Author's Note: This is my first Harry Potter fanfiction. The pairing is Severus Snape/Hermione Granger. I warn you: I'm American. This is, as of yet, unbeta read. I think my beta reader forgot about me.

Disclaimer: Don't own a bloody thing in this story, except the story itself.

Cinnamon and Coal

Part One: A Hippogriff's Perspective

She'd never imagined how beautiful such a slate, snowy day could be.

The trees were bare of their leafy friends, cold and naked to the world. A blanket of pure snow draped over their branching arms, the white of the frozen precipitation balancing the black-brown bark to create the appearance – and sense – of winter.

Green could not be spotted for miles, the ground having been quilted in a thick slab of snow. The naked, blanketed trees blotted the area heavily, leaving only two or three clearings where there weren't two trunks within ten feet of each other. The sky loomed over the earth, overcast and slate, as if all the blue in the world had been traded for a spread of neutrality. There was only the slightest of breezes, enough to tousle a few stray curls or gently blow at a pair of bangs; maybe even water the eyes of someone who had sensitive oculars. Finally, the temperature had chilled quite dramatically the night before, falling ten degrees before the freezing point of water, causing noses and cheeks to redden and thin clouds of perspiration to escape opened mouths.

The mood of this day in particular could be seen as "gloomy", since there were no birds chirping peacefully in the air or sun shining down and warming smiling faces. The slate sky seemed to be the cause of melancholy attitudes and somber faces peering through windows instead of frolicking outdoors. It seems that the entirety of Hogwarts, including its students, teachers, staff, house-elves, ghosts, and man-eating plants, had chosen to remain indoors on this particular day, shuffling about to find something to occupy their easily-wandering minds. Yes, it seemed like no one had dared to venture into the gardens, or stop by the frozen lake the visit the squid, or even drop by Hagrid's for a friendly hello. It seemed that not one human had been unaccounted for inside of the building, and that every child had a mug of hot chocolate that never went cold or every teacher sat in the lounge, enjoying the warmth of the magically charmed room.

But, as we all know, nothing at Hogwarts is always as it seems.

In truth, one certain Potions Master and another certain class valedictorian were nowhere to be found inside of the massive castle, though it seemed that everyone assumed they had isolated themselves behind a fort of textbooks or behind a lab counter in the dungeons, respectively. But these assumptions, despite that fact that no one knew, were false. The outdoors had not been completely neglected today, as a seventeen-year-old witch and a seventeen-year-in-debted wizard stood ten yards apart in a heavily wooded clearing, obscured from the sight of anyone who dared to look.

It was today, Sunday, January 9, that Hermione Granger claimed to be one of the most beautiful days she'd ever experienced.

It was also today, January 9, that Severus Snape claimed he had almost been defeated in a duel.


What lead to this duel, not one person could mention except for the two participants. There were no official witnesses, unless you count the wandering hippogriff that had escaped Hagrid's watch and seemed to take interest in the interactions between the Potions Master and his student, so this duel was clearly unofficial. But even the hippogriff could sense the thick tension between the two duelists, despite the fact that they hadn't moved yet, and had decided to keep its distance in fear that it might get caught in the crossfire of…well, the hippogriff couldn't quite tell what was going on between them, but knew it could do nothing but harm.

The first one to arrive, according to the hippogriff, was the Potions Master. He was a tall, thin, lanky man with shoulder-length black hair and skin that could rival the snow in a "Which One is Whiter?" contest. His eyes seemed to have no pupils, or, perhaps, they had no irises: only a large, black dot amongst white eyeball. The hippogriff, despite being only a magical creature and not a human being, could still discern that those eyes had witnessed much more than anyone ought to have, and quickly avoiding peering at them too long for fear that it might catch a glimpse of those images, which it perceived may be too horrific to bear. Instead, he focused on the rest of this lanky man.

The hippogriff knew that this man had been part of the staff at Hogwarts for seventeen years, and this could only mean that he was near the age of forty. But, any Muggle could mistake him for somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty-four, given that wizards had a much longer lifespan than Muggles. His pale skin had matured with age, but time's wrinkles had yet to settle into his face. The man bore a solid black, wool waistcoat, buttoned to his neck, over a white, formal, long-sleeved shirt, carefully tucked into the man's black trousers. He donned a pair of dragonskin boots, ones to match the waistcoat and trousers, which sunk slightly into the snow as he entered the clearing. The hippogriff pondered how this man could bear to be in such a chilly atmosphere without discomfort, but then resolved that either the man had cast a warming charm on himself, or that he was part of the reason the air was so icy.

As the hippogriff studied this man, who had his eyes cast upward at the slate sky, unmoving, it easily registered who he was. His name had been chokingly rolled off the tongue of many-a-first-year in either horror or scorn, but always in a whisper. He was the "greasy git" of the dungeons. He was the Head of Slytherin. He was the cruel, unfair professor who seemed to bubble with sarcasm, unpleasant wit, and always, always seemed to have a sneer on his face (which, the hippogriff noticed, seemed to be true, as the man seemed to be sneering at the sky). He was the Potions Master of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

He was Severus Snape.

Initially, the hippogriff had been puzzled as to why the Potions Master had wandered outside of the warm, inviting embrace of the Hogwarts castle to stand in a clearing, alone, sneering (the hippogriff would never understand that beyond everything else) at the sky. But a quarter of an hour later, the hippogriff's confusion was slightly cleared as sloshing footsteps could be heard from afar. This sound seemed to be the only thing that deterred Severus' glare at the heavens toward the realm of the living once more, and as black eyes narrowed, the hippogriff could tell that the Head of Slytherin's gaze had been captured by something coming his way. Interested, the hippogriff followed his gaze toward the opposite end of the clearing, and it too discovered that a new presence was making its – or rather, her – way from between two, nearly conjoined tree trunks and out into the clearing.

The white, gray, and black tones that the air had seemed to take on lately were deeply contrasted upon the entrance of this young woman. She was an image of golden beauty, hinted with cinnamon and chocolate undertones. The hippogriff knew instantly that she was the seventh-year valedictorian, but hadn't fully realized how much the years had changed her appearance. Once a bushy-haired, buck-toothed blob of an eleven-year-old, entering the grounds for the first time in anticipation and fear, she had developed into the most delicate of blossoms, though the hippogriff would later found out that this blossom was actually made out of the strongest steel.

Hair that resembled an unkempt shrub had tamed itself into a flourish of honey curls, spilling over her shoulders, gracefully framing her face. The slight breeze, mentioned earlier, flicked at her straight bangs, brushing them lightly against the smooth skin of her forehead. Her skin was much deeper in tone compared to the flesh of Severus Snape, taking on a golden glow that screamed verano against the wintry season. The hippogriff was positive she had cast a warming charm on herself, seeing as she was only dressed some of the coolest of Muggle clothes: a clingy, button-down cotton shirt that accented her womanly figure with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, a pair of Muggle denim jeans that gripped her thighs and calves, and a pair of Muggle tennis shoes that the hippogriff had seen many of the student athletes wear as they played Muggle sports.

But most of all, the hippogriff noticed her large, cinnamon hued eyes that seemed to be flooded with emotions the instant she had stepped foot into the clearing. Her sloshing footsteps had halted once she was within thirty feet of the Potions Master.

She was the "insufferable know-it-all" of her class, and perhaps the entirety of Hogwarts. She was the bookworm that spent more time in the library than she did in her own classes. She was top-notch, and academically skilled in every subject that was thrown her way (except Divination, of course). She was one of the Golden Trio. She was one of Harry Potter's best friends. She was the brightest witch of her age.

She was Hermione Granger.

The hippogriff could swear it felt a wave of – of something – that made its heart tighten for several beats as cinnamon finally locked onto coal, and it was at that moment that the hippogriff knew something important – whether it was private or not – was going to unfold before its eyes.

The hippogriff swallowed the half-eaten ferret it had completely forgotten about for the last twenty minutes, and assumed its observations of the pair in the clearing. Lengthy, dragging moments seemed to pass by as the two simply gazed at each other, cinnamon and coal clashing, studying, deciphering, interpreting, and searching. It seemed it was only until a sudden gust of frosty air that tousled a lock of Miss Granger's (the hippogriff couldn't simply refer to her as "Hermione" right off the bat) honey curls against her face did two faint, yet discernable voices could be heard by the magical creature that watched them.

One sounded of deadly silk.

The other of melted sugar.

"I assume you remember how to duel, Miss Granger?"

"I do."

"Then, let us begin."

Author's Note: Cliffhanger, yes? Of course, the plot will unfold more as the story goes on, and everything will be explained. If you noticed something that wasn't quite explained in this chapter, then yes, it was intentional. I hope you liked the first part, and that it will intrigue you to read part two (and three?). Though, don't expect an update for perhaps a week.

If you liked it, please review, since that is what keeps most writers going (including me). I'd love it eternally!