Chapter 8 : Compliments From Snape?! Never!
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Hermione woke up the next morning with a strong sense of embarrassment. She had been so careful not to show any emotion or weakness to anyone since her ‘rescue’ until now that is. She felt like a fool, weeping like a distraught female, in front of Snape of all people! He was possibly the last person she wanted to see her in such a state. Alas nothing could be done about it now, but it was almost guaranteed that the next lesson would be awkward. So with these thoughts bouncing around in her head, she finished her morning routine, and got ready for her morning jog. Remembering Professor Snape’s warning, she made sure not to venture as close to the forest as she usually did, for if there was one thing she knew about Snape, it was that he didn’t say anything without a reason. Not to mention it was perfectly logical, and she probably wasn’t doing the brightest thing in the world by jogging near the forest anyways. So with that, she set off for her jog, and this time it was peaceful and uninterrupted. She returned to her dorm, showered, and still managed to beat Harry and Ron to breakfast. At least today she would not have any Occlumency lessons, but there was still Potions to worry about, so, Hermione, feeling a little reluctant to be alone, lingered over her breakfast hoping to at least to be in the company of the boys.
“Hermione! You’re usually long gone to the library by this time!” exclaimed Harry surprised
“Usually, yeah, is it so wrong to want to spend some time with my best friends?” Hermione replied calmly
“Of course not Mione, we always love your company, I was just surprised is all” he replied with a grin
“Morning Hermione” Ginny said softly
“Morning Gin, Ron” Hermione responded with a small smile.
Ron seemed incapable of speech, and was still too shocked by Hermione’s suddenly normali-ish behaviour. All he could do was stare at her with wide eyes as if she’d morphed into some strange creature.
“Ron” Harry hissed elbowing him discretely, “say something!”
“Wha—oh yeah, morning Mione, blimey it seems like it’s been ages since I talked to you” Ron said in his typical blunt manner
Hermione merely smiled, knowing her friend meant no harm. In that moment, she almost felt normal again, as though the summer had never happened. Sitting there, watching the boys stuff their faces, was such a normal occurrence that she all of a sudden realized how carefree she had been before. It may look the same now, but Hermione knew it was different, she was different. It seemed that sitting with them like she used to, only made it more clear that things could never go back to how they were.
Long gone were the happy days where they were constantly getting into mischief and ready to solve the next great puzzle. No, it no longer seemed like a game, or a fun adventure to Hermione any more. It was too real. The loss, the suffering, the true horrors of the war. If there was one thing Hermione could wish for, it was to have everything go back to how they were, she longed to be the naïve, innocent girl she once was. But there was no use pining for that which could not be attained. Nothing could change what happened, but she would make the most of it, and pour her heart and soul into winning this war. If she lived to the day of the final battle, nothing would be able to keep her from standing at Harry’s side when he faced down Voldemort once and for all.
Lost in her own inner musings, she was startled when Harry gently shook her shoulder to tell her to come to class.
“Mione, come on, we’re going to be late for Potions” Said Harry
“Yeah, Snape’ll give us detention till Christmas if we show up late” Ron added
“Of course, sorry boys. Let’s go shall we?” Hermione answered
So the golden trio (united once more) traipsed off towards the dungeons and their least favourite class. Potions dragged by for the Gryffindors, and Hermione had never felt so eager for class to be over in her life. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was the first class of the morning, it just had to be a double period as well. It was by far the most awkward 1 and ½ hours, for the entire time Hermione tried desperately to avoid Professor Snape’s gaze.
The instant the bell rang, she bolted for the door not even waiting for the boys. By the time they caught up with her they were already half-way to Transfiguration.
“Bloody hell Hermione, what’s the rush! I mean I hate Snape too, but really!!” Exclaimed Ron as he jogged up to her.
“Yeah Mione, I’ve never seen you so eager to get out of a class before” Harry said, giving her a curious look
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it boys…come on, don’t want to be late for Transfiguration do we?” Hermione replied
“Uh yeah, sure” Ron said, still confused by Hermione’s strange behaviour
And so the rest of the day passed uneventfully. Hermione’s mind however, drifted more than usual in her classes. She could not get the events of yesterday out of her mind. It was so strange, Professor Snape seemed almost kind…almost.
Unfortunately Wednesday passed too soon, and before Hermione knew it, she was standing outside the Room of Requirement with an intense feeling of dread. If there was one thing that Hermione hated, it was failure. At anything, and lately her progress in Occlumency seemed to have stopped short, or rather it was deteriorating, and this infuriated her. She shook herself, and steeled herself for another couple hours of hard work as she entered the room.
“Miss Granger” Snape said with a slight nod of acknowledgement.
“Professor Snape” She replied calmly
Then without any warning, he suddenly plunged into her mind. Hermione snapped into defensive mode almost on reflex, and poured all her strength into warding him out. In a few moments Snape was thrown forcefully out of her mind, with such strength that he nearly collapsed.
“I see you’ve been practicing, good” He stated coolly as he composed himself.
“Thank you sir” Hermione replied demurely
And with that they passed the next 2 hours in a similar manner, each time Hermione improving by tiny amounts. After one particular attack, they took a quick water break. It was important that Hermione take breaks in order to give her mind a few moments rest. Not doing so could result in serious damage, as the mind is a delicate thing. It was during this break that Snape confronted her about their ‘meeting’ by the forest.
“I trust you no longer venture near the forest on your jogs Miss Granger” he said nonchalantly
“No sir” she replied obediently
“Good” he said, then after a short pause, casually said, “are you in the habit of attacking anyone who approaches you without seeing first whether they mean you harm or not”
“I-I-no sir, sorry sir, I didn’t mean to attack you, I was merely startled. It was a reflexive reaction”
“Indeed. Have you been formally taught hand-to-hand combat?” he questioned in the same cool manner
“No sir…I learned out of necessity when the opportunity presented itself. Needless to say, I could have done without the lesson”
“I see…no training what-so-ever?” he persisted
“No sir…may I ask why you are so interested in whether or not I have been formally taught?” Hermione questioned cautiously
“Suffice it to say, I was…surprised…by your quick reflexes and precision” he replied carefully
“Oh…thank you?” she said, in shock that professor Snape had just complimented her…granted it was a rather carefully stated compliment, but a compliment nonetheless.
“Alright, again!” he stated abruptly switching back into attacking mode
And so the rest of the session passed normally, and the events of Monday were silently and mutually agreed not to be discussed, or allowed to affect their lessons. As Hermione left that night, she could not help but wonder at Professor Snape’s strange behaviour. The thought that he would ever speak to her in a less-than-threatening/snarky manner was shocking, but for him to have actually complimented her was completely out of character.
The rest of the week passed in relative peace, Hermione’s lessons progressed well, and the oddity of Professor Snape’s behaviour was soon forgotten as he once again slipped back into his evil potion’s master persona. Time passed quickly, and soon there was only one week left before the Christmas holidays. As everyone else slipped into the giddy festive spirit that usually accompanied the holidays, Hermione sunk deeper and deeper into herself. This would be the first Christmas without her mother and sister. In short, Hermione had little to no desire to return home. The mere thought of returning to her childhood home disgusted Hermione, as it would do nothing more than remind her of those who would no longer be there.
“Hey Mione!” Ron called out cheerfully as Hermione passed through the common room.
Hermione merely nodded in acknowledgment as she continued on her way out.
“Hey, wait up, can we talk?” he persisted.
Hermione sent him a side-long glance, nodding slowly in consent but not stopping.
“Great!” he replied excited that she had actually agreed to talk to him. “so I was thinking, what are your plans for the Christmas holidays this year?”
“Nothing…I’m staying here” Hermione replied dully
“Oh…what about your dad?” Ron asked confused.
“What about him?”
“Don’t ya wanna spend your Christmas with him? I mean, it being your first one….after what happened and all” Ron stuttered out anxiously.
Then, in an instant, before he could even blink, Ron was slammed into the nearest wall. Hermione pinned him there with one hand at his throat and a mad glint in her eye.
“Don’t you ever talk to me about ‘what happened’ as you so kindly put it. Do. I. Make. Myself. Clear. Ronald?” she bit out dangerously
“Uh…um….yeah….crystal clear Mione…I’m sorry! I just meant, that maybe if you wanted someplace to stay, we’d be happy to have you at the Burrow is all….I didn’t mean to make you mad….sorry” he said, nervously eyeing her like she was insane.
“Oh….sorry Ron…I didn’t mean to attack you like that” Hermione said snapping out of the angry haze that she was just in. She carefully removed her hand from Ron’s throat, and stepped a good 5 paces back.
“Look, I’m sorry I freaked out like that…and thank you for the offer Ronald, but I think I’d rather stay here.”
“Oh ya, s’ok. Don’t worry about it….I’ll see ya later mione” he said before he scampered off back to the safety of the Common Room.
Hermione didn’t know what was wrong with herself…the incident with Ron earlier had really shaken her. It was like in that instant, she wasn’t even herself. The action was so instinctive, it felt like it happened before she even had time to think. All in all, it was strange.
Yet Ronald had a point…since her ‘rescue’ she had spoken to her father a grand total of 3 times. She had no inclination to see or speak to him…it was too difficult. It was like a harsh reminder of what she had lost, and what she could never have again…a family. So, as guilty as she felt, she shut him out…it was easier, and she rationalized it by telling herself that they were both better off that way.
So this is how Hermione found herself alone on the first day of the Christmas holidays, the only sixth year Gryffindor left. Even Harry had gone off to the Burrow, and while the invitation still stood, Hermione had no wish to be surrounded by a large happy family at such a time. Little did Hermione know that the two-week break would set in motion the events for years to come.
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