The march down to the dungeons had been long, and cold for Harry, who'd barely had enough time to slip on a shirt, his glasses and a pair of pants over his pajama bottoms before Professor McGonagall had ordered him downstairs. He'd put on his shoes just before they'd gone through the portrait hole and out into the hall, trying his best not to look at Hermione. He could tell from her labored breathing she was on the verge of a massive crying fit.
They stopped outside the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and Professor McGonagall knocked once and opened the door, waiting until Professor Snape stopped speaking to his class and acknowledged her at the back of the room. "If you could spare me a few minutes, Severus, there is a matter of student discipline that needs your attention," she said, motioning to the disheveled students behind her. "Now."
Harry looked past the Headmistress to the class, where he immediately spotted Fred and George Weasley sitting near the middle of the room, neither of whom was bothering to hide their wide grins as they took in the situation. With the rest of the class staring openmouthed, some also smiling, Harry knew the story would get around the school before lunchtime. So much for getting away with it without anyone finding out.
"I suppose I can end this lesson early," Snape said slowly. His eyes narrowed on Harry's face and hair before dropping to take in his clothes. He gave Hermione the same slow perusal before clearing his throat and giving his class their homework assignment. "I expect it on my desk no later than noon tomorrow. One letter grade will be deducted for every ten minutes you are late." With those parting words, he joined Professor McGonagall at the back of the classroom and together they exited the dungeon room and headed down the hall to his office, Hermione and Harry keeping pace behind them.
When they had all entered his office, Snape closed and locked the door, turning to face the Headmistress where she stood glaring at his stepson and his girlfriend, both of whom looked as if they were headed for the gallows.
"Dare I ask what happened?" Snape looked over the students again and frowned.
"Professor, I can explain," Hermione said.
"Oh, I don't believe you can come up with a sufficient explanation for this, Miss Granger," McGonagall said, her voice rising with each word. Eyes widening, Snape cast a spell at the door so the conversation would not be overheard. "Do you have any idea how many school rules you have broken? What could've happened?" She turned to Snape and took a deep breath, which did not appear to calm her. "Severus, your stepson and Miss Granger were—were—"
"I can guess, Minerva," he said, looking at the uneven buttoning of Harry's shirt more closely.
"I—yes, well, you can imagine my shock at finding them this morning in Mr. Potter's bed. I can't imagine what they were thinking."
"I can," Snape responded.
Hermione frowned and swiped at her eyes quickly with one sleeve, fighting to hold back her tears. "Professor, we didn't mean—"
"You didn't mean to what, Miss Granger? You didn't mean to pretend to be sick this morning so you could skip class? You didn't mean to worry your roommates?" Her eyes narrowed on the girl's flushed face. "Or you didn't mean to get caught?"
Harry coughed and covered his mouth quickly; he blinked rapidly as his eyes watered.
Professor McGonagall turned to him. "You are developing a reputation for misconduct, Mr. Potter." She frowned as he continued to cough behind his hand. "It is only by your stepfather's leniency that you haven't been punished more severely before now." She nodded at Snape. "I think it best you handle their punishments. If I were to do it, I'd likely make it something…as severely shocking as what I walked in on."
Snape blinked at her statement. "They weren't actually—?"
McGonagall's hand fluttered in front of her throat. "No." She cut her eyes at Hermione who was now weeping. "I suppose they're lucky in that respect. If I hadn't come in when I did, I don't know what I might have walked in on later. Perhaps I should reconsider the Ministry's suggestion of mandatory chastity belts."
Hermione's mouth dropped open. She couldn't imagine them doing that to anyone, not in this century. Harry coughed again and she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. There was something wrong. His face was turning red. He wasn't really sick, was he?
"I don't believe we need to try something quite so extreme with these two. They've practically designed their own punishments," Snape said.
Professor McGonagall turned to him, one eyebrow raised in question. "I'm sorry?"
"For a first offence, in Miss Granger's case at least, a verbal warning and a letter to her parents will suffice," Snape said. "I've met Miss Granger's parents and I believe they will do their utmost to stress their…disappointment in the situation, to say nothing of their strong feelings about their daughter's personal relations. I'm not sure anything we could come up with will scare her straight more than that. As for Mr. Potter," he eyed his stepson who stood in the center of the office with one hand over his mouth. "I think Lily will have much the same reaction."
The Headmistress's eyes widened. "Are you suggesting I let them get away with what they've done? What kind of example would that be setting for the other students, Severus?"
"Hogwarts is a relatively small environment, Minerva. I think having all of their classmates know exactly what they were caught doing will be enough punishment for Miss Granger. As for Harry," he turned to his stepson. "His mother and I will deal with him at home. For a very long time." Snape turned back to the Headmistress. "Of course, if you'd like to punish them for any later infractions, I will not object. I'll even design their punishment myself."
Professor McGonagall sighed. She hadn't wanted to be too hard on either of them, but it never would've occurred to her to seek a punishment at the extreme low end of the scale. Not for what she'd seen. "I suppose I can see your point, Severus. Though I do wonder if this will be enough, especially for Mr. Potter."
Snape's eyes narrowed as Harry coughed again, his face going a slightly darker shade of red around his hand. "I'm sure Harry understands the consequences of what he's done today. He will certainly know the full extent of the repercussions once summer break begins."
Hermione couldn't believe her ears. They weren't going to do anything to them? "So we're not going to get a detention?" Hermione asked.
"Would you like one?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"Well, no, but—"
"Consider yourself lucky this warning is the extent of your punishment, Miss Granger. Though I may be speaking too soon. Professor Snape will be writing to your parents today. You should be thankful it is not me. If I told them what I'd walked in on with any detail, they'd be pulling you out of school before the end of the week."
Hermione swallowed hard, tears welling in her eyes again. She nodded. "It will never happen again."
"See that it doesn't." Professor McGonagall glanced at her watch. "I want you both upstairs, properly dressed and at your next class before the bell. If I hear you are so much as thirty seconds late again, I will not look for a considerably calmer professor to intervene in your punishment. I will handle you myself. Do I make myself clear?"
Both students nodded quickly, Hermione still wiping at her eyes.
"Fine. Upstairs now."
Professor Snape unlocked his door and both of them went into the hall. The office door closed behind them. The moment he heard the sound indicating a spell had sealed the door, Harry burst out laughing.
Hermione rounded on him as they walked, hitting him in the shoulders and back with light slaps. "I don't believe you! I knew you were trying not to laugh in there."
"I'm sorry," Harry said, still chucking. "I couldn't help it. You should've seen the look on your face."
She pouted. "This isn't funny. We could've been expelled."
Harry raised one eyebrow at her. "For a smart girl, I thought you might have figured something out. Most of our professors count you as one of their favorite students. Didn't you get three hundred twelve percent out of a class last year? There's no way Professor McGonagall would expel you after getting caught the first time. Now when we do it again…"
"Harry, no!" Hermione stopped in the hallway, eyes wide. "We can't do this again. We'll…we'll…"
He leaned over and kissed her as she sputtered, smiling when her words hummed to a stop. "We'll take whatever punishment we get," he said, "because every moment before was worth it."