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Not a Threat, But a Promise.

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“Miss Granger,” Snape greeted Hermione stiffly as he stood before the door to his chambers. Dinner had long since ended, and Hermione should have been up in the Gryffindor Common Room, working, sleeping, or doing whatever else it is that she and those of her age do after school hours.

“Professor Snape,” she replied nervously. “I wanted to – erm, could I speak with you in private, please?” Nervousness seemed to be radiating from Hermione in waves. It was quite possible, reflected Snape, that she had never been so nervous to speak to one of her Professors, except, of course, in times when she’d had to lie for Harry or Ron. The incident with the troll in first year came to mind rather vividly.

“What is this regarding?” asked Snape, refusing to budge from in front of the door. He badly needed some time to himself this evening – with all that was happening in the castle, and Dumbledore’s increasing demands on him, there just wasn’t enough time in the day to do his actual job. Still, he recognised the need for him to maintain a level of connection with at least one of Potter’s close friends – and he definitely wasn’t going to do that with Weasley – in order to gain insight into his movements. He always seemed to be a hindrance when least needed.

Inhaling deeply as though steadying herself, she replied, “I need remedial Potions, and I would prefer to be tutored by you.”

“Is that so?” he asked archly, “and why should your preference be of any concern to me?” In truth, Snape hadn’t particularly minded her presence in his classes; it was her insufferable need to be right all the time that he couldn’t stand. More of that in a private setting sounded less than appealing, even if she did need remedial Potions (which he doubted).

“Because I feel that I’m not up to where I should be in order to pass my N.E.W.Ts, and while Professor Slughorn is a nice person, he is not as good of a teacher.” As usual, Miss Granger was completely blunt in her assessment, and a part of Snape was appreciative of that fact.

“I am no longer your Potions professor, Miss Granger, and I cannot be held accountable for your shortcomings this year. I prepared you for your O.W.Ls as best I could – and you exceeded your classmates’ results several fold. I see no reason to waste my time here, Miss Granger.”

Gritting her teeth, Hermione met Snape’s eye almost viciously. “I need to be tutored, Professor. I’m not sure how I can convince you, beyond implying that I might become more zealous during Defence Against the Dark Arts classes than I already am. Would that help, at all?”

Her threat was thinly veiled, and Snape knew she meant to get what she needed. Still, Snape felt that he couldn’t allow himself to be pushed around in such a manner – particularly by a student. “Miss Granger, is that a threat?” he uttered silkily, his dark eyes gleaming menacingly.

“Not a threat, Professor, but a promise,” she replied defiantly.

So that’s how she was going to play it.

“In that case, Miss Granger, I shall see you on Thursday for Defence Against the Dark Arts, and not a moment before,” he replied with a tone of finality. Gathering his robes behind him, he slipped into his chambers and shut the door with a firm snap.

 


 

Snape paced slowly around the classroom, surveying his pitiful students with a growing sense of boredom. Not for the first time, he wished that his predecessors had had better standards when it came to admitting students into their N.E.W.T classes. He was certain that had it been up to him, a large group of his current class would not currently be seated before him.

“My question is not a difficult one,” he drawled softly, “does nobody in this class possess such basic knowledge?”

He’d posed a simple enough question: what are the defining characteristics of inferi, and what methods would be best used to repel them? Snape had expected that, after the disastrous first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson at the beginning of term, his class would have read up accordingly in order to be prepared. Glancing out over the class again, his eye was drawn to Miss Granger’s bouncing in her seat, arm waving. Of course, she would be the only student to know the answer. Gritting his teeth, he selected his favourite victim: “Potter?”

Fury flashed over Harry’s features – Snape took a kind of sadistic pleasure in this fact; after all, in selecting Potter, he had both thwarted Miss Granger’s intentions and placed stress on Harry to reveal his complete ignorance. It was brilliant and entertaining – for him, at any rate.

Before Potter could open his mouth to reply, Granger’s voice rang out: “An inferius is a reanimated corpse – usually by a dark wizard – that will do its animator’s bidding. It is characterised by its near-dead appearance, and laboured movements. As dark-dwelling creatures, inferi fear the light and warmth, so a fire-based incantation will likely be enough to repel them.”

Damn it. “Miss Granger, I do not recall asking you to answer that question,” hissed Professor Snape, “five points from Gryffindor.”

He could already hear the protestations of her fellow Gryffindors – after all, this was hardly the first time that this had happened – in fact, it had already happened twice in this class alone. It appeared that Miss Granger was making good on her promise to annoy the crap out of him during class.

“That’s not fair!” protested Harry angrily, “You asked a question, and she answered it!”

“Silence!” Snape’s voice rang out menacingly, “I did not ask her the question, but you, Mister Potter. Had you known the answer – or, indeed, any of the answers to my questions today – your house would not be less fifteen points.”

Ron and Harry went scarlet – one with rage, the other annoyance. It was difficult to say with whom the two boys were more irritated – him, or Hermione for her continued zealousness. Still, even Snape could admit that she had some nerve.

The lesson continued in much the same way, with a further ten points being deducted from Gryffindor before Snape gave in altogether, noting that Hermione was not the least bit distressed by her housemates’ reactions.

As class ended, Snape called to Hermione, “A word, Miss Granger.”

Harry and Ron both loitered at the back of the class, waiting for Hermione. Glaring at them sharply, Snape ensured that he and Miss Granger were left well alone as both boys slunk out of the classroom in irritation. The two of them were too nosy for their own good – and it would, eventually, get them into trouble.

“Professor?” Hermione’s face was the picture of innocence – or, at least, that was what she had intended on conveying with the expression she’d fixed to her features.

Allowing silence to settle between them for a beat, Snape met Hermione’s eyes darkly, “I see you’ve made good on your threat, Miss Granger. I want you to know that your behaviour is not the least bit threatening to me; in fact, your behaviour is only hurting your reputation, currently.”

Hermione dropped the innocent expression she’d adopted, meeting Professor Snape’s eye stonily, “If that’s all, Professor, then I’ll be on my way. I am still in need of remedial Potions, and could better use this time to study Potions than to discuss my reputation with you.” Never had Miss Granger been so openly hostile with him, and the steel in her tone told him that she’d had quite enough of her own game, too. It had been three weeks, after all.

“You remain determined, then?” he asked silkily, his dark eyes glittering.

“I do,” she affirmed, her features resolute.

He could respect her tenacity – it was a characteristic he had valued in himself as a teenager. That, and her intelligence, which had been a blessing in his dealings with her, compared to her friends, even if it was the cause of his current annoyance with her.

“Then you will report to the dungeons on Thursday evenings immediately after dinner. We shall see then what exactly it is you require in order to improve your performance in Potions.”

                                                         


 

Unpacking her ingredients and equipment carefully, Hermione couldn’t help but be reminded of the first five years of her education in this room. It all seemed quite nostalgic now, despite her dislike of the man before her.

“As you determined your need for these classes, Miss Granger, what exactly is it that you would like me to do?”

Hermione took a minute to consider how much she wanted to reveal about the situation with the Half Blood Prince’s book; eventually, she decided against mentioning the book directly.

“I just seem to have fallen behind in the change between O.W.L. level and N.E.W.T level Potions, and need some help getting back on par,” she admitted uneasily. It was difficult for her to concede ineptness in anything, but particularly an area of academia.

“I see, and so you thought you’d bother me with your inability?” prodded Snape with boredom lacing his tone.

A likeable teacher Snape was not – of that, Hermione had never had a doubt – but he was a good teacher. And that was what had prompted her to ask him to tutor her.

“I did, and now that you’ve agreed, I will be a quieter student in Defence Against the Dark Arts, as promised.”

“Not quieter Miss Granger, for volume has never been your problem. You will be silent, and allow other students to answer questions; I do not want to see your hand raised at any point, do you understand me?”

“Yes, Professor,” she replied quietly.

“Good, then we can begin.”

The lesson commenced without fanfare, and Snape took her through the first of the potions she had mentioned experiencing difficulty with: the Draught of Living Death.

Looking over her immaculate copy of the book, he couldn’t help but be reminded of his own graffiti-ridden copy. Glancing at the instructions, he saw that Borage hadn’t bothered to update the editions at all, and the method still remained ineffectual as it had been in his time. Understanding dawned on him; Miss Granger relied heavily on the book, or on instructions from reputable sources, and had no real ‘feel’ for potions in the way that he had. She could brew them well when given precise instructions, but would never deviate, and thus her potions suffered.

Clearing his throat, he halted her progress – following Borage’s useless instructions would only give her the same results as she had attained in class. Modifying them, he scribbled his changes onto the blackboard and instructed her to follow them from scratch. Wearily, Miss Granger did as ordered.

The classroom was completely silent; it seemed that Miss Granger did not feel the need to impress him when it was only the two of them, a fact that he counted as a blessing. As she continued work on the Draught of Living Death, he resumed his marking. He saw no reason for her not to work independently, and figure out how he had come to the changes he’d made in order to apply them to her own work in future. She was an intelligent young lady, after all.

Hermione worked quietly and methodically, enjoying the silence and success that came as a result of following Snape’s alternative instructions.

The hours passed quickly, and Snape found that he hadn’t minded sharing the space with Miss Granger as he’d worked – she was, after all, an efficient and quiet worker. He’d never realised her talent in Potions class – he had been too consumed with ensuring the rest of the class’ safety with both Longbottom and Potter to contend with – but she was an extraordinarily capable brewer of potions.

Clearing his throat quietly, Snape spoke into the silence, “Bring me a phial of your Draught of Living Death.”

Hermione looked up from her cauldron with satisfaction as she siphoned off a portion into a small phial. She had succeeded, and had the notes to work from to improve her technique in future. Taking the phial up to Snape’s desk, she set it down gently before turning on her heel. She was stopped, however, when Snape asked, “have you found the brewing process easier without a class to contend with?”

Her voice cracking after hours of disuse, Hermione replied, “I think so. Though your method differs quite a bit from that of Advanced Potion Making.”

Smirking, Snape said, “Borage used to be a big name in his day, but his methods have not always been the most efficient.”

Leaving the conversation there, Snape gave Hermione an additional essay on alternative methods in potion making, and ended their class.

Though he had not been looking forward to it, the lesson had been easy and – loath though he was to admit it – enjoyable.


 

Snape could have done without intruding on his colleague’s Christmas party – he had hated such events when he’d been considered a favourite by Professor Slughorn. That said, to be told that Mister Potter, a student he’d had the misfortune of teaching Potions to for five years to often disastrous results, had suddenly become a potion-making savant was truly irritating. Surely there was more to Harry’s new-found success than being away from his own classroom? As Snape waited for Hermione’s arrival in his dungeons, he wondered idly if she’d be able to give him more information. After all, Harry’s improved performance seemed to coincide rather oddly with Miss Granger’s own insecurity about her own abilities, despite the great work that she’d done with him in remedial Potions.

Now, as she entered the dungeon quietly, his thoughts lost their steam somewhat. She was here for her own improvement, a fact that he could admire in so young a witch. Few would be able to swallow their pride as she had, and for now, he left his musing aside and turned his attention to another of the potions that had troubled her: Hiccoughing Solution. A tricky potion for those of skill, the Hiccoughing Solution had a rather unusual alternative method that he hoped Miss Granger would be able to realise for herself. And, while preoccupied with her work, he might have more of an opportunity to question her subtly about his suspicions.

Snape waited until she was absorbed in her work, noticing that her attention was completely consumed within minutes of starting the task.

“Looking now at Borage’s method, are there any changes that you would apply, Miss Granger?”

His voice remained quiet – there was no need for him to raise it with her. She looked up absently, her brow furrowing as she considered the method before her.

“Borage’s instructions state that the lionfish spine should be sliced in order for the marrow to be properly extracted – but in this case, crushing the spine would yield more marrow and remove the risk of shards of spine being put into the potion,” she replied thoughtfully.

“I see,” he drawled slowly, “are there any other changes that you noticed during class that you did not make?”

“Yes,” she mumbled.

“Why was that, Miss Granger?”

“Because the instructions are there to be followed, unless another reputable source provides alternatives!” she replied. There seemed to be fury concealed there, though she did so admirably, an undertone was still quite audible to Snape. It seemed that he’d unintentionally hit on a sensitive subject.

“That is true at O.W.L, but as you advance, your own intuition should guide you better than basic methods. That is the true skill of a potion-brewer; applying intuition and knowledge to successfully brew potions.”

Nodding silently, Hermione returned to her work with new resolve. Now was his opportunity.

“Have you come across alternative instructions elsewhere that you were hesitant to follow?”

Hermione’s eyes flashed sharply. “There are varying editions of the textbook available, so yes.”

“And is Mister Potter currently in possession of such an edition?” he prodded silkily.

Hermione’s face took on a guarded expression and she replied carefully, “His textbook is different from mine, as he borrowed a copy from the school. Why are you interested in Harry’s copy?”

Idly, Snape wondered which copy he’d chanced upon – and whether his own copy was in his possession, or had remained in the school’s stack of used copies. He resolved to check at some point in the future, though the issue was not an urgent one.

“That is none of your business, Miss Granger.”

With that, the conversation ceased. Snape regretted the abrupt manner in which he had ended it, as it closed the possibility of his discovering more information without probing the mind of a teenage girl.

Returning to his desk, he resolved to ask more at a later date – for now, the information was not crucial, or even more than an idle point of interest to him.


 

Snape sat at his desk, marking his Sixth Years’ assignments on the precise manner in which Nonverbal spells function in duels. His class was alarmingly uninformed, despite the weeks spent on the subject. At least, all but one appeared not to have been paying attention.

And, that one slammed the door behind her as she entered the dungeon, uncharacteristically loud in her entrance. He wondered briefly if something had irked her, and found himself surprised by his own concern for her.

“Miss Granger, is there any reason for your tardiness?”

Gritting her teeth in frustration, she replied, “Sorry Professor, I was held up leaving the Common Room – Prefect duties. It won’t happen again.” Her tone was apologetic, but she was clearly infuriated by something. Snape weighed his options – did he really want to interfere in what might be a teenage issue? He decided that he did care enough, and so pushed on.

“Good, I don’t tolerate being made to wait. What, exactly, kept you from attending on time?”

Hermione was visibly distressed by the question – clearly, she was preparing to lie (badly), and so he wondered if her tardiness had something to do with Potter and the recent suspicious circumstances surrounding him.

“Third year students were using contraband items in plain view, Professor. I needed to confiscate them for safety reasons,” she bit her lip, meeting his eye as firmly as possible. A tell-tale sign of deception, in his experience.

Accepting her excuse as genuine, despite knowing otherwise, Snape set the lesson’s task and waited until she was too busy to consider his movements. Then, he began attempting to probe her mind.

His first attempts did not yield much – surprising, given she’d had no warning of his abilities, except perhaps from Potter. If she was guarding her thoughts consciously, she was clearly far more adept at the task that Potter ever had been. Though he hated to admit it, Snape was impressed, and somewhat frustrated.

He pushed a little harder, and saw a flash of something. Slowing down, he caught the image of a levitated Mister Weasley, dangling in the Common Room by his ankle. It seemed that Mister Potter had discovered a jinx that had been quite popular in his time: Levicorpus. The occurrence seemed harmless enough, but the image was clouded with Miss Granger’s worry – why was she so preoccupied by this?

Just as he’d begun to push further into her thoughts, he felt her mind closing completely, forcing him away from further discovery. Hermione met his eye stiffly, a glimmer of a warning residing behind her glare. Effecting his usual blank mask, Snape glanced back stoically, allowing a subtle expression of boredom to play about the set of his mouth.

Shaking her head quietly, Hermione returned to the task at hand, and continued with her Elixir to Induce Euphoria. Privately, she thought that she could use a swig of the Elixir, if she could brew it correctly.

If she were completely honest with herself, the weekly classes with Snape had become something of a sanctuary for her; a space where she could study and improve on her techniques for the future in the comfort of silence. While she still wasn’t fond of Snape particularly, she could admire his teaching technique, as she had sensed the difference in her brewing and the improvement in her skills since beginning remedial Potions with him. His help had given her the confidence in her abilities that had been robbed of her earlier in the year, and that was enough to warm her feelings towards him ever so slightly. But, the potential invasion of her thoughts was one that she was wary of – there were too many secrets this year that she guarded, and she wished that they were mere trivialities.

“I would appreciate it if you would ask me any questions, rather than attempting to get answers for yourself,” she uttered stiffly. Hermione knew that her request could be interpreted as rude, but felt she had a prerogative to set her limitations.

Privately, Snape was impressed with her abilities; she had not only sensed his presence, but forced him out of her thoughts without lifting her wand.

Nodding once, Snape replied, “Agreed. So, then, what preoccupies you today, Miss Granger?”

“My work,” she said stiffly, hoping that the answer would be enough.

“I see,” he replied quietly, “nothing else?”

Biting her lip, Hermione wondered whether or not she should just come clean about the book, and Harry’s experiments with the spells scribbled in its margins. She decided, again, that to reveal its existence would be a mistake and a betrayal of her best friend.

“Nothing that would influence my efficiency in this class, Professor.” Her tone was final.

Taking the brush-off for what it was, Snape retreated for the moment, concerned for his student, but unwilling to involve himself too far in her business. She was more than capable of dealing with the schoolboy idiocy of her best friends, a fact she had demonstrated time and again.

Siphoning off her successfully-completed potion into a glass phial for Snape’s inspection, Hermione returned to her station and cleared it with a quick sweep of her wand, effectively dismissing herself from his class.


 

Slamming her chopping board down on her station, Hermione began to methodically massacre the lavender sprigs necessary to produce her Sleeping Draught. Once roughly shredded, she began to furiously pound the sprigs to dust in the mortar, the sound of the pestle unnecessarily and brutally loud compared to her usual movements.

Snape had noticed her foul mood at the beginning of the lesson, but had decided not to push after their previous conversation some weeks ago. That said, if she continued to pulverise the lavender in that way, he knew that she would be more frustrated by the outcome of her potion.

“Miss Granger, I have encouraged you to pursue alternative methods, but this is not an acceptable means of procuring lavender paste.” His statement was snarky at best, but he hoped that it would be enough to burst the dam.

“Yes, Professor,” she replied, her eyes tearing up as she dumped the ruined sprigs in the waste bin before starting her ingredient preparation from scratch.

Disappointed in the lack of a rise, he reminded himself once more that Miss Granger was a more restrained student than Mister Potter – a quality that he usually appreciated, but was just a frustration at present.

Weighing the decision in his mind, he resolved to find out precisely what had begun to interfere with her performance. While it was true that she had improved steadily in recent weeks, her improvement seemed stunted compared to that of the weeks prior – something had been distracting her, but he had resolved not to interfere while it had no effect on her potion-making. That had clearly changed, as her fury had caused her to destroy her ingredients, as well as practically snarling at her cauldron when it didn’t light immediately. Resolving that his actions would be for the best, he began to quietly push his way into her thoughts.

A difficult task at first, Snape continued to persevere, cautious that his efforts not be noticed by the already-enraged Miss Granger. With a bit more force, he found himself inside her mind, and facing a rather nauseating image of Mister Weasley, lips apparently being consumed by Miss Brown.

Ah, teenage jealousy. His thought was quiet, and he hurried to muffle it before she could note his entry into her thoughts. Apparently, she hadn’t yet noticed, as she continued working with complete absorption. He knew the desire to lose oneself in work – it was one that he was familiar with, and frequently indulged in, when his work was of a clearer nature than his current position.

Pushing past the Weasley-related images – and resisting the urge to vomit at each turn – he came to a different issue that she seemed to have been nursing for a while, if the pain surrounding it was any indication. The image of Potter standing over a successful cauldronful of the same potion she was currently brewing persisted in her thoughts, with lauding remarks being made by Slughorn about his ‘natural talents’. From the corner of his eye, Snape spotted a ragged copy of Advanced Potion Making that he assumed was Potter’s, and noticed the scribblings that seemed to cover the entire page. He recognised the handwriting instantly, and felt at once nostalgic and irritated. Potter had gained his reputation by riding on his coat-tails; and Hermione had been forced to suffer blows to her reputation as a result. He finally understood her motivation in seeking remedial Potions with him and not Slughorn – though she couldn’t possibly know that the book had been his – she needed to feel again that she was in control of her own skills, with no comparisons available.

As he came to this realisation, he felt himself being shoved away from the image, and found himself confronted by a furious and hurt Hermione.

“I asked you not to do that,” she gritted out, tears shining on her bottom lids. She refused to allow them to fall – it would only add to her complete humiliation.

Stoic, Snape replied, “Would you have answered honestly had I asked you directly?”

“No,” she was firm in her response, “but the questions you have are also none of your business.”

Her candour was admirable, and Snape smirked lightly, again reminded of her incurable tenacity. “Mister Potter’s propensity for cheating in your current Potions classes are my business, as a teacher at this school.”

“It’s not cheating if the book he found was vandalised,” replied Hermione furiously, “even if I disagree with his use of it, it’s not something that concerns you!”

Hermione looked shocked at her own response, and fell silent, watching Snape cautiously.

For once, Snape was thrown. There were so many things happening in the world outside Hogwarts, and his involvement in them necessitated complete attention to detail, but this was one thing he did not have time for. And yet, here he was, dealing with a furious and upset Hermione, because somehow, he’d come to care about her as a student, and this injustice that she’d nursed her pain over for so long spoke to him on so many levels. The Potters seemed to have a knack for hurting those around them without a second thought.

Harry had chanced upon his old copy of Advanced Potion Making; his rise in the class now made sense, as what he’d been doing amounted to little more than plagiarism. Hermione, on the other hand, was a genuinely intelligent student with a completely useless teacher; she required guidance, and had turned to him to give it to her. The thought warmed him, in a way, as he realised that she had allowed herself to become vulnerable in his class by exposing what she had perceived to be ineptitude.

Calmly, he replied, “It concerns me because it is influencing your ability in this class. You are a good student –“ here, he checked himself – the word ‘brilliant’ had suggested itself to him, but he felt that she might query his praise now, after so many years – “in need of proper guidance and teaching. Your skills far surpass those of your classmates, yet you have been relegated to a position of inferiority because your best friends have decided to cheat. You deserve better,” here, he also thought of Weasley, but decided to keep that thought to himself, “and have been forced to concede to a student of sub-par ability and intelligence. But you are a capable, and intelligent, witch of great ability.”

The assurance of her abilities left Hermione stunned. She glanced up at Snape quickly, and was surprised to find him watching her openly, his expression unreadable as ever, but perhaps slightly warmer than usual.

Stammering, Hermione replied, “Thank you, Professor.”

“You have no need to thank me for pointing out the obvious,” he responded, his voice now returning to its usual semi-bored cadence.

“No, I mean, thank you for teaching me – for giving me the guidance I needed.” Hermione’s expression was earnest, and she smiled slightly before turning away to return to her station.

While the lesson was irredeemable at that point, Hermione was glad that she’d had the opportunity to thank Snape for his work with her; she had truly enjoyed the lessons far more than she’d expected, and knew that her improvement was down to his abilities, and not those of her current Potions professor.

Snape sat back behind his desk, quietly surprised by her thanks, but not showing it. In his many years of teaching, this was the first time a student had genuinely thanked him for his efforts, and he found that he appreciated it more, coming from a student with whom he had initially had an adversarial relationship.

As the door shut behind her, Snape replied quietly, “Any time, Miss Granger.”