Hello! This story was my first fic, and looking back I realized it was sorely in need of work. I've edited and spruced up the entire story!

There is a playlist for this, with a song for every chapter. The song for this chapter is The Red by Chevelle. Enjoy!

Severus Snape had spent the last fifteen years of his life being the most hated and feared professor at Hogwarts School. But ever since the war had ended and a certain witch had brought him back from the brink of death, he had become one of the most feared and most respected professors.

Snape had preferred being hated.

He had spent most of his adult life having to pretend to be cold, calculating and cruel. Somewhere in that time, it had simply become his nature. He didn't think of himself as a particularly malicious man, but warm or gentle- never. The coat of armor he had adopted in adolescence had hardened into a second skin. Now his face was more accustomed to a sneer than a smile. And damn it, he liked it that way.

Once the truth had come out and everyone knew he had been working for Dumbledore, putting his life in danger every single day to further their cause, people seemed to think he would turn to a fluffy bunny over night. The same people who had ridiculed and cursed him behind his back now thought that because his name was cleared he would suddenly want to be friends with them. What rubbish.

After a few months, things settled back into a more normal state. This was both immensely better, and terribly worse. He didn't want to be hated necesasrily, but it was all he knew. There was relief in the familiarity of it. After a while of people coming up to him and expecting him to cozy up and share war stories and him regarding them with the same cool disdain he always had, they stopped. The school was being rebuilt and he still barked orders at everyone. He threatened anyone who got in his way the same as he always had.

In the beginning, when he had first started to work for Albus, he had imagined the gratitude of everyone when they found out what he had done, all he had sacrificed for them. He could almost see the admiration in Lily's eyes when he came back a hero. But Lily was dead. And he no longer wanted the homecoming he'd imagined for so long. He couldn't be that man any more. The Order had demanded much of him, and he had given it. There wasn't anything left in him to start over with.

Another thing that was familiar and yet unbearably awful was the reappearance of Miss Granger.

The bright witch had come back to Hogwarts almost as soon as she was able. In the months it had taken the school to be put to rights again, she had finished her last years OWLS, apprenticed under McGonnigal and was now preparing to start her first year student teaching. And Minerva, the old wench, had assigned Miss Granger to his classes.

It wasn't that she wasn't adept enough to student teach his classes. Quite the opposite in fact. She learned so rapidly that she could watch him brew a potion once and then be able to replicate it on her own almost exactly the same. And his Defense Against the Dark Arts classes would be a breeze for her. She'd learned so much in the war that he was sure she had even invented a few spells of her own that she could teach him.

No, the problem wasn't her mind. It was that she had done something terrible to him. Something that had only been done once before, and he had never forgiven it. He never could forgive it.

She had saved his life.

Voldemort's snake had done her job well. When Snape had given Harry that memory, when he had asked the boy to look into his eyes, he had known he was dying. He wanted one last glimpse at the only remaining earthly image of the woman he had once loved. An image to take with him as he faded away. He had slipped off, no longer fighting the oblivion.

And then, he had opened his eyes again. And it wasn't Lily's green eyes he saw, but wide brown eyes staring at him with intense concentration. Her bottom lip had been caught between her teeth as she furrowed her brow and murmured words he couldn't quite make out. Instead of slipping further away, he felt himself being drawn back. He could feel her sheer force of will making him return. Her magic and her spirit so wrapped in the task she had her mind bent to that it was impossible to resist. And with a gasping, gulping breath, he came back from the brink.

Now he was forever in her debt, a debt he could never pay. One that would loom over his head until his death. He did not hate Miss Granger the way he had hated James, but the burden wore heavily on him all the same.

The next day would be their first working side by side. Snape was not looking forward to it. He did not think she would bring up the fact that he owed his life to her, but he would feel it. And already it chafed.

Did she expect him to show her some partiality? Gratitude? Neither were in his nature. Yes, he'd shown partiality to a select few Slytherin students when his job had required it, but even that had been hard for him. If that was what she thought would be the case, she was sadly mistaken. He would be no less hostile, no less dismissive of her than he had ever been. Just because she was no longer his student did not mean that they were equals.

As he passed down the dank hall to his private chambers he glanced around, as he always did, to make sure there was no one skulking about. Not many had ever dared to come down this far into the dungeon but he had secrets that he liked kept. The corridor was dark for a reason. He didn't need the light to see his way, and if there was someone about, they wouldn't see him enter his rooms. One more look around told him no one was near. He pulled out his wand and ran it down the middle of the huge door. It unlocked from the inside, much the way a vault at Gringotts did.

Then the door swung open and he stepped through. As he crossed the threshold, he felt the usual shiver run through him as the magic alteration was taken away. It returned to the enchanted barrier and would glide over him again as soon as he stepped through the door on his way back out. He tossed his long robes onto the chair by the bed and went over to the mirror above his dresser. He so rarely looked at it any more. The face looking back at him was almost as foreign to him as it would be to anyone else who saw him at that moment. The grease was gone from his hair, the shadows under his eyes vanished. He looked younger, his eyes not black like everyone else saw, but the dark green they naturally were.

Disgusted, he pushed away from the mirror. He should smash the bloody thing. No one saw the real him. As soon as he went out his door, he would look like the Severus Snape everyone was used to seeing. He sneered at the thought. Did they all think he was a grown man with no idea of what personal hygiene meant? Did they all think he had been born looking that pinched and dark?

Yes, they did. He had made it his job that they did. And for over a decade no one had seen him without that mask on. It had served his purposes to look sinister and menacing. There had been no one special in his life to worry about his appearances over so he had let himself become the beast he had to be to do his job.

But he goddamned well knew how to bathe. Just because his carefully constructed magic made it so everyone thought it otherwise did not mean he was a slob. But what good was it to be slightly less revolting in reality? Yes, he could drop the pretense now. He no longer needed the ability to blend into the shadows or scare off anyone too close to him. But he wasn't a handsome man no matter how the light was cast. He was tall, his body molded with years of activity, but his nose naturally hooked at the end and his chin was too sharp to be pleasing to the eye. What was the point of revealing the real him when it would only draw more attention to himself and let people think it was safe to try and befriend him?

No, it was best to keep the idiots at bay the way he always had.

With a sigh, he stripped his t shirt off over his head, kicked off his boots and pants, and went to bed. He would need all the rest he could get to face the trial that was Hermione Granger the next day.