"Like this?" I asked, my brows furrowing in concentration as I tried to move my wand in the proper way.
"Yes, Granger," he said, sounding annoyed, but not exactly malicious. "You know it's right, I don't know why you make me waste my time like this."
"I don't know that it's right until I practice it."
"And are you so stupid that you can't practice in your common room?"
My reply was slow enough that he looked at me curiously.
"I just don't spend a lot of time in my common room, that's all," I said, moving onto the next charm. "I did practice some of your potions, however, in Professor Slughorn's lab."
"And I suppose you earned a thousand points for Gryffindor with my corrections?" he asked disgustedly.
"No," I said with a laugh. "But I did earn an invitation to a dinner."
"I have earned a thousand such invitations, and ignore them regularly," Severus said haughtily.
"I… might go," I admitted.
"It might be nice, to meet people."
"Only a Gryffindor would attend a Slug Club meeting to make friends."
"What do you mean?"
"You go to Slug Club meetings to make connections, not friends."
"Well maybe, I need a different kind of connection than you do, Severus," I snipped. He'd finally gotten under my skin.
"There are more important things than friends, Granger," he said in a voice that was pacifying, for him. I merely made a noise of assent and repeated a wand movement- that one would be difficult to remember. I made a mental note to practice it more often.
"Really, Granger, the members of your house are dunderheads, you'd have better luck with Ravenclaws."
"Thanks, Severus," I said without thinking, but recognizing his wraparound compliment.
"Well, you're a dunderhead, too. If you think asking questions as a form of assault is the way to make friends, then keep at it." I exhaled through my nose as I stifled a laugh. If I thought thanking Severus was a good idea, maybe I was being a dunderhead.
It wasn't so bad that I didn't have friends… I never had, not really. Everytime someone had gotten close to me before, I'd gotten excited and unexplainable things would happen to scare them away. But I'd also had my parents before. I just figured, maybe, that once I met other witches and wizards, I'd relate to them better. I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed when I was as much of an oddball here as I was in Muggle Society.
Then his entire demeanor changed as a group of older Gryffindors walked by. I recognized James, Remus, and Lily, but they were also with a mousy looking boy I'd never been introduced to, and a tall dark-haired boy who'd refused to speak to me before. Severus stiffened.
James nudged the dark-haired boy and came up to us.
"What are you doing there Snivellus?" James asked, laughing cruelly. I held my breath and Lily scowled.
"Don't worry about it, Lily, all in good fun," he said.
"His name is Severus," I said. "And we're in the middle of something, if you don't mind."
The dark-haired boy sneered at me and opened his mouth to speak, but Lily interrupted him.
"Don't you dare! She's a first year! And you-" she now spoke to James. "Stop bothering Severus!"
Severus had already lifted his wand, and I backed away.
"Trying to get expelled? Go ahead," James taunted. "Isn't your little stabbing curse why you're tutoring Granger in the first place?"
Severus' face turned red, and he lowered his wand.
"That's right," James said. "If you want to learn real magic, I'm sure I could teach you a cleansing charm for your greasy hair."
"Someday," Severus said coldly, "you will beg for my mercy, and not even the Headmaster will be able to protect you."
The dark-haired boy spoke up. "Ooh, scary Snape. Gonna tell your little Death Eaters about me hurting your feewings?"
Lily stomped off in the other direction, distracting James, who followed after her. After a moment, everyone else followed James, although Remus looked a little distraught.
Severus immediately got his wand out and muttered under his breath at their backs. There was a shout and then the dark-haired boy was on the ground, pulling his shoes off. Severus had already put his wand away, and I looked to see what had happened to the other boy. His toenails had grown beyond natural proportion and looked quite disturbing, but I couldn't help but feel a little vindictive on Severus' behalf. No wonder he was so unpleasant if he was treated like this on a regular basis. I tried not to think about the stabbing curse and what the boy had meant by that.
"I didn't know all of them," I said uselessly.
"What, would you like me to introduce you sometime?" he sneered, and I realized how that probably sounded to him.
"No, I was just trying to say something," I said honestly, unsure of what the appropriate response was.
"Well, stop trying, and keep working on your charms, idiot girl."
I worked on the next one for a while, but I wanted to ask him so much about what had just occurred.
I gathered my own information over the next few weeks, from Lily, mostly. She was quite infatuated with James, but apparently had been close to Severus for a long time.
"Severus was one of my best friends, but he is into some Dark stuff, very Dark magic. You'd do better with a different role model, Hermione," she told me.
I wasn't sure about all this Dark magic, and Death Eater stuff, but I did know that Severus was a good teacher, and he was interesting. It was getting easier to ignore his harsh manner of speaking, and it was a breath of fresh air after being ignored for almost an entire term, so I continued to make excuses to see him, even after I'd learned my charms.
Finally, one day when he was helping me transfigure a mouse into a teakettle my curiosity broke.
"I don't get it," I ranted. "Lily seems so nice! Why does she hang around James and his friends?"
He gripped the teakettle so hard I thought it would shatter.
"Lily is nice."
"Then why? She said you're friends. I don't know much about friends, but I don't think you're supposed to let your friends harass one another."
He paused, thinking about his response with a sullen expression on his face. "It is my personal understanding that she's confused by her attraction to them."
I shook my head. As if attraction was a valid excuse.
"It's the same with Remus, he's so… nice to me. I don't think he's attracted to them."
"Are you going to tell me what I already know, or are you under the impression that I don't have better things to do than discuss the Marauders?" he snapped. "And as for the being nice to you, it's because you're a Gryffindor. Now transfigure this kettle back or I'll intentionally let you fail your OWLs."