Every year, on the first of September, they laugh at me. They say, “Severus, why are you buried under a pile of newspapers?” and “Esteemed coworker, why do you choose the first day of term to peruse all the Muggle and wizarding newspapers in the country?”
But I never look up from my furious headline-skimming. I feel no need to explain myself. Especially not with anything so self-evident.
I quite clearly am looking for some sort of natural or man-made disaster that would postpone term even just for a bit longer. Much like appealing a death sentence. No one would ever ask, “Severus, why are you appealing your death sentence?” Really, sometimes I wonder that these people ever became teachers.
So I started, that dreary morning, with the London papers…
Thirty-two minutes later, I scratched my arm and turned a page.
Thirty-three minutes later, however, I stood up, howled a little yodel of delight, and upended a cup of coffee on myself (which caused a bit more yodeling, of a different sort).
Minor injuries aside, the facts of the case were clear: Harry Potter was quite blatantly and delinquently flying around in a Muggle car. For, as the Hourly Rage clearly reported, “Two old Muggle ladies alerted Muggle police this morning that they saw a Muggle automobile floating in the London sky. Magic—or mirage? We think it’s Muggle old-maid mania.”
The whole thing just screamed Potter. For example, the incident took place in England, which is where Potter lives. Also, he lives with his Muggle uncle, and Muggles own cars…which was the crime weapon.
I composed a short, persuasive essay to this effect, and read it aloud to McGonagall. She was not convinced.
“If that car even exists,” she said, “I will eat my hat. But,” she continued, “If that car exists and Potter is in it, well then, Severus Snape, I will kiss you straight on—in the face area.”
Which says a lot about her kissing knowledgability.
“Minerva, you may want to take that back,” I said, utilizing all my Occulmency and Legilimency skills put together to keep the thought of her kissing anything far from my brain.
She just laughed and walked away. Her pace picked up a tad bit when I began to run after her, screaming, “Take it baaack!”
Luckily for her, Gilderoy Lockhart rounded the corner in front of us, and I skidded to a dignified halt, hoping to finally appeal to an equal.
“Professor Gilderoy S. Lockhart!” I said, “Your excellency! I need your professional assistance.”
“Yes?” he said, graciously condescending to look me in the eye.
“I know you are an excellent tracker,” I said, “As proven by your capture of Milda the Misguided on page 387 of Holidays with Hags, and also your rather heroic spying on Gudwump the Gullet on page 1023 of Gadding with Ghouls, and then lastly your run-on sentence, though very well-phrased, about your tracking abilities on page 30 of Magical Me.”
“Yes…” he said again, looking only mildly taken aback, to his credit.
“Well, I was wondering if you could assist me out of the goodness of your very capable heart.”
“Why of course!” he said, “Anything to help a colleague in need! What can I do for you?”
“Track Harry Potter. Find him. Tell me exactly where he is. I suspect he is flying an illegal car around London. Please.”
“A mere boy? Hah! I’ll have him to you by lunchtime,” said Lockhart, and he swaggered off.
I found out later that he got his foot stuck in a trick staircase not forty-five seconds later, and was rescued by Filch only moments before the students arrived, because he had been yelling so loud that he needed to dress for dinner.
It could happen to anybody.
But I, ignorant of this tidbit, returned with satisfaction to my newspapers. To my great delight, more sightings of a Muggle car “Ford Anglia” (whatever that means) appeared in papers as the day proceeded. I helpfully owled each newspaper clipping to the Evening Prophet, with the important sections highlighted, and then some pertinent annotations. I also included my black-and-white headshot photo, just in case. (It was a close call, but I chose the serious one; the smiling one looks a tad too maniacally optimistic.)
It was a double-edged sword, however, because much as I wanted to be correct and have Harry Potter expelled for all eternity, McGonagall’s horrendous promise laid heavy on my mind.
Three pros-and-cons lists, and one deep meditation later, I made my choice: Potter had to go. McGonagall would forget about her frivolous comments, anyway. She always managed to forget when she borrowed my Celestina Warbeck albums, at least.
At quarter to five, I sent in the last article, and proceeded to Dumbledore’s office.
“Severus Snape,” I said to the hideous gargoyle (Dumbledore has an annoying habit of changing his password to my name at the beginning of every year. I believe he thinks it an uproarious joke.)
I strode up the spiral staircase, and burst through the door.
“Sir!” I said, so commandingly that he immediately stopped clipping his toenails. “I would like a new title!”
“Severus, we’ve discussed this, and I just don’t think that ‘Assistant to the Defense Teacher’ entitles anything…”
“No. This is different. I would like to be the official Finder of the Potter in the Flying Car.”
He blinked bluely at me.
“Certainly,” he said almost immediately, nodding in a strange show of agreeableness. My heart soared, leapt, and quite possibly flapped its wings. “And this extra responsibility,” he continued, “surely necessitates a pay raise.”
My eyes widened. I tried not to make any sudden movements to ruin what had just transpired. I then slowly and wordlessly backed out of the room, before he could change his mind.
I made my way to the ground floor in a state of elated shock. Could this really be the first day of term? Harry Potter was about to be expelled, Dumbledore was being accommodating…I had never experienced anything quite like this in all my years at Hogwarts.
Of course to punctuate this momentary happiness, I slipped right down an entire flight of steps, literally and inexplicably on a banana peel.
But even that couldn’t crush my spirit.
I did a quick survey of the grounds, and catalogued each and every plant, statue, fountain, and rock in a special notebook, just in case. No damage to school property would escape my notice.
I was two-and-a-half notebooks in when I finished on the trees (child’s play). Professor Sprout only caught me as I began on the blades of grass (a bit more difficult).
“Severus? Why are you staring at the ground like that?”
I nearly jumped out of my skin, and then stuttered out, “Just transcribing the position and condition of each Hogwarts plant! Just in case, you know.”
She for some reason began pin-wheeling her arms in a disturbing fashion, and roaring at me:
“Ha! I’ve never heard such a lousy excuse! If you think you can be the first to get a sneak peek at my mandrakes, you’re sorely mistaken, sir! Away! Awaaay!”
I hastily retreated. It is best not to argue with the mad hatter and her army of murderous plants.
I took refuge in the Astronomy tower, a place as far away from Sprout as possible, and also a convenient watchtower upon which to witness Harry Potter’s Downfall.
By the time I’d arranged an armchair, footrest, and a decorative badge affixed to my chest which read “Official Finder of the Potter in the Flying Car” for myself, it was seven o’clock, and time for the students to arrive. I watched them file out of the carriages into the school. They looked like tiny, hideous little blots in the landscape. I may or may not have spat off the tower.
At that glorious moment, my masterpiece clonked me on the head. The Evening Prophet. And I had earned a front-page article, even if my name was never expressly mentioned (I checked twice). And even if Harry Potter was never expressly implicated (I checked three times).
FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES, the headline read. Brilliant.
I galloped unsteadily down the stairs, heady with excitement. Of course I couldn’t allow the students to see me (you never know which ones may be in cahoots with Potter. Now, you may say, how would they know that I was out to get Potter and not just walking the halls in my professorly pants? Well, you have evidently forgotten my decorative badge, which very concisely stated my purpose. I suggest you pay more attention in the future.). So I donned various disguises as I went. First I clanked around in a suit of armor, then I abandoned that to prowl around on my hands and knees like a housecat for a time, and then I thought quickly, grabbed a potted plant, and held it in front of my face as I sprinted out the doors.
“Minerva!” I whispered to the least attractive person on the outside steps (and indeed within a five mile radius). “It’s me, Severus! Pretend you don’t see me!”
She looked at the potted-plant camouflage and seemed to be at a loss for words, perhaps in admiration.
So I went on, “Did any Pot—er—student not come off the train? It’s urgent, Minerva!” I added, as she continued to stare at me in what must have been reluctant appreciation.
“Oh—er—“ she consulted her magical list, “Yes, as a matter of fact Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter missed the train. Inexplicable—“ But the rest of her sentence was cut off by an inadvertent whoop which burst forth from my mouth. I scampered down the steps and, for lack of anything better to do, scampered back up them again, potted plant still held firmly in front of my face.
“Minerva!” I whispered again, “It’s Severus again!”
“I realize. What is it now, Severus?”
“Does Hogwarts have a car park?”
“A what park?”
“A car park, for Muggle cars to…rest…”
“Oh, a car park.” She paused in thought. “Yes, I do believe we have one. Go left past the greenhouses, walk about fifty feet until you see a twisted valerian tree, and take a sharp left.”
“Tell no one you’ve seen me,” I uttered mysteriously, and swept away, just as an apparently exceptionally perceptive student yelled, “Hello, Professor Snape!”
I streaked purposefully left past the greenhouses, quickly covered the fifty feet right up to the twisted valerian tree, and then took a sharp left. I found myself knee-deep in the Great Lake. In my surprise, I dropped the potted plant, which bobbed away.
I stood there for a moment, watching my plant sadly, and sighing at Minerva’s grave lack of direction. But, then—I did not know; perhaps Muggles parked cars underwater. I ducked my head in the lake to take a brief look, but there was not a car to be found.
It was very dark, but I could see the First Years’ boats approaching slowly across the water, which meant that Minerva would still be at the entrance of the school.
I sloshed back up to the school, only realizing that I could dry myself halfway there, and found Minerva ushering the last of the older students through the doors, grinning about something that must have been unrelated to myself.
“Minerva,” I said understandingly, “I know the effects of old age take their toll, but I would like you to try and remember—really think—where the Hogwarts car park is.”
She gave me a strange look, so I added, “I believe in you.”
“Huh,” she said, scratching her chin, “Well if it’s not there, then it must be…ah yes, now I remember!”
I nodded encouragingly.
“It’s hidden by enchantment, you know, to prevent discrimination against the Muggle-borns who would drive cars, of course. And in order to break the enchantment, you must run three laps around the castle, and then shout ‘Heathcliff.’”
“Dumbledore came up with it. You know.”
“Well done, Minerva,” I said, beaming, and I began to lap the castle at a brisk jog. The second lap may have been more like a brisk limp. And the third may have been more like a spasmodic crawl, but I eventually made it back round to the front of the castle.
As I bellowed “Heathcliff!” at the herd of incoming First Years about to enter the castle, it occurred to me that Minerva may not have been entirely truthful. It also occurred to me that this occurrence might make my first lesson with the First Years altogether less petrifying than I would have preferred.
Minerva gave me a maniacal grin as she ushered the last of the First Years through the door and then slammed it in my face before I could ask the real directions to the car park.
Dejected, I set out on foot intending to search the grounds.
There was no need, however, for as I watched, a small blue car careened spectacularly into the Whomping Willow, with a force that (dared I hope?) very well could have killed the passengers inside.
A/N-- When I saw my recent Humour Dobby Award for P^5, I was dying to give you guys another chapter as a huge THANK YOU! I couldn't have done it without all your wonderful laughter and encouragement. So thanks again, and here's to me having some free time and writing lots more chapters!