A/N: Two updates in one day! I know, the world must be coming to an end! I hope you enjoy this chapter, there is a dash of Hermione/Severus in this one and more on the way!
Chapter 14-Brewing Glory
Jake looked around the dormitory. He and Jack were the only ones who hadn’t left for breakfast. Jake had been ready for a while, but he wanted to have a chat with his old friend.
Said friend came out of the bathroom. “You ready for breakfast?” he asked. “Or are you going to have that with your best buddy Emma too,” he added jeeringly.
Jake sighed. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Jack deflated slightly. “Really?”
Jack sat down opposite Jake on his adjacent bed.
“Look,” Jake began, “I know we were really good mates once,”
“Best mates,” Jack corrected, causing Jake to smile.
“Yeah, best mates. But we haven’t seen each other in years! We can’t just expect to pick things up right where we left them! You’ve had your life and I’ve had mine, we aren’t the same people we were the last time we saw each other.” He took a deep breath. “I still want to be friends, but I think we need to work on it, try to get to know each other better. How does that sound?”
Jack nodded. “You’re probably right,” he sighed, rolling his eyes. “Like always.”
For that split moment where the two broke out into laughter, it felt like old times again. Jake knew that they weren’t going to get back to that overnight, but that moment gave him hope they could reach that place again.
Jack stood up. “Now that that’s settled, let’s go eat, I’m starving!”
Jake chuckled. “Really? You used to be such a picky eater! You were a stick!”
“Yeah, my parents kind of forced me to eat.” He grinned, though he did seem to realize how the words cut through Jake. “Look, mate, I-”
Jake waved it off, making it seem like it bothered him less than it actually did. Jack had found a family, it was a fact. He had to learn to deal with it. “Don’t worry about it. You shouldn’t feel ashamed that you have a family, you should be proud about it.”
“Thanks,” Jack replied quietly. “I always wondered if anyone had picked you. I thought about it a lot. I really wish that we could have taken you home too.”
His friend’s words really hit him. Jake smiled. “Thanks, mate.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes. “I don’t think your friend Emma likes me too much.” Jack chimed in, almost looking disappointed.
“Don’t take it personally,” Jake told his friend. “I think there are family problems at home. I don’t get the feeling that she’s gotten to socialize much, it makes it harder to make friends.”
Jack grunted thoughtfully. “You two became close after a two minute conversation.”
“I don’t know, maybe she felt we had a lot in common. You expect me to understand the way a girl thinks? Come on!”
Jack grinned. “Good point.” He glanced at his watch. “We should probably hurry or all the food might be gone!”
The two boys looked at each other for a moment before breaking out in laughter.
And Jake was happy.
This was going to be interesting.
It was the first day of practical application in Severus’s first class of first years. One day of book work was quite enough in his opinion. That was what homework was for, after all. But he knew what was going to happen. He had made several batches of burn relieving elixirs and redness reduction potions. There was bound to be at least one explosion, and after all these years he knew he had to be prepared.
He glanced at his watch. He had finished his breakfast earlier than usual. There was still a good half an hour before the students would begin to trickle in. He strode over to the back of the classroom, to a place he hadn’t dared go for years, not since he had begun teaching. There was a table in the corner. He traced his fingers over the rough surface of the ingredient stained wood. It was still there. Just barely, but it was there, carved into the wood.
SS <3 LE
He had put that there the day he realized he loved Lily. That he couldn’t live without her. The day when he called her a…he couldn’t even bring himself to think it. At the time he wasn’t sure why he did it. Most who saw it when it was fresh must have thought that it was a declaration of the love of a gooey eyed couple. But that wasn’t the case for him. There was a part of him in that table carving, the old Severus, the one that Lily loved. He buried that boy in the wooden planks like a packrat, wanting to keep it safe. That day, he knew somehow that that bit of goodness had to be preserved. It was the memory of that carving that kept him sane, that forced him to learn how to close his mind so no one would learn of his secret.
He wasn’t sure if he still loved her. He felt that a part of him always would. But it was so long…it was a different type of love, he decided. He would always think of her, and be grateful to her for preserving the good in him, even if she didn’t know she was doing it. But the pain of what he had done to her, albeit indirectly… he blamed her death on himself. He couldn’t love her the same way, not after all he had done. He didn’t deserve her. And you never had her. Potter did. A voice in his head taunted.
He growled at it, willing it away. He had made his peace with Harry. The boy had proved useful after all, and really had saved his arse a few times. Severus managed to get past the hate and see the part of him that was Lily. Yet another way I failed her, giving her son so much grief. But it had been hard to be kind to a person who looked like your enemy incarnate. He still hated James and always would. Perhaps it was because he had gotten everything Severus never did. A wife that (unfortunately) loved him. A son. A family. A death.
He shook his head clearing it. This was exactly why he had avoided this spot for so long. He wasn’t entirely sure why he had returned today. Perhaps it had to do with the situation with the Hurtz girl.
Yes, that’s it, she just reminds me of myself as a child. It’s making me remember things from back then, that’s all.
He strode back over to his desk and sat down. He began to rifle through some of his papers, looking for a distraction. He frowned. There was something new underneath. It was a sealed envelope. He turned it over and smiled. Severus Snape, Hogwarts was written on the parchment in Hermione’s tidy handwriting. Perfect timing.
He cracked the seal open, and began to read:
I hope you are doing well since last we spoke. I am ever so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner, work has been insane the past two weeks! You know, for all your complaints, you’re bloody lucky to be teaching. Maybe we should take some polyjuice and switch places once in a while, eh? (I’m only joking, unless you’ve come up with a way to make that crap taste any better!)
I’ve been doing alright, keeping busy, trying not to things about things too much. It’s sort of strange to be alone after being with someone for so long. I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t be piling all this on you, it’s just, well, I like talking to you. But I guess we’re writing at the moment, now aren’t we. I don’t know. I feel like I can talk to you. Who would have thought that, right?
I’d better shut up before I make a fool of myself before you yet again.
He couldn’t help but smile at the casual and confused tone of her letter. It was almost as perfect as talking to her in person. Almost. Here he had to use his imagination to picture her beautiful mouth forming the words, him holding on to every syllable for dear life, though acting slightly removed as was his character.
His eyes rested on the table at the front of the room. That was where Hermione always sat…where Hermione…he shook his head furiously. The desk slammed him back into reality. She had been his student. His student! He should not be thinking about her in this way, not at all. So much for being a good distraction, her letter only opened a whole new can of worms he would have to deal with.
But not now. He was never more thankful to see a snotty little first year creep into the room, knees knocking in terror. The room filled quickly with minimal conversation. Nice to see that they listen. Severus couldn’t help but puff himself up in pride at his accomplishment. He still had it.
His eyes met briefly with Miss Hurtz, but she averted her own quickly. He made a pointed effort to avoid looking at Jacob.
“Today,” he began, standing up impressively after everyone was seated, “We will be doing our first practical lesson. You will be brewing a simple boil cure potion.” He pointed his wand at the supply cupboard, which flew open. “The supplies may be found here.” He motioned his wand towards the board, where chalky white lettering appeared. “The instructions are on the board. Follow. Them. Carefully.” he articulated, knowing they wouldn’t listen. “Begin.”
He settled himself back down into his chair and pulled forward an essay. Let’s see if I can get a little grading in before one of those buggers blows themselves up.
Crash! He sighed. Ten seconds. That had to be a record.
It was nearly the end of the lesson period. Severus was stalking up and down the isles, inspecting the garbage the children had created. He spoke as he walked. “You will place your potion, if non-combustible, into a vial clearly marked with your name, which is to be left on my desk for grading.”
In spite of the rough start, there had only been one injury. A Slytherin, he thought bitterly. He looked into the cauldrons, disgusted. This batch was worse than normal, if that was possible. He reached Mr. Baxter’s table. He looked down, and recoiled in shock, his mask slipping briefly. The potion was a perfect rosy pink. It looked as if someone twice the boy’s age had made it. This was impossible. It had to be a prank, a joke of some kind. It had to be.
“Interesting,” he told the boy, who practically beamed up at him. “I would like to speak with you after class, Mr. Baxter,” he drawled in his most sinister voice. There was fear in the boy’s eyes. Good. It would prevent him from being too cocky. And if this was all real, if the boy was really this talented, he’d need all the help he could get to stay grounded.
Merlin forbid he grow a big head like Potter’s.
Jake said goodbye to Emma as he nervously awaited the wraith of Severus Snape. There was a loud bang as the door to the classroom shut, a kind of finality coming with the sound. He had never felt so small in his life, all alone in that space with the looming figure of Snape practically glaring at him.
“How did you do this?” the professor gruffly demanded, holding up the vial of pink liquid Jake had concocted.
“I-I just followed the instructions on the board, sir.” he replied meekly.
Snape crossed his arms and intensified his glare. “Are you quite sure about that?”
Snape’s eyes examined him. “This potion is too well made.”
I must have misheard him, Jake thought, more confused than ever. “Sir?” he asked.
The professor held up the vial once more. “It is virtually impossible for an inexperienced student to make this. What did you do, have an older student make it for you and pull a bait and switch?”
Jake shook his head vigorously, panicking. “No! I didn’t-”
“Do it again.” Snape demanded.
“Make the potion again. While I watch.”
“But sir, that means we’ll miss lunch.” His stomach rumbled quietly in concurrence.
“You will make this potion again,” Snape told him with finality, “Or you will accept a zero for this assignment. Is that understood?”
Grudgingly, Jake nodded. “Yes, sir,” he agreed.
Snape nodded, and if Jake wasn’t mistaken, he almost saw surprise in his eyes. “Begin.”
Jake hurriedly rushed to the cupboard, gathering all of the ingredients once more. There was a burning in his chest. This was absurd. He was almost shaking with anger at the injustice of the situation. But at the same time, he was filled with a determination to prove his innocence and prove Snape wrong.
He placed the ingredients on the table. Snape leaned over and examined them. “This is exactly what you used?”
Jake was worried that the eagle eye glued to him would cause him to make a mistake. He tried to focus as best he could, replicating steps he had completed earlier. Finally, almost forty-five minutes later, he was finished. The contents of the cauldron was almost exactly the same as before.
He glanced up at Professor Snape. There was a peculiar look on the man’s face, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. He smiled at Jake. “I apologize for my reaction before. I-” He paused for a minute, intensifying his gaze on Jake. “I have never seen a first year student come into my classroom and produce a result like that on their first try. Are you sure you’ve never been taught anything about potions before?”
The about face was shocking, though very much welcomed. His anger towards his professor abated quickly. “No, sir, I didn’t even know I was a wizard until right before you took me to get my things.”
Snape nodded. “You get top marks.” The professor looked at his wristwatch. “Lunch is nearly over. Snarky.”
Jake looked at him in confusion until he heard a little pop. A small creature appeared out of thin air, leaving Jake dumbfounded. “Is Master Severus needing something?” the thing asked the professor.
“Yes, Snarky, I would like you to go to the kitchens and bring Mr. Baxter something to eat.” Snape turned to Jake. “Would you like anything in particular?” Snape asked offhandedly.
Jake was somewhat taken aback. This was not what he had been expecting. “Um, a sandwich would be fine, thanks.”
Snape turned to the creature. “And something for me, if you will. The usual.”
“Yes, sir! Coming right up sir!” There was another pop and the little creature disappeared.
“What was that?” Jake asked in awe before he could stop himself.
Snape chuckled, a dark sound that could have been amusement or mocking. “A house elf. They belong to some of the more affluent Wizarding families and take care of their homes.”
Jake scrunched up his face. “Like slaves?”
Snape nodded, though a hard expression came to his face. “Yes, exactly. They have servitude bred into them. However, some, such as Snarky, are free and are paid a salary.”
Jake shook his head in wonderment. “I wonder when things will stop surprising me in this place.”
It was only a split second; had he looked away he might have missed it. Snape stiffened slightly at his words, though he relaxed later. Jake wanted to ask why his words bothered the man so much, but he felt it was safer at the moment to hold his tongue. He was just getting into Snape’s good graces again, (something he was told was very rare) and he didn’t want to ruin it.
“Yes, the Wizarding world can be a bit of a shock if you haven’t grown up in it.”
“Did you?” Jake bravely asked.
Snape looked furious. He looked like he was about to open his mouth and say something, but there was another pop and the elf reappeared with a tray of food. Snape grabbed Jakes food and practically threw it at him. “Eat.” he ordered.
Jake wolfed the food down partly because he was hungry and had class in about twenty minutes, partly because he was afraid he might get killed if he didn’t get out of there quickly. The two ate in silence, though Jake got the impression that Snape was watching him. He didn’t dare look up to check.
He stood to go. “Wait,” Snape called out. Jake paused, slightly worried.
“Don’t let this get to your head,” Snape warned him firmly, “This could be a fluke. We’ll just have to see how the next lesson goes. That is all. You are dismissed.”
After a hurried reply of “Good day, sir!” Jake rushed out of the room. That had to be one of the strangest things that had happened to him in his entire life. Only finding out he was a Wizard was stranger.
Emma was worried as she walked out to the greenhouse for her Herbology lesson. Jake had never shown up to lunch. She hadn’t seen him since she had left the dungeons. And Professor Snape. She couldn’t stop thinking about her conversation with the professor the night before. Part of her wanted to trust him, to go to him. Maybe he could do what no one else could.
No, she reprimanded herself. He’ll find a way around it. There’s no escape.
She shook her head. Jake, she should focus on Jake. Something positive.
But could it be possible that one of her father’s cronies had gotten to him? Could he have found out about her new friendship and decided that if he couldn’t have his way he’d control her life?
“This is silly,” she said under her breath, “I’m sure he’s fine.”
“Hey, talking to yourself, Hurtz?” a voice called out to her. For a split second she thought it was one of her father’s hires. But when she turned towards the voice, Emma saw that it was Jake’s friend Jack.
“What do you want, Mccrimmon.” There was something about the boy that just rubbed her the wrong way.
Jack shrugged. “Nothing, just checking on your mental state.” Emma grit her teeth and began stalking off in the direction of greenhouse one.
“Hey!” he called out to her, running to catch up. “Have you seen Jake?”
“No,” she said shortly. “He wasn’t at lunch.”
“Hm, that’s odd,” Jack muttered. He chuckled. “He’s probably at the library, he always liked to read.”
That did make sense. It certainly made more sense than getting beat up by thugs. “Yeah, probably,”
Somehow, the two ended up walking to the greenhouses together in an awkward silence. They both took their places at the tables, waiting for the lesson to start. A few minutes later, Professor Longbottom walked in, smiling. “Good afternoon,” he greeted them cheerfully. “Today we will be learning about Devil’s Snare”. He doesn’t know anything about a Devil’s Snare, Emma thought to herself. She looked around. Jake still hadn’t showed.
She could only partially pay attention to the lecture. If Jake had only been in the library, he should have been back by now.
Suddenly, the door of the greenhouse burst open, revealing a panting Jake.
Professor Longbottom crossed his arms and frowned at the interruption. It was the first time Emma hadn’t seen him smiling. “Nice of you to join us, Mr. …?”
“Baxter,” Jake panted, his face flushing red with more than just exertion.
“Right, Mr. Baxter. And may I ask why you are entering my class in this manner?”
“Sorry, sir,” Jake replied. “I was with Professor Snape, I didn’t realize how long it would take to get out here.”
Professor Longbottom didn’t seem too thrilled. “Very well, please, take your seat.”
Emma saw Jake look around the room for a free spot. The only one happened to be by her. Of course no one wanted to go anywhere near the girl who cried Slytherin. He sat down smiling slightly at Emma. “Hey,” he whispered. “What’d I miss?”
She pointed at her notes, and he nodded in thanks as he copied what she had written. About halfway into the class, Professor Longbottom left to go to a different greenhouse to get something for demonstration purposes. “What happened?” Emma demanded, not able to wait any longer for an explanation.
“Like I told Professor Longbottom, I was with Snape.”
“For that whole time? You missed lunch!”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Tell me about it. He made me remake the potion because he thought I had cheated.”
So much for Snape being one of the good guys.
Jake nodded. “Yep. But it came out almost exactly the same. So then he gave me lunch.” He brought his voice down a notch, so that Emma had to lean in to hear him properly. “Snape said he’s never seen anyone our age with that much talent.”
Emma was impressed, and, she had to admit, a little proud. She had never really had a friend before, let alone a genius friend!
“That’s amazing!” she congratulated him.
“I kind of want to keep a low profile about it, though. I mean, maybe it was a fluke. Snape said so himself. I wouldn’t want to go around bragging about it and make a fool out of myself.”
Emma looked at him fondly. “I don’t think you could make a fool of yourself.”
That garnered a laugh from Jake. “You’d be surprised, I think.” Just then, Professor Longbottom walked back in, and their conversation came to a halt.
Neville was annoyed. He knew he was probably acting irrationally. No, he knew he was. If he was thinking, he would know better to confront Severus Snape, probably the scariest person alive, about an issue as petty as this. But he had principles. Yes, he was new, but he wasn’t going to get walked all over.
He pounded on the door leading to the potion’s classroom. “Severus?” No answer. Then again, perhaps Snape was in there and he was smart enough not to answer the door for a raging lunatic. He rushed over to Snape’s office. He knocked on the door, refraining from yelling this time. Within a few moments of his knock, Severus opened the door. For a brief instant he felt his resolve falter, the old fear overcoming him.
But Neville shook it off. He was Neville Longbottom, Herbology teacher, Head of Grydindor, slayer of Nagini the Horocrux. He was strong. He could face mean old Professor Snape any day.
“Severus, I need to speak to you regarding a student,” he said much more calmly than he had anticipated.
The older man nodded, a blank expression on his face. “Come in,”
“A student came late into my class this afternoon.”
He saw Severus roll his eyes. “And how is this my problem?”
“His name was Jacob Baxter, he said he had been with you.” He looked for any sign of his words affecting Snape, but there was none. Probably all those years as a spy wore all that out of him.
“Yes, he was with me,” Severus responded coolly. “So what may I ask is the problem?” There was a touch of impatience in his voice.
“You can’t do that Severus!” Neville exclaimed. This, he noted somewhat gleefully got a reaction from Snape. True it wasn’t the most positive one, but he had broken through that crusty exterior.
“What, two, three days on the job and you think you can call the shots, am I correct Longbottom?” Snape mocked.
“But how would you like it if I held one of your students up and they barged in on a lesson.” There was no response. Severus merely stood up and pulled something out of a drawer. It was two vials of rosy liquid.
“Tell me, Neville,” Severus requested, though his requests were more like demands, “what is in this vial.”
Neville examined the contents carefully. “It looks like a boil-removing potion.” He scrunched up his face. “My first potion’s catastrophe.”
Snape sat down and laced his fingers behind his head, leaning back casually. “It was all your own fault, you put the porcupine quills in to soon.”
Neville was about to retaliate, when he realized that that was exactly what Snape wanted. And he wasn’t going to fall for the bait.
“Anyways, what’s with the vial and that potion?”
“This?” Severus asked dramatically. Neville sighed. He wished Severus would get on with it. He knew the overkill was Snape’s way of punishing him. “This was made by a first year. By Jacob Baxter, as a matter of fact.”
Neville’s jaw dropped. “No way…” he muttered. He looked up at Snape, dumbfounded. “That can’t be possible.”
“That’s what I thought,” Snape agreed grimly. “I thought he cheated somehow. So I kept him through lunch to redo the potion. And he did it again. I didn’t take my eyes off him once.”
“Crazy…” Neville whispered in awe, picking up the vial and examining it. It was exactly like what you would buy at the Apothecary.
“When I realized my error,” A pained look came onto Snape’s face at those words. The man could never admit that he was wrong. “I decided to give the boy lunch, since I had unfairly detained him.”
“What,” Neville blurted out, “are you growing a conscience in your old age?” He regretted the words almost immediately.
“What are you implying?” Snape demanded icily, his eyes flashing with rage.
“Nothing, nothing,” Neville insisted, backing up a few paces. “I was joking around. It’s a sore topic, I get it, won’t happen again.”
“It had better not.” Snape said down his long nose. “Now, if you’ll excuse me Professor, I have some business to attend to. Good day.”
Severus stood up and opened the door, gesturing for Neville to leave, which he did hastily.
That hadn’t quite been a victory, but it wasn’t a defeat either.
Neville smiled. He had stood up to the monster and lived to tell the tale.
Severus plopped back down into his seat after Longbottom’s departure, aggravated beyond reason. That little twit was worthless. Grown a conscience. Hmph. He had always had a conscience, he had just gotten skilled at ignoring it. Besides, there was no guilt in disciplining children, it would served them well in the long run.
He picked up the letter that he had been working on before Longbottom’s entrance and read it over.
It was wonderful to get your letter, and don’t worry, I understand that you’re busy, I’m not waiting anxiously by the window for your every word. And don’t worry about making a fool of yourself, it’s only a natural response. And feel free to talk to me anytime. It’s what friends do, correct?
Anyways, I have a slight favor to ask of you. I have a student who seems to have an extraordinary talent for potion making. I’m considering giving him private lessons. I was wondering if you could think of any non-curriculum potions he could work on. He has impressive skill, but I don’t want to give him an edge over the other students. Still, I can’t just pass up this opportunity. I’ve never seen anyone that talented since I was a boy. I would really appreciate your assistance.
He folded up the parchment and sealed it with wax. He would have to bring it to the Owlery at some point. Severus stared at the paper for several moments, thinking about what he had wrote. And the boy. Of course the one person who he most wanted to mentor was the one he wanted to avoid. But he would have to face this head on; it seemed that fate or something wouldn’t let him push the boy aside. And his guilt. He buried his face in the palms of his hands.
He was going to be in Azkaban before the year was out.
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