DISCLAIMER: J.K. Rowling is brilliant and owns everything but my plot. That's mine.

This story ignores certain aspects of book six and all of book seven.

Chapter 1: Hermione's all grown up

Severus Snape took in the faces of his seventh year NEWT students. There were only eleven students that had achieved an O on their OWLs. He smiled to himself, (of course, to the students it appeared to be a malicious sneer) they all looked petrified. All except Hermione Granger, that is. She was smiling. Off in some daydream, perhaps. 'Probably thinking up ways to show off in class, the know-it-all' he thought to himself. Though he didn't like to admit it, she was indeed one of his brightest students. Unfortunately, she was more than annoying with all her questions and incessant need to prove her superior intelligence. This made him growl to himself. Well, at least Potter and his pathetic little friend Weasely had not achieved high enough marks to get into his class. Dunderheads. This year will at least be tolerable. The clock chimed 8am and class began.

Hermione looked at her potions professor, blushing lightly when she realized she was admiring his features. From his lovely hands to his slick, shoulder length hair. He had looked straight at her at one point, his hard, cold eyes glaring at her as they had many times before. Oh, how she loved those eyes. She was determined this year to show him a new, mature side of her, not the know-it-all she made herself known as in her younger years. She was a woman now, not only in the wizarding world but in the muggle realm as well. Now, if she could get him to realize that. Not that he would care anyhow. He would see her as his student, as he always had. But she could dream. She wondered what could ever make professor Snape see Hermione Granger as a woman. 'Huh' she thought, 'Here you are wanting to prove how grown up you are, and you're busy entertaining childish fantasies of you and your professor falling in love. Oh boy.'

"MISS GRANGER!" 'Uh-oh'. "Yes Professor?"

"Do you mind to tell me why you think it is acceptable for you to be daydreaming in my classroom, whilst everyone else must actually produce a potion? Just because you were intelligent enough to make it into this class does not mean that you can afford to disregard my instructions."

"No sir! I'm sorry, I got distracted. It will not happen again."

"Ten points from Gryffindor. And see me after class to discuss your detention."

"Yes sir." How long had she been dreaming? When Hermione looked at the clock, class was more than halfway over. She wouldn't have time to properly finish the potion. So much for making a good impression. She started on the potion anyway, knowing full well, he would just make her throw away the unfinished potion at the end of class.

"`Mione!" Ron and Harry waved her into a seat they were saving for her in transfigurations class. This was their first class of the day, and they looked liked they had rolled out of bed and walked straight to class. Boys. Her best friends seated her between themselves so they could hear equally well how her first class went. They told her what an idiot she was for taking potions this year, when Professor Snape had been kicked out of Defense Against The Dark Arts and made to teach potions again. He was sure to be even more of a git than normal.

"It was fine. But I have detention on Friday. But it really was my fault, I spaced off for more than half the class. I'm really just surprised he only gave me detention for one night this week."

"Detention already?! That git! So what if you spaced off, it's the first day of class. No teacher could blame you after you just got back from summer vacation." Ron was livid, and had raised his voice a little higher than necessary, drawing a stern "ahem" and a punishing glare from McGonagall.

"But `Mione, our first quidditch match is on Friday, we need you to cheer us on!" Harry seemed genuinely upset by this, but Hermione was now almost happy that she had detention.

"I'm sorry, Harry, but you know Professor Snape, there's no way he will let me off detention to watch a quidditch match."

The rest of the day went through without a hitch. Hermione had only two more classes. The boys only had one more (they had taken as few as McGonagall would let them get away with). That evening, as Hermione left the library, she happened to see a dark figure making their way through the grounds, towards the gates. She watched for moment, the figure getting smaller and smaller as it reached edge of Hogwart's grounds. The figure stilled and stood tall, then in a blink, disappeared. Hermione decided to make a detour to Dumbledore's office before going to bed. A suspicious figure on the grounds when Voldemort was determined to kill Harry, you could never be too careful.

When she reached the gargoyle leading to the Headmaster's office, she looked around carefully before whispering, "Milky Way". She smiled. The headmaster had given the trio the password to his office in case any emergencies should arrive. This was not an emergency but she felt it was sufficiently important enough to bring his attention to the matter.

"Hermione my dear, what a surprise. What can I do for you?" Although he smiled warmly, Hermione could not help but feel a little guilty for interrupting his free time. What if it was nothing?

"Sorry to interrupt you Headmaster, But I just happened to see a suspicious figure leaving Hogwarts in a dark cloak, and I thought I should let you know in case it was, well you know, one of Voldemort's men, a death eater or something." Hermione looked really uncomfortable.

"It was very wise of you to come to me Hermione. You shouldn't feel silly. It was, indeed, a death eater." Hermione's eyes widened. She was almost upset at his cheery tone. Dumbledore chuckled at her look of concern. "No need to worry. It was only professor Snape. As you already know, he is spy for the order. He informed me before he left that Tom had summoned him."

"Oh. How silly of me, I should have known it was him. I guess I'm so used to him as a professor, I just didn't think of him as death eater."

"Don't. It is just a façade, Severus is no more a death eater than I am. The things he does while undercover are all for the greater good."

"He is going to be okay isn't he? I've overheard Madame Pomfrey talk to McGonagall about the bad conditions he has come back in." Hermione cringed as the description of his wounds replayed in her mind.

"My dear, Severus has been through much, and will go through much more before this is all over. There is no point in getting too concerned." Hermione scowled at Dumbledore's lack of concern. How dare he act as if the sufferings of Severus Snape were any less important those of innocent people he was trying to save.

"My dear, I did not mean to upset you. I can assure you that I do not like for Severus to suffer. Sadly, there is nothing I can do for him until this is over. But I see how concerned you are for him. If it makes you feel better, if he sustains any injuries tonight, he will be tended immediately, and he will be well enough to teach class tomorrow." This made Hermione feel a little better, but she was still nervous and decided that she would keep an eye out for him, just in case.

"Of course, headmaster. I'm sure he is fine. I'd better go back to Gryffindor house now, Harry and Ron are probably waiting for me." Just as she turned to leave, Severus Snape walked into the headmaster's office.

"Headmaster, I just—I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt." Hermione gasped, and relief flooded her face. Severus shot her a dirty look.

"Oh, it's perfectly alright Severus. Good to see you back so soon, I trust everything went well?"

Looking uncomfortably at Hermione Severus simply said "Yes. That is what I came to discuss with you. It can wait until tomorrow."

"Yes, thank you. I am quite tired, getting old you know. Would you mind to escort Hermione to Gryffindor tower before you retire, I don't think it would do for her to be seen by Filch after curfew unattended."

"Of course, headmaster," the look on Severus' face was that of incredible annoyance.

Hermione wanted to argue, say that she would be fine on her own, but the thought of spending the next few minutes alone in his company was too tempting. Speaking would be unlikely, but at least she would be close to him.

Hermione's not-so-well hidden smile did not go unnoticed by the Headmaster. He smiled at her obvious happiness. Suddenly, he knew. But how? This was going to be a difficult year.

Severus barely looked Hermione while escorting her to her dorm. She had known to keep silent, which made this little venture much easier. He did not want to deal with a chatterbox. He was curious as to why she was in the headmaster's office, but didn't ask for fear once she got started she wouldn't stop. Suddenly, she cursed and fell to the floor. He almost laughed, but immediately reached out to steady her as she stood up. As she brushed her hair back in the dimly lit corridor, he thought how beautiful she looked in the golden glow of the candles surrounding them. He hadn't noticed her like this before, and was completely surprised at how he found himself drinking in her beauty. Immediately, he chastised himself for thinking such inappropriate things about his pupil.

"Sorry, professor, I'm not sure what I tripped on." She was looking at him somewhat questioningly, not sure why he was looking at her so intently.

"Just gather yourself and keep walking" he grumbled.

After Hermione had been safely escorted home, Severus returned to his own quarters for a fitful night's sleep.