Disclaimer: Not her, not paid, not even very good. Everything you recognize belongs to JKR.
My sincerest thanks to my beta, sempra, who dealt with my punctuation issues, verb tense issues, clarification problems, etc. Thanks again, my dear!
If any of Hermione's friends knew she habitually sent her teachers postcards, letters and small gifts over summer break, they would have called her a nutter. If any other students who were not especially close to her had known, they would have accused her of brown-nosing. But the truth was that Hermione Granger so appreciated her teachers that to not acknowledge in some small way her thanks for their dedication to her education would have gone against everything she, herself, believed.
None of the gifts were expensive, the cards were not sentimental, and the letters were vague and relatively short. It was the thought that went into them that counted. She would recount her summer travels to Professor McGonagall or send pictures to Professor Sprout of interesting or unusual Muggle plants she encountered in her travels along with a short essay on the plants' properties. Once, she even sent Hagrid a postcard from a zoo in Berlin of a Komodo Dragon. But the most unusual gift she ever sent was before she started her sixth year.
Her father's pal from university was on an expedition dig at the Dead Sea and invited her father, and consequently Hermione and her mother, to visit him on site. While on their tour of the dig site, Hermione felt the tingle of magic and immediately set out to find the source. After much scrounging around through the discarded pile of debris, she located several lumps that looked like petrified peach pits. She collected all that she could find while on their vacation and when they returned home, she made numerous trips to the local library in search of information.
After referencing numerous texts and perusing all available encyclopaedias on the locale, Hermione determined the pits she had found were from the dates of a long extinct palm tree, known at the time as the Tree of Life and officially as Phoenix dactylifera L. Excited beyond reason at her discovery, she immediately packaged all of the seeds, copies of the articles and a hand-drawn map of the area of the dig and owled the lot to Professor Snape. As brilliant as she knew he was, if there was any value to this discovery, he would be the one best suited to determine its potential.
At breakfast in the Great Hall the following morning, Severus was disturbed by a rather large owl dropping a package on the table in front of him. The package collided with the sugar bowl and dumped sugar onto Severus' scrambled eggs. Scowling at the bird as it made its getaway, Snape wiped his mouth on his serviette and reached for the package.
The handwriting on the outside looked very familiar, but he hadn't yet recalled whose it was when Professor McGonagall peered over at the label. The four Heads of Houses were in attendance at the castle for the annual meeting Albus scheduled to divvy up the incoming Muggle-borns for a personal visit and introduction to the wizarding world. They weren't equally divided, however, as Snape usually made a rather menacing spectacle and scared too many potential students away.
"Well, it appears Miss Granger has seen fit to bestow you with a gift this time. Do share, Severus. What does Miss Granger have to say?" she asked, genuine curiosity crinkling her brow. "I daresay, I haven't received a letter from her since last month when the family went to Israel."
"Why must your cubs bother me in the summer, Minerva?" Snape retorted as he ripped the paper covering the box. He pulled out a scroll and unfurled it. Quickly scanning the text, his eyes widened in surprise. He handed the letter over to McGonagall and reached into the box to retrieve the bundle of Muggle bubble-wrap Granger had used to protect the date seeds.
"What is this infernal stuff?" he grumbled. Grasping it firmly to tear it, he popped several of the bubbles, which got Professors Sprout and Flitwick's attention. Inside the bubble-wrap was a soft, brown velvet bag, embellished with a perfume company logo, holding a dozen or more dried up seeds. Snape could feel the magical element almost as soon as he picked the package up, but holding the seeds in his hand was like submerging it in champagne, tingling the nerve endings in his hand and shooting directly to the pleasure center of his brain.
Snape looked inside the box and found a thick sheaf of paper. "I'm going to my office, Minerva, Albus," he said as he stood, plucking Hermione's letter from McGonagall's hands. Making eye contact with Dumbledore, he gave a perfunctory nod. Albus' eyebrows rose slightly.
McGonagall blinked up at him. "What is it, Severus?"
"I am uncertain. I will do some tests and confer with you both later." With that, he turned and headed out the teacher's door.
A.N.: The Tree of Life mentioned in this chapter is real. Do a Google search of extinct trees. The petrified pits were actually found, and the tree has been resurrected. I messed with time, since they were found in the 1940's, but the tree has only recently been regrown. The articles don't mention if they are magical, however.