Rating: M – inappropriate for readers under the age of 16; contains scenes of explicit sexuality and violence.
Disclaimer: Characters and settings ©J.K. Rowling.

Author's Note: There is no relation between the events of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows and what occurs here – the only risk of spoilers is information about Snape that Rowling provided in the final two books.

I would also like to note that I have deleted the original version of this story that was posted to . I edited the chapters, combining them and making corrections to minor grammatical errors, along with including additional story. Thank you for reading!

Matters of the Heart

K. Marie

Chapter 1

"Yes, seventh years – I expect to see each and every one of you present in the Great Hall, immediately following dinner. It is crucial to your final year curriculum that you make an appearance, as it regards your Ministry-mandated final project." A stern-looking woman stood at a podium before four long tables filled with students of various ages and size. She had a long, slender rod pointed at her neck, and it appeared to be amplifying her voice.

She nodded curtly to the old man beside her. His long white hair and beard traveled the length of his body, stopping barely above his hip. He copied her gesture as he moved his wand towards his throat. "Thank you, Professor McGonagall. Now, begin to feast! Let us not waste the marvelous food that the house-elves have graced upon us!" Nearly immediately, an array of food manifested on the tables.

"What do you suppose McGonagall is talking about?" said a red-haired, freckle-faced boy through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

"Ron," said the girl next to him reproachfully. "Honestly, have none of your brothers ever mentioned the seventh year project?" She shook her head disapprovingly, her wild mane of brown hair shaking with it. "The seventh years are required by Ministry law to choose a subject in which they study more than the rest, declaring it a potential major in higher wizarding education following their final year. The professors will review the student's backgrounds in the subjects and determine whether or not the student is capable of majoring in the subject. Needless to say, whichever subject you choose becomes increasingly more challenging because the professor will instruct you more as an apprentice than as a student."

The boy next to her, with tousled black hair and round glasses, gaped at her. "So it's like… training? Pre-academy training?"

"Sort of," she replied, looking at her messy-haired friend. "You see, Harry, seeing as you want to be an Auror, I would recommend, and this is quite obvious, that you pursue defense against the dark arts. You claim it as your quote-unquote major, and Professor Huxley would – assuming he approves of your proposition, which I'd be shocked if he didn't – take you on almost as an apprentice and teach you the more difficult counterspells to common dark magic.

"Although, on second thought, you may be able to teach him a few things, as well," she reflected fondly.

Harry smiled, clearly flattered. "Hermione," he began. "What subject do you think you're going to look into?"

Her eyes flickered between Ron and Harry. "I was considering either ancient runes, arithmancy" – and at this, she shot a look at Ron who had rolled his eyes – "or potions."

"Potions?" both boys exclaimed incredulously.

"Potions, Hermione?" Ron continued. "Are you out of your bloody mind?"

Harry followed her gaze up to the High Table, where their professors sat, chewing their meals or conversing amongst themselves. Hermione's amber eyes landed on a sallow-skinned professor, whose black attire contrasted drastically with his pale complexion. He seemed very involved in sawing at a piece of meat with his knife. It was apparent he felt the students' gazes on him, because he glanced up in their direction, and scowled.

All three students looked away very quickly. "Good luck, Hermione," Ron groaned.

"Honestly, Ron, I don't think I'll need it," Hermione said, hopeful. "Professor Snape can be rather unpleasant, but I really think he'll actually almost appreciate an eager mind in regards to potions."

"Maybe," Harry said, his face twisted into a look of doubt. "But it's probably not a bad idea that you've got back-up plans."

Following the end of dinner, the sixth year prefects showed the first years to their dormitories while the various years in between went on their way. The seventh years remained seated; an ocean of apprehensive faces staring up at Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore.

Again, wand at throat, McGonagall began to speak. "Now, as many of you are already aware, upon entering your seventh year at Hogwarts, you are required to declare a potential major for further education. What this entails: you shall approach the respective professor and request a potential apprenticeship with him, and after a background check on your past performances in his subject, the professor will consider you.

"If accepted, your subject of choice will become a primary focus of your lessons this year – however, you will not neglect your other subjects." She added strictly. "But, as your chosen subject will become significantly more challenging, you will be expected to put forth more effort than in previous years. I must emphasize that this subject will become significantly more challenging.

"Which means you will be tested not only on your practical skills, but on your actual comprehension of the subject. You must understand why things work the way they work and why they won't work if used improperly. You must demonstrate that you are competent in your chosen field.

"A word of advice: choose a subject that sincerely interests you, a subject that you may want to pursue as a career. Students find they are more successful and happy with a subject they naturally excel at, or at least enjoy." She paused, surveying the room. "It is preferred that each of you decides within the following week, but the absolute deadline is not until the twenty-fifth of September. You may approach your professors with your proposition in the following weeks, but as I mentioned before, we prefer that you come to us within the next week.

"Are there any questions?" McGonagall ended, once again surveying the room.

The room erupted into quiet whispers as students conversed between themselves. McGonagall interpreted that as a "no," and cleared her throat, her voice still amplified by the wand at her neck. "You are dismissed."

Suddenly, the Great Hall was filled with the screeches of bench legs against floor as students began to leave. Their conversations grew louder as the surroundings grew louder, creating an intolerable cacophony. Several of the professors stood to leave, while others remained to continue their conversations with their fellow instructors.

Hermione watched the potions professor as he made towards the exit of the hall. She snatched up her bag and began to hurry in the same direction, her friends in tow.

"Curfew isn't for another hour or so," she noted. "I think I'll catch up with Professor Snape tonight. Perhaps he'll be more interested if I confront him early."

Harry frowned as he fought to keep up with Hermione as she wheedled in between loitering students. "I doubt it, Hermione. He'll probably think you're just acting like the 'insufferable know-it-all' he thinks you are."

"Well," Hermione replied, undefeated. "There isn't any harm in trying, is there?" Snape escaped the crowd of students and was sweeping off in the direction of the dungeons, and Hermione made a jerky movement to follow him. "I'll catch up with you guys later!" And off she ran.

"She's bloody mad," Ron stared after her in disbelief. "Bloody mad."

Hermione ducked in and out of the group of students, keeping tabs on the dark professor as best she could. Whether or not she actually lost track of him was unimportant, for she knew the location of his classroom and office by heart, having attended his lectures for six years. But still, she thought it best if she caught him before he made to his private quarters to turn in for the night.

When she finally broke free of the throng of students, she darted around a corner and saw the Potions Master a long ways down the hall. How he managed to keep pace was lost on her; she had to nearly run to keep up with him.

"Professor!" she called out, gaining on him as she broke into a jog. "Professor Snape!" she repeated, as he made no motion to stop or acknowledge her.

He continued his brisk pace, but she managed to catch up, if not a little breathlessly. He still seemed to ignore her as if she were an annoying pest flittering about his head.

"Professor Snape?" she breathed, still nearly jogging to keep up with him.

His black eyes flickered to her, but he did not falter in his step. "What is it, Miss Granger?"

She couldn't believe he wasn't even a little breathless! "I would like… to make… a… proposition," she gasped as they turned a quick corner.

His voice dripped with malicious irritation. "Could it not have waited until tomorrow?"

"Well… I thought that… perhaps you would appreciate… a prompt…" she was tiring quickly, still all but running to keep pace with him.

Suddenly, he turned on her, his robes billowing around him, twisting in the air and slowly coming to settle. She nearly ran into him, having fallen shortly behind in attempts to breathe easier.

"Am I correct to assume that you would like to request an apprenticeship in potions, Miss Granger?" his voice was once again icy and dripping with annoyance.

She tried to gain her composure as she breathed heavily for air. The Head Girl did not want to face the truth that she was much more out-of-shape than she would like to admit, despite her small frame. She stared up into his penetrating gaze, nodding confidently. "Yes, Professor Snape. I would enjoy it very much if you took me on as an apprentice."

Passing students shot sympathetic looks towards Hermione, assuming much worse than why she was conversing with the despised professor. Snape was staring at her, and she thought for a moment that he might actually be considering her offer.

"How charming," he spat. "I shall give some consideration to your proposal, Granger." As he swept off, creeping down the long hallway in search of his office, Hermione's heart filled with hope. She couldn't help but to release the grin that was threatening to tear her face in two; Professor Snape, the Potions Master, was considering her as an apprentice!

She started a brisk pace back towards Gryffindor Tower, turning over many considerations in her mind. Professors Vector and Babbling would no doubt be very enthusiastic about her potential apprenticeship under them, and so she decidedly procrastinated proposing the offer to them until tomorrow.

As she drew towards the Fat Lady, she realized she hadn't thought to ask what the password was. She cursed herself for her irresponsibility, but was relieved when she noticed a classmate leaving the common room.

"Parvati, what's the password?" Hermione asked her politely.

After relaying the password to her friend, Parvati made off in another direction. Hermione repeated it to the portrait, which greeted her kindly and swung open to grant the Head Girl access. Of course, as Head Girl, she also had access to her own private living quarters, but here she would find her friends, and she was afraid that if she didn't relieve herself of her excitement for a potential potions apprenticeship, she might burst.

After approaching the professors of ancient runes and arithmancy, Hermione caught up with her friends in the Great Hall, where they found themselves eating dinner. Desperately resisting the temptation to pester Snape about her proposal, she buried herself in the few homework assignments she had received that day.

Until Ron's kid sister Ginny dragged Hermione to the Great Hall, she had been neglecting to notice how hungry she truly was. The Head Girl had taken the opportunity during lunchtime to confront Professors Babbling and Vector about a potential apprenticeship, and henceforth failed to feed herself.

Taking a seat beside Ron, Hermione began helping herself to spoonfuls of various vegetarian dishes. Her friends were savagely tearing apart various chicken parts while she quietly consumed her pesto pasta.

"Have either of you made any attempts to talk to Professor Huxley?" Hermione asked, trying her best not to sound nagging.

Harry returned the bone of what was previously a chicken wing to his plate as he shook his head. "Not quite yet. To be honest, I actually completely forgot. I was kind of caught up between homework and sorting out some new plays."

"Yeah, Hermione, you should see this awesome one he's worked out using the Beaters, it's bloody brilliant!" Ron exclaimed with a mouthful of stew.

Hermione grimaced as tiny pieces of food flung across the table, secretly thankful she had taken her seat next to him. "Charming," she said. "Don't talk with your mouth full, Ron, honestly."

"Yeah, mum would have a fit if she saw you spitting your food everywhere," Ginny insisted.

Ron rolled his eyes at his sister but nonetheless, began to chew.

"So I guess it's safe to assume that you haven't talked to him either, Ron?" Hermione asked him after he had swallowed his troll-sized bite.

"Well," Ron began, and Hermione could practically see the wheels of poorly-thought-out excuses turning in his head. "I haven't had class with him yet so I haven't been able to talk to him."

Hermione shook her head disapprovingly. Picking at the food on her plate, she allowed her gaze to land on Professor Snape. He had been sipping from his goblet as she looked at him, seemingly trying to avoid conversing with the wild-haired teacher beside him. She was desperately trying to glance at his palm, it appeared, through her thick glasses.

"I really do hope he accepts me," Hermione said aloud. "I know he said he would consider me, but that really doesn't mean much of anything."

After the initial excitement of his consideration wore off, Hermione began to dwell on the fact that he said he would only consider her. Professors Vector and Babbling had been more than thrilled to hear she wanted to work with them, and yet Snape acted more like she was a nuisance to instruct.

Although, she thought, He never really acted as if he felt I was anything but a nuisance at all, these past several years. Why should I even be surprised?

"Hermione, really," Harry reasoned, twisting his fork in some spaghetti. "If he says no, it's really his loss, anyway. You're brilliant, and anyone who wouldn't want to work with you is a complete moron."

"But that's just it, Harry. Professor Snape isn't a moron. At all! He's possibly one of the most competent and capable teachers at Hogwarts. Don't you know, as a Potions Master, he has the equivalent to a doctorate's degree? If you don't know, that's the highest degree you can obtain through postgraduate education," she explained quickly, once again seeming to be talking to herself more than Harry.

"Wow, really?" Ron interrupted, his disinterest blatantly obvious in his bored tone.

Hermione glared at him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Snape leaving the Great Hall through the same door he escaped through the time Professor Quirrell had been shrieking about trolls. She stood up quite suddenly and climbed over the bench.

"I'm going to speak with Professor Snape about my apprenticeship. I'll see you guys later," she snagged up her backpack and hurried off.

The Potions Master stalked through the hallways in the direction of his private quarters. His patience had been ebbed away by Sybill Trelawney's constant pestering during dinner. She had managed to catch a glimpse of his palm while he had been reaching for his goblet and throughout the entire meal, she had kept asking to see his hand, for she had apparently read his death in the near future.

He already knew that his death was imminent – he was a Goddamn turncoat, for Christ's sake! It was any day now that he would feel that despicable burn, summoning him to some forsaken meeting, to be confronted by the Dark Lord about his true loyalties. Lucius already suspected him; it was only time before Voldemort began to distrust Snape as well.

The sooner, the better, Snape thought viciously, throwing open the door to his classroom. It banged against the wall loudly, rattling the shelves and the contents within them. The sooner, the fucking better.

He made his way towards his desk where his unopened mail lay. Some time ago, just as many of the other Hogwarts teachers had done, Snape made a request that the owls deliver his mail directly to his classroom, as to avoid the hallways being flocked with wandering owls in search of their breakfast-absent addressee. Taking a seat behind his desk, Snape quickly sorted through the day's mail: a journal, a catalog, the Daily Prophet, and a single envelope. Giving the envelope a once-over, he discarded it for later, and opened the alchemy journal.

Before he could read the first paragraph of the first article, a quiet knock sounded at the door. Cursing aloud, the Potions Master slammed the periodical down onto his desk, silently plotting the punishment for the annoyance behind the door.

"Come in," he growled, intentionally forcing his voice into an even more menacing snarl than normal.

Slowly, the door pushed open. Hermione Granger peeked her head into the room before her body entered. She seemed to notice Snape's annoyance, for she visibly second-guessed whatever intentions had brought her down here.

He could only assume: she wanted to know if he had approved of her apprenticeship or not. The honest truth was – and he would never let her know, of course – he would be pleased to have her work with him, if only she weren't so starved for approval. It wasn't unknown that she irked him half to death, what with her constantly raising her hand in attempts to disprove his theories or to simply challenge them with a game of twenty questions.

He, just as any of the other teachers, did not need to check Hermione's past scores in his class: he knew without fault they were the highest in quite some years. Her grades in potions alone challenged his own from decades past; but again, he would never admit that to her. She was a brilliant student despite how annoying she was; this he could not deny. However, he could procrastinate approving her apprenticeship, if only to deflate her ego.

"Professor," she began. "I was wondering if you put any more consideration into my proposition?"

Her posture alone screamed confidence, but her voice betrayed her, as it cracked on the tail-end of her question. She was so very visibly nervous. Snape considered this as he steepled his fingers in front of him, leaning back in his chair.

"Well, Miss Granger," he sneered. "I must say I am not at all surprised at your persistence; why, it has only been an entire day since you first requested an apprenticeship. How dare I take a full twenty-four hours to consider such an arrangement?" The condescending tone of voice was not forced, but also not entirely serious – but again, she was not to know this.

"I didn't mean…" she began, the disappointment apparent in her face.

For a moment, Snape wondered if perhaps he should simply appeal to her request. She may be a nuisance to work with, but it would well be worth it if she decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in potions. There weren't many capable potion brewers aside from himself in the world; the next best alchemist that immediately came to mind was a muggle by the name of McKenna, and even he wasn't too terribly impressive. Granger would make an excellent Potions Mistress, no doubt, but should he make it so easy on her?

No, he shouldn't. "Miss Granger, I assure you that when I decide, you will be the very first person I inform," his tone was not consoling at all; it was as oily and snide as ever.

"Right, sir. I'm sorry to have bothered you," she murmured, quickly shuffling out of the room.

Snape stood, gathering the mail, and headed in the direction of his private rooms.