Disclaimer: I'm not JKR. I am, however, grateful that she lets us muck about in her Potterverse as long as we're not trying to cash in.

A/N: Thank you to Moaning Myrtle, the alpha beta!


Chapter 4

It was simple, really. After classes Monday -- a week and a day since the whole thing began -- Hermione waited until everyone had charged down to dinner, then calmly walked into the third-year boys' room and pinched Harry's invisibility cloak from the bottom of his trunk. She kept it in the inside pocket of her robes as she mechanically ate dinner. Walking briskly through empty corridors afterward, she slipped on her borrowed goods and sent herself to 8:30 p.m. on the day that would not end.

At 8:45 Professor Snape stopped dead in an intersecting hallway as if he had walked into a wall. He whipped out his ebony wand and marched by her, close enough that she could feel the wind from his long teachers' robes. After a muttered Alohamora proved insufficient for the might of eight Hermiones, he whispered another incantation that she couldn't make out. Thwack went the door. In he trod.

When he exited a few minutes later, she followed as stealthily as possible. She soon saw he was winding his way toward Professor McGonagall's office, not Dumbledore's, which startled her out of her attempt to puzzle out the Potions master. I promised I would follow the rules, and now she'll never trust me again, Hermione thought bleakly. It didn't seem to matter anymore that someone would overrule Professor Snape's point deduction; he was about to take away something far more precious.

No, she amended, I did that. He's just in his favorite role as harbinger of ill tidings.

When he turned the final corner, Professor McGonagall was locking up for the night.

"Severus!" she said. "Nothing wrong, I hope?"

"Care to hear an amusing story?" he asked. "Of course you would, you live for amusing stories. Though I warn you that I will be proved right by this one."

Professor McGonagall's lips quirked upwards in that rare, prim smile of hers.

"As I am still right more often than you, I'm sure I will survive the experience."

"I saw a most amazing vision in the Charms classroom a few minutes ago," he said. "Miss Granger--"

"-- is indeed amazing; such a shame no one in Slytherin has a mind like hers," the Transfiguration professor interrupted without missing a beat, as if they had done this before.

"Yes, yes," he said, waving a hand in irritation. "But for part of this evening, Gryffindor had eight minds like hers. Exactly like hers."

"What do you -- oh. Oh dear."


Professors McGonagall and Snape looked at each other silently. His mouth was twitching in that odd way again. As if on cue, they both burst into laughter at the same time, she leaning against her office door, he throwing his head back.

Hermione rubbed her eyes and realized she knew very little about her teachers indeed.

"I know it really isn't funny," Professor McGonagall managed to choke out after a minute, "but I can just imagine your reaction -- 'Miss Granger!' -- oh no, wait -- 'Miss Gran-gers! One hundred points from Gryffindor!'"

Professor Snape grinned again in that way that Hermione found completely unsettling. "Each."

"Severus!" Professor McGonagall exclaimed, the good humor wiped from her face as effectively as if he had cast a spell.

"I want Miss Granger to go to bed tonight with no thought beyond how foolish she has been," he said smoothly. "I know she meant no mischief, unlike some of your charges. The fact remains, however, that she was playing a dangerous game."

"But 800 points--"

"I haven't finished my amusing story. Surely you know that I of all people can appreciate what she has been going through this year. I do recall reminding you at the staff meeting when her schedule was approved that no child ought to be put through that again."

"Your third year was a bit stressful, if I recall," Professor McGonagall prompted as he paused.

"I smashed the damn thing against a wall after final exams, did you know?" he said conversationally. "Good thing I had mastered Reparo by then. That is by way of explanation," he added, "so you won't think that I've gone soft. Listen well, because it's the only time you'll hear this from my lips: 780 points to Gryffindor, and I wish I'd thought of that homework scheme when I was her age."



. . . And that is why Hermione unfailingly defends Snape to Harry and Ron.

I hope I didn't inadvertently borrow anyone's ideas -- well, besides Rowling's, of course --but I realize that after a year of reading fanfiction, it's certainly possible. (I was, for instance, a bit shocked to discover recently that "Head Table" is fanon . . . canon is "High Table.")

Thanks, kind reviewers -- all two of you! Twenty points to the House of your choice.