Chapter 10 : Changes
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Disclaimer & Story Warnings: The characters and the world of the HARRY POTTER universe belong to JKR. The plot is mine. This story plot is rated MATURE. If you are not 18 years or older, this story is not for you. You have been warned!
Hermione played the events of the past evening over and over in her head. Specifically the moment when Severus reached around her and froze when he realized how close he was to her. Her thoughts were interrupted when a knock sounded on her door.
"Come in," she replied, bracing herself for Severus’s presence. But relief soon followed when the Headmistress let herself in instead.
"Hermione dear, how are you feeling? Snarky said you wished to speak with me," Minerva said as she sat down and conjured a full tea service. "Something about journals and memories?"
Hermione smiled shyly and sat down to fix her own cup of tea. "Yes, actually. I was hoping you might loan me any journals or memories about Professor Snape. There was an…incident last night that I wish to avoid, and I figured if I studied up on him some more I might be able to circumvent events like last night’s."
"Hermione, that is a very serious request—especially when it involves the privacy of a man such as Professor Snape. First I would like you to tell me what happened last night," Minerva stated firmly.
Hermione told Minerva all about their walk in the woods: what was said, what was done, and how the evening had ended. Minerva, to her credit, refrained from commenting, but her facial expressions were not so well hidden as she heard the tale. "So Severus performed a Levicorpus on you? My, my, that is interesting. Tell me, did Harry ever share with you the memories that Severus gave him before he died last spring? After Nagini had bitten him?" she asked after a brief pause, with a tilt of her head.
"Yes, he shared some of it. He told me and Ron that Harry’s mum was friends with Severus until he lost his temper and insulted her."
"So there you go," Minerva stated, like the answer was obvious to both of them, while she sat back and contemplated Hermione’s expression.
"I don’t understand, Headmistress. What does Severus’s previous friendship with Lily have to do with what happened last night?" Hermione asked, confused.
"Severus and Lily were friends from the moment they set foot in this castle until his fifth year, when he put his foot in his mouth all because he was embarrassed that a girl came to his rescue. Don’t you see? You remind Severus of Lily in many ways. You, like she, are a studious, hardworking, moral-minded individual. You are even smarter than Lily was, if I do say so myself," she remarked, a proud expression showing itself briefly upon her features."Severus’s life up until that point was looking up. He had a great friend who shared many things in common with him, yet he threw it all away and went down a path that literally killed him despite his reformation. Now here he is, with a clean slate, and he is faced with the unlikely situation of being around someone who reminds him of Lily," Minerva explained.
"Wow, I never thought of it like that," Hermione replied. After staring at nothing in particular for several moments, she inclined her head and looked at the Headmistress. "You think Severus is a bit scared of me, don’t you?"
"It’s not as simple as that, but being a tad scared may begin to help you understand a complex fellow such as Severus Snape, Hermione. In all my years, I have never known a witch or wizard who has experienced such horrible things as Severus. Not even Albus or Harry have known such sorrow, in my opinion," Minerva said, setting her teacup down and twining her fingers together. "I could not even begin to imagine how one would go about creating a whole new life for oneself after going through such things. To an extent, he will always be scarred by his past, but I do think that with help from people who actually care about him, Severus may truly be given a chance to live a good and happy life," Minerva exclaimed confidently.
"So do you think you would allow me to see any journals or memories? I’m sure if I’m given the chance to understand him better, I will be more prepared to handle his sudden mood swings and not be so intimidated by him in general," Hermione said.
Minerva smiled at Hermione and shook her head. "No, Hermione, I will not give you access to such things. I understand that trying to be Severus Snape’s friend will be one of the most difficult things you have ever tackled, but it would not be to your benefit to ‘study’ him in such a way. True and lasting friendships need to be nurtured naturally, not forced," she explained wisely.
Hermione smiled shyly. "Thank you, Headmistress. Though it won’t be easy, I will try to befriend him without the advantages that journals and memories would give me."
Minerva smiled lightly as she stood and headed for the door. "I think in years to come, no matter what becomes of your hoped-for friendship with him, you will not regret it," she replied before exiting the large room and leaving Hermione to her thoughts.
Severus‘s face was creased into a very mean scowl as he stared at the papers in front of him. For over two hours he had been sitting at his desk, trying to figure out what to do with them. The papers themselves were worn with use from over the years, with notes and possible formulas scrawled across the lines. Before him was the most promising of his potions research, scribbles and ideas he’d made sure to write down over the years when he had a few moments to spare, which wasn’t much. Most potions masters would have compiled a hundred times the amount of research papers he had by the time they were his age, but with his past duties to the Order and to Voldemort, he had never had the time to fully research the formulas before him.
Part of the problem, as he saw it, was that with potions and research such as what he had written before him, more than two hands were needed to work out the problems. Potions could be a very dangerous subject in general; but when you entered into the realm of experimentation for the sake of the unknown, it was extremely dangerous and required more than one brilliant mind to ensure success without bodily harm.
With that thought, his scowl deepened. Most potions masters had a handful of assistants, and some even worked besides other masters. Severus was not one to share his work equally with anyone, so he knew that having at least one go-fer to order around would be more preferable. But in his situation, he was unable to inquire about obtaining assistance from a recent graduate. With his responsibility to keep Hermione’s true whereabouts unknown, he could not introduce a new person into the castle, especially one who could get suspicious when Severus disappeared often and would not elaborate on his whereabouts.
So that left him with one option, and he was loath to consider it at all. I already have the unhappy pleasure of working with her on the first through fourth year’s homework and going for walks to help her cope with her imprisonment; how am I suppose to voluntarily ask her to aid me in my own personal research? he wondered grumpily.
Slouching a bit in his chair, he steepled his fingers and tried to work out the situation in his head. Obviously I would have to invite her into my personal lab, since it would risk her exposure if she were seen in the student labs. She would need her own workspace and would be in need of constant verbal communication with me to ensure she didn’t hurt either of us, depending on what she was assisting with. Bloody hell, he thought as his debt to her nudged him once again.
She did save my life, after all. And despite her over-eager attitude, she wasn’t all that bad at the subject, he admitted to himself with a mixture of irritation and reluctance. After much internal debate, he decided there was no way around it. As he finally resigned himself to what lay before him, he sat forward and started to write out a schedule for each both of them , all the while wondering what the fates had gotten him into.
Hermione sighed as she sat back on the couch and stretched her neck backward, looking at the ceiling while she tried to relax aching muscles that tended to bunch up when she worked so hard. The papers that had been delivered for grading that morning were finally done, but not without the crick in her neck threatening to cause a major headache. The first years had turned in five feet of parchment each on basic ingredients and their uses. The second years had been given twice as much about the several ingredients and how they interacted. The third years had been given three feet of a detailed analysis of everyday cures. And the fourth years had been almost assaulted with twelve feet detailing the uses, precautions, and "don’ts" of all the fourth year level potions they had covered to date. With an average of twenty to thirty students per class, the papers were long and tedious and would be quite daunting to anyone trying to grade them who didn’t have Hermione’s drive to accomplish such feats.
Thinking of this put Hermione’s mind back onto the very reason she had so much grading to accomplish. Part of her wanted to blame Snape and accuse him of giving the first through fourth years so much homework just to irritate her. But Hermione shook the thought from her head, remembering her own years in his classroom; knowing that Professor Snape would have assigned that amount of work even if he had had to grade them himself. The other part of her wondered what her hard work was allowing him to accomplish in his own research. Though she had had access to his personal work before she’d saved his life, she had never given herself the chance to look at it since she was too busy saving his life.
It was while thinking these very thoughts that a knock at the door interrupted her. Hermione’s brow furrowed since the only people who knew she was here were able to walk in without knocking. "Who is it?" she asked, wishing the door had a peephole like her Muggle home from her childhood had.
"Open the door, Miss Granger," Snape’s voice drawled in exasperation.
Hermione opened the door and stood there staring at the Professor in confusion. "Why didn’t you just come in, sir?" she asked, stepping back and motioning him through.
Severus swept into the room with his scowl fixed firmly in place, took a seat across from the couch, and replied evenly, "After what happened last evening, I thought it might be prudent to keep things as civil as possible. Most people respond well to common courtesies, like knocking on a door instead of just entering, for instance."
Hermione sat down and faced him. "Thank you, sir, I appreciate you knocking," she replied sincerely. She smiled lightly and leaned forward, gathering the graded papers together. "I was about to call Snarky and have her pick these up. They are all done, sir," she said, pushing the stack across the coffee table towards Severus.
He leaned forward and picked up the first few reports and leafed through them. The muscle in his cheek twitched slightly when he remarked on her work. "The comments sound as if I’d truly graded them myself," he said stiffly. His body language clearly showed how difficult that compliment was to voice, much less think.
"Thank you, sir," she replied, shocked but not willing to say anything else. For several moments they sat in silence, then Hermione could take it no longer. "Was there anything else you needed of me, sir?" she asked quietly.
Severus pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket and laid it on the table. "That is a schedule I have drawn up. I would like you to look it over and tell me if you think it would be too taxing for you. If not, I would like to implement a new routine for both of us in hopes of helping us acclimate to this situation over the next year. I’m hoping the work involved will keep us too busy to think of our…" he said, trailing off smoothly.
Hermione’s zeroed in on the paper with interest as she picked it up and read the two lines.
9:00 AM – Previous day’s HW delivered for grading
4:00 PM – Potions Research/Assisting
"So basically you’re giving me seven hours each day to grade papers, after which you want me to assist you in the lab," she said, eyeing his handwriting on the paper. "Sir, there are two things you didn’t address on this paper. How many hours do you want me to help you each evening, and how will I be able to get to the Potions classroom without being noticed? How would I even be able to be there for a set amount of hours without someone discovering I’m at Hogwarts?" she asked, setting down the paper.
Severus scowled, though he was happy with her response. The fact that she immediately addressed the most important issues proved she would be a worthwhile assistant. "I would welcome your opinion on how long you would be able to…assist me each evening. I tend to work late, but the majority of my work requires a steady set of extra hands, so I will defer to you depending on what we might be working on. As for where we work, you will have to work with me in the private lab so we do not get disturbed—or you get discovered. Minerva is the only person with access to my lab, so the secrecy of your stay at Hogwarts will be protected," he replied.
Hermione eyed the schedule for a moment before looking him squarely in the eye. "Sir, I have a request, if I might," she asked. He nodded his head reluctantly so she went on. "If we are going to work together for the next year, I would like us to be on more…familiar terms. May I have your permission to use your first name?" she asked, her voice quiet and nervous, her eyes watching his face carefully.
Severus nearly walked out of the room. The very thought of letting her call him by his first name galled him. But after taking several deep breathes and resisting the urge to conjure up a Draught of Living Death and force it down Hermione’s throat, thereby keeping her asleep until she could be released, he calmed down. What would be the true harm? he wondered. Hermione fidgeted across from him as he tilted his head, refusing to stop scowling at her. Finally he replied, "Is that your only request?"
"Yes…sir," she replied carefully, unsure what he was thinking.
"Very well, Miss…Hermione. You may call me Severus on one condition of my own," he replied carefully.
"Name it," she replied, wondering what it would cost her in the long run.
"You may call me Severus while we are alone. But if Snarky or Minerva are around, you will continue addressing me as sir or Professor Snape," he said, clearly grudgingly.
"Very well, Severus," she replied with a smile, unable to help herself.
Severus picked up the graded papers and left in a rush, all the while wondering what he had done with his sense.
A/N: Sorry for the wait. Please enjoy and remember to review ;) *HUGS*
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