Walking into the dungeon for Potions class was like a blast from the past for Hermione. After finally defeating Voldemort, coming back to Hogwarts to complete her seventh year seemed the obvious thing to do for the precocious student. However as she entered the room and smelled the same clammy, cloying scent of past potions that always seem to surround the dungeon, she remembered all the classes she had suffered through during her past years in Hogwarts. The constant taunts and snickers from the Slytherins, the freezing air which misted the students breath even in the warmest summer months, and of course, the presence of the tyrannical dungeon master, otherwise known as Professor Snape.

Hermione sighed and sat at a table near the front, and began to remove her text books. Beside her, Neville Longbottom, one of the few of her friends who decided to return to Hogwarts, fidgeted nervously before following Hermione's lead. He was always a terrible potions student, but learned quickly that the best way to survive was to copy his friend's actions exactly. To the right of Neville, Ginny sighed, the young redhead was delighted to have her older friends join her this year, but she couldn't help but miss her boyfriend Harry, who had decided to accept the new Minister of Magic, Ulyssa Grath's job offer as an Auror, alongside her brother Ron.

Hermione stretched slightly before gazing around the room, the whole class was sitting down at their desks, staring up at the front silently. This, she mused, was unusual as people often took the first class of the year to chat and share tales of the summer, however an air of expectancy hung in the clammy room and she knew exactly what was causing it.

As the dungeons door opened once more, a collective gasp filled the room. Severus Snape, potions master, former Death Eater, murderer of Dumbledore and unexpected hero, limped into the room with a flourish of his cloak and made straight for his desk. Not a single person in the room stirred as he sat down, pulled off his cloak and began preparing for the class. As he began to call the register, Hermione took the opportunity to study her teacher. After being bitten by Voldemort's snake, Nagini and left in the Shrieking Shack, many had presumed him dead, but, hours after the dark lord had finally been defeated, a team consisting of herself, Harry, Ron, and a few other Order members traveled to retrieve his body, only to discover that a breath of life still remained in him. She was glad to see him back, after hearing rumours all summer about his extremely slow recovery at St Mungo's, seeing him at the teachers table at the feast yesterday had made her smile with relief, although she couldn't figure out why."

"Miss Granger? Miss Granger!"

Hermione jumped in fright, "Crap, first day back and I'm already drifting off" she though to herself.

"Here, Professor Snape" She said, noticing at once the familiar look of annoyance he gave her before returning to the register.

"After all we've been through together and he still hates me" she though miserably, "This year is not going to be fun". She felt a soft nudge at her side and turned to smile back at Neville's comforting grin. At least she still had friends to share the misery with.

Snape observed the bushy haired girl from beneath his eyelashes as he finished the register. He was shocked by how she had changed in the year she had left Hogwarts. The tiny know-it-all with the frizzy hair and buck teeth was gone forever, and was replaced with a curvy, quite beautiful woman. He growled softly to himself and forced that thought away to the back of his mind. No way was he going to find that insufferable chit attractive, even if they had been on the same side all along, she was still an annoying trouble maker. With that though, he began the day's lesson.

"Well well well," he began in a silky smooth voice, "I see that some of you dunderheads managed to make it to your final year. However" He paused, gazing slowly around the class, before resting his gaze on Neville, "I think that some of you should have just stayed at home. This is your final year at Hogwarts and rest assured, I will be maintaining an extremely high standard in this classroom. If even a third of you manage to pass this class, I will be very surprised"

Neville squeaked and shifted uncomfortably under the gaze of the haughty teacher, and Snape smirked at the effect he was having. He began to circle the room issuing instructions for ingredients to be collected for the first potion making session of the year.

"I'm doomed" moaned Neville in the storeroom where he, Hermione and Ginny were collecting vials of Dragons blood, Mugwort and Boomslang, "There's no way I can pass this class!"

"You'll be fine" Hermione whispered comfortingly, "You just need to work hard and pay attention."

"Easy for you to say genius" smirked Ginny, "I'm with Neville, this year is going to suck! You'd think that the old bat would cheer up a bit with a second chance of life, but he's still a miserable bastard."

"Ssssh! He'll hear" Hermione gasped, suppressing a giggle at her friends outburst before heading back to their shared desk, however just before she could set her ingredients' down a bony hand clutched her shoulder and she found herself begin guided forcefully to an empty desk.

"If you think you can spend yet another year whispering instructions into Mr Longbottom's ear you are very much mistaken" Snape hissed into her ear, making her gasp "I'm the teacher in this class and he'll learn by my methods or not at all!"

Hermione bristled with anger, but before she could retort he was already gone, swooping around the class offering advice and criticisms while Neville and Ginny cast desperate looks in Hermione's direction. She shrugged helplessly at them and began to prepare her ingredients; Snape had a point after all, not that she would ever admit he was right to his face, the mean old bastard. She glanced over at her friends table only to see Neville already being scolded by the potions master for cutting up his Mugwort incorrectly. She sighed, Ginny was right; this year was going to suck.

As Hermione added the last of her ingredients to her potion she noted with a satisfied smile that the liquid had turned the sunshine yellow colour mentioned in the text book. However some people were not finding the task as easy as her. Most people in the class had only managed a browny colour while Ginny was frowning at her cauldron which contained a sickly green potion. However no one's potion had turned out like Neville's which was bright blue, bubbling furiously and emitting a high pitched squeal like a boiling kettle.

"IDIOT BOY!" Snape roared as he advanced to the cauldron, "How many times do I have to tell you to allow the potion to simmer for exactly seventeen minutes before adding the dragon's blood? And perhaps you though you didn't need to slice the Boomslang into two millimetre strips, perhaps you though you could take the lazy way out? Tell me Longbottom, are you actually as thick as you seem or do you do it deliberately just to antagonize me, because I-"

"Leave him alone!" Cried Hermione, appearing in front of a cowering Neville just as Snape raised his hand as if to strike. Slowly he lowered his hand and regarded the furious girl in front of him; whilst thankful that she had stopped him before he had done something regretful, he couldn't let her impudence go unpunished. The tension in the room was so high you could have heard a pin drop.

"Detention, Miss Granger" hissed Snape, glaring at the girl, "and fifty points off Gryffandor for you, Mr Longbottom, see that you don't make such foolish mistakes in my class again, although that may just be wishful thinking."

And with that he swooped back to his desk and began issuing homework for the class.

"Oooh that insufferable man" growled Hermione at lunch when the potions class was finally over, "I could cheerfully bash him over the head, the way he treats you"

"It's ok Hermione, I'm used to it by now" Neville sighed, removing the scone Hermione had been squeezing into a fist out of her hand and placing a bowl of soup in front of her instead.

"He's right Hermione, Snape's a jerk, but there's no point getting detention over it, Neville can handle the insults by now, can't you" Said Ginny calmly, buttering a scone.

"That's right", Neville nodded enthusiastically, with a mouth full of scone. He swallowed quickly, "but he did look really mad this time, I honestly though he was going to hit me, the way he raised his hand like that."

"Me too! That's why I stopped him" Hermione sighed, "And now I have to spend the whole evening with him" she moaned. The other two patted her back sympathetically and told her they would wait up for her for afterward. Hermione was cheered, but as she glanced at the teachers table and saw the formidable potions master glaring at his soup her heart sank. She knew exactly how that soup felt. However, as his attention was diverted she found herself taking in his appearance more than she ever had before. With some surprise, she noted that he wasn't ugly at all. His hair wasn't, was most people were given to believe, greasy, but extremely fine, and Hermione found herself wondering what it would feel like to run her fingers through that hair. When looking at his face, she began to think that if he smiled once in a while, rather than just glaring at everyone all the time that he might be quite handsome. "How could I ever get him to smile?" she mused to herself, before starting and giving herself a mental shake. "This is Snape your thinking of, Hermione, don't even go there!" she reprimanded herself fully. "I'm not going to find Snape handsome."

With that though she hastily swallowed the rest of her soup, said her goodbyes to Ginny and Neville before hurrying off to her next class, unaware of the dark eyes that followed her every movement until she was out of sight.

Snape sat in his office after lunch and tried to read the book in front of him, but after re reading the same sentence for at least five minutes he sighed and gave up, staring around him office instead. "That Granger girl" he muttered, staring at the clock. Six o' clock, in half an hour she'll be here. He suppressed a shudder, nothing made him feel worst than spending an evening disciplining a student, usually he didn't bother, and simply sent them off for Filch to deal with instead. "But this girl" he mused, calling into his memory the vision that had been taunting him for the past two hours. Petite and slim with a flawless face and piercing, chocolate brown eyes which always seemed to spark and crackle when she was angry. He allowed himself a small smile as he remembered how she had looked today when defending Longbottom. She really was a vision, particularly when she was mad. He chuckled to himself as he remembered her fury, she was fiery, that one. He found himself wondering what it would be like to tame that flame, to harness it and have her moaning and writhing beneath him as he pinned her down and showed her who was master. Shaking his head furiously, Snape tried to rid himself of that thought. "Gods man, she's half you age, stop acting like a horny school boy!" and with that thought he turned himself back to his book and forced himself to read.