Chapter 35 : Defiance
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Severus rolled his eyes as his fifth year potions class began to file past him into the dungeon room. Most of the Slytherin’s nodded curtly in his direction and he twitched the corner of his mouth slightly at them, particularly Draco who smiled appreciatively as he passed him.
‘Professor’ he greeted.
‘Mr. Malfoy’ he said back.
He watched as the Slytherin’s took their places at the front a usual before the Gryffindor’s filed in after them. The usual bandy bunch. He hated the lot of them, not because of anyone in particular, it was just the habit of hating, since his own years at school. The Slytherin/Gryffindor rivalry was still there, if not more so than he remembered.
He scowled as he saw the familiar raven coloured mass of hair that belonged to Potter. And on either side his ceaseless sidekicks Mr. Weasley and Miss. Granger. The two of them seemed to be in a whispered argument, while Harry raised his eyes to the potions Master, he set his face in a scowl. Severus held the stare for as long as he could before the anger of Lily’s eyes became too much of a heavy stone to bare.
He swept to the front of the class and flicked his wand, chalked instructions appeared on the black board behind him, and before he had finished speaking Hermione had copied them in her exercise book. He knew perfectly well that she had heard everything he had said as she scrawled so he had no chance of reducing her to the size of a small insect in front of the class for not listening.
He had often wondered why she had never been sorted into Ravenclaw, she had a fair sized brain in that frizzy haired head of hers. But then again, what was it Dumbledore had said to him about sorting.
‘It is not just the size and content of the brain considered by the hat, but what lies within the beating heart as well’
It held that ring of wisdom that Dumbledore had, and was spoken involuntary. It was a feature that Severus was occasionally jealous of. It was true that he was rather more intelligent than most, he was a redeemed potioneer; he had mastered the art of occlumency, enough even to convince the Dark Lord of his allegiance. But still he could not grasp Dumbledore’s way with words; he preferred to scowl with words dripping with dry sarcasm.
The class was already set on their work; the subtle fumes of potions began to fill the damask room. And spiraling vapours spilled from the cauldrons that lined the desks and he hid a smirk as he saw that Draco had thus far mastered the delicate poison that had been instructed.
‘Professor?’ he turned towards the lofty voice on the table next to him. He sneered down at the occupants of the table. Potter, Weasley, Longbottom and Miss. Granger. It was her hand raised as high as it would stretch.
‘Longbottom, what exactly is that stinking lump at the bottom of your cauldron?’ he snapped as he saw the pulsating grey mass.
‘My p-potion sir’ he stuttered meekly.
‘I suggest you try and salvage what you can Longbottom, and we shall see at the end of the class if your toad can just about swallow the mess, let alone be poisoned by it’ Neville jumped and began adding all sorts of things to the steaming lump.
‘Professor?’ Hermione asked again, stretching her fingers even further into the air.
‘There is nothing wrong with my hearing Miss. Granger, I heard you perfectly well the first time. What do you want?’ he scowled. He avoided the seething glare from Harry who sat next to her.
‘Well I was just wondering’ she started, ignoring his irritable reply ‘wouldn’t it be better to use the liver of the newt rather than the eye. It’s just that the liver regenerates much faster than any other organ. Surely this reaction would be faster in the poison too, the liver tissue would become a faster catalyst than the optical cells’ her eyes were bright with knowledge, she seemed completely unaware of the confused set of eyes staring at her. Not only the ones on her own table but others from the tables around her.
Severus stared at her, unsure whether he felt angry at her suggestion or in awe of it. True, it was a perfectly reasonable question, even genius, he had never thought of it himself, and he expected that she was perfectly right.
However brilliant the concept was, he could never bring himself to offer her praise, tell her he was pleased with her observation. He would never bring himself to say something nice. He had never been offered such praise for his cleverness, so why should he offer it to anyone else.
He leaned in to her across the table, and her eyes dimmed somewhat of spark.
‘Miss Granger’ he hissed staring at her with contempt ‘Can you read those instructions?’ he shifted his head towards the board without breaking eye contact.
‘Ye-yes sir’ she stuttered, she held her chin up higher in defiance.
‘Good, I’m pleased, tell me does it say anywhere on that board about liver of Newt?’ he heard the silent guffaw of the Slytherin’s behind him and the mixed whisper of ‘stupid mudblood’ in the thick atmosphere.
‘No professor’ she said, her mouth suddenly set in a hard pout.
‘I think it best if we deflate that overly sized head of yours Miss. Granger, firstly as you have no specified degree in the skill of potions I’m afraid I must ignore your attempt at acting superior with your mediocre knowledge of the art. Secondly I shall take five points from Gryffindor for your pompous remarks, and thirdly’ he leaned closer, his face barely an inch away from hers.
She narrowed her eyes that were welling slightly with tears of anger.
‘If you ever contradict me again you will find yourself in far deeper trouble than a mere point reduction, so I suggest you keep your nose down and your foolish clarifications to yourself’ he moved back from her and smiled at the anger he had rose within her, he could see her hands shaking, saw her eyes watering profusely in fury.
He saw Harry clench his fists over the desk and open his lips to retort, but Hermione gripped hold of his hand and stared at him, shaking her head. Harry gripped the table harder, but said nothing.
Severus turned and sat at his desk. He watched Hermione, saw her wipe the angry tears away and work on her poison, helping Neville occasionally with the mess he had made of his.
He had always thought her a tepid little thing; she had never struck him as someone with a temper. She was just plain, bookish Hermione Granger. But there was something about her, a certain defiance, a strength.
The staff had noticed it as well, he had heard Minerva speaking about her after the Yule Ball last year, she had commented on how beautiful she had looked, how confident her stride had been without the weight of twenty books in her bag. Fillius Flitwick had spoken of how down to earth she was for someone so intelligent, she spoke with a grace, a kindness that was rare coming from someone who knew she was better than most in her year.
Severus could see it now, as the bluish spirals of vapours streamed perfectly from her poison, he could see the potential there, the intelligence that couldn’t be dented, even if he threw every insult under the sun at her. And he supposed she was pretty, perhaps beautiful out of the dim light of the dungeon.
Time was up, and the lesson was coming to an end. Severus stepped between tables marking the work evident in the little phials of poisons. Draco’s would be full marks of course, he was quite a potioneer.
He reached Potter’s table, Miss. Granger would have to have full marks as well, hers was rather a brighter required blue than Draco’s.
‘Where’s your toad Longbottom, hold it out’ Neville dropped Trevor on the table and stroked his head softly. Severus uncorked the poison, which was far less viscous then before, and let a drop fall into the toad’s mouth.
There was a universal lack of breath around him, everyone was silent with expectation, the Gryffindor’s stood wide eyed and tense, the Slythern’s leaning over with crooked smiles.
The toad hiccoughed, and began to twitch, jerk on the table, he let out a feeble croak and fell on his back, legs twitching in the air. Neville’s cry was lost in the laughter of the Slytherins.
Severus grimaced, the poison had worked, and therefore Neville couldn’t be punished. He pulled an antidote from his robe and revived the toad that for once seemed happy to be placed in Neville’s pocket.
The students began to file out of the class, Severus seethed as he heard the triumphant cheers of the Gryffindor’s. He stood by his desk and watched his dungeon empty. There was one student however, who had packed up slower than the rest.
Severus avoided her at first, but then as they were left alone he let his eyes fall onto her face. Her cheeks were glowing slightly; even in the poor light he could see a triumphant smile.
‘Amazing what a newt liver or two can do for a poison gone horribly wrong’ Hermione said defiantly. Her chocolaty eyes blazed through the haze of vapours, her lips were again pouted into a smile.
Anger seemed to boil in Severus’s stomach, he knew she had helped him, and she knew now that her theory was right. He crossed his arms over his chest to conceal his shaking.
‘Good afternoon Professor’ she nodded curtly before turning on her heel and striding from the room, slamming the door behind her.
He was left alone in the dungeon, his anger subsided somewhat. He clenched his fists, but through all of the irritation at the head strong girl, through the haze of fury that had made his hands tremble and through the bubbling in his stomach. He smiled.
This was the point of change for him; it was not the Yule Ball, or her way of speaking, or her grace or her kindness or any of the other things his colleagues had spoken of.
But her ability to stand up for herself, and strike a nerve without even a touch of violence to her tone, or intimidation in her stance.
It was that kind of confident streak that took no matter of force to show that had gotten a lot of people killed in the past.
And if it carried on un-reigned and untapped, it may one day be the cause of her own destruction. Severus shook his head, of course, Know-It-All Granger would never be in a situation where her life depended on one stupid defiant act, she was too intelligent to arrive in such a moment.
‘Burn her!’ Voldemort’s words seem to echo like a horrid drum in his head.
Hello all! Hope you are all fine and dandy on this lovely Morning. Yep, another little flashback! What do you reckon? I would love to know what you think! Thank you to all of the lovely reviewers so far, especially the regulars who never fail to make me smile! Thank you!
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