Hurrying into the building, the cold stone walls of Hogwarts greeted Draco with the same indifference they had the last seven years of his education. He shivered slightly from the cold, rubbed his hands together, and began making his way to his common room.
He had only just reached the stairs that lead down to the dungeons, when he spied Severus walking towards him from the direction of the Great Hall. He surreptitiously checked the area for other people wandering the halls- a habit formed from both living through a war and from being in Slytherin house- as he approached his godfather.
He saw Severus' eyes dart back and forth, barely a flicker, in his own check before they rested solely on him. "Draco," he greeted with a nod of his head.
Unafraid of addressing him informally when in private, Draco returned the nod. "Severus. Did you need something?"
"I have been informed by our esteemed headmistress that our after class hours spent together are deemed as less than appropriate," he sneered.
Draco studiously did not mention the destroyed headmistress's office. McGonagall must have not been very impressed to have walked in on that mess. Even less so, he surmised, since it must have been Dumbledore who had told her exactly what had happened.
"So, it would seem that our plans for tonight have fallen through. I'll see you in class on Tuesday."
Without waiting for a reply, he continued his way past Draco, going up to either do patrols or to talk with McGonagall. Draco watched his stiff retreat. Merlin, does that man need to get laid. He thought with a trace of amusement and frustration. Maybe that would loosen Severus up for the first time in ages.
He stood in the entryway for a moment, his focus turned on to this new turn of events. Without their meetings on the weekend, Draco had almost no alone time with Severus. How was he supposed to make his life better if he never saw him outside of a class room?
He scowled and continued on his way to the stairs. What had seemed like an easy task to start off with had just became more than twice as hard.
Only a few steps down, he paused when he heard two people arguing furiously and heading up the stairs where Severus had just disappeared. Looking over his shoulder showed Weasley and Granger in a heated debate about something. They paused on the bottom stairs when Weasley threw his hands up in frustration.
"I don't get why you gotta do this!" he cried out.
"I've been over this with you a thousand times, Ron! I'm not going to explain myself to you again!" Granger yelled back, her voice turning into a shriek by the end of the statement.
"But why him?" was the petulant sounding answer. Draco crept closer as their voices began to get quieter, wanting to find out what the argument was about.
"Are you completely thick? He's a potion's master! I want to be a healer. Of course I'm going to ask Professor Snape to apprentice under him. I'm grateful he even was willing to have a meeting about it!" She tossed her hair over her shoulder and sniffed at him.
She turned to continue her journey up the stairs, but Weasley grabbed her wrist. "I still don't get it. I'm going to be an auror, I can take care of you."
Granger's mouth gaped open in a most unattractive, but very hilarious, way. "What?"
"You don't have to work," Weasley declared with growing confidence. He let go of her wrist. "Once we're out of school I'll have a job and enough galleons to look after both of us. We can get our own place, and you won't have to worry about a thing." He drew himself up proudly.
There was a long pause. "There are so many things wrong with that I don't know where to begin," Granger said not unkindly, and Draco held in a snigger at the sight of Weasley visibly deflating. "I want to work. I want to make my own way and be independent. Both my parents work, and they still have a wonderful relationship. Also… Ron, I'm not sure where you got this idea that I'd be living with you right after graduation. We're not even dating."
Weasley dropped his gaze. "Well, I thought with what had happened with the war and everything…"
"Ron that was one kiss. How did you go from that to the idea we would be living together so soon?"
Draco had to hand it to Granger. She wasn't spitting mad, like he would have expected the uppity chit to be, at the idea her friend/quasi-boyfriend had expected her to stay at home barefoot and pregnant. He considered it briefly. This had to be out of concern for her friend's feelings. He couldn't imagine the Gryffindor Brain letting her mind atrophy by breeding.
He snorted. The thought reminded him of what Severus had told him about his view on having children. Something about preventative potions being invented for a reason.
Weasley, in response to the girl's question, hung his head. "I just figured…" he trailed off with a pout that looked ridiculous on the now of-age wizard.
Granger's patience had evidently worn thin. "Ron," she snapped. "I am going to be late for the meeting. If you have something more to say to me, it can wait until after I'm done speaking with Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape."
He opened his mouth, to protest presumably, but shut it at the withering glare he receive. "Kay. I'll see you in the common room later, 'Mione." He began to descend the stairs.
"For heaven's sake! That is not my name!" Granger reprimanded to the back of her retreating friend.
Draco watched as Weasley moped his way down one of the many stair cases littering the entrance hall. Off to the kitchens without a doubt, the glutton.
Granger was still standing on the stairs, staring out where Weasley had left. She chewed at her lip, and absently brushed her hair out of her face, where it returned almost immediately. She turned, and Draco saw the torchlight bring a shine to a bright pink scar peeking out from the top of her shirt. He winced at the sight, memories of Granger screaming in pain on the floor of his den flashing through his mind.
Finally, she heaved an impatient breath. "I don't have time for this," she said aloud, before turning and marching up the stairs with an angry gait.
Draco watched her leave, before he stepped out of the shadows of the alcove he had snuck into during the fight. He was torn between mentally berating himself for spying on people and congratulating himself for not getting caught. Not that it was hard to hide from Gryffindors. More often than not they didn't notice anything until it hit them like a Bludger to the face.
He shook his head. So Granger wanted to apprentice in Potions, did she? He pondered, walking down the stairs to the dungeons once again. It would be interesting to see if Severus accepted to be her Master or not. He didn't have a high tolerance for idiocy, and although naïve, not even Draco could argue that Hermione Granger was an idiot.
The cold air of the dungeon swept around him, reminding him of the chill outside. Draco scowled as he recalled his meeting with Dr Mackay. He couldn't help those he never got a chance to see.
Mentally putting Severus further down the list, Draco resolved to go and visit his mother in the morning. He could talk to her. Apologise for what he had done. Thank her for what she had.
He nodded. It was a start.
"Ms Granger. I'm glad you could come," Professor McGonagall said briskly. "Ginger newt?" she gestured towards a tin on her desk.
"Er, no thank you," Hermione said, eyeing the cookies from her seat. "And really, it's I who must thank both you and Professor Snape for agreeing to meet with me about this." She felt excitement building in her, her argument with Ron readily pushed to the back of her mind.
McGonagall nodded. "You wish to complete a Potions apprenticeship with Professor Snape. This is because you have aspirations towards the field of being a Healer, is it not?"
Hermione nodded enthusiastically, looking at Professor Snape from the corner of her eye. He didn't look particularly angry at the idea. He just sat there watching the proceedings with much the same irritated scowl he had given her when she had first approached him about the idea.
"Professor Snape, I take it from your agreement to be here this afternoon, that you are not opposed to this idea."
The stern looking man nodded curtly.
McGonagall looked back to Hermione. "It will be three years before you become fully accredited as a Potions Mistress. You will be expected to reside in the castle, preferably in the dungeons for convenience to the both of you. The rest of the details for your apprenticeship are to be worked out between yourself and Professor Snape. You are aware of this?"
Hermione blinked, startled. She turned sharply to stare at Professor Snape. "You mean you'll really do it?" she exclaimed incredulously.
"Miss Granger, if I hadn't intended on agreeing, I wouldn't have bothered coming up here at all," he said with a sneer.
"But why?" At his raised eyebrow she continued, "Why would you accept, I mean?"
"Are you trying to convince me otherwise, Miss Granger? Or did you ask with the expectation that I would decline?"
"I- well, not exact- well… I don't know." She sat in confusion. "So, all I have to do is accept and then, bam, you're my Master?" She felt herself get a little light-headed from giddiness.
Snape scowled heavily. "Technically, you asking me in the first place was acceptance," he reminded her.
"Oh. Of course, sir." She attempted to regain her composure, but she could feel her cheeks heating up from excitement, and she was fidgeting in her chair trying to contain her energy. She surreptitiously took a deep breath to calm herself.
The portrait of Albus Dumbledore that hung on the wall behind the headmistress beamed genially down at them all. "Really, Severus," he remarked in a voice that Hermione thought to be slightly thinner than what he sounded like when alive. "I am proud of you to be willing to take on an apprentice as well as teaching regular classes."
Professor McGonagall nodded in agreement. "And as for you, Miss Granger, I hope you feel confident enough to write your NEWTs."
Hermione nodded, knowing that she wouldn't have been able to be a fulltime student and apprentice at the same time. "Yes, I studied for them all summer and into this month. I'm grateful that you are allowing me to take them early."
McGonagall shook her head. "You should have sat them last June anyway. I'm sure if anyone can handle taking NEWTs missing a year of study, it's you Hermione."
Hermione felt herself beaming at the high praise, but her smile fell slightly when she saw Professor Snape's scowl deepen.
"The Ministry Testing Officials will be here on Monday for you to write your tests. You will receive your results a week after that. You can use this week to discuss with Professor Snape what the terms of your apprenticeship will be. When we receive your results, we will know whether or not to proceed with your apprenticeship. Any questions?"
Hermione shook her head. "Not at the moment, no."
McGonagall gave her a thin smile. "Then you are free to go. Have a good weekend, Miss Granger."
Hermione stood and smiled at her professors, not believing that it could all be as easy as this. "You too," she addressed to McGonagall. She looked to Professor Snape. "Thank you," she said with a sincere warmth.
He didn't react, and perhaps upon realising she was expecting a response of some sort, he jerked his head in a nod.
With a last smile for McGonagall, Hermione slipped her way out of the office.
Never before had she felt so happy that her exams were only two days away.
AN: I would like to thank all my brilliant readers, especially those who took the time to review! I'm sorry for the delay between chapters, but life has been rather hectic. I was doing some beta hunting for another of my fics, and that combined with moving has made for a rather busy me.
Remember, reviews are like crack only more addicting. :D