Continuing Tales

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 5 of 27

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Heart Over Mind

True to the promise she had made to herself, Hermione firmly pushed her problems with Snape to the furthest corner of her mind and focused on more immediate issues: Animagus training, NEWTS, and university applications.

The Animagus training was frustrating her immensely because Professor McGonagall had chosen a pace for the lessons which struck the girl as agonizingly slow. When she'd complained about it, the instructor had explained that since the training was technically a university-level endeavor, Hermione was fortunate she was being given the chance at all. Still frustrated but properly chastised, she remained silent and continued on at the snail's pace designated by her strict professor.

Luckily, Hermione had found the application process for magical university admissions to be similar to that in the Muggle World, and her mother had been more than willing to help her daughter wade through the letters of introduction from the half-dozen universities which were interested in her as a potential student. The most difficult step in that process she'd quickly learned was that she was expected to declare her area of concentration on the admissions parchment. After hours of soul-searching and philosophizing, countless discussions with her professors -- with the notable exception of Snape -- she had arrived at a surprisingly satisfying choice: mediwizardry.

Once she had decided upon it, she'd realized just how right the discipline was for her. To be a successful mediwitch, she would to have a strong background in all of the subjects and it was a course of study worthy of the time in which she lived. Like a distant rumbling storm cloud, Voldemort's existence loomed over the horizon, coloring everything darker and more ominous, especially for the friends of the Boy Who Lived. Following the decision to study wizard medicine, Hermione had narrowed her choice of higher-education institutions to three schools, the most prestigious of the group being the Trinity University of Mediwizardry, located in Ireland. Seamus Finnigan, of course, vocally approved her choice of that particular establishment, promising to buy her a shamrock-decorated muffler if she was accepted. She planned on holding him to that pledge.

Time not spent in class or in those activities were spent in studying for NEWTs. Most nights and weekends were clogged with revision, the reviewing of notes, new texts and old essays. Despite all the teasing she had received from her classmates about her over-zealous study habits, more and more students had begun to follow her example and spent free nights in study, either in the library or in their common rooms. It gave the Head Girl another reason to be thankful for her own room since her favorites spots were currently being cluttered by less-than-earnest studiers.

Studying, Hermione mused, was where she wanted to be at that moment. Where she did not want to be was creeping through the darkened dungeon halls in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, it was exactly where she was.

"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," she called softly, rolling the word 'kitty' over her tongue until it sounded less like a word and more while a strange chant. "Where are you, Crooks?"

When she found her squash-face feline, Hermione decided, she was going to kill him. Well, maybe not kill him, but lock him up in my trunk so that he can't pull this stunt again.

Although she knew Crookshanks to be extraordinarily intelligent as well as cunning enough to take care of himself when he habitually roamed the large castle, he was still only a cat -- a large one, but still just a domestic animal. And in her sixth year, there had been a rather unfortunate incident when her familiar had been stalking through the dungeons only to be cornered by a group of nasty little Slytherins, second- and third-years. The poor cat had taken a few nasty blows to his sides and his fur had been singed by what his mistress assumed was a spell not unlike her own bright blue fire. Of course, his attackers had left the fray with more than a few scratches and bites for their trouble but it still had left Hermione shaken, wondering about what could have happened.

After that harrowing experience, her cat had had the intelligence to stay out of the dungeons, where the most unfriendly beings in the castle seemed to congregate. Or, at least, she thought he had stayed away until the Ravenclaw prefect, Anna, came to tell her otherwise.

"Don't you have a large orange cat? With a sort of --" Anna had pressed her flat palm against her nose in a visual depiction of Crookshanks's squashed face. When Hermione had nodded, she had continued. "Well, I think I saw him in the dungeons when I was on my rounds."

While she admitted to having few maternal instincts, the Gryffindor harbor a strange motherly urge to protect her feline companion -- which was why she found herself roaming the dank corridors long after curfew, searching for the troublesome animal. She kept remembering the outcome of his last sojourn into the dungeons and she shivered involuntarily.

"Crookshanks, you stupid, troublesome idiot, where are you?" she called in a sing-song voice, her gentle tone at odds with the words she uttered. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty."

Around another corner she went, the only sound echoing from the empty halls were the muffled scuff of her black shoes against the stone floor. "Crookshanks?" she crooned again.

This time, her softly-spoken inquiry was answered by a long mewing sound -- a feline meow.

She spun around to look behind her, then back ahead, desperately hoping to see a blur of orange fur. When she didn't, she called again, a bit louder. "Crookshanks?"

Another answering meow -- a long plaintive cry which she knew usually meant that her familiar was either hurt or in trouble. All thoughts of punishment fled from her mind and she cried out, "Crookshanks, where are you?"

From the third answering sound, Hermione discerned its owner's location: the corridor which bisected her current path farther down the long stretch of stone wall. Frantic and worried, she rushed toward the cat who had meowed once again, hurtling around the corner at a break-neck pace. The sight which met her eyes was of her bandy-legged cat sitting in the middle of the stone floor, looking relatively unharmed and as if he'd been waiting on her. She moved to scoop him up in her arms, relief making her voice shaky. "You great git," she told him fondly. "You had me worried sick."

Before she could grab him, however, he danced away, moving farther down into the shadows of the hall. Hermione was about to chastise him when he looked back at her, something urgent and sad in his great yellow eyes. She knelt and looked unflinchingly into those shining irises. "Something wrong?"

He purred loudly and brushed his whiskered face against her hand as if rewarding her for comprehension. He turned in a circle so that his bottle-brush tail flicked across her face before padding silently down the hall. Sighing, she stood. "Fine, then. I'll follow you."

Crookshanks led her down another winding hallway, one even more shadowy than the previous. The air seemed cooler and damper as well, causing the student to shiver and pull her black robes closer around her while inwardly cursing the dress code which mandated skirts for female students. Her woolen, knee-high socks made for little warmth in the face of the combined coolness of the night and the dungeons.

At long last, the cat disappeared into a small antechamber at the end of the hallway, and Hermione peered into the rounded room warily, immediately noticing a huge arched door, ornately carved out of what appeared to be green serpentine. The mottled stone was cut so that it curved and coiled into a stylistic impression of a large serpent interspersed with a winding ivy vine, haphazardly dotted with leaves. The girl had not yet stepped into the small space when another whining meow from her familiar called her attention to the shadowy heap of blackness which was crumpled on the cold stones of the floor. Crookshanks sat at its side, his yellow eyes looking sadly from the shape to his mistress.

Once she took a step closer to the unmoving outline, her breath hitched in her throat as -- despite the darkness of the unlit antechamber -- her eyes caught more details: a line of pale but sallow flesh visible against the dark cloth of a robe; the contrast of textures between the rough woolen cloak and shiny dark hair.

The hitch in her breath was released from her chest as a sharp gasp as she sank to her knees at his side. "Professor Snape?" she called softly, gently shaking him by the shoulder. "Professor?


When that action elicited no response, any trepidation she might have harbored at his reaction to her ministrations vanished. She hauled him up into her lap, resting his head on her knees as she checked his breathing. He was, of course, unconscious and his breath seemed shallow, like each intake of air caused him pain. She could feel his thin body shaking every so slightly where it came in contact with hers, and the hand she gently touched to his forehead registered that he was as cold as death.

Hermione cradled Snape in her arms, carefully shifting him into a stable position so that she could reach into her robes for her wand. When she pulled one hand from beneath his head, she let out a startled shriek when she realized that it was covered in blood. His blood.

The ache in her heart at the realization was so strong that it caused her to shudder, but she bravely reached for her wand, never pausing even as she was aware of the blood which was seeping from some unseen injury, staining her robes where he lay against her.

All the while, Crookshanks watched with sad yellow eyes as his mistress desperately tried to help the injured man, his feline features somehow mirroring the tortured expression on Hermione's face. His ears twitched in response when he heard her pained voice whisper in the darkness.

"Oh, God. Please don't die."


Professor Dumbledore swept into the hospital wing with his elderly face creased with worry, looking very unlike his usual self. From the frantic Floo message he had received from Madam Pomfrey only moments before, he was not surprised to see the nurse looking as worried as he felt. When she noticed him, she tiptoed away from her only patient who was lying on the hospital bed farthest from the door, half-hidden by a screen.

"How is he, Poppy?" the headmaster questioned quietly, stealing a glance over the mediwitch's shoulder toward the unmoving figure on the bed.

"He'll live, although he may feel as if he wished otherwise." she told him bluntly. "The...usual...damage aside, he took a nasty crack on the head in the dungeons which knocked him out good and cold." She waved toward another cot on the opposite side of the injured instructor's. "If she hadn't found him, he would have probably not lasted the night."

While Dumbledore had expected Madam Pomfrey and her concerns, he had not expected to find himself faced with the pale, haggard Hermione Granger who sat on the edge of an unused bed, slightly hunched with her arms crossed tightly over her stomach as if to protect herself.

Nodding to Poppy, he approached the young woman. "Miss Granger," he said softly. At the sound of his voice, she looked up at him with haunted eyes, the brown irises appearing almost black against her ashen skin.

"Professor Dumbledore," she nodded absently in greeting.

"What are you doing here?" His question was curious but not unkind.

Taking a deep breath, she explained stiltedly how she had come to follow Crookshanks into the dungeons and how she had found Snape. While she talked, the old man noticed that her hands were covered in dried blood, rust-colored streaks of the same staining her white shirt. There was even a smudge of blood high on her right cheek as if she had inadvertently wiped it there as she pushed her unruly hair away from her face. "...and that was when I realized that he was bleeding," she was saying. "I cast a few superficial healing spells and then...I got him here as quickly as I could."

The headmaster granted the tired student a restrained smile. "Thank you, my child. Poppy tells me that if it had not been for you, Professor Snape would be in much worse condition."

If possible, her eyes became even more troubled. " is he, Professor?" She knew better to ask what was wrong with him; she'd noticed the shaking in his limbs, a clear sign of Cruciatus. It was quite simple for someone as intelligent as she to realize that his injuries were an outward sign of the dangerous life he lead as Dumbledore's spy.

"He'll live," he told her, echoing the mediwitch's words. "But he'll be a bit worse for the wear, at least for a few days."

She nodded in gratitude, arms still wrapped around her middle. Noticing her obvious fatigue from what he knew had to have been an emotionally draining experience, he gently but firmly took hold of one of her hands and pulled her to feet. Dazedly, Hermione was reminded of Harry's actions in the library over a month before, when he had pulled her from her research about the hayam.

Dumbledore motioned toward the entrance. "You look as if you need some rest. I think it's time for you to head back to your rooms, hmm?"

As if underwater, her reactions were sluggish. She nodded slowly, taking a few hesitant steps toward the exit. She stopped, however, glancing back at the wizard with a plea in her eyes. Although she wasn't certain how to express it, the last thing Hermione wanted to do was to return to her room.

Somehow interpreting the emotions in her eyes, Dumbledore's face became a study in compassion and gentle understanding. "Do you wish to stay here tonight?"

"If...if it's alright."

"I think it will be fine," he assured her. "The last time I checked, I was somewhat important around this castle. I'm sure that I can arrange something." His teasing words drew a wan smile from the young woman. Patting her on the shoulder, he pointed her to the small lavatory. "Go on in there and clean yourself up whilst I have a chat with Madam Pomfrey."

More by instinct than by design, Hermione stepped into the lavatory and used a combination of warm, soapy water and advanced cleaning spells to remove all the blood from her skin and clothes. She ignored her disheveled hair and only ran a quick hand over her now-spotless robe to smooth away the wrinkles. After she'd splashed some cold water in her face, she stepped back into the infirmary to find Dumbledore waiting for her.

"Poppy has agreed to let you stay the night," he revealed. "I told her that it was a personal favor to me. I also said that I thought Severus could stand to see a friendly friend when he awakens."

Within a few moments, Hermione was seated in a large chair with high arms and a back padded in soft but tacky mustard-colored cloth, placed at the left side of Snape's bed and facing away from the infirmary's entranceway. Curling up comfortably in the roomy chair, she watched him sleep in the dim sputtering light of the empty hospital wing. After Madam Pomfrey spoke a few hushed words with the headmaster, he bid goodnight, but not before thanking the girl for taking over the bedside vigil. Pomfrey watched the student sympathetically before she disappeared, only to reappear bearing a large sturdy mug of chamomile tea, sweetened with honey.

Hermione sipped her hot tea in silence as the mediwitch gave the patient one more check-over, looking down at him in much the same way which the Gryffindor had watched her cat, the same mixture of maternal protectiveness and disapproval on her face. Clucking her tongue and occasionally murmuring to herself, Pomfrey smoothed the white linens decisively as she straightened.

"He shouldn't wake until late morning," she addressed the impromptu nursemaid. "So, you should have an easy night of it. But if he does, give him this." She set a blue cork-topped bottle on the table next to the bed. "Just consider it a head-start on your training for university." With a nod, the elder witch placed the screen between Hermione and the empty bed on her other side, effectively blocking view of the girl and Snape from passersby.

Once alone, Hermione placed her cup on the low table at bedside before resting her folded arms on her knees and leaning her head against them. For she and her two best friends, hospital vigils had become all too common in their years at Hogwarts. Hermione had spent many a night in her past frantically pacing in her room when they wouldn't allow her and Ron to wait in the hospital wing for news of Harry. And on more than a few occasions, she had seen Harry emerge from some entanglement hurt and bleeding, a sight which would cause her chest to tighten painfully while she momentarily lost the will to breathe. Tonight, when she had seen Snape huddled on the floor, she'd felt something very close to that; it was different, though, on some level. Just as intense and painful, it still felt differently. And, in some deep and unexplainable way, it had hurt more acutely.

Her eyes lingered on the sole occupant of the infirmary, observing how quiescence relaxed the tightness of his features and softened the harsh angles of his face. Despite the unnatural pallor from the blood-loss, he looked more peaceful and more human in that moment than she had ever seen him. She almost gave over to the impulse to touch him; she was only a breath away from laying her fingertips on the curve of his cheek but she drew her hand back at the very last moment, thinking better of it. Instead, she continued to watch him in the faint flickering light, fascinated by the play of the exaggerated shadows cast by the torches as they danced across the planes of his face.

Finally giving over to the lateness of the hour, her own fatigue and the light sedating effect of the chamomile tea, she rested her head on the cradle of her arms and drifted off to sleep.


In the bright early light of morning, Severus Snape awoke with an excruciating headache and a overwhelming desire to kill Lucius Malfoy. Although neither were isolated occurrences, the headache was worse than the last two dozen from which he'd suffered, and it only aggravated the urge to kill the other wizard.

That man is a bane on existence, mine particularly.

As if it weren't enough that Voldemort felt the need to inflict physical torture on his wayward follower on a regular basis, he was sadistic enough to curse Snape with the mental excruciation that was having to associate with the elder Malfoy. Sometimes Snape felt as if he'd gladly field a few more Cruciatus curses if only to be rid of his arrogant, pale and pointed face.

Through the haze of discomfort and sleep, Snape slowly became aware of his surroundings -- which he immediately discovered weren't his chambers. As soon as he opened his eyes, he knew where he was, having stared up at that cold stone ceiling far too many times not to recognize it was that of hospital wing. Stifling a groan as he used his aching muscles, he pulled himself into sitting position, resting his back against the headboard of the narrow bed while he wondered how he came to be there. The movement made his head pound even more strongly, causing him to blindly grope for the pain-relief potion which he knew Pomfrey would have left for him, his eyes closed against the wave of nausea-tinged throbbing. When his searching hand came up empty, he forced his eyes open and glanced over toward the table.

That was when he noticed the empty tea cup.

And the sleeping young woman to whom it belonged.

Stunned as he was to see one of his students at his bedside, Snape first grabbed the small bottle and downed in one gulp. The licorice taste of the draught still lingered on his tongue a heartbeat later when the potion's magic began to dull the ache in his head and muscles, clearing the mist from his mind. Thankful that his headache had faded to a faint tenderness, he ran a hand through his dark hair while his eyes were once again drawn to the strange sight of Hermione Granger asleep in on oversized chair at his side.

Numerous reasons to explain a situation which would have led to those circumstances ran through his mind but none of them seemed logical enough to be the truth. Brow furrowed -- despite the tingle of pain it shot through his head -- he studied her as he had that day when he'd found her in the courtyard, again struck by the quality of difference which clung to her. The riotous mass of hair for which she was known tumbled around her sleeping frame, its brown color burnished to copper by the sun's light, and her school robe flung over her as a make-shift blanket. Soundly asleep, her face was a mask of tranquility where it rested against her folded arms and knees, dark lashes whispering against her cheek.

Strange how she paradoxically could look younger and still older than he'd ever seen her appear.

Still wondering over her presence, Snape was startled yet again when something which suspiciously resembled a cat's meow sounded from the foot of his bed. He craned his neck for a better view, just in time to see a huge orange cat saunter around the bed. The creature sat on the floor on his right, head cocked to the side in what mimicked a thoughtful posture in humans, its yellow eyes watching the professor as hawkishly as he had ever watched his students. Snape was both amused and alarmed by the feline's frank gaze, all the while a half-forgotten memory nagging at the back of his mind, triggered by the cat...

A second later he remembered where he had first seen the bandy-legged cat and his eyes narrowed untrustingly. It was the cat which had been so friendly with Sirius Black that night in the Shrieking Shack those four years ago, one which had had the bad taste in humans to make such a friendship. "What do you want?" he asked the cat suspiciously, unconsciously keeping his voice low as to not wake the sleeping young woman. He thought it better to deal with one unwanted visitor at a time.

Instead of being frightened away by the low growl of a question, the cat effortlessly jumped up on the bed with the easy grace possessed by all felines and padded silently across the bedcovers on tiny paws until its large face was almost nose-to-nose with the man, long whiskers brushing against dark eyebrows. Before Snape had the chance to back-hand the animal away from him, the cat began to purr loudly, smoothing rubbing his furry cheek against his, in what seemed to be a show of affection. Still purring, it turned with a flick of its tail in his face and then leapt to the floor. Without a backwards glance, it jauntily exited the hospital wing, leaving Snape mystified by its sudden appearance and equally abrupt departure.

As he watched the cat leave, Hermione shifted in her position and yawned, the sound escaping through her lips a soft mew of protest as she struggled to awaken.

"How very articulate of you, Miss Granger," the professor said wryly, his voice low and controlled for effect. "If only you spoke as well in class."

Snape had expected her to gasp or cowl at his comment, but she only unfurled her limbs so that she was merely sitting and not huddled in the chair as she blinked her eyes in attempt to drive away any lingering sleep. "Oh, you're awake," she breathed in relief, her face brightening even as she spoke.

So unused to such positive reactions, he scowled at her. "And observant as well. Really, Miss Granger, you astound me."

"Pay him no attention, Miss Granger," Madame Pomfrey's arrival with a tray laden with food quickly ended the exchange. "The Professor is always a bit short when he's sick. Like a angry little boy, he is, mad at the world because he can't play outside with the other children."

Hermione couldn't help but to giggle at the image of her professor as an angry little boy, sulking because he was forced to stay bed due of illness.

Snape turned his glare on the mediwitch. "Woman, hold your tongue! And you, Miss Granger -- another sound out of you and there will be points missing from Gryffindor directly."

The girl was strangely reassured by his acerbic manner, comforted by the fact that he felt well enough to snap at her. Also, his threatening tone was lost by the effect his appearance had on his whole demeanor; it was difficult to be bullied by a man in his dressing gown who was still sitting in bed.

"You'll do no such thing, Severus," the nurse frowned at him. "I take it from your cheeky attitude that you took the draught I left on the table?"

A terse nod. "Of course."

She nodded in satisfaction before turning kind eyes onto Hermione. "Won't you run along and get yourself some breakfast, dear? You've just got time to make it. I'm sure that I can handle him well enough." An insulted snort punctuated her comment as the student stood, stretching in order to rid her back of the kinks which came from sleeping in a chair.

"Thank you, Madame Pomfrey," she returned. She glanced down at Snape. "I hope you feel better soon, Professor."

"Your concern is touching," he sneered. The effect was once again ruined.

She gave him a smile, one devoid of any sarcastic overtones and headed toward the door. At her retreating back, Poppy called. "Miss Granger, I expect to see you back here in a few hours. The headmaster told me that he wanted you to continue with your...task...for a few more days, until the professor is up and around."

When she paused and glanced back, her smile was slightly smug. "Of course," she answered, then disappeared from the wing into the darkened hallway.

"May I ask why that girl was here?" he demanded as soon as he was certain that said child was out of hearing range.

The mediwitch set the tray of breakfast across his lap. "That young woman saved your life last night. She found you, unconscious and badly injured, lying outside the door to your chambers. Show a little gratitude, you hear. If not for her, you wouldn't be here to snark at anyone."

Frowning, Snape remained silent at this knowledge, having two of his questions answered neatly at once. He had remembered returning to the castle and making it as far as his door...after that, he only recalled darkness and pain, until he'd awoke in hospital that morning. "That doesn't explain why she was still here this morning."

Poppy clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "She was worried about you, for one -- although I can't understand why, the way you treat most of your students. And Professor Dumbledore asked her to sit with you, so you had better be polite to her when she comes back. The headmaster said that he thought that you could use some company while you were here."

"I won't be here long enough to need any company," he objected. "I feel fine."

"That's because you haven't tried to use your legs," she pointed out. "And the potion is blocking out most of the pain -- for now." Her face sobered and the worry was evident in the deepened lines. "You were in a bad way last night."

"It was nothing out of the ordinary," he assured, his tone losing some of its biting edge. "It's just that I can only stave off the effects for so long. Malfoy...detained me in my return so that I was unable to make it safely to my rooms before the pain overcame me."

A heavy kind of silence fell upon them, born of too many days spent in the same conversation, the same thoughts being thought but never spoken.

Breaking the tension, Madame Pomfrey gestured toward the food. "Well, eat. You'll need your strength and Miss Granger will be back soon."

He gave her a sour look. "You're correct in the fact that it'll take all my strength to put up with Miss Granger."

Pomfrey made another show of disapproval at his harsh demeanor before leaving him to eat in blessed solitude, alone with his thoughts.

Despite his harsh words, Snape couldn't help but remember Hermione's obvious relief that he seemed well after the events of the previous night, not even sparing a moment to be wounded by his brash manner. Coupled with the mediwitch's words about Miss Granger's concern over his welfare, it seemed as if she actually...cared? What a strange thought, indeed.

Remembering her glowing face at realizing that he was awake, Snape was touched -- in spite of himself.


As promised, Hermione returned after the end of her classes that afternoon, armed with a stack of books from the library which she had been told by the headmaster might interest the incapacitated professor. For herself, she brought her school texts along, deciding to use the time for the revision she'd missed the night before.

Professor Dumbledore had found her that morning as she left the infirmary, telling her that he had arranged with Madam Pomfrey for her to continue with her nursemaid duties until Snape was fit enough to leave the hospital wing. "It will give you a chance to see if your heart and mind can come to some sort of agreement," he'd explained, his eyes twinkling. Hermione still wasn't certain if she wanted to thank him or hex him for the opportunity to spend time with the Potions master. She had done well since her conversation with him to continue to act as if Snape meant little more to her than a unnecessarily strict and over-demanding teacher and she had succeeded quite well at her self-given mission. The last thing she wanted to do was lose that carefully cultivated distance, but she had to admit that any unhappiness about the situation was outweighed by the euphoric effect of knowing that the man was alive. After seeing him gravely injured, Hermione was so pleased to see him at all that her mood was lighter and more forgiving than it normally would be when faced with the change in circumstances.

"I see you've returned," the professor remarked dryly as he watched her drop her satchel of school books onto the floor next to the tacky-colored chair. "And you've brought the whole library with you."

"Sorry to disappoint, but this is far from the whole library," she told him, carefully stacking the books on the beside table, mindful of the cup of tea which shared the space. "But Professor Dumbledore gave me a list of books which he thought you might enjoy while you were here, so I brought a few with me."

"A few?"

Not bothering to answer, Hermione set out of finish her Transfiguration reading, while Snape browsed through the book titles before deciding upon one. In unexpected harmony, the pair remained quietly busy at their independent tasks. Snape, for one, was startled at finding the silent companionship oddly comfortable; he had never been one for company of any kind, but a quiet Miss Granger was not as bothersome as he had told Poppy that she'd be.

After an indeterminate amount of time, the professor closed his book and fixed his gaze onto the young woman at his side so intent on her reading that she noticed little of the world around her. "Miss Granger."

"Yes, sir?" she answered dutifully, although her eyes were fixated on the printed words of the text.

"Both the headmaster and Madame Pomfrey have informed me of how I came to find himself in the hospital wing," he spoke softly. The words were painstakingly concise, as if he had carefully deliberated each word before speaking them. "So, I feel as if I must thank you for your...concern and your aid."

With faint amusement, Hermione realized that it was like pulling teeth, for him to thank her. "You're welcome," she demurred, although mischief danced in her eyes. "But I'm really not the one who you should be thanking."

An eyebrow shot up. "Then who do you suggest I thank?"



"My cat," she told him. "The only reason I found you was that my cat was lost in the dungeons. He happened to be where you were." She didn't feel the need to explain that Crookshanks had led her to him.

At the mention of a cat, Snape's impassive face darkened, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. "This cat of yours wouldn't, by any chance, be rather large and orange, would he? With a penchant for helping escaped prisoners from Azkaban who are illegal animagi?"

Suddenly, Hermione was engrossed in her textbook.

"Miss Granger?"

"That could describe Crookshanks," she admitted reluctantly, eyes fastened to the pages of her book.

"As I thought." Snape smugly returned his attention to his novel, satisfied. It still, however, did not explain the cat's strange behavior toward himself, he realized.

The next long lapse of silence was broken when Madam Pomfrey came bustling into the hospital wing, another blue bottle in hand. "Oh, hello, dear," she greeted Hermione with a smile. Briskly, she presented the bottle to the professor. "For you, Severus."

Biting back a sarcastic comment, Snape took the proffered potion obediently while Pomfrey began to chat with Hermione about her classes and her life in general. The patient smothered another unpleasant remark by burying his face in his book, the females' conversation ringing in the background.

"So, are looking forward to graduation?" The mediwitch asked as she sifted through one of the large oak cabinets in the corner of the massive infirmary.

"A bit," she confessed. "But I'm a little anxious. Everything will be much different next year. I'll miss the familiarity of returning to Hogwarts."

Pomfrey bobbed her head in agreement. "I felt the same way when I left and that was a long time ago. Have you decided on a school yet?"

That particular question caused her girl to frown thoughtfully. "I've been accepted into Oxford and Brussels," she told her. "But I'm still waiting for something from Trinity. That's my first choice."

"I'm sure you'll receive your acceptance any day now," she said encouragingly. "You're one of the most clever students to come through here in years."

"You're going into mediwizardry training?" Snape entered the conversation, his smooth voice tinted with faint disbelief.

"Why do you think that?" she questioned defensively, irked by his tone.

"Because Trinity is renowned for two subjects: mediwizardry and Potions," he explained.

"How did you know that I wasn't going to study Potions?" she challenged. "I do have the highest marks in your class."

"In order to be accepted into any Potions course of study, you would have had to have a letter of recommendation from your instructor," he answered snidely. "And since I have written no such letter, then you could not have been accepted into Oxford or Brussels, much less Trinity." Since she giving him an outraged look, he added grudgingly. "I wasn't implying that there was anything amiss with you studying mediwizardry, Miss Granger." A pause. "I was merely surprised."

"What did you expect?" she asked.

He rolled his eyes. "Something much more exciting and dangerous than medicine," he replied sarcastically. "Something which would make use of your Gryffindor stupidity and impulsive bouts of pseudo-heroism. Truthfully, I would have expected you to follow in your friends' footsteps. They're going into Auror training, I believe."

"We're aren't joined at the hip," she told him sourly. "We all three have different plans and goals for our lives. Their plans don't dictate mine."

"One of the few good decisions you've made in your life, then. It would have been a waste of talent if you've had went and gotten yourself blown up as an Auror or some such nonsense."

She was about to retort when Hermione realized exactly what the teacher had just said. "Did you just pay me a compliment, Professor?" she inquired, incredulous.

"I was merely stating a fact," he objected brusquely. "It is no fault of mine that you garner so few of them that you cannot recognize what a compliment is."

Despite the back-handed nature of his comments, she couldn't help but grin. "Thank you, Professor," she said good-naturedly. "Now I know to chalk this day up as one of the strangest ones of my life."

"Most medical students who graduated from Hogwarts are from Hufflepuff," he informed her. "That was another reason for the surprise." His dark eyes glittered dangerously, and something akin to a smile touched his mouth. Neither were good omens. "Although, you seem to have begun to display more than a few Hufflepuff traits recently -- loyalty, for one."

Even as she fought it, Hermione could feel the heat rising in her cheeks which meant that she was probably so flushed that she matched her gold-and-red-striped tie. She rolled her eyes in exasperation, sullenly crossing her arms in silent fury, knowing that nothing she could say would lessen her acute embarrassment. She tossed her hair in a feminine signal of displeasure which sent the heavy locks into a furious cascade, the pink in her face heightening the flashing quality of her brown eyes which peered at him in haughty indignation.

Watching her reaction, Snape fought just as valiantly to hold off the amusement which it elicited as she had to quell her embarrassment. Unfortunately, he lost as soundly as his flustered student had.

The sound of Snape's rich laughter echoed off the empty stone calls, filling the otherwise quiet infirmary with sound.

Properly astounded by the occasion of the Potions Master laughing, Hermione felt her embarrassment and anger ebb away as she observed him, watching with interest the way in which laughter changed his face much in the same way sleeping had. The sight, coupled with the sound, left her feeling warm from head to toe.

When the laughter faded, Snape smirked at her unrepentantly, his face still showing faint traces of the humor he had felt. In that moment, his usual arrogant expression almost resembled a smile.

And being the silly schoolgirl which she was, Hermione couldn't stop herself from smiling back. "Thank you," she scolded him in mock-anger. "For reminding me that there's at least one more day which I can safely say was more bizarre than this one."

Snape schooled his expression, but the humor was still apparent in his eyes. "My pleasure, Miss Granger."


When Hermione waltzed into the Great Hall the next morning for breakfast, she couldn't help but grin when her eyes swept the mostly-empty staff table to find Professor Snape in attendance, properly attired in his customary high-collared shirt and waistcoat under billowing black robes. His expression was the usual one -- a mixture of boredom, disdain and misery -- dark eyes casting baleful glares at each table in turn.

When his eyes fell on her, she paused, shifting the weight of her book satchel onto one hip as she stood and bore his observance with mocking patience. As if satisfied, he inclined in his head in a subtle acknowledgement, before sliding his eyes over to the Slytherin table.

Finding her mood somehow lightened by the mere fact that Snape was well enough to once again terrorize her and her friends in class, Hermione sat next to Harry at the Gryffindor table, enthusiastically filling her plate with food.

"Good morning, Hermione," he mumbled between bites.

"Same to you, Harry."

"Where have you been?" he asked, pushing his sliding glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. "Didn't see you at all yesterday after classes."

"I had an extra assignment," she evaded smoothly. "It's over now."

Ron collapsed across from them, looking as if he'd been without sleep. "I hate Transfiguration," he stated without preamble before attacking his own breakfast.

"If you didn't wait until the last minute to do everything, then you wouldn't have to pull all-nighters," lectured Hermione.

"Real helpful, you are," he grumbled, shaking his head. When he spared a glance at the staff table, his distressed face became even more troubled. "Ugh, of all the rotten luck!"

"What?" Harry wanted to know, leaning toward him conspiratorially.

Ron grimaced dramatically. "Snape's back. I should have known that we wouldn't be lucky enough to for him to stay sick long enough to miss our class. I wish he'd stayed ill a few more days. Then we wouldn't have had to see his ugly face again until Monday."

"Ron, that's horrible!" the girl chided him. "Wishing someone sick just so you don't have to go to class."

"Not anyone, 'Mione," he corrected her, waving around his fork with a sausage speared on its prongs. "Snape. That's a big difference."

"It's still horrible and your mother would be ashamed of you if she knew."

At the mention of the formidable Weasley matriarch, Ginny drew the conversation away from its inflammatory path into the safer waters of the next Quidditch match. The two Weasleys, Harry, Seamus and Dean were all animatedly discussing strategies while Hermione quickly revised her Charms assignment when mail began to rain down on the students from the swooping owls above them. Since none of the sports addicts received any mail, they paid little attention as two letters dropped on Hermione's parchment, interfering with her efforts to dot a missed 'i.' Laying her quill aside, she reached for the unfamiliar one, ignoring the letter which had been sent in a standard letter-sized envelope with her name printed on it with a ball-point pen -- she knew that one to be from her mother.

With trepidation, she noticed the crest on the sealing wax as she carefully opened the envelope then unfolded the letter held within. Quickly scanning the contents, she blanched momentarily before breaking out in a smile so radiant that it lit her face entirely, taking full advantage of the perfect teeth she'd gained in fourth year.

"Seamus! Seamus!" she called, raising her voice sharply to cut over the excited sports chatter. Her smile was temporarily dimmed by her best know-it-all expression.

Everyone stopped talking when Seamus leaned forward to see around Dean. "Yeah, Hermione?"

The smile shone once again, even more brightly. "You owe me a shamrock muffler."

A roar of congratulations rippled through the Gryffindor table while the teachers watched on in indulgent amusement.

Even Snape.

Heart Over Mind

A Harry Potter Story
by Regann

Part 5 of 27

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