He was doing his best not to stare but was aware that he was failing miserably. He had to pull himself together. Although this class wasn't nearly as close to mayhem as those containing younger students, the potions were far more powerful and thus far more dangerous. For their own safety, the students needed to be fully informed and paying close attention. And for his own dignity, the Potions master absolutely did not want to be caught on the hop because his mind was full of one very insistent question:
Did that girl's breasts get bigger since yesterday?
The girl in question gave him a dazzling smile then fumbled her jar of beetle wings. Her bench partner made a lunge for it but only managed to knock the cauldron so that it rocked dangerously. The full jar fell into the simmering liquid with a nasty-sounding plop. Snape's mind struggled to free itself from its rather adolescent contemplation and instruct his mouth to shout a warning, but the girl was faster.
"Bollocks! Everybody down!"
With practised ease, the entire seventh-year Potions class dropped to the flagstones seconds before the cauldron exploded. From under the front bench came Snape's furious tone.
"Ten points for language, Miss Tonks, and twenty for the cauldron."
Merry dark eyes peered out from under a dripping table. "No detention?" The girl sounded almost disappointed.
Snape shuddered. "You must be joking."
He hadn't wanted her in the NEWTs class for a lot of reasons. First and foremost was her staggering clumsiness. Snape had never in his life met anyone quite so accident-prone. In Potions more than any other class, he felt, that was terribly dangerous. Why any student would want to continue studies in a subject where she routinely caused injury to herself and others was beyond him. When he found out that she intended to get into Auror training, he had been horrified but convinced himself that her ineptitude would be her undoing. So he had blithely promised that he would welcome her into Advanced Potions provided she got an O in her OWL. In the exam, however, Nymphadora's work had been flawless. On the way out of the room, she had tripped over a trailing shoelace, rebounded off a wall and almost knocked a classmate into his own preparation but, unfortunately, she couldn't be failed for that.
The other reasons that Snape had been reluctant to see Nymphadora Tonks in further classes were rather less rational. She was just too bouncy for a start, practically skipping about Hogwarts as though every day was an adventure, always full of earnest questions and impish mischief. She was a fairly close blood relation to the man that Snape despised more than anyone living. Despite the fact that Snape had grown steadily more caustic towards the student body as his confidence as a teacher increased, Nymphadora seemed completely unafraid of him. She took every scathing comment in her stride, assuring him that she would try harder next time. Perhaps she was just putting on a brave face and was, in fact, retreating to her dormitory to cry after his lessons, but that was probably too much to hope for. And then there was the other thing, far too embarrassing to confess to himself, never mind anyone else.
He was convinced that she had a crush on him.
There wasn't anything specific that he could put his finger on. She was, by all accounts, a bright and attentive student in all of her classes. Her unflinching acceptance of his foul temper could be attributed to her carefree nature. He contemplative study of him in idle, and sometimes not-so-idle, moments may have been her fighting the impulse to ask some unnecessary question, serve up a cheeky remark or even recommend a shampoo. It wasn't that. But there was something. And, lately, there was the thing with the breasts. Snape was aware that Nymphadora was a Metamorph – most of the faculty had undergone considerable confusion in her first year when they appeared to be teaching a different child every lesson – so he knew that she could alter her body as she saw fit. She was being more subtle than in her earlier days, so he hadn't been faced with an ironing board one day and a pair of melons the next, but he could swear that her development of late had been a little more than the natural blooming of a young woman. He could only assume that she was increasing their size a little more each day in order to become more noticeable. In order to make someone notice her.
In order to make him notice.
They were bigger again. This was getting completely out of hand. If the stupid girl took things any further, her chest would burst from her uniform. As it was, she was proving even more of a hazard than usual in class. Her lab partner had just carefully poured three ladles full of something caustic into his school bag. No less than four boys had made some Freudian slip on the theme of breasts while answering questions. And those were the things that Snape had actually noticed. It wasn't until the last ten minutes of the class that he realised Nymphadora's hair bore a distinctly unnatural purple tint. Maybe the girl's magically-expanding cleavage was only a feature of Potions class, maybe it was only apparent when she took off her heavy sweater to work over the hot cauldron, or maybe no other member of staff had the guts to say anything but, whatever it was, Snape could not stand another disrupted lesson or another cold shower. This was ridiculous.
"Miss Tonks, I'd like to see you after class," he said, managing to keep his eyes on her face. He rather wished he hadn't when he saw the flash of triumph in her expression. The remainder of the lesson was an exercise in torture but, rather miraculously, was accident free.
"It's the hair, isn't it? Sorry, Professor," the girl said, actually managing to sound contrite.
"It is not the hair, Miss Tonks. More precisely, it is not just the hair."
"Oh, is there a problem with my work, Sir?"
She was determined to make him say it, maybe was even hoping that he would blush. Well, Severus Snape had been a Death Eater. He was not going to be cowed by a seventeen-year-old girl, even a fearless one with a bosom worthy of a top shelf magazine. "Your work is adequate," he said. He was hardly going to admit more than that to any but a Slytherin student. "The problem is your…" he curled a lip, "assets."
"Oh right. Don't you like girls with big tits? No probs." She wrinkled her nose as she often did when she was concentrating. Moments later, her buttons were no longer straining. As a bonus, her hair returned to its customary brown.
"That's better. And what I like, Miss Tonks, is not here nor…"
"Why don't you call me Tonks?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I've noticed that you call the blokes by just their surname but not the girls. Don't you think that's rather sexist?"
"It is not my conduct in question here, it is yours. I strongly suggest that you keep your opinions to yourself unless you want to spend the rest of your free time this term assisting Mister Filch."
"I really don't. Sorry Sir. But I'll scrub cauldrons for you if you want."
She made the offer sound positively carnal. "I will bear that in mind," Snape said. "Now, you will report to Mister Filch tonight at eight."
"But you said…"
Snape silenced her with a raised eyebrow. "Think yourself lucky that this is just one detention. Now get out of my sight."
If Snape thought that a night of patrolling corridors and mopping down the Great Hall would subdue Nymphadora's high spirits, he was sadly mistaken. At breakfast the next morning, he could swear she had the nerve to wink at him as she sauntered to her table. None of the other staff mentioned it, however, and he really didn't want to ask. In her next Potions class, her appearance was thankfully that of an ordinary seventeen-year-old girl and she was unusually careful with her preparation, resulting in a rare, accident-free lesson. The end of term drew closer and Snape began to feel that he would actually escape Nymphadora's years at Hogwarts unscathed.
Unfortunately, it turned out that she had merely been lulling him into a false sense of security. A few scant weeks before the NEWTs, the clumsiness returned with a vengeance. All of the students were nervous and hardly a lesson went by without someone being sent to see Madam Pomfrey, but Nymphadora Tonks was by far the most frequent visitor. The girl annoyed Snape intensely but he had to admit that she was a good student and he had no wish to see her fail her exams due to simple nerves. This time, when he asked her to stay after class, she looked utterly miserable. A few months ago, Snape would have found that a relief, but unfortunately he knew that it was nothing to do with the sarcastic tone of her Potions professor.
"I'm really, really sorry," the girl muttered, head down.
"What for?" Snape asked.
Nymphadora looked up at him. "I must've done something wrong," she said. "Unless you've decided that you do like girls with big tits after all an' you're going to ask me to put 'em back."
"Look, Miss Tonks, I don't like girls with… that is to say I… This has nothing to do with your appearance. Something is obviously bothering you and it is making you an outright danger in the classroom. I don't know whether your bunny rabbit has died, or if the Quidditch captain has callously seduced then abandoned you, or if your best friend doesn't like you any more, and frankly I don't care. What I want is for you to pull yourself together before you kill yourself or someone else. I have never had a student fail a NEWT and I certainly have never had to deal with anyone's demise in my classroom. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Sir. It's all right, nobody's seduced me. Not yet. I'm saving myself."
Snape almost asked who for, but bit his tongue. "Miss Tonks, there is a whole world out there full of things that I care about more than that. Now please concentrate on your studies."
"Right-oh." All of a sudden, the impish smile was back. "Thanks, Sir, for 'not caring' enough to look out for me."
Before Snape knew what she was doing, she was up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek, then she scampered from the room. He sank into his chair and banged his head slowly off the desk. "Roll on the summer holidays," he muttered into the ancient wood.
"Are you all right, Severus?" said Albus Dumbledore, poking his head round the door.
"I'll be fine next term," Snape said. Once that girl had gone, life would be so much simpler.
"I must admit, I am very much looking forward to next term myself," twinkled Dumbledore. "Guess who we've got starting as a student?"
Nymphadora Tonks sailed through her NEWTs, emerging nastily exhausted but quietly confident. Although the results weren't out yet, she was pretty sure she was going to get into Auror training. It was weird, what with her having two left feet and all, but she'd never seen herself being anything else. Her mum had told her that she should always have a backup plan, but her dad, bless him, had just told her to follow her dreams. She hoped that she would make them proud.
She amused herself and her classmates on the train home by doing impressions of their teachers. Finally, after being long, flowing and white, followed by a tangled leaf-strewn frizz, a strict grey bun and a lank black curtain, her hair settled into an exuberant multi-coloured punk crop. Weak with laughter, Nymphadora slumped comfortably in her seat and considered a few things. She decided that she would never tell anyone about her crush. It was rather embarrassing really. Snape, for god's sake. Just because he was smart and the only member of the faculty under forty was no excuse. She also decided that she would never again be Nymphadora to anyone but her parents – she had been just Tonks to her mates for years – and that she would absolutely never put up with "Miss Tonks" spoken in that patronising, exasperated manner.
Finally, Tonks promised herself that she would never again set her sights on an older man burdened with a load of emotional baggage. It was just far too much hassle.
Author's Note: Another birthday gift for a friend on LJ who wanted to see Snape & Tonks interaction but left the details to me - people should really know better. And if you can't at least make a wild guess as to who's starting the following school year, then SLAP! This was written before book 7 so is a little bitter-sweet now.