Disclaimer:- I earn nothing nor own anything. I merely play in the sand box with borrowed characters.
Chapter I – An offer she couldn't refuse.
"Miss Granger!" The volume may have been soft, but every student knew the menacing hiss of its slow and certain intonation. The young woman in question startled badly, a tiny shriek issuing from her bow like mouth. "You will pay attention," her teacher warned tersely, through clenched teeth.
The Slytherin's present snickered nastily at the Gryffindor witch's discomfort. Their smiles growing as the Potions Master continued his tirade, sneering, "Is your head now so crammed with knowledge you think you can no longer learn in my class?" He stood, body stiff, leaning over the work bench in front of her. His arms rigid, fingers straight, and buttressed on the desk for support.
"N-no, sir," she stuttered. This is so utterly unfair.
Snape loathed this so much. Having to favour some of these ungrateful little Slytherin heathen made the bile rise in his throat. He was growing tired of this game, just marking time. Waiting for the day this young woman graduated and was away from here. The taciturn Potions master had his private reasons for wishing this.
He admired her for her intelligence, regardless of the fact she was a Gryffindor, especially now she had grown into said extraordinary brain. He longed to talk to her, converse with someone like minded. Over this past two years his admiration for her had strengthened into something that truly frightened him. Something that made the knife edge he walked daily, even more sharp and lethal. He needed to protect her at all costs, without revealing a single scrap of information to either of his so called masters.
Snape had come to realise, that this particular witch was part of a Prophesy his mother had told him about many years ago. It was a little known fact that Eileen Snape was a seer, far more powerful than Trelawney would ever be.
His sigh was almost inaudible, but for now he must continue to play his part. It was slowly killing him from the inside out, but it protected what was dearest to him. Internally he grimaced. Not able to arouse her ire, but needing a result for their audience. The taciturn wizard intentionally levelled a malevolent set of eyes towards a specially chosen student, confident in the reaction it would garner.
The young man in question obligingly cowered and gulped nervously. Sometimes the Potions master was amazed how simple it was to unnerve people, never the less it had the desired effect.
Hermione huffed, Yes he's caught me day dreaming, but my works complete, the bench tidy and cleaned. She glanced at it as if double checking. Then something unexpected filtered through her displeasure. Did the professor just sigh?
No, she thought, I must have imagined that, and she went back to her annoyance. I've even worked my way through all the additional extension exercises contained in the text book, and off the top of my head. How dare he pick on me! Damn it, I was just plain bored.
The fact that she had let her imagination wander was probably unwise, but her teacher had an effect on her. No matter how poorly he treated her, she adored him, and that was the bit that hurt.
Hermione hadn't asked for additional work on top of what she had already completed. That would have surely earned her a caustic know it all comment. What the Gryffindor witch had done was much more than anyone else ever did. I've even finished it willingly, and now he's baiting me by picking on poor Neville.
Snape heard her irritated sniff. His gaze ranged casually back towards the young woman, "Yes Miss Granger?" One elegant raven eyebrow swept up as if in challenge. "A further comment, perhaps?" His voice pitched to intentionally goad her, "Mmmm?"
Don't cry, don't cry, she chanted in her head as her eyes started to prickle and the back of her nose stung. I hope this term improves, so far it's been simply awful, she thought sadly. I'm so over this, maybe school's not the right place for me anymore. There has to be something better than this, for God's sake I'm an adult. I'm almost two years older than all these pathetic children, even Harry's so caught up with stupid his… Her thoughts swirled, but she couldn't bring herself to leave, or even answer.
Swallowing hard, Hermione finally forced her head to rise and her narrowed amber flecked gaze met his inscrutable black resistance. Their eyes remained locked; every student in the lab both Slytherin and Gryffindor now trained eager attention toward the standoff.
That's right Professor, I'm going to be the adult here, and after some moments the petite witch lowered her gaze apparently flustered and muttered, "No, sir," proud that her voice remained even, although her thoughts circled ominously. How am I meant to keep enduring this cruelty just so I can finish bloody school?
There was a collective intake of breath. Everyone had come to look forward to the continuing battle of wits between the Potion master and his bright Gryffindor student. They were actually disappointed with the outcome of this encounter. Hermione Granger could always be counted on to fly to the rescue of the down trodden and hapless. They were like children denied a sweet, all wanting to see the Snape belittle the smartest girl in the class again.
Said Potion master's eyes narrowed as her gaze slunk back towards her lap. Her internal mantra becoming more insistent as her hands shook with rage and pain over the injustice of it all.
Her actions flustered him far more than the heat he felt rising to his cheeks from the transferred warmth of her eyes. He realised this had slipped unknowingly into a particularly nasty standoff, yet no one stood up for her or offered comfort. This seemed much worse than he'd thought. Damn the lot of them, I need to act. I think the time has finally come.
Forcing his brain to more forward, he intentionally curled his lip in distaste and snipped curtly, "See me after class, Miss Granger."
"Yes, sir," the young woman muttered, her head down. Hearing the sneer in his voice, she didn't dare to meet his eyes, but was pleased that this might be an end for a moment.
His countenance inscrutable, Snape stood examining the top of her head a moment. He'd heard the quaver in her voice, but his thoughts were hidden. A collective gasp rippled around the room as he then span on his heel, robes whirling around him without saying another word.
Brusquely glancing at the clock, Snape instructed the class as a whole, "Those who have not finished have five minutes remaining." His steely gaze slid from desk to desk scrutinizing the many unfinished, and plainly pathetic looking brewing attempts. "Incomplete potions will attract a mark of zero. Homework assignments in a neat pile here." He tapped his desk with his wand as he passed around it and settled in his chair. Black robes falling elegantly, surrounding him in a flowing pool.
The professor's eyes were down cast, apparently marking assignments. His rapier like quill poised in his hand, glistening with ruby red. However his thoughts were with the intelligent amber flecked eyes of the young woman in the front row. Damn it she's an adult. Her record indicates that she'll be twenty next year. This is the last place she belongs.
She still sat quiet and grave, he could see a tear glistening on her lashes and his heart twisted painfully. Shit! I'm a monster, now how do I fix this?
The new school year was only two weeks old and Miss Hermione Granger had been hesitant about coming back to complete her last year. The Young woman had realised that she was already in possession of all the knowledge she required to pass the exams scheduled for the end of this year, and from that point onward everything just seemed to spiral out of her control.
Snape sat at his desk and wished with all his heart that she was no longer a student in his class. Surely she's got nothing left to prove. He thought back to when she had first arrived, even at that tender age she'd been a formidable force. A hungry sponge eager to soak up all the knowledge she was able to access, and made worse by the need to prove herself as a Muggle-born witch.
Covertly glancing at her through his long lashes, he saw her as she was then and now. Gone were the buck teeth, wild frizzy hair and over enthusiastic know-it-all manner. She was now graceful and poised, serious and mature.
Her hair tamed to the greater extent, fell in copious silky chestnut curls down her back. The baby fat that had seen her look chubby as she matured, had given way to a soft well rounded figure she had trouble hiding, though her robes were always modest, buttoned tight and neat in their appearance.
However, recently there was one thing that had disappeared as well, somewhere between years six and seven. Snape had noticed it immediately, at the welcoming feast. She looked so tired and drained, like she hadn't slept well for a long time, and he didn't want to admit how much that had bothered him.
Her eyes were sunken and troubled with dark black circles. The life he had always envied her in those pretty amber flecked eyes was gone. They now appeared almost as dead as his own did.
Being back here and occupied once more, seemed to have assisted in partially rectifying the situation because the appearance of tiredness had lessened, indicating she was sleeping marginally better. However it made him keen to find out what may have transpired before or during the summer holidays.
Scoffing internally at his own stupidity, he pondered, There's little chance in the present circumstances that I'll find out unless I come by the information accidentally, but it didn't stop him from wanting to know.
The class finally finished, and it was the last one of that day.
As usual Miss Granger quietly approached his desk. She was always the last to come. The Potions master watched under his lashes as she reverently placed the sample of her perfectly brewed potion in the rack with the others, and attempted to surreptitiously add a fairly hefty pile of parchment to the homework assignments stack.
The professor huffed, as he looked at it. Hermione jerked backwards, weary of any acid tongued comments about it. Snape took a deep breath, and glancing around the room to indeed ascertain they were alone finally. A flick of his wand shut the door.
He noticed her jump at the noise of the door shutting, but spoke anyway, "Miss Granger, this," he pointed to the extra homework with the same wand, "has got to stop." His dark gaze calmly levelled with hers.
"B-but… s-sir," she stuttered aghast. "I'm sorry if the extra work is an inconvenience but I…" Suddenly assuming from his tight expression that he was seriously displeased with her she continued, an air of resignation in her posture. "Of course, sir, if you do not wish me to hand it in, I will take it back."
Slowly her hand came forward to retrieve the pages, she found it instantly batted away with the large eagle feather quill he now held in his hand.
"No, silly girl that is not what I meant," exhaling noisily in apparent frustration. He placed the quill down, and leaning back in his chair, pinned her with fathomless eyes. "Why did you come back this year?"
She blinked in disbelief several times, her spluttered reply finally managed to leave her lips, "T-to complete my schooling, sir." How could he ask me that?
He nodded, "Does this," he motioned to the pile of work, "satisfy your craving for knowledge." His lips were tight, but his manner appeared genuine as he continued, "Your desire to complete your schooling?"
Hermione did not answer she simply looked down at it and shook her head. "As I thought," he affirmed, watching her closely. "It is not extending you at all."
Again she shook her head, "You are correct, sir." Her breath was more a sigh of frustration, "I am merely going through the motions so I'm not bored senseless." Then she bit her lip, wondering if she was about to be smacked down again. It was very unusual for Professor Snape to enquire after personal satisfaction. Although he did temper it by calling me a silly girl. The young woman tried to think past his barb.
Lifting her head she stared at him thoughtfully, This is the first time he's engaged me in conversation, better tread carefully, Granger. This could explode in your face. It was something she had longed for, craved even for a very long time.
Still weary, but seeing he didn't appear to object to her forwardness, she decided to level with him. "Although I haven't yet had the opportunity to brew the potions prescribed for seventh year, I am already aware of how to brew each of them, their properties and ingredients."
Putting his quill back in the ink pot, he sat back and folded his arms across his chest. "Of that, I have no doubt," his smirk this time contained no malice. This confused Hermione further. After six years of battling insults and scathing criticism from the austere figure in black sitting before her. She was more than a little weary of his civil tongue.
"Do not be alarmed, Miss Granger, opportunity will still be afforded you to remedy this situation," he added out of the blue.
Severus appraised her contemplatively a moment longer, I shouldn't have called her a silly girl, damn, old habits die hard. He had never used his formidable skills as a legilimens to gather thoughts from this particular young woman. There was of course a reason why he had refrained, when he had no such compulsion with the rest of the idiots. For one this girl was definitely no idiot, the other reason was that he was actually afraid of what would be revealed to him. This didn't mean he didn't long to know at this very moment exactly what she was thinking.
Of course there were other ways to find out. Raising an eyebrow smoothly, he stirred the cauldron a little, "Have a seat, Miss Granger." Pointing his wand the other chair quickly scurried closer to his desk.
Hermione observed him, and without taking her eyes off him. Tentatively perched herself on the very edge of the offered chair and carefully folded her hands in her lap. A little like a cautious prey animal observing a known predator.
Now that look speaks volumes, he thought. Although I really can't blame her. Snape was fully and painfully cognisant, of why she was so apprehensive of his sudden interest in her situation.
She had been frank with him, so after some moments of silence, he suddenly spoke, "Miss Granger, I do not wish you in my class anymore." He watched, as her eyes widened and that beautiful mouth dropped open. Her countenance wore an expression of complete horror. "Your presence is both a disruption and an impediment to others."
Hermione fought to hide her shock, and tears welled in those lovely amber flecked orbs, "I… I beg your pardon, s-sir?"
"Your very presence in the class that has just finished, guarantees other students do not have to put any effort towards learning." Severus to this point had managed to remain impartial and cool, but seeing the stricken expression now residing on her sweet face, he couldn't continue with the charade.
Oh, for fucks sake, don't make it any worse. I've got to concede something to her if I want her opinion of me to change from the callous bastard. He flinched slightly, when he realised he'djust reinforced that in her mind again.
The problem was that amending her view of her treatment at his hands, was going to be a difficult exercise. I mean, exactly how you tell someone that even though you have treated them like dirt, for as long as you've known them, that you are actually more than extremely fond of them. Studying her bowed head, he reflected on how to continue. It really would take away the last thing keeping him sane if this failed. Although sometimes Snape thought it might be best if any extenuating circumstances stayed undiscovered... Let her leave at the end of the year. If all was revealed he was certain she would run a mile, and this was his greatest fear as he contemplated the next step.
Looking across at the uncomfortable and plainly upset young woman. No, I have to forge ahead. If I don't she will suffer soon as well. He scrutinised her a moment longer, and decided she may already be suffering, based on her reaction to him this afternoon. Hermione Granger just didn't buckle under like that. No, she needs me to do this for her.
His expression did not waver, although his voice was soft, even kind as he continued, "Miss Granger, this is not the end of the world."
Hermione was at the end of her tether, again she'd started chanting to herself, Don't cry, stay calm, "That's a matter of opinion, s-sir," she managed to stammer.
Severus huffed, "Miss Granger I am not planning to abandon you. I was merely stating the obvious. I feel I have a fair idea how much your Potions class means to you."
This statement had Hermione's head shotting up, her total disbelief written on every line of her face, "I'm sorry, sir?"
He watched her struggling to comprehend what his statement inferred, "Will you allow me to recommend my proposed cure to your predicament?"
"M-my predicament?" she stuttered, anger rising once more. "Wouldn't that rather be your desire to be rid of me once and for all." The tears were forgotten a moment, "No, sir, it is your enforced predicament," she finished bitterly.
He sighed and leaning forward, studied her intently. He ignored her claims, "So am I to understand that you wish to remain bored stupid, and completely unfulfilled in Potions as well as every other subject this year, Miss Granger?"
Hermione stared at him in mistrust and confusion, then blinked before stuttering, "Err, no, s-sir."
Severus sighed, "Miss Granger I am about to offer you an opportunity. One I have never offered another student. I offer it because I can see your thirst for knowledge has well and truly moved beyond the seventh year syllabus." Here he added privately, And I can't help wanting to quench it.
This thought made him strengthen his barriers against her charms, knowing that quenching her thirst for knowledge was not all he'd love to do. He was aware it was going to be a difficult job, working so closely with her.
After all it was in his own best interest if he did, even if he did have to keep her at arm's length. This made him internally shutter again, You have to get over this, to see the way forward, stupid fool, he cursed at himself. Although many would disagree, Severus was an honourable man, and sometimes his thoughts about the young woman troubled him.
He turned his attention back to her and found her watching him wearily. "Miss Granger, I advise you to drop your Muggle Studies class, and amend your Potions tuition."
This statement was met with a rapid intake of breath. "What!" Her blurted exclamation gained a raised eye brow, and she hastily added, "S-sir."
He took a deep breath and started to clarify, "Muggle Studies is a useless subject, taught by an inept fool of a teacher. Which, considering your Muggle background, you should have realised by now is completely wasted on you."
Her eyes narrowed. However she didn't contradict him, and Severus was not about to tell her the real reason he wished her to be rid of the subject. Continuing, he watched her, "I have a better alternative for you than merely seventh year Potions." He could see her interest gathering, "However, it will require all your then free lessons per week, and possibly one or two evenings to complete." His gaze appraised her once more and found her now listening intently.
"Oh… I see," but her answer was still cautious.
"I propose, that you commence a Potions apprenticeship while completing your N.E.W.T. year," he continued calmly.
It crossed his mind to wonder if Hermione's eyes could get any larger. The expressive hazel pools were huge and looked absolutely luscious.
Severus was certain he saw a lick of the missing passion there, just for a second, and he registered another very vocal opinion from his neither regions and clamped down on it quickly. He so wanted to know why the passion that had burnt so brightly in those eyes last year had left them, and why she appeared now to be so alone.
It was this above all other factors that led him to the conclusion, that without doubt it was time he started privately taking her under his wing. Guiding, and protecting her as best he could, in preparation for what was to come. He didn't begrudge her his protection, even if it would make his life even more segmented, convoluted, and distressing.
It irritated him intensely that Albus Dumbledore would have to approve this step, he wanted the old wizard to know as little as possible about this development.
The young woman sat there still stunned, "If you agree to my suggestion, the appropriate papers will be drawn up, among them your withdrawal from Muggle studies."
Finally Hermione nodded her understanding, but before she spoke her lip went between her teeth as she appeared to sum up what she'd heard so far. Could this be my opportunity to get out of some of these tedious situations? I'll be frank with him, after all what's the worst that can happen? She chewed on her lip a moment longer before answering, "I agree with your appraisal of Muggle Studies, sir."
"It may be the wrong thing to say, but I can't understand why they teach it. It does nothing to foster unity between Muggle's and Wizards. My reasons for taking it were to try and understand how Wizard's really view Muggles. I have to agree, it is a truly useless subject in its current form."
A tiny smile curled her lip, "However, it did provide some humorous relief on occasion." It was a twisted little smile she now wore. Severus wondered if she knew how adorable it looked. He listened as she continued, "A great proportion of its offered information is about as useful as Mr Weasley's demonstration of the correct use of a Muggle fountain pen."
That twisted little smile became wider and Severus had trouble not exhibiting the same expression. He remembered with great joy, the demonstration that had left the Minister of Magic no less, spluttering, with a river on blue ink cascading down the front of his white silk dress robes at last year's Yule ball. Why a man of his age and obvious orientation needed to wear white?
Severus shook himself internally and watched that little smile's curl. It was an expression he had never seen grace her pretty features, and he liked it. This new undefined passion wove, and licked through her eyes, instantly telling him that this book lovely straight laced little witch, had undisclosed hidden depths.
He was willing to bet that they were much undisclosed indeed, and also similar to his own. It wasn't something a casual observer would pick up. They only see what she chooses to show them. Is this a discrete show of trust in me that she's chosen to reveal this smile? How very Slytherin, he pondered. There is far more to this young lady than meets the eye, why haven't I worked this out before?
This requires further thought, he reflected as she sat quietly waiting for him to speak again.
Severus cleared his throat and continued with his intended theme, "So you will withdraw from the subject?"
She nodded her ascent. "Will I still sit a Potion's N.E.W.T.?"
"Of course." He watched a grin spread across her face, "But be under no illusions that this will be easy, it will require a great amount of diligent application, and most if not all of your free time. You will need to maintain your grades in your other subjects, and Miss Granger," his scowl returned momentarily. "Let it be known, I am not an easy man to please. I will expect nothing less than your best efforts, and your time consuming perseverance." He watched her nodding joyfully.
"I do not wish the general populace of this school to know about this. This agreement is formed between you and I. Of course your head of house and Dumbledore will need to be involved," Hermione wondered why he flinched ever so subtly when he said that. Snape drew breath, "I do not wish gossip or speculations of any nature to cloud our agreement."
Her expression settled and she nodded, "That is fair." She observed him pragmatically, "Besides, I have no one to tell." Appearing to steel herself she held her head high and her expression closed off.
A sudden thought crossed her mind, "But what do I tell people if they should ask?"
His eyebrow raised, "It's perfectly simple Miss Granger, you skirt the truth. I'm certain you can handle that, even though you are irritatingly Gryffindor."
Hermione refused to let him see that he had rattled her with the comment. Him and his bloody compliments with the sarcastic chaser. Sitting there erect, with his arms crossed imposingly, and that amazing damned eyebrow raised. My God he looks sexy – NO! The witch felt the twist of pleasure in the pit of her stomach. You're mad you are, you've finally snapped don't think that. He's sitting right in front of you, think evil potion master... evil potion master, and breathe woman. Evil potion master who loathes you, she could feel the blush rising, damn just breathe and think, sexy evil potion master, no… damn and bugger.
Severus saw her blush, and inwardly smiled, "Miss Granger, I take it you intend accepting this offer?"
Offer, oh yes anything. Damn it, get a bloody grip Granger, what would you like me to grip? Hermione mentally shook herself, and replied quietly, "Yes, sir, it would be my great honour."
"Good, but don't be so honoured so soon. It will be very hard work," he informed her calmly, his expression never wavering.
Then, his countenance abruptly closed off completely. "You will receive a message tomorrow morning, concerning our meeting with Dumbledore." He picked up his quill, "Good evening, Miss Granger," and with this statement he turned back to his marking, like nothing out of the ordinary had just been expressed, or even mentioned.
"Oh," she said quite taken back. "Err good evening, sir." Rising quickly to turn away from him, as she realised how much his polite, but cold dismissal had stung her. Without looking back she quickly headed for the door collecting her bag on the way out.
Severus heard the door shut, after her rushed exit. He sighed, and reached into his desk drawer for his whisky and cigarettes, shutting his eyes a moment. Merlin, I really hate doing that to her all the time, why just once can't I leave her feeling positive about something? He lit his cigarette, pinched the bridge of his nose, and then poured a large tumbler of whisky.
Hermione remembered vaguely saying good evening as she marched resolutely through the door, her vision already a blurred sheen. Making it to the top of the dungeon stairs, she hazily noticed she was on the next level.
She yearned for his company; the exchange tonight had felt wonderful. Yeah, bloody wonderful until his curt dismissal, that was. Why am I getting so upset, I knew it would happen again. Because it bloody hurts, that's why. It bloody hurts, to have the man you think the sun shines out of, treat you like nothing.
Needing to be alone, she quickly ducked into one of the numerous alcoves, which lined the corridor. Now hidden from sight she leant up against the strong solid stone, its coolness might help the thoughts condense, as her mind raced light years ahead of her.
Her breathing started to become laboured, I've just agreed to be his apprentice, she groaned. But he hates me. What Hell, have I just condemned myself too? Another voice in her head started whispering, But why would he offer you this, if he hates you so much?
Hermione Granger had an instant urge to run, but to where? Really there was nowhere to run, she had been doing that all summer, and she knew she desperately wanted to stay. She needed to stay, desired this chance more than anything. This once in a life time chance to spend countless hours with the sarcastic, brooding, brilliant, totally charming and completely unknown to her Potions master. But he hates me, she thought... she thought. Oh no!
Hermione hugged herself tightly as her tears spilt down her face. The realisation hit her of just how much this difficult and very private man affected her. She had been hopelessly attracted to him now for two years. However, somehow this year all the fantasies and yearning didn't seem enough.
He has never shown you an ounce of encouragement, has always pushed you firmly into your place, he has just done it too you now, even tonight, he was civil but nothing else. Her head swam, and her mind went blank as she heard a strange roaring in her ears.
Why? What makes that happen, why does wanting him feel so right, when everything is so wrong. The young woman crumpled under the stress, just too many things were going wrong, and she sat curled up in the corner of the alcove, knees drawn tightly up, head in her lap and sobbed.
Finally Hermione managed to struggle out of her dark hiding place and wander further up the hallway. Quickly drawing her wand, she cleansed her face to rid it of the tear stains and headed for her rooms, not even thinking of dinner.
Having been made head girl, she now had private rooms. This pleased her, even if she did have to pass through the common room to get to them. She didn't think she could stand another year with Lavender and Pavarti. Especially, after last year when Ron had started receiving their sexual favours. The talk was... yuk, she shivered remembering.
Living in the same dorm had become very strained, because they all seemed to use their behaviour to try and wind her up. It was obviously their assumption that she was a prude, and their talk would upset her. They didn't know her very well, and for that she was truly thankful.
Hermione sighed; maybe she was being unfair to them. They were what they were, and worst of all they appeared happy with their lives. She could claim no such contentment. Everything for her just seemed to get more and more complicated.
By this time she had made it into Gryffindor tower, she would have loved nothing more than to blend into the furniture, and just slip into her room, but even this small wish wasn't allowed her. The instant she appeared, she was beseeched with requests for help with homework.
Some even outright offering to pay her to do their homework, and it didn't stop at her own house. When she was in the library, even Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs approached her.
She had even had the occasional Slytherin seek her help. Of course unless they were desperate, they did it second hand – i.e. by bribing or threatening someone else, a Hufflepuff usually.
Hermione had no idea what time it was. She was unaware how long her interview with the her professor had taken, or for that matter how long she had languished in the hidden alcove. She suddenly realised she must have missed dinner, but no one expressed concern that she hadn't been present.
Although during dinner, anyone who had glanced at the teachers table at the appropriate moment would have seen a pair of coal black eyes, stealthily scanning the Gryffindor table for a presence that was absent.
When not finding the head of chestnut curls he was searching for, he had quietly pushed his plate away mostly uneaten, and sat on tenterhooks silently waiting the appropriate amount of time, before nodding sadly to the Headmaster and leaving.