"You have got to be kidding me," Hermione muttered, tossing her letter onto the table at Grimmauld Place where she'd been living with her friends for the past year since Harry had defeated Voldemort.
"What?" Ron asked through his mouthful of food. Breakfast had just been served and he shoveled it down quickly, barely leaving room to breathe.
"Dumbledore thinks that I should share the position of Potions instead of Transfiguration. He says they may have found another teacher to help Minerva, who's better qualified than I am, but they're still looking for another potions master."
"Too bad you'd have to share the position with Snape," Harry said, putting down his newspaper.
"I know. I was really looking forward to getting to work with Minerva… I guess I could work with Professor Snape. I did get an O on the Potion NEWTs, but I don't want to be emotionally assaulted every day. On the other hand, I have dealt with it for the past nine years. I'm probably completely numbed to it by now…"
"What're you going to do?" Harry asked. She paused and watched Ron eat for a minute with mild disgust.
"I'll just have to take the job. I'm sure there'll be many jobs I take that aren't with the most reasonable people. It's still a great opportunity for me. Better to practice with someone I already know and understand than be stuck with some jerk who thinks he can walk all over me."
"Yeah, with our arch enemy." Ron could barely be understood around his mouthful of toast.
"No. You're confusing Harry and me. Snape and I tolerated each other for years, especially after the whole snake thing. We can do it again."
"If you want to." He stood up and placed his dishes in the sink. "I gotta go pick up Luna from her dad's house. She went to get some of his stuff before the Ministry ransacks the place again."
"Go have fun with your girlfriend. I have to respond to this letter." She laid out a sheet of parchment as he left.
After penning out a quick response, she sent it back with the owl it came with. Hopefully, Dumbledore would want to speak to her immediately after he received the note. And hopefully, it wouldn't take very long for the note to be received.
Breakfast was slow because she could hardly keep anything down. A few hours had passed and she decided to take a shower. There was no point showing up dirty to her new employer. As she stepped through the rippled shower door, a note appeared on the counter next to her. She frowned and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Picking it up, she opened the folded sheet of paper.
Come see me immediately,
Immediately, she got dressed and flooed to the potion master's private quarters. He had said immediately, after all.
She had never been in his private rooms before. She doubted if any student had ever seen them. Except maybe Malfoy. Standing in the dark hallway in the dungeons, Hermione hesitated before knocking. It was a little weird to be on the verge of entering the Dungeon Bat's rooms. She suddenly had the urge to turn and walk away as quickly as she could.
Before she could leave, the door opened of its own accord, a dark space revealed beyond. Tentatively, she stepped forward and the door closed behind her.
She had stepped into a small living room with only a tall candelabra standing in the corner to her right. Even with minimal lighting, she could still make out the bookshelves lined up directly next to her and the fireplace on the wall to the right, next to the candles. On the wall across from her were two bookshelves, one on either side of a large desk littered with what looked like essays. The wall extending on her left was glaringly empty in comparison to the cramped room on her right.
"Snape?" she asked the empty room. "Professor Snape?" A small sound from the hallway in front of her made her turn. She walked across the room, past two doors on her right, through a small doorway, and entered a kitchen. There were cardboard boxes lining the wall to her left, stacked two to a column. The line of boxes moved a few inches towards her. A large figure at the end of the line grunted in time with the movements.
"Professor Snape?" She made her way forward cautiously.
"Ah. Miss Granger. I hoped my note would be received soon." He stood up fully, a black shape against the flickering light behind him.
"I came as soon as I read it. I even interrupted a shower. And I should appreciate it if you would call me Hermione. We are, after all, colleagues."
"Of course," he sneered. Snape took a few steps forward and bent down to open the box closest to him. "These are the new supplies for this year's students. I'd be very grateful if you'd help me label and shelve them before the beginning of the semester."
Hermione stared at him in shock. "You sent me a note proclaiming urgency because you wanted help organizing school supplies? Something we have almost two months to do?"
"No. I sent you a note proclaiming urgency because Dumbledore would like to speak to the two of us together. He sent me a note proclaiming urgency and I thought it would be efficient if you might help me while we wait," he said, looking down at her over his nose.
"So you interrupted my bath because of Dumbledore?"
"Yes." After a moment of analyzing her face, he sighed heavily. "My apologies," he mumbled.
After rummaging through a box and identifying what he was looking at, he reached over to her and grabbed a black marker near her feet.
"No problem," she said, bending down with him. Neither had noticed the sound of the floo in the other room.
"Ah, I see my star pupils are getting along just fine. This meeting may not take as long as I had planned." Both of them turned to look at the man striding in from the living room and stood.
"Hello, Professor Dumbledore. I'm glad to see you in good health again," Hermione said, reaching forward to shake his hand.
"Yes, yes. Of course, it is due to you I'm still here. Thank you again for the lovely healing potion you administered so quickly after Snape's Stunning Spell."
"Of course, I learned from the best."
"Can we please skip the pleasantries and move on to the reason you're here, Headmaster?" Severus demanded, interjecting.
"Of course. You may be wondering why Minerva and I decided to pair the two of you up."
"Not really," Severus said.
"A little," Hermione answered.
Dumbledore gave Snape a hard stare for a moment before continuing. "Yes, well, we think your personalities are wonderfully similar and will be beneficial to the students. Besides, Severus can be a tad hard-headed sometimes and he needs someone who won't get pushed around." Snape's eyes flashed in warning. Dumbledore's eyes sparkled in merriment.
"Why are you pairing teachers up anyway?" Hermione asked.
"Ah, yes. Well, as you know, after the war, the wizarding economy went into a steep decline that we're still recovering from. Not many people have jobs. People are still on one side or the other. There are new law suits every day for wrongful termination due to previous alliances. We think that having two teachers in every class will help stimulate the economy, if only slightly. First and foremost, two teachers per subject will help the students and send the message to parents that it is safe at Hogwarts again," Dumbledore explained.
"That still doesn't explain why Miss Granger and I are teamed up. Or why I even need to have a partner."
"Miss Granger is very knowledgeable on the subject of Potions and, to be frank, nobody else was willing to take the position. Also, Minerva and I think your two personalities will go together splendidly." Hermione tried to stifle her laughter and barely succeeded. Dumbledore smiled at her attempt.
"I took the job. We'll get along fine." She shot a look at Snape. "What else do we need to talk about?" she asked Dumbledore.
"Living arrangements. Both of you will live here, in Professor Snape's personal quarters—or rather, the Potion's quarters—and share the storeroom and classroom. We have no more room in the castle without rebuilding and all the teachers are sharing living quarters."
"But there's only one bedroom and bathroom, Albus. You can't expect me to share—"
"Oh, look at the time," Dumbledore said, glancing at his pocket watch importantly. "Almost time for tea. Do excuse me." He stood and walked to the fireplace. "Oh, and congratulations on the job, Miss Granger. We're very pleased to have you."
"Thanks," Hermione mumbled after the door closed softly behind him.
There was a moment of silence before Snape groaned, dropping his head. "How did those holy terrors think this was appropriate? Are you okay sleeping in the same room with a man ten years your senior?"
"Of course it'll be hard to get used to, but I've known you half my life. I cared for you when you were in that coma after Nagini bit you. You stayed with me during that horrible Polyjuice cat debacle. Whether I trust you or not is a completely different story."
He smirked down at her. "Trust me? Trust me to not do what? Rape you in the middle of the night?" He laughed. "There's no chance of that. There's a greater chance I'll kill you in your sleep, forgetting you live here and mistaking you for an intruder."
"I don't think that will happen," she said, opening the nearest box and taking out the first thing she saw.
"Why not?" She sighed and straightened, keeping her back to him. "What are you talking about, woman?"
She bent again, resuming her organizing. "Well, when I was in third year, McGonagall gave me a time turner, you know. So I could get to all my classes."
"Yes, I am aware of that. You felt the need to take any credit you could."
"Yes, well, I accidentally went ahead in time once and, despite most of it being pretty blurry and undefined, there was something that was very clear. Something that should be happening fairly shortly. Something private." She took a small step away from him and found the kitchen counter to her back.
"Something private, Miss Granger?" He advanced on her.
"Hermione. And yes, private." She crossed her arms across her chest, well aware she was trying to put up a physical blockade between them.
"Normally, I could not care less about secrets that don't involve me. However, you have the uncanny ability to share too much personal information at the slightest provocation." He leaned forward, black eyes staring into Hermione's. "It leads me to ask if it will affect our working relationship at all?"
"Definitely not. I wouldn't let anything affect our working relationship." His eyes narrowed at the slight way she emphasized 'working'.
"Okay," he answered tightly. They stood staring at each other, faces less than a foot apart now. She didn't know how. Hadn't she taken a step back?
Severus cleared his throat and stepped away, almost tripping on a box. "Yes, well, I suppose you ought to, um, go back home and get any necessities." She tried not to smile.
"Of course. It should only take me a few minutes."
"Do you think you'll need any help?" he asked after a moment of consideration. She smiled. Severus Snape: trying to be helpful and social.
"No. I don't think so. I don't need much yet, I think. If I do, I won't hesitate to ask."
"Okay. Well, then, farewell," he said, watching her walk to the fireplace.