Harry could hear through the Great Hall, all through lunchtime, discussion of what it meant that Severus Snape, Potions Master and notorious Hater-Of-All-Things-Gryffindor, had offered Hermione Granger 'extra credit.' Harry Potter hadn't expected Snape to just straight out offer it - certainly not in class. Harry had to wonder what his wily Professor was up to. Problem was, when he put his mind to it, it seemed like just too much of a deviation from what Snape's carefully cultivated image was. That meant one of two things - that this was yet another wrinkle in the increasingly "left on the floor for dead" tapestry that Snape seemed to be weaving... or it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, Snape was bound to put it to rights by coming down hard on the Gryffindors, probably in general (He seemed to have significantly more trouble finding something to yell at Hermione about, anyway. Suppose 'Harry Potter' makes a tempting target, Chosen One or no).
What was most interesting, Harry thought, was the expressions on the Slytherins' faces. Most of them looked uncertain, some nervous, and a few just a bit twitchy. Draco Malfoy wore a smirk, as if he knew everything about everything, and Harry mentally categorized it as "I don't know a damned thing, but I'll be damned if I let you know that." Which was hilarious, when you thought about it, and Harry himself might have tried it if there was any way in blazes he could act that well.
The Ravenclaws were predictably outraged, and Harry thought he saw signs of a growing consensus, with quick glances up at the High Table. Something, he thought, was brewing there. The Ravenclaws considered schooling to be their province, and had accepted Hermione's trouncing of them with predictable bad grace (though, it must be said, not nearly as poorly as Malfoy had. Come to think, Harry'd never actually asked himself if Malfoy was really just pissed off at having a girl beat him. Hiding whatever he really thought behind blood prejudice? It made a scary sort of sense - scary because it was plausible, and scary because it almost sounded like Harry was trying to understand a Slytherin, something he'd previously considered an exercise in positive timewasting).
The Hufflepuffs were actually amused. Everyone else was all fluffy about this, and this was the best gossip they'd had, well, since Snape had decided to assign people 'ways to kill their classmates' as a homework assignment.
And the Gryffindors? Well, Ron was predictably shoving food in his mouth and making a mess as always. Some things never change, Harry thought with a fleeting grin. Hermione was busy flipping through her books, absently muttering about having to throw out research. Other Gryffindors would pat her on the shoulder in congratulations - with Dean actually saying, "You actually managed to get through to Severus Snape. Congratulations!" To which Hermione, clearly not paying a whit of attention, said, "Professor Snape." in the same tone that she'd always corrected Harry and Ron (to whom she might have thought she was talking).
Before Harry was done eating, Hermione looked up and said, "I'll have to go ask Professor Snape about that."
Harry looked at her, noting her fiddling with her 'wand' absently. "What 'bout?" He asked, his mouth still full of food.
Hermione looked at Harry, and said with a bit of a nudge, "You know."
Right, what she's not supposed to discuss in the bloody Great Hall. Harry nodded, and quickly thought, I don't want to let her go into the dungeons alone. There's not much they can do to seriously harm her, but Malfoy's clever enough to get around that, if he wants to. "I'll come with. I've got a few questions for Snape too."
"Professor Snape, Harry." Granger nodded, her unruly hair shifting with her head, "Right after Charms, then."
Harry knew this was a bad idea, going to see Snape. And yet, Ron couldn't be counted on to visit a professor, and Harry wasn't going to let his friend come to harm when he could possibly prevent it. Even if it was just the pesty sort of harm. All through Transfiguration, and then Charms, Harry was thinking of why he let himself get caught up in things like this. Well, when he wasn't trying to think of something to ask Snape. It didn't make sense for him to come storming in, and he didn't really have any questions about anything. But he couldn't very well show up to office hours without questions, could he? Maybe... Harry scrambled... maybe he could ask for extra reading? Something supplemental? Oh, boy, Snape would have something to say to that. Something cutting, of course. But, at least he wouldn't be telling Snape that he was down there simply because he didn't trust Snape's hold on his Slytherins. That would go over poorly, sure as Sunday.
[a/n: Just the setup for next chapter. Still, Harry's learning to think a little outside himself, which is always nice to see.
Know what's going on yet? Guesses are welcome, or you could always just leave a review.]