"I see no reason why you shouldn't be allowed to teach transfiguration," Professor McGonagall said, glancing over Hermione's résumé for the nth time. "And I know for a fact you're capable of the magic." She paused then added, "And I know you taught Potter and Weasley spells we never covered in class. Sometimes I wondered if we were teaching them anything or if you were doing all the work."
Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Professor."
"Not a problem," McGonagall replied. "Just be ready for the fall semester."
Hermione stood and nodded. "I will, Professor, I promise."
Two months later…
Hermione sat nervously at the head table as the first years were sorted into houses. Just as the last first year was sorted, Hermione realized that the number of teachers at the table was one less than it should have been, as well as missing Madame Pomfrey.
Then Professor McGonagall stood to make the start-of-term speech. Looking out across the students, McGonagall said, "I would like to welcome the first years and welcome back our older students. As always, the Forbidden Forest is off limits to all students, you are expected to be to all classes on time, and no wandering the halls after curfew."
There was some distracted muttering, primarily from the seventh years who still remembered Dumbledore's far more entertaining speech their first year.
But then Professor McGonagall got their attention by saying, "As seems to be an annual occurrence, we also have two new staff appointments. Or rather, we have a new appointment and a reappointment."
The curious muttering continued until the students recognized that McGonagall was not going to proceed to introductions until they were quiet. And until introductions were made, they could not eat. When the chatter finally died away, McGonagall went on, "Our new transfiguration teacher, Professor Granger." There was a smattering of polite applause. McGonagall frowned to herself, then said, "And our returning potions master and head of Slytherin House, Professor Snape, is not currently present." After a moment of dead silence, she added, "Enjoy the feast," and she sat down to her food.
Hermione piled food on her plate, but she just picked at it, taking only small bites and glancing furtively at the conspicuously empty seat immediately to her left.
Both shock and happiness were coursing through her veins; he wasn't dead. Why wasn't he dead? All she could really think about was her breakup with Ron and the secret, foolish crush she had always had on Professor Snape, in spite of the insults she had sometimes delivered behind his back.
"Maybe he just won't show up," she murmured, half-hoping it would be true, half-hoping it wouldn't.
Halfway through the dessert, when the din had risen to drown out all other noise, the doors to the Great Hall creaked open, and Snape entered. He approached the head table, McGonagall saw him and she said, "Severus, good, I was beginning to worry they hadn't released you on schedule."
"I'm fine," Snape answered, "As I said I would be. Some dead tissue, but that isn't bad considering the circumstances. It was Poppy who kept me from coming sooner." Sure enough, Madame Pomfrey hurried into the Great Hall, looking frazzled.
McGonagall nodded. "I fear you have missed the main course, Severus, but feel free to eat dessert."
"Thank you, Headmistress," Snape said, slowly sitting in the only remaining chair. He nodded to Hermione. "Miss Granger."
"Professor," she replied weakly, forcing herself to take a bite of the dessert she couldn't taste.
The rest of the meal was finished with a tense silence hovering between the two of them. Neither had been informed that the other would be teaching.
Snape was nearly as nervous as Hermione. He had seen her many times before, had appreciated her skills as a witch even if he did call her an insufferable know-it-all on occasion. But he was seeing her in a new light now. She was a teacher. No longer a student, no longer a child.
He frowned to himself, then stood without eating anything, and left the Great Hall to prepare the dungeon for the irritating first years he was lucky enough to begin the term with. Or rather, the first years who were unfortunate enough to begin the term with him.
Hermione watched him go, slightly relieved and slightly disappointed, but mostly just curious. She could not find an explanation for why Snape was still alive.
The next few weeks were hectic, as the teachers and students all got settled into the routine of classes and meals and extracurricular activities. Hermione was particularly uneasy, especially with her sixth and seventh years who were hardly five years younger than herself.
She preferred the fourth years. Old enough to know the basics, young enough to respect her authority. And after the Goblet of Fire, she had experience teaching fourth years.
But overall she was happy. She liked teaching, and she was good at it. And as long as she was higher than Snape and Binns on the students' list of favorite teachers, she was content.
Except at mealtimes.
There was an informal but habitual and permanent seating arrangement at the teachers' table. And this left her sitting next to the potions master every time their meals coincided. Each time he would nod and say, "Miss Granger."
She would then avert her eyes and reply, "Professor Snape."
Nothing more would be said for the remainder of the uncomfortable meals. Then one of the two would stand, say the other's name again, nod politely, and take their leave. Neither ever admitted—not even to themselves—that they enjoyed, even looked forward to, the tense, shared minutes and the symbolic act of communion.
But one night, Hermione's curiosity overpowered her, and she broke the unspoken agreement. "Professor," she said, "I thought… I thought you were dead."
"Evidently not, Miss Granger," Snape replied, working to sound indifferent.
"Evident now," Hermione muttered, avoiding the black eyes that were busy tracing the now-memorized profile of her face. "I was just curious as to how."
"You always were too curious, Miss Granger," Snape said. Seeing the insulted look on her face, he continued calmly, "But I don't suppose it will hurt to tell you what happened. It really isn't as exciting as one might think. I was dying. Very, very close to being dead, in fact. So I did the only thing that it was left in my power to do. I used virtually all of my remaining strength to apparate to St. Mungo's. I had been there for nearly five years when they finally consented to my release at the beginning of the semester."
Hermione nodded, but she could find nothing more to say. She didn't look at him again until he stood, said, "Miss Granger," nodded his farewell, and left the Great Hall. She couldn't help but feel grateful to the Healers who had saved him.
She did not see him at all for several days. When she did, there was no greeting. He just said, "How are Potter and Weasley, Miss Granger?"
Hermione flinched back at the thought of Ron and their last, nearly-violent parting. "Harry is fine," she answered.
"And Weasley?" he inquired, not really caring. It was a point of conversation, something to talk about.
"We thought it was the end of the world," Hermione answered, as much to herself as to Snape. "Once the disaster had passed, we were too different for it to work." She looked across the teachers' lounge and fell silent.
Snape's eyes were worried as he watched her. "Are you okay, Miss Granger?"
"Yes," she said quietly. "Professor Snape, I have a favor to ask of you."
"And it is…?" he prompted.
When she looked at him, her eyes were filled with the defiant fire he had always appreciated. There had been a few times he had been sure she was going to walk out of his class. But she never had. She had always just glowered down at her cauldron and made a sample better than any other student in his memory. All she said was, "Quit calling me Miss Granger. It makes me feel as though I'm still a student. I am your colleague now, and I would like you to treat me as such."
He looked at her a moment then answered mildly, "Very well, Miss Granger. I cannot refute the fact that we are colleagues, nor that you are no longer a student. But I could ask the same favor of you, that you quit treating me as though I am still your teacher. I will stop calling you Miss Granger when you start calling me Severus."
Well, I only own... no one. As I said in the summary, this is for Kelsie. :) Any reviews will be answered at the bottom of the next chapter. If you want a private response, send me a private message titled with the story and chapter. First non-oneshot HP story, here I come. :D And I've hit 40 stories by the way. The fact that I have no life is now official.