Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

Chapter One

The Hog's Head was more crowded than usual on Saturday nights, giving individuals more probability of never being noticed. Men, more often than not, slithered through the door, their hoods drawn high and the gleaming whites of their eyes shifting. The entrance meant they were checking for any enemies before choosing to remain. They'd then either choose a table among equally dubious friends or sit alone at one of the very small tables toward the back. Severus Snape, who entered in this way, was one of those loners.

Severus settled himself in his usual, darkest corner of the room and waited to be served. Girls, both daring and stupid to work at The Hog's Head, scampered back and forth with trays balancing at the waves of their wands. Severus watched as one waitress pulled another, rescued her, from a rather intoxicated group with uncouth hands. The rescuer smoothed the other girl's hair and took her trays, in addition to her own, out of compassion.

"Take a rest, Jane. I'll cover you," Severus heard the rescuer say. She was a blonde with bangs that fringed over her eyes; Severus thought he saw tears glimmering in her grey gaze at that moment and knew the bangs were meant for more than mystery.

Severus turned his attention to the Daily Prophet he had removed from his pocket and read the first headline: Dark Lord Appoints Lucius Malfoy Minister of Magic.

Fucking hell. Severus curled his lip, the skin between his eyebrows winkling in aversion. Lucius probably couldn't wait to gloat. In fact, he may find himself invited to the Malfoy's for just that reason – a Malfoy swanking tea party. Narcissa would use her best china, no doubt, just to boast that she owns the most expensive set in England.

"If you do not release me, sir, I will magic your withered ball sack into your throat so that you die choking on them."

Severus raised his eyes crossly, thinking the waitress to be speaking to him. Instead, the blonde yanked her barely-there skirt away from a cackling old fool and moved quickly toward Severus.

"Sir, can I get you someth—"

She had looked at him. She had looked into his cruel eyes and panicked, as people did sometimes when they knew who he was and were afraid.

The waitress tripped and skidded on her knees across the rough stone floor. Three trays floating around her head jumped up, as if jerked, and then crashed down around her. The clatter attracted the attention of everyone in the bar as glass shattered. She landed at his feet, her forehead only inches from his leg and Severus briefly wondered if she was trying to kiss his boots.

"Lizzie!" the manager thundered, plowing his way across the room to stand above her. "Get your arse off the floor—no, better yet, stay on your knees to clean it up! Damn girl… I apologize, Master Snape. Consider anything you desire tonight on the house. Anything."

The manager squatted down next to the quivering girl, and Severus' eyes followed him, dark and smoky.

"I've struck you before," the squat man growled, leaving the threat unsaid. "You'll give him whatever he desires, you stupid chit."

Severus ignored the man as he smiled oily, bowed, and turned away. He was studying the way the blonde (What was her name? Oh, yes, Lizzie.) would not turn her face toward him.

"What do you want… sir?" Lizzie said tersely as she scourgified the mess and rose to her feet. Severus smirked, hearing the challenge behind her tone. He almost wanted to take her home just to see how violently the small blonde could fight.

"Whiskey. A tumbler," he said shortly. He straightened the newspaper in his hands again but snuck a glance at Lizzie's face. Her hair masked her downcast eyes but there was something oddly familiar in the way she chewed her bottom lip.

"Yes, sir."

Those two words, just two words, caused Severus to read the same article three times without realizing what he had read. It took him some time to figure out what had been so distracting in the first place. Yes, sir.

Lizzie set the tumbler firmly on his table, and he did not see her for the remainder of the night.

He was back again. He strides through that door like he owns the world, and who's to say he doesn't? Cold eyes, white skin, clenching jaw muscles as if he's always furious… He was exactly how Hermione remembered him, although she didn't at all want to. She had viciously pushed him from her memories; she didn't want to remember… And yet in he walked, and she met the fate of serving him. She'd never served that corner before; it wasn't her station. Now Jane had quit the job – Hermione would be serving her Professor Snape.

She flattened her bangs over her eyes and squared her shoulders. The hair was convenient in several ways. First, no one expected her to be blonde. Second, masked eyes made it difficult to use Legilimency on her. Thirdly, her tears were hidden - the sort of men she served enjoyed tears too much.

So, with some shaky confidence, Hermione strode toward the Potions master. Luckily, it was Tuesday. The bar was practically empty.

"Can I get you something, sir?" Bastard. Coward!

"Whiskey. Tumbler," he said. He had no paper this time. He leaned back in his chair, arms crossed, eyes steeled and firm. Hermione recognized the probing feeling at her mind immediately and shut him out so hard that Severus flinched. Very slightly.

Hermione counterattacked, her conscience launching toward his unsuspecting thoughts. She saw only a glimpse of a picture: A group of first years, her own face among them, and a strong, violent hatred toward one Harry Potter. She bit her lip as he forced her out, looking livid.

"Stay out of my head, you filth, and I'll do you the same favor," she hissed.

What was it about the girl? He hadn't been able to penetrate her mind at all; she had kicked him out on his ass, metaphorically. It was fucking ridiculous; Severus found himself puzzled over the waitress no matter how little he claimed to care.

And so the third time he'd returned and sat in his dark corner, his darker eyes following her strangely familiar movements.

Filth, she had called him. It had nearly infuriated him enough to curse her. No one spoke to him like that, and certainly not a common waitress who flounced her short skirt for better tips! However, he was too curious to remain angry. Severus had little else to amuse him of late, and the girl gave him something to think on.

Lizzie served a tray of blood mugs to a table of vampires and then backed quickly away, her wrist moving expertly to disperse the mugs among the group. She brought him a tumbler of whiskey without asking to begin with, and he accepted it wordlessly.

"Did the manager strike you on my account?" he asked silkily before she could leave. She snapped her eyes upward to glare at him and quickly looked away again. Her right eye was swollen, purple and grey, and not easily hidden by her hair this night.

"It doesn't concern you."

"Have I affronted you so badly to earn your cheek?" he snapped, throwing back the whiskey. "I would demand your immunity from his violence if you so pleased—"

"I certainly don't need your help!" she snarled and tossed her hair. That action was… so familiar. What the bloody hell was it about her? Severus growled in discontent.

"Another, then, you damn witch," he retorted, dropping the empty glass.

Hermione wanted to scream. She wanted to hurl the Killing Curse at his giant, beaky nose and watch the life leave his eyes. That's what he had done. That's what he did to Harry. He had only watched of course; Voldemort actually killed Harry, but Severus had allowed it. And now that very man expected her to serve him drinks!

She snarled in her throat, causing the people nearby to eye her warily. She smiled at them and floated the trays around the room, aware of the black eyes following her. Luckily, he hadn't figured her out yet. Hermione would know when he had, but she needed to earn money until then. It was her only chance of sleeping under a roof and acquiring information at the same time.

"It's him."

She was serving a table of three, each of them young men in their twenties. They ignored her as she plopped their drinks down.

"It's him; I'm sure of it. Severus Snape is one of You-Know-Who's closest followers," one of the young men whispered.

Hermione smiled grimly and turned away. Of course, everyone knew about Severus. Voldemort praised him and Lucius both in many of his public appearances.

She clenched her jaw and delivered the whiskey to Severus for the fourth time.

"Good evening, Lizzie," he said lowly, his long fingers wrapping around the cool glass.

"Indeed," she replied dryly.

"You know my preference so well—"

"And yet you never spare a tip, sir," she scathed, looking at the window behind him instead of into his eyes. Her reflection in the dark glass was so pale that Hermione's freckles were clearly etched into her cheeks. "Fuck."

Severus raised his eyebrows at her, stopping the tumbler in front of his lips.

Hermione dropped the tray on his table and ran toward the back of the bar, weaving through customers and other waitresses clumsily.

"Lizzie!" the manager yelled as she darted past him, snatched a flask out of her coat pocket, and continued toward the back door.

"Oh, fuck!" she wheezed, her cold fingers struggling to unscrew the lid. "Budge up, you stupid…"

The potion tasted horrid as it slid down her throat. It was hardly even liquid; more like mud. Hermione flattened her bangs down, watching the browning ends turn yellow again.

She heard the front door bang open and familiarly heavy footsteps falling toward her. Hermione magicked herself to the roof.

She nearly fell when she finished levitating herself upward but instead caught her balance by flattening herself onto the roof. Severus rounded the corner, his eyes searching and wand upheld. He was muttering something, maybe a spell, but Hermione didn't hear. Instead, she watched three other figures look around the corner after him. Their wand tips were glowing green. They were the three young men talking about Severus Snape earlier… Hermione gasped; they had come to kill him.

Hermione didn't think. She didn't stop to think. The Killing Curse was already leaving their lips. Wasn't it what she wanted though? So why didn't she stop to think?

She Disarmed one of the boys wordlessly, and Severus turned at their surprised cries.

"Expelliarmus!" another of the young men cried and Hermione misjudged the spell. She thought it was meant for Severus, but instead her wand dropped to the ground far below.

"No!" Hermione cried. Severus glanced up at her and turned his attention back to his assassins. They were already dueling. Hermione jumped to her feet, watching the scene below avidly. Severus was distracted by two of them – the wandless one had tackled him. The third was aiming freely at him. He said, "Avada—"

Hermione ran across the roof, her feet stumbling on the incline, and leapt into the air.

Her body, her lower stomach, collided with the boy's shoulder. The ground jerked upward to meet her, and she felt pain shredding her insides.

Severus was growling curses; he was still alive. Hermione wanted to slap herself but was too busy clutching her abdomen. What had she done? Why?

The noise stopped and the silence worsened Hermione's fear. With her temple pressed into the dirt, she watched Severus Stun and Disillusion the unconscious young men and pile them in a corner. Was he going to leave them there until they died? He stooped to pick up her emptied flask, sniffing it in puzzlement. Hermione laughed weakly; he'd not likely recognize it because she had invented it herself.

"What's funny, Lizzie?" he asked quietly. He dropped the flask into his pocket.

"Master Snape, are you all right?" the manager said breathlessly, bursting out of the back door. "Merlin's balls, girl, this is your fault!"

He was coming toward her on his stumpy, fat-folded legs. Hermione waited for a blow that never came. Instead, her manager slumped to the ground, staring back at her with only the whites of his eyes.

"You – You killed him!" Hermione wheezed. Severus frowned at the fat body, toeing it in thought.

"Let it be a testimony to all the woman-beaters," he snarled. "Especially on the young ones…"

Severus Snape, the defender of women? Hermione tilted her head to glare up at him. The hair fell out of her eyes. Severus seized the opportunity and dove into her thoughts.

Lying bastard – pathetic coward – Voldemort's fucking bitch.

And then she forced him out, having let him see all the insults she wrought upon him at the moment. He sneered at her and stepped over the manager to squat between them.

"Impressive vocabulary to be used, and yet you saved me, Lizzie. Why?" he asked. Hermione twisted her expressions, feeling the emotions stinging her heart.

"I want to kill you myself," she growled. She did. She hated the man for what he had done to her. What he had made her feel…

The surprise showed briefly on his expression and then it darkened again, with a smile.

"You have my attention," he purred. Hermione glared harder, her eyebrows nearly meeting in the middle. Was he excited by her murderous intention? Was he getting his revolting jollies from her homicidal desire?

She lunged at him, unfurling her body with harsh jolts without testing its limits first. Severus was knocked backward as Hermione shoved at him, but then she could only feel pain. Her left foot scraped against the ground and the tendons in Hermione's ankle twisted in pain. Meanwhile, her insides writhed and entangled.

"Oh, God," Hermione whimpered, feeling Severus lock his arms around her. He was forcing her stiff lips open, pressing a vial against her mouth, and he forced her to swallow. Something sickening coated her stomach, but imbalanced unconsciousness was welcoming her. She vaguely felt her lips babble. "I hate you. I am so broken… because of you. You could have changed it."

Severus called Hermione's wand to his grasp, his other hand steadying her in his lap as she swayed into the darkness.

"Yes," she heard him murmur. "You have my full attention."

Well. This was meant to be a one-shot, but it would have been incredibly lengthy and maybe bored you all to tears. So! The story will come in three chapters - this is the first. Maybe I'll update once a week or maybe every few days. *shrugs* It depends on how motivating the reviews are, I guess.

Next chapter, more of the puzzle will fall into place, and Severus begins to figure Hermione out. What will he do, after what they've already done...

Please review!

Love! Soline