There was no good reason for Hermione to be walking down the corridor she was currently occupying. Less reason for her to be dogging Severus Snape's heels. And if she thought about it, that mug of cocoa Remus had handed her had a subtle aftertaste of rum to it.

But that was neither here nor there. For there she was, and here was Snape coming towards her.

Hadn't she been following him?

"You've failed to keep your promise," he said, as though that explained everything.

"Right. What?" she asked, drawing the long sleeves of her formal robes around her against his chill.

"On the tower. You said you would leave me be if I... Helped you. And yet, here you are again."

"With all due respect, Professor, you approached me in the hall."

"I did no such thing. You accosted me by the refreshments table."

"YOU," she countered, stepping on the end of his sentence, "followed ME down and had been staring at me for a substantial part of the hour."

"I beg to differ, I -"

"Remus said he saw you staring at me, and I know bloody well he's right. So, if you're so content on being alone this evening, why didn't you keep walking?"

"And if you're so content over not being stared at, SUPPOSEDLY, why did you ever follow me?"

"I..." Hermione's mouth remained ajar and she sighed. "...don't know," she finished.

"Excellent. Well, then, why don't you return to Lupin for the answers, as he seems to be so knowledgeable tonight."

She expected him to turn on his heel and stalk away, robes flying behind him, but he stood there. Hermione s eyebrow arched. "Isn't this where you storm away, all indignant?"

"It seems the thing to do," he agreed.

"Yes. Well." She cleared her throat. "Look, I never meant to bother you at all. I was just trying to get away from Alastor."

"Yes, as you've said."

"And I only came up to you after that because I knew you'd been watching me."

"So you say."

Hermione continued, annoyed but unflustered. "I DO have an eyewitness," she added.

"Certainly he spoke accusingly out of a kind of lonely jealousy."

"No, actually," she replied, blunt as a bludger to the back of the head, "I think he spiked my drink to make me more malleable to the suggestion to... Well. Anyway."

Snape finally said nothing, for he could think of nothing good to say. He stepped back a half step and surveyed her.

"What are you looking at?"

He didn't say what he was thinking, for he had learned his lesson earlier by the egg nog bowl. "Kitchens," he chose instead.


"Earlier. You asked me if I would join you in the kitchens."

"Oh. I did. Yes. Well."

He was silent for a moment and then a bit impatient. "Did you wish to continue that pathetic excuse for a sentence, or shall I chalk it all up to whatever Lupin supposedly put in your cocoa?"

Hermione frowned, but only briefly. "Kitchens," she repeated. "Yes."