Chapter One: Purple Hyacinth

Hermione didn't know how they always got into situations like these.

"Oh very funny," she said. Slytherin students crowded the hallway, all wearing Malfoy's POTTER STINKS badges.

"Really witty," she said, her tone implying that it was anything but. She wished she had a better comeback but could not think of anything better due to the blood rushing to her head.

"Want one, Granger?" said Malfoy, holding out a badge to Hermione. "I've got loads. But don't touch my hand, now. I've just washed it, you see; don't want a Mudblood sliming it up."

Hermione ignored her own tired anger—it would not be the first or last time that Malfoy used that word—and tried to warn Harry when he started to respond, but Harry was beyond listening. She watched helplessly as Harry raised his wand.

"Furnunculus!" Harry yelled.

"Densaugeo!" screamed Malfoy, wand aimed at Harry.

Two streaks of light hit each other mid-air and ricocheted off each other—one hit Goyle in the face, and the other hit Hermione square in the jaw.

Goyle's face immediately erupted into boils, while Hermione felt nothing happen. Maybe she was fine—maybe Malfoy's spell was defective—but then she felt a tingling ache in her upper teeth. Slowly, her upper teeth grew past her lower lip and crept down her chin.

She let out a terrified cry when her teeth would not stop growing, and the Slytherins in the hall gathered closer to see what was wrong. Some of the surrounding students were giggling. Malfoy said something about 'Mudbloods' and the Slytherin girls laughed harder.

"And what is all this noise about?"

Professor Snape strode down the hallway, robes billowing behind him as students scattered to get out of his way. Hermione was relieved; Snape favoured his Slytherins in classes but he had never let students come to harm before, even if they were friends of Harry Potter.

Malfoy immediately told Snape about Goyle while Snape looked intensely into his eyes. Snape sent Goyle to the Hospital Wing, and then Ron was dragging her in front of Snape to show him her teeth.

Snape looked coldly at Hermione, then said, "I see no difference."

There was a ringing in her ears and she could not stop herself from letting out a whimper. Her vision blurred with tears as she fled from the corridor. She didn't stop running until she reached the doors of the Hospital Wing. When she got there she couldn't stop crying long enough to say what was wrong to the concerned hospital Matron, but the problem was obvious as her teeth reached halfway down her chest at this point.

Madam Pomfrey performed the counterspell immediately, and Hermione said nothing as the Matron shrank them slightly smaller than they used to be. She had always wanted her teeth fixed, and now she had an excuse.

During the entirety of the next Potions period she avoided looking at Professor Snape and did not raise her hand for any questions. Once or twice she caught Malfoy making beaver teeth with his fingers at her. Every time Malfoy did so she felt a fresh wave of humiliation from the memory of the students laughing at her in the hallway. Professor Snape didn't seem to notice her out-of-character behaviour, but he became more agitated than usual as the class dragged on, especially after the third question he asked went unanswered.

At the end of the period, he assigned each student a minor healing potion to research instead of the antidotes that they were scheduled to be studying. Hermione looked down at her assigned Blemish Remover Balm with a scowl. Was he making a comment on her skin now? She knew she had minor spots from time to time, but perhaps to Snape there was no difference between what she had and the giant pockmarks the Blemish Remover Balm was supposed to cure.

The assigned potion turned out to be simple, though with several variants, and Hermione dutifully copied them all down and noted how different ingredient substitutions affected the final potion. She even came up with a possible variation for improving sallow skin in a pique of vindictiveness; if Snape thought he was the only one who could get away with making snide comments about another person's appearance then he was sorely mistaken.

When she received her essay back, she found that Snape had made a single comment on her theoretical potion instead of his usual running commentary about her long-windedness or textbook regurgitation.

Add purple hyacinths. See Floriography and Potions Making for explanation. The resulting balm should be useful as a general skin perfecting formula.

She turned her parchment over, looking for more of his aggressively spiky handwriting, but found none.

Floriography and Potions Making was hidden deep in the Potions section of the library, with a layer of dust so thick it was obvious that no one had read the book in ages. Settling her bag on the ground, Hermione sat down at one of her favourite tables and spread the book out on the worn honey-coloured wood.

The Muggle use of communicating meaning through plants, written down in the book The Language of Flowers, was a corruption of the ancient arithmantic text Keys to Plants. Now lost to time, it was then known as the most complete text on the effects of different plants in potion making. It is possible to reconstruct the original knowledge of these plants in the lost text by careful study of the meanings that these plants hold in The Language of Flowers.

Fascinated, Hermione read through a few more pages before she skipped to Hyacinth, Purple. She sucked in a breath as she read the entry for the plant.

Hyacinth, Purple.

Symbolism: Sorrow, I am sorry, please forgive me.

An exfoliant used in topical healing potions, purple hyacinths can aid the absorption of certain ingredients if used crushed. They are especially effective in dealing with skin conditions caused by emotional distress.

Hermione stared in disbelief. It seemed as if Professor Snape was apologizing, if she was reading the book right—reading him right—and he had to be, because she knew she could have found the knowledge of purple hyacinths' potions properties in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, but not the symbolism...this convinced her this was Snape's way of apologizing to her, though he was doing it in an entirely convoluted manner.

The next class, Hermione waited until everyone had left before she made her way to hand in her essay. Professor Snape tensed as she approached; neither had said a single word to each other again during class. On top of her essay, she placed a single hazelnut, which the floriography text had said stood for reconciliation. Snape's eyes flickered to the nut, but he did not touch it.

"Thank you for your recommendation of the book, sir," Hermione said.

Snape's lips thinned. "Don't thank me. Your previous understanding of potions ingredients was woefully incomplete and simplistic."

She was taken aback. "Of course, sir."

"You of all people should understand that sometimes things react differently in combination with other elements that do not belie their true nature," Snape said, shoulders tensing even further. "If there is nothing else you wish to discuss I suggest you run along to your next class."

Hermione left the classroom before she could think of an adequate response, stuttering an apology as she left. The way he said one thing and seemed to mean another gave her whiplash as she tried to understand him, and his cryptic remarks only served to confuse her further.

But the reasons for his actions became clear at the end of the school year when she learned that Lord Voldemort was back, and that Snape had known that he had been growing in power for a year, because Severus Snape was a Death Eater, and a spy.

Fifth Year, after Severus Snape threw Harry Potter out of his office

He couldn't do this anymore. The spying was bad enough, but the teaching was worse. Pretending that he was sabotaging Potter—in case Voldemort went rooting around the boy's mind—while actually trying to goad the boy into having some sense and teach him something about Occlumency at the same time was impossible. The fact that Albus had been driven from the castle because Potter had the bad sense to start a secret defence club named Dumbledore's Army made it all moot.

The visions of hallways in the boy's mind made it obvious that he had learned nothing, and wanted to learn nothing from him. It was obvious Potter had no regard for the danger he was in, and wanted to know what the visions that Voldemort was sending him were about. It was so typical of the boy to be so self-absorbed. He wallowed in self-pity and arrogance when the fate of the wizarding world rested on his shoulders, and refused to accept authority and help from those who knew better.

The fact that the boy had so little respect for his privacy and stuck his nose where it did not belong didn't surprise Severus at all. He hoped the little miscreant disliked what he saw in the Pensieve. It served him right to find out the truth about his father—that he was a bully who cared little for others and was full of himself.

Severus sat at his desk and went through mental exercises to calm himself. When the worst of his rage and humiliation passed, he slumped against his desk, head in his hands.

He knew he was hard on Potter, and hit him where it hurt, but the Dark Lord was as likely to be considerate of Potter's precious feelings as he was to Avada himself. Somebody had to prepare the boy for what was coming, but Severus couldn't help but feel like it was a hopeless task. The boy was reckless and lacked sense, and did not want to learn, and the worst part was that Albus didn't see anything wrong with it.

He was contemplating a momentary break before he went to tighten castle security when a knock sounded at his door. Now what?


It was the Granger girl. Of course it was Hermione Granger. Whenever Potter got into a tough spot (which was evidently every potions assignment), Granger would be there to hold his hand through the mess and clean up after him.

Of Potter's friends though, she at least had a little sense. The jinx that caused Edgecombe to erupt into pustules was obviously her work. The vindictiveness was almost Slytherin, though any true Slytherin would've threatened their victim into silence before they had a chance for betrayal. The exclusion of his House from their defence group rankled him; the group needed an edge in cunning, but he could not think of a single member of his own house he felt comfortable pushing toward the group at the moment.

His lips curled. No doubt she would be here to make her excuses for the boy and add to his guilty conscience.


The girl sat down slowly and took a deep breath. "Good evening, sir. I heard from Harry that you cancelled his Occlumency lessons... he said you thought he had a good enough grasp on the subject, but I don't think he's telling the truth." He lightly scanned her thoughts and was surprised that she was being honest. He was even more surprised when she looked up at him, startled, as if she had detected his intrusion.

"If Potter says so, why not believe him?" Severus asked, shifting to get ready to dismiss the girl.

"I know something must have happened between you two, and I know that Harry can be difficult to handle, but it's really important that he closes down the mental connection between him and You-Know-Who!"

Severus prayed for patience.

"Miss Granger. I have attempted to teach Potter to close his mind for three months now. He has made little improvement in the two dozen lessons that I've had with him. What makes you think more will have any effect? Has it not occurred to you that Potter is just not capable of learning?"

Her mouth opened and closed a few times. So, the boy was lying to his friends, was he?

"Then…do we just live with the fact that Voldemort might possess Harry at any moment?" she asked in a small voice.

Severus sighed. He had thought of this issue himself and knew that sooner or later the Dark Lord would do something about the boy, but he couldn't just say that outright. Nobody whose mind was vulnerable to the Dark Lord or his minions could know of his true loyalties—the deception had to be absolute.

"Perhaps you should be prepared for such an eventuality. If Potter refuses to close his mind and all but invites the Dark Lord in, none of us can stop him." The girl looked shocked. Severus felt that statement was callous enough for his double spy act and offered a warning at the same time, while placing the blame squarely back on Potter where it belonged. Maybe if he said it enough he would believe it.

"Now go. With Dumbledore's unfortunate…absence from this castle, the safety of no one within these walls is guaranteed, and I have many important things to do that do not involve bending over backwards to forgive Harry Potter for his flaws."

He was in charge of the safety of the children now, but maybe if Granger knew how precarious the situation was, she could convince Potter to listen to reason. Twisting the guilt into the girl for her fault in the mess that led to Dumbledore's flight might drive her to act with greater caution in the future; he had seen the sign-up sheet when Umbridge demanded that he undo the jinx on Miss Edgecombe's face, and recognised Granger's writing when he saw it. She should've known better than to leave evidence and assume that they would never get caught.

"Yes, sir." Thoroughly chastised, she left his office.

After the Battle at the Department of Mysteries

Severus felt as if he hadn't slept for days. It had been three days since the battle. Dumbledore had just finished debriefing him on the fiasco at the Ministry—after the Headmaster had spent the past few days away from the school doing damage control with the Ministry—and he was trying to calm down the murderous rage inside him. Staring into his fire drinking tea had seemed like a wise alternative to throwing things or yelling at injured children.

He had known it was too good to be true that Potter would keep his head down for the entirety of the school year, but cocking up this spectacularly and bringing all his friends down with him had been beyond even Severus' wildest imagination. He should have known.

The fact that the public knew Voldemort was back meant that things would only get worse. The Dark Lord would not be able to resist inciting widespread fear and panic now.

Dumbledore had decided that he had been in error in thinking that he could fight the influence of Voldemort at the Ministry—Severus did not know how Albus could have done more, with how firmly Lucius had twisted Fudge against him, but to see the Headmaster give up made him feel ill.

But the Order did not have the resources for that fight, did not have the people or influence necessary at the moment. Dumbledore had decided to switch tactics to focus on neutralising the Dark Lord and key Death Eaters so the movement would not revive even if the Dark Lord fell. Rank and file soldiers and Imperiused supporters were not their worry anymore; that was for the After, if they ever made it that far.

It was worrying. Taking down the Dark Lord meant relying more on Potter—a boy who had proven to be unstable, easily manipulated, and out of control—because of the blasted prophecy. At least he had more level-headed friends who were capable of thinking straight in a dangerous situation. The Granger girl had apparently not only realised that the vision was likely a trap but had neatly disposed of and terrorised Umbridge, all without getting her hands dirty.

Of course, in the end she went along with Potter and nearly got herself killed, and now Severus was stuck brewing the ten different potions she would need to stay alive and heal. Normally, he would have resented the person who got themselves into such a situation to need so many potions in the first place…but the girl had terrorised Umbridge.

Dumbledore was overwhelmingly focused on the boy—he had faith in the Chosen One. Severus did not. He knew that Potter was key to bringing down the Dark Lord, because Voldemort himself chose to set the prophecy in motion. Severus also knew that the Granger girl would be there with Potter every step of the way, whispering instructions into Potter's ears, figuring out how to carry out his insane plans, and seeing him through to the end, or at least until reinforcements arrived.

Severus stared at the bubbling cauldrons around him.

He could train her. Potter did seem to listen to her at times, and she had a ruthless streak that would be necessary for war. She also knew how to keep a secret, even from Potter—Lupin's lycanthropy came to mind.

The girl would do.

The next day in the Hospital Wing

Hermione woke up alone in the hospital wing. The scar on her chest hurt, and there was a pile of get-well gifts and cards on her bedside table.

She sat up gingerly and sorted through her cards.

There was a card from the entirety of Gryffindor house, a card that exploded with confetti from Fred and George, a tub of fudge from Mrs Weasley, as well as smaller greetings from assorted friends.

Someone had also left her a brand-new book, glossily leather-bound and embossed in gilt letters with the title Basic Healing Charms and Potions. On top of the book lay two sprigs of bell-like flowers, one white and one purple. The purple one she knew to be belladonna from potions class. It was nice that someone had thought to send her interesting reading and flowers, but why would someone send her deadly nightshade?

Her mouth dropped open and her heart skipped a beat when she opened the brand new cover to reveal ancient yellowed pages with an ornate, old-fashioned script. The Arts of Perception read the first page. The index outlined the theory and practice of Occlumency, Legilimency, Obliviation, Memory Manipulation and Memory Creation. She couldn't believe it. She had been searching for a book that went into the specifics of how Occlumency worked to help Harry, but could not find anything in the library. And now she had the perfect book in her hands.

Suddenly she had a feeling that the person who sent her the belladonna knew exactly why they were sending her deadly nightshade. She thought of the floriography book she had read the year before last.

Her hands shook as she skimmed through the introduction. How much trouble could they have avoided if they could have just modified Umbridge's memory when they needed to? How much trouble could they have avoided if Harry had learned Occlumency like he was supposed to?

But she had to know what the flowers meant.

She hadn't been discharged, but no one was on watch in the hospital wing. With great effort, she lifted herself out of the cot and slipped out the door before Madam Pomfrey could appear and stop her. She made her way to the library without getting caught and found the book on floriography again.

She was sweating with exertion when she found the flowers that she had received. The white flower was Solomon's seal, for secrecy and discretion. Deadly nightshade meant silence.

Author's note as of May 31, 2021: This fic is currently about 75% complete, with 30 chapters mostly finished, and ~6 chapters left in my outline. I will be updating once every 3 weeks until this fic is entirely drafted, at which point I will switch to a weekly update schedule; for progress updates please go to my tumblr at viridiantly dot tumblr dot com.

Thank you to frostynarrator, and PensievePrince for helping beta the first several chapters. A big thank you to chronicxlogolepsy for your invaluable alpha and beta work, and for being here for the development of most of this story—I would have quit this fic at chapter 7 without you. Also a big thank you to turtlewexler for your alpha reading and Brit-picking, and being there for me to flail about this fic. 3

Further thanks to The Writing Den, The Pink Ladies, and Hearts & Cauldrons discord communities for all the writing sprints and support. Writing is hard, but you guys made it easier. :)