AN: Hey there, here is chappie 21. If you were looking for a full-on romance or some steamy smut at this point in the story, think again ;-) These two are just…well, themselves. Nevertheless, a bit of tension never goes amiss, right? Different kinds of tension ;-)

Traverse, my dear beta, has been as wonderful and supportive and spot-on as usual…means all the mistakes that remain are mine. :-0

BTW, I am very happy to announce that the fabulous reviewers for the last chapter catapulted the story to over 500 reviews *yay* Come on, all you lovely readers, let us work on 750 next, okay? Thanks for the many new faves and follows, too.

Chapter 21 – A Slytherin detention

The rest of the day passed relatively uneventfully. Hermione had promised to be her "usual know-it-all-self", as Professor Snape had put it, and so she set about focusing on her classes. Apart from keeping her word, she found it quite soothing for her frayed nerves. Back to basics, so to speak. It felt good to do something normal again. At the beginning it had been an effort to concentrate on the subjects at hand, but she was soon drawn into them. Her brain was jolted awake with eager fact accumulation, while her heart gratefully slumbered away.

Until her dunderheaded friends grilled her about her little tête-à-tête with Professor Snape during dinner, that was. Of course, she expected that they would want to know about his mean and utterly outrageously unfair treatment of her in every gory detail. For once, Hermione acquiesced and hinted at her own displeasure with his decision to give her detention. However, all the while she knew that she was also looking forward to seeing him again. It all came down to whether he would really be an arse and force her to do real detention work or whether it was just a pretext for seeing her alone.

She did not know what to expect. Hermione did not like not knowing what to expect. She would not be able to prepare. No preparation, no guarantee of success. She snorted at her own maudlin thoughts. As if there ever was any kind of guarantee where human interaction was concerned. Still, one had to try, right?

"Earth to Hermione?"

"Hmm? What?"

Hermione snapped back to reality when Ginny Weasley poked her into the side and she became aware of the buzzing of the Great Hall during dinner time.

"Daydreaming, are we? About a certain mysterious him, maybe?"

"Oh, come on, drop it, will you? I was just thinking about my detention."

"Aha, so maybe Professor Snape is your mysterious him."

Gasp, breathe, Hermione, breathe.

"Oh, stop glaring at me, Hermione, I was joking. No need to look so freaked out. I mean, not that Professor Snape doesn´t have his qualities, I mean, you know what they say about big noses, but…"

They both burst into giggles and Hermione was laughing just a little harder from sheer relief than Ginny´s joke warranted. She could just imagine the look on the professor´s face, if he had known what his students were saying about him and his qualities. Either way, Ginny and Hermione reacted neither to the shadow falling over them from behind nor to the frantic, not very subtle shushing noises Ron was emitting.

This is why the silky voice right behind her made Hermione jump a little in her seat.

"As loathe as I am to witness this nauseous display of female hyper-arousal, I must still remind you, Miss Granger, that I will be expecting you down in the dungeons in ten minutes."

"Umm, yes, Sir", Hermione gasped.

Ginny buried her face in her arms to keep from laughing even harder. Point deduction during dinner time was frowned upon, after all. As soon as Professor Snape stepped away, she emerged from behind her makeshift shield, tears streaming down her face while her body shook with suppressed laughter.

"Oh, Merlin", she snickered.

"It wasn´t that funny", Hermione admonished.

"It was, though. I mean, come on, he said arousal, mhhhhhhaaaawwaaaa."

Hermione simply rolled her eyes at the redhead and made to stand up when she was stopped by Harry, who had been talking to Ron on the other side of the Gryffindor table.

"Hey, Hermione."

"Yes?"

He pointed at Professor Snape´s retreating back.

"Good luck."

"Oh, well, thank you. It won´t be too bad, I am sure."

Harry just narrowed his eyes, clearly reminiscing about his own detentions with the sour-tempered professor.

"If you say so."

Funnily enough, Harry was not the only student to react to Hermione´s leaving. The Gryffindors bestowed some encouraging pats and looks upon her, while other students looked at her in a variety of ways, ranging from sympathetic (most of the Hufflepuff table) to mildly interested (most of the Ravenclaw table) to outright spiteful (most of the Slytherin table). Anyway, Professor Snape had drawn a lot of attention to her, or rather their detention.

On a closer look, when had the professor ever felt it necessary to remind any student of their detention? He expected the students to arrive exactly on time, or else there would be an additional detention to serve. Professor Snape could have simply walked out through the teachers´ entrance at the back of the Great Hall, but he had chosen to walk down from the Head Table and address her in front of the assembled audience. That was the second time he was acting strangely towards her in public, drawing attention to them. Once again she wondered what he was trying to achieve by this.

Well, she was going to find out. Quickening her pace, she left the Great Hall, anxious to be rid of the unwanted attention of her peers. Since she had a few more minutes left, she made a quick trip to the bathroom in order to relieve her nervous bladder.

After that, she could find no more reason to stall and walked swiftly down to the dungeons. When she arrived at the classroom door, she knocked and waited. She was too early, but he had left the Great Hall prior to her. Certainly he was already there? However, no one answered the door. She knocked again.

"Professor Snape?"

Still, nothing happened. Hermione waved her wand and the Tempus informed her that she had only two minutes left. Had she misunderstood? Professor Snape had never specified where the detention was to take place, but, of course, she had assumed that it would be held in the classroom. Was she wrong?

Oh, no.

If she was, then she would be late. As stupid as it sounded, especially considering the previous days, she did not know if she would find the fastest route to his office from here. Last time she had arrived in an unusual manner, after all. How on earth was she supposed to find her way in these crooked tunnels and labyrinthine corridors? The castle was vast, even in itssub-levels.

Wait, the castle.

Hermione kneeled down and leaned her head against the wall, her hands stroking the cold stone.

Come, on, Hogwarts, I need you.

But the castle did not answer. In hindsight, it should not have surprised her. Hogwarts had told her that she would not be able to communicate with it directly.

"Dipsy?"

Crack.

"Hermione Granger has called Dipsy?"

"Hmm, yes, I am sorry for infringing upon your time, Dipsy, but I really need to get to Professor Snape´s office right now and I am afraid that I won´t make it on time. Could you show me the way, please?"

"How much time has Miss left?"

"Tempus! Darn, only 15 seconds."

"Then Miss will be late if Dipsy does not help."

"That's right."

Hermione held onto the elf´s outstretched hand and the world spun around her until she was safely deposited in front of the office door.

"Thanks, Dipsy."

The elf waved and vanished with a crack.

The second the Charm sprang to 7pm, Hermione hastily knocked on the dark wood. After a few seconds, the door opened and light fell upon her face. Framed in the halo of a flickering fire stood Professor Snape, wearing his usual black garb and looking quite imposing.

She was about to speak when he yanked the door open wider, so that she was able to see that the room was occupied by someone else. That someone else was smirking at her in such a condescending, superior way that it made her want to vomit.

"Now, what have we here, Severus? Another visitor so late in the evening? And a young woman, no less."

Professor Snape casually leaned against the frame.

"Miss Granger has earned herself a detention today, Lucius."

"Ah", Malfoy allowed, "I see."

Then he quite openly looked her up and down, his lips curling into a moue of distaste. Hermione had never thought it was possible to express that much contempt in such a childish expression.

"And do you make a habit of inviting the miscreants into your office? In the good old days the students were supposed to scrub cauldrons in the classroom until their fingers bled."

"Indeed. You might remember, though, that I am no longer teaching Potions."

Lucius Malfoy lazily flicked his hair over his shoulder and reclined further into the chair. His entire posture screamed self-confidence and aloofness. He was acting like bloody royalty, to be precise.

In that memory, I have seen you at your lowest, Malfoy. No chance of impressing me.

Considering what he had looked like then, however, she had to admit that he made a good effort. A bit of shine returned to his hair and the sickly pallor vanished from his cheeks. The dark circles around his eyes were less pronounced, too.

"Hmm, does that mean there are no cauldrons to be scrubbed anymore?"

"Hardly, considering…"

Professor Snape let the end of the sentence to hang in the air, but obviously it made perfect sense to his guest as the two of them shared a friendly smirk. Hermione wondered whether the men´s mutual affection was genuine,but, if she had to guess, she would say that Severus Snape really liked Lucius Malfoy.

Not that she agreed.

"So, Severus, what have you planned for our young sinner, then? Something I would like to witness?"

What? Not if I have any say in it.

"Professor, I could come back later if this is an inconvenient time."

Professor Snape returned his gaze to her, wearing a strange expression. It was like he was smiling at her, only he seemed to be more agitated than happy.

"I think not, Miss Granger."

His fingers traced contemplatively along his chin and he leaned slightly towards her, invading her personal space, if only marginally. His voice dropped to a not quite conspiratorial whisper.

"After all, where would be the fun in that?"

Hermione did not know how to react. Professor Snape was still looking at her in that weird way, and he was still leaning in, the smell of his aftershave easily discernible from this distance. While under the normal circumstance she would have been elated to be so close to him, this felt wrong somehow. And what was she supposed to say to this non-sequitur? She was here for detention, right? Where would be the fun in that? She felt out of her depth and Malfoy was watching them like a hawk.

Suddenly Professor Snape spoke directly into her ear, his body towering over her, his hair tickling the side of her face: "For my part, I have been looking forward to this all day, haven´t you?"

"Sir, I am sorry, I don´t think I understand."

"Oh, Severus, look what you have done. Now you have got her all flustered and confused."

Malfoy grinned like a Cheshire cat – or, rather, like a white shark. The white shark that was still circling its prey before sinking its rows of teeth into it. Professor Snape straightened up and released her of the tangible tension of feeling him so close by.

"Well, it is not every day that Hermione Granger gets a detention, is it? I guess we will have to make it memorable."

Hermione looked from one man to the other, uncertain how to proceed. Funnily enough, Malfoy came to her aid.

"Oh Severus, even if she is a wayward student, where are your manners? Won´t you invite her in? I won´t mind."

How magnanimous of you, oh the greatest of wizards.

"You are right, Lucius, how inconsiderate of me. Forgive me, Miss Granger. Please step inside."

Professor Snape bowed slightly and gestured for her to enter. He stepped back from the door and smiled his fakesmile. Hermione hesitated.

"Please, I insist."

With no option left, she squared her shoulders and walked briskly into the office. She chose to stand slightly to the right of Professor Snape´s desk, keeping a certain distance between Malfoy and herself. She lifted her chin and crossed her arms under her breasts. Then she shot the blond a challenging glare. Lucius Malfoy reacted by picking imaginary lint off his clothes and feigning indifference.

Professor Snape closed the door and walked behind his desk, his robes brushing against her arm as he passed. Hermione could feel where the fabric had touched her even after the contact ended. Her skin was prickling with excitement, as was her face where his hair had tickled her before.

Professor Snape sat down and leaned back in his chair. His arms lay on the armrests and his head was cocked slightly to the side. Malfoy, meanwhile, studied his nails, as if they were the most interesting thing in the world. Her teacher lazily lifted a hand and pointed towards the chair next to the one currently occupied by the other man.

"Please, have a seat, Miss Granger."

Her eyes flicked towards Malfoy. The pureblood unfurled his long legs, re-crossed them and mockingly patted the back of the empty chair.

"By all means, feel free to join me."

Still, she remained exactly where she was and glared at him.

"I´d rather stand, thank you."

"Oh dear," Lucius Malfoy hummed, "I can see now what you meant by her being unrefined."

"Excuse me?" Hermione hissed.

"And rather aggressive, too. So unbecoming of the weaker sex. I do wonder what wizard would ever agree to put up with that. Your temper aside, Miss Granger, you should consider your marriage prospects before comporting yourself in this manner. Not that the likes of you have high hopes anyway."

"The likes of me?"

"Those of, ah, shall we say, dubious parentage."

"My parentage is not dubious, Mr. Malfoy. I know exactly who my parents are," Hermione observed, deliberately misunderstanding his allusion to her being muggleborn.

He smiled his shark-like smile again and inclined his head haughtily.

"Indeed, how fortunate, Miss Granger. Still, I do hope that you will take my well-meant advice into account. Your future might depend on the choices you make."

"Mr. Malfoy, if I had been interested in your opinions about my future or my aspirations I would have asked for it. As it is, I try not to have anything to do with the likes of you."

His smile became even more predatory, as he laid his hand over his heart in a gesture of shock.

"The likes of me? Well-mannered, educated, wealthy and respectable citizens of the Wizarding World?"

"Respectable citizens, indeed", she sniffed at him sarcastically.

He looked rather self-satisfied as he asked, "No objection to well-mannered, educated and wealthy then?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and bit out under her breath, "You wouldn´t want me to go there, believe me."

"Ah", and he was pouting of all things, "how disappointing. I was beginning to enjoy myself."

"Well, it might have escaped your notice, but I am not here for your enjoyment. I am here to serve detention."

His blue eyes flashed with a renewed malicious playfulness.

"Those are not necessarily mutually exclusive, are they, Miss Granger?"

Huffing silently, Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes again and refrained from hurling further cheek at him. She knew it would have been forthcoming if she had opened her mouth, because she was well and truly irritated by now.

How dare he?

She simply lifted her chin and pointedly looked at Professor Snape, who remained silent during the whole exchange. Maybe he would put an end to this demeaning charade now, preferably by a good dressing down of that pompous, boorish buffoon.

Now, that was nice imagery, wasn´t it? Hermione grinned self-indulgently, but kept her silence. That would lend a rather nice twist to this evening´s rather unsatisfying progress so far. Then again, Professor Snape himself had been acting weirdly all day, hadn´t he? Him, playing the chivalrous, gentlemanly beau? Just weird. And it did not make sense at all. Why would he act like that towards her, of all people?

Dolohov´s words from the memory came unbidden back to mind: "Well, he might use his charming personality and tempt her with his seduction skills. Our Severus is such a charmer, after all."

Now that she thought of it, she suddenly knew what had irked her about his strange expression so much. It could be considered flirtatious, but in a very inept, stereotypical and un-Snape-like way. It was as if he was trying for a bad impression of how he was supposed to go about flirting by the likes of Dolohov. It was off-putting, to say the least. This simply made her squirm in a very bad way. If his plan was to creep her out, he was doing a fine job.

Funnily enough, Hermione would have been very, very receptive to any authentic Snape-like flirtation, but, fortunately, he did not know that. His brushing against her casually, now that had been bull´s eye. And maybe that little opening of doors and helping her up, as well. This oily, obtrusive version of him, however, made him look constipated or suffering some such affliction.

I am digressing.

She shook her head and kept waiting. A rather uncomfortable silence descended upon the room. Still, she would not give Malfoy the satisfaction of being the first to speak. She was here for her detention, not for his amusement. So she busied herself with counting the books on the shelf to her right, additionally scanning the titles with interest. Outwardly, she had no concern in the world.

Still, she felt triumphant, when it was Malfoy who broke the silence.

"Impressive."

His voice oozed false admiration. She looked at him then, repaying the favour with a rather condescending raise of her brows.

"Would you look at this, Severus? You are already rubbing off on her. I must say, this actually looks quite believable on your little Gryffindor."

His little Gryffindor? Excuse me?

"In contrast to your silly expression, my friend. Please stop doing this hideous thing to your facial muscles before you die of constipation. It doesn´t suit you anyway."

Professor Snape´s signature glare returned promptly and Hermione, taken off-guard, chuckled at Malfoy´s astute and surprisingly similar assessment - until the conceited, sanctimonious arse addressed her again, his lips curling into a derogatory sneer.

"Well, Miss Granger, while I must commend you on your ability to keep your mouth shut this time, I have to dispraise your serious lack of respect for your superiors. Such as you displayed right now."

"My superiors? And who would that be now?" Hermione snapped venomously and made a sweeping hand gesture.

While her intention was to rile up Mister-I am a horrible-Pureblood-Bigot-Malfoy, it was Professor Snape´s voice that lashed at her like a velvety whip.

"I, for one, am your teacher, Miss Granger, and as such, I expect you to treat me accordingly."

She felt heat rise to her cheeks, realising she had been played. She cast down her eyes.

"I am sorry, Sir."

Malfoy´s responding chuckle made her blush even more, this time from anger. That bastard was obviously enjoying himself.

"Be that as it may. This very morning I had to take points from you for being disrespectful, and now, only a few hours later, I find myself in exactly the same predicament again."

"But..."

"Silence."

Hermione snapped her mouth shut. She found it very disconcerting to watch him in his 'dungeon bat' mode. It was one thing to see him treat Harry like this, but to face this version of him personally was very disturbing. He did not exactly do anything too unusual. He was staring down his nose at her, making her feel small and inferior. So far, so bad. Still, Professor Snape had never looked at her in such a disgusted way. She could not stand him looking at her like this, as if she were the biggest failure to have ever walked this earth. Especially when it had been Malfoy who was to blame.

"Tell me, Miss Granger, why did I assign you this detention?"

She had been wondering about exactly the same thing. Apart from having an excuse for meeting with her, she could not think of any reason. However, instinct told her that he had truly felt that she had done something wrong. She was confused - and annoyed about being confused. Ever since she had let the doubt about 'evil' Professor Snape into her thoughts, had formed this little obsession with figuring him out, she met with obstacle after obstacle and her neatly placed loyalties and beliefs were thoroughly shaken.

Still, he was worth it, wasn´t he?

So, she would persevere and unriddle the enigma of this 'complicated man'. Professor Snape cleared his throat and spurred her on to reply as neutrally as possible.

"Because I neglected to hand in my homework, Sir?"

"No. Try again."

"Because I did not bring a written confirmation from Madame Pomfrey to prove that I was unable to do it?"

"Not quite," Professor Snape negated and stood up. His long fingers trailed the edge of the table as he walked around it. He stopped in front of the still unoccupied chair and sat on the rim of the heavy desk. His posture was deceptively relaxed, his hands resting on the smooth surface, his ankles crossed elegantly. His dark eyes bore into hers.

"Try again," he challenged.

"Because you would expect me to hand it in even if I had a valid reason for not doing so?"

Hermione could not prevent a slight edge from creeping into her voice. Professor Snape narrowed his eyes at her.

"Not even close, Miss Granger. Try again."

"I honestly don´t know. Maybe you could enlighten me, Sir?"

The muttered "Impertinent" from Malfoy was resolutely ignored by Hermione.

"The reason, Miss Granger, is that you neither came to me to ask for permission to forego the assignment prior to class, nor, at least, felt it necessary to inform me at the beginning of the class. No, you simply presumed."

He paused and Hermione tried to gauge his mood. His expression was blank, however, his dark eyes unreadable. Uncomfortably aware of Malfoy´s presence, she still decided to cautiously appeal to Professor Snape.

"Maybe I should have spoken to you about the assignment before class, but I knew that you were informed of my circumstancesalready, so I thought it was unnecessary. And later, I simply forgot. Wasn´t it enough that you knew already?"

"Ah, the subtlety and foresight of a Gryffindor," he remarked loftily, looking at Lucius Malfoy, who supported this rather biased assessment with an astoundingly earthy snort.

"Sir?"

"As I did tell you before, Miss Granger, I do not tolerate exceptions in my class. I have my principles and the student body is well aware of them. How do you suppose that works?"

"Um, they are afraid?"

"That´s superfluous. Dig deeper. Why have the accident rates dropped dramatically in my Potions classes?"

"Because everyone strives to avoid them."

"Why?"

"Because you would assign detention and deduct house points."

"How do you know that? Maybe I would just see it as an accident, no harm done, no one´s fault. No consequences."

Hermione snorted. "You? No, I guess hell would freeze over before – oh." Understanding dawned on her. "You would never deviate from those rules."

"Exactly. Not for the chosen one, not for forgetful Hufflepuffs and certainly not for the princess of Gryffindor, simply because she assumed that I would."

"But you knew why I wasn´t able to hand it in. It would not have been a deviation from the rules."

"Merlin, she is a bit slow, isn´t she?" Malfoy drawled.

Hermione was about to retort when Professor Snape straightened up and cleared his throat again. She obediently fell silent. He sneered slightly and his voice dropped even lower as he hissed at her.

"Yes, Miss Granger, I knew. But your classmates did not. With a teacher's permission, with my official permission, it would not have been an exception. Therefore, it would have neither been a bending of the rules nor a precedent. If you had simply thought of circumventing this little rub, I would not have felt obliged to educate you with this detention."

"Educate me?" Hermione sputtered. "How so?"

"If you want to avoid public humiliation or consequences in the future you should learn to anticipate. Presuming that I would treat you differently in front of the class, just because I happened to be aware of your circumstances, without factoring in the setting, the people involved, my role – so very like your house."

Of course Lucius Malfoy chose this very moment to join in again. "Merlin, it is painful listening to you having to explain something so elementary, Severus. Any first-year Slytherin would have grasped this right away."

Hermione lifted her chin and tried for an arrogantly casual disregard of Malfoy´s irksome presence. Instead she shifted her weight from her right leg to her left and allowed a sceptical expression to appear on her face.

"So basically, I am being punished for not being Slytherin enough?"

"Finally. And here I was afraid that she was called the brightest witch of her age for nothing," purred Malfoy while languidly stretching in his seat.

"Very funny," Hermione mumbled to herself.

"Well, Miss Granger," Professor Snape interjected, "I hope you will keep this in mind and avoid these unpleasant consequences next time."

Hermione simply nodded in response, once again keeping herself from rolling her eyes. But Professor Snape was not finished yet.

"It is after all both our time that is now squandered by your lack of finesse."

Reason would have told her to refrain from rising to his bait. Alas, this time her mouth was faster.

"Well, you could have avoided the waste of time by simply not assigning me detention in the first place. Appearances cannot be that important."

Malfoy chuckled at her little outburst. "Feisty, this one."

Professor Snape, however, was not amused. Astoundingly, he was not angry, either. In fact, he wassadly shaking his head and looked rather hurt.

"You really think this is just about appearances? You would have me neglect my duty to the students and the school? Whatever you may believe, Miss Granger, whatever rumours and lies your friends may spout behind my back, I consider my work here to be important and valuable and I don´t shirk my duties, pleasant or unpleasant. It is paramount that I don't depart from keeping you all safe through thease very clear guidelines, especially with dangerous subjects such as Potions and Defence. And I do hope that the students see the value of their education and this school, as well."

"I, um, of course, Sir", she stuttered. "Of course we do. I do."

He fixed her with his dark eyes then. His voice suddenly sounded tired and vulnerable. "Is that so? You don´t actually do, though, do you? At least not where the dreaded dungeon bat is concerned. You don't try to understand, you simply judge."

Merlin, how did he manage to leap from mean to maudlin in only a few sentences? And why in front of Malfoy of all people? Well, something was fishy here, but Hermione would follow his lead and play along. She would have to trust him with this.

"That´s not true, Sir. It certainly isn´t for me."

"Why then did you not come to me about the assignment, Miss Granger? I must admit that I felt disappointed that you did not see fit to confide in me. I would have thought you above the inter-house prejudices. Maybe I was mistaken."

Hermione unconsciously stepped towards him, her brow furrowed in concern. Damn, he was good. Even knowing that something was going on, she still felt very much like responding to his act, wanting to console him and show him that she wasn´t like the other students. She smiled at him sheepishly.

"But, Sir, I thought we'd already established that I simply lacked Slytherin guile to have any thought about this."

He shook his head and impatiently swatted a lock of hair out of his face.

"Forgive me, Miss Granger, I should not have expressed my concerns to you. I don´t know what came over me just now. No matter."

He straightened and made a show of looking at the hourglass to his right, then back at Malfoy.

"Well, my friend, I am sorry for cutting our time here short, but as you can see, duty calls."

"Oh, no need for apologies. It was a surprise visit, after all. I´ll leave you two alone. I would not want to impose on your detention, now, would I? The business I came here for may be postponed until later this week. Educating a young woman such as Miss Granger in the mysteries of life should always take precedence, after all. Fear not, my dear, Severus is a very thorough teacher."

His icky double-entendre did not go unnoticed by Hermione and neither did his calling her my dearof all things.

"I´m not your dear, Mister Malfoy, so if you never address me in this manner again, I´d be much obliged."

The git simply bowed mockingly and gave her a rather salacious wink. "Indeed," he added.

Professor Snape stepped towards him and both men shook hands.

"It´s always a pleasure having you here, Lucius," he silkily bid his guest farewell.

"Likewise."

Another wink in her direction.

"Have fun."

And with that Lucius Malfoy strode out of the room.

As soon as the door closed behind the blond man Hermione rounded on Professor Snape, an unspoken accusation on her lips. He simply raised an eyebrow and smirked at her.

A real, full-blown, trademark Severus Snape smirk.

Hermione was so relieved to have her Professor Snape back that she threw caution to the wind and blurted out, "I should have hit you with that book after all."

His eyes widened in feigned shock as he leaned slightly towards her. "Attacking a teacher? My, my, I see I have been far too lenient with you."

Gods, why did that sound hot coming from him?

Hermione´s heart missed a beat, imagining what he would see as fit punishment for further transgressions. She blushed as her mind conjured up some rather suggestive images. Mistaking her reaction for apprehension he held up his hands in a placating manner and, regrettably, stepped back.

"Nothing to worry about, Miss Granger, at least not today. I daresay you already got what you deserved."

He allowed himself a small chuckle at her outraged expression.

"As I am in a benevolent mood today, I might be persuaded to count these rather entertaining last minutes as sufficient punishment for your lack of Slytherin subtlety and tactical prowess this morning."

"You have to rub it in, do you?"

"The lesson is meant to sink in, Miss Granger."

Hermione smiled. "Well, it was most certainly an instructional evening. Then again, I still don´t agree with your reasoning. However, since I am in a benevolent mood, too, I´d like to know how you could be persuaded not to prolong this detention."

Professor Snape indicated the two chairs in front of his desk as he himself walked back behind it and took a seat.

"Sit down, please."

This time Hermione obeyed gladly. She had grown rather tense during the confrontation with Malfoy and was thankful for being able to relax a bit, even on the uncomfortable chair. Professor Snape lifted his right hand, his wand appearing out of nowhere. He pointed it at the door and cast a non-verbal silencing spell.

"The detention was meant to educate you, so I guess it is only fair to test whether you have grasped the meaning of it. Tell me: what have you learned today?"

"You mean from this?"

She flicked her hand between them and the now unoccupied chair. He nodded, his expression growing more serious. So, Hermione took her time to contemplate his question.

"Well the first, and most obvious would be that a Slytherin always has an ulterior motive behind everything he or she does. In addition it would be beneficial to me, and to you by extension, I guess, if I learned to think and act like one. Therefore, you decided to demonstrate to me what it means to be a Gryffindor around the wrong people and were lucky enough to have the dear old pureblood maniac Malfoy at your disposal to let the lesson sink in sufficiently. No, wait, that wasn´t coincidence at all, was it? No, you arranged for your friend to come here so that we would meet. Why didn´t I see that before?

Secondly, I have learned that I am too easily unsettled as soon as things are as expected or planned. While I cannot help feeling like this, it might be helpful to at least be able to hide it. Hide 'dangerous' emotions or thoughts in general, maybe? Merlin, this means Occlumency, doesn´t it? I hope I´ll do better than Harry. He's always said that…"

She saw his expression darken considerably and quickly moved on.

"Back to the topic at hand. What have I learned? I have learned that I don´t know enough about the workings or methods of Death Eaters. I don´t know enough about what has happened to you when you went back with Dolohov, and how I am supposed to act around you. I have learned that I don´t like feeling out of sorts when things don´t go my way and I think I have learned that I want to fight, fight people like Malfoy, fight people like Vo-, sorry, You-Know-Who.I have had enough of being slighted for something I had no say in and that in no way defines my worth. I am tired of having to prove myself over and over again and I am tired of trying to make others accept that I belong. You know what? I think I am done with trying to please others."

Professor Snape patiently listened to her, not interrupting or reacting once. Now, he was simply looking at her, a hint of a smile playing at his lips. Once again, Hermione was struck by how it transformed his face, how much younger he looked. His dark hair framed his pale face and highlighted his dark eyes. His posture and gestures were controlled yet fluent. Not Malfoy's sleek elegance but, rather, the deadly smoothness of a predator in repose. His black garments only heightened the effect, clinging to him and moving with him in unpretentious grace. Hermione´s heart did another flip as he cocked his head and traced his mouth with a long, elegant finger.

"Does that mean I won´t have to suffer you regurgitating facts at me in class anymore?"

"Would that please you, Sir?"

He snorted, "What do you think?"

"I think it would."

"Immensely so."

"Then I won´t refrain from doing it."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Well, if it pleases you, I cannot do it, right? If I am to learn to stop trying to please people, I´ll have to learn not to jump into action just because someone wants or needs something. I mean, anybody could just ask anything of me. Where would that lead me?"

His half-smile morphed into his more usual smirk. His elbows were propped up on the desk and his chin rested on his hands.

"Am I to understand that I am just anybody to you then, Miss Granger?"

If only you knew.

"You really think that it´s easy to guilt-trip Gryffindors, don´t you?" she side-stepped efficiently.

His black eyes flashed with genuine amusement, making Hermione feel like she had just won the Triwizard Cup.

"Touché."

Hermione laughed and the two of them let the moment linger in comfortable silence. Unsurprisingly, it was Hermione who spoke up first.

"Sir?"

"Yes?"

"Have you been persuaded?"

"I have been persuaded that we still have a lot to discuss. But yes, you may consider your detention fulfilled."

Was he really letting her off the hook so easily? She was surprised, even knowing that this entire affair had been in part to facilitate a meeting between them.

"Don't be too surprised, Miss Granger. I can guarantee you that once we have started our tutoring, scrubbing cauldrons will seem like a rather coveted past-time."

"I have always liked a challenge, Sir."

You, for example.

Professor Snape jerked his head in irritation.

"This is not a challenge you would wish to have to live up to if you had a choice, believe me."

"I understand that this is not just an academic journey into fascinating theoretical knowledge. I know that I might be hurt or even killed along the way. I know all that. That´s exactly why I have to keep on seeing the good in 'things' in order to, you know, bear it."

"As long as you are aware of the seriousness and danger involved."

"I am."

"Good. We shall take time later to answer your questions. Your observations first: they were mostly correct. However, I have not invited Lucius Malfoy to keep you on your toes or test you. In fact, he was sent to do exactly that with me."

Hermione gasped. "With you?"

"Indeed. Lucius volunteered to be my guide back into the trusted circle. Mostly, to get back into the Dark Lord's good graces, but also as a gesture towards a friend. As such, he came here to check on my conduct and satisfy himself of my unerring devotion to the cause. That his visit rather conveniently overlapped with your detention was purely coincidental. I suspect that he was also checking on my progress with the task I was given. Therefore, our little meeting was even more convenient."

Hermione held her breath. Finally, she would know what he had been asked to do. She fidgeted in her chair as her nervousness about the unpredictable revelation grew.

Still, she forced herself to ask, "And does this task, by any chance, have anything to do with me?"

Professor Snape examined her closely, then looked down at the surface of his desk, clearly organising his thoughts. When their eyes met again, his seemed to be more distant and unreadable than before.

He´s using Occlumency right now.

This realisation hit her like a punch in the gut. Why would he feel it necessary to occlude just now? She certainly was unable to do Legilimency and he was adept enough at hiding his thoughts without doing mind magic. It had to be really bad, right? Unconsciously, Hermione worried her lip, her teeth scraping against the soft flesh.

Professor Snape´s gaze wandered to her mouth and he seemed to grow even more agitated. Not visibly, of course. No, outwardly he appeared perfectly calm. But Hermione had learned to read little nuances by now, after all these weeks of keeping a close eye on him during her 'figure out Professor Snape' project.

Wanting to show him that she understood and he did not need to occlude against her she asked: "Is it that bad?"

His eyes widened slightly in acknowledgement and his shoulders relaxed marginally, but he looked more resigned than relieved. His eyes were narrowed and he did not relinquish the hold on his Occlumency, as far as she could tell from the slight chill in them.

He spoke and his voice was eerily vacant and monotone for once.

"That depends on what you think about having an illicit affair with me."

Hermione, in that moment, was very thankful that she was already seated.

AN:

Muhhhhaaahwhwhwhwhwhwwwwwwaaaaaa *evil laugh*

Loved the bickering between them, made me smile insanely and snicker to myself while writing it *aaawww*

I absolutely have to share that I imagined good old Lucius sitting in his chair like Lee Pace did as Thranduil on his throne in Hobbit and that I imagined Snape´s expression to be like that of Beast in Beauty and the Beast when he is being asked to give a good smile by Lumière. *lol* OMG, had soo much fun with those pictures in my head. ;-)

BTW, my PC crashed last week. My access to the www is a bit restricted because of it…so please, don´t be disappointed if review replies take some time, ok?