Harry spent the History of Magic classtime - where he'd wanted to read McGonagall's books on Animagi, trying to come up with something, anything to say. Hermione was looking at him, too, with that impatient gleam in her eye.
They already knew he'd been at Snape's detention.
And had returned entirely too late.
Red as a lobster, and with too much skin showing.
That... was not looking good, Harry thought. What exactly was he supposed to say?
My teacher turned into a raving maniac, and tried to throw me to a man-eating frog?
Like Hermione would believe that.
My teacher decided I needed punishment, and it was a bit more than I could handle?
Nothing Happened! Harry was honestly upset about everyone else getting this worked up about it. It hadn't been nearly as bad as Umbitch. Not nearly. Umbitch hadn't cared, not really, not about him - to her, it was all about authority.
For all of Snape's moldy insistence on being called Professor Snape at all times, he didn't really get all that worked up about authority. Commanded it too easily, Harry idly supposed.
Harry had half a mind to stalk the halls, maybe figure out where the second and first year Slytherins spent their free time, or the thirds if the first two were safe in class.
Nobody had asked, except for Hermione. And even she was starting to look like she'd take matters into her own hands, answers or not.
Why did people have to make stupid bloody assumptions?
They were completely wrong-headed, and right, and everything in between!
And Harry hadn't even asked them what they were thinking.
All he really knew is that they blamed Snape. That, and he hadn't been paying enough attention in the morning to realize that they were so upset.
Harry went over his ideas, again and again, but nothing seemed to hold. It would all fall apart in moments, once he started trying to put words to any of it.
Should he say he ran into Filch? What could Filch have possibly done to turn him red all over?
Had anyone seen him in the showers?
Should he take the opportunity and blame it on Snape?
He hadn't, and look where that had gotten everyone - just as hostile as if he'd told a tall tale. Maybe moreso, even.
How many of them knew Harry had a tendency to downplay when things got bad?
Harry ducked out of History of Magic, ducking Hermione altogether - and even Ron, making it nearly up to the 7th floor before some stupid wench of a girl tried to bat her eyelashes at him. He glared, she stepped backward (luckily into the wall and not off the edge), and Harry kept running.
He had class he was supposed to be in - Charms, though, with Flitwick, who was always a soft touch.
Maybe he should just check himself into the infirmary?
Harry snorted. That was insane.
He'd wound up skipping lunch, too, unaware of the unwanted level of concern that raised at the Gryffindor table.
Hermione was going to talk with Harry, really, she was. After History of Magic, even. Or before, when he had that free period.
But Harry had disappeared - and hadn't shown up for lunch. It was her duty, she tried to reassure herself, even if Harry was going to be terribly upset. "Professor McGonagall, if I could have a word?" Hermione asked.
Prof. McGonagall led her into a glorified coat-closet - it was the postern path the staff tended to use to enter and exit the Great Hall.
"Harry came home late from his detention last night."
"Did he now? Off wandering again?" Prof. McGonagall's eyes sparkled.
"I don't think so." Hermione said firmly. "He came home beet red from head to toe - and his robes were gone. He was only wearing pants!"
Prof. McGonagall asked sternly, "Are you alleging that something improper happened between Professor Snape and his pupil?"
Hermione shook her head firmly, "No! Not that, at least." Her face flushed briefly at even the implication.
Prof. McGonagall said, "Thank you. I'll see that it gets investigated." She exited the coat-closet, heading up towards the Headmaster's chambers.
Hermione eyed her doubtfully, hoping that she'd done the right thing.
The sinking feeling in her gut told her otherwise.
[a/n: Leave a review? Not showing up at lunch is bound to worry people, Harry Potter!]