The staffroom was half-full in preparation for the weekly staff meeting.
Professor Sinistra was seated by the large windows, peering out into the graying sky, speculating about the success of her classes that evening.
Eager to be one of the first to leave, Professor Flitwick positioned himself near the door. He had prattled ad nauseum about developing a particularly exciting charm for his classes and was eager to get back to working on it.
The rest of the teachers were positioned around the long staff table, which was covered in baked goods from the elves and delicious smelling coffees, teas and hot cocoas.
Professor Hermione Granger sat in the seat nearest the fire. It was a cold and dreary November morning with the start of a chill that touched the bone. She sipped her tea reading the gossip section of the Daily Prophet laying in front of her, detailing Harry Potter’s latest romantic foray with Draco Malfoy.
Hermione was one of the neophytes of the staff, having taken the Defense Against the Dark Arts post in September. After several years of boredom at the Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures she was looking for something new to sink her teeth into.
After doing all she could for house elves and their kind she had been drawn back to the comfort and familiarity of Hogwarts. She missed the scent of the grounds in winter. She missed the thrum of excitement that passed over her every time she stepped through the front doors. And she had missed the history and magic that fairly seeped through the stone walls.
Despite the fact that she was a very competent teacher and the students loved her class, Hermione still didn’t feel like one of the staff. Often, she felt more like a student with special privileges. It wasn’t that the other Professors were cruel or even excluding; they just had their own kind of shared history that she wasn’t part of.
The only other Professor near her age was Slughorn’s Assistant Professor who was taking over the Alchemy courses. Millicent Bulstrode – former bully and Inquisitorial Squad goon. However, despite their shared past, she was not the Millicent that Hermione remembered from her youth – the big, spotty, watery-eyed girl who lived to make her life a living hell.
This Millicent moved with a willowy grace and even her laugh was overtly feminine. She was fetching in her crisp robes and sleek hair. Hermione often found herself longing to be as put together as the other woman, all the while cursing her own out of control hair, hurried walk and constantly ink-stained fingers.
The door burst open and Pomona Sprout came rushing into the staff room brandishing a small blue book. Her grey eyes were bright and her round cheeks flushed excitedly.
Most of the staff looked nonplussed. This behaviour from the enthusiastic Herbology Professor was not out of the realm of normal. Usually, she was exhilarated about something akin to Culumalda leaves being grafted with a Mallorn species or Lissuin petals being especially fragrant during the spring. The older woman was nothing if not devoted to her specialty.
And although she was used to it, Hermione still peeked out of the corner of her eye to see what caused Sprout’s latest histrionics.
Pomona plopped herself into the empty seat between Minerva and Poppy at the long staff table, smiling at them in turn. She was practically vibrating in her seat and she tapped the book absently.
"Have you seen the latest?" Pomona asked in a fevered hush to Minerva and Poppy. "It's the top seller this month according to Witches Weekly!”
Poppy looked up from her knitting – her customary pastime while waiting for staff meetings to start - with a bright eager look in her eyes.
"The one involving the pirate and the wench?" Poppy whispered. "Or the scullery maid and the wealthy Baron?"
"No, no," Pomona said with a wave of one chubby hand as she slapped a slim novel with a title in gold font onto the table. She flipped it over, showing the back of the book and its summary.
"It's the one with the Wizard and the obliviate-“
At the sound of the book being opened, Hermione, unable to hide her interest glanced over openly, her brows rising in surprise. She hadn’t seen this book before, not even in the restricted section.
"Your old classmate, Pansy Parkinson, has made quite a name for herself in the writing world," Pomona said excitedly pushing the book towards Hermione. “This is her latest in a series.”
Hermione took the slim novel into her hands, scanning the back and reading the summary. It was the normal tripe that Witches Weekly espoused the virtues of – decidedly not Hermione’s thing. She gave Pomona a small polite smile and handed the book back to her.
"Never would have expected it," Minerva offered as she took a sip of coffee and a shake of her head. "Her transfiguration essays were always rubbish."
"Yes, well," Pomona continued hastily, not looking very pleased at being interrupted. "She writes fairly compelling romance novels. And they’re always a hit!"
"Smut, you mean!" Hooch had entered the staff room and had joined the conversation. "And bloody good smut if you ask me. There’s a reason she sells out every time she publishes. Budge up there, Hermione."
"No one asked you," Pomona said icily as Hooch took her seat next to Hermione. The two professors had had a recent falling out after Hooch caused several mandrakes to behaviorally regress after she tried to give them the ‘sex talk’ too early in their development.
"Since when?" Hermione demanded, suddenly fascinated despite the subject matter. "I've never seen anything about Pansy-"
"She writes under a nom de plume," Sprout said with a look of extreme smugness. "With her family being disgraced within wizarding society, she didn’t want to associate them with her work.”
Hermione considered this a moment. After the war Pansy’s parents had been outted as vocal Voldemort supporters and their fall from grace had been very public and very ugly.
“And how do you know all of this?” Minerva inquired.
“She used to bring her stories to me when she was a student. We came up with her penname together."
Hermione glanced at the book and the pen name in question: Rosie Marigold , and hid her smile. However Minerva had dropped her coffee cup in surprise. It clattered nosily as it settled back into its saucer.
"Pansy Parkinson?!" Minerva looked aghast. “Came to you?”
“Who else was she going to go to?” Sprout said with barely suppressed scorn. “Her head of house, Snape? Or that barmy Trelawny?”
As if on cue, in a flurry of gauze and rattling bracelets, Sybil entered the room, and swanned into the empty seat at the end of the table.
“I have had the most terrible vision,” Sybil declared, her eyes wide and unblinkingly fixed on Hermione.
“Is that so?” Hermione asked airily. It was tradition for Sybil to announce this at least once per month. So far, Hermione hadn’t run into anything resembling bad luck. Unlike someone more superstitious, these conversations barely phased her.
“We don’t have time for your visions,” Pomona snapped, pressing a fleshy forefinger to the book in front of her and facing Poppy. “You simply have to read the first chapter, Poppy.”
Poppy took the novel, her eyes quickly scanning down the length of the page. The rest of the staff began to file in, but Hermione didn’t even notice them.
Instead, she was transfixed as the older woman’s cheeks went pink and Poppy hooked a forefinger in the neck of her robes, pulling at them. After a moment the woman shut the book, closing her eyes a moment and steadying herself.
"I need my own copy," Poppy exclaimed suddenly. “That was delightful.”
“Let me see that,” Minerva said, her interest suddenly piqued. Hermione leaned over, trying to see over Minerva’s shoulder as the older woman read.
“Get your own copy!” Pomona scolded, gripping the book and trying to pull it back. The two respected witches were in a subtle tug-of-war when the door to the staff room suddenly closed with a loud, firm click.
"And what is this?" a low voice interrupted.
"Oh, Severus," Poppy glanced up as the women sprang apart embarrassed. The book fell between them on the table. "We didn't see you there."
"So it would seem."
Snape stood above them, looking down at the novel. His obsidian eyes glittered with malicious amusement. His long fingers plucked the book off the table and slowly brought it closer to his face.
"The Capture of a Wizard's Heart," he purred and glanced at the two older women before continuing. "The story of one witch's journey through time to find the obliviated wizard she's sworn to protect... And love."
At this, he gave a moue of distaste and pointedly dropped the book back onto the table with a thud. It sat there awkwardly as the women in the vicinity blushed.
His surly gaze cut to the young woman most obviously trying to distance herself from the book as much as possible. While Hermione’s hair was covering her face it did little to shield her from Snape’s assumptions.
"Poppy, Pomona, Minerva... Honestly. It's bad enough you’re reading this rubbish, but to bring Professor Granger into it?'
"They didn't bring me into it!" Hermione looked aghast at the accusation. Her head jerked up from the Prophet, her dark eyes blown wide in indignation.
"Then you willingly read this? I had no idea your literary tastes had devolved such since your school days," he tutted, ignoring the scathing looks from Pomona and Poppy.
"They haven't!" Hermione exclaimed, suddenly growing scarlet. It didn't seem to matter that she was quickly coming up to her thirties, as he still had the ability to make her feel like she was a troublesome student. It didn’t seem to matter that she was a competent teacher because around Headmaster Snape she still felt as green as she had been at eleven.
"I-I mean not usually," she sputtered. "It’s just that I didn't know Pansy Parkinson had written such-"
"Your leisure reading habits are not what we are here to discuss," Snape interrupted with finality. "It's time to start the meeting."
He sailed to the front of the room, glancing sternly around at the staff who had come to sit around the long table. He raised his wand and the meeting’s agenda appeared before them on a foot of parchment. Hermione scanned hers briefly, but eventually her eyes drifted over and fixed themselves on the Headmaster’s pale hands.
In her careless youth, Hermione thought Snape tended to hold his wand carelessly, but now she couldn’t look away when he produced it. The tapered fingers caressing the wood, the elegant flick of his wrist. How had she ever thought it careless when it was so obviously precise? Deft? Even sensual?
Hermione wasn't exactly aware as to when she began to develop inappropriate feelings for her employer. She could trace a growing interest back to when his double agency had been revealed. At the time something ignited in her, but it she supposed it was likely the night of the final war that the crush began in earnest.
When she had gone into the shack to see if any uncounted survivors remained, only to find Snape sputtering and bleeding on the floor.
The horror she felt in that moment was unbearable. She, Harry and Ron had only left Snape earlier convinced that he was dead at Voldemort's hand.
But he was there. Still clinging to life.
She'd sent her Patronus to the castle for help and the small beaded bag she'd carried everywhere weighed heavily against her.
Inside was the beazor that she'd shoved down down his throat, insisting through tears that he stay and not die. Finally the colour returned to his cheeks and his eyes focused on her face.
Before Minerva and Poppy came rushing in to take him to St Mingo's he had found her eyes and spoken and it was so quiet she had to dip her head to hear.
Two simple words from a man who before had never spared her a kind one. And yet she carried those words within her heart up until the day she had applied for the position of defense against the dark arts professor.
She had ignored the ridiculous crush in favour of focussing on her position. But every now and then cracks would appear and those silly feelings would find their way out.
Moments like today.
Prior to that she had always thought of him as a background figure in her life. When she did think of him now in her place as his employee, she often thought him rude and off-putting. But there was something else bubbling under the surface with every interaction with the man - a mysterious arousing curiosity that seemed to grow inexplicably on its own.
Snape was a supremely powerful wizard and wickedly brilliant at that. Qualities Hermione had always admired in others. She supposed that's why she didn't want to look foolish in front of him. It was simply no more than that.
“It’s come to my attention that there is an appalling lack of point deductions from certain houses,” Snape said in his familiar sotto voce, his face giving nothing away as his inscrutable gaze made its way around the faces of his staff. “I won’t name names, but I remind you that the purpose of the points in the first place was to foster house loyalty, encourage good behaviour, and to give the students of each house a common goal. It helps to create a familial atmosphere.”
“Headmaster-“ Hermione began in a rush, throwing her hand into the air. She needed him to understand that the bias of houses were completely unhealthy. She had been the one to suggest adding it to today’s agenda. Snape pointedly ignored Hermione and continued to speak over her. Hermione lowered her hand rapidly, folding her hands in front of her on the table.
“I know several of you, especially those new on staff, believe it creates unhealthy competition between houses. You might think it unfair and even unnecessary. However, I urge you to please consider the fact that it has also been a longstanding tradition here at Hogwarts and-”
Hermione was no longer listening. Instead she was staring at her hands, wishing she hadn’t bothered sending him that missive last week at all. He seemed to have taken it personally and was doing all he could to ensure she didn’t attempt to disturb the status quo again.
However, the Snape of her student days would have humiliated her. He never would have used the word please, and would have gone to great lengths to point out why she was wrong.
The Snape of old was still in there of course, it was in the sneer he had ready for every unnecessary comment during the meeting. But there was a softness there, a patience that he hadn’t possessed as a teacher. In a strange way, being a Headmaster suited him much better.
The students still held him at a distance, but now aware of his loyalties and bravery, there was only respect in their eyes instead of fear. However, Snape was still formidable in his black robes and tall stature. He still stalked down the halls as if he owned them, and he was quick to take points from any house that seemed to be up to mischief.
“I’ve had several students approach me about this,” Millicent asked from the back of the room, not bothering to wait for Snape to call on her. “They find the deduction of points during Quidditch games unfair.”
“Understood,” Snape said coolly.
Of course, he didn’t get mad at Millicent for interrupting.
Hermione wasn’t a fool, she could see the blatant favouritism shown for Millicent Bulstrode- and Hermione had a feeling it wasn’t just because the woman was teaching Alchemy – a direct offshoot of Potions. There was no hot-blooded wizard who wouldn’t take a second glance at the pretty Professor. Millicent being one of his own house certainly worked in her favor as well.
Hermione rolled her eyes before scribbling some notes on her parchment. As her notes became doodles, she suddenly realized the room had gone eerily still. She jerked, glancing up at her peers around her. Snape was glaring at her, his rigid fingertips pressing on the wooden table top.
“Professor Granger, are we boring you?”
“No!” Hermione insisted, her heart hammering at having been called out during the meeting.
“Do try to pay attention,” Snape replied silkily. “Professor Bulstrode was in the middle of a proposal.”
Hermione nodded, placing her quill down and giving the blushing Millicent her full attention. The pretty woman smiled at her before continuing.
“I was one of the Professors that suggested to Headmaster Snape that we do away with the points system,” Millicent said shyly. “That’s why I came up with this little proposal as a compromise.”
Hermione was surprised to hear this. She thought she had been the only one not impressed with the points system.
“I thought we might foster inter-house relations while keeping the points system, starting with the seventh years as a test group,” Millicent continued in that honeyed tone of hers. She looked to Pomona. “For example the Ravenclaw Herbology students and Gryffindor Potions students could work together on creating an original potion from start to finish using only ingredients they can cultivate from the Greenhouses. Everyone would have to work as a team.”
At this, Pomona looked over at Slughorn who glanced at her and gave a shrug of acquiescence.
“That sounds grand,” Pomona said with a smile. Slughorn nodded.
“Wonderful,” Millicent said with a gentle clap of her hands. She smiled broadly showcasing her very nice teeth, straighter and brighter than anyone else’s on staff. As Hermione not only had dentist parents, but also performed a bit of self-cosmetic dentistry in her youth, this proved to be especially irritating.
“Wouldn’t this take a lot of time to organize properly?” Hermione asked sharply, drawing surprised looks from the teachers around her.
“I don’t mind writing up a few suggestions on class swaps,” Millicent said uncertainly. She looked around the room with a tentative smile as if afraid the other professors would revolt.
“I think it’s a marvellous idea,” Minerva said with authority.
“As do I,” said Snape with what looked like a twitch at the corner of his mouth. “All in favor?”
The entire staff room raised their hands (save for Filch, Poppy and Pince) and the motion was passed. Millicent took her seat and scribbled something hurriedly into her notebook.
Hermione, cognizant of her earlier slip, was sure to keep all eye-rolling, sighing, and doodling to herself for the rest of the meeting.
An hour later, the meeting was adjourned. Most of the staff filed out quickly, yet several of the older women continued to sit, chatting animatedly on the topic which had previously been interrupted. Hermione gathered her notes from the meeting and bid a hasty exit. She had no desire to be further humiliated.
Snape began to gather his own papers, his ears attuned to the whispers of the women nearby. It was an old habit, listening in on others conversations.
"She writes Wizards so well," Poppy was exclaiming passionately patting the book. "The strong, stoic nature of-"
They stopped their conversation when they heard the completely non-subtle snort of Severus from the other end of the table.
"Something to say, Severus?" Minerva asked thin-lipped, reminiscent of the time she'd offered Dolores a cough drop during her class.
"No, no," Snape said with a bemused twitch of his lips. "Far be it from me to interrupt this group's true literary pursuits."
"Not everything needs to be Most Potente Potions to be considered true literature," Minerva said with a dramatic roll of her eyes.
At this Snape straightened, looking aghast. "Minerva you can't honestly tell me that this rubbish has the same merit as, say, Magical Drafts and Potions."
"You sound like such an absolute snob!" Poppy observed. "Who’s to say that this isn't as literary as some workbook?!"
“You can’t be serious,” Snape said flatly. “It’s like telling Pomona that ‘One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi’ are in the same league as ‘Madcap Magic for Wacky Warlocks.’”
"You've never even read it!" Pomona defended alongside Poppy. "How would you know if it's got merit or not?"
"Because they all follow the same formulaic plot,” Snape said with a derisive chuckle. “Wizard meets witch. Because of arrogance or misunderstanding, they hate each other. They work together against a common obstacle. Someone rescues someone. Witch and wizard somehow overcome said obstacles and fall helplessly in love."
"Such a well thought out perspective," Minerva said, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. "One might think you'd read a few."
At this the women gave amused titters at the thought of Snape holed up in his rooms reading "To Catch a Witch" and sighing melodramatically.
"Hardly," Snape scoffed. "You hens just never stop talking about them."
"Honestly Severus it sounds as if you're jealous."
Snape stopped gathering his papers to straighten his spine and peer into Hooch’s face, who was looking just as deadly as he was.
"And how did you arrive at that ludicrous conclusion, Rolanda?"
"Well, Pansy Parkinson is of your house, and she's published," Hooch shrugged. "And if I recall one of your pieces was recently turned down for publication, was it not?"
All the air seemed to be sucked from the room at that comment. Hooch began to falter under the heavy glares of the other women seated at the table.
It was well known that to several of the older women, Snape was like a surrogate son to them. A son who never visited and often criticized, but a son nonetheless. Hooch volleyed with a low blow to a raw nerve, and the other woman felt instantly protective of their gloomy, billowing, proud Headmaster.
Snape fixed Hooch with a thunderous look before striding off down the corridor, but not before he slammed the staff room door soundly behind him.