Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter NOR any of his friends NEITHER any of his enemies. It's hard to admit, but when I'm done with them all, I have to return them to Joanne K. Rowling in an original wrapping and unharmed. I make no money, I mean no harm.

Send Me a Letter
Reading Your Mind

Hermione sighed and looked around the room again. So far she had found a violet three-legged stool, a sculpture of a hippogriff taking off, various small objects of unknown purpose - all in hideous colours - few totally drenched parchments, absolutely useless, and a pink hat with fruit on the top that she was sure had never belonged to Snape.

In fact, Hermione had been sure Snape had never obtained anything of the rubbish currently laying on the floor of his office. The potion had to have some transfiguring qualities, but to be sure about what, she had to find Snape's notes.

Some of it might have been on the destroyed parchments, but Hermione hoped Snape had been careful enough to keep another set of instructions, notes and achievements somewhere safe, in a different room probably.

The explosion had hit Snape's wards hard and for Hermione Granger it wasn't difficult to find a hidden door at the back of the office and deal with the rest of its warding. It led to a smaller room with a desk, a chair and a fireplace. This room had been shielded effectively from the office itself and seemed to be in order. Hermione settled down behind the desk and began her search. The drawers were locked with a spell each, but Hermione managed to figure them out with nothing worse than a mild burn on her right forearm. The toppest drawer contained spare parchments, quills and ink bottles. The middle one revealed a neat set of notebooks. Hermione blinked away her surprise and flipped one of them open. The neat scripture explained desired effect of an experimental potion, starting with describing theoretical base of the research. Hermione skipped pages of failures to check on the latest stage. The ingredients didn't match those Harry and Lupin had found traces of, so she put the notebook down and reached for another.

She was about a middle of the stack when the fireplace came to life and an irritated voice bounced off the stone walls.

"Snape! What the hell do you think... who are you?" The witch in the fireplace seemed to be in her late thirties, although it was always hard to tell with all the cosmetic potions being on the market, and eyed Hermione suspiciously. Hermione squarred her shoulders. She wouldn't feel intimidated here, in Snape's workroom - at least not by anyone but Snape himself.

"I'm Professor Granger," she replied dryly. "Was there anything you needed?" The other witch looked unsure and quickly scanned the room with her eyes.

"I want to talk to Professor Snape. It's very urgent," she said finally.

"I'm afraid it's not possible. There was an accident and Professor Snape isn't... available." Hermione felt a bit like a five-years-old playing at a lady with friends.

"What about the order we placed this morning? The potion should have been finished by now."

"What kind of a potion was it?"

Two hours later, Hermione finally finished going through Snape's notebooks and had to admit a defeat. There wasn't a single word on any transfigurative potion anywhere, even in the lowest drawer.

In fact, the lowest drawer didn't contain anything magical. Aside from Byron's works... in leather.

Hermione turned to a blackboard she had asked a house-elf for. She had taken great care in drawing a complete flowchart of making an Advanced Diagnostic Draught, however, it was good for nothing without knowing anything about the experimental potion.

There had to be those notes somewhere.

Maybe Snape sometimes took his notes to his chambers? For an evening reading?

Getting access to Snape's personal rooms wasn't easy, but Hermione could learn from what she had seen before. Breaking through wardings on Snape's small workroom and drawers of his desk helped a great deal. In less than half an hour, Hermione persuaded a house-elf to show her before Snape's door, embarrassed him with too many thanks and an offer of a pair of gloves, figured out Snape's wardings, treated her slightly itching palm and homed in on Snape's personal stock of spirit. Which happenned to be Firewhiskey.

Glass in a hand, tears in eyes, she began her search. She took in her surroundings absentmindedly - dark walls, thin carpet, heavy furniture, a desk in a shadowed corner.

The desk she warily approached. After all, there was no reason for it not to be warded as well.

But it wasn't and Hermione sat down and began opening its drawers. There was a stock of letters, apparently personal, and under them the notebook she was looking for. Hermione's eyes widened in awe as she scannned through pages and pages of detailed notes. Finally she knew everything she needed and moved to close the drawer. One of the letters fell out and opened on the floor and she bent to pick it up. Nearly against her will, she read the first line of it and decided for another glass of Firewhiskey.

The letter was addressed to her.

"So, you think that Severus isn't missing, we only don't know which of the strange items in his office he has become?" Albus Dumbledore let his fingers roam through his long beard as he rethough the idea.

"He was trying to create a cure to Lycanthropy, an antidote to what starts the transfiguration," Hermione replied. "The potion itself shouldn't be able to transfigure anything, but combined with the Advanced Diagnostic Potion, and they must have been mixed together somehow, such reaction is possible."

"I'll tell Remus and Harry to check everything again and ask Minerva for help - maybe some students of her NEWT courses might be able to give a hand, too. For now, Hermione, you should go to bed. You are supposed to teach in the morning and it's already well past the bedtime." Albus showed her to the door, his eyes all the time twinkling merrily, as if the problem was already solved.

Hermione went to bed, but she couldn't fall asleep. She had gone through the stack of letters she had found in Snape's desk. They were all addressed to her. The first ones were short, demanding, arrogant. Then there were longer ones, and even a bit softer, and a few nearly pleading, and one she couldn't describe anything but blabbering, as if Snape had intended to say something and hadn't known how. Hermone though she knew what the letters meant, and it made her feel weirdly uncertain.

Why would Snape, of all people, want to become close to her? And more than just close...

She finally drifted to sleep just few hours before dawning and slept restlessly.

An hour before breakfast, Hermione stepped in Snape's office again. This time she was greeted by stern Professor McGonagall, ruffled Harry and yawning Ron Weasley.

"Hi Hermione," her friends chorused, while McGonagall shortly nodded.

"As I was saying, the formula is very easy and unharmful to anything that hasn't been transfigured. What are you waiting for?" Harry and Ron exchanged unsure glances and picked a random piece of rubbish each. Harry was the first to place his on the floor before him. Then he drew his wand, waved it and mumbled something. Nothing happenned.

"You have to say it aloud, Mister Potter," McGonagall said. Hermione watched as Harry repeated the incantation and an unidentified purple debris turned into a book. Ron let out his breath.

"For a moment, I was worried," he remarked and picked up the book. "Who's Keates?"

"A Muggle poet," Hermione replied and left. She felt very uneasy. What if these two found Snape? As a purple umbrella or a pink three-legged stool? What a laugh they would have!

And what, doesn't he deserve it, asked a bit sour, quiet voice in her head. And an even quieter voice replied, no, he doesn't. And what if, the first voice insisted. So what, the other voice shrugged.

Hermione's first lesson ever was supposed to be fifth years Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff. As the students were filing in the classroom, Hermione tried to remember what it had been like, being a fifth-year in October. It seemed so long ago, setting up Dumbledore's Army, dealing with Umbridge... and her inspections... Hermione felt heat rising to her cheeks at an unexpected memory and had to step out of the classroom, from students' curious eyes.

"Still no luck?" she asked Harry and Ron, who had spent two hours already re-transfiguring everything in the room.

"Well, depends what you call luck," Harry replied and held up a piece of parchment, probably someone's essay. What the student wrote Hermione couldn't read at the distance, but the word "idiot", spelled in capital letters, was clearly visible and she grinned.

"Carry on then." She turned back, calmed herself as much as possible and faced the students.

"Hello, class. As you've probably heard, Professor Snape..." Hermione was interrupted by a loud squeak. Before she could even think of finding its source, she was hit with a fluffy ball, all squeaking and squealing. The little creature climbed up Hermione's body, licking occasionally at an exposed piece of skin, and settled in her hair, chirping happily.

"I'm sorry, Professor," a Ravenclaw girl stood up and tried to reach for the animal. "Come here, Lucky. He's never done anything like that. Well, never since yesterday." The girl frowned, as the animal evaded her hands again, hiding behind Hermione's neck for a second. "I wouldn't expect it from him, anyway, as he belongs to Professor Snape, you know... Oh, Lucky, come here!" Hermione noted the girl was a prefect.

"Does he?" she inquired and reached up. There was no resistence as she closed her hands around a little furry body and brought it to an inspection.

"Yes, we found him in his office," the prefect continued. "A little miracle, wasn't it, Lucky?" Hermione eyed the squirrel suspiciously. Snape and a squirrel? Nevertheless, she scratched Lucky's belly.

"What's..." Hermione traced a long white scar with her thumb.

"Must have been a very nasty wound, leaving a scar like... this," the prefect supplied.

"Yes," Hermione whispered. "Yes, it was."

"Professor?" But Hermione's mind was months and miles away, in a deep dungeon, surrounded by dead bodies, left behind by the rest of the Order, by her friends, or maybe it had been her who left them behind.

The smell was terrible - Hermione was sure someone or something had been left dead and rotting down here weeks ago. The dim light didn't help and her wand had been broken by a Death Eater - she had been lucky to find a large piece of glass just in time to stop him from delivering the Killing Curse. Still, she should look for another wand and try to catch up with the rest of them, the Order, Harry, whoever... She should, but she couldn't.

"Severus!" she yelled, every pretence and dignity having been eaten by her fear. Fear that had filled her very heart with coldness. "Severus!"

She was crawling through corpses, debris, shattered wood and glass, seeking that one body that had to be still alive, against anything. And she found it.

Found him.

His breath was shallow and unsteady, but at the very least, he was still breathing. There was a pool of blood underneath him. Hermione grabbed his wrists and pulled at them, unsuccessfully.

"Professor," she begged, "let me help you."

"Don't need... help... filthy... Mudblood..." came a quiet, feverish reply. Hermione felt tears in her eyes.

Still, he had saved Lupin just few minutes ago.

"Where's your wand?" Hermione quickly searched as many of his pockets as she could and froze when she spotted a broken wand just under his shoulder. Broken, like hers.

She placed her hands atop his and burst in tears. There was no way she could heal the gush without a wand. She just wished it would disappear.

It did. She stopped crying to watch her own hands perform wandless magic. She watched in awe as the bleeding stopped and the wound closed itself, leaving only a white scar. Snape passed out finally and Hermione started her search for a wand anew. She retreaved one from the Death Eater who had nearly killed her.

"Professor?" the Ravenclaw prefect repeated and Hermione snapped back to presence.

"Start reading about the Strengthening Solution. I will be right back." Hermione turned and carried Lucky into Snape's office.

"Ron, go get some meal from the kitchens, will you? Thanks. And Harry, would you mind fetching Albus here? Very nice of you." Neither of the boys discussed her orders and neither disobeyed - at least as to leaving the room immediately. Hermione put the squirrel on the floor, petting his head for the last time.

"Stay here," she said gently when Lucky stood up to follow her. She stopped three paces from him, pointed a wand and cast the re-transfiguring spell.

He didn't look very dignified, sitting crouched in the middle of all the debris. She had been right to do this alone. His eyes were clouded and he sported a confused expression. Slowly, he stood up.

"Do you have your wand?" Hermione asked curtly. Snape drew his wand. "Alright then. Albus will be here in no time, and some decent meal. I have a class to attend." Hermione returned to the classroom.

"Now, class. What do you think will be the most tricky part of making the Strengthening Solution?" Hermione addressed the students with sudden certainty. She could do this. As well as everything else.

"Severus, it's very nice to see you again."

"Aerr... um... again, Headmaster?"

"Hello, Professor."

"Well, after you've been... out for some time. Do you feel quite well?"

"Yes... no... I don't remember anything."

"Hermione, here's... ah, Professor. Where's Hermione?"

"Not at all? Pity, that. I'll have to ask Hermione about it than."

"Her... Hermione?"

"Miss Granger, Severus. I see she has arranged for a light snack. Maybe you should take the rest of the day off, Severus, relax, have some fun. That is, after Poppy claims you well and healthy. You surely don't look healthy. What are you two sniggering at?"

"Nothing, sir."

Severus Snape didn't like the rest of that day very much. He had spent hours at the hospital wing, having Poppy Pomfrey running all sorts of tests over him. Just before the dinnertime, Albus had informed him he had been transfigured into a squirrel and being taken care of by a Ravenclaw student.

At least the squirrel had been magical and, as Poppy had told him, had taught Ackerley some manners.

Albus had assured him Miss Granger had promised not to breathe a word about his... condition to a living soul, which hadn't been very comforting given the number of ghosts and portraits all around Hogwarts. Gossipping portraits. Oh, Merlin. Over dinner, he had received a very angry owl from Mungo's, complaining about his tardiness. One would think having one's office blown up and oneself transfigured into an incompetent animal would excuse not making one blasted potion. Snape had owled back, not choosing his words very carefully, omitting only furry and fluffy details of the incident. He should have sent them a Howler, Snape mused as he sank in an armchair. He might still send one - that would teach them.

There was a piece of parchment lying on his desk.

Snape lit a candle over his desk, stood up and approached it. It was a letter, one he himself had written, or better had started to write. It began with words "Hermione, please," and never continued.

There was another line under this one. It said: "Yes?" in a handwriting he would always recognise. Snape cleared his throat.

"I will wait for the answer here, if you don't mind." Something moved in the darkest corner.

"It might take some time. I must admit I'm not very good with writing letters." Or sending them, Snape added in his head.

"I'm very good at waiting." A pair of arms slipped around his waist, almost directly above the scar, and locked there. One of Snape's hands rested on them, out of its own will.

An owl knocked at the window. Mungo's answer, probably. Or some order. Or whatever. They could wait.

Or go to hell.

A/N: So, that's the story (ufff!). I'm very sorry about the long delay - my muse and my computer betrayed me both at once. Hope you like the conclusion. Please, review, it makes my day (or night or whenever I manage to check nowadays).