Chapter Notes: This was written for the Hawthorn & Vine Treasured Tropes fest. The mods have kindly allowed us to post our stories elsewhere.
The prompt for this story was by Scarlettcat and is as follows:
After having a conversation about why Draco and Hermione can't get along, Dumbledore ends up betting Snape that they will get together romantically before the end of seventh year. Snape uses his Slytherin wiles to try to influence the outcome of the bet in his favour, but it ends up backfiring spectacularly.
There were also bonus points if Blaise and Ginny were co-opted into helping out.
This is an Alternate Universe and is canon compatible up to the end of OotP.
A really big thanks to River in Egypt who worked her socks off at the last minute so I could get this submitted in time. Seriously, I finished this about a week before the deadline and she put her own writing on hold so she could edit this for me. So thank you once more, M!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his wonderful world all belong to JK Rowling, who kindly lets us mess about with them for fun.
Chapter 1: The Bet
Severus Snape was at the end of his tether. He looked over his partially destroyed classroom and had the urge to tear his hair out. Hermione Granger stood in the middle, a Dido amongst the ruins of Carthage. Her nemesis of that day - and every other day that academic year - Draco Malfoy, lay unmoving at her feet.
As usual, the argument had come out of nowhere. All had been quiet, everyone concentrating on brewing their potions when Draco and Granger had come to blows in the supply cupboard. It had spilled out into the classroom, where Severus had been subjected to the undignified sight of the Head Students wrestling over a vial, screaming at each other, until they'd bumped into Granger's desk. He wasn't sure how, but a minute later Granger's cauldron had exploded, blasting a hole in the nearby wall.
There was complete silence before the inevitable outburst started. Severus put up with this for ten seconds before his voice rang out over the panicking seventh-years.
"Quiet!" he barked.
He moved out from behind his desk and surveyed the disaster zone. He really needed to remember that he was dealing with imbeciles before setting complicated and dangerous potions; such as the exploding one he'd set for today's lesson. Severus strolled over to the unmoving Head Boy and ran a couple of diagnostic spells. It appeared the boy would be fine. He'd just been hit by a chunk of masonry that had been chipped off from the nearest wall. Good job Draco was thick headed, otherwise Severus would have found himself writing a rather uncomfortable letter to Narcissa.
"Miss Parkinson," he snapped. "Take Draco up to the Infirmary."
His Slytherins knew not to question his orders and, although he could see questions in her blue eyes, she followed his orders to the letter. He watched critically as she carefully levitated the unconscious blond and followed the hovering body out of the door. The rest of the Slytherins watched on silently before turning their angry eyes across the room to the Gryffindors.
Severus moved his attention to the bushy-haired witch, who hadn't moved a muscle since the explosion had ripped through the classroom. She looked deeply shocked, which was highly unusual for the infuriating busybody. Her gormless sidekicks stood slightly behind her, Potter blinking at the scene of destruction, whilst Weasley, his mouth gaping wide, moved his eyes from one side of the room to the other. A couple of complicated wand movements later, and the classroom was restored to its usual pristine state. Dank and dark the dungeons may have been, but Severus ran the cleanest Potions classroom Hogwarts had ever seen.
He looked around his seventh-year Advanced Potions class. Not many of his students could meet his eyes as the repressed anger radiated out of him. "I want a four foot essay on why following the exact steps for a Potion is an essential part for any competent Potions brewer. I expect it on my desk by next lesson!" he snarled.
There were groans around the classroom. "I will not accept any excuses. If the essay isn't handed in, then you will receive no mark. Now everyone out, except Miss Granger."
This seemed to drag Granger out of her stupefied state. She raised her brown eyes up to his face. He could see the worry radiating out of them. It caused him to internally smile. He loved the fear he could instil in his students, especially the Gryffindors.
"Is Malfoy going to be okay?" she asked, her voice quivering slightly.
Severus frowned. So it wasn't apprehension at what sadistic punishment he was going to mete out that caused her to be anxious. "He will be fine, no thanks to you, Miss Granger," he clipped. "However, I find your behaviour sadly lacking the standard required as Hogwarts' Head Girl. This is a matter that must be brought to the attention of the Headmaster. I will recommend that he strip you of your position."
Granger flushed and bit her lip. At least the girl had learnt to control her outbursts. The same could not be said of her moronic friends.
"What?!" exclaimed Potter. "You can't do that! Malfoy was just as much at fault as Hermione, if not more so."
Severus surveyed his least favourite student with displeasure. "Mr. Potter," he sneered. "I find it incomprehensible that you have still failed to grasp that not everything concerns you. I don't believe I asked either you or Mr. Weasley here to stay behind, let alone offer your opinion."
True to his obnoxious nature, Potter ignored this. "You're being unfair. Malfoy was the reason why the potion exploded," the irritating boy continued.
"He threw the extra porcupine quill in," Weasley joined in.
Ronald Weasley, the other bane of Snape's existence. The redhead was thicker than mud. If it hadn't been for that abortive year teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, then he wouldn't be burdened with the two morons in his Advanced Potions class, but sadly, Slughorn's standards had never matched his.
"That's enough!" Severus barked. "Potter and Weasley, detention with me tonight at eight."
"What have we done?" both boys whined unanimously.
Exist, was the thought that ran through Severus' mind, but he couldn't voice that. "Not only did you stay behind when I only requested the presence of Miss Granger, you have failed to show the appropriate respect due to your professor."
Granger nudged the two boys on either side of her and they subsided, scowling at him. That brought him back to Granger. It would be a pleasure to put a dent in her aura of self-assurance. She was too composed and collected. She was also too intelligent. And bossy! Far, far too bossy. He would see her demoted with pleasure. He would put Daphne Greengrass forward as a replacement, what a coup that would be. Minerva McGonagall would be furious. Her favourite pupil stripped of her position through misbehaviour and then replaced by a Slytherin.
He was so caught up in his daydream of triumphing over his Gryffindor counterpart that it took the discrete cough from Granger to bring her back to his attention. Blasted witch. There it was, that look of cool competence that she habitually wore. In fact, the only time he'd seen it leave her face was when she was dealing with Draco. She then descended into a screaming virago, complete with red face and manic hair.
"Miss Granger, come with me!" he snapped.
As he walked around the horribly wholesome trio, he saw her give her friends a warning look. He billowed his robes out, knowing she was trailing after him. It was time to put the jumped-up Gryffindor back in her place - finally.
Once they reached the Headmaster's office, many floors above, Severus gave the password. He and Granger rode the moving staircase in silence. He was pleased to observe that she looked anxious, as she should be. He knocked on the door.
"Come in," the pleasant tones of Albus Dumbledore replied.
He flung the door open, ushering Granger in before him.
"Professor Snape, is there a problem?"
"Unfortunately," he said seriously. "Miss Granger here saw fit to blow half my classroom up and put the Head Boy in the Infirmary. This is conduct most unbefitting for a Hogwarts' Head Girl and I request that she be removed from her position. It is only through good luck that Mr. Malfoy wasn't killed."
Both professors turned to face the anxious Head Girl. "Is this true, Hermione?" Albus asked, looking sternly over the top of his half-moon glasses.
"Well … yes, but it was an accident," she said nervously.
"So I should hope," the Headmaster responded.
"The potion was brewing fine and wouldn't have exploded but Malfoy and I were arguing over the last vial of snake venom. His had been knocked over by Goyle and he wanted the last left in the store cupboard, only I got to it first. In the … er … ensuing melee an extra porcupine quill found itself in my cauldron, which caused it to explode."
The door banged open and Minerva rushed in, panting. Severus swore under his breath. Maybe he should have made those meddling brats come with them as they had obviously run to get their Head of House. Then again, Potter had some kind of hold over the Headmaster. Albus was revoltingly fond of the boy.
"Be that as it may, Headmaster, I do not find the Head Girl wrestling over a vial of snake venom an edifying sight. It really was lucky that the masonry that hit Mr. Malfoy was not larger. I really don't think she can continue in her current position. It would send out the message that it's okay to attempt to kill the Head Boy."
"As if I'm the only one who wants him dead," Granger muttered.
Severus glared at her nastily. So, his Slytherins weren't universally popular. But they were working against prejudice from the rest of the school, who failed to appreciate the significant talents and distinctive characteristics of their house.
"Really, Severus! You are exaggerating. I doubt Miss Granger was attempting to kill the Head Boy. Sorry to barge in, Headmaster, but Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley have told me what happened and I feel that it would be grossly unfair to strip Miss Granger of her role as Head Girl over an obvious accident," Minerva butted in.
The Headmaster steepled his fingers and gazed at all three occupants of his office. Severus swore he could see the hint of a smile on the old man's lips. He knew there and then that this wasn't going to go his way. Damnation, he thought. Albus always was a soft touch, especially when it came to Potter and his irritating friends. It had been worth a try, though.
"Whilst I understand your anger, Severus, I cannot see how this was a deliberate act on Miss Granger's part to sabotage your lesson or kill Draco. Therefore, I don't see why she should be stripped of her badge for something that was an accident."
The bushy-haired menace let out a massive sigh of relief. "I truly am sorry for the incident, Headmaster," she said in a sickeningly sweet tone of voice.
Severus sneered and Albus looked at him in obvious amusement. "Make your apology to Professor Snape, child, and be on your way."
Granger turned to him. "Sorry for destroying your lesson, Professor," she said primly.
Severus nodded curtly at her and she turned to make her way out of the office, followed by her Head of House, who glared at him before departing. If he didn't know that Minerva was unscrupulously fair he would be worried that she would take this out on his Slytherins, and dock lots of points.
Although, he did have a class of first-year Gryffindors to come and he wasn't constrained by boring morals. He would be able to take a good number of points off them and dent the lead they currently held in the House Cup. This cheered him up considerably.
"Severus, I admire your attempts, I really do," the Headmaster said, amused.
"I'm not sure what you mean, Albus."
"Of course, you don't. But don't look to strip Miss Granger of her title again. I find that she and Mr. Malfoy provide me with endless entertainment."
"I have to question your wisdom on that pairing as Head Students, Albus. They set a bad example to the school. Poor Draco, I don't blame him for his frustration. She is a remarkably infuriating girl."
That irritatingly knowing smile played around Albus' lips, and he twinkled across the desk at Severus. "I find I disagree with you. Their shenanigans are all the more interesting for the obvious chemistry that exists between the pair."
"Chemistry?" he snorted.
"Yes, it's very clear to see for those who look beyond the obvious."
Severus bristled at the implication that he was blind to undercurrents. "I think you are reading far too much into their hostility. Besides, she's Muggle-born and Draco is a Malfoy."
"I find, it's always the most unsuitable people that inspire the strongest love. I thought you of all people knew that, Severus."
He reddened. Lily had been completely different to Granger. She had been special and unique. She had not been a bossy, irritating know-it-all. Okay, so maybe she had been some of those things, but they had been endearing in Lily in a way that they weren't in Granger. "I think you'll find this situation is rather different."
Albus nodded knowingly. "Of course. All attractions are different because all people are different."
"I contest the idea that there is any attraction between those two."
The Headmaster chuckled. "I'm surprised at you, Severus. You are usually so discerning in your observations. Are you telling me that you've failed to notice the frequent, secretive glances they shoot at each other?"
"The only glances I see are hate filled ones just before they start screaming at each other."
"Want to make it a little more interesting?" Albus asked.
He assessed the Headmaster closely. He had that twinkle in his eyes that proclaimed to the world 'I know things that you don't'. It was unsettling. "Interesting how?"
"How about we have a little bet about the Head Students?"
Severus pursed his lips. He didn't trust Albus Dumbledore when he was in a mischievous mood. "What kind of bet?"
"A bet that Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger will be dating by the end of the year."
What?! He thought. Albus has finally lost it! "What would this bet entail?"
"If I lose, have read the situation entirely wrong, and they still hate each other by the end of the year, I'll make both Head Students next year Slytherin."
He liked the sound of that. His dream of lauding it over Minerva once more resurfaced. She would hate it. Both Head Students Slytherins! That hadn't happened in over five hundred years. "And if I lose, Draco completely loses his mind, and declares his love for Granger?"
"You have to wear Gryffindor colours for a day."
Severus shuddered. Red and Gold? Could you get any tawdrier? The idea of having to deck himself out like a child's portrait of Fawkes was off-putting, but the lure of having Slytherin dominance was strong. Besides, there was zero chance that the Headmaster was right. It was preposterous to even imagine. "I think it highly unlikely that you're right but I'm more than happy to see two Slytherin Head Students next year."
"Excellent," Albus responded. He held his hand out for Severus to shake. They both uttered an incantation at the same time, as was needed to make the bet binding. It was similar to the Unbreakable Vow, but gave you a rather nasty case of boils if you reneged on your half of the bargain instead of death.
Albus chuckled to himself as Severus disappeared through his door. "I'm not sure I approve of you making scandalous bets regarding my descendants " sneered Phineas Nigellus Black.
"Oh hush, Phineas!" scolded Dilys Derwent. "It's a perfectly harmless bet and that silly boy, Severus, deserved it after he tried to get the lovely Granger girl demoted."
"It's hardly harmless when she's a Mud-," he stopped at the fierce glare directed at him by Albus and half the other former Head-professors. "Muggle-born," he hastily corrected.
"It's about time these ridiculous ideas on blood were laid to rest," intoned Dexter Fortescue. "They have no place in our society."
"You're only saying that because you were Muggle-born." Phineas sniped.
Vindictus Veridian snorted. "You wouldn't call Granger sweet if you'd seen some of the things she got up to, Dilys. She's got a vindictive side that I fully approve of."
"Now, Veridian, I'm sure you are mistaken. She's always such a delight," Dilys objected.
"Maybe because you weren't trying to stop her from breaking any school rules. She has a single-minded determination that is impressive for one so morally upright. She and the Malfoy boy would make an interesting combination," Vindictus replied.
"As if a descendent from the noble House of Black would lower themselves," Phineas sneered.
"Andromeda Tonks," coughed Heliotrope Wilkins.
Albus, paying no attention to the bickering portraits of former Heads, settled back into his chair and thought through his next moves. If he knew Severus as well as he thought he did then there was no way the Potions Professor would be able to stop himself from interfering. He really did have a love of getting himself involved in situations that didn't need his input. Just look at his interactions with the Marauders. Granted they'd bullied him mercilessly, which Albus probably should have realised, but he didn't need to go sneaking around after them they way that he had. It had only resulted in his near death.
Then again, if this plan of his was to work, then he needed Severus to start meddling. Sadly, his idea of making both Hermione and Draco Head Students, so they would use the extra time they had to spend together to fall in love, had failed miserably. All it had led to were more heated arguments and many more accidents that ended with one of them in the Infirmary. Usually Draco. Hermione really did have a way with hexes, and the Head Boy had always been more talk than action.
But this latest incident, in front of an exasperated Severus, opened up the possibilities hugely. No doubt Severus would start playing them off against each other more ruthlessly than he normally did. Albus would need to choose his allies carefully. He mentally went through the list of students currently enrolled. He stopped at two sixth-year names and grinned in a fashion unbecoming to a man of his years. They were Perfect, he thought.
Meanwhile, Severus was marching back down to his dungeon office. Fortunately, it was lunchtime, so he would have a chance to start planning his next move. He was not stupid enough to imagine that Albus wouldn't look to nudge his two Head Students together if he could. For someone so busy, the meddlesome old fool did love to involve himself in the day-to-day life of his students.
In the case of Draco and Granger, Severus could imagine the Headmaster thinking he could make two young people happy and change the world. If a Malfoy were to date a Muggle-born it would be a slap in the face to those who clung to old ideas of blood supremacy. Albus would love delivering that blow.
It had been a massive surprise when Draco was made Head Boy. Most students had expected it to be Harry Potter. Severus had fully expected it to be a member of Dumbledore's Army. But Draco had received the badge to the consternation of three of the Hogwarts' houses and the majority of the professors but Severus had been thrilled. Not many regarded the qualities Draco possessed as admirable, but he appreciated the rather under-hand way the boy had looked to make Potter's life a misery at school. Sadly, Draco lacked the ruthlessly nasty streak his father possessed, and so had only really excelled at childish bullying. Severus sighed; how Potter could have been humiliated – and potentially seriously injured – if Draco had more Lucius and less Narcissa in his personality.
Oh well, there was no point in focusing on the past. He now needed to concentrate on thwarting Albus. A battle of wits was something Severus enjoyed and - despite his eccentricities - there was no one more cunning and clever than Albus Dumbledore.
AN: What did you think? And yes, my Snape is very miserable.
Also, if you haven't read it already, my other story for the Hawthorn & Vine Treasured Trope is called The Hogwarts Prophecy and has already been posted here.