Chapter 1 : Putting an End to Formalities
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I'm sure you have already heard the news, even though I wanted to be the first to tell you. It's hard to keep secrets from others, just as it was during our school days, and your adoring wife cannot keep her mouth shut, I'm afraid! But perhaps Ginny did not enlighten you after all, and I'm just falsely accusing her, as I've seemed to be doing to everyone as of late. Ron already knows, as does the entire Weasley family, and well...I also told Luna and Neville. I'm sure at the moment you are wondering why I would wait to tell you last! Don't be offended Harry, but I haven't been precisely sure as of how you would take the news, taking into consideration your feelings for a certain individual.
Oh blast! I might as well get it over with! Harry, you know I love you dearly, and I'm sure it's going to make you very angry to hear of this, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Professor Snape isn't exactly your favorite person, as I'm well aware, and a few years ago I would have felt the same, but oh Harry, for some strange reason he has offered me an apprenticeship! I think Professor McGonagall had something to do with it...I'm sure he wouldn't have offered it to me otherwise. But this is the opportunity of a lifetime, you have to agree! I have always been fascinated with the subject, and I've decided that I want to research medicinal potions. There are so many possibilities, and I wish to discover them.
Now I'm sure you are wondering how I could ever get along with a man as horrible as Professor Snape, but in all honesty, he's not as bad as I remembered. Yes, he still is extremely sarcastic and occasionally rude. But after a while I've finally realized that it is just a part of his nature, and I sometimes find it rather funny. And the man's intelligence! I can't even begin to describe to you how much knowledge he has of all subjects...no wonder he's one of the few Potions Masters in Britain. Sometimes I find myself in long conversations with him on various topics, and they'll go on for hours. Oh Harry, I hope you aren't mad at me. I know you have never been really fond of him. But he's changed, somehow. And well...he's nice to work with.
For the next two years I'll be living at Hogwarts, and believe it or not, my own quarters are right next to Professor McGonagall's! She is such a nice woman, and I usually find myself having a cup of tea with her during my afternoons. All of the staff have treated me so nicely, especially Remus, who just stopped by a few hours ago. He wanted me to tell you hello! His Defense Against the Dark Arts classes are going wonderfully, by the way.
I do find myself rather lonely though, and it's only been three weeks! I really hope you and Ron can come and visit me soon. It will be just like our school days. Of course, I'm sure Professor Snape will not be as delighted as I am. Tell Ginny I said hello, and do take care Harry!
It was late in the evening as Hermione drifted through the dimly-lit hallways somewhere near Ravenclaw Tower, not precisely sure as to what direction she was heading, but allowing her feet to guide her. It was at this time of day in which she felt the most alone, memories and thoughts taking over her mind and controlling her heart. She missed her family, she missed her friends, but she knew that Hogwarts, with its ancient magic and well-kept secrets, was where she truly belonged. Yes, her home.
She wondered if Harry had now received her letter, and if he was taking it just as badly as she figured he would. It wasn't as though his opinion on the matter would change her plans, but she valued his friendship, and wanted him to be happy about her decision. Hermione well remembered his thoughts about Snape, which had not changed even after the war, when the Potions Master had proved his loyalty. But she couldn't change Harry's mind or feelings, regardless of her efforts.
A slight smile came to her lips as she thought of Ron's reaction, which had been completely typical of her Weasley friend. His feelings had not really changed either, and he had made sure to tell her.
Blimey 'Mione! Why did you go and do that for? With that nasty sleazeball? I was thinking you would pick McGonagall, or even Flitwick. But Snape? Well, better you than me, I guess.
And then there was Ginny.
Brilliant Hermione! I'm very happy for you! But if I might ask, why ever did you pick Snape of all people? He's not particularly nice, remember? If he gives you any trouble, let me know. I'll do to him just what I did to that Malfoy ferret sixth year!
She chuckled as she thought of Luna and Neville's response to her news, which had been rather interesting to say the least.
Well Hermione, that's rather nice. Congratulations on your apprenticeship. Though I believe I would have picked Professor Flitwick, who would never have called my daddy's newspaper a "rag." I thought that was very rude of him. Perhaps he will not treat you in such a manner, since I'm sure he has learned his lesson. -Luna
Hi Hermione. I'm glad to hear the news, though I'm happy I'm not walking in your shoes at the moment. I swear I still have nightmares about Snape, even after all these years. Good luck, you'll need it! -Neville
"Oh honestly, he's not that bad!"
Hermione had not meant to voice her thoughts aloud, but it had happened regardless, causing various paintings to comment on her strange behavior. She rolled her eyes and continued walking, taking a left turn towards the North Tower. It was eerily silent through the halls, and she kept expecting to see several students lurking about after curfew, just as Ron, Harry, and she had once done years ago, but there were none in sight. It was most odd.
"Miss Granger, are you afraid of the dark?"
She jumped at the sound of the unexpected voice, deep and mellifluous. Haunting. Slowly she turned, knowing well to whom the voice belonged, but afraid that the expression upon her face would give her away. Black eyes met her own, holding more warmth than usual. She then allowed herself a smile.
"I would hardly call this dark, Professor."
He raised one black brow, his eyes never leaving hers. "Your actions would prove otherwise. The paintings are quite talkative. I overheard them speaking about a young woman talking to herself."
"You can hardly believe paintings..." Hermione started, feeling heat rise to her cheeks. "They'll say anything for attention. Why just the other day I overheard the portrait of Baba Yaga talking about how she once ate children for breakfast. Now we both know that's not true!"
Snape's lips curled, showing his amusement. "Actually, according to legend, she did."
"That's impossible..." Hermione shook her head. "Ridiculous, in my opinion."
"Yes, ridiculous." He moved closer, studying her face for a few moments. "Now may I ask, Miss Granger, what you are doing wandering about the hallways at this time of day? I would think you to be reading one of your novels, or perhaps writing a letter to Potter. You know well that patrolling duties are left to me, and I do not expect my apprentice to go searching for trouble..."
Hermione wrapped her robes tightly around her, the cold air seeping through her bones and making her shiver. "Ah yes, of course. Leave that to the almighty Head of Slytherin. When he looks for trouble, he always finds it. Whether it be an innocent student who has forgotten her books in the library, or a pair of Hufflepuffs snogging in the corner. Professor Snape will be sure to find them."
"Thirty points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger," he replied with a smirk.
"You wish. Now that I'm no longer a Hogwarts student, I can do as I please." Hermione suddenly laughed, which caused the Potions Professor to raise his eyebrows. "Oh come now, Professor. We are both adults here. I'm stuck with you for another two years, so we might as well throw formalities aside. What do you say to that, Severus?"
"Well Miss Granger, I believe it is most inappropriate. We are not colleagues. I am still your professor, and you are still learning from me. Therefore, calling me by my first name is unwise."
"Miss Granger, I am in no mood for such foolishness."
Snape let out an irritated sigh, thinking her impossible. "Miss Granger, I do believe--" He suddenly noticed that her body was shivering, and that her arms were wrapped tightly around her frame. "You are freezing. Here, let me allow you to..."
"No, I'm quite alright, Professor."
He did not listen to her protests as he gently placed his black cloak around her shoulders. "Back to Professor, are we? Tsk Tsk, Miss Granger. For once the golden Gryffindor cannot make up her mind."
Hermione did not reply, rather distracted by the manly scent of the warm cloak enveloping her, smelling distinctly of various potions ingredients: daisy roots, ginger, and a hint of something she could not name. She felt a blush creep across her face, and cursed herself for being so ridiculous.
"Are you alright, Miss Granger?"
"Hmm? Oh yes, of course. Sorry, my mind rather escaped me for a moment."
"Yes, it tends to do that often."
"I beg your pardon?!"
Before Snape could reply, a snowy owl gracefully flew through the dimly-lit hallway, its wings swooping low and landing carefully on Hermione's forearm. For some odd reason the bird seemed quite familiar, though he could not be for certain as to whom it belonged. But as soon as the young woman let out a rather loud and cheerful "Hedwig!" and began to stroke the bird as though it was her own, he remembered. It was blasted Harry Potter's owl.
Hermione gently opened the envelope that Hedwig had delivered, quite excited that her friend had replied so quickly. Was he happy for her after all? Or was he angry? Nothing could have prepared her for the words that graced the smooth parchment, clearly written in Harry's handwriting.
You're falling in love with the greasy git, aren't you?
"Never in my life have I heard of such a ridiculous, preposterous--"
Snape's lips curled at her use of adjectives, and he couldn't help but wonder if she had finally come to her senses where Harry Potter was concerned. "May I ask, Miss Granger?"
"It's really not important." She placed the letter in the pocket of her robes and watched as Hedwig flew away, wishing desperately she could hex its owner into oblivion. "Quite ridiculous boy...he's never really grown up. But I do miss him."
"Hmm...wishing you could take Ginny Potter's place?"
Hermione winced, shaking her head rapidly. "Absolutely not, Professor! The very thought alone makes me shudder. I could never be Harry's wife, nor do I wish to be. Please do not make that assumption again. He's a friend, and a good one at that. But I could never--"
"I believe I quite understand now, Miss Granger," Snape replied with an amused grin.
For a long few moments they stood in silence, both taking in their own thoughts and deciding how to act upon them. Before Hermione could think to even respond, Snape took out his wand and aimed it towards her robes. "Accio Hermione Granger's letter!"
With a yelp of surprise, Hermione leapt towards Snape, desperately trying to pry the parchment from his long and graceful fingers. "Don't you dare read it! I'll hex you!"
"And I'll simply end this lovely apprenticeship. Now what have we here?"
Hermione fell to the floor in a puddle, feeling not only ridiculous, but like a complete fool. She watched as his black eyes scanned over the letter, his expression changing from amusement to one of curiosity. Now everything she had gained would be lost, and she did not doubt if the man standing before her would end the contract. But would he really believe such a ridiculous letter?
Even if it was.....true?
"Miss Granger, do get up from the floor. It is most uncivilized." Snape slowly folded the parchment and handed it back to her, an odd expression now upon his face. He cleared his throat.
"As you said earlier, I believe we should end the formalities. My name is Severus."
With trembling fingers she placed the letter back in her pocket, quite stunned at his statement. "Severus. Well, it is getting rather late. Perhaps I should just leave...."
She turned around, her breath catching in her throat after hearing his deep and haunting voice uttering her name. The dim light in the hallway softened his eyes, making him appear less menacing. "Y-yes?"
"Would you like to walk with me while I patrol the halls? Earlier today I read an interesting article in Ars Alchemica, and it would please me to hear your opinion of it." He strode over to where she stood, holding out his arm for her to take.
"That would be lovely."
A/N: The idea for this little story came to me all of a sudden the other night, and I just had to write it down! It's not much, but it was fun to write. Thanks to everyone who took time to read it. Reviews are welcome!