As the cauldron crashed to the floor, Ginny knew she was in for it. Green and fuschia potion spread thickly across the floor of the potions dungeon, coating the stones in a steaming mess. Students screamed and hopped up to stand on their chairs.

"WEASLEY!"

Ginny didn't flinch when Severus Snape bellowed her name, storming up the aisle, "How could you be so clumsy? That potion will permanently stain the floor. Twenty points from Gryffindor, and a detention for you."

Ginny didn't turn to face him, but rolled her eyes, and nodded, stooping to pick the heavy cauldron up and set it upright.

"Eight o'clock, tonight." He ground out, "And stay after to clean up this mess. Class dismissed."

Ginny groaned inwardly and knelt to clean the dripping potion from the floor. Snape didn't say a word to her as she worked. While she cleaned, Ginny though over and over how she loathed the Potions master. He thought he could intimidate anyone into anything, and he usually did. But she refused to quiver under his hard gazes and beady-eyes stares. She was tougher than that, thank you very much.

Once the ruined wart-testing potion was wiped from the floor, leaving (in Ginny's opinion) a green and pink swirled stain on the stones.

"I'm finished cleaning." She informed Snape, who was sorting his mail silently at his desk.

"Good. Report back at eight tonight prepared to write an essay on the merits of caution in the potions lab." He replied coldly, still looking through his mail.

Ginny caught site of a violet envelope and tried to remember what that color signified, then tossed it out of her head, rolling her eyes at Snape's irritating mood and scooped up her things to leave.

"Be on time." Snape called out to her, his voice echoing off the dungeon walls.

"Bite me." Ginny muttered in response, then hurried off in hopes he hadn't heard her.

~*~

Later that night, Severus was staring at the purple-blue envelope on his desk. A violet colored envelope always stood for a Murmurer. Murmurers were like Howlers, only quiet. Usually used to divulge secrets, they cam in handy if the reader was illiterate. While Severus could read, he got Murmurers frequently from his mother, who lived at St. Mungo's as a permanent patient in the psychiatric ward. She used them as a device of torture for her tortured son. A punishment, in her twisted mind, for committing her to the hospital. Even though Raviera Snape had gone quite mad in her old age and had needed to be put in a facility, she saw it as a betrayal, a way for her only child to pawn her off on the doctors at St. Mungo's.

Severus sighed and picked up the envelope and started to open it, knowing he may as well get it over with, Murmurers exploded nastily when unopened, leaving disgusting black goo in its wake. Instantly after the seal was broken on the envelope, a reedy female voice murmured in a rambling way, the words reverberating on the stone walls of the dungeon.

*My boy loves me no longer...why don't you love your mummy, Severus? I raised you well, without a husband. I worked so hard and you repay me with this place. My dear, sweet boy. I sometimes wonder what life would be without you in it. If you hadn't been born. If...*

As the voice cut through him like the blade of a sword, Severus let out a shuddering breath, not noticing the other presence in the room.

~*~

Ginny was frozen on the steps of the dungeon, the cold words of the Murmurer just barely reaching her ears. Watching Snape intently, she could see his struggle not to lose control over himself. Anger, hurt, sadness...they all reflected on his face. She felt guilty for intruding, and an overwhelming feeling of..something, was nagging at her. She slowly and silently backed up the stairs, then clambored down noisily o Snape would have time to collect himself and shut the Murmurer.

"I'm here for my detention." Ginny said lightly, as if she hadn't just heard the man's own mother saying she hated him.

"Take a seat and begin writing. I want the essay to be the entire length of the parchment. Understood?"

Ginny fought the urge to reply with an acidic remark. No matter how she disliked Snape, he had just had a hard time, "Yes, professor."

While she worked, Ginny would glance up to find Snape staring at the Murmurer, and the dread on his face was so evident, she actually felt bad for him. She had never expected to have feelings of remorse or compassion towards the professor. After all, he was always so hateful. But maybe he was that way because of what his mother had said in that letter. *if only you were never born...* Ginny felt a little piece of her heart go out to Snape. She quickly shook it off and went back to her essay.

Finally, at ten o'clock, she had managed to write a parchment-long essay. She turned it in to Snape at his desk, "Finished."

"Good. I expect you on time to class tomorrow." He said, not looking up at her from a parchment he was writing on. Ginny shifted slightly, unable to will herself away from the desk. Finally, Snape looked up in annoyance, "WHAT?"

"Well...I saw that you were upset over something when I came in." Ginny said carefully, "I was wondering if...if you were all right?"

Snape snorted, "I'm fine. I'll see you tomorrow, Miss Weasley."

"Oh...Well...fine." Ginny sighed, rolling her eyes slightly, "You just seemed--"

"It's none of your business." He snapped, cutting her off, "Go back to your dorm, Miss Weasley. I will see you in class."

Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. Every word he had said had been clipped and authoritative. She *hated* being spoken to that way, "FINE." She exploded, shocking him into looking up at her again, "You can be miserable all. By. Your. SELF."

And Ginny Weasley stormed off, not stopping to realize that she had just yelled at a teacher until she was in the Gryffindor common room.