He often found himself here, surrounded by stone and cloaked in darkness. He never stepped forward past his point of conscious sight; the portrait would squawk its displeasure at seeing him so far away from his own house, outside a rival common room that was Gryffindor house. This was as far as his own pride would let him go, through the stone walls if he concentrated hard enough he could feel the warm ripples emanating from her body soaking into his soul in the gloom.

He endeavoured to imagine her movements inside that scarlet room; could she be sitting around the fire surrounded by friends and books? Highly likely? Sitting at her dressing table pulling a brush through her bushy russet tresses? Possible?

Or was she curled, foetal like, under her bed sheets perspiring at the thought of a chance meeting in the snow with her potions professor of seven years. Severus Snape snarled at this final thought and turned back in the darkness a definite No!

The return back to his private quarters took less time than usual for Severus his thoughts occupied on his own weakness for the seventh year pupil he taught once a week, a know it all, a stunning , brilliant know it all. Aggression writhing through his arms Snape ripped off his robe and tossed it onto the desk, stripped down; he threw himself face down onto the feather down pillows. 'I look like a bloody teenage girl crying into her bed' he chastised himself, not a grown man of thirty five a professor at that. He wasn't crying so much as bemoaning this ridiculous situation his intellect reminded him, how had he ended up in this situation? And even more why was Lily fading daily into the background? A mere memory of a childhood sweetheart, in the grass, on a summer's afternoon.

Hermione Granger bounded down to breakfast that very next morning having had a restful night's sleep, dreams of floating pink and purple bubbles that was nowhere near as tormented as her potions professor had experienced. Unknowingly she glanced across at Snape who was nursing a glass of pumpkin juice and staring at his empty gold plate, she doubted that he ate anyway the bat like vampiric creature that he was.

"Have you got a busy day then Hermione?" Ron asked shoving forkfuls of scrambled egg into his mouth surrounded by beans and a couple of stray mushrooms.

"Arithmancy, Muggle studies and Double Potions with you two later on", the latter part of this sentence was met with a universal groan from the seventh years on the Gryffindor house table.

"Snape looks particularly happy today", lavender Brown piped up from Ron's left side, much to his earlier displeasure she had seated herself next to him, once again in the hopes that Ron would have a change of heart, or personality transplant and get back together with her.

"Does he ever look happy?" Ron replied, Lavender laughed mirthlessly at this only to gain a bizarre look from Ron. "Didn't think it was that funny?" he mumbled to his eggs.

Hermione let her gaze rise up once more to the staff table; it was true now that she really looked at him Snape did look particularly unhappy. His usual onyx eyes were surrounded by Ebony rings and he seemed to be fighting the urge to leave the table but still want to stay and sip his juice. Not that she could class herself as the Severus Snape social expert, it wasn't hard for any female to notice that this man was suffering and her nurturing instinct began to take over.

"He looks I don't know sad?" she said with a slight sigh she disguised with a cough.

"Greasy git", Ron and Harry said together, "what do you care Hermione? It isn't like old Snape up there spends his evenings thinking about you over a cup of Horlicks and a chocolate biscuit. Hmm I wonder how Miss Granger is this evening? I wonder if she's warm enough? And happy enough? I might just take her a mug of my steaming malt crap drink. Get real Hermione! The guy's not sad just a massive tosser!" Ron's rant had escalated to the point that a silence fell over the Great Hall as anyone who was left at breakfast turned to stare at the red headed ranter. Snape who at that point had finally decided to give up the ghost of food even halted in his tracks to glare at Ron who promptly blushed scarlet to his roots before Snape moved on past him an ugly sneer on his face.

"Ron I think he heard you", Hermione hissed "and do you know what Weasley I hope he did!"

Listening to that idiot Weasley make suggestions about his private thoughts had put Snape in a particularly bad mood, however rather than show the fool up in public and possibly give away his secret desire Severus had decided to make his potions lesson a living hell instead.

"Weasley once again you are showing what a spectacular Potions maker you are by creating a smell the devil himself would shy away from!" Snape drawled as he paced past Ron's Blood replenishing potion which had gone a rather vibrant if not pleasant green colour which, unfortunately did not have a smell to match. "You have twenty minutes to fix this or I think a weeks' worth of detention will help you to brush up on your reading ability". Snape strode off but not fast enough to miss Ron's response "I will never fix this in twenty minutes".

Snape smiled to himself, exactly.

Hermione even in her extreme loyalty to her long term friend felt the urge to grin slightly into her potions book. Ron had deserved what he had got in class after this morning's rude comments about their potions master, it was not as if she had any particular liking for Snape but that fact that Ron had taken her name in vain as well as his had made her feel more inclined towards Snape. She watched him as he ceased his cauldron patrol and sat back down at his desk. Picking up his quill he began to scrawl onto a sheet of parchment, Hermione suddenly found herself watching the way his hands moved across the paper, making each individual letter in his own special way learned at the hands of others who had once been in his position, as his professor.

The hands each had their own personality, one had a particularly nasty scar around the thumb it seemed to have excessive use, and this was his right hand. The other, his left, had a softer look to it. If she didn't know how ridiculous the thought was, her mind had jumped to John Steinbeck's character and his glove of Vaseline keeping his hand soft for his wife, Snape's left hand was his Curley hand.

"What in God's name was she staring at? And why wasn't she conscious of what she was doing? He had stopped writing and had been watching Hermione for ten seconds now; she seemed in a daze, a daze that had landed on him.

"Miss Granger if you feel that you are so well versed in what I am endeavouring to teach you dunderheads in here, that you feel you have time to day dream then you must have time to spare me an extra essay on love potions", it was out of his mouth before he could check his thoughts at the toll bridge.

She jumped with a start when he addressed her, "love potions sir? Is that really necessary when we are studying healing potions?"

"I thank you little Miss Know it all to stop and think about what you have just said, do you not realise how dangerous a love potion is? How it can kill an unwitting person such as Weasley last year? Or have you blanked that ridiculous atrocity from your mind as I have hoped too?"

Ron blanched at this as the memory of his being poisoned flooded back to him, Lavender scowled remembering that as the point she had lost Ron, Hermione just stared lost for words at her own ignorance and rudeness to her professor.

"I'm sorry Professor Snape I?"

"Four feet of parchment, two days Miss Granger. I hardly think that will be a problem for you?

Hermione shook her head blankly and turned back to her potion flabbergasted at being given extra homework and ridicule from Snape whom, she normally didn't get too much bother from. The rest of the lesson passed relatively smoothly, Ron was still angry, Harry appeared to be in his own world and Hermione completed her potion to her usual standard of Snape's no comment.

Hermione walked back to the Gryffindor common room alone and went upstairs to her room, when there she sat on her bed and stared out of the window. Flecks of snow had begun to fall over the castle turrets and onto the window ledge she now grasped onto, creases gathering in her forehead.

She was angry with Snape for setting her extra work, yet the opportunity had presented itself and it had been rather fortuitous she would do the work yes, but she would also brew one of the potions to show Snape what she really could do as a potion maker and if she could make him drink...