A.N. - I wrote this entire story in a day and a half...all thirteen thousand words of it! One of my most favorite pieces to write about this couple. As is the challenge to nearly every person who writes this pairing, I finally faced down the BIG ONE... "What if Hermione was the one who saved Snape at the end?" Originally, this story did *not* start out with this plot line...in fact, it wasn't even going to be a Snape/Hermione romance, just a little reminiscing on Snape's character, but the muses struck and I created this! Please review! Love it, hate it, I don't care, just let me know what you think!

Save some face, you know you've only got one
Change your ways while you're young
Boy, one day you'll be a man

Smile Like You Mean It

Severus Snape watched in shock as he heard Potter's name being called as being a fourth Tri-Wizard Champion.

He felt his lip begin to curl in loathing, seeing James all over again. Oh, the arrogance of the boy, somehow forcing his way into the spotlight yet again, trying to maintain his idolatrous stature among the wizarding world.

And yet, in the back of his mind, Severus knew that no mere boy could have hoodwinked such a powerful object.

Was it possible that Potter had not entered, but someone else had entered for him?

As the boy walked down between the tables, he could hear the cry of "Cheater!" cry out from several people in the room…but he also saw his face.

He knew that look…he knew that look all too well.

It was a look of absolute terror, of panic at its peak. No…Potter had not put his own name in. In fact, now that Severus thought about it, he had probably not even wanted to enter, probably desperate to stay away from the spotlight.

All the spotlight had brought him after all these years was pain and suffering.

There was no point to want it.

And, surprisingly, Severus felt a pang of sympathy for the boy.

He knew what it was like to suddenly find oneself unwillingly volunteered for an impossible task, one that he knew he was wholly unprepared for. One that could easily end in death and suffering.

Someone had set Potter up. He had several suspicions, each one less likely than the next, but he knew one thing for sure…a Death Eater had found their way into Hogwarts.

It wasn't Karkaroff; he didn't have the guts. He was a right coward.

It was someone else…someone who was much more dangerous and wholly more devoted to the cause of the Dark Lord.

It was obvious that someone wanted to kill Harry. Because, there was almost no doubt in his mind, Potter would not survive on his own.

In fact, he knew that the boy would no doubt turn to his friends for help, and that they would try to help him in any way possible…which meant that Granger would help him in any way possible. She was obviously the brains of the operation, as he had seen when she had stolen Polyjuice ingredients in her second year.

And he had the vague feeling that she had succeeded in her brewing.

He had a faint inclination that the discovery of Crabbe and Goyle in the broom closet, unconscious, late one night on his patrol was no random incident.

He followed the other professors down to where the other champions were waiting, and he carefully observed Potter's actions.

The boy was decidedly uncomfortable in the presence of the other champions. Of course, who wouldn't be? He knew Cedric Diggory was a bit of an idol among the young ladies of Hogwarts, and he had confidence as well as the hard working demeanor of his Hufflepuff house. Viktor Krum was an international Quidditch star before he was even out of school, nothing more needed to be said about him. And then Miss Delacour…well, though she may not be his preferred type, she was obviously more than appealing to every other male in the vicinity of her.

He watched as Dumbledore stepped forward and forcefully asked the boy if he asked someone to put his name in the Goblet, but he merely shook his head.

Severus saw the fear in the boy's eyes and he, once again, felt sympathy for him.

It was a strange feeling, but he knew what it was like to have no true control of one's life; to be subjected to others around you.

There was some discussion as to how to proceed, and then McGonagall stepped forward and said,

"This can't go on, Albus. First the Dark Mark, now this?"

He could hear the trepidation in her tone, and was at first resentful. Where had she been when he'd needed an advocate? Where had she been when he'd been bullied by Potter senior and his Gryffindor group of degenerates?

"What do you suggest Minerva?"

"Put an end to it!" she said vehemently. "Don't let Potter compete!"

In a long-suffering tone, Dumbledore replied with, "You heard Barty. The rules are clear."

At this point, Severus felt the need to say something, but McGonagall interrupted before he could speak, gesticulating wildly with her arms, her Scottish brogue coming out thick in her ire at the situation and at the people that were involved.

"Well the devil with Barty and his rules! And since when did you accommodate them…?"

Seizing his opportunity, Severus spoke up.

"Headmaster, I, too, find it difficult to believe this is mere coincidence…" He paused for a moment, and then continued. "If we are to truly discover the meaning of these events, perhaps we should, for the time being…let them unfold."

He could practically feel the anger in her gaze at him as Minerva looked at him in shock.

"Do nothing? Offer him up as bait? Potter is a boy, not a piece of meat!"

The two of them waited to hear Dumbledore's judgment and he could see Minerva's shock as the Headmaster said…

"I agree…with Severus."

He had to keep his lip from curling in a sneer. He'd hoped that the old man would prove him wrong, but instead he merely solidified the image that he'd had engrained into his mind of the man being a master manipulator, a proficient puppet-master. As usual, he maneuvered people to where he needed them, and now Minerva could see some of the truth that was the real Albus Dumbledore.

Severus wondered what would happen should Potter ever discover that the man that he looked up to and respected was such a manipulator.

Would he feel betrayed? Disappointed? Or would he try to deny it, and insist that his mentor could do no wrong?

Whatever his reaction might be, it didn't matter. The facts were the facts: Dumbledore was a Machiavellian manipulator and could only see his goal of the "greater good", which blinded him to the feelings of the individuals around him.

PART 1/5

Lyrics by The Killers