A/N: Of course, I own nothing. J.K. Rowling's got all the Harry Potter stuff, a whole bunch of either dead, licensed or geriatric rock & roll people own the music, and my editor owns the dog. I haven't got a dog. I have kittens. They love getting bits of paper to play with and bat at, so please read and review! Flames will be used to line the hamster cage after being read and obsessed over and eventually laughed at if they're silly.
Oh, and if it seems like a few of the characters are really freakin' relevant to my other HG/SS story, like last names match and suddenly a lot of Snape's mean cracks make sense…yeah. They're supposed to. I just got enough pleading emails for an explanatory prequel that I decided to write it. Here you go.
The Student In Question- Chapter One:
"I have whom for a six-year project?" Snape exploded.
"You're complaining why?" Professor McGonagall replied acidly, still a little disappointed that the student in question had chosen a Potions project 'as a challenge.' "You know as well as the entire faculty that she's brilliant, and if you give her so much as a sneer –yes, that one that makes you look like a hippogriff!" the infuriated deputy headmistress gestured toward the professor's hawkish nose even as he sneered. "I have been waiting for an excuse to duel with you for the past six years and don't think that I won't find out anything and everything that goes on with her!"
Wow. She was ticked. Snape wondered just who had put glue on her scratching post. He was actually about to ask why when the Headmaster stopped giggling and stood up, hot cocoa mug in hand.
"Now, Minerva, Severus was just –er, surprised about Miss Granger's interest. After all, she is the first student to request his subject outside of Slytherin since…I believe Penelope Clearwater asked for him."
"This had better not be a repeat of that little episode, Severus!" McGonagall fumed. Snape, making a decision in the interest of his own self-preservation from Catwoman, swallowed his pride and agreed with Albus in a silky voice:
"My thoughts exactly, Minerva. I am certain Miss Granger will not be so easily deterred by hard work or an ingredient allergy. I was merely as Albus says, surprised."
"See? He'll behave, won't you, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, as if the professor were his puppy.
"He'd bloody well better," McGonagall said darkly before excusing herself. Dumbledore sank into a chair, looking absolutely drained from the shock of a ticked-off McGonagall.
"Dare I even ask?" Snape asked.
"She found out about how Mr. Potter's Muggle relatives were treating him…again. She personally sent an owl authorizing him to stay with the Weasleys, and I found half my private stash of cocoa turned into coffee grounds."
"So she's mad at you as well?"
"I had him staying there. It's likely the couch for me for a month."
Severus shuddered. As long as he had known about Albus and Minerva, the mental pictures still gave him the squickies.
"And you insist on calling me a glutton for punishment."
"Severus," the older man sighed, getting another mug. "You have no idea how it pains me to see you alone after all of this. I can understand the enjoyment of solitude, but for Merlin's sake, you could at least show an interest in companionship!"
"And wind up sentenced to the couch everytime I was sarcastic with my students?"
It was Albus' turn to shudder.
"I'm not saying you need to get –well, you do, but that's not the point of things. Make a friend, join a dueling club, anything!" The Headmaster handed his friend a steaming mug of slightly coffee-smelling hot cocoa. "Now, there again, maybe not a dueling club…"
"Are you saying my habits worry you?"
"Severus, your habits have given me bad dreams since the eighties -not that your clothing at the time didn't anyway- I just think you spend too much time alone between missions. You need someone to talk to about all of this."
"And risk the Death Eaters' innermost secrets to the ear of an amateur?" Snape asked, sarcasm as thick as the cocoa smell.
"Severus!" the headmaster cried in exasperation. "I'm giving you six months starting the first day of school. Either you show some sign of more than social dormancy, or… I'm getting you a pet!"
"A pet?" Snape asked in abject horror.
"Yes, a pet, Severus! A cute, fluffy pet with dear little pointy ears!"
"Can't I just buy a quetzal or something?"
"Not cute enough. You need people. Would you like some marshmallows?"
Snape sighed and held out his mug for a sprinkling of the pillowy white things. This was only the latest of Albus' threats to make him act a little less like a lonely boggart. Last year the threat of being submitted to 'Witch Weekly's personals had resulted in a tenuous semi-friendship with Remus Lupin. At least that had worked out well, even if the werewolf was worse at chess than Professor Sprout.
"Now about the sixth-year projects," Dumbledore began. Snape sipped his cocoa and suddenly spat.
"She's a Gryffindor, not the bloody bubonic plague!"
"No, the marthmallowth," Snape explained, wiping his tongue with his sleeve in disgust. "Minerva must have thwitched them with mothballth."
"Yuck!" Snape raised an eyebrow. After all, what he had said was close enough to that. "Anyway, about Miss Granger's project-"
"'Don't poison, hit, hex, curse, or transfigure the students into ferrets.' I know. I get this lecture every other day-"
"What I was going to say, Severus," Dumbledore gave the younger man one of his best twinkly-eyed smiles. "I think you should challenge her."
"You want me to- I get to what?" Snape instantly became more sarcastic than ever, quasi-smiling beatifically in a cruel imitation of Flitwick. "Can I truly, Albus?"
"If you can manage it," Albus replied dryly. Sometimes sarcasm was really wasted on the old. "Hermione only chose Potions because she wants a challenge and I expect you to rise to it. This does not mean kill her. I knew you'd ask." Snape sighed theatrically and made a gesture of futility that would have made Trelawney wet herself in indignation. Albus glared at the professor's lack of seriousness. "If it's a truly morbid reason you want, you could always imagine you were going to die and train her as a replacement."
"Merlin's balls, Albus!" Snape exclaimed in disgust, covering his face. "I need to go put out my mind's eye from that visual…"
"What, yourself dead?"
"No, that's the happy bit. Hermione Granger trying to be sarcastic and wearing nothing but black."
Dumbledore looked considerably cheered by that.
"Really? Did she have the nose?"
"Dearly beloved," Ron Weasley announced in a sephulchral tone, "we are gathered here to bid farewell to one of our closest and dearest friends. As you know, Hermione Granger has elected to take her sixth-year project under Professor Snape."
The gathering of fifth, sixth, and seventh years in the Gryffindor Common Room let our heavy sighs and a few sniffles were heard. There was also one very offended sigh from the 'deceased,' who thought the funereal proceedings to be in the worst of taste.
"And now, to Say a Few Words, one who knew the departed best. Mr. Harry Potter."
Harry stepped up to the stack of books serving as a pulpit, pretending to compose himself as if this were genuinely a funeral.
"Thank you, Ron. Friends, we all knew Hermione Granger. She's the bushy-haired one who seemed to live in the library."
A few fairly astonished comments were heard, mostly to the effect of 'so that's who died!' Hermione was trying either not to laugh or storm out, noone could tell for sure. She actually looked measurably more like Professor McGonagall as the 'services' went on.
"She was remarkably smart, as nobody really needs to say, and always ready and willing to help out with a good bit of rule-breaking, provided she was in charge and it was really a worthwhile cause. She also holds the Gryffindor record for making professors weep in ecstasy, second in the school's history only to that slut in Hufflepuff."
"Merlin's arse!" Hermione protested, trying to leave. Parvati and Lavender blocked her way, having far too much fun to let the subject go.
"Her contributions to the field of homework are too many to list, especially to those of us who found ourselves with a ten-inch essay due the day after a Quidditch game. Her one flaw, at least since she got her teeth fixed, was her insatiable thirst for- ahem!" Harry had to stop and give some Gryffindor boys a look. "Knowledge. It was this burning desire, this unquenchable lust-"
A stream of truly awful curse words were heard from the student in question.
"Do you mind?" Ginny Weasley inquired on her friend's behalf. Harry swallowed, not wanting to offend his new secret girlfriend.
"Sorry, Gin. What I mean to say is that in her great fix to do the hardest project in history, she surrendered herself into the hands of Professor Snape. And now, as she goes off to certain death by overdose of sarcasm and greasy hair, let us bow our heads and remember her memory."
Hermione was rather disgusted by this parody, not that it wasn't sort of funny, and as she was leaving with enough Potions textbooks to wallpaper the Vatican, she did give Ron and Harry an amused smile. When Neville, who had yet to understand they weren't serious, began shrilly singing 'Nearer, My God To Thee,' however, it was too much. She made her way to the dungeons still shaking with laughter at everything.