The next day Hermione skipped breakfast, it was going to be a bad day, she felt it in her bones the moment she opened her eyes at the break of dawn. Memories of fiendfyre and unforgivable spells had haunted her dreams and she woke up unrested. Lily seemed concerned at her tired appearance but Hermione quickly assured her that she was well.
And after half an hour of meditation she really was better, having successfully cleared her mind.
She showered and dressed into her uniform, all the while thinking of ways to untangle the mess she found herself in. Why couldn't the Gryffindors just mind their own business.
She descended the stairs to her first class of the day but on the way she found herself alone in the corridor with two students wearing Slytherin uniforms fast approaching her.
"Look what we found here!" One of them said. "A stray Gryffindor! Wha'cha doing all alone here, hmm?" he asked.
"Not just any Gryffindor," the other said "this is Snape's new friend." He sneered.
"That's right, I thought she looked familiar." The first one said.
Hermione remembered what Lily told her about Snape's so called friends and she expected trouble from the two Slytherin boys now blocking her path.
"You must be Severus's room mates. Mulciber and Avery." she said.
"'Severus's' eh. You his girlfriend or something?" Mulciber asked.
"We're friends, not that it concerns you."
"You should watch your little mouth dear, I don't much care who it entertains in private." The irate Slytherin said.
"If you'll excuse." Hermione said as she tried to get past the two.
"Now wait on just a minute." Avery said blocking her path.
"We weren't done talking. Now were we Mulciber?"
"We were not, in fact, we had just started. How about we get to know each other a little better?" Mulciber said as he got into Hermione's personal space.
"Bugger off!" Hermione growled and pushed Mulciber away from her.
"What? You suddenly have standards?" The boy asked with an ugly sneer.
Hermione snapped out her wand, putting it between her and the two boys.
"There's no need for that darling, we were only friendly." Avery said.
"Yeah, relax." Mulciber said taking a step towards her.
"Don't get any closer to me." Hermione growled.
"Or what?" The boy challenged.
"Take another step and find out." She answered in kind.
"I think she just threatened you." Avery put in.
"A pity too." Mulciber said. "We could have been good friends."
Avery tried to jinx Hermione but she fully expected it and deflected it with ease.
She send her own spell, a stupefy towards Mulciber but he ducked out of the way in time.
"You're done for!" Avery yelled as he sent another jinx her way. She managed to send it back his way, it surprised Avery that she could even do that and he couldn't duck in time and the jinx hit him square in the head and he went down like a sack of bricks.
"You stupid tramp!" Mulciber hollered.
"What in heavens name are you doing?" A startled voice asked. It turned out to be the much thinner voice of professor Slughorn than she remembered it ever being.
"She!" Mulciber said pointing at Hermione. "She attacked us! We were only trying to make friends and she attacked us!" The boy was positively seething.
"That's not what happened." Hermione said calmly.
"Quiet! The Headmaster will know of this!" Professor Slughorn said levitating the groaning boy off of the floor.
"But first follow me to the infirmary." He said and started walking. "What did you do to him girl?" He asked Hermione as Avery's groans got louder.
"You'll have to ask him, I only sent his own jinx back at him." Hermione answered.
"This is not over." Mulciber hissed in her ear.
Hermione and Mulciber sat in the cushy chairs in the Headmaster's office. The Headmaster himself sat looking at them from above his glasses.
"Well?" He asked the squirming students.
"I've already told you what happened." Mulciber said.
"And I heard you just fine." Dumbledore said. "Now, Miss Granger, is that how things occurred?"
"No," Hermione began but was rudely interrupted.
"Liar! You drew out your wand, you attacked us and we defended ourselves!"
"It's true that I drew my wand but I did it because I felt threatened. I was minding my own business when they..." she told Dumbledore everything just the way it happened and the Headmaster believed her. But the thing was that professor Slughorn swore up and down he saw her jinx Avery. He had to defend his precious Slytherins after all.
"I see." Dumbledore said. "You will both receive detention, for fighting in the halls." He said after a while.
"But she..." Mulciber started but was interrupted by the Headmaster.
"Mister Mulciber, go to the dungeons, you will help Mister Filch with his rounds tonight and you, Miss Granger, will serve Miss Sprout in the gardens tomorrow after classes with what she may see fit."
Mulciber angrily got out of his chair, mumbling about the fairness of his detention."
"Another word, Miss Granger." Dumbledore said as Hermione too sat up to go.
She sat back down.
Again Dumbledore looked at her over the rim of his glasses for an uncomfortable length of time.
"You seem to have a hard time integrating." The Headmaster said in a much softer tone of voice.
"Perhaps you look at the people familiar to you and expect them to behave the same but you must remember that they are not the same. They have not been through the hardships of war, they have not suffered loss. In my experience dear, people, magical and muggle alike, take the most precious things in life for granted. You are different now, you know how easily all can be lost. You must learn to be patient with them and accept their ignorance."
"I know, it's just a little frustrating. Knowing all I know and not being able to... to do something!"
"You are doing much my dear." Dumbledore said soothingly.
"You know what I mean Headmaster." She huffed.
"They are not yet guilty of anything Miss Granger so there is nothing to punish. But you are doing much my dear. You are saving lives by influencing the future. You must understand that even the slightest shifts now will lead to great changes further on."
She nodded. "Of course. I am aware."
"So you will cease fighting with your fellow Gryffindors?"
"I'm not fighting with them. Black, he's positively infuriating and so is Potter and even Evans but it's nothing serious."
"I am glad to hear. You may go Miss Granger, I'm sure Minerva would like to check on you as well."
It was true, McGonagall was waiting for her at the base of the steps leading to the Headmaster's office.
"There you are! I've been trying to gain entrance for a while now but sometimes Albus can be as hardheaded as a first year." McGonagall said quickly. "What happened?"
"It was just a little hot air. I'm fine." Hermione said.
"Mr. Avery is in the infirmary as we speak. I think it was a little more than hot air between members of rival houses." The head of Gryffindor said.
"Well it's not my fault that they can't resist attacking any Gryffindor they can. Avery deserves a taste of his own poison." Hermione snapped and immediately regretted it. "I'm sorry. I'm just having a bad day, I know it was wrong to fight them but I seriously doubt they would have seen reason enough to defuse the situation amiably."
"Oh, I'm not mad at you dear. I know those two boys are a menace and I just want to make sure you are alright."
"You are too kind. I'm fine, I assure you I can handle myself."
"That's quite reassuring but it doesn't mean that such behavior should be ignored. Tell me what happened."
"I need to get to class, I'm already late." Hermione said with a sigh.
"I'll walk you there and you can tell me on the way."
Hermione nodded her assent so they left for the dungeons together and she told her caretaker everything.
Minerva was irate, not that she wasn't aware of the numerous conflicts her Gryffindors had with those in the house of Slytherin, in fact she was well aware that incidents had increased in number and viciousness since He who shall not be named had openly declared war against muggleborns and any who supported them. Albus himself started intervening in an attempt to help diffuse the tensions. It had worked so far but she wondered for how long it would be until more strict measures should be considered to keep the conflicts at bay.
"If anything of this sort ever happens again I want you to call for me immediately."
"I will. Thank you for everything." Hermione said as they reached the Potions class heavy wooden door.
Minerva nodded, "Go." she said unable to mask the concern she felt for the girl.
Class had already started when she entered, all students were chopping, dicing or stirring in their cauldrons.
Her eyes landed on Severus, he was concentrating on a potion ingredient he was slicing thinly.
"Ah, Miss Granger! Kind of you to join us, you may sit with Mister Snape. He'll be able to help you with your potion in case you have trouble." Professor Slughorn said from his desk where he sat reading the Daily Prophet.
She quickly went and sat beside Severus.
"Hello." She whispered, he merely looked at her pointedly.
"What?" She asked.
"We'll speak later." He whispered back. "Turn to page one hundred and four and don't bother me unless you are about to kill me with your concoction." He said rather harshly.
Hermione was taken aback by this but left him alone. She opened her book to the indicated page; it was a rather simple draught so she went and retrieved the necessary ingredients, fired up her burner and started working.
Severus was done long before any other student so he sat quietly, reading from a book for the rest of class. Hermione took her time with the brew, observing Severus every chance she got.
She wasn't sure if he was absorbed by the book or if he was ignoring her completely but he didn't take his eyes from the book for a second for the remainder of the class.
She finally bottled her draught and presented it to the professor who ignored her as he did the rest of the students. A soft chime signaled the conclusion of the class and students started pouring out of the room while professor Slughorn made sure every student handed in their phial for grading.
Hermione made her way back to her place and gathered her things. Severus had already left, she sighted disappointedly.
Lily and Remus approached her.
"Hermione?" Lily said.
"What is it?" Hermione asked.
"We heard Snape's friends picked on you." Remus said.
"How did you hear that?"
"Professor Slughorn," Lily said "he was late for class. He told us there was a fight in the hall. Your name came up."
"I can see, but Mulciber is fuming. He and Avery will want revenge." Lily said.
"For what?" Hermione asked.
"You're a girl and you beat them up." Remus said as if it should have been obvious.
"Well, then I'll do it again." Hermione said.
"Hermione." Lily said.
"I know, you're worried."
"They're a nasty bunch." Remus said.
"Hey, love." Sirius said to Hermione as he joined them.
"Sirius." Hermione said.
"Don't worry about them, if they try anything. Me, James and Remus will take care of them." He said nonchalantly.
"Listen to me carefully Sirius." Hermione said as she got close to him. "I can take care of myself. I really rather you don't do anything."
"Alright." He said and smiled.
Hermione huffed in annoyance; he wasn't going to listen to her no matter what.
They left the class together.
History of Magic was their next class Remus and Lily both took it so they headed there together. It was one of the more diverse classes she had, there were a lot of Raveclaws a few Hufflepufs, some Gryffindors and a handful of Slytherins. She sat with Lily and Remus sat behind them with a girl from Ravenclaw. She saw Severus in front of the class with his nose buried in another book, a dark haired Slytherin boy sat with him but they seemed to ignore each other.
Class was, as expected, utterly boring. The teacher going on and on about the wizarding war of 1342, Hermione tried to pay attention but having sat through the same lecture not too long ago took out even the slightest interest in the subject from her. She instead decided to watch Snape. He scribbled every once in a while in his History book with his black quill and it made her smile. She had seen his potions book, usually she would reprimand any who did such things but she had to admit, Severus had made that book better, the proof was in Harry's improved potions grades.
Lily gave a huge yawn beside her.
"I don't know why I did this to myself." The girl muttered.
"Oh, it's not that bad." Hermione said.
"Not for you, you've been staring at him for twenty minutes now." Lily said.
"What? I was not staring, I was thinking." She whispered back.
"Oh, and what were you thinking of?" Lily asked.
"Um, he's writing in the book. It reminded me of someone." Hermione said.
"He does that, always had. A bit annoying until you read them. As much as I dislike him I must admit he is quite brilliant."
Classes went on without much excitement, she saw Snape in all of them but never got a chance to talk to him. Then, at dinner he made eye contact with her as she sat between Lily and Remus.
He made a small incline of his head towards the hall's entrance then swiftly got up and left. She quickly excused herself with the saying she had forgotten to check out a book from the library and left as well.
She wasn't ten paces out of the hall when Severus snatched her arm from behind. She was ready to punch the daylights out of him but stopped herself in time.
"Follow me." He whispered into her ear and let go.
She followed him and was pleased when she realized he was taking her to the astronomy tower. Night had settled over the land, the sky was clear and full of glimmering stars which she could see reflected perfectly in the Black Lake. The dark forest was pitch back in the distance with its strange calls resonating from time to time through the school grounds. She had forgotten how beautiful Hogwarts really was. In her last couple years there it had been rather gloomy and she had been too preoccupied with ever-present threats to stop and take in her surroundings.
A throat clearing startled her. Severus, she had forgotten about him.
"It's beautiful here." She said, knowing he hadn't brought her here to watch the stars.
"Yes, and private." He responded. "Now could you enlighten me onto what precisely were you thinking?" He asked leaning against the stone banister.
She could tell he was livid, even though she could barely see him and even though his voice had been rather soft. It was rarely a good sign with him.
"What do you mean what I was thinking? I didn't do anything."
"You fought them!" He hissed while he got in her space and loomed over her.
"You damn well know they attacked me." She hissed right back.
"That may be so, but you put Avery in the infirmary. That was a mistake."
"What are you so afraid of?" She asked.
He stilled. She realized it was the wrong thing to ask. This was not Severus Snape the dreaded potion professor.
"You do not know what they are capable of. Their parents. This is not bloody America!" He said and left her there. Suddenly the night wasn't as beautiful anymore; rather it was cold and ominous.
I'm not dead! And I am sorry it took so long to update. I'll try to update more frequently this year, I solemnly swear.