Hello! Welcome, to both established SS/HG shippers (feel free to skip to the end of the A/N) and new comers! If you are unfamiliar with the ship, please read the A/N.

Especially if you've come from one of my other stories, please note that this is Severus/Hermione romance. And it will be more than a bit different from TWOT or 1995. (actually very different) Don't worry, though, Hermione will be 18 before the romance starts.

This story is also filed under "Adventure." This means that there will be fighting, action, plotting (spy story!), and things other than kissing in this story. So... be ready for action, plots, and kissing!

This is a story in three parts, all of which are going to be under this general story. Part One: Hermione grows up (while sneaky things happen in Hogwarts). Part Two: Hermione and Severus realize they love each other (while sneaky things happen with the Order and the Death Eaters). Part Three: Severus and Hermione actually make a go of it (while trying their best to end the Dark Lord).

Not everything is going to be canon... in fact, plenty is changed in this first chapter alone. You'll see. This will bear some similarities to When a Lioness Fights, by kayly silverstorm, but not really because of things that might ruin the plot. :) So read on and see why for yourself.

Chapters will be posted every Friday. As I mentioned before, I have 15 done and I am writing the 16th. I've been working on this story for two years, and it is more than 100k... so no matter what you will get that much.

Part One

Chapter 1

"Severus. Lemon drop?" The only reply from the man before him was a pointed glare. Albus Dumbledore nodded, resigned, as he tucked the brown paper packet of candy back into a hidden pocket of his colorful robes. He was used to his stern and severe Potions Master declining his tart offering. But, cheerful as ever, the old man smiled and inclined his head once more, silently bidding the man to sit.

Severus Snape appeared to be distinctly uncomfortable in the small, cozy office. His black robes were tightly wrapped around him and his trademark scowl was more firmly in place than ever. It had not been an easy night for the professor. "You needed to speak with me, Albus?" His words were crisp and clean, spoken in silky distaste, making it quite clear that he had a hundred other things to do, most of them preferable to the current situation. He was quite talented in the use of his voice- he managed to convey his displeasure with the late summons, his unpleasant but not totally unexpected surprise after the Sorting, and his irritation with the world in general.

Coughing slightly, Albus replied. "Yes. What were your impressions of young Mr. Potter?" As expected, the Potions Master lost a slight measure of his control at the name. However, his loss of control was different from that of an ordinary man- Severus Snape's eyes grew darker, if possible, and if anyone had been able to penetrate their depths, they would have seen a sharp bite of pain. His hands flexed once, and his sallow cheeks held the barest hint of a flush. But that was all.

"He was obviously unprepared for his entry into the Wizarding World," the dour man said, even more clipped and precise than before. "He has bonded with the Side of Light," -this was said in an impressively sarcastic tone- "One of the Weasleys has befriended him. Draco Malfoy offered a hand of friendship, which Potter denied. He was under the Sorting Hat for a slightly longer than normal time- probably the hat deciding between two houses. It takes no idiot to guess that it was a fight between Gryffindor and Slytherin."

His words had the desired effect- Dumbledore frowned, glaring at the man in front of him. "Explain how you came to this conclusion." It was indeed of great importance that the only one to ever survive the wrath of Lord Voldemort- that is to say, Harry Potter- stay on the Side of Light and never stray. For if Harry Potter was lost, all was lost.

And if certain people knew that Harry had almost been Sorted into Slytherin…

Severus snorted. "He was Sorted into Gryffindor. That is one house. The fact he was mouthing 'Not Slytherin, not Slytherin' gives us the other one." His face was as expressionless as it normally was, but the faint nervous tick under his right eye gave him away. "May I leave? I have classes tomorrow and a new batch of incompetent imbeciles to keep from blowing up their cauldrons and my classroom."

"Have you finished your part of the protections for the Stone?" asked Dumbledore, still considering the information.

Handing over a roll of parchment, Severus stood. "And it rhymes, now," he said sarcastically. "As requested. Anything else?"

Albus nodded slowly, reading over the riddle. "No, no. Are you certain this will provide an adequate challenge for Harry?"

"Most wizards couldn't solve a simple logic puzzle," snapped Snape, anger flickering in his eyes. "And may I remind you again how ridiculously dangerous it is to even consider having the Stone-"

"You may leave, Severus." Albus looked up. "I've been planning this for years. This will be a perfect test of the boy's abilities. And if it happens to draw Tom out of hiding, all the better."

He lost his mind years ago, Severus thought resignedly. And if the Dark Lord does reappear, what will you do old man? The Order of the Phoenix has grown feeble and complacent, whilst the Death Eaters chafe at the bonds of everyday drudgery and remember the days when the New Order was within reach…

With a dramatic flair of his robes, Severus Snape departed the Headmaster's office with his scowl set even more firmly than before. Woe behold any student out of bed on their first night back- the feared Potions Master was on the prowl.

The round faces of the first years stared up at him, for their first Potions class ever. Some looked apprehensive- those were the ones that had older siblings that he had taught. Others looked eager- there was one bushy haired girl with chipmunk teeth that looked as if she might bounce out of her seat.

And there was Harry (not James however much he may look bloody identical to his father ) Potter. Next to him was a sniveling Weasley and on his other side was a boy who looked absolute terrified.

As he took roll, he evaluated his plan for the class. He needed to make sure they were terrified of him- potions accidents could be deadly and he needed absolute control in the classroom. Of course I don't think it's fun to have the little shits so terrified that they stop breathing when I come near. Oh, who am I kidding. Of course it is. And it helps insure they don't blow me up by accident.

"Ah, yes," Severus said softly, drawing out the last syllable. "Harry Potter. Our new…" oh, how to phrase this? So many options. "Celebrity." His godson and the accompanying cronies sniggered. He didn't glance up again until he finished calling roll.

And now for his favorite part of the first class. His speech. The time to see if any of the dunderheads in his classroom would possibly be able to grasp the beauty and subtleties of potion making.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making," he said, savoring ever word, voice barely above a whisper. He glanced around the room, then moved out from behind his desk. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I do not expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…" he drew pause for breath. This was interesting.

The annoyingly eager girl was perched at the edge of her seat, face perfectly still and serious. "I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death-" he narrowed his eyes and made his voice into a dangerous snap. "If you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach." That snapped her out of it. He turned his attention to Harry Potter.

And now. The moment of truth. Would Lily's son actually have her gift for Potions? Would he have bothered to read ahead in his books, the way he and she had twenty years ago? They had read so far ahead, discussing all the subjects but Potions most of all.

And although he was 99% sure this would fly over the boy's head, he would get the last of his guilt over Lily's death out at the same time. No, you won't. This is foolish. Someone else might understand it, and then where would you be? And you're kidding yourself if you think apologizing to her son is going to change anything. You're going to regret Lily's death until the day you die and plant symbols aren't going to help one bit.

"Potter," he barked. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?" I bitterly regret her death, Potter. I would have taken her place. I tried.

Potter didn't answer, but the girl in the front row had her hand raised as soon as he finished the last word. He ignored her. "I don't know, sir."

"Tut, tut- fame clearly isn't everything." He sneered at the boy, in lieu of actually showing his disappointment. Damn.

"Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?" An easier question, one a first year could definitely answer, even if they had only briefly looked over the book. Again the girl's hand shot high in the air, and he could see her biting her lip to refrain from bouncing up and down. Gryffindors.

Again, the same answer from the boy. "I don't know, sir."

For some reason, this annoyed him greatly. All you had to do was look at the bloody text before coming. "Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?" His eyes met Potters and something inside his heart clenched. Lily's eyes. In James Potter's face. It hurt.

One more question. An incredibly easy one. "What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?" It seemed the girl in front was getting fed up- she stood up, not that it added much height, arm stretched in the air.

"I don't know," the boy said. "I think Hermione does, though, why don't you try her?" The laughter rankled at Snape. Just like his father.

He glared at the girl, eyes delving into her mind. She was practically screaming the answers to his questions, projecting him so loudly it was incredibly easy to pull them from her mind. Surprisingly, she was right. "Sit down, girl," he snapped at her.

"For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite. Well? Why aren't you copying that down?"

He could feel a headache coming on.

"It cannot happen again!" Dumbledore roared, façade of a calm, wise, old man fled in the face of the day's events. "The boy almost died today during his first Quidditch match. It is unacceptable!" So if someone other than you puts him in danger, then it's a problem. Duly noted.

Severus Snape watched with wary eyes at the unnatural display of temper on Dumbledore's part. "The Potter boy is more trouble than he's worth," he said caustically, if cautiously. "First the ridiculous deal with Draco and the Longbottom boy's Remembrall when they were learning to fly. Then the Midnight Duel when Draco tried and failed to trap him, Weasley, Longbottom, and that Granger girl." At the mention of the busy haired nuisance, his face twisted into a sneer. "And after that, Halloween." Severus felt a throbbing in his leg and arm at the mention of the dratted night. "The boy goes after a bloody mountain troll, no matter what Granger said. The girl's mind was surprising in the amount of control she has over it, but it is defenseless." Those clear brown eyes had hidden a beautifully organized mind, one worthy of a beginning Occlumens. If she hadn't been a Gryffindor, he would have recommended she study the mind arts

Albus steepled his fingers, and nodded gravely. "That was brave of Harry. To go to the defense of a girl he barely knows is something worthy of Gryffindor House." No, Severus thought. To go against a twelve foot mountain troll as a first year with hardly any magical training to save an innocent you trapped with the previously mentioned twelve foot mountain troll is stupid.

"If you say it was something his father would have done, I assure you, I will revisit my dinner," Severus said dryly. "And as for the girl, he could have chosen someone better. She is nothing but a walking, talking encyclopedia. I'm sure you've noticed how high both the Weasley boy and Potter's grades have risen since they befriended the chit?" It was point of constant irritation to him that she kept helping them. They were undeserving and unthankful of her time. Although, he supposed, he must be at least a little grateful. All the time it must take her to attempt to pound their essays into any sort of sense meant less time for her to practice written regurgitation on the miserably lengthy papers she turned in to him.

The Headmaster just smiled blithely. "Yes. I assumed she had influenced them to study more." No, you didn't, you bloody wanker. Severus made no effort to disguise his disgust with the Headmaster, rolling his eyes and huffing out a loud sigh.

"She was the one who set my bloody robes on fire today," he muttered. "Conveniently tripping over Quirrell on her way to roast a teacher." At Dumbledore's raised eyebrow, he elaborated. "She's bright enough to recognize the signs of a person who is jinxing another person. However, Miss Granger is not bright enough to know the difference between a jinx and a counter-jinx."

The Headmaster furrowed his brow, and eyed Severus thoughtfully. Too thoughtfully. In Severus' opinion, anytime Albus Dumbledore got that particular expression it would be a bad few years- decades even- for whomever he was thinking of. "In your opinion, Harry Potter gets himself into far too much danger, correct?" The wily glint in his eye was visible to Snape, who had seen it directed at himself far too often in past years for comfort.

"Yes," said the Potions Master carefully. "He has a dangerous disregard for the rules. He enjoys wandering the school at night. I believe he will develop an even bigger head with the Quidditch success that will assuredly be his. His grades are mediocre and his friendship with Granger means only that he gets by with cheating off of her and not learning."

"So," Dumbledore proposed, quite logically, "He needs a protector, does he not?" His blue eyes were twinkling madly, and inwardly, Severus cursed like a sailor for allowing himself to be caught in such an obvious trap.

He glared at the Headmaster. "No. Not me. I refuse." His mind flew to Lily Evans, the first person who had ever needed him, and the person who, debatably, had hurt him the most in the grand total of his thirty long, long years. No, he hadn't loved her. But to a teenaged boy, infatuation was close enough and for a man as damaged as Severus, Lily's actions had been devastating. "I will not."

"You promised to watch over him," Dumbledore reminded him, tone somewhere between reprimanding and warning. "You promised the memory of his mother." However, when the old man saw that the Potions Master refused to budge on the matter, he sighed. "And anyway, Severus, I wasn't thinking of you."

This surprised the firmly stubborn man- but the only signs were a slight widening of his eyes and a stiffening of his back. "What?" Some other poor soul roped into giving his or her life for the Boy-Who-Lived. Wasn't Lily enough? He had to look away- to concentrate on something other than the Headmaster's twinkling eyes and solemn expression. A study of the cluster of silver spindly instruments on a corner shelf fared nicely- he watched them puff for a calming moment until he faced the man again.

"For all your talents as a spy," Dumbledore said seriously, "You have alienated the boy. He would not come to you for help or protection. In fact, Hagrid tells me that the boy detests you." Likewise, Severus added in his mind. Dumbledore, master Legilimens that he was, did not notice, but continued his with his theory. "Therefore, we need someone closer to Harry. I was thinking about one of his friends."

"One of his friends?" whispered Severus, face paling in degrees. "The bumbling red-headed oaf or the overeager know-it-all? Unless you were thinking of the walking disaster that is Neville Longbottom?" He shook his head once more, stringy black hair flinging about his face. "I forbid it. Not only would you be putting Potter in more danger, but you would be ripping away the childhood of one of his friends." The Dark Lord will return soon enough. Let them be children for as long as they damn well can.

"But I think it is necessary," Dumbledore intoned sadly. "For the Greater Good." He leaned back in his chair, and regarded the man in front of him. "Severus," he said, clearly attempting to sound wise and reasonable. "Think about it. Over the summer we can train either Mr. Weasley, or Miss Granger. Take them to one of the old safe houses from the glory days of the Order. Then we could be assured Harry is as safe as possible when we are not with him."

"But which one?" asked Severus sarcastically. "Mr. Weasley will probably blush, stammer, wet his pants, and promptly faint when confronted by a spider. And Miss Granger will stand stock still running through all the spells she has ever learned trying to decide which one will earn her more points before being stunned by whoever her opponent is."

Dumbledore winced. He had clearly not thought this through- if that was possible for Albus Dumbledore. "Then it is up to you," he said finally, in his best delegating voice. "Report back to me before the end of the year as to which on would be the best choice. And I think the traps we planned for the stone will be an excellent test."

"If you want to go back, I won't blame you," Harry said earnestly. "You can take the cloak, I won't need it now." In the dim light of the corridor, Hermione sighed. Something about this entire set up was fishy. She wasn't about to let Harry go into it alone. The little, friendless girl in her clung to him and his approval desperately- and Harry valued bravery.

"Don't be stupid," said Ron. Hermione nodded, and glanced at Ron over Harry's shoulder for confirmation. Ron was where she drew the line- she had enough pride not to try to seek his approval. Harry was enough of a blow to her ego.

"We're coming," said Hermione, in her 'this is what I am saying and that is not changing anytime soon' voice. Together, the trio crept into the room where the sleeping Cerberus lay, snorting and snoring. Somehow, the beast sensed them, its ears perking up and three of its eyes opening threateningly.

Hermione gently eased the wooden flute from Harry's motionless hand, and began to play, desperately trying to remember her music classes at day school. As she played, as soothingly as she could, Ron and Harry pushed one of Fluffy's paws off the trapdoor. When the boys had opened it, they gathered around the edge, looking down.

All Hermione could see was a narrow tunnel, the walls dark and moist. And I suppose I'm going to be jumping into that pit of despair sometime soon, she thought with a sigh and a quick scale. Her fingers fumbled, and she mentally cursed before starting to play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.' Harry gave her a strange look, but she shrugged. It was Mozart, after all.

"I can't see anything," Ron whispered. "It's just a dark tunnel." With a quick glance at both his friends, he paled then adopted a skittish grin. "Me first!" Hermione forced herself to keep playing as Ron's screams bounced off the walls of the tunnel, heart stopping for a moment until she heard a thump and an "Oof" from Ron as he landed.

"It's a bit of a rough landing," Ron called up, thin voice echoing off the walls of the tunnel. "But there is some kind of squishy stuff here." Hermione grinned in relief, then motioned with her elbow. Harry winked and saluted, then jumped down with a strained yell. When she heard him land, she bit down her fear and followed him, tucking the flute into her pocket- she had a feeling she would need it later. Above her, she could hear the dogs awake and start barking, raising a racket that would never be heard at this time of night in the enormous castle.

She landed with an exhalation of breath, on what felt like slimy tentacles. Looking around her, she saw Harry and Ron sitting up on the luminous green-gray surface of something that looked vaguely familiar. There was a musty, earthy smell in the air, and the walls dripped with moisture.

"What now?" asked Ron, pale blue eyes turned in her direction. "What next?" Funny how they always expect me to know everything.

She was about to answer him when Harry let out a strangled yelp. "Hermione!" She turned to face him, finding suspicious resistance. With a gasp, she realized that the tentacles they were sitting on were slowly creeping up their bodies. Harry was trapped up to the waist, Ron to the chest. Both boys started struggling furiously, fear evident in their round faces.

Ignoring their cries, Hermione clenched her eyes shut and focused, thinking as hard as she could. What did she know about this thing -it was a greenish-gray, it had tentacles, it was moving, it was in the dark and damp- her mind pulled up the pages of a Herbology book she had read months ago.

The plant known as Devil's Snare is a dangerous one- especially in the dark and damp. It is most active at night, when its tendrils- usually a shade of green, brown, or gray- spread and ensnare small birds and mammals. It lives in caves or under deep cover because sunlight is most deadly to it.

"Heat!" Hermione shouted. "Heat and sunlight. Fire!" Despair rolled over her- how was she supposed to make a fire in the deepest recesses of the castle? "We don't have any wood!"

"Are you a witch or not?" roared Ron. "Merlin, Hermione!" Humiliation brought a blush to her cheeks as she extracted her wand and let out a stream of small blue-bell flames. Recoiling from the light, the plant allowed the trio to pull themselves free, making their way over to the only wall that was made of stone instead of dirt, the only wall that had a small passageway.

The next room had keys with wings and brooms to catch them with. Harry took care of that challenge in less than fifteen minutes, his Seeker's eyes pinpointed the only key with a bent wing. She braved her fear of brooms (she had thought those were just stories- what sane person trusts their life to a stick with other sticks bundled to the end?) and helped Harry and Ron corner the darned thing.

The room after, however, was not as easy.

"Ron!" Hermione cried, watching her red-headed friend and occasional tormenter crumple to the ground from the white stone queen's blow to his head. She was echoed by Harry, who, face grim and resolute, stepped to the square needed to checkmate the king.

They won, rushing past and barely noticing the submission of the white pieces. Hermione dragged Ron with them, and then stopped at the door. She and Harry both wanted to access their friend's condition before moving any further. Flashes of medical textbooks were appearing in her mind's eye at a mile a minute, phrases like subdural hematoma, hypercalcemia, and subarachnoid hemorrhage floating in.

Heart beating in her throat, Hermione felt along the scrawny boy's throat for a pulse. When she found one, faint, but there, she broke out in a grin of relief. Not matter how much Ron insulted her and mocked her, he was still the second of the two friends she had. "He'll be okay, for now," she assured Harry. "As long as his- his head injury isn't bad, he'll be okay."

"That's good," Harry whispered, glancing back at the pieces. "Wizard Chess is brutal." A shiver of dread ran through him as he forcefully drew his gaze from the piles of black and white rubble littering the sides of the chessboard.

"We can't stay here," Hermione said firmly, looking Harry in the eye. "We have to keep moving."

They passed through the door that had been blocked by the white pieces. It swung open, and out wafted a stench like the two had only experienced once- that of a full grown mountain troll. Sweat, mud, putrid flesh, urine, and bad breath, all rolled into one. They peered through the crack in the door, and what they saw caused Hermione to moan in dull terror and Harry to let a small cry of fear escape.

It was a mountain troll- one that was standing tall in the chamber, holding a club in one hand, feet chained to a magically reinforced metal ring at the center of the floor. She eyed the chain- its reach was just long enough to allow the troll enough room to swing his club around to every edge of the room. It sniffed the air and lumbered a few steps in her direction before she squeaked and shut the door quickly.

"What are we going to do?" she asked, steeling herself. She had faced one of these before. They won. Against all odds, they had won, and she had lived. They could do it again. "Harry," she said sharply when he didn't respond. "What do you want to do?"

He looked at her, eyes resigned and face far too solemn for a young boy. "I need to get past it. You can stay here with Ron."

She shook her head. "No. You need help." She didn't say she wasn't afraid, because that wasn't true. She didn't say that they would be okay because she wasn't sure if that was true either. "I'll help you."

"Do you have a plan?" asked Harry. "Please say you have a plan, or at least an idea." And so it falls to me. Homework help is nothing to Devil's Snare and trolls. Plan- a plan we need a plan… What worked? The club, the spell- we need something simple…

Hermione tried her best to give him a reassuring smile. "Exactly what we did last time. Use its own club like a weapon. One of us plays the distraction; one of us hits it with the club."

Harry just looked at her, then grabbed her and hugged her. "Thank you for being my friend. If we survive, I'll owe you." She hugged him back, and forced herself not to cry.

"Let's go in on three," she suggested, pulling out her wand. "Distraction, or spell-caster?" Darn it all, her hand was shaking. Not the time, Hermione. Get it together.

Harry considered for a moment, then squared his shoulders and grabbed his wand as well. "Distraction. I have good reflexes and you're the better caster." She nodded, then got behind him as he swung open the door. "One," he said quietly.

"Two," she responded, crossing herself shakily. She had been more or less religious, before she knew she was a witch. It could never hurt, she reasoned.

Harry turned and met her eyes. "Three," he said, then ran into the room, Hermione on his heels. The moment they were past the iron door, it swung shut of its own accord, trapping them inside.

"Hey!" he shouted, waving his arms. "Big, fat, and ugly! Yeah, you!" Harry continued to shout and move, confusing the troll, who stood there for several moments before raising his club.

Hermione took a breath, and opened her eyes, focusing on the wooden club. "Wingardium Leviosa!" she incanted under her breath, hoping not to alert the beast to her presence. Swiftly, the club began to rise out of the troll's hand.

When he saw what was happening, Harry shouted with excitement, further enraging the troll. With a loud roar, he lumbered toward Harry. Hermione noticed this in the back of her mind as she maneuvered the club over the troll's skull. The height of the chamber made it easy for her to lift if high, high enough to knock it out.

With a slash of her wand, she released the spell, allowing the thick length of wood to come crashing down on the skull of the lumbering brute. It landed with a resounding crack, splintering as it split in half and fell to the floor.

She heard Harry give a shout of glee as he ran around the troll to her side. "Look!" he said, pointing, as the troll, weaving unsteadily from side to side, fell to dirt floor with thud. The two of them looked at it, then at each other.

"Blimey," Harry breathed. "It isn't moving, is it?" Hermione shook her head, mute. "Nope? Okay, let's go!" She stood motionless for a moment longer, then followed her best friend. She would stay with him, no matter what.

The door the troll had been guarding opened to reveal a simple room with a stone floor, a wooden table, and several potion vials. As soon as they were both in the room, purple fire sprang forth at their backs and black fire guarded the door at the other end of the room.

Hermione took deep breaths to calm herself, relieved to be free of the awful stench of the troll. They had beaten the troll- they could surely walk through fire. The irony brought a small curl to the side of her mouth. "Well," she said, voice not shaking as much as had thought it would, "Well. We need to figure out what we need to do."

Approaching the table, she found a sheet of parchment with beautiful (familiar?) handwriting spelling out a riddle.

Danger lies before, while safety lies behind
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine's left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onward, neither is your friend;
Third as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf or giant holds death on their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.

Hermione felt her smile grow stronger, and she laughed outright in relief. Harry stared at her, having finished reading the riddle over her shoulder. Still laughing, she grabbed him and hugged him.

"This is brilliant!" she said, grinning like crazy. "Most wizards haven't an ounce of logic, and they'd be trapped here forever! Snape is bloody brilliant!" For it was obviously Snape's challenge- he was the Potions Master and he did have an amazingly sharp wit. Unfortunately, that wit was usually used to torment his classes of incompetents. And it was his handwriting on the paper.

Harry grinned a little at her excitement. "So you can solve this?" he asked, glancing at the table, where the seven bottles glittered ominously in the colored light of the two fires.

Hermione nodded, already lost in thought. The second left and the second right are the nettle wine. That means the one on the far left is a poison. The other one, on the right of the nettle wine is the one to go back. That means one of the three in the middle is the one to get to the stone! One of the nettle wine is the biggest bottle, and the smallest bottle isn't the other nettle wine. So the round bottle, the tiny one, is the one to go forward!

"I got it," she announced. "The one on the far right is the one to go back. The one in the middle, the littlest one, is the one to go forward." They both looked at the smallest bottle, the one with barely a mouthful of glittering potion.

Harry looked at her solemnly. "There's only enough for one. You go back and take care of Ron, and get a message to Dumbledore. I'll go forward."

"But what if Voldemort's there?" she said, desperately wanting to take his place. "What if he's with-"

"Don't worry," Harry said, cutting her off sharply, but with a smile. "I've beaten him once before, I can do it again."

Unable to hold herself back any longer, she threw herself into his arms. "Oh, Harry," she said, a few tears escaping. "You're a great wizard, you know."

"I'm not as good as you," Harry said, embarrassed. Hermione felt a brief annoyance rise inside her, and quelled it. She, if not he, could all but sense the rising evil in the next room, behind the flames. He need, for lack of a better term, a pep talk.

"Me!" said Hermione. "Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery – oh, Harry – be careful!" A sharp spike of fear ran through her body, as she thought of what she was sending her first friend off into.

She handed him the smallest bottle, the one with the potion to go forward. "Here," she said, willing her hand not to tremble. "Go." She grabbed her own bottle, and crossed to her side of the room. "On three?" she offered.

He nodded, guiltily. Hermione knew that he would probably never admit he was terrified. "Yeah. One."

She gave him a brilliant smile, and toasted the small bottle. "Two… bravery!" She got the laugh out of him she wanted.

"Three," he said, and together they uncorked the bottles and swallowed a mouthful. With one more look, they darted through the flames. The freezing cold of the potion battled against the searing heat of the flames before she emerged on the other side, intact. She let out the breath she had been holding.

Hermione ran past the troll, barreling into the chess room. Ron was on the floor, just starting to stir. As soon as he was semi-conscious, Hermione was dragging him along with her through the flying keys. There, she cursed and grabbed a broom. "I hate flying," she muttered, pulling Ron with her back to the Devil's Snare.

It seemed scared of her now, the plant seeming reluctant as it wound around her ankles. With a few slashes of her wand, the bluebell flames were back in the air and the plant was recoiling.

"Come on," she told Ron, who was still groggy, and definitely not liking the fast pace. But he got on the broom, and held on to her waist as they rose up to where the slats of the wooden trapdoor let a few slivers of light peek through. The fear that had left with her new found purpose returned: what if the dog was lying over the trapdoor? Or what if the music trick didn't work?

But the trapdoor gave way, and playing the flute lulled the Cerberus to sleep. Hermione grabbed Harry's cloak from the floor, where it lie forgotten in their rush to save the stone. Ron was starting to walk better now- he was moaning about his head instead of throwing her angry glares.

They ran out of the room into the forbidden third floor corridor- Hermione ordering Ron to go to the Hospital Wing while she went to find Dumbledore.

"So, Severus," Dumbledore said genially, leaning back in this throne-chair and folding his hands into a thoughtful triangle. "What did you think?"

Severus, slouching in the armchair in front of Dumbledore's desk, glared at the old man. "I think it was very stupid of you. Sir. The children could have died. You precious Boy-Who-Lived could have died!" he spat.

"You're just upset that they thought you were the bad guy," Dumbledore retorted, chuckling. "They were trying to save the Stone from you."

Severus just scowled, and Dumbledore straightened suddenly, eyes growing serious. "But it is done, for better or for worse. Which companion would make the best protector?"

"Miss Granger," Severus answered without hesitation. "She was clever. She did not freeze under pressure. She was brave. She made sure your boy hero's courage did not fail him. She has logic, and she did what needed to be done. She made sure she had a way back." And I have just damned her. Hopefully, she will be smart enough to say no.

Dumbledore frowned. "Not Ronald Weasley? He and Harry are great friends. He was Harry's first friend, and he makes him laugh." At the Potions Master's raised eyebrow, he sighed, agreeing. "No, no, you are right, my boy. It must be the girl."

Both men looked away, Dumbledore examining the series of silver instruments scattered around his office and Severus casting a longing glance at the cool night outside the tower.

"When shall we start to train her?" asked Snape. "She needs to start young." His mind was going through all the things she would have to learn- hand to hand combat, knife fighting, the art of lying and manipulation, healing, and a wide, wide range of spells, Occlumency, Legilimency.

Dumbledore thought, mind obviously darting far ahead in the future. "Not yet. It seems that Harry is safe for now- he has proven he can handle himself for the time being. I'll make subtle suggestions to her parents. But perhaps once the Weasley boy matures a bit, he will make the better choice." It was obvious to the practiced reader of people that Dumbledore wanted the prettiest picture- Potter one day finding out that his loyal best friend had always more-than-had his back throughout the years, rather than the opposite. Potter would probably be horrified that his female best friend was his so-called protector.

Severus shook his head in despair. "You are making a mistake. If you want a fighter, a protector, then you need to start now. If you want Potter to have a friend, a child, you must not start at all."

You've made it through my first chapter- congratulations! And thank you! You know have a general idea of where this story is going. :)

Note: No, Severus isn't all lonely tortured soul who is really perfect, just misunderstood. He is a snarky, albeit intelligent, prat. That isn't going to change. However, we do get tortured lonely soul and he really is perfect for Hermione.

And speaking of Hermione, she isn't going to be Super!Hermione. Well, she actually is going to be a bit Super!Hermione, but she isn't going to become a sex goddess, or be too perfect.

Any questions can be left in a review, although if you have a tumblr, it would be much easier for me to get in contact with you. Mine is on my author's page. Message me, especially if you post SS/HG fanart.

Thank you for reading. See you next Friday!