A/N: Dear readers. Let me just say that for sad personal reasons my muse had to take a vacation. I simply didn´t feel like writing. Now it feels good to do so again and I guess that is what is truly important about fanfiction. We all do it for our own fulfillment and enjoyment. And if that is lacking, well…

I wish you all a happy new year and all the best for 2014!

Chapter nine- The seed of something green and hairy

They all stood tensely watching the three Death Eaters finally catch up with their prey and form a half-circle around her. Memory-Hermione was clearly befuddled and had difficulties focusing her eyes. Her head was swaying from side to side. It made for a rather pitiful display, really.

"Well, Miss Granger, seeing you like this, I cannot imagine how you managed to get out of this alive."

"Seeing me like this, I cannot either, Professor," Hermione agreed with her Head of House.

Not two seconds later they saw the young memory-witch spring into action, take on the defensive stance Professor Snape had been trying to drill into the minds of his class by gruelling repetition, and shout, Protego!

"It would seem that at least one of the dunderheads has been paying attention in your class then, Severus", the Headmaster commented dryly.

"And what a surprise for it to be Miss Granger", the Head of Slytherin House replied. His voice lacked its usual bite, though. Actually, he looked rather pleased with her for a change and Hermione felt more than a little bit elated about it. "Though I have to say, it will most certainly go downhill from here since she is able to prattle again."

"Oh, Severus, really."

"No, no, Professor. Actually I am quite interested in what Professor Snape has to say about my prattling. After all, it was him I used as inspiration for it."

All the while Hermione kept eyecontact with the dark-haired man. She would not let him go back on what had happened only a few moments before. Whatever it had been had felt surprisingly good.

"You did, did you?"

"Yes."

"You tried to imitate me?"

"Well, yes."

"With your stature, and dressed in that?"

Ha, victory! Severus Snape only jokingly taunted people for whom he held a modicum of respect Those for whom he didn´t, however… well, Ronald Weasley was your man for that answer. So, a cheeky comeback without real menace was needed. Mhmmm. How about something daring?

"Exactly, and with my hair washed like that."

"Looks rather like a drowned poodle, don´t you think?"

"If you say so, Sir."

"So, let us watchyou failing miserably, Miss Granger. But be warned, I don´t suffer fools gladly, much less foolish girls who try to mock me."

"Actually, I didn´t exactly try to be you, Professor. I just imagined what you might have said to them. Like I said this morning, you taught us to use the enemy´s weaknesses. I simply tried to heed your advice, Sir."

"Yes, you are so prone to trying to please me, aren´t you?"

Gods, you have no idea.

"I…"

Don´t you dare blush now, Hermione. He didn´t mean it like this. Just say something.

"I was told always to apply myself, Sir."

"I see."

Professor Snape stepped closer and looked down his nose at her.

"Deflection, Miss Granger? Interesting."

Clearly enjoying her uneasy expression after this, he turned back to the scene unfolding in the memory. Hermione and the Death Eaters had been talking for a while now. Since all the attention had been fixed on her exchange with the Potions Master, the spectators had completely missed what had been said between memory-Hermione and her pursuers.

"Well, all of your prattling now has unfortunately sidetracked us. Headmaster, shall we rewind to the moment Miss Granger here comes to again?"

"Good, idea, Severus. I guess now we are all very intrigued as to how exactly you tried to use your enemies´ weaknesses , Miss Granger."

Arthur Weasley nodded his head. "True, Albus, I am. However, it doesn´t matter to me whether or not you succeeded in impersonating Severus, Hermione. I just cannot grasp how you made it out of this alive. This is a life or death situation. I guess that in order to ease my mind, I I simply want to see with my own eyes that you truly didn´t suffer."

"Thanks, Mr. Weasley."

"Let us proceed then." Professor Mc Gonagall swished her wand through the air in an elegant arch and spoke the incantation. "Rewind!"

A blurring landscape and unsettled stomach later they were all brought back to the moment Hermione had just shouted Protego! Bellatrix spat out her malicious welcome and memory-Hermione gave back as good as she could. Hearing her memory-self firing the first insult at the three Death Eaters earned her a stern and yet somehow worried gaze from her Head of House, a mildly shocked expression from her friend´s father, and a condescending snort from the object of her newly discovered affections. Professor Snape´s amusement immediately faded, however, when Antonin Dolohov started to rub his member and leer at the young woman.

"I think I am going to plow into you from behind, in front of all our brethren, until you cry out for mercy."

"That , disgusting, unsavoury creature. I am sorry that you had to be exposed to such trash, Miss Granger." The Gryffindor Head was very angry. Her voice shook and her eyes glowed with a fierce rage. By trying to kill and molest one of her protégés, Antonin Dolohov had now made things personal between him and Minerva. Hermione knew that her teacher was a very fierce enemy and the Death Eater would suffer for this.

"It´s okay, Professor, At least I could use this against him."

Just like the real Hermione had promised, the Order Members watched her goad the two men on with varying degrees of astonishment. Hermione, of course, was most interested in her DADA teacher´s reaction and tried to watch him surreptitiously. While his face did not betray any strong emotion at all, the tightening of his eyes and a slight furrowing of his brows indicated that he was watching closely. The tension was mounting and the two men got increasingly agitated. Even Bellatrix´s warning didn´t stop them.

"You played the game quite well, Miss Granger. I hope you do realise though, that had you miscalculated the hatred between those two, your insults might have backfired nastily."

"Thank you, Professor Dumbledore. And yes, I do realise this. I didn´t feel like I had any other option, though."

Then Dolohov started denying any sexual malfunctions and Pettigrew started laughing. Professor Snape snorted when memory-Hermione started to lecture both men on psychoanalysis and projection.

"Now this is quite a new form of torture. Very inventive, Miss Granger."

I get your hidden compliment, thank you.

"Well, it did its job."

"Shut the fuck up, Wormtail. And you, you little bitch, I´ll stuff that foul mouth of yours with good hard Death Eater cock soon enough."

"Oh? And here I thought it was the rat´s job to do the sucking up. Ever thought about why his name is petting-grew?" Accompanying this, Hermione made a rather obvious gesture with her index finger and winked.

This time it was Dolohov´s laughter that set off his comrade´s wrath. "Merlin, I never thought of that. Petting-grew, you wicked little sucker. I truly wondered just why you were being kept alive for so long. Guess you must have some hidden talent, eh?"

Hermione decided to up the ante even more. "Oh, yes, though it must be deeply buried, get it? Deeply buried?"

"Miss Granger, I must say I am astonished," Professor McGonagall commented.

"I am sorry, Professor. I know that you do not condone such behaviour, but-"

"Oh, nonsense. You have used their sexist attitudes against them. Well done."

Hermione must have gaped at her Head of House in a rather shell-shocked manner, because the older woman laughed quietly and gave her a genuine smile

"Oh, Miss Granger, really, do put a little bit more faith in me, won´t you? I am not some embittered old spinster who doesn´t know what real life is like. I simply try to protect young women like yourself from getting into situations they suddenly cannot control any longer. But I can say sex and fuck without stumbling, too."

Feeling suitably chastised, Hermione grinned at the other witch and faked looking guiltily to the ground. She was just in time for the grand finale.

"Did you know that rats are omnivores? They swallow everything."

Looking back now she had been very, very lucky. This might well have gone completely wrong. As it was, however, the two men were now going at each other while having completely lost focus on her.

"Well, missy. It seems I have underestimated you."

"I agree. That was really quick thinking, Hermione." Mr. Weasley seemed to have come to terms with that uncouth version of her. Now he looked proud and even a tad bit amused.

"Thanks. Ah, here we go."

"Solaris!"

"Damn it, you bitch. I can´t see, I can´t see! Antonin, Wormtail, grab her, now! I´ll fucking kill you! Do you hear me, I´ll kill you and this bastard Snape!"

"Good luck with that."

Albus Dumbledore chuckled at that. "What an exit line, Miss Granger. Take five points for Gryffindor."

"Thank you, Sir. That is at least a small compensation for the loss of points earlier."

Her Head of House looked at her uncomprehendingly. Then it seemed to dawn on her, and she directed an increasingly murderous gaze at the Head of Slytherin House.

"Severus Snape, I am going to –"

Professor McGonagall never finished this sentence, as memory-Hermione disappeared with a loud bang and they were all transported with her into the bedroom of the hut in the Forest of Dean. As soon as they had solid ground underneath their feet again the older witch grabbed the younger man´s arm and hissed, "We´ll talk about this. Don´t think that I will let it−"

Seven minutes of agonizing transportations followed until the whole group finally stood next to the still unconscious memory-Snape again. It was glaringly obvious that

the young witch was becoming increasingly exhausted and was nearing the boundaries of her capabilities. Still she fought on, crouched down beside her professor, and heaved him into a half-sitting and half-lying position that allowed her to wrap her arms around his torso. Real Hermione wasn´t the only one to shudder as the large red stain of the spy´s blood became visible. One insight suddenly hit home with a vengeance. If the young witch faltered now, the man in her arms would die.

Hermione became aware of a pair of eyes watching her. Her gaze met two blazing black orbs. Professor Snape allowed her to see the tension in his eyes. It made her smile shyly at him. When he joined her at her side she whispered, "I told you I´d never have abandoned you like this." As if on cue, memory-Hermione smoothed away the wet, dark locks from her teacher´s face and whispered, "I´ll keep you safe, I promise, Sir."

The group was sucked into the memory-apparation for the last time and watched concernedly as the young witch fought losing consciousness. Even as memory- Hermione undressed and healed him and then tucked him in, the real Professor Snape remained standing next to her. This time he didn´t comment or step closer to keep a close eye on what she was doing with his unconscious self. In an unlikely comparison to earlier, Hermione felt supported by his solid presence as she watched herself nearly collapse into bed and hide the both of them under the Invisibility cloak. No one spoke for a while. It was so quiet that they could hear the sound of deep breathing from the sleeping couple in the bed in front of them. This time it was Minerva McGonagall who first found words to say.

"Hermione, come here, please."

The older witch had tears in her eyes and relief was written all over her face. In a very rare gesture of affection she opened her arms and enveloped her student in a warm embrace. After she had released the younger witch she stepped back and blew her nose in a tartar-patterned handkerchief.

"Merlin, Hermione, this was far more than any of us could have expected from you at your age. I am very proud of you and I am very grateful that you saved him. Thank you. I think it is more than appropriate to award you 70 points for outstanding courage. Albus?"

"I agree, Minerva. You have done very well, Miss Granger. Without you we´d have lost our colleague yesterday. Thank you, again. 70 points to −"

"No."

She didn´t know why she did it, but somehow she knew that she had to stop the Headmaster from awarding her these points.

"Miss Granger!"

"I am sorry, Professor McGonagall. Sorry, Sir, but I don´t want these points. It doesn´t feel right. I cannot explain right now, but I don´t want them, if that is ok?"

"Miss Granger, you have more than earned these points, and as I understand it, this man over there had the audacity to deduct points from you earlier. This is only fair. Take the points."

"No, I don´t want them."

"Arthur, say something."

"Hermione, I think no one would assume you just did it to get the points. If you want them, take them."

Hermione shook her head. Her Head of House sighed, exasperated.

"Severus, tell her to take these points. You have seen as clearly as we all have that she saved your ass. Even you must concede it."

They all looked to the tall man who until now had been silent. Hermione couldn´t interpret his expression. He examined her for a moment and then spoke to the other adults.

"Unlike you, I believe it is for Miss Granger to decide whether she wants to accept these points or not. As for the earlier deduction of points, 50 points are the usual penalty for being out after curfew in a dangerous situation, don´t you agree? Ask the Headmaster, it is in the school rules."

"How can you be so ungrateful? She has saved you twice. Without her you wouldn´t even be here!"

"But neither would I be without him," Hermione stated calmly.

Minerva McGonagall now switched her gaze to her student. "Nonsense, it is his duty to protect the students, after all. But you didn´t have to do this."

For the first time Hermione felt true anger towards her mentor. "Why ever not, Professor? Why on earth didn´t I have to do this? If he risks his life over and over, it´s just his damned duty. But if I try to save the man I owe my life to several times over, that´s heroism? I am sorry, but that is bullshit. What on earth would all this famed Gryffindor courage be for, if I didn´t use it in a situation like this? You owe me nothing, Sir."

Hermione turned around and walked over to the window at which she had stood this very morning. It hurt her to see that even Professor McGonagall had her prejudices and unfair views pertaining to Severus Snape. And, of course, it wasn´t typical for her to confront her teacher like this. A Gryffindor student defending the Head of Slytherin House to her own Head of House was a strange enough occurrence. The Headmaster decided to intervene then.

"Well, since Miss Granger seems to stand by her decision, I´ll accept it. Let us now move to the next morning, so that we may return to my office. Accelerate!"

Hermione was too preoccupied to realise that a rather humiliating scene was about to unfold before the group of Order members. She forced herself to return to the present and saw herself kicking the man beside her, who was on her with lightning speed. She watched herself fight like a madwoman. She struggled, scratched, bit and spat at him. The scene escalated further.

"What the –" The man above her suddenly loosened his hold on her.

"N..no, no!"

"Miss Granger!"

"Get off me, you disgusting, perverted little –"

Memory-Hermione finally realised who her attacker really was.

"Ppprofffessor Ssnnape?"

His vitriolic response cut through the otherwise quiet room. Real Hermione was fighting a rising panic. Everything so far had been acceptable to her. Even when she had undressed and gotten into bed earlier, her nakedness had only been an aside. But in a few seconds the uncontrolled version of her DADA teacher would expose her to ridicule and leave her defenseless. Not that she expected any of the adults to think badly of her or react in an inappropriate way, but she didn´t want to be seen like this. It had been a deeply embarrassing and violating moment for her. She trusted all of them, but that didn´t mean that she wanted them to share this intimate and hurtful moment.

He would do it now. She heard mad-Snape shout "Do you understand?" and saw him start to sit up. Any second now.

"Arresto memoriam!"

The deep silky voice brought the memory to a stop. The two people on the bed simply froze in their respective places like a still out of a movie.

"Well, are we leaving?"

"Severus, why have you stopped the memory? I think it is important to watch it to the end."

"Unlike you, Minerva, I had a rather taxing day yesterday and would like to get as much sleep as I can before having to tend the herd of little beasts in the Great Hall this evening. All you´d be seeing from now on would be us dressing again, Miss Granger telling me what we have already seen, and us leaving. Satisfied? Good, I´ll be going."

And suddenly Professor Snape vanished from the Pensieve. The others looked at each other, bemused, but one after the other followed suit. Hermione was the last to leave. She looked at the bed and felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

That sneaky bastard. That brilliant, loyal, sneaky bastard.

Thank you, Severus!