Chapter 10 : Chapter Ten
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In which Harry has his first lesson with Snape, leaving the Marauders less than pleased.
“Seriously.” Sirius’ voice was ripe with disgusted disbelief. He pointed across the room at Severus. “You’re telling me he’s a teacher?”
Remus shrugged helplessly at the book in his lap. “That’s what it says …”
“Merlin. You’d be a far better teacher than him, Moony.”
In his green-and-silver striped armchair tucked away in the corner Severus had been wearing an expression of mild surprise, but now he scowled and glared at Sirius. “And just what,” he asked, black eyes flashing, “is it about me being a teacher that’s so difficult for you to believe?”
The Gryffindor boy slowly raised one eyebrow. Tapping his chin in a mock-thoughtful manner, he said, “Well, for a start … you hate everybody. Except Evans. What makes you think you could stand your students?”
“I’m more concerned about his students not being able to stand him,” James grinned, then looked away when Lily shot him an annoyed look.
“Severus would be a good teacher,” she said. “He tutored me in Potions in fourth year, when I fell behind after my mum died. He was a big help!”
Sirius shook his head. “Yeah, but, like I said, you’re pretty much the only person Snivelly can stand. Imagine he was teaching me, or James or Peter. Do you really think he’d be nice to us?”
“You haven’t exactly been nice to him,” Lily pointed out.
“Okay, fine. What about that Lockhart boy in fourth year? Can you imagine Snape trying to teach him?”
There was an awkward pause as Lily tried to imagine Snape teaching Gilderoy Lockhart without losing his temper and she couldn’t. It was true that Lockhart was both incredibly lazy and insufferably arrogant, but that was exactly Sirius’ point; a teacher had to be able to put up with even the most frustrating students. McGonagall might have had a reputation for being strict with rule-breakers or making the occasional cutting remark, but she still found a way to tolerate and teach even students it was clear she disliked. Try as she might, Lily couldn’t imagine Severus being quite so forbearing.
“What about teaching muggle-borns?” Sirius added when she didn’t answer. “He’s made it clear how it feels about them.”
Lily flushed red, the question touching a very raw and personal nerve. Even when they had still been friends she knew Severus had been quite careless about making derogatory remarks when she wasn’t around, not thinking they would get back to her. And although he had never physically harmed a muggle-born himself, he had never protested when his Slytherins friends had hurt people like Mary MacDonald.
Severus himself felt unable to say anything in his own defence. He wasn’t under any illusions about his social skills. He knew that unless his temperament had undergone a radical change over the years between now and when the events of the book were taking place then Black was right about the sort of teacher he would be. And although he had once considered returning to Hogwarts to teach – Defence Against the Dark Arts, of course – in his mind it had been a Hogwarts run by the Dark Lord, where he would only be teaching the worthy.
His stomach clenched as the hoped that the others … that Lily couldn’t read that in his face.
The silence stretched through the room, until it felt like the tension could have been cut with a knife. Everyone was awkwardly shifting their eyes from point to point, unable to hold the gaze of the hippogriff in the room.
Finally Remus cleared his throat and spoke, ever the voice of practicality. Even he couldn’t keep the uneasy edge entirely from his words, however. “Fourteen years is a long time. The Severus sitting in this room is not the Severus from this book. Let’s just … keep reading, and save the accusations.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Sirius shrugged, folding his arms and sliding further down into his chair.
Professor Snape, as it turned out, was the Potions master – though according to Ron’s older brother Percy he really wanted the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, something that came as a surprise to no one.
Harry’s attention soon moved on as Dumbledore stood to give his speech, and the attention of the Marauders was likewise arrested. The tension surrounding Severus’ future was temporarily forgotten as they were given a new mystery to ponder.
“The third floor corridor is forbidden?” Lily said, frowning.
Remus nodded, and repeated, “To anyone who does not wish to die a most painful death.”
“Some students are just going to take that as an invitation to try and break in though,” Sirius said.
“Maybe, maybe not now you and James aren’t students there anymore,” Remus smiled, though he couldn’t help privately thinking that the redheaded Weasley twins might just try.
“I wonder why, though?” Lily mused. “Why is it forbidden?”
There was a moment of thoughtful quiet as they all came up with their own theories, but it was Remus who gently cleared his throat and ventured, “I suspect … or at least I should imagine … it’s probably to do with that package Hagrid picked up for Dumbledore.”
As he spoke, an expression of dawning realisation crept over James’ face. “I’d forgotten about that. And he got it from a vault in Gringotts, right?” he said excitedly, “And didn’t Ron say someone tried to rob Gringotts but they didn’t take anything?”
“You think they were after this package?” Sirius raised an eyebrow.
“It would be a bit coincidental if they weren’t.”
“Yeah, I suppose. But then … what’s in the package?”
That question provoked another round of shared glances and silent conjecturing. It could have been almost anything. There were a great many powerful magical objects small enough to be the package Hagrid had taken from Gringotts, and they had only learned of a handful of them in their classes. And Merlin knew how many there were that were rare enough not to be included even in some of the books in the Restricted Section of the library.
“Whatever it is, it must be powerful, if Dumbledore’s guarding it with something lethal,” Lily said quietly.
They all looked at one another. No one had said that Dumbledore was guarding the package, whatever it is, was but that was logical progression so they all quietly accepted it as fact. Then Severus added in a low voice, “Unless it is the something lethal.”
No one had a reply to that, so Remus uneasily started reading again. Dumbledore swiftly moved on from his warning and finished his speech with the school song. There were a few groans from the teenagers, familiar with the cacophony-like sound of the entire school singing the song to about a hundred different tunes. It wasn’t particularly pleasant on the ears, especially right after the start of term feast when everyone was exhausted from the train journey and the rich food and more than ready to fall into bed. However, the thought of the Weasley twins singing to a funeral march provoked a couple of grins.
Lily remembered dazedly stumbling after the Gryffindor prefect in her first year, too busy fighting to keep her eyes open to pay much attention to the direction they were going in. She had almost fallen into James, she remembered, only to jerk away when she realised it was the boy that had been rude to Severus on the train. A very different boy to the young man sat only inches from her now. She glanced sideways at him; he was relaxed into his chair, a lazy smile curling his mouth. His head was resting on his left hand, the elbow propped up on the arm of the chair, but the right hand dangled over between his chair and hers. If she let her hand drop down, her fingers would just graze the tips of his …
“Peeves is up to his old tricks, then.” Sirius’ voice interrupted her thoughts. There was annoyance in his tone, mixed with a grudging respect.
“Makes trouble even for you, does he?” Severus asked with a faint sneer.
Sirius snorted. “Of course he does. Peeves makes trouble for everyone.”
Ron’s brother was quick to resort to threatening Peeves with the Bloody Baron. They all knew that was the quickest and easiest way to deal with Peeves when he was annoying you – but threaten him too many times and the poltergeist would take up a vendetta against you.
After Peeves had gone Percy led them into Gryffindor Tower. The Marauders might have felt a bit miffed about giving the directions to their common room to Snape, if he hadn’t already known where it was. Most Hogwarts students knew it was; neither the Gryffindor nor Ravenclaw common rooms were exactly hard to find, given the towers they were in were named after them respectively. Knowing where the common rooms were was one thing, though; getting in was an entirely different matter.
Harry and the other boys were directed to their dormitory, where they were quick to fall asleep. Harry’s dream caused them all to frown, but no one thought much of it. Harry hadn’t exactly had favourable impressions of either Malfoy or Snape, and his mind would still be full of the Sorting Hat so it made a twisted sort of logic for him to dream about it as Quirrell’s turban.
“And I always thought you were the stuff of nightmares,” Sirius commented to Snape, who gave the other boy a dark scowl.
It was a shame, Lily thought, for Harry’s first night at Hogwarts to be ruined by a nightmare, but since he didn’t dwell on it she saw no reason why she should, either.
“That’s the end of the chapter. Next is …” Remus turned the page in the book, “Ah. The Potions Master.”
“Snivelly gets his own chapter, does it? Wonderful.”
“Not jealous, are you, Black?” Severus couldn’t keep the smile from playing about his features.
“Ha! Jealous? Of you? Not likely.” Sirius’ eyes glittered scornfully.
Trying to avoid a full scale argument, Remus cleared his throat and rather pointedly carried on reading.
As had been hinted at both on the Hogwarts Express and during the Sorting, Harry’s fame meant he was unable to simply keep to himself as he tried to get to know the school. Attention was on him from the moment he left his dormitory, whispers following him through the corridors. The teenagers could imagine that it would be disconcerting for a fully grown adult, and downright overwhelming for an eleven year old child, to be plucked out of a world where you were less than obscure and thrust into one where everything you did was intensely scrutinized.
Lily remembered all too well her first few days at Hogwarts, getting lost more times that she could count, feeling suffocated by the crush of students thronging their way through the hallways, and the blind panic of thinking she would never know her way around an entire castle. Now, of course, she knew the different corridors like the back of her hand and never had to think twice about where a classroom was, but at the time it had been horrible; several times she had wished she had some kind of map to guide her around, and she dared say Harry could have done with one as well.
“Ugh. Filch,” James grimaced at the book, “He’s still there?”
Argus Filch was the young caretaker in Hogwarts. He was no more than a decade older than the Marauders, and had started working at the school when they were in their third year. At first the students had been glad to see the back of his predecessor, Apollyon Pringle, who had been a bitter, sadistic old man that railed against Dumbledore for refusing to let him cane students. It didn’t take long, however, for Filch to become almost as universally despised. For no reason that anyone could discern, he seemed to hate every student at Hogwarts even more than Pringle had. In only a matter of weeks he was waging an all-out war against them, going out of his way to catch students breaking school rules and hassling them over even the smallest infraction. Everyone, even the mildest Hufflepuff, couldn’t stand Argus Filch.
“Apparently. Doesn’t sound like he’s changed much, either,” Remus remarked.
“The man is such an idiot,” Sirius scowled, “Why would he think they were deliberately trying to break into the forbidden corridor? Merlin’s pants!”
Lily shook her head, unable to fathom the depth of the man’s apparent hatred for children. “Let’s just be glad Quirrell was there to clear it up.”
When Remus described Mrs Norris, they all grimaced. Filch didn’t have any pets in their time, but none of them liked the idea of him having a second pair of ears and eyes around the school. It sounded like he would become even worse than he was.
Sirius narrowed his eyes at the book. “I’m telling you. Cat people.” When Lily raised an eyebrow he coughed and added, “Apart from you, Evans. And McGonagall.”
Lily didn’t look quite convinced, so James hastily changed the subject. “I bet he doesn’t know the secret passages as well as us.”
It worked, a look of curiosity passing over Lily’s face as she turned to look at him. “Oh? How well do you know them?”
“Like back of my hand,” James grinned, pleased to have her attention. When her wide green eyes were fixed on him like that, he could almost forget that there was anyone else in the room. “We’ve spent hours learning the castle’s secrets.”
“More like days,” Sirius corrected. “I wonder how much these Weasley twins know? I’m liking the sound of them more and more.”
Severus rolled his eyes. “That’s because they’re sounding more and more like you.”
Other than Quirrell and Snape, it didn’t seem that the teaching staff of Hogwarts would change much in the next fourteen years. It wasn’t much of a surprise to any of them to learn that Professor Binns was still teaching, though they did feel sorry for yet another generation of students that had to sit through his interminably boring classes. Only James liked the ghostly professor, and that was only because Binns had once given him a Chocolate Frog card. They were pleased to see Sprout, McGonagall and Flitwick still teaching, though it was strange to read about the Charms teacher’s reaction to Harry’s name on the register. It must be surreal, they considered, for even the teachers to treat you differently.
McGonagall was the same as ever, it seemed. She gave Harry’s class the same warning all five teenagers remembered from their first lessons: Transfiguration was not a branch of magic to mess around with. Then she set them the exact same task of trying to turn a match into a needle.
“Of course Granger would be the only one to do it.” Sirius looked disgusted. “I’m telling you, she should be in Ravenclaw.”
James looked offended. “Hey! I managed it in our first lesson.”
“Yeah, well, you were always secretly a bit of a swot.”
“How dare you accuse me of something so … so heinous! You take that back, right now!”
Lily rolled her eyes. She would never understand James and Sirius’ aversion to being thought of as hard workers or people who actually studied, despite the fact that their marks were consistently near the top of the class.
Quirrell, as they had suspected, did not seem to be much of a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Though none of them said anything, each of the five teenagers privately thought that Quirrell wasn’t capable of taking on a Cornish pixie, let alone a zombie. As for his turban possibly being stuffed with garlic because of his paranoia about a vampire coming to get him, that just set them all to rolling his eyes.
“I know that’s probably ridiculous,” Remus commented in his mild voice, “But there’s a part of me that wouldn’t be surprised if it was true.”
The next few lines revealed why the chapter was named after Snape. After finding his way down to the Great Hall without getting lost for the first time, Harry was informed by Ron that they had Double Potions with the Slytherins.
“Merlin,” Sirius wrinkled his nose, “Double Potions is bad enough, but with the Slytherins?” There was an annoyed cough from the corner, and his gaze drifted towards Severus. In a flat, obviously insincere tone Sirius added, “No offence.”
Severus rolled his eyes, but decided it wasn’t worth an argument and didn’t reply.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to learn that Snape was Head of Slytherin (though it did provoke another groan from Sirius); he had presumably inherited that title as well as his job from their current Potions master, Professor Slughorn. Nor was it a stretch to imagining him favouring his House.
“I wish McGonagall favoured us, too, Harry,” James sighed, thinking of the vast amounts of work she kept setting for his Transfiguration N.E.W.T. He still had a seven foot essay waiting to be started …
They were all pleased to hear Hagrid’s invitation to Harry; at least he would have something to look forward to that afternoon. And from the sounds of things, he would need it. When Remus read out that Potions was the worst thing to happen to Harry yet, four heads turned to a suddenly very pale Severus.
“‘… Snape didn’t dislike Harry’,” Remus continued, a mixture of apprehension, exasperation and annoyance colouring his words. “‘He hated him.’”
There was a short, tension-filled pause, then Severus said quietly, “Maybe I should just go and throw myself off the Astronomy Tower now and save you the trouble.”
Sirius snorted. “Maybe you should.” There was an edge to his voice, but he gestured for Remus to keep reading.
Knowing the dungeon classroom so well, the description barely registered apart from Lily briefly remembering how eerie and frightening she had found her first class there and thinking how much worse it would have been if her teacher had shown an active dislike of her.
Snape’s comment about Harry being a celebrity caused a few dark looks, but Remus kept pointedly reading as though he was determined not to give anyone the opportunity to start a fight. When he paused for breath after Snape’s speech about the art of potion making, however, he couldn’t stop Sirius from commenting, “That was almost poetic, Snivelly. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
There was a harder, sneering edge to Sirius’ voice that would have been unremarkable even that morning but that hadn’t been as present the last few hours. It would be awful, Lily thought, if just as there seemed to be the possibility of building bridges some new information that might not even be true tore them all apart again.
She winced when Snape called his students dunderheads, recalling their earlier conversation about what Severus would be like as a teacher. It seemed Sirius had been right.
The tension in the room deepened when Snape singled out Harry, asking questions that no first year would know the answer to in the first lesson – except, apparently, Hermione Granger.
With each question, and subsequent unpleasant remark from Snape when Harry couldn’t provide the answer, Lily could feel James tensing beside her. She glanced over and saw his hands were clenched into fists, the veins standing out along his forearms. She could imagine the fury that must be filling him at the idea of his old nemesis mistreating his son. It must have been taking all his self-control not to take that anger out on Severus right now; Lily could see it flashing in his hazel eyes. An echo of that same anger was simmering away in her, mixed with a bitter disappointment. She had hoped that the future Severus might have been kind to her son out of some lingering affection for their old friendship. That hope had apparently been in vain.
Silently she reached over and placed a hand over James’ fist. He relaxed a little, uncurling his fist to take hold of her hand, but his jaw remained tightly clenched, though the slightest of smiles touched his lips when Harry spoke back to Snape.
That of course just made Snape worse. Sirius looked more and more revolted as the professor told Harry the answers in the most humiliating way possible before taking a point away from Gryffindor. Finally Sirius turned to look at Severus, the way he might have a dead flobberworm. “You really are despicable.”
“I don’t suppose it would do any good to point out I haven’t actually done this yet?” Severus sighed.
Sirius considered for a moment. “No. It wouldn’t.”
Harry wasn’t the only one Snape picked on. Neville Longbottom looked to be as hopeless at Potions as Alice had been during her first couple of years (before Frank had offered to tutor her), and Snape was brutal in scolding him. Lily felt a pang of sympathy for a boy; first years made mistakes, and it wouldn’t do him any good to have his self-esteem stripped away in his first lesson.
It was equally unfair for Snape to shift the blame to Harry. Sirius let out a low growling sound, and James’ hand tightened on Lily’s. Even Remus looked angry, though Lily suspected he was doing a better job of divorcing the actions of the Snape in the book from the Severus sitting with them than either of his friends. Perhaps better than she was. It was difficult to look at Severus and not see the man who might one day be cruel to her child, just as it was difficult to think of her sister and not think of the abuse she and her fiancée would inflict on Harry.
I hate this. But they couldn’t stop. Not now, not when it would leave things like this.
“I’m sure you two lost more points than that your first week, didn’t you?” Remus ventured tentatively to try and lighten the mood, looking at Sirius and James, but neither boy answered so he carried on in a heavy voice. “‘…Why did Snape hate him so much?’”
“I think we all know the answer to that,” Sirius muttered under his breath.
Lily wasn’t paying attention, worriedly looking at James. The bespectacled boy had tensed again and was staring down at his knees, apparently oblivious to the rest of the room. His eyes were wide and unblinking, his face palely furious. Lily hesitantly touched his arm but he might as well have been made from stone. He had clearly taken Snape’s encounter with Harry to heart, though just who, exactly, his fury was directed at she couldn’t say. She just knew that she had never seen him like this, and that there was a sudden knot of anxiety for him just below her ribs.
“James?” she said quietly, hand still on his arm. “James?”
Abruptly he stood, fists at his side, posture rigid. The other boys looked up at him in surprise, noticing the for the first time the miserable rage etched into every part of his body.
“Prongs?” Sirius’ face was dark with concern.
Ignoring his friend, James lifted his eyes to Severus’ face. Their gazes met for one brief, blazing moment. The Slytherin boy sunk ashamedly back into his chair. But James remained uncharacteristically silent, and instead turned on his heel and stormed from the room.
The door slammed shut behind him, leaving the other four sat in stunned, relentless silence.
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