Chapter One — The Beginning
Hermione Granger looked around the Hogwarts' Staff Room. Having only been a professor for about a month, she was surprised when the Headmistress threw her a birthday party, but Minerva had insisted that it was necessary for them to celebrate her twentieth birthday. The older woman must have known she was lonely with her parents remaining in Australia, and Harry and Ron off for Auror training.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Actually, everyone but him. Hermione narrowed her eyes at the brooding professor in the corner. Severus Snape was the only staff member to not welcome her with open arms. She understood that he was mad at her— he had every right to be! She had saved his life when he, in fact, wanted to die- but still, that didn't give him a right to come to her birthday celebration and be a total arse. He had entered the staff room and made a snide comment about her 'youthful appearance' as Minerva called it— "If I hadn't taught you, Granger, I wouldn't have known this was your age." It wasn't her fault she looked younger than she was!
After making that rude comment, he had gone and sat in the corner. Severus glared daggers at her, making her feel as if her birthday party was a personal insult to him. In fact, he was giving off such a negative aura that everyone at the party was giving him a wide berth. She couldn't enjoy herself when he was being so deliberately miserable.
She took a fortifying sip of her Butterbeer and was about to approach him to say something when Minerva stopped her.
"I wouldn't do that, dear," Minerva said, a frown on her face.
"He's just so frustrating!" Hermione said, resisting the urge to stomp her foot childishly. "Why is he here as he clearly doesn't want to be?"
"I made him," Minerva replied with a soft smile. "The two of you need to work out your issues at some point, but now is not that time. Let him be."
"I just…" Hermione trailed off, a sigh escaping her lips. She knew she was very upset because of the way she felt about him. She had been harbouring a small crush on her former Potions professor since her sixth year, but hadn't truly begun to care for him until she saved his life. Together, she and Poppy had nursed Severus back to health, and it pained her to see him wasting his second chance at life.
"Let it go for now, Hermione," Minerva said once more. "Come, it's time for you to open up your gifts."
Hermione gave Severus one last glance before allowing Minerva to lead her towards the corner of the room, where Filius and Hagrid were waving her over.
She didn't see Severus spare her a glance before he slipped from the room unnoticed.
"Thank you again, Minerva," Hermione said for the fifteenth time that night. "I really appreciate it. Thank you for making me feel so welcome."
Minerva looked at her lovingly. "Well, you did both I and the school a huge favour by agreeing to be our Transfiguration Mistress at the very last second."
"It wouldn't have been possible if you hadn't pressed the board to allow me to sit without the proper qualifications," Hermione countered. "I'm here because of you."
"No, you're here because of you. All of your hard work paid off. Passed both your N.E.W.T.s and the T.O.A.D.s the summer after defeating a Dark Lord." Minerva shook her head in amazement. "I was shocked, but so very proud of you."
"Well, they don't call them tests of atrocious design for nothing! I was nearly done in after them, but thank you, Minerva." Hermione smiled. "And thank you for helping me bring my books back to my room."
"Get some sleep, Hermione," Minerva said. "Luckily, tomorrow is Monday, so you can afford a lie-in as your first class isn't until noon."
"Goodnight, Minerva," Hermione replied, giving her one last smile before closing the door. She quickly changed into her Muggle pyjama bottoms and tee-shirt before deciding to look through her presents.
Taking a seat on the couch, she reached into her gift pile. There was a hand-knit scarf from Molly, chocolates from Bill and Fleur, a new set of teaching robes from Minerva, and countless others. As her eyes scanned the pile, she spotted a present she hadn't opened yet.
Strange, I had thought I opened them all. She reached forward and picked it up. It was wrapped in silver packaging, a note attached to the front. "Happy birthday, Hermione. From, Severus," she read out loud. Severus? Why in Merlin's name would he give me something? He doesn't even like me.
Curious, she gently pulled back the wrapping paper, revealing a book. "Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales?" she questioned. "Why would he send me this?"
Hermione stood and Summoned her robe. She gripped the book determinedly and headed towards the Dungeons— she wanted an answer, and she wanted it now.
She stopped outside his quarters and banged on the door. "Severus!" she cried. "Open up!"
When she received no reply, she continued to pound impatiently.
It swung open, revealing an irate and dishevelled Potions Master. "What the bloody fuck do you want, Granger?" he asked, his voice low and cold as his eyes narrowed at her. He smelled like firewhisky.
She paused, the tone of his voice making her think about just what she was doing. Determined to find answers, she pressed forward. "What is the meaning of this?" she asked, holding up the book. "You come to my party, act a right foul git, sit in the corner all alone, and leave me a gift? Without even speaking to me? Do you know how confusing you are, Severus?"
Severus narrowed his eyes at her. "I gave you no gift." He made to close his door in her face, but she put her hand against it and pushed hard, preventing him from doing so.
"Your name was on the tag, Severus. It said it was from you," Hermione insisted, more confused now than she had been earlier.
"You must be mistaken," Severus said, sneering at her. "Now leave me be. Go ask Minerva, she may know."
"But it was your writing!" Hermione protested. "I've seen it scribbled all over my essays for years! I know what your penmanship looks like, Severus." She pushed against the door more, determined to not let him shut it in her face.
Severus arched his brow at her. "Let me see the note." He abruptly released the door, and she stumbled forward.
"Here." She reached into her pocket and pulled it out, handing it to him.
He grasped her wrist and abruptly pulled her into his rooms. "Stop making a scene. As you know from your own days, students are prone to wandering around at night."
Hermione bit her lower lip, offering him the parchment after he'd closed the door. He'll be able to read it better here than in the corridors anyways, she thought as he snatched the parchment from her.
Severus looked over the scrap of parchment, his eyes narrowing once more. "This may be my writing, Granger, but I didn't write this."
Hermione looked at him in confusion. "But why would someone do this? Why would they send me a book and say it was from you?"
"Let me see the book, Granger." He held his hand out for the book.
Hermione went to give it to him.
The moment they both had a hand on the book there was a bright light, and the two of them fell to the floor, unconscious.