Hermione and the Professor's Spoon

Summary: Ron persuades Hermione to steal a certain object as part of a prank, and for reasons Hermione can't fathom, she agrees. This simple action starts a chain of events that promise for a most unusual year at Hogwarts. Takes place during seventh year and is canon compliant up to and including OotP but is AU after that.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All the characters belong to JKR – I just take them out to play.

Warning: Mentions of character death, torture and past self-harming, but none are graphic.

Chapter One:

Hermione stared at the object in her hand.

The more she thought about it, the more absurd her plan seemed. What exactly had she hoped to accomplish by this? It was not as if she made a habit of stealing teachers' belongings.

Her only excuse – she supposed – was that Ron had convinced her it would be a pretty harmless and amusing prank.

As usual Harry had been no help to either of them the second Hermione had voiced her disagreement with Ron. He simply sat there and smirked while Hermione and Ron bickered on about whether or not the prank was a necessary course of action to take.

Hermione sighed and rested her head on the Gryffindor table. Harry always behaved as if it was inevitable that she and Ron would end up as a couple, and consequently tried to stay out of any disagreements. She really ought to have a word with him about that.

She paused in her train of thought and glanced around warily from her unusual vantage point.

Maybe she shouldn't leave her head on the table for so long. Certainly the polished wood was cooling her aching head, but was the temporary relief really worth her hair being played with by another Gryffindor? The last time it had happened, they had protested their innocence by saying they had mistaken her bushy mane as a table decoration. She still wasn't quite sure that she believed them.

Sitting abruptly upright, she stared at the object in her hand again and gave a decisive nod. She still had two assignments due next week on Friday and she couldn't afford to fall behind by indulging in this silliness. She would put it back this instant. Never mind the fact that both Harry and Ron thought she should relax a bit and enjoy her privileges more now they were in their final year. Neither of them seemed to understand that just because they had extra privileges didn't mean they could slack off!

Unfortunately for Hermione, the appearance of those two familiar people derailed any sensible thoughts she may have been having, subsequently starting a chain of events that would cause her last school year to shed any sense of normality.

Harry Potter seemed to have this effect on everyone.

"Hey, Hermione! I fell off my broom!" Ron flopped down opposite her, still flushed from Quidditch and the showers, looking extremely pleased with himself.

Harry wordlessly raised a hand in greeting and slid in beside Ron.

She smiled at both of them, unconsciously slipping the item in her hand into her pocket as she regarded her friends. Harry had become more stoical over the last couple of years, no longer feeling he had to put on an act for people to accept him as the Boy-Who-Lived, and he was much better for it. Ron– Ron was the same as ever, bless him.

"Hermione, Ron and I are arguing over something important."

Hermione sat up straighter. Could it be about Voldemort? A new nefarious plot cooked up by the Slytherins? Important information about the NEWTs? Hardly anything ruffled Harry these days, though Ron was still prone to go off like a firecracker. Hermione narrowed her eyes as she realised neither of them looked particularly upset.

"What is it, Harry?"

"Ron has decided, idiot that he is, that the abbreviation for Gryffindors should be 'Gryffs', whereas obviously, it should be 'Finns'! As if anyone would want to be a 'Gryff'."

Both of them sat across from her, grinning like the idiots they were for having succeeded in royally winding her up. Hermione lowered her head again and let it thunk on the table.

From above her she distinctly heard Ron say, "Hey, wouldn't that make a great table decoration?" accompanied by Harry's snickering in the background.

Hermione had long since come to the realisation that her friends were idiotic prats.


Professor Snape entered the Great Hall and strode towards his seat, trying to ignore the unholy noise and clatter rising from all corners of the room. Having just spent the past two hours brewing the complex potion Skele-Gro, the last thing he needed was to be trapped in a room with hundreds of high-spirited adolescents.

Unfortunately for him, Albus insisted it was necessary for the four Heads of House to attend every meal to keep an eye on their charges – which Severus supposed he could understand – but some days he felt he would rather drink his entire poisons cabinet than spend a single minute in the Great Hall.

With a sour look at the old man, Severus took his seat and turned his attention to his Slytherins. Hmmm, Draco seemed to be flailing about an inordinate amount, apparently pretending to fall off a broomstick. Severus shot a look at the Gryffindor table; ah yes, Potter and Weasley were glaring at Draco as though he had sold out their grandmother. And order is restored to the universe, Severus thought. The Dark Lord will announce his love for the world before those two and Draco could get along…

Wait a minute... Two? Where's Granger?

Severus squinted at the Gryffindor table. How could he have missed her? She was normally so distinctive with that bossy attitude and excessive amount of hair.

Ah, it was rather obvious now he thought about it; bushes do not grow out of tables, though what had encouraged the young woman to behave in such a manner was anyone's guess. He watched idly as she raised her head, responding to her friends' outraged cries. Her nose was reddened after being squashed flat and Severus caught himself smirking, making him start in mortification.

He was only supposed to smirk because he found her worthy of contempt; not because he found her ridiculous appearance endearing!

Growling softly he wrenched his eyes away back to the Slytherin table. Yes, Draco seemed in good spirits, Blaise too, which cheered him. With both their fathers in Azkaban, he had had to reassure them almost constantly at the beginning of the year. It was a good sign that they had gained more confidence, both for their own self-esteem and for the fact that their independence put them a step further away from the Dark Lord's clutches. An insecure Slytherin tended to make rash decisions.

Tugging his thoughts away from his own mistakes, he found his eyes drifting back towards the Gryffindor table to Potter – his unofficial charge – and his two sidekicks. Potter and Granger were chatting animatedly about some topic or other while the Weasley boy sulked over Draco's antics.

"He's looking better this term, don't you think?"

His eyes jerked towards the source of the softly spoken question before giving the barest nod. Minerva McGonagall smiled faintly and continued.

"I really was frightened we were going to lose him after last term."

Last term – when the Longbottom boy had died right in front of Potter's eyes during a Hogsmeade weekend. Ironically, he had been the only child killed during the raid. And after that day, especially towards the end of term, Potter had seemed almost suicidal at times.

"The Muggles must have been doing something right last summer," he conceded.

"Certainly not! You haven't met them, Severus. If anyone pulled Harry through last summer, it was Harry himself. He truly is a remarkable boy."

Severus rolled his eyes. "So remarkable that my teeth ache," he muttered. He could have sworn he heard her chuckle.

"Come now Severus, I know you do have a soft spot for him after all."

"Minerva, much to my surprise, I discovered I even cared about what happened to the Longbottom boy, though it took a rather drastic turn of events to make me realise it. In fact, I could even admit to certain... lack of dislike towards the snotty little brats after that occasion. Merlin help me, I've been teaching too long!"

That time McGonagall did chuckle. "You know, one of these days Severus, you will have to admit that you don't abhor human contact as much as you pretend."

"Never!" he exclaimed, and then smirked.

He turned his attention to his dinner, picked up his knife and started buttering his bread, mulling over the remarkable change that Potter had shown after returning at the beginning of the winter term. Looking down so no one could see his expression, he smiled slightly; it was a relief he wouldn't have to shadow the boy this year.

He set down his knife and regarded it for a few seconds as he finished up his thoughts. All the staff had one set of cutlery custom made by the house-elves when they had first started teaching – it was part of the welcome a new member of the faculty received. Severus was rather fond of his, decorated as they were with a Celtic knot pattern.

He placed his bread beside the soup bowl and reached out to pick up his spoon.

Or rather, he reached out to where his spoon should be.

Frowning, he peered around his bowl, in case he had accidently pushed it out of sight, then leaned over so his nose almost touched the table and peeped under it. The spoon was not there. The House-Elves would never have forgotten such an obvious thing and his colleagues would never consider hiding it. This only left one option…

"Minerva! Those little bastards have stolen my spoon!"

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