Over the next few weeks Hermione managed to keep her head down and stay out of Snape's way. It wasn't as if there weren't other things to keep her mind occupied anyway. Everyone's worst fears had been confirmed about Professor Umbridge, who turned out to be, not only an utter bitch, but also completely inept. In their first DADA lesson she had shown that she was purely there to spout ministry rubbish, thereby angering Harry, and had soon after proven that her idea of discipline was barbaric. When Hermione found out that in his detentions with Umbridge Harry had been forced to write with a blood quill, thereby carving his lines into his hand and writing them in his own blood, she had begged him to go to Dumbledore, but he had refused. Hermione had soon after dropped the matter, feeling like a hypocrite for telling Harry to go to the Headmaster with his problems, when she had refused to do so herself, even when the old man had asked her to. Other than that, Hermione had begun to settle back into the usual Hogwarts routine; Ron still spoke with his mouth full, Malfoy was still an arrogant git, and Hermione continued to excel in every class. Well, every class except potions that is.
In potions Hermione could not forget what she had learnt about herself. The truth was stood at the front of the class staring her in the face and it drove her to distraction. Her first potions lesson had been the warning she needed; never again would she allow herself to get so close to completely losing her temper with Snape. She gave up putting her hand in the air to answer his questions; he would only ignore her anyway. On the rare occasions when he had previously asked her, he would only taunt her when she got the answer right. So for weeks now, Hermione had not said a single word in potions; she came in, took notes, brewed her potions and handed them in, all in complete silence.
Meanwhile, Severus had watched Hermione's withdrawal with increasing frustration, verging on anger. Admittedly, her previous hand waving and know-it-all attitude had irritated him to within an inch of his sanity, but now it was like she didn't have to try at all, like she thought she was too good to bother with potions. Furthermore, the girl still hadn't told the faculty why she had run away that summer and not knowing was causing Snape a wealth of frustration. He felt like she was deliberately lying to him; and Snape hated to be lied to. It was with all this in mind that Professor Snape watched Miss Granger walk mutely into his classroom one Monday morning, his brow knitted together in a frown.
Hermione sat down at the back of the classroom with a dusty bookcase on her left and Ron on her right. She had begun to like this spot for two main reasons. Firstly, it was near the door, and for some reason Hermione always felt like she needed a clear escape route these days. Secondly, she could peruse the tattered book covers to her left while half listening to Snape's lectures; much like she was doing now.
Snape quickly grew weary of the fifth years' idiocies as they struggled to answer his questions correctly. He asked another, simpler, question and glared at them all, daring them to get it wrong. A number of tentative hands were raised this time, but Snape's eyes searched out Miss Granger. Much to his annoyance, she wasn't even looking the right way let alone listening.
"Miss Granger." He drawled in a dangerous tone, snapping her back to attention.
"Yes, Professor?" She asked without emotion.
"Answer my question." He ordered calmly, hoping to catch her out for not listening.
"Knotgrass, Sir." Hermione answered monotonously. She had learnt how to pay enough attention as to know what was going on around her without really concentrating on Snape and she knew the answer immediately.
Snape's annoyance grew rapidly to anger at having been proven wrong by the know-it-all, and he snarled, "Would you care to explain why you did not raise your hand to answer my question if you knew the answer."
Hermione looked him impassively in the eye and drawled out lazily, "I didn't see the point, Sir. It's not like you would have asked me if I had."
Ignoring her last statement, Snape stalked slowly to her desk, "Perhaps you now think yourself so superior to your classmates that you feel your energies would be wasted contributing to a mere Potions lesson. Have your know-it-all tendencies made your ego so large, that you believe yourself to be above such lowly duties as answering my questions when asked?" He sneered sarcastically.
Hermione flushed at his caustic insults and struggled to restrain her temper. "You don't like it when I answer questions and you don't like it when I don't. I can't win!" She huffed out in frustration.
"Watch your insolence, girl." Snape warned in a silky voice, but it was too late. Hermione was too wound up to control her anger anymore and slammed her hands down on her desk in vexation.
"What do you want from me?!" She cried, near despair.
Snape, who was now stood directly in front of Miss Granger, placed his hands calmly on top of her desk, leering over her with a murderous expression.
"What do I want from you?" He repeated in a dangerously soft voice. "Firstly, I want you to stop lying to me." Hermione sat back in surprise. Since when was she lying to him? "Secondly, I want you to start treating me with some respect." Hermione tried to stop a snort from escaping. "And finally, I want you to recommence using your brain, adjust your attitude and start acting like you actually give a damn!"
For a full ten seconds the classroom was deathly silent as Snape and Granger refused to break eye contact and every other student watched them in anticipation. Hermione was furious at his words, but more than that, she feared their meaning and his intentions. His desires for her were much too close to concern for her well-being for her liking and she resented every syllable spoken.
Finally breaking the silence, Hermione's chair scraped along the stone floor as she pushed it back to stand up. She tried to keep her voice calm but her quiet words shook with anger. "Why can't you just leave me the hell alone?" She snarled viscously and with that she picked up her school bag and fled the room, leaving her potions book, her classmates and a seething Professor Snape behind her.