ONE

Severus Snape glared down at the fifth year students stressing over their bubbling cauldrons.

Something was not right.

Severus hated this Friday morning double almost as much as half of the students in the room, though admittedly probably not as much as one particular Gryffindor. Said Gryffindor was no doubt glaring back, however the clouds of black smoke bellowing out from Longbottom's cauldron obscured Severus's line of sight, so he couldn't be sure. Severus frowned further. Longbottom's smoke obviously wasn't right, but that wasn't what had him tasting tension in the air. Using muscle memory more than intent, Severus vanished Longbottom's potion without a word. Surprisingly no one made much of a protest.

Something still wasn't right.

Despite the fact that Potter wasn't actually glaring back, Severus dismissed the bristling Gryffindors from his mind and focused on his own snakes. He wouldn't normally do so, but years of being tugged between two sides of a war had Severus trusting his instincts indiscriminately, and without hesitation. His brow rose a fraction of a millimeter.

Draco Malfoy sat smugly in front of a perfect potion.

Now, Severus was rather pleased at this, as Draco was, and had been from a young age, under his tutelage, but this shouldn't have been possible. He would praise the boy, as was befitting of a godfather, but for the moment he was too preoccupied from his godson completing an above NEWT (bordering on mastery level) potion, caught up with trying to find what it was that his brain was trying to warn him of. He couldn't think, and with a sigh, pushed the thought to the side.

That was an unusual mistake, and one Snape would spend quite a bit of time regretting.

'Time is up. Either vanish your attempts or-'

'Bloody fuck.'

For a whole second, Severus's brain shuddered to a complete stop. He was not nearly so unimpressed with Potter as he let on externally, and until that moment hadn't really thought the boy stupid. But apparently he was, as he had just interrupted Severus mid-sentence, with foul language. Potter would be in detention from now until he graduated.

Severus focused back to the real world, ignoring the many alarm bells in his mind shouting SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT. Obviously something wasn't right. Potter had clearly taken leave of his senses.

'Forty points from Gryffindor.' Severus drawled, taking pleasure in the way the little lion upstarts immediately went up in arms. But then he frowned. Potter didn't as much as flinch. Severus followed Potter's gaze across the room. He was focused entirely on Draco's perfect solution.

It had been a relatively boring three hours waiting for the brats to finish, and Severus had let his mind wander to other things. But why should Draco's poti… oh!

The complaining Gryffindors let their voices fade off as they caught sight of the most satisfied smirk making its way across Severus's face.

'Or,' Severus continued gleefully as if Potter had never spoken. 'If you believe your potion will not poison, bring a vial and your designated partner to the front of the room.'

Severus was struggling not to grin as Draco collected a vial and strutted to the front of the room. Only Granger and Pansy followed him.

Severus nodded after looking over their vials. Parkinson's was just barely acceptable, and would leave her partner more likely to be a little selfish, and a little rude. Not much change from the usual then.

'Weasley, to the front.'

Ron Weasley was glaring daggers at Parkinson, but came, clearly more worried about what Severus would do to him than worried he might embarrass himself a little. Upon arriving at the front, Parkinson held out her vial with glee, and Weasley swallowed it with a grimace.

'What do you think of my robe?' Severus immediately asked. The potion was called Habeo noli timere.

'Not as greasy as your… cauldrons.'

In his mind, Severus actually congratulated the lion. Obviously the potion was working to some extent, enough to stop him from thinking before acting, but he still had a sense of self-preservation intact. Externally he dismissed him.

'No doubt you will enjoy the detentions you have every night for the rest of the week scrubbing them clean.' Weasley opened his mouth to protest. 'Because of your attempt in keeping the obvious train of thoughts to yourself, I shall refrain from taking points also.'

It was clear that Weasley was struggling not to comment; aware he had got off relatively unharmed.

'Longbottom, your turn.'

Granger had looked quite pleased with herself up until that moment. Severus would never acknowledge the do-gooder had talent; her brain was already swelled far too much with conceit of her place. It would do her no good. Instead, he usually under-graded her constantly. Albus had complained to him of it, but it was doing wonders as she strove to prove herself. As usual, her academic pursuits had been exactly that, and the harsh reality that Longbottom would now suffer for it was crashing in on her world of books.

'Sorry Neville.'

Longbottom gave her a slight nod, and with a shaking hand, reached out and took the vial. This time the change was more obvious.

Severus cringed at himself a little as Longbottom relaxed entirely. He hadn't been aware the boy was that frightened of him until all the tension disappeared.

'And what do you think of my robe?'

'It is perfect for you.'

Severus sneered. Coming from whom it had, that was hardly complimentary.

'Indeed. Granger, did you add the gurdy-root?'

'Yes sir, right after the third stir, and before the eighth reduction in heat.'

Too much information, as usual.

Severus's sneer became a little menacing.

'Which explains why your potion hasn't lowered more than Longbottom's external thought process. Something you should have known.' He was lying, it was very good for a fifth year, especially one with no training before, or outside of, the classroom. Unfortunately Severus had been aware that hers would do well, so he had chosen the student most unlikely to show results to test it.

'If you had added it after the turn, and in fact turned rather than stirred, then your potion would have worked. Acceptable, at best.'

Granger cringed, but seemed to accept it and move on to relief that her friend was okay. Severus rolled his eyes mentally. Gryffindors.

Talking of which. He turned to Malfoy. Before he could say anything however, Potter was at the front of the room and snatching away the vial. Severus got ready to take more points gleefully, even if he was impressed that Potter knew he would only have prolonged the torture and effectively avoided it.

What happened next stunned the whole room.