A/N: Thanks to those who have been reviewing!
Hermione had a Potions class later that day and when she entered the dark dungeon she was conscious of being a few minutes late.
She was normally punctual to all of her classes, but she had felt a reluctance to come and be in the same room as Professor Snape. If it were true that he did feel something for her, would she see it in his eyes?
What would happen if she did?
But from his position at the blackboard Professor Snape regarded Hermione with eyes that were cold and contemptuous as they had ever been.
"Now that you have finally graced us with your presence, Miss Granger, I hope I will be able to start the lesson," he said smoothly.
Draco predictably snickered from his desk near the front of the classroom, though these days he was without the back up of his cronies Crabbe and Goyle, who had lacked the brains to make it to sixth-year Potions, let alone the seventh year.
There were less people nowadays in Potions than there had been in Hermione's early years, but when her friends had come to the reluctant conclusion of how vital Potions would be in their chosen careers, they had committed themselves to improving their grades. Even Neville had scraped by through sheer dogged determination.
Finding herself flushing a bright red, Hermione hurried to her seat at the back near Harry and Ron, who gave her quick smiles, silently calling herself all kinds of fool for imagining that Professor Snape would start looking at her in a 'different' way. Was it her imagination or had there actually been a noticeable dislike in Professor Snape's eyes when he had looked at her?
She couldn't help but remember though how it had felt in the vision with him to have his arms holding her close, but the reality of life at the moment reminded her of how vast a gulf there was between her, a seventh- year student and the Head of Slytherin. Any tentative effort on her part to bridge the gap would leave her falling into it - not that she really wanted to, Hermione told herself determinedly. Thoughts like that would lead her nowhere.
Harry met her eyes and rolled his own towards Professor Snape, who now had his back turned to them. "Looks like he got up on the wrong side of the bed as usual this morning," Harry murmured, running his hand absently through his tousled black hair, which served to rumple it even further.
Hermione felt oddly reassured by this familiar gesture on Harry's part. Looking at him she could really see no sign that he would turn into the cold man with carefully styled hair in her vision, and for once she did not correct his insult towards the Potions Master.
During the lesson while he was seated at his desk Severus was doing his best to ignore Hermione, but he found himself curious as to why she had flushed so readily at his casual insult before. She usually had a thicker skin than that, and it wasn't as if his remark was in his personal list of insults guaranteed to reduce students to whimpering messes.
She was emotional, he thought to himself, glad of a fresh reason to find fault with her. What else was there? Oh yes, she was far too clever for her own good. She asked too many questions; she was a nosy, persistent Gryffindor.
However, Severus couldn't help glancing towards her occasionally, the slightest of frowns on his face when he noticed how... unsettled she was looking while she was attending to her potion making, as if she had just had a shock. He should been smirking inside at the thought of the Know-It- All Miss Granger being unbalanced but he found himself wondering what was wrong.
She had been always been the stronger one of the Three Pests - not physically, but inside where it counted, able to set her mind to a task and complete it without too much fuss. There were times too when she had been left in the shadows of Potter and Weasley, who had received credit that she had obviously had a part in. She knew what it was like to be overlooked and forgotten, he found himself thinking, just like him. Of the people in Hogwarts she was one of the few who looked at him calmly and with respect.
As if she could understand him.
Hermione looked so lovely too - not the shallow prettiness of some students that would clearly fade as they got older, but of a kind that would last and mature as the years went by. How would it feel to touch her, he wondered, to cover her face and neck with kisses... to feel her respond and arch against him with pleasure? Hermione...
Furious in the direction his thoughts were taking and the fact that he was thinking of her far too often by her first name, Severus tore his gaze away from the Gryffindor. He concentrated on the document he was working on, but his writing describing the effects of the moon on certain plants changed from his precise copperplate to that of jagged, untidy letters born from anger, frustration... and something else he didn't want to identify.
During the lesson Hermione was aware of Ron's covert attempts to get her attention.
"What?" she whispered, her eyes flicking towards the front of the class to see if Professor Snape was looking their way. Luckily he was currently occupied in showing approval to a Slytherins potion.
With awkward shyness on his part, Ron quickly pulled a small, loosely woven bag of golden string (that clearly contained chocolates) out of his bag. "I've got some more chocolates to replace the ones that Mr Clumsy," he nodded in indignation towards an oblivious Harry, "ruined before."
Hermione couldn't help but smile. "Thanks, Ron," she said softly but before she could quickly accept them there was a rustle of robes and she looked around to see Professor Snape standing before them, his eyes narrowed.
Ever alert to deviation from the classroom curriculum by students, especially by Them, Severus had not wasted time in coming to investigate, and perhaps punish with any luck.
He fixed Ron and the chocolates he was holding with a cold stare.
"This isn't snack time, Weasley," he said tartly. "Try and think with something besides your stomach for once - ten points off Gryffindor. Give those to me, please."
"They're not for me - they're for Hermione!" an impulsive Ron blurted, righteous indignation in his eyes.
Hermione winced inwardly as Professor Snape's gaze shifted to her, his eyes narrowing.
"Accio chocolates!" he nevertheless hissed and the bag flew straight into his outstretched hand.
"So. For inciting disobedience in my classroom I expect to see you at detention at 8.30 tonight, Miss Granger."
Hermione blanched, a mixture of shock and outrage inside of her. "I did nothing!" she said for once in protest. This was unfair!
"Silence!" he hissed, angry at the wave of jealousy that had swept through him after that wretched Weasley had admitted the chocolates were for her.
Angry black eyes met those of indignant brown. Hermione found herself remembering for a moment of how his black eyes had met hers in the vision before, not with anger or dislike but with tenderness and desire. She felt as if there was an aching emptiness inside of her and it wasn't something she could blame him for, really. He had, and would never know, she realised with sinking finality, of a place and time somewhere, somewhen, where he loved her.
She knew then that she had a love for him inside - it wasn't an 'all-consuming love' like that in fluffy romances some of the other students liked to read, but nevertheless it was stronger in its way than what she had towards Harry or Ron.
However, this knowledge brought her no joy. She blinked and looked away.
Severus stared at her for a moment longer than necessary, inwardly questioning as to why he had seen a look in her eyes that had seemed for a moment to be so... lost.
As if it really mattered to him what she felt, he told himself coldly.
"I will expect to see you on time, Miss Granger," he said smoothly and turned away.