A/N: This is a one shot that has been floundering about in my brain ever since I read the first chapter of The Poor of God by kilara25 a few months ago. If you have not read that story, or it's prequel The Guiltless, and you enjoy Snape mentoring Harry fics, then I suggest you go and read them :-) They are amazingly written, and two of my favorites, despite The Poor of God not quite being finished yet.
This one shot was written with the utmost respect for kilara25 and her stories. The scene that brought about the inspiration for this story can be found in the first chapter of TPoG, in case you are interested.
Sindie was kind enough to beta this for me, and so a huge thanks goes to her :-)
The Difference Between Nice and Kind
Luna Lovegood was having a good day.
She hummed happily to herself as she walked down the hallway, her long blonde hair swaying with each step. Several people snickered and pointed in her direction as she passed by, but she didn't mind. She was quite used to that sort of attention by now. In fact, many people did the same thing to her father whenever they would go to town together. Luna figured it must have something to do with their last name. "Lovegood" was a bit funny for a last name, after all.
"Yes, that's probably the reason," she decided as she brushed her long hair behind her ear to show off her new radish earrings. Smiling wider, Luna continued on her way. If she didn't hurry, she'd be late for her Divinations class, and she didn't want to upset Professor Trelawney. Trelawney seemed to get upset so easily these days.
Continuing to hum, she rounded a corner and began to walk down the corridor that would take her to the appropriate staircase. There were three Slytherin boys ahead of her, and she smiled pleasantly at them as she passed by. She never much understood house rivalries herself, and always took it upon herself to smile at everyone. Slytherins usually didn't return the gesture, however, and the three boys she passed were no exception.
"Hey, Loony!" one of the boys behind her called out.
Luna stopped walking and turned around. "It's actually Luna," she replied kindly. Why couldn't people ever get her name right?
"Yeah, whatever," the same boy replied, sniggering to his friends.
As the three boys walked toward her, Luna figured they must be seventh years, as they were much larger than her. She didn't know any of their names, and fleetingly wondered how they knew hers, well, how they sort of knew hers.
The biggest of the three, and the one who did the most talking, walked up to her and smiled mischievously.
"Where you going, Loony?"
Luna chose to ignore his mistake again, and pointed to the staircase. "To Divinations, and I'm about to be late," she added airily.
"Ooooh," the leader mocked, laughing with the other Slytherins. "We wouldn't want you to be late, would we?"
Luna's brow furrowed. "Okay," she replied with a shrug. The young witch then turned away and started walking toward the stairs again. She didn't make it far, however, before the three boys jogged to catch up and were now blocking her way. She frowned at the boys, wondering what their purpose was. "I'm sorry, did you want something?" she asked with curiosity.
The boys looked at each other and started laughing again, clearly amused by something.
"Yeah, Loony. We wanted to let you know that we can't let you pass until you give us that ring on your finger."
Luna looked down at her hand, eyeing the beetle ring she always wore. "No, I don't think so," she began lightly. "This ring is very special to me."
As Luna made to walk around the three Slytherins, the biggest one got an angry look on his face. When the blonde-haired girl went to step, she felt a hard shove from behind. As she fell forward, her foot connected with the floor at an odd angle, making her ankle sting badly. The books she was carrying scattered across the hard floor, and Luna winced in pain as she turned gingerly so that she was no longer facing down.
"I think my ankle is sprained," she observed, clenching her teeth at the pain as her eyes began welling with tears.
"Maybe you didn't hear me," the biggest Slytherin commented angrily as he loomed over her. "Give me the ring, or we'll make it hurt even worse."
Luna looked up in defiance. She didn't understand the purpose of the bullying, and she certainly wasn't about to give them her favorite ring.
The Slytherins started laughing again when Luna raised her head.
"What's the matter, Loony? Are you going to cry?" one of them taunted.
Luna touched her ankle carefully, wincing at the pain it caused. "Well, it does hurt rather badly."
It was then that the biggest Slytherin stepped forward; clearly angered by the fact that Luna wasn't bawling her eyes out.
"Get up," he commanded.
Luna looked at him disbelievingly. "I don't think I can," she said seriously.
Before she knew what was happening, Luna felt herself being callously lifted up by her shirt, and then slammed into the nearby wall. The force of it caused her skull to connect with the hard stone harshly, and her head began to swim as a result. She was seeing stars, and closed her eyes tightly to try and get rid of them, as well as to make the pain go away.
When she opened her eyes again, it was because she felt the Slytherin had released his iron grip on her. She blinked as she tried to focus on the tall, dark figure that had roughly pulled the boy off of her, and was now holding him by the scruff of the neck. Luna blinked several more times as her vision went in and out of focus, trying to watch the scene before her.
"Picking on a fourth year, a witch?! And three against one?!" Luna heard the familiar deep baritone of her Potions professor state disbelievingly. "I have never seen such cowardice. I assure you if I were headmaster, you would face a fate much worse than expulsion. Be that as it may, that is the best I can do, for now."
The boy paled under the dark wizard's dangerous glare. "But-but, Professor Snape! I can't be expelled; my parents will kill me!"
Snape leaned in closer, his expression positively murderous. "I envy them," he seethed. The professor then pushed the boy away forcefully. "Now, get out of my sight!"
The biggest of the three Slytherins began running away, something that sounded suspiciously like sobbing eliciting from his throat as he left. Professor Snape watched him angrily, before turning his attention to the two remaining Slytherins.
One of the two looked up sheepishly, his expression regretful. "We didn't know he was going to hurt her like that, Professor."
Snape continued to glare daggers, and the other Slytherin gathered his courage and chimed in.
"We were just going to have a little fun with her, sir."
Luna didn't think it possible, but her professor's eyes went about four shades darker as he stalked toward the remaining bullies.
"Fun?" he questioned dangerously. "Well, I hope you enjoyed yourselves, because when I'm through with you, neither of you will remember the meaning of the word!"
The boys gulped nervously, shrinking back as their professor towered over them.
"Get to class." Snape's voice was quiet, but fuming. "Report to my office immediately after, so that I can administer your punishment."
The boys nodded solemnly, and quickly made their exit, clearly afraid their professor might change his mind about letting them leave.
Even though Luna was leaning against the wall, her dizziness, as well as the pain in her ankle, were making it difficult to remain upright. She felt herself sliding down suddenly, and she huffed as her backside made contact with the floor.
The noise caught Professor Snape's attention, and as he whirled around Luna thought she could see concern in his dark eyes. His black cloak billowed dramatically as he quickly made his way to the young witch, his expression now showing determination.
Luna smiled weakly at her professor as he kneeled in front of her.
"That was very kind of you to help me, Professor Snape," she said sincerely.
Snape nodded in acknowledgment, his expression serious. "Are you all right, Ms. Lovegood?"
"Actually, my ankle hurts, a lot," she admitted. "And my head hit the wall pretty hard as well."
Her professor scowled, shaking his head angrily before meeting Luna's eyes once more.
"Their actions were completely inappropriate. Rest assured the two who were not expelled will not get off easily."
Luna smiled sadly. "Don't be too hard on them, Professor. They were just trying to fit in."
Professor Snape gazed at her quizzically. "Those boys simply stood and watched while you were being harmed."
Luna shrugged, not really seeing what the big deal was. "That's what people usually do when I'm being picked on, sir. Which is why I'm a bit puzzled that you stepped in and stopped them, quite frankly."
Snape's brows were now knitted as he continued to look at the young girl. "Ms. Lovegood, I am your professor. It is my job to ensure the safety of all of my students."
Luna smiled whimsically. "And I'm thankful, Professor Snape."
Snape continued to give Luna a searching look before gesturing toward her ankle. "May I?" he asked.
Luna nodded in response, and Snape carefully lifted the bottom of the witch's blue jeans up. Luna's rainbow colored sock was revealed and the blonde haired teenager watched as a ghost of a smile twitched on her professor's lips. She wasn't surprised; those socks made her smile too. Her professor then, just as carefully, lowered her sock until her ankle was revealed.
"It's definitely swollen." His voice seemed to still be holding anger for the Slytherin boys that caused the injury. Professor Snape's eyes rose to meet Luna's once again. "The hospital wing is not far. If I helped you, do you think you could walk there?"
Luna looked to be in deep thought for a moment before nodding her head. "Yes, I think so," she replied airily.
Snape nodded as well. "Okay, I'm going to have to take a look at your head first."
"Okay," Luna replied. She then bowed her head so that her professor could get a better look at the back of it.
The young witch smiled to herself as she felt Professor Snape's fingers tenderly moving her hair aside in order to get a better look at her scalp.
"You're very gentle, Professor," she commented openly with a smile.
"Hmph," was the response Luna received, her professor's hands continuing to search her head.
"Professor Snape doesn't seem to take compliments very well," she mused to herself. She continued to smile at the kind way her professor was now holding her head with one hand, and probing for injuries with the other. It did feel very nice, after all.
"There doesn't seem to be any bleeding or contusions," his deep voice said from above.
Luna then felt his hands cupping both sides of her face as he gently lifted her head so that their eyes met.
"Does it hurt?" he asked as he looked into her eyes carefully.
"Just like a bad headache," Luna replied as Snape continued to search her eyes. She figured he was making sure she didn't have a concussion before he tried to move her.
Seeming to be satisfied, Snape nodded. "Stay there for a moment," her professor ordered.
Snape's knees popped as he stood, and Luna watched as he walked to where her books remained scattered across the floor. He pointed his wand at the texts and muttered an incantation. The books levitated off the floor, before shrinking down to a size that easily fit into his pocket. The tall form of her professor strolled back to where she remained sitting, and extended his hand to her.
"Take my hand, and make sure to put all of your weight on your good foot as you stand."
Luna nodded in acknowledgment, grasping her professor's hand tightly. As he pulled her to her feet, she did as she was told and put the majority of her weight onto her uninjured foot. Luna felt herself becoming off balance, however, and stumbled. She fell into her professor, and Luna felt him wrap an arm around her shoulder, holding her to his side as she steadied herself.
"Thank you, sir," she breathed.
Snape nodded once again, his tight hold on the young witch not wavering.
"Hold onto me, Ms. Lovegood, and step lightly and quickly on your bad ankle as we walk."
"Okay," she replied quietly.
Luna wrapped an arm around her professor's torso and leaned into him heavily as they began to walk. She found she was limping pretty badly, and the slightest pressure on her injured ankle made the sting worsen. The blonde-haired witch was glad to have her professor's help, as she didn't think she would have gotten too far on her own.
As the pair rounded the first corner, Luna inhaled deeply as the exertion was beginning to get to her. She had never been in such close proximity with her professor, and was pleased to find out that he smelled quite pleasant. It was almost like some kind of exotic spice she couldn't quite place, most likely one he used in one of his potions.
It was then that Luna heard voices up ahead, and she raised her head to look at her professor.
"You can let go of me, if you want. I mean, you know, if someone is coming or something."
Snape looked down at the young witch with confusion. "I beg your pardon?"
Luna looked back at her professor, confused by his bewilderment. "I just mean that most people would be embarrassed to be seen walking with me, let alone holding onto me. So I understand if you would want to let go of me."
Her professor's puzzled expression turned into one of anger. "Ms. Lovegood, perhaps I was not clear before. I am your professor and you are my responsibility."
"I understand that, sir. But I'm sure even you get embarrassed sometimes. That's all I meant."
Snape huffed as his eyes moved to look forward. "If you are not embarrassed to be walking with me, I see no reason why I should feel such a way about you."
Luna smiled at her professor. "Why would I be embarrassed to be seen walking with you, sir?"
Snape glanced at the young girl pointedly, before looking forward once again as they continued on their way.
Luna couldn't help but feel safe, being at Professor Snape's side in such a way. The couple times that she stumbled, she would feel his grip around her tighten. She truly didn't understand why he would think she'd be embarrassed to be seen with him. She honestly couldn't think of any professor she would rather have to help her when she was being hurt. Professor Snape was nothing if not intimidating, and Luna knew that the two boys who had not been expelled would never try to bully her again.
The pair was closing in on the hospital wing when her professor broke the silence this time.
"Did those boys want anything from you, Ms. Lovegood?"
Luna's brow knitted as she considered the question. "They said they wanted my ring," she answered as she held up her hand for Professor Snape to see it.
As soon as the word had left her professor's mouth, an expression crossed his features that showed he didn't mean to be so blunt.
Luna shrugged her shoulders. "I don't think they really wanted it. I think they just didn't want me to have it anymore."
"So you chose to resist them."
It was not a question, but Luna felt the need to respond anyway.
"This ring is very important to me, and would have meant nothing to them."
Luna watched as her professor nodded thoughtfully.
The two fell into silence again, and continued walking down the corridor. A few moments later, they had reached their destination, where the surprised face of Madam Pomfrey greeted them.
"Oh, dear! Luna! Severus, what happened to her?" the mediwitch asked, concern etched on her features.
Madam Pomfrey helped Luna to a chair as Professor Snape answered.
"Some seventh year boys were bullying her in the hallway. Her ankle is twisted, and it would be wise to check her head as well. There doesn't seem to be any sign of a concussion, but she hit it pretty hard and says it still hurts."
The mediwitch nodded quickly as she took all of the information in before her warm eyes met Luna's.
"Is all of that correct, dear? You don't hurt anywhere else?"
Luna shook her head. "No, Madam Pomfrey. Just my ankle and head."
The mediwitch gave Luna sympathetic smile. "All right, dear. You stay seated here with Professor Snape while I go and fetch some things."
Luna nodded again, and watched as Madam Pomfrey headed for a room in the back. Her eyes found their way to her professor again, who was now pulling up a chair so that he was seated in front of her.
His dark eyes rose to meet her blue ones, and Luna could see a softness in them she had never before witnessed.
"Ms. Lovegood," he began, his tone gentle. "As admirable as it was to stand up to three seventh year boys as you did, perhaps in the future it would be better to hand over whatever it is they want."
Luna's face scrunched in confusion. "But, Professor-?"
Snape held up a hand, effectively silencing her protest, and Luna could see the seriousness in his expression.
"You did not let me finish. I say this only to prevent you from sustaining injury again. As you know, I may not so happen to be walking around the corner the next time you are being bullied. However, if such an unfortunate incident happens again, report it to me immediately, and I will take appropriate… action against the offenders."
Professor Snape had something of a roguish smile on his face as he finished, and Luna found herself smiling back. She couldn't help but feel privileged to be witnessing this side of her normally stoic professor.
"I understand, sir, and thank you."
Professor Snape nodded before standing once again. "I'll send your books back up to your room. Will that be sufficient?"
"Quite," Luna replied with a smile.
The corners of her professor's lips quirked up in what could have been amusement, but the expression was fleeting.
Madam Pomfrey came back into the room then and smiled at Professor Snape before carefully taking off Luna's shoe.
"Good day, Ms. Lovegood," Snape said courteously.
"Bye, Professor Snape. Thank you again," the young witch replied, a smile still on her face.
After her professor had exited, Luna turned to the mediwitch who was currently wrapping her ankle.
"That was very kind of Professor Snape, helping me like that," she said as though she were thinking out loud.
Madam Pomfrey smiled up at the blonde-haired witch. "Luna, dear, you just witnessed a side of Severus Snape that only a handful of other people have ever seen."
Luna smiled, a starry look covering her eyes as she considered herself fortunate. Who would have thought such a generally cruel person like Professor Snape could show such kindness?