. We have to move quick," Hermione said, patting her shoulder. The raven hopped up, and dug his claws into her shoulder.

"Ow!" Hermione said, pushing at the bird who shifted and still gripped her harder than necessary. Finally Hermione managed to get him to loosen up.

"Really Raucous, you don't know your own strength!" she complained.

Raucous smirked at her, satisfied. He had got a little of his own back.

The bird and the witch exited the rooms, Hermione looking carefully up and down the halls before she sprinted for the Potions classroom, Raucous hanging on, the annoying yellow tag flapping around his glossy black throat.

Hermione slipped into the class, looked around and ran to the Potions Master's desk. Raucous hopped on it.

"Now, you wait here until he comes in. Good luck," Hermione said in a low voice. She quickly exited the room. Raucous looked around the classroom, his black eyes falling on the pickled animals in jars sitting on a shelf behind the desk. He cocked his head at them, deciding he liked the atmosphere they created. He walked around the desk, shuffling parchments with his beak but being careful not to move them out of place. The wizard wouldn't appreciate that. Suddenly he heard the door open. The dark wizard swept in, reading something out of a small book.

Raucous struck an imposing pose, marred by the pretty pink ribbon around his neck. The Professor walked up to the desk, and around it, sitting down, so absorbed in what he was reading, he didn't notice the raven standing on his desk like a statue.

"CAW!" Raucous cawed by way of announcement, startling the wizard.

Professor Snape looked at the bird startled.

"What are you doing in my classroom? If this is some kind of prank I swear…" the Professor seethed, looking at the raven with a dark scowl.

Raucous stepped toward him, and the Professor's black eyes fell on the tag. He lifted it and read it, then looked at the bird.

"Since you are a familiar, Raucous, I'll assume you can understand me. I don't want you," the Professor said.

He watched in astonishment as the bird suddenly dropped to its back, writhed around, and clawed at the ribbon around its neck until it tore it off. Then the bird proceeded to shred both the bright yellow tag and ribbon to tiny bits and pieces, then stood over them, its beak open, panting from its efforts. The Professor's eyebrows raised.

"I take it you have no love of pink ribbons and yellow tags," the Professor said, smirking despite himself at the bird's tantrum.

Raucous cawed at him in agreement.

Severus looked at him. He was an interesting bird.

"I sympathize. But be that as it may, Raucous, I am not in need of a familiar. I don't have time for one," he said.

Raucous cawed at him, then walked over to the inkwell, pulled the top out of it and set it neatly down, then walked over to the cylinder of quills, selected one and carried it to the ink bottle and dipped it neatly inside, filling the point. He carried the ready quill to the Professor and held it out. The Professor smirked again. The bird was trying to show him he was useful.

"Who sent you to me?" he asked the bird, who hunched his feathers forward in a reasonable facsimile of a shrug.

"Well, I can't keep you. I imagine you came from the Magical Menagerie. I'll have to return you," the wizard said, noting the bird's feathers drooped a bit. Two students walked in.

"Raucous, please remove yourself to that bookshelf over there until the end of my class. I figure out what to do with you for the rest of day when it is over," the Professor said.

Raucous obediently flew to the bookshelf as more students came in. Hermione entered as well and took her seat at the back table. She saw Raucous but acted as if she didn't notice him.

As soon as the class was seated, he walked up and down the rows, returning their parchments to them. As he passed Hermione, he paused, sniffed and wrinkled his nose.

"You did shower after your duties yesterday, didn't you Miss Granger?" he asked her snarkily. Hermione didn't smell at all, but that didn't matter.

Hermione scowled at him.

"Of course I did," she spat at him.

"Really? I guess it is some other terrible odor I am detecting."

He sniffed at her delicately, his large nose wrinkling again.

"I detect a distinctly fishlike scent. Maybe a douche would serve you better," he purred at her.

Hermione turned bright red. Her hand trembled as she fought to keep from pulling out her wand and blasting that smirk off his face. The entire class was looking at her.

"You bastard," she muttered under her breath.

The Professor arched an eyebrow at her and was about to reply when Raucous made his move, leaping off the bookshelf, soaring over Hermione's head and unloading a large, wet dropping in her hair. He veered and flew back to the bookshelf, landed, turned and cawed at the Potions Master. That would teach her to mouth off to his Master-to-be.

The Potions Master looked at the dropping soaking into the witch's hair, then up at the raven, his mouth quirking in a thin smile.

"It appears you need to excuse yourself, Miss Granger. You might want to wash your hair after you douche," he said snarkily, turning and handing out the rest of the parchments.

Hermione glared up at Raucous, who looked down at her.

"Turncoat," she hissed at him as she stood up to leave.

In response, Raucous flew at Hermione, beating around her head and pecking at her, driving her from the room as the Professor looked on, amused. He was starting to like this bird.

The Professor gave the class a reading assignment. They had to summarize the chapter and hand in their work at the end of class. He worked on his lesson plan as they read. Raucous studied the students as they read, trying to figure out what else he could do to impress the Professor. He soon found his chance.

A girl student was surreptiously passing a note to a boy seated directly behind her. Raucous cawed loudly, causing the Professor to look up, and the two students to freeze as he swooped down and plucked the note from the girl's hands, delivering it to the Professor's desk. Raucous dropped it in front of the wizard.

The Professor looked at the bird, picked up the note opened it and read it. Then he looked at the two guilty students.

"Passing love notes in my class, Miss Bumstile? And you accepting love notes, Mr. Amberstaff? Well, well. You will have time to moon over your burgeoning hormonal attraction in detention. See me after class for details. Both of you," he said, "Now get back to work."

The Professor looked at the bird.

"You're quite a suck-up Raucous," he said to the raven.

Raucous stepped closer to the Professor and preened his silky hair. The Professor jerked his head back.

"Stop that," he glowered at the bird.

Raucous cocked a shiny eye at the wizard, then flew back to the bookshelf, and settled there. Severus looked up at him for a good moment, then returned to his lesson plan.

At the end of class, the students departed and the Potions Master and Raucous were left in the class together. Severus put the final touches on next week's plan, then put it in his top drawer. He looked up at the bird speculatively. Raucous stared down at him.

"Well, I can't get you to Diagon Alley today. Tomorrow is Saturday, so I can deliver you back to the Magical Menagerie then," he said to the bird.

Raucous' heart dropped. He wasn't going to keep him. He was as good as dead.

Suddenly the door opened and a tall, thin, old wizard in glasses entered. The Professor immediately stood up.

"Good morning, Headmaster," Severus said to Albus Dumbledore.

"Good morning, Severus my boy. I just stopped by to tell you that I need you to escort some second years to Hogsmeade tomorrow. Minerva has come down with a touch of the flu," the Headmaster said smiling.

The Potions Master scowled. He hated taking students to Hogsmeade.

"How about Flitwick?" he asked hopefully.

Albus shook his head.

"Last time the Charms Professor took the students to Hogsmeade, he was trampled in a wild rush to the candy shop. I'm afraid it will have to be you, Severus," the Headmaster said.

The Potions Master was furious. But there was nothing he could do.

Suddenly he saw a motion on the bookshelf. Raucous launched himself toward the Headmaster, swerved and let loose with a large, wet dropping that landed on directly on the left lens of his half-moon glasses.

Albus spluttered as the bird shit dripped down his lens, over his crooked nose and down into his beard. He snatched the glasses off his face, looked up at the raven who was perched on the bookshelf and asked angrily, "What is that?"

The Potions Master looked up at the raven, who stared back at him steadily. He then turned to the Headmaster, who had pulled out a handkerchief and was cleaning off his face, beard and glasses as best he could.

"That," Severus answered silkily, "Is my new familiar, Raucous."

Hermione had seethed the entire afternoon and long into the night at the Professor's douche comment, and Raucous' attack on her. Now she stood at her rooms door, watching for him to leave to perform his chaperone duties. She had heard about McGonagall's illness, and he was the most obvious choice as an escort for the boisterous second years. He'd put a damper on them all right. She heard the door open and pulled back, leaving only the slightest crack in the door.

Hermione watched as the Potions Master left his rooms with a frown, the traitorous Raucous riding his shoulder as if he had always belonged there. Obviously the bird was accompanying the bastard to Hogsmeade. She knew the Potions Master was purposely being cruel to her in an attempt to discourage her feelings about him. He had come close with the douche comment, but he had said horrible things to her before. Well, she wasn't going to just take it this time. So, he said he smelled fish, eh?

And Raucous, that bloody bird. He actually attacked her. She knew the raven was trying to impress the Professor, but really. Well, she had a little something in store for the feathered little fiend.

As soon as the pair disappeared out of the corridor, Hermione disillusioned herself and walked out of her room. She had a shopping bag in her hand. She crept up to the Potions Master's office and after several tries, lifted the ward and entered, closing the door behind her and warding it back.

She then set about trying to locate the trigger that would open his private rooms. She finally found the right combination of pulled torches and books that made the wall open up. She entered his study and removed the disillusionment spell so she could see what she was working with. He had books everywhere. She eyed them hungrily before steeling herself to her purpose.

She opened up the bag and pulled out a large fish. She looked around the room, then opted to put it under the couch cushion, disillusioning it. She placed several fish around the room, making them invisible. The shimmer was hardly perceptible as they were dead. She then walked into his bedroom and hid three fish in there as well, one in the Professor's wardrobe, one under his bed and even a small one inside his pillow, tearing it open, shoving the dead fish in, disillusioning it, and then magically repairing the seam.

The witched walked back into the study, pulled out her wand and created an illusion up in the rafters. She backed up so she could see it, and smirked. Raucous was going to lose some tail feathers when he saw that. Smiling wickedly, Hermione exited the Potions Master's room. He would certainly detect the odor of fish now.

Hermione spent a leisurely day in the castle, catching up on her reading and imagining the reaction of the Potions Master when he returned from Hogsmeade. He would already be in a foul mood. She only wished she could be there when he walked in and that huge protuberance of a nose got a whiff of what was waiting for him. He'd have to search out every fish in the place. There were a total of ten hidden in his rooms. He'd have his work cut out for him.

Hermione made sure to be "walking through" the main hall when the students returned. As she suspected, Severus stalked in with a billow of robes, Raucous on his shoulder and headed scowling for the dungeons corridor. It was suppertime, so Hermione beat a hasty retreat to the Great Hall. She knew that he would immediately finger her, but she didn't care. Dobby had provided the fish, and the house elf had no problem telling an untruth, so could hide his complicity. Severus would know it was her. Her use of fish in lieu of his 'douche' comment would not slip by unnoticed.

Dobby had been delighted that the witch was intending on doing mischief to the Potions Master. Severus treated house elves horribly. Not one elf would have revealed Hermione requested ten raw, smelly fish, but the witch thought it better to have Dobby handle it without the other elves' knowledge. The dark wizard might have terrorized the information out of the others. Dobby was a veteran of death threats, having belonged to the Malfoys before being freed by Harry Potter in his second year. He could handle the Potions Master's worst.

Hermione was sure the Potions Master would confront her. She had some occulmency training in university and would be sure to push the memory of planting the fish in his rooms behind the locked mental wall she'd create to hide her guilt. When he confronted her, she'd have some choice words for him too.

Raucous had been a great help to Severus at Hogsmeade, swooping in on straggling students and making them keep up with the group, then rounding them up when it was time to go, squawking and pecking, driving them to the meeting place, saving the Potions Master a lot of leg work. The bird was enjoying himself. He was never allowed to act in such a manner before. The Potions Master's smirk of approval made the raven preen several times. He knew instinctively that the wizard was not one to hand out vocal praise, so the smirk spoke volumes. He would have to establish the link soon. Then he would be almost indispensable to the wizard. He would be able to transfer images and converse with him.

As pleased as the wizard was with Raucous, he was still in a foul mood. All he wanted to do was go to his rooms, change and go to supper. After which he would have a few firewhiskeys and listen to his favorite wizarding wireless station. They were going to play Vivaldi tonight, and he was looking forward to it.

He had noticed Hermione making her way toward the Great Hall for supper. He imagined the witch was cooling off toward him now, considering how he had treated and insulted her in the past two days. She was so easy to fuck with. No backbone whatsoever. How did she think he'd ever be attracted to a little pudding-heart like she was, even if he was interested in forming an arrangement with a witch? She would be his last choice. Certainly she was brilliant and beautiful…but beauty meant next to nothing. Yes, she had shown some courage in her earlier years, but she had been coupled with the dubious duo…it is easy to be brave in the company of others. It was when you had to face the dangers alone, that your courage was truly tested. And he lived dangerously every day of his life as a servant of the Dark Lord.

Hermione let him stomp all over her heart, disrespect her publicly and treat her like shit. He could never respect a woman like that. She'd made no attempt to defend herself from him, or even speak up for herself. Let her find some good, kind wizard that would fawn all over her and her purported charms. She had no idea what she was asking for when she set her sights on him. He'd break the witch in half. He was no inexperienced youngster. The witch was crazy for wanting him. Well, if anyone could discourage her, he could. She was stubborn, but nowhere near as stubborn as he was. He'd have her cringing whenever he appeared in no time.

He arrived at his office door and unwarded it. The ward dropped quite easily. A bit too easily. Had someone broken in and raided his stores again? Damn it. He opened his door and stalked directly to his potions stores. After carefully checking it, he found everything in order. Perplexed, he headed back to his rooms, opening the wall. The moment it swung open he was assailed with the powerful scent of fish. Raucous cawed and dipped his head under his wing.

The Potions Master entered his study and looked around. Raucous flew off his shoulder and landed on the back of one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace. Severus could see no cause for the horrible odor. Everything looked to be in place, but the whole room reeked. He cast a freshening spell. Within two minutes, the stench was back.

"What the hell is going on here?" he seethed. He began searching the room, moving chairs, opening his drawers. He opened the lower drawer to his desk and a powerful wash of the odor hit his nostrils, he looked down into the open drawer but could see nothing at first. Then he detected a slight shimmer.

Pointing his wand into the drawer, he said, "Finite Incantatem!"

A dead fish appeared.

The Professor's black eyes narrowed murderously.

"Granger," he seethed.

Raucous looked at the black scowl on his face and decided it might be safer on higher ground. He didn't know the wizard well yet, and it was quite possible he was the type to take his anger out on others. He flew up to the rafters and settled there, looking down at the Potions Master intently. Suddenly he heard a horrible hiss, and turned his head to see a huge snake bearing down on him, its mouth opened to strike.

The bird let out a croak of horror and shit, every feather standing on end. He was so frightened he couldn't fly and hopped out of reach as the snake struck where he had just been standing. The snake hissed angrily and slid toward him. He squawked desperately and Severus looked up, seeing the snake. He fired a blast at it, splintering the wood of the rafter, but the snake was unaffected as it chased the terrified bird. The Professor shot another blast at it, hitting the snake squarely. The blast passed right through. Realizing it was an illusion, the Potions Master cast one more spell at it.

"Finite Incantatem!' he said, and the snake disappeared.

A relieved Raucous fluttered down to the floor in front of the Potions Master and cawed a thank you.

"It seems, Raucous, that one backboneless little witch has grown herself a spine," he said to the bird, musingly. The attack on Raucous cemented that Hermione was behind this. She had a grudge against both of them.

Raucous squawked a birdie obscenity. Hermione had done this to him? Why, why he'd pluck all her hair out…he'd shit in her pumpkin juice…he'd…

"Raucous, don't worry. I'll straighten her out," Severus said.

He was quite surprised. This had been a very Slytherin-like retaliation. Still, she had to pay.

Severus managed to find seven fish in the study by randomly casting the Finite Incantatem spell. He walked into his bedroom to find the stench in there as well. He cursed under his breath as he located two of the three fish Hermione had hid in there. All of his clothing smelled of fish. He scourgified them but there was still a tiny, noticeable trace that lingered. He didn't have anything else to wear. He showered and dressed, then headed for supper, an enraged Raucous chattering on his shoulder.

"Behave yourself in the Great Hall, Raucous. Dumbledore doesn't care for you, and I don't want you banned," he said to the raven, who fell silent, seething inwardly, planning all kinds of nasty acts to perform on Hermione. The raven had almost gone white with horror. He hated snakes. Which was quite ironic since he was the familiar of a Slytherin.

The Potions Master arrived just as Hermione was finishing up her food. She noticed him enter but pretended to have no interest. Severus glared down the table at her, then ordered his food. He would confront her later.

Hermione rose from her seat and headed toward the staff exit. It was time for the final jibe. She passed behind the Potions Master and Raucous, then paused. The raven snapped his beak at her viciously. She ignored him and sniffed the Professor.

"Someone has a bit of an odor," she commented, "Did you shower today, Professor?"

"You are not the least bit amusing, Miss Granger," he snarled at her. Hermione didn't even blink.

"If you did shower today, I would suggest a stronger soap. Or maybe you stopped by the brothel in Knockturn Alley while you were supposed to be chaperoning…"

She sniffed him again, delicately.

"Yes, I imagine you did. You smell fishy…like stale pussy," she said.

Raucous squawked at her indignantly and would have flown at her if the Potions Master hadn't reached up and grabbed his leg. The bird flopped forward, then scrambled back up to his shoulder.

"Did you get a niccccce little resssssssst on the raftersssssss, Raucous?" Hermione chuckled at the bird.

Raucous cawed curse after curse at the witch as she smugly exited the Great Hall.

The Professor was livid, and it took all of his strength not to follow the witch and throttle her. The other staff members were looking at him. Hermione had made her comment about stale pussy loud enough for everyone to hear. Severus colored slightly, and started on his meal. Raucous hopped down, and the Potions Master passed him a piece of steak. The bird tore at it angrily. Severus knew how he felt.

Well, he'd catch up to Miss Granger in a few. Then there'd be a reckoning.

Hermione burst into laughter the moment she exited the Great Hall. The look on the Potions Master's face at her 'stale pussy' comment was priceless. And Raucous was about to go into conniptions. Well, she had better hurry and get to her rooms. She wanted to be ready when the Potions Master came after her.

Hermione opened her rooms door and hurried inside. She placed several wards on the door to hold him off. She had no doubt he would force his way into her rooms if she didn't answer. That was precisely what she wanted. She really didn't know anything about seducing a wizard, though she didn't want to actually do that, but she wanted to make an unmistakable impression on the snarky Potions Master. Maybe get him thinking. Plus, the argumentive advantage would be in her favor if she could put him off balance. She had no intention on letting him browbeat her.

Hermione walked into her bedroom and to her lingerie drawer. She pulled it open and searched through her nighties. She found a short white silk one that fit her nicely. She had purchased it because it felt nice against her skin. It dipped low in the front and showed her cleavage. After more rummaging she found the matching silk robe. She opened her knicker draw and took out some matching white knickers. She hurried into the shower, divestoed her clothes and hopped in, washing quickly. She dried off and dressed quickly in the gown, then brushed out her hair until it shined. She looked at herself in the mirror. She wasn't one for makeup. She was interested in it once, until a fellow student ran out of it, and refused to leave Gryffindor Tower. The girl was pretty enough, but the make-up made her flawless. Without it, she looked very, very plain. She was a slave to the stuff. Hermione decided then and there that she wouldn't wear it unless she was going to an affair or function.

Hermione didn't need make-up. She looked quite enticing. The witch hurried back out into the sitting room, conjured up a mirror and practiced lying out on the sofa looking sultry. She flipped around several times trying to find the perfect pose, and still hadn't found it when the heavy, impatient knock sounded on the door.

"Shit," she said, causing the mirror to vanish. As an afterthought, she put a repelling spell around herself, just in case the Potions Master lost it and tried to get physical or hex her. He'd get a surprise.

"Who is it?" she called sweetly as she got on the sofa and stretched out. She lifted the robe a little so her long leg showed almost to the thigh, and tossed her hair a little. She hoped she was doing this right.

Outside the door, a scowling Professor Snape answered.

"It's Professor Snape, Miss Granger. I want to talk to you," he said. Raucous was perched on his shoulder. If birds could scowl, the raven would have a very black look on his face. As it were, he was staring at the door intently, planning on flying at Hermione the moment she opened it.

"Go away. I've talked to you all I care to," Hermione called back at him.

Why the impertinent little guttersnipe!

"Open this door now, Miss Granger, or I'll open it myself," the Potions Master seethed.

"I said go away, Professor. I have no time for you," Hermione responded, "I'm very busy. We can talk tomorrow."

"We will talk tonight!" the irate wizard yelled back at her. He pulled out his wand and started working on her wards. Hermione heard him cursing as he tried spell after spell. Finally he got them down.

"Alohamora," Severus said, turning the knob and stalking in, Raucous on his shoulder.

Immediately the bird launched himself at Hermione, soaring towards her and twisting in the air, claws extended, ready to lock in her hair. Hermione looked at him calmly as the bird bounced off the repelling spell and was thrown back whirling end over end across the room. The Potions Master caught him, or the bird would have been in a bad way when he hit the wall.

Severus checked the bird, who was rather dizzy. Raucous squawked weakly, his glossy head wobbling a bit as he tried to straighten out his focus.

The Potions Master lifted his black eyes at Hermione and for the first time realized how she was dressed. She had on a flimsy white robe and short nightgown. It appeared to be silk and exposed much of her legs. He was surprised to see how long they were. Hermione was quite short.

"Get out of my rooms, Professor. You were not invited in," she said, sitting up on the sofa, letting her robe fall open. Her cleavage was quite impressive.

The Potions Master stared at her for a moment then asked, "Why are you dressed like that, Miss Granger? It is indecent."

Hermione blinked at him in disbelief.

"I am dressed for bed, Professor, and a better question would be why are you in my rooms when I clearly told you to go away?" she shot back at him, standing up now and letting him get a good look at her.

The Potions Master went silent for a moment.

"You put fish in my room," he accused.

"Don't be stupid," Hermione said, "I did no such thing."

Stupid? Did she just call him stupid?

He snarled and stalked toward her. Hermione stood her ground. He stopped about a foot from the witch. Now he could really see her curves. He could even make out her dark nipples underneath the silk and white knickers. His black eyes swept over her, but they were full of anger.

"You did do such a thing. Why else would you have made snake sounds when you addressed Raucous? You put an illusion of a snake up in the rafters where he perches," the Potions Master said.

"First fish, now snakes. Really Professor, why would I do such a thing," she asked him.

"To try and get back at me you little piece of baggage," the Potions Master snarled nastily.

"You're not worth my time you snarky fuck," Hermione replied, just as nastily.

She cursed at him! But he was in her rooms uninvited. This was a personal matter, nothing he could report to Albus under the guise of insubordination. He decided to go for the jugular.

"That's not what you implied the other night when I ran your randy little ass from my classroom," he said to her, "You implied I was worth more than a little of your time, Miss Granger."

"Yes. But you are an idiot, Professor and a damn fool to boot. Why I should give a shit about you I have no idea? But just because I do doesn't mean I'm going to let you abuse me. If you want a war of the Roses, Professor, I will certainly be a thorn in your pale ass. You say you don't want me, but go out of your way to try and make me miserable, to get a rise out of me. If you really weren't interested, you would ignore me. Leave me alone. But you're not doing it. Why is that, Professor?"

The Professor scowled at her blackly.

"Why, Miss Granger? I'll tell you why, you little chit. Because you've never known how to take no for an answer. You have a decided pattern of pushing on despite the odds of failure, worrying a no-win situation like a niffler worries a galleon. You don't know when to quit, and I don't feel like having you zeroing in on me like one of your cerebral challenges. I said no, and I meant no. But no is not enough for an overachiever like you. So I needed to apply myself to make sure you get the message," he said evenly.

Hermione's eyes flashed at him.

"No, that's not it, Professor. It's not that I don't know how to take no for an answer. It's just that I press on until I am successful, despite the odds of failure. You are afraid I will wear you down. You know I like to win, I like to beat the odds, and am very good at it."

Hermione slipped her robe off and dropped it on the floor. The Professor's eyes glittered.

"Put that back on, Miss Granger," he said to her coldly, "I have no desire to be blinded."

"You're full of shit, Professor," she replied, "Look at what you're passing up, you snarky bastard."

She spun around, her hair flying. Then she turned back to face him.

"You know something, Professor…you try to paint everyone as being pathetic, but it's you that's the sad case. You're lucky anyone in this world finds you attractive, the way you cut people down and make others miserable because your life isn't perfect. The only reason you have no joy in your life is because you won't accept it. You are wallowing in self-pity and hiding behind your misery. You would think a man surrounded by such ugliness would make an effort to find beauty and grab hold of it to sustain him. But no, not you, you hold a constant pity party for yourself, and you force others to attend it. 'Poor me. Voldemort tortures me. Nobody appreciates me'

Hermione actually laughed at the wizard, who was staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face.

"And when somebody comes to you with appreciation, who knows you are deserving of something better, you drive them away at wandpoint, unable to accept that bit of happiness you're being offered. I used to think you were courageous, but you're not, Professor. Sure, you can face the Dark Lord, but you are completely incapable of facing yourself. You deny you have need for companionship, for intimacy, even for love. Every living creature needs that. You are running from your own humanity, Professor, like a coward. A fucking coward. And it is a real shame because somewhere beneath all the shit you sling at everyone, there is a decent human being, or else you wouldn't be submitting yourself to all this pain just to gather a little pittance of information here and there that might stop Voldemort, or at least slow him down until he can be killed."

"Maybe you really can't stand me, Professor. Maybe you even hate me, I don't know. What I do know is that I offered you something that you dearly need in your life, because I care about you. I see you how you can be, and not as you are, though you make it so hard. I respect your mind, your brilliance. I appreciate what you give up for all of us. I tell you I want to help make your life more pleasant. I offer you the greatest gift I can give, and you are too fucking caught up in the misery you propagate daily to open up and accept something that would be good for you. You are afraid to feel anything good, Professor, anything that reminds you there is beauty in the world. As I said before you are a fucking coward, hiding behind cruelty, bitterness and pain, instead of trying to find a way to live through it, live with it."

"I'm not going to let you bully me anymore Professor…Severus," Hermione said, her hands on her hips," I still feel something very strong for you, but you will not treat me like I'm nothing, when it is you working so hard to be nothing, to feel nothing, to want nothing. You will not make me feel ugly and dirty, I won't allow you to. I'll continue in the hope that you will fucking wake up from the nightmare you impose on yourself every minute of every day, and see me for who I am, someone who cares what happens to you and wants to see you happy. Yes, there's a physical aspect to this. I won't deny it. I've already confessed it to you, but that is part of the package. I've not let anyone touch me in the hopes that one day it would be you to touch me, because I feel just that strongly, but I'm not going to beg you to accept me. That's like telling a starving man he needs to eat from the banquet in front of him, and he refuses, preferring to starve. That's what you are, Severus. A starving man who doesn't have sense enough to eat. You'd rather bemoan the fact you're starving and waste away. Poor fucking Severus!"

Hermione drew a breath and frowned at him.

Now, get the fuck out of my rooms!" she said furiously, "And take that turncoat, black-hearted feather duster with you!"

The Potions Master stared at her. Never in his adult life had anyone dared to dress him down like this little witch in a silk nightie had done. His mouth opened…but there was nothing he could say. He turned with Raucous and silently exited the witch's room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Exhausted, Hermione fell back on the sofa. She had just told off Severus Snape, called him on himself. She felt pretty damn good about it too. It had been cleansing.

Maybe now she'd see some changes in the wizard.

"Well Raucous, that turned out to be one hell of a fiasco," Severus said, pouring himself a drink, then carrying it over to the armchair in front of the fireplace. Raucous was perched on the back of it, and shuffled over to the left as the Potions Master sat down.

The raven was a bit off-color. Hermione's repelling spell had thrown him for a loop, literally. It was a first for the bird. He had never expected the witch to be so prepared or to suffer such an indignity. He was the one who dished them out. He hunkered down as Severus sipped his firewhiskey. The Potions Master craned his head toward the bird.

"What did she mean when she called you a turncoat, Raucous?" he asked the bird.

Raucous stood up and hopped down to the table and looked up at the Potions Master. He started shifting from one leg to the other, looking at the wizard furtively. The Professor drew his eyebrows together as he watched the bird's odd actions. As he did so, he started to feel a bit strange. Raucous continued his odd dance…it was hypnotic. Suddenly the Potions Master was aware of a magical stirring in the air. It was quite powerful. He tried to sit up but found he couldn't move or even speak as the raven continued its strange dance. What was happening?

Suddenly Raucous stopped dancing and hopped on the Professor's arm then up to his shoulder. The Potions Master felt the bird pulling at his hair as if moving it out of the way. Then he was aware of Raucous pressing his feathered head against his temple. There was a pulsing warmth, then Severus' vision went doubled. He was looking toward the fireplace, but seeing it at two differing angles. He could also see the side of his own head. Then his vision cleared, and Raucous hopped back down to the table again. Severus could move now.

The Potions Master stared at the bird. Had it put a spell of some type on him?

Raucous shook his head.


Severus blinked. He had clearly heard the word 'no' in a distinct male voice. He looked around his study, then at Raucous who blinked at him.


Severus sat up in the chair now. He clearly heard that. He looked at the familiar.

"Raucous, is that you?" he asked the bird.


Severus blinked at the raven. Of course, he was a true familiar. Familiars could communicate with their masters. Raucous had bonded with him.


Raucous bobbed his black head enthusiastically, then hopped about the table joyfully.

"You can talk to me now?" the Professor asked him.


"Pictures?" Severus asked the bird.

Suddenly he received an image of Hermione, colored red with horns sticking out the top of her head and an evil expression on her face.


Severus snorted back a laugh at the image of the witch. To the bird, that was probably how Hermione really seemed right now, especially after repelling him across the room.

"So, Raucous, how did you come to me?" he asked the bird.

Raucous sent him images of himself in various households causing all kinds of mischief and being returned to the Magical Menagerie several times. An angry shopkeeper with a handlebar mustache accepted him back each time, looking angrier and angrier. Finally Raucous showed himself attacking the shopkeeper and shitting on him. The shopkeeper blasted the bird who fell into the arms of one Hermione Granger.

"Raucous, you mean to tell me she saved you, and you attacked her?" he asked the bird.

In response, the bird sent Severus an image of Hermione dressed in a frilly pink dress surrounded by sweets and flowers, little cupids soaring about, then one of himself apparently gagging. Then one of the Potions Master himself, scowling and surrounded by a kind of halo.

"Ah, she was too sweet for your liking. You preferred me," the Potions Master said, smirking.

Raucous nodded. He was glad the Potions Master understood his sendings so clearly.

He then sent Severus images of Hermione disillusioning him, and him in the classroom watching. Then of her tying the tag around him and taking him into the classroom. Severus understood at once.

"Hm. I wonder why she gave you to me. Probably because we are so much alike," the Potions Master mused. Absently, he petted the raven, who stretched out his neck appreciatively.

Raucous sent him her conversation.

"Raucous, do you know why I am giving you to the Professor? Because, he's alone and needs something or someone to care about. I was hoping that you could crack the ice around his heart. If he opens himself up to you, he might open himself up to me in the future."

The Potions Master raised his eyebrows at both Hermione's statement and Raucous' ability to send an actual conversation with moving images. He looked at the bird thoughtfully. Raucous could be invaluable to him as a spy. He would have to explore that further.

Now as to Hermione. What an idealistic, romantic, misguided little chit she was. Caring for a familiar was much different than caring for another human being. How could she even think such a thing would be possible?

He drifted back to the recent dressing down he received from the witch, while she wore next to nothing. She had more fire in her than he originally suspected. She also had a very sharp tongue…she had cut him up quite well with it. She thought he was a coward. Him. A wizard who lived in danger of discovery every day. Death was always a summons away. How could she consider him a coward?

Severus finished his firewhiskey, walked over to his liquor cabinet and retrieved the bottle, setting it on the table by the armchair. Then he walked over to his desk and took out a small wizarding wireless radio and set it on the table as well. Raucous had hopped back up to the back of the armchair, seeing the wizard lost in his own thoughts.

From his Master's mind, the bird had caught flashes of a thin red-eyed wizard who looked too much like a snake to make the raven comfortable. He radiated evil…more evil than even Raucous cared for. The bird shuddered and fluffed his feathers, hunkering down on the armchair quietly as the Potions Master adjusted the radio until he found the classical music station he was looking for, then sat back down in the armchair and poured himself another drink. It was Saturday night, and he was ready to unwind and tie one on while listening to Vivaldi.

Three hours later found Severus with quite a buzz. Raucous was still sitting quietly, listening to the soothing music.

The Potions Master's mind turned back to Hermione tonight, but he wasn't thinking about what she said this time. In his alcohol-induced haze, he was thinking about what she looked like in that short little nightie. She was saving what was under it for him. But what was under it?

Suddenly he got an image of Hermione undressing. The witch was taking off her robes, her face scrunched up in distaste as she dropped them in a pile. She then removed her tee shirt, revealing a very well packed white brassiere, and a tight, rather muscular belly. She had a very small waist. Then she unfastened her jeans and pulled them off, showing white knickers and surprisingly long shapely legs for a witch her size.. Hermione reached behind her back and unclasped the bra, pulling it off. Her breasts were large and firm with dark areolas. She slipped off her knickers, revealing a curling chestnut bush. The witch turned around. She had a nice, round ass and flared hips. She walked into the bathroom, her buttocks shifting deliciously.

The Potions Master hissed despite himself. He had an erection. He craned his head around to look up at Raucous, who was staring at him.

"That was real?" he asked the bird in a slurred voice.


"Shit," he said.

Raucous sent him the image of two ravens mating,

"No…no…no," the Potions Master said, his speech thick. "Won't do. Don't want her."

Raucous hopped down to the table and then on to the Potions Master's knee. He cocked his head at the tent in the dark wizard's robes for a moment, then blinked up at him.

"That's nothing. Physical reaction," the Potions Master said, setting the finished drink down and standing up. This made his erection more pronounced. He weaved a little.

"Should go to the brothel…" he said a bit drunkenly. But he headed for the bedroom.

Severus pulled out his wand and divestoed his clothing. Stark naked he fell face first into the bed, climbed up and pushed his face into the pillow. After a moment he raised his head, his face contorted in disgust.

"What the fuck?" he said.

His pillow smelled of fish.

The Potions Master sat up, picked up the pillow and squeezed it in his hands. He felt the small fish inside.

"Bloody hell!" he yelled, throwing the pillow out the bed and grabbing another, sniffing it thoroughly before plopping down on it face first. He soon rolled over to his back, because his erection had been pressing uncomfortably into his belly. Now it lay against him, pulsing hungrily.

"Damn it," he breathed.

Why did that bloody bird have to send him that image of Hermione undressing? He didn't need to see that.

In the study, Raucous felt the drunken Potions Master's anger towards him and flew up into the rafters, inching into the shadows in case the wizard came out blasting. The bird settled down, watching the bedroom door intently.

Severus lay there, the memory of Hermione naked stuck in his brain, his member throbbing against him. If he wasn't so lit he would have gone to the brothel for a blow job. But there was nothing he could do now but wait for sleep to come. He rolled to his side.

Damn that witch. Damn her.

The next morning as Hermione was heading for breakfast when she became aware of a presence behind her. She knew who it was instinctively and quickened her steps.

The Professor appeared beside her, scowling.

"I hope you don't think your little dramatic monologue had any effect on me, Miss Granger. It was just the spoutings of a naïve little witch who thinks everything in the world is black or white," he hissed at her.

The Potions Master felt awful and was out of Sober-up potion. Seeing Hermione worsened his mood. But he felt compelled to straighten her out, just in case she thought she had gained a victory last night.

The witch frowned.

"Of course it didn't have an effect. You're too steeped in self-pity to absorb the truth about yourself," Hermione said haughtily, looking up at the wizard with distaste.

She noticed his red-rimmed eyes, and his skin looked paler than usual.

"Looks like you decided to cuddle up with a bottle last night. That makes sense. It's as cold and hard as you are," Hermione said, picking up the pace. The Potions Master kept up easily.

"I know it was you who brought Raucous to me, hoping I would "open up" to you," he sneered at her. "Only a blindly optimistic little fool like you would think something like that possible. I wouldn't open up to you if you put me on a dissection table and autopsied me."

Hermione looked at him. She wondered how he knew about Raucous.

"You might not, but that sounds like something I'd be willing to try anyway," she retorted.

Severus looked at her. There was something different about the witch. She was…well…snarkier. He was not about to be outsnarked by a wretched little virgin.

"And if you thought flaunting your body around like that would have an effect on me, you were dead wrong. I thought it was a disgusting display. Quite pathetic really, " he said, frowning at her.

"So that's why you couldn't keep your eyes off my tits the entire time I was talking to you," she replied as they turned into the main hall.

"I was not looking at your tits," he claimed, scowling at the witch as his eyes helplessly swept over her breasts. He cursed himself. He only did it because she mentioned them.

"You were too looking at my tits," she declared, "I know when a wizard is looking at my tits, Severus, and you were."

On hearing his given name, the Potions Master looked at her blackly.

"And what is this 'Severus' business? I don't want you calling me by my given name. I am Professor to you," he snarled at her. "You are getting too familiar, Miss Granger."

"I am a full grown witch and currently on staff now. You are NOT my Professor, Severus. I'll call you what I want in private. You can't stop me. And I have plenty of other names for you, believe me," she said to him as they approached the main door, "I'll be happy to share them if you piss me off enough."

"I forbid you to use my given name!" he yelled at her as they entered the Great Hall. Everyone looked up at them.

"You have no right to forbid me to do anything, Severus," Hermione said in a low voice as they stalked up to the staff table. "As far as I'm concerned, you can take your nasty attitude and your irrational demands and go fuck yourself."

She mounted the dais and walked down to her seat, her nose in the air.

The Potions Master scowled after the disrespectful witch. Such foul words coming out of that supposedly innocent little mouth. Severus realized that by his actions he had inadvertently made Hermione more confrontational. She certainly wasn't cowering any longer when he verbally attacked her. The witch was giving as good as she got. He had the feeling that she would no longer take his mistreatment of her in the classroom either. One thing he knew for certain, she hadn't given up on him as a potential lover. She said she would wait for him to 'wake up from his self-imposed nightmare" or something similar.

His entire life was a nightmare. She had no idea what it was like to be him, or what it would be like to be involved with him. He wasn't a nice wizard at all, even in intimate situations with willing women he was a real bastard with them. He treated them all like prostitutes. Hermione in her innocence had no idea how he dominated women. One encounter with him and the witch would be ruined for life. Appealing as the idea of ruining the infuriating little witch was, he knew he needed to find a way to turn the witch off to him. His usual methods of driving people away wasn't working with her. Maybe he needed to try something else. Something more original.

He ordered his breakfast and looked down at the student tables. On Sundays the students were more lax, mixing more at the tables. Only the Slytherins kept their table rival-free. The other houses mixed, generally those who were dating out of house sat together, enjoying their meals. Severus eyed the mixed couples thoughtfully. Then he got an idea. Maybe Hermione would give up if she thought another female had an interest in him, an interest he seemed to return. That might work.

The Potions Master looked down the table at the witch. She was eating a cinnamon bun and drinking coffee. He studied her, and a thought came to him that was even more appealing than having another woman pretending to be interested in him. What if someone else were interested in her? Someone almost as dark as he was, but with far more personality. Someone who was actually quite successful with women? Someone right here at Hogwarts. Sure, the wizard he had in mind hadn't shown much interest in Hermione, but with the right amount of incentive, probably in galleons, he was sure the wizard would take the witch of his hands. He was a man of few scruples after all.

He stared down the table at the Dark Arts teacher, who was enjoying a stack of pancakes with sausage. He was a rather good-looking wizard, well-built. And then, there were those eyes that witches seemed to go gaga over. DA teacher had a bit of a reputation as a troublemaker, getting into duels with jealous husbands and such, but obviously Hermione had a thing for the bad boy type…she was trying to court Severus after all. The Potions Master studied the wizard for a while. He was almost sure he could get him to court Hermione. Then his troubles would be over. The wizard was an expert at seducing witches. He would probably have Hermione popped and bedded inside of a month. Then, she'd be on her own and the Potions Master would be free of her for good.

Thinking he might have a viable plan, Severus finished his breakfast and his third cup of black coffee, feeling in better spirits. Hermione stalked by him, her nose still in the air and exited the Great Hall. The Potions Master smirked after her. She had no idea what was in store for her if this idea of his worked.

Hermione walked toward the dungeons. She was a little elated about how she had handled the Potions Master this morning. She gave him a bit of his own snarkiness back, and found she liked putting the wizard in his place. He needed that. He'd been getting away with cruel remarks for far too long. He had everyone so frightened of him, no one would challenge him, with the exception of Albus and Minerva. Now he could add her to the list.

She had hoped that something she said last night had sunk in. She was of the mind that some of it did, but the Potions Master wasn't about to admit she had him pegged. He was an expert at deluding himself as well as others. But she saw right through him. The Potions Master was a slave to his own fears. He didn't want to give his heart because he was afraid of being hurt…that was the crux of the matter. But Hermione would never hurt him, not purposely. She felt he had been hurt enough, and in fact was still being hurt. She didn't care what he said, no one liked to be treated like a pariah, not even him, though it was mostly his own fault. He couldn't blame it on his being a deatheater.

Hell, Lucius Malfoy acted suave, debonair and was quite popular, and he was the worst deatheater there was. He still mingled with society and for the most part, was well-liked by those who didn't know his true affiliations. The truth had come out about him, but using his charisma, and a lot of galleons, he squashed the rumors and was considered one of the wizarding world's most upstanding citizens. Hermione felt sick to the stomach when she thought of it. Lucius had cornered her at a Ministry function a year ago, and tried to get her to accompany him to his mansion for a night of 'unbridled passion"

"I can smell a virgin ready to be made a woman," he had said to her as he trapped her in a corner, both hands pressed on the walls around her and leaning quite close.

His gray eyes had a coldness in them that made her quiver in fear. Lucius mistook it for desire and kissed her. He got a good slap in the face for that. The look on his face made Hermione afraid he would strike her. He would have too, if Harry hadn't walked up and rescued her. The young Auror saw her slap Malfoy and he hurried right over, glaring at the wizard as he took Hermione's arm. Lucius had frowned after them. But that was her last run-in with the evil wizard. He was a real piece of work. No wonder his son Draco was such an asshole.

But back to Severus. If Lucius could operate in wizarding society, so could the Potions Master. But he wasn't willing to try.

Hermione sighed. Why couldn't she have been attracted to someone more accessible, someone who would respond to her affections? Why? Because that would be too easy, that's why. Part of her attraction to the dark wizard was the fact that he was so untouchable. Getting Severus Snape was a challenge, and she loved a challenge. Even if it were dark, snarky and hid out in the dungeons all day.

She arrived at her rooms, opened the door and entered. She was going to take a nice, long bath.

Severus lingered until the DA teacher finished his breakfast and exited the staff room. Severus quickly rose and followed him.

As the wizard headed for his rooms in the Dark Arts corridor, the Potions Master called out to him.

"Mr. Delaluci?"

The blonde wizard turned, his violet eyes on the dark wizard gliding toward him. His eyes telescoped, the black pupils becoming large for a moment, then returning to normal.

"Yeah, Snape?" he replied, watching the Potions Master approach. He and the bat of the dungeons rarely ever spoke to each other, and he was curious as to what the wizard could possibly want with him.

Severus winced at the informal way Marcus addressed him. But that was the way the wizard was. He stopped in front of him.

"Mr. Delaluci, I was wondering if I might have a word with you about a situation I'm facing," Severus said evenly.

Marcus' eyebrows rose.

"And what would your situation possibly have to do with me, Professor? I barely know you," Marcus replied, looking the wizard over.

"It could have everything to do with you, if you'll give me a moment of your time. It could be quite…profitable," Severus purred.

Marcus' eyes lit up. Profitable? Now that was interesting. He barely made enough at Hogwarts to cruise the bars on the weekends. He needed money.

"Profitable? Now you're talking my language, Snape. Come on down to my office and have a sit down. Then you can tell me what you have in mind," Marcus said, gesturing toward his office.

"My pleasure Mr. Delaluci," Severus said silkily.

The two wizards walked down the corridor, Severus' brain working overtime. He just had to enlist the wizard's aid in distracting Hermione.

Then his life could return to normal.

Marcus opened the door to the Dark Arts office and entered, followed by Severus, who took the comfortable armchair in front of Marcus' desk. Obviously he treated his visitors much better than Severus, who had a hard, small and rather splintery wooden chair in front of his desk, made that way to make visitors uncomfortable and hopefully leave quickly. It had never worked on Hermione however. She would sit on her backpack, the little chit.

Marcus walked around his desk and sat down. He looked at Severus consideringly.

"All right, Snape. Clue me in, mate. What is this about?" he asked the black-eyed wizard.

"Are you familiar with Hermione Granger, Mr. Delaluci?" Severus asked him.

Marcus thought a minute.

"Ah, yes. A little bookish piece of fluff that's been floating between classrooms all year," he replied.

For some reason Marcus' description of Hermione rankled the Potions Master a bit. He shrugged it off.

Hermione was pretty enough to catch Marcus' eye, but too smart. Bedding a woman like that required breaking through all that mind first, before getting to the good stuff. It was just too much work. Marcus preferred witches who were empty-headed and randy.

"Well, I have a problem with the witch. A problem I am hoping a wizard of your talent can help me with," the Potions Master said smoothly, and he proceeded to tell Marcus of Hermione's attraction to him and what he would like the violet-eyed wizard to do. When he was finished, Marcus was silent for a while. Then he leaned back in his chair and eyed the Potions Master.

"Let me get this straight. Hermione has been saving herself for you, and wants to you to pop her cherry. But you don't want to," he said to Severus.

Severus scowled, "Actually it's a little more involved than that, but yes, you have the gist of it."

Marcus looked at him.

"You know, she's not a bad looking little witch," he mused, "I don't see why you just don't shag her and get it out of her system. That would be the easiest thing to do."

"Because I don't want to, Mr. Delaluci," Severus seethed. The wizard was over-simplifying matters. "I despise the witch. I've told her I don't want her but she continues to pursue me. I need you to divert her attentions. Will you help me?"

Marcus tapped his fingers on the desk, considering this.

"Well, I don't know. She's a bookworm. Those types are really difficult to unthaw. Plus she's a virgin. I haven't popped a cherry in years. That's even more work. Not only to I have to get her to loosen up, I have to go through all that 'I'm scared' and 'be gentle' shit if I do get her in bed," Marcus said.

Severus looked at Marcus. He needed to give the wizard more incentive.

"Mr. Delaluci, would you happen to have a pensieve?" he asked the wizard.

"Yeah, I do. Hold on a moment," Marcus said, rising and walking into his classroom. He returned with a small black bowl. He slid it across his desk to Severus, who withdrew his wand and pulled several silver strands from his head and deposited them into the pensieve. When he was finished, Severus slid the bowl back to Marcus.

"I think you should take a look at that, Mr. Delaluci. It might help you make up your mind," the Potions Master said smoothly.

Marcus stuck his finger in the bowl. In a few seconds his eyebrows lifted, then his violet eyes started to telescope slightly as his breathing quickened. Severus watched his reaction. It was a tiny bit unsettling.

Finally, Marcus removed his finger from the bowl, and stared at Severus as if he were crazy.

"Damn. And you don't want to hit that?" he breathed at the wizard, "Tell me something, Snape. Are you batting for the other team?"

Marcus had just witnessed Severus's memory of Hermione undressing, given to him by Raucous. The witch was small, but very, very shapely. Severus scowled at his insinuation.

"No, Mr. Delaluci. I am not gay," he said stiffly.

"Well, then you are some kind of monk or something. There's no way I'd pass up shagging that witch if she offered herself to me. You must be into self-denial, self-punishment or something," the blonde wizard observed.

"What I am into is myself, Mr. Delaluci. I don't need a witch in my life," Severus seethed, becoming irritated now. He didn't need to be analyzed by the wizard. He needed him to take Hermione off his hands.

Marcus shook his head.

"Well, the whole thing doesn't make much sense to me, but I tell you what. I like what I saw, and enjoy small witches. You can do a lot with them physically, and they're usually screamers. I love a screamer," he said, his violet eyes telescoping for a moment before he focused on the Potions Master again. "You've got your wizard, Snape. I'll shag her so good she'll forget all about you, believe me. Now let's talk galleons."

Severus felt a little unpleasant tightening in his belly when the wizard said he'd make Hermione forget all about him, but the Potions Master shrugged that feeling off as well. They went over the details of payment. Marcus would get half up front and the rest when he bedded Hermione successfully.

"You know," Marcus said, "I'm probably going to break her heart. I generally don't sleep with the same witch twice. It gives them the idea that I care. Which I don't. I'm strictly about the hunt and the kill. What happens to the body afterwards isn't my concern."

Severus looked at the wizard with a bit of distaste. But he himself was hardly any better.

"She'll get over it," Severus said sourly.

He wasn't sure if Hermione would, but a lot of witches went through abandonment by wizards they thought cared about them. Anyway, it wasn't his problem. If the witch opened her legs for the blonde wizard, she deserved what she got.

"All right then. Now, how well do you know the witch personally?" he asked the Potions Master.

"I taught her for seven years," he said shortly.

"Oh, she was your student. She probably had the hots for you for quite a while. Usually they get stuck on a wizard in their sixth or seventh year. I've got a couple of young witches panting after me right now. And I tell you Professor, taking a student can be a wonderful thing."

Severus' eyebrows rose.

"You mean to tell me, Mr. Delaluci, that you've indulged yourself with your students?" Severus said, disbelief in his voice.

"If they aren't virgins, hell yes. Right in the classroom most of the time. My desk has seen a lot of action these past three years. Most were the age of consent," he replied, smiling wickedly.

"Most?" Severus asked, scowling a little. The wizard was a pig.

"One or two were almost there, but not quite. Still they wanted it, so…I obliged them. It's hard to resist a curvy little student petting your tool through your robes while begging you to shag her."

Here Marcus' eyes narrowed a bit.

"Most of them are Slytherins, you know. The girls from that house are something else. Not ashamed to ask for what they want. And gods, what they want." Marcus confided, knowing this bit of information would piss the Potions Master off.

He was the Slytherin head of house after all. Learning that Marcus was laying wand to the young women he was supposed to protect had to rankle him. It did. But since Severus had enlisted the help of the randy wizard, he didn't want to ruin the deal. So he rose stiffly.

"You can drop by my rooms this afternoon for the first half of your payment," Severus said rather coldly.

The iciness in his voice wasn't lost on Marcus, who grinned. He enjoyed rankling people. The dour Potions Master made the perfect victim. Marcus wouldn't mind dueling the wizard. He looked formidable. Rumor had it the wizard was a deatheater. Looking at him, Marcus didn't doubt it…but that didn't faze him a bit. Marcus was a former Eradicator, part of an elite and secret force that served as Ministry assassins. Most of his targets were political in nature, people the Ministry wanted to "go away." He'd brutalized and wiped out entire families, raped daughters and wives to send messages, things of that nature.

A nosy reporter by the name of Rita Skeeter blew the top off of the clandestine group, forcing the Ministry to quickly disband the Eradicators, leaving them to fend for themselves. Many of them were killed by the surviving families of those who they had slaughtered under Ministry directives. Marcus left the country and spent a number of years as a Mercenary for Gringotts banks, destroying villages, killing natives and claiming territories in the bank's name. Finally, tired of all the bloodshed, he returned to England and tried to make an honest living. No one ever came after him.

He wasn't doing too well when a tall, thin, bearded wizard with half-moon glasses showed up at his flat one day and asked him if he'd like to teach at Hogwarts. When Marcus told him he had never taught before or even gone to university, the old man dismissed that, saying he had life experience that would serve him just as well. It turned out he was a pretty good teacher. He had used the Dark Arts almost his whole life, and knew quite a bit about it that the books didn't tell. Albus Dumbledore had a gift of picking the right wizards for the job. Marcus knew all about the supposed curse on the DA position, but had been at Hogwarts three years now. He believed he was already cursed because of all the blood on his hands, so the DA curse didn't affect him. He might have been right.

Marcus was interesting in another way. One of his ancestors was a dragon, and the wizard had been born with two attributes that hadn't shown up in his line in over a thousand years. One was his violet eyes. He could telescope them, shifting the pupils so wide, his eyes seemed to become completely black. This gave him the ability to see in total darkness. His eyes also telescoped painfully when he was in the presence of dark magic.

Marcus' other attribute was more pleasure-oriented. He could physically adjust the size of his organ between human and dragon-sized. Not that he ever used it at its full potential, but it made him one hell of a lover, particularly when he increased its size mid-stroke. Severus had chosen one hell of a wizard to seduce Hermione.

"I'll be there with bells on," Marcus said to Severus, "This afternoon about four."

Marcus started to offer the wizard his hand, but thought better of it. He didn't like the look in the wizard's eyes. Not that he was frightened of the Professor. Hell, he'd like a good fight to be honest. But he was wary. Very wary. It was the assassin in him that put him on point. They were both dangerous men. Dangerous men had to be careful around each other. There was always something to prove.

"Good day, then, Mr. Delaluci," Severus said as he exited the office.

"See you, Snape," Marcus replied, sitting back down at his desk. He needed to start planning how to get to the witch. When he stopped by Snape's later, he'd get the entire lowdown on her from the dark wizard. Once he knew what she liked, he would become what she liked.

Once he became what she liked, he'd shag her. Snape wouldn't have to worry about the witch wanting him again once he got through with her.

Severus told Marcus all he knew about Hermione's likes and dislikes which he was surprised to discover he knew quite a lot about. He even knew her favorite scent and sandwich. She was very into politics, and had a preference for those who were socially conscious and had strong opinions about Voldemort. Marcus didn't give a damn about Voldemort. If things got bad, he'd just leave the country again putting distance between him and the Dark Lord's influence. As far as he was concerned he did his duty when he served the Ministry all those years. But, in order to woo Hermione, he'd put up a good front.

Hermione was also an easy touch for a sob story. A rough upbringing was sure to move her heart. Well, Marcus had no problem there. He had been orphaned at a young age, shuffled about from foster home to foster home until he escaped to live on the street, and was on his way to juvenile prison for hexing some young wizards who were tormenting him, when he was given the option to join the Eradicators. He wouldn't tell the witch that part however, unless necessary, then he would water it down significantly.

Of course, the witch appreciated intelligence. Marcus in his normal state was rather rough around the edges, but he was no slouch in the brains department. His role as an assassin required him to be well read about a variety of subjects because he was often required to infiltrate the circle of friends of a target, and then kill him or her when in a position of trust. So he was quite adaptable in every situation and could act cultured when required to. The wizard knew how to play a role convincingly. Hermione would never divine his true intentions toward her until after he had succeeded and left her alone.

The Professor insisted on weekly updates of the wizard's progress with the witch, including details. He was paying good money after all, and told himself he wanted simply to know how well his investment was going. Marcus balked at this at first, then decided the Potions Master was entitled to know how the seduction was going.

Marcus' first act was to make an appointment to talk to the Headmaster about Hermione spending some time in the Dark Arts class as his assistant. Actually he didn't know why the witch wasn't helping him as she did Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape. Didn't he count as a staff member too? True he wasn't a professor, but he did all right. He felt a bit snubbed to be honest. And that only added fuel to his fire concerning the witch. So, she thought he wasn't good enough to help eh? He was good enough in other areas, she could be sure of that.

Actually, Hermione chose to work with Professors she knew. Marcus had been hired after she left Hogwarts, so she didn't know the wizard. She liked dabbling in the Dark Arts theoretically, and wouldn't have minded assisting if she had been more familiar with the teacher. As it was, she had her three classes, so didn't think any more about it.

Albus explained to Marcus that Hermione was only required to assist three staff members, though if he asked her, she might be willing to assist him as well. It would be more experience after all. This suited Marcus just fine. It gave him the opportunity to talk to the witch one on one with an actual purpose. He could feel her out then, and decide how to make his move.

In the meantime, Hermione and Severus continued their private war, the Potions Master sniping at her every chance he got, and Hermione telling him off on every single occasion, except in the classroom. In those cases she found other ways to get him back, such as hexing the drawers on his desk so the fronts came off when he tried to open them, weakening his chair so it collapsed when he sat down, clogging up all his quills so he had nothing to write with in class…small things like that. She was the epitome of innocence when these annoyances occurred.

Raucous wasn't spared either. Hermione got him really good when she conjured an excellent illusion of an open window in the dungeon corridor, including the scent of fresh air and a slight breeze. Severus tried to stop the bird from soaring out of it, knowing there was no way a window could be in the dungeons, but Raucous tried anyway and was knocked out cold.

Raucous, on the other hand, shit on Hermione every chance he got, lying in wait in the dungeon hall shadows, then swooping down on her, dropping his load and winging away in a zigzag pattern so she couldn't hex him.

Severus had a small floo placed in the owlery and charmed his study fireplace to grant the bird access in and out anytime he wanted to leave the dungeons. Raucous also delivered messages and packages for the Potions Master as well. The bird really was quite a help to him as well as an entertaining companion. The bird hated Hermione and kept the Professor chortling as he sent image after image of Hermione in horrible situations, one of the worst being the witch engaged in sex with a very randy hippogriff.

This was after the witch had placed the illusion of a thick ham sandwich over a huge mud hole right outside the main doors when she saw the bird exit the owlery for an afternoon flight. Naturally, when Raucous saw the sandwich, he dove for it and landed right in the puddle. He was covered with so much mud he couldn't fly, and had to caw at the main doors until someone heard him and let him in, then hop down the long corridor to the Professor's rooms and raise hell until the Potions Master heard him and let him in. He took one look at the mud-covered raven and knew what happened. Still, he had to ask.

"Hermione?" the Professor asked the raven.

Raucous looked up at him and clipped his beak angrily.


The bedraggled bird sent these bitter words to Severus as he hopped past, leaving little drops of dried mud behind. The Professor couldn't help smirking. Hermione was proving more and more that she would have done well in Slytherin house. Who would have thought the witch was so vindictive?

A week had passed before Marcus made his first move. It was a Saturday morning, right after breakfast. Hermione was leaving the Great Hall and had just exited through the staff doors, when Marcus followed her. Severus watched him surreptiously. So he was finally going for the witch. It was about time.

"Ah, Miss Granger," Marcus called.

Hermione stopped and turned around. Her amber eyes washed over the wizard.

"Yes Mr. Delaluci?" she answered. The wizard walked up to her.

"I was hoping to steal a moment of your time," he said, smiling at the witch.

Hermione looked at the wizard. They had never spoke until this very moment. It wasn't that they ignored each other purposely. Marcus would often nod a greeting at her when their paths crossed. There was just no reason for a conversation. Hermione looked up at him. He was tall, broad shouldered and had the most amazing eyes. She had never noticed that before. Violet eyes. How strange.

"How can I help you, Mr. Delaluci?" she asked him.

"I don't want to hold you up, Miss Granger. How about I walk with you as we talk?" he said.

Well, that was considerate.

"Certainly, Mr. Delaluci," she replied as she started walking. The wizard had to shorten his stride as he walked beside the witch.

"First a question," Marcus said smoothly, "Have I done something to offend you, Miss Granger?"

Hermione stopped. Why would he ask her that?

"No, Mr. Delaluci. You've never done anything for me to take offense at. Why do you ask?" she replied her brow furrowed.

"Because you don't assist me as you do the other teachers. I thought I might have done something that made you avoid me," he said, looking at her intensely.

Hermione sighed with relief.

"Oh no, Mr. Delaluci. It's just that I have the three classes I require for my credits. It has nothing to do with you personally," she said.

They started walking again, turning down the dungeon corridor.

"I see," he said. Then he fell silent for a moment. Hermione looked at him.

"Is there something you want, Mr. Delaluci?" she asked him.

The wizard looked at her, remembering her naked in the pensieve. Did he want something? Oh yes.

"I was wondering if you might consider assisting me with the DA classes. All of them are rather large and I find myself stretched to my limit sometimes. Between marking papers, demonstrating magic, overseeing the students and testing, I'm worn out. I really could use some help," he said.

Actually, he was telling the truth. He did have large classes.

Hermione looked at him. If she helped him, that would be more experience under her belt. She could handle it.

"How many times a week?" she asked him.

"Whenever it is convenient for you. I need help all the time. Anytime you could show up would be fine," he said.

Hermione considered this as they stopped in front of her rooms door.

"All right Mr. Delaluci, I'll be happy to assist you. Just bring me a copy of your class schedule and I'll work you in," she said smiling at him.

The wizard smiled back broadly. He was quite handsome, but not too much so.

"I appreciate that, Miss Granger, and please, call me Marcus," he said, his violet eyes telescoping at her. Hermione gasped.

"What did you just do with your eyes?" she asked him, staring into his face.

"What? This?" Marcus said, telescoping his eyes slowly so they turned completely black, then returning them to normal.

"How do you do that?" Hermione asked him. That was abnormal. No human pupil could enlarge to that size.

Marcus folded his arms and leaned against the wall next to the door and looked down at the witch.

"It has to do with an ancestor of mine. It seemed he kidnapped a village virgin that happened to be my great grandmother many, many times removed, and took a great liking to her. A very great liking," the wizard said.

"And who was your ancestor?" Hermione asked, very interested.

Marcus hesitated a bit for effect.

"Well, I don't know his name. I just know he was a dragon," he replied, watching for her reaction.

"You're a crossbreed," Hermione said, her amber eyes wide at this implication. Marcus scowled at her a bit.

"I am mostly human. The dragon blood in my family was largely watered down, but by some twist of fate I was born with my ancestor's attributes. First one in a thousand years. I don't classify myself as a crossbreed, Miss Granger. To do so would relegate me to less than a second-class citizen, and I would have no rights under current human wizarding laws. I wouldn't be allowed to work in any area where I was in contact with other humans, I wouldn't be able to vote or to marry. I wouldn't be allowed to travel. I wouldn't even be allowed a wand. I would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and be in the same position as house elves and werewolves. You know how few rights they have," he said meaningfully.

"Yes, I do," Hermione said.

She had in her younger years attempted to champion the rights of house elves, trying to get them fair wages and time off. The elves were uncooperative, preferring to stay as they were. And she knew Remus' situation. He could hardly find employment anywhere but the most menial jobs. And even then he was let go.

"If I were to claim my heritage, they would attempt to take my rights away, my very manhood. And I assure you, Miss Granger, I am as much, if not more of a man as the next wizard," he said in a low, passionate voice, "I would fight to the death to preserve my rights to live as a free wizard.

Hermione felt a little thrill go through her when the wizard said this. She hadn't known he was so…so interesting. She had to know more about him.

At this moment, Severus walked past the couple. His black eyes swept over them as he passed, noting Marcus leaning against the wall and Hermione staring up at him in what seemed to be fascination. Was it that easy? She didn't even seem to notice him pass. Marcus nodded slightly however.

The Potions Master stopped outside his door.

He heard Hermione say, "Mr. Del…I mean Marcus, I would love to hear more about your family history if you have time. Maybe we could do lunch later? Or tomorrow?"

The blonde wizard smiled at her.

"I'd be delighted to have lunch with you tomorrow, Miss Granger," he said smoothly.

"Call me Hermione," she replied, smiling, "We can have lunch in the astronomy tower. No one will disturb us there during the day. Say twelve noon?"

"That's fine," he said, telescoping his eyes at her again.

"Wonderful. And I'll bring lunch. What do you like to eat?" she asked him.

Marcus looked at the witch so intensely her stomach felt a little queasy.

"I'm not hard to please," he said softly, "Surprise me."

"All right, I will," Hermione said. She fumbled at the door. It wouldn't open.

"Allow me," Marcus said, withdrawing his wand, "Alohamora."

The door opened. Hermione felt stupid.

"Of course it was locked," she said, embarrassed.

"Don't worry. I'm very good at opening doors," Marcus said, looking down at the witch.

Severus still hovered outside the door, listening to Marcus work on the witch. He had to admit the wizard was smooth. Almost too smooth. He had been with her a little more than ten minutes and the witch had already invited him to lunch with her alone in the astronomy tower.

"All right then, I'll see you at lunch tomorrow. Twelve sharp," she said, entering her rooms.

"I'll bring my schedule," Marcus replied, "Goodbye for now, Hermione."

"Goodbye, Marcus," the witch said, closing the door.

Marcus stood there a moment looking at the door. That had been easy. Then his violet eyes fell on Snape, who was standing in front of his office door, looking at the wizard. Marcus smirked at him, turned and sauntered up the dungeon hallway, whistling.

Severus let himself into his office, then into his study. It was only about ten in the morning, but he wanted a drink. He fixed himself a shot of firewhiskey and dropped into the armchair before the fire. Hermione was a naïve little twit. Couldn't she see through the wizard? No, of course she couldn't. That's why Severus had hired him in the first place. He was a master of seduction.

He tossed down the firewhiskey and set the shot glass down on the table. What had the wizard said to Hermione that made her invite him to lunch like that? And how did they get on a first name basis so quickly?

Severus caught himself. He didn't need to question this. All he needed was for Marcus to get results, and he was doing that, just as he said he would. The Professor just didn't realize he could move so quickly. Well, that was what he wanted, right? For the wizard to bed the witch and get her out of his hair once and for all as soon as possible.

Yes, that was what he wanted.

Wasn't it?

A/N: Thank you for reading. More to come.