Severus Snape breathed in deep with satisfaction as he took in the changes he had made to his new DADA classroom. The usual tedium of waiting for classes to start—for yet another year of the same potions, the same lectures, the same old tricks—was replaced by an unusual sense of exhilaration that could only be described as excitement. If he had had any doubts that he could outdo the fear factor of having jars of dead organisms staring at his students, they were squelched by the gruesome pictures of people in pain lining the walls on either side. He had to smile at that. For once he actually found himself looking forward to his first class just to see the looks of horror on their faces. The anticipation was made even sweeter by the fact that the Golden Trio would be present—a fact that usually would have made him dread opening that door.

Ironically, when he did finally pull open the heavy door for the little brats to invade his sanctuary it was the Terrible Three themselves, headed by a very startled looking Granger standing on the other side. She clearly hesitated and he could see a blush blossoming on her cheeks.

"Inside," he commanded and she stumbled in, followed by the rest of the class. She obviously hadn't forgotten their last meeting and just as obviously hadn't told her idiot friends about it, either. So he had been right that they wouldn't notice her missing. The must just kill her, he sneered. The little know-it-all was already seated in the front row with her book out, ready for another splendid lesson in Defense Against the Dark Arts. He felt his insides coil in hatred for the innocence of naïve schoolgirls preparing to study the evil he faced every day from the safety of a classroom and with her stupid little nose in a harmless little book!

"I have not asked you to take out your books," he growled. "I wish to speak to you, and I want your fullest attention." That means you Potter. Arrogant brat. He did not fail to notice how quickly Miss Granger slipped her textbook back into her bag. Always eager to impress. Insufferable chit.

He paused a moment, allowing the tension to build in the room and for his own anger to quiet. This was his first lesson teaching DADA, after all. He wanted to savor it. The Dark Arts themselves were far more intricate, complex and powerful than any of these dunderheads fully understood. For once he had the opportunity to express his opinions about them and to teach these pathetic children to be the warriors they would need to be very soon. And it didn't hurt that Potter was outraged at his assignment to the post.

After a few preliminary introductions to the course, he set them against each other to practice nonverbal spells; something that many of them clearly had no idea was possible. The fools didn't seem to think that he would know the difference between silent and whispered and he could feel a headache coming on.

One such fool was Neville Longbottom who sent a mumbled Jelly-Legs Jinx at the Granger girl who repelled it without making a sound. For some reason this made him unaccountably angry. The other students gawked at her in admiration, but he turned away as if he had not noticed.

But he had seen. He had seen the quiet triumph in her eyes; not surprise, but something different. Surely it had been a sort of arrogance. But, no. No, it had been more like relief. Hope?

Of course the idiot ginger was getting nowhere with precious Potter. "Pathetic, Weasley," he sneered. "Here—let me show you—"

But before he could even cast a spell the trigger-happy Chosen One had shouted "Protego!" and Snape was knocked backwards by the Shield Charm.

"Do you remember me telling you we are practicing nonverbal spells, Potter?" he fumed.

"Yes," replied the arrogant little snot.

"Yes, sir," Severus corrected, his blood boiling.

"There's no need to call me 'sir,' Professor."

In another world, under different circumstances, Potter would be bubotuber pus on his little friends' faces for that. Severus clenched his fists in an effort to reign in the anger exploding inside of him, calling for release. Potter would pay!

Waiting outside the familiar dungeon classroom, there was a certain air of excitement surrounding the 6th year Gryffindor students, not dampened by the sour expressions of the Slytherins standing off to the side. This would be Potions as they had never known it: a class where they wouldn't have Snape breathing down their necks and taking off House Points. Hell, they might actually RECEIVE points for once!

As their new professor led them inside, Hermione noticed several cauldrons full of freshly brewed potions sitting at the front of the room. Intrigued, she strained to see inside from her regular seat near the back beside Neville. They were all obvious to her, of course, but she wondered about the purpose of having them already brewed at the beginning of class. Her question was answered, however, when Professor Slughorn asked his students to identify the potions. Hermione eagerly answered all three before anyone else had a chance. Not that anyone else could have answered.

But when she stepped forward to expand upon her definition of the Amortentia, the scent of the potion immediately affected her. "It's supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us," she found herself saying, "and I can smell freshly mown grass and new parchment and—" something else. What it was, she could not say, but it had the most sensational effect on her. What is that smell?

The remainder of the class would have been rather enjoyable, as the students were actually allowed to chat as they worked. A happy buzz of conversation warmed the cool dungeon as the students went about preparing their batches of Draught of Living Death. Hermione, however, was having rather a difficult time. Not only was a part of her mind still trying to sort out the peculiar scent of the Amortentia, but she was trying desperately to win the Felix Felicis and ironically not having much luck. She knew that the potion could be very useful against whatever challenges the Trio were sure to face very soon, but her draught was not behaving the way it was supposed to.

When Harry won the Liquid Luck of his own accord, Hermione knew something was amiss. Most of the students had done considerably better without Professor Snape hovering over them. Neville, for example, hadn't even completely ruined his batch. But could that really be the difference between Harry spoiling every potion Hermione didn't personally assist him with and suddenly making a perfect batch of Draught of Living Death; a potion so complex that Hermione herself was having problems? She didn't exactly trust Professor Slughorn, but could she put it past him to interfere with Harry's potion in some way? It just didn't make sense.

Ron's shouts of triumph were beginning to irritate her. Alright, yes, it had been wrong to jinx McLaggen's broom, but she really hadn't wanted to deal with another fight between the boys if Harry didn't give the position to Ron, or for the rest of Gryffindor to blame Harry for choosing his best mate even after he lost the trials. Either way she knew she would be the one that had to comfort Ron with false praises of his mediocre Quidditch skills. On their way back to Gryffindor tower, however, she was beginning to think that might have been easier to deal with. Part of her actually wanted to knock him over the head and scream at him that he wouldn't have even made it on the team if it hadn't been for her so he could go ahead and shut the hell up about what a great job he'd done!

Upon entering the castle once more Ron was bombarded with well-wishers as Professor Slughorn hailed Harry for a word. Hermione didn't stop to wait for them, taking the opportunity instead to run off in the direction of the library for some peace.

She just wanted to escape as was evident by her fast pace as she neared the library and its promise of safe haven. Reaching out a hand for the doorframe she swung her body inside and right into Professor Severus Snape. She knew her immediate gasp and unguarded expression had given away her fright and tried clumsily to recover.

"Sorry, Professor." A sneer spread across his features as he looked down at her and she realized that she was blocking his exit. As she stepped aside, he followed her, but did not pass. Rather his imposing form cornered her and she felt her heart pounding as he took her in.

"That was quite a display at the Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts," he drawled. She was sure from his evil expression that he knew what she had done and she felt the blood drain from her face. "I assure you, I have no complaints about Weasley's… achievement." The word was laden with meaning. He raised an eyebrow. "While he's wondering where the Quaffle went, my team will be up on the stage in their rightful place claiming the Quidditch Cup for our own." His sneer was vicious and she looked for something appropriate to comeback with, but found she could not play this game with him. He was right. Then, with a swirl of his robes, he was gone.