A timid knock was heard at the dungeon door.

"Enter," came a cold, deliberate voice from inside the dungeon.

Hermione poked her head around the door as it opened. "You wanted to see me, Professor?" she inquired more timidly than she had knocked.

"Yes, Miss Granger, come in." replied the potions master, Professor Snape, once again coolly.

"What can I help you with, Professor?" she responded, slowly entering the room.

"Professor Dumbledore has need of my assistance. There is a potion, a very complex potion, which he needs me to make. It requires the work of two people. Since he is, as I am sure you are aware, regularly predisposed doing whatever it is he is doing with Potter these days, he is unable to assist me. As there are no other students of your year who have the faintest aptitude in potions, I am stuck with you."

Hermione, caught slightly off guard by what seemed to be a backhanded compliment, was well aware of what Professor Dumbledore and Harry had been up to. Harry had confided in her and Ron that he and Dumbledore were working on a way to stop He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, though he had not been clear as to exactly what that was. She also had a very strong feeling that Snape knew what was going on as well. Snape was in the Order of the Phoenix and was well trusted by Dumbledore. It would be highly unlikely that he would have been kept out of the loop. Hermione presumed that Snape was playing dumb, unaware of her depth of awareness as to the other goings-on.

"I'm honored, Professor. I would have thought you would have gotten Professor Slughorn to assist you. What potion will we be making, Professor?"

Ignoring her questions, Snape continued, "Before I tell you anything further, Miss Granger, I must have your word, a solemn vow, that anything we do here will remain a secret. You may not, under any circumstances, share with anyone the work we are doing here. Not your famous friend Potter, or that dunderhead Weasley, that crackpot Lovegood, or that waste of a wand Longbottom."

"Neville is exceptionally bright and Luna is –"

"Shut up, Miss Granger! You will not talk back to me, question me, or in any way countermand a word I say. Is that clear?" He stared at her with great intensity, and with what incredibly appeared to be a mixture of both loathing and hope. Snape had never shown any sign of kindness or care for Hermione, an attitude she had always attributed to her friendship with Harry. However, something seemed different.

"Are we clear?" he said piercingly.

"Y- Yes sir," she replied as firmly as she could, but with her voice still breaking slightly.

"Good. Now, we will not begin tonight as I have yet to finish gathering all of the necessary ingredients for the potion we will be mixing. You are to come back tomorrow night, and every night after until we have completed the project. Be here at precisely 8 o'clock. Bring no less than six vials, your cauldron, and your wand."

"Sir, where shall I tell people I am going? Harry and Ron will surely ask, and Professor Slughorn is always trying to get me to attend his supper parties."

"I will take care of Slughorn," he answered. "As for Potter and Weasley, tell them you have volunteered to tutor third-years. That is a believable enough story for a know-it-all like yourself."

"And what of my homework?" she retorted. "When am I supposed to find time to do that?"

"Miss Granger, I am sure you will be resourceful enough to find time to continue your annoyingly stellar academic career," Snape once again replied, this time with a slight smirk.

Hermione, blushing with hurt and anger, turned to leave the dungeon. "One more thing Miss Granger," Snape called after her. "If for one moment, while we are working through our little project, I feel as though you are not giving me 100% of your effort, energy, and attention, not only will I make sure Gryffindor has zero chance in winning the house cup this year, I will see you are expelled, even if I have to make up a reason. This is the most important thing you have ever done and will ever do (I cut this from the end of the sentence. It flows better to me like this) in your feeble little life."

The dungeon door slammed shut with a loud WHOMP, mere inches from Hermione's nose. A single tear welled up in Hermione's eye, while at the same moment an excitement she had never known began to build in her chest.

Hermione returned to the dungeon the following night at precisely 8 o'clock. As Snape had predicted, Harry and Ron had no problem whatsoever believing that she had volunteered to tutor third years. Undoubtedly, she believed, it was due to her kind-heartedness and not her intellectual pride as Snape had surmised. Ron had teased her a little though, asking if she was creating "Hermione's Army" now that the DA was no more. With her normal response of "Don't be stupid, Ronald," she turned on her heel and walked out of the common room. She could hear Harry sniggering behind her at Ron's expense. The last thing she heard as the doorway behind the Fat-Lady shut was Ron's faint voice saying, "Sometimes she can be such a -."

Upon entering the Dungeon, Hermione was hit by a number of strong odors coming from a half-dozen bubbling cauldrons. A few of them were extremely pungent. One in particular nearly made her vomit. A few cauldrons were giving off pleasant smells however. One she noticed smelled of parchment and freshly mown grass. Recognizing this potion immediately, she exclaimed, "A love potion! What in the world are we going to do with a love potion?"

"Quiet," said the drawn-out voice from behind the open doors of an ingredients cabinet.

Professor Snape walked over to the mixing table from the cabinet holding several different colored vials. Some of them were filled with ingredients Hermione was very familiar with: lace-wing flies, toad's eye-lids, and the lot. A number of them however, she was completely unfamiliar with. This was an uncomfortable scenario for her, not having an intimate knowledge of all aspects of the subject she was working on. With no little bit of frustration, Hermione placed her vials and cauldron on the table next to them.

"Our goal over these next few weeks will be to create an acceptable concoction of Décor Vitas serum, or the Life of Grace. Ever heard of it?"

Hermione shook her head slightly.

"No, of course not. It would not be found in any of your schoolbooks or any of the books in the school library. The Life of Grace is an exceptionally powerful, exceptionally rare potion used in only the direst of circumstances. It is not dark magic by any stretch, but it is not a potion to be trifled with."

"Sir, what exactly does it do? That is, what is its purpose?" Hermione asked sheepishly. She was still unaware of how much interaction Professor Snape wanted from her, if any.

"That, Miss Granger," started Snape with a bit of a snap and then mellowing slightly, "is of no consequence at this time. As we are still weeks away from its completion, it is more important that we focus on the steps that tell us we are mixing it correctly than our final intention. You will discover its purpose in time."

Hermione was not in any way satisfied with this answer, and apparently it showed in her demeanor.

"Do you have a problem, Miss Granger?" Snape snarled.

"No sir," she replied firmly. "Merely ready to begin."

The next few weeks were the most difficult academic period of Hermione's time at Hogwarts since her third year in which she used a time-turner to keep up with all her classes. The courses she was taken were getting increasingly more difficult. The daily demands of her private work with Professor Snape pushed her study times into the late hours of the night. It was increasingly common that she would find herself the last to leave the Gryffindor common room these days (Just moved it to the end of the sentence). Many times it had been hours since she had seen another student, and on more than one occasion, she fell fast asleep in the middle of an assignment.

Harry and Ron also began to start asking questions.

"Why do you have to tutor them every night, Hermione?" complained Ron while at lunch one day. "You have yet to even come to a Quidditch match. I am getting quite good you know!"

"Yeah, Hermione," chimed in Harry. "We never had this level of tutoring available to us when we were third years. Give them a break."

"Give them a break?" cried Ron. "Look at her, Harry!"

Hermione immediately gave Ron a sharp look. Alerted to the danger he was now in, Ron quickly recovered, "Not that you look bad, mind you. Just that you look tired is all."

"These students need our help Ronald. And as prefect, it is my responsibility to provide it." Giving them one final harsh look, Hermione quickly gathered her things and stormed out of the Great Hall. Truth be told, she was tired and could use a break. Snape, however, was continuing to work hard each and every night. And if Dumbledore needed it, it must be important.

Upon arrival in the dungeon that night, Hermione noticed that all of the different brews they had been creating in the myriad of cauldrons had at this point been combined into one large, steaming pot. The heat was at a low simmer; the color was an odd shade of pink, and the smell was one of wet leather.

Professor Snape emerged from his office, donning his traveling cloak.

"We will not be staying in tonight, Miss Granger," Snape began. "We have one more ingredient that is needed in order to complete the potion. Since you have proved to be an above average assistance to me over the past few weeks, I shall bring you along to retrieve it. This may not be an easy assignment however. I require your complete obedience on this journey. If you do not feel as though you can provide that unwaveringly, I will make this trek alone."

"I am with you sir," responded Hermione with a hint of both trepidation and excitement in her voice.

"I would expect nothing less," replied Snape with a slight smirk. "You remind me of another young woman I once knew. Neither of you really knew where your limits were." His speech slowed at this and Hermione noticed a slightly far away look in Snape's eyes. After the briefest of pauses he recovered and continued sharply, "Let's hope you do not meet the same sticky end."

The two left the classroom heading toward the front doors. Upon reaching the doors, the pair took the most direct path to the edge of the grounds. Hermione was not sure exactly where they were headed, but was pretty certain they were leaving the grounds.

Upon exiting the Hogwarts border Snape instructed Hermione to take his arm. Instantly and without warning, with the sensation as though a fist had gripped her spine through her belly button, the pair disappeared into darkness. When they reappeared, after the nausea of having apperated for the first time passed (I added this in), the first thing Hermione noticed was the cold mist all around her. They were standing on the bank of a small stream. To the left, the stream flowed quietly and peacefully into a forest. To the right, about 100 yards upstream in the midst of a small bog, sat an old mill. The windmill was tattered, missing one arm completely, and looked as though it had not been used in years. It slowly rotated, barely moving at all. Hermione, still feeling a bit queasy, began to stagger until Snape steadied her while at the same moment putting a finger over his lips signaling her silence. He then pulled his wand from his cloak, an action Hermione mimicked without hesitation. The two slowly and silently began making their way toward the mill.

They surveyed the mill as they approached. It was deserted. Snape grasped the door handle and slowly opened it. The interior was as tattered as the exterior. There was an old table and a few busted chairs in one corner. The millstone was cracked and disconnected from the windmill mast. The entire building was dirt filled with an abundance of cobwebs. In the far end of the room there was a small chest.

Hermione stood just inside the doorway continuing to scan the room as Snape moved swiftly and methodically toward the chest. It was worn, appearing as though it had been there for years, covered in dust, with the corners looking as though rats had chewed them. Hermione moved into the center of the room, allowing the door to close completely behind her. Snape, arriving at the chest stooped to one knee and opened the wooden, brass gilded box.

As Hermione looked over she watched Snape pull a small velvet bag from inside. She opened her mouth to ask what it was that Snape had just grasped when she turned towards the door with a jerk. Snape quickly stood and scrambled towards her. Somewhere outside, not too far from the mill, they had heard a loud pop. It was a sound that both of them knew very well, the sound of someone apparating.

The two stood in complete silence, listening intently for any sound from outside. They could hear the footsteps of at least two other people walking around the exterior of the building. Snape, having put the velvet bag inside his pocket, grasped the non-wand arm of Hermione and pulled her behind him. Both of them were now standing with wands raised and pointed towards the doorway.

From outside they heard a man's scratchy voice say, "I don't know why we have to patrol areas like this. What could be so important about a bloody old mill?"

Then in a voice that sent chills down Hermione's spine, emanating from someone Snape knew all too well, the voice of the werewolf Greyback spoke, "The Dark Lord says this place used to be important for some reason. That should be good enough for you."

"But no one is ever out here," the other one replied from a distance that must have been mere steps outside the door. "Who would be hanging about in an old mill?"

The one in the scratchy voice grabbed the door handle and began to swing it open.

"Wait!" cried the werewolf. "What's that smell? I smell… A girl!"

A flash of light exploded through the door from inside the mill, bursting it into splinters. The scratchy voiced Death Eater lay crumpled in a heap, covered in wood, several feet away. Greyback and Snape, who could not be seen because of the darkness inside the mill, were now firing curses back and forth blindly. Hermione had crouched behind the now overturned wooden table.

A curse, Sectumsempra, hit Greyback in the shoulder, causing him to screech with pain. He turned and jumped for cover behind the berm made by the creek.

"Run!" shouted Snape. "Run now! To the thicket we arrived in!"

Hermione did not hesitate and bolted out the door with Snape hot on her heels. With all the strength in her, she sprinted down the creek bank (I rearranged it). She knew where she needed to get to when, all of the sudden, a sound froze her in her tracks. It was the howl of a wolf. She looked up to the sky and to her horror was staring at a full moon.

Greyback had transformed and was now galloping down the stream towards Hermione. It seemed the smell of Hermione was still fresh in his nostrils, as he appeared to not even realize Snape was there. Hermione took off again at a sprint, but the werewolf was too fast and he pounced, knocking her to the ground, her wand sent flying. He was on top of her before she could blink, roaring and drooling, teeth bared.

Hermione, sensing this was the end, closed her eyes. She thought of her parents, how much time she had missed with them being away at school. She thought of Harry, her best friend. He was the closest thing she had to a brother and she would never be able to now watch him become the man she knew he would be. She thought of Ron. Stupid, aggravating, beautiful, lovely Ron. It was over.

"Lily! NO!" cried a voice. "CRUCIO!"

The werewolf immediately was thrown off of Hermione, writhing nearby on the ground in pain. Snape arrived to Hermione's side with his wand still pointing at the werewolf. He snatched her up from the ground and she felt that same familiar jerk and there was darkness.

The two travelers apparated just outside the gates of Hogwarts. Hermione was nearly hyperventilating. As she calmed down, she looked up at her professor, who was still holding her rather tightly. He was whiter than usual, staring down at her.

"Granger, are you alright? Did he bite you?" Snape said, snapping back into reality.

"N-No. I'm fine." Hermione responded shakily.

"I'll take you to Madam Pomfrey immediately."

"N-no sir. I w-w-want to finish what we started."

Snape did not respond for a moment. When he did it was in his usual, firm and snarky tone. "Miss Granger, as per our understanding you will do exactly as I have instructed. Are we clear?"

Hermione did not have the wherewithal at that point to argue. The two of them walked slowly up to the castle and in to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey put Hermione in bed and gave her some Billy Bum's Sleep Solid. In a matter of moments she was fast asleep.

There was once again timid knocking at the dungeon door.

"Enter," came the cold voice from inside.

Hermione walked slowly inside the room. Professor Snape stood alone over a single cauldron at the far laboratory table.

"Granger, what are you doing here?" he said sharply.

"Sir, I came to finish what we started," she replied softly yet with a force that often evaded her.

"It has already been done. I have added the final ingredient and it is now ready to be delivered to Dumbledore."

Hermione's heart sank. After all this time, all that effort, and having nearly been killed by a werewolf, he had just completed the project and went on without her. She started to feel some of the nausea she had become familiar with over the previous few days. Then, without realizing what she was doing, she had thrown her books on the ground and was shouting.

"How could you? After all the hours and work I put in? I don't even know what the damn thing does!"

Snape pursed his lips together menacingly. In a stern and yet softer voice than any Hermione expected, he said to her, "Come here."

Hermione walked towards him slowly. As she approached she saw a vial filled with a silver potion lying (I'm not 100% sure about this one. Word says it's lying but I'm not sure) next to the cauldron. She looked up and Snape spoke.

"The Life of Grace is finished Granger. It is ready to go to Dumbledore. It is there in that vial. You can take it to him. I believe he is here now."

Hermione could not believe this. Snape was telling her to take the potion to Dumbledore?

"What does it do?" she replied.

His eyes narrowing he responded, "Dumbledore is quite ill. Cursed actually. He will not live out the year. The Life of Grace will ensure that he has that year. It is a life-extension potion, the most powerful in the world. In any other scenario should someone take this potion, whatever ailment they had would be immediately eradicated from their body. Because of the nature of the curse, Dumbledore's life can only be prolonged a few more months."

The news of Dumbledore's illness hit Hermione as though she had been struck in the stomach. She wondered if Harry knew. Surely not as that would be something he would have been unable to keep from her and Ron. And yet as painful the news was to hear and process, Hermione had more questions. "What was in that velvet bag we found at the mill?" she continued.

"It was the final ingredient. A piece of wood. Wood from the wand of a very powerful wizard. Actually, the wand of the wizard (Rearranged and added a few words) who invented this potion. Very few people knew it existed. The wizard who created this potion made a piece of his wand the final ingredient, thinking that only he would ever have access to the wand and that only he would be able to make it if it was his wand the potion required. He, however, shared this knowledge with a less than trustworthy assistant, who in the end was his undoing. I wonder if I have made the same mistake?"

Ignoring this final assertion, Hermione pressed on, "Why did we need a love potion?"

"Ultimately, Miss Granger, the source of all life is love. Since we cannot bottle love to use in a potion, the next best thing we can do is include the simulation of love. So for that we needed a love-potion."

With the reality of everything sinking in, Hermione picked up the vial. "I'll take this to Dumbledore then," she said quietly to her professor. Without saying another word, she turned to leave the room.

"Granger," said Snape sharply. Hermione turned to look at him. The gravity of the situation really starting to rest on her shoulders, tears had begun to flow. "Never again will you assist me on any project like this. You are too much like her." With that he turned and walked to his office, shutting the door behind him.

Hermione thought more to herself as she headed to Dumbledore's office. "Too much like who?"

As she stepped up to the stone gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office, one final thought came to her well over-taxed mind, "Who is Lily?"

COMMENTS:

I like it! It was really good. I changed a just few things. The major ones are bolded. Mostly, I just corrected spelling and added some commas (hopefully I didn't get too comma happy lol). Also, is this kind of a Snape/Hermione pairing? Just wondering. I really think you should upload this, by the way.