A/N: Entry for Round 2 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition

Team: Tutshill Tornadoes

Position: Beater 2

Song/Lyrics: "Dare You to Move" by Switchfoot

Prompts: Tiger; Less than perfect; "I can honestly say I do not care"

PROVE ME WRONG

Everyone's watching you now

Everyone waits for you now

What happens next?

2004

Finally, some peace, Hermione thought to herself as she walked down the familiar path towards Hogwarts. It was late spring, and she had purposely escaped London a few weeks after the large celebration commemorating five years after the Second War and the fall of Lord Voldemort. She had chosen not to attend any type of party or festivities. It was a rare moment indeed to be out of the spot light and not in the focus of a camera lens.

Such was the life of a famous war-hero. Because she had helped Harry Potter, she was destined to live the life of a celebrity, despite longing for a private life. Everyone wanted to know her quirks. Her interests. Her favorite food. What makeup and clothing she wore. Where Ron and her went out in public. The pressure was unbearable. It was even worse when she returned to Hogwarts the school year after the final battle.

How was a 19 year old woman supposed to function when everyone was bombarding her with questions about her future after Hogwarts? It was almost like they were living through her. Couldn't they see she was an ordinary girl? She was just like them—they just didn't realize it. They wanted to see the brilliant witch do something else spectacular. Perhaps they wanted to watch her fail. Hermione didn't know what they wanted. She just knew that they wouldn't stop until they were satisfied…which would be never.

During her final year at Hogwarts, Hermione had rudely scolded herself for not being prepared for her future. She successfully tracked down Horcruxes, and she couldn't choose whether she wanted to be an Unspeakable, or an Auror, or a writer, or a Healer, or a….the list went on and on and on, and it never seemed to shorten. Her professors were not much help. All of them enthusiastically told her she was so smart she could succeed at any path she chose. But that was not what she needed. She needed someone to tell her the truth.

And she had that almost two years ago.

Hermione remembered her 6th year vividly. She had gone through a lot of personal changes. She and Ron had gotten fairly close that summer. Yes, she had dated a few other boys before, but Ron was different. She may have felt nervous butterflies in her stomach when she was dating Viktor, but these butterflies were different. They made her happy. At times, they frustrated her. All in all, these butterflies were real. It wasn't some fantasy.

Or at least Hermione thought it wasn't a fantasy. Love sometimes played cruel games. She never thought Ron was capable of being so insensitive. But when he kissed Lavender, it had awoken Hermione's naivety.

To distract herself from what had happened with Ron, Hermione focused on her career plans. She had spoken with McGonagall the year before, and it seemed like she would follow along the path to become an Auror, just like Harry and Ron. But now, she wished to stay as far away as possible from the jerk, including after Hogwarts.

Returning to McGonagall, it was more of just a repeat of their last meeting, except Hermione now realized she had too many choices. It overwhelmed her. So, after careful note taking and deep meditation on the subject, she decided to work backwards and eliminate what she knew she didn't want to do.

All law enforcement was out. It was certain that Aurors would cross paths with any job of that sort. Same with Healers, especially if they got into trouble out in the field. Still, something about the medical field tickled her mind. It intrigued her. Somehow, she could be involved without dealing with patients.

After spending countless hours in the library reading on the history of St. Mungos, Hermione discovered they had their own medicinal potions research laboratory. It was perfect! She would need to complete Healer courses and eventually achieve her Masters in Potions making, but it allotted most of her time for independent research. Little interaction with anyone but her team members. Now, who could she refer to that would help her take the next step forward?

That was how Hermione found herself in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, even after the formidable professor had dismissed the students. After bidding Harry a short farewell, ignoring Ron as he walked past her with Lavender draped across his shoulder, she dawdled for some time, slowly placing her belongings back in her bag.

Hermione didn't realize she could be as anxious as she was in that moment. Her hands trembled as they situated the items in her satchel, and her legs shook. Then, she realized how ridiculous she was. The Sorting Hat did place her in Gryffindor after all! What was the worst that could happen when Professor Snape was involved?

She felt the bile rise up in her throat.

But she had to do it, or she would never become her own person. Over the years, Harry, Ron and she were inseparable. It was getting tiresome hearing about the assumptions her colleagues were drawing, especially about the "little lion pride" they had formed. In their eyes, Hermione would never be her own person. She would always be configured into their Golden Trio. Well, the Gryffindor lion would just have to grow up and become an independent, fierce tiger.

"Professor Snape," she began, more of a question than an icebreaker. "May I speak to you for a moment?" Hermione mentally kicked herself as she heard her voice crack in nervousness. Even her palms would not stop sweating, and her heartbeat was close to erratic. Pathetic.

Professor Snape looked up from his look, an exasperated expression on his face at her interruption. He didn't say anything, but just stared back. After a few moments of silence where Hermione failed to speak, he shook his head and returned back to the essays on his desk. "I do not have the time, nor the pleasantries to stare at your dumbfounded expression. Say what you need to say and exit before I force you out myself, Miss Granger."

Hermione jumped back at his pronouncement, snapping out of her dazed reverie. "I apologize, sir. It's just, well, I was hoping to get your opinion on something important. At least – I think it is important – and your opinion would be greatly valued. But then again – if you are busy, I can just come back at another time when you are free. I'd hate-.

"Sometime today would be nice," Snape bit back acerbically, cutting off her nervous rambling.

She took a deep breath. "I need your help on career advice."

Snape's brow furrowed. This obviously wasn't a topic he thought Hermione Granger would approach him with. A smirk formed on his face. "Well, Miss Granger. Seeing that I am not your head of house, it is not my responsibility to answer any questions regarding your future. Perhaps you'd like to bother Professor McGonagall with your incessant questioning."

"I have, sir," she replied, trying to hide the obvious sting his comments had caused, "and she was helpful, but only to a point."

He leaned back into his chair. "And how will my opinion differ from hers?"

"Well, you are a Slytherin. I'm sure there is some way you can distort the rose colored vision I have of every career choice there is and replace it with one that is more realistic." She paused, gauging his reaction. "Plus," she continued, "your expertise on the matter would make it imperative I spoke to you."

His eyebrows rose. "Potions?" he replied incredulously.

Too nervous to respond, she simply nodded.

Snape snorted and shook his head, beckoning her to follow him. He led her into his office, and she sat down in the chair facing his desk. He sat down opposite her, folding his hands carefully on top of the wood surface.

"You will never succeed in a career at Potions," he stated simply.

Hearing a negative comment about her abilities threw her through a loop. "Excuse me?"

"A career in potions is more than just following instruction, Miss Granger. As a Potions Master, you are considered an artist."

"I know that already!" she huffed impatiently.

"Dare to interrupt me again, and I will physically remove you from my office." The silence in the room was heavy. "Now, as I was saying, a Potions Master must know how to improvise. They must know the ingredients as separate entities. They must anticipate how they will react to one another before they are put together, even if it is an unknown concoction. It required utmost perfection every time."

"Professor Snape, you know just as well that my standards are very, very high in everything that I do. I demand nothing less than perfection in my work."

"Plagiarized work and repetition of textbook material does not count as perfection, Miss Granger. You do have a talent in that. However, it will only take you so far in the potions world."

Hermione sat back dejectedly. It was true she had been looking for raw honesty when it came to the advice she sought, but the truth hurt. "How am I to improve my chances, sir?"

Snape took a deep breath and sighed, looking past Hermione, as if he was revisiting a similar meeting he had with his own head of house years ago. "Stop relying on the help of others. Stop asking for advice. The fifteen minutes or so you spent here could have been used more efficiently on something else. And above all," he paused, "trust your instincts."

"Trust my instincts?" she echoed a bit nervously. She could see the struggle Professor Snape had to not roll his eyes.

"This is what sets Gryffindors and Slytherins apart," he said. "Have you noticed that more Ravenclaws and Slytherins are involved in the field of medicine and potions? It's not their will or desire to help others. The career field challenges their mind, and they long for the chance to make the discovery and to come out on top on their own. You Gryffindors," he said with full disgust in his voice, "can't seem to make a decision without the opinion or help of someone else."

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "Lions do live in prides, sir. But I have to disagree with you. There are so many instances where it is frowned upon to do things independently."

He raised his hand before she could begin her defense. "I do not wish to hear a long diatribe, nor do I have the time, Miss Granger. We shall have to agree to disagree."

She stood up and sighed. "Then I guess it would be futile to ask you for a letter of recommendation?"

Snape snorted in amusement. "For me to write such a letter, I would have to actually recommend your skills to the company."

"It was worth a shot," she replied lightly, brushing a few strands of her unruly hair behind her ear. "But professor, I find it unfair that you won't give me the benefit of the doubt."

"About your success?" the professor replied, raising an incredulous eyebrow. "Well then, perhaps you will prove me wrong, but that is unlikely."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course, Professor Snape." She adjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder. "Regardless, I have enjoyed this conversation. I hope do you reconsider your decision about writing that letter for me."

He stood up and led her out of his office. "Doubtful, Miss Granger. Best wishes on whatever you decide to do. Because frankly, I can honestly say I do not care."

Hermione smiled to herself as she reflected on what her professor had told her. His final words at that meeting were far from acerbic, despite the words used. She knew he didn't mean them. But sadly, without his letter of recommendation, she was at a stand still when it came to advancing her career in potions. A part of her hoped that he would approach her randomly, surprising her with the well written letter, but the year ended in chaos. He murdered Albus Dumbledore in front of Harry's eyes, and her dream of potions research died along with the frail Headmaster.

Potions reminded Hermione of Snape. It was difficult to disassociate the one from the other, so she eliminated all the plans that she had made. Luckily for her, Ron split with Lavender, and things were almost how they were before that mishap. She had no reason to not want to join the Aurors with Harry and Ron.

The war ended almost a year after Dumbledore died. Paparazzi swarmed into her life. And as she began the paperwork to enter into Auror training, she realized that if she continued down that path, she would never escape the stares and the cameras and the attention. Her heart was no longer in it.

One afternoon in November 1999, there was a long memoriam for Severus Snape printed in the Daily Prophet. It was because his final will was released to the benefactors. It took longer, Hermione reckoned, because the Ministry had to perform a long inquiry on Snape's innocence. She rolled her eyes. As if he could have ever been doubted! Severus Snape was her hero, despite the fact he doubted her abilities in Potions.

Like the birds could read her thoughts, a swarm of owls flew to where she sat, depositing a series of letters into her lap. Hermione found the smallest scroll and untied it. The note written on the inside made her heart stop.

Miss Granger,

For once in my life, I hope you prove me wrong. Best wishes for your future.

S.T.S.

The second scroll was a copy of the letter of recommendation he had written for her, addressed to the Board of Directors at St. Mungos research department. It had every bit of snark and bite her old professor always emulated when he was alive, and in a way it was like having him back. Her eyes filling with tears, she opened the final letter, which was her acceptance letter to the research facilities at the hospital.

Five years later, a new graduate and a few exams away from becoming a Potions mistress herself, Hermione made it to Hogwarts, but she avoided the castle. Instead, she continued her way towards the hillside. She needed to visit an old friend.

When she reached Snape's grave, she pulled out a small envelope, placing it gently against the black granite headstone. "See, Professor?" she whispered, "sometimes, it good to be proven wrong." She paused for a few moments, remembered all that he had sacrificed. "Thank you for doubting me, and giving me the benefit of the doubt."

It was, after all, the reason why he wrote the letter in the first place.