Still Pools On the Sidewalk
by Dien Alcyone
Who: A Snape/Hooch piece. With a minor character death.
What: Weren't you listening? A Snape/Hooch romance. Alcohol. Rain. Antics. Self-blame. Sex.
Why: Pick one: Damn plot-elf wouldn't leave me alone. I'm captain of this SHIP and there isn't enough fic for it. I wanted to annoy my faithful readers by working on something other than SoH or Discipline.
Where: FF.N, Astronomy Tower, my site, ask if you want it
When (to review): At all times of the night and day
How: With liberal amounts of liquor, and inspiration/ideas from:
Tess's proposed first name for Professor Sprout, which is Salvia.
Harry Potter Lexicon for frequent reference stuff.
Discussion on FA for my preferred first name/background etc., for Madam Hooch.
Zoë Wanamaker for my mental image of M. Hooch.
JKR for Ultimate Original Mental Image of Hooch, and for making a world for me to play in.
Note of sort... I felt like dispensing with the usual image of Hooch that appears in any romance fic. You know, very aggressive jumps-on-the-males. Not that I'm saying she WOULDN'T, but I did want to make her a bit more three-dimensional.
Rating: R, I imagine.
The sky overhead was gray and leaden, occasional drops of rain falling to the ground like slow and reluctant tears. Severus Snape found a dark irony in the fact that the weather was also in mourning.
Black banners in the great hall and the subdued air of the students were reminder enough. That the sky should join in seemed overly melodramatic. He spared the dark clouds a scowl, then sighed. Life went on, after all. Much as people protested and cried and wept and grieved, life went harshly and ruthlessly on. It was a foolish waste of time to believe otherwise.
The clouds had caught his eye, through the window, as he had made his way to the great hall for lunch. Now, he shook his head and once more continued up the stairway to the hall.
Lunch, normally a noisy affair, was likely to be more quiet than usual. The students were still cowed by their brush with mortality. He gave them at least another day before they started laughing and living and being annoying again.
He entered the hall brusquely, stalking by the tables filled with children picking half-heartedly at their lunches. His Slytherins were nearly as subdued as the other students, and he rolled his eyes briefly. Idiotic. A waste of time.
He was aware of Minerva McGonagall's disapproving glance as he sat down at the staff table, but did not deign to meet her eyes. Albus looked at him from under one mildly arched eyebrow and murmured, "You're late, Severus."
"Arranging detention for some second-year Ravenclaws. Their concentration in class has been abysmal lately."
Flitwick looked up from his practically untouched meal with uncharacteristic anger in his eyes, but was beaten to the punch by McGonagall's low hiss.
"Well, I wonder why! Good gods, Severus, barely two days after they buried one of their own and you gave them detention? Are you entirely without a heart?!
He resisted the impulse that bid him roll his eyes again. His voice was cold as he replied, "Simply because you see fit to do your students the disservice of coddling them, do not expect me to do the same."
If Dumbledore hadn't been sitting between the two teachers, Minerva McGonagall might very well have gone for Severus's throat. As it was, she shot him a glare that could have cowed any student in the school. He calmly buttered a piece of toast.
The Headmaster sighed. "Really, Severus, I think that was uncalled for."
"Of course," he sneered, unable to keep his lip from curling disdainfully. "Forgive me. I apologise for telling the truth."
"Excuse me, Headmaster. I find I'm not very hungry after all." Snape pushed his chair back from the table and stood. Without a backwards glance, he swept out of the hall.
Dumbledore laid a restraining hand on the Transfiguration professor's forearm as she muttered curses under her breath.
"He doesn't mean it, Minerva."
"He does a damn good impression of meaning it! That callous, heartless, arrogant bastard! Circe help me..."
Albus sighed and shot a sympathetic gaze at Flitwick, whose sad gaze had returned to his food. "Filius, how is Peregrin holding up?"
The diminutive Charms teacher sighed and shifted in his chair, looking over at the empty chair his colleague usually sat in. Peregrin Hooch was considered by her students as the unofficial second Head of Ravenclaw House, and the death of Terry Boot was something she was taking quite hard.
"To be honest, I haven't... talked to her too much," he said in his soft little voice. "She's still in her quarters..."
Albus nodded and sighed. All of them were saddened by the loss of such a promising bright young man, of course-- and to the senseless tragedy of an accident-- but when a teacher blamed herself... His lips thinned in a frown as he recalled another teacher, guilt and self-hatred consuming and consuming...
"I think I shall talk to Peregrin after lunch," he murmured, then returned his attention to the lobster on his plate.
THE NEXT DAY
"Enter," Snape said, not lifting his eyes from the paper he was scrutinizing.
"Severus, good afternoon," came the Headmaster's cheerful voice as he entered the empty classroom. Without looking up, the Potions Master drawled, "Thank the gods it's you. I thought it might be Minerva, come to berate me on my lack of a soul once again."
Dumbledore pursed his lips and said nothing. Snape did glance up at that, and said testily, "Oh come now. You know as well as I do that sentimental foolishness over Boot gets us nowhere. And, despite opinions to the contrary, it does the students no good."
"Let them have their grief," Dumbledore said gently, reprovingly. The lines around Severus's mouth tightened.
"We can't afford the luxury, Albus. We're training a generation to be ready for war. Death is something they'll have to learn to deal with."
"They are children."
"Then they have to grow up," the younger man snapped. "I have no patience for this bawling and blubbering and sad remembrance. Terry Boot is dead. Tears and black banners will not change this. I am apparently the only person in the school who is not afraid to admit this and get on with things."
Albus said nothing, his blue eyes boring gimlet holes in Snape, who fidgeted under the stare but tried to pretend he was only interested in the assignment he graded. After a long moment of silence, Snape's scowl deepening all the while, he bit out the words in a harsh tone of voice:
"Life goes on, Albus. Much as we might wish otherwise."
The Headmaster sighed and sat down on one of the stools the students had vacated a half-hour earlier.
"I don't want to argue this again, Severus. We will never be of the same mind on how the children should be taught. Let us agree to disagree."
"Fine by me," Snape muttered, scrawling a damning comment on the assignment. "You started it."
"And believe me, I regret it," murmured Dumbledore. "But I didn't come down here to discuss the students."
"Do tell. Then to what do I owe the undeniable honour of your radiant presence."
Albus rolled his eyes and ignored the sarcasm. "I came to discuss one of your fellow teachers and colleagues."
Snape made an impatient gesture with his quill that might have signified 'go on.'
"Madam Hooch. She hasn't come out of her quarters since young Terry's funeral. She was quite fond of the young man, of course-- we all were--"
"I wasn't," Snape said, low enough it might almost have been imagined. Dumbledore frowned and continued as if there had been no interruption. "... and she's taking it rather hard."
He paused, observing Snape carefully. Under that sneering arrogance, that cold and heartless exterior, he knew Severus did indeed care, not only for his students, but to a degree for his fellow teachers. And he and Peregrin Hooch had always gotten along reasonably well.
Snape seemed to have slowed marginally in his writing, and made another slight gesture with the quill.
"Since it was a flying accident, it is quite possible that Peregrin... blames herself."
Beat. The quill froze over the paper for a second, then continued smoothly writing. Snape's lips were pressed together in a thin line, his eyes fixed on his writing.
Albus continued in a casual tone. "I tried going down and talking to her yesterday afternoon... but she said she was not in the mood for visitors, and I respected her wishes. I believe Filius, Minerva, and Salvia have also tried to visit her, with similar results.
"I was thinking... perhaps you, if you happened to be walking near the Quidditch grounds, might stick your head in--"
"Albus, I don't do comfort. I don't bring flowers or embroidered handkerchiefs or notes of condolence. I am not persona-of-choice for the position of Grief Counselor."
"Peregrin is a strong woman, Severus. She doesn't need flowers and counseling. She needs understanding."
Mute glares ensued. Albus glared at Severus. Severus glared at his quill.
"I'll think about it."
"Thank you, Severus."
A curt nod was his only response. Dumbledore sighed as he left the room.
Severus Snape brooded. He sat in the empty classroom, clasped his hands on his chest, and brooded. Above ground and his dungeon classroom, the half-light of the grey day faded and retreated to be replaced with the dusk of evening, and still he brooded.
Ungraded assignments sat on his desk. He ignored them in favor of staring unseeing across his vacant classroom. The students had mostly left their stools out, helter-skelter, rather than pushing them neatly back under the tables. He found it difficult to work up the proper annoyance.
His black eyes roamed restlessly over the empty room, taking in the empty stools, the cleared tables. Slowly, children filled them. The room echoed with the sounds of laughter and talk.
"Settle down," the young teacher said, glaring around the room at his young charges. The bite of his tongue was already becoming legend, and the second-years quieted instantly as their professor entered and strode up to his podium.
Severus Snape at twenty-three was a thin, intense young man. His black hair was pulled back into a utilitarian ponytail, a simple leather tie holding it back from his face. The black eyes stared out with acidic humour and keen intellect from his sharp features. As he stared around the room at the Slytherins and Gryffindors assembled there, the twisted smile his students had come to expect graced his features. Two girls nudged each other and giggled.
"Don't you all sound excited today," he smirked, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back in his chair. "Alright, what's the occasion?"
"Oh, come on, sir!" a red-haired Gryffindor cried out cheerfully: Charlie Weasley. "You know."
"No, Mr. Weasley, I have to admit I don't. Pray enlighten me."
"The Ball!" said another boy, one of the Notts. Severus spared a brief smile for the child; he tried to encourage the Slytherin children whenever possible. Their Head of House was a witch he'd wish on no one but a Death Eater. Madam Clane's viciousness to her own students had given them such a fear of her they'd sooner eat bubotuber pus than ever confide in her. His own memories of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher were far from pleasant.
Nott's yell had seemingly opened up the floodgates; all the students were talking now. Severus rolled his eyes at the babble and finally said sharply, "Silence!"
Again his children quieted, and he snorted to himself. 'His' children. Only his second year teaching, and already what Dumbledore had predicted was coming true; he was starting to care for the dear, naïve, sheltered little fools. Some more so than others.
"I haven't heard about any ball," he drawled sarcastically. "Some new mad rumour?"
They rolled their eyes at their youngest teacher, all those bright foolish little children. "You know, sir--" "Oh, come off it, sir," "The Hallowe'en Ball, sir!"
"Oh, yes... the Hallowe'en Ball... I seem to remember the Headmaster saying something about that, maybe he mentioned it in passing, in a staff meeting... well, in any case what are you lot so worked up about? Second years aren't going to be attending."
Loud moans and protests. "Yes we are!" "We'll go!" "They can't let us not!" "Are you going, sir?"
"I imagine I'll have to," he said with a totally unfeigned reluctance. As a student, the social gatherings had never interested him; they did so even less with his school days behind him.
"Are you going with anyone, sir?"
This from Alyssum Fletcher, an infatuated little Gryffindor with cornsilk hair and big blue eyes. She'd grow up to be a beauty and an Auror, ten years later. For now, she was a sweet child who thought she had a crush on him. Severus tried to deal with her and her cohort in infatuation, Samantha Bones, with mild but firm discouragement.
Now, he tried a roguish smirk. "That's my business, young ladies." Much laughter.
Of their own volition, Severus's eyes sought out one child seated in the back. Fern Delaney, a girl with glasses too large for her face and nondescript mousy brown hair, smiled a bit at the other students' comments and jokes, but even in the midst of them, she seemed distant. Periwinkle blue eyes studied the surface of her lab table. She hunched in on herself, trying for all the world to become invisible. The young man closed his eyes briefly in silent sympathy, then opened them and briskly ended the discussion on the ball by launching into the day's lesson. He was a demanding teacher, and laughter faded quickly as the students became absorbed in their study, well aware that Severus Snape would be all too willing to hand out detentions, dock points, or simply ravage verbally anyone he caught idle.
Class went quickly. The students brewed and stirred attempts he had to admit were mediocre. But it was only his second year teaching; disgust and cynicism take longer to set in. He permitted himself hope.
Especially with the work of certain students.
"Ms. Delaney. Stay behind a few moments."
The girl looked startled at having been singled out. Her fellow Slytherins, and their Gryffindor rivals, trickled out of the classroom, leaving her alone with a rather daunting professor.
"Ms. Delaney. Sit down."
The girl did so, her hands clutching tightly at her books.
After a moment of heavy silence, he looked up from a parchment he was making a few marks on, and fixed her with his intense stare. She swallowed but met his gaze evenly. He allowed himself a ghost of a smile.
"You have a remarkable talent with potions, Ms. Delaney. I'm impressed with the care you take."
Praise from Snape was as rare as snowblossoms sprouting in July. The girl flushed, and stammered a 'thank you, sir.'
"I was wondering if you'd like to take on an extra credit project?"
"Severus! Come on in, come on in... Christmas cookie? The elves just baked them."
"No thank you, sir."
"No need to stand on formality so. We're colleagues, dear boy. Call me Albus. I insist."
"Yes, s-- Albus."
"Wonderful, wonderful... lemon drop? No? Ah well. I imagine you're wondering what I called you in here for?"
"The thought had crossed my mind."
"I've merely wanted to compliment you on the wonderful job you're doing with Potions, Severus. Absolutely fantastic. We're quite pleased with the progress you've made."
"... thank you, sir."
"Ahem. ...Clematis Clane says she may be considering retiring next year. Now, I know you've only been teaching the two years so far, but you show an admirable dedication to your students. I was wondering if you'd consider the possibility of taking the Headship of Slytherin House?"
"I... sir, I'm not sure I'm ready for that sort of--"
"Nonsense! You'd be perfect. And, really, who else can I get? Selena? Mind you, I adore the woman, but she's really much more content with her star charts and telescopes than with matters of discipline and guidance. I really think you've got what it takes, Severus."
"I... well... whatever you think best, sir."
"That's the spirit. Quite glad we've got that settled. Oh stop looking like that-- I haven't asked you to go fight a dragon, my boy, just tackle Slytherin."
"With all due respect, sir, I might prefer the dragon."
"Oh my, you're quite droll, aren't you? Very good, very good. A sense of humor is integral in a teacher.
"One other thing..."
"I'd like to talk to you about Fern Delaney."
"Fern..? Wh-- has Miss Delaney done something wrong?"
"No, not at all. Do relax. You're very tense, do you know that? No, I merely wanted to say I think it's wonderful what you've done with that child. Since you took her under your wing, so to speak, back in October, she's been doing marvelously. Coming out of her shell a bit, has more confidence. She's really quite a bright young thing, isn't she?"
"Very much so, sir. I sometimes wonder if the Hat oughtn't to have put her in Ravenclaw."
"Oh, you'll find that Hat knows what it's doing. And who says Slytherin can't produce intelligent specimens? Just look at yourself, my boy."
"...I'm not exactly a sterling example of intelligence, sir."
"Rubbish. One youthful mistake does not equal stupidity. ...In any case, I simply wanted to tell you you're doing a wonderful job with her. Keep up the good work."
"... thank you, sir."
Severus shook himself. He was sulking; wasting time-- the greatest of sins. His movements angry and brisk, he stalked around the classroom shoving stools back under their tables and putting away ingredients that had been left out.
His thoughts wandered to Peregrin Hooch. Albus had been quite correct in one thing; she was a formidable and strong-willed woman. Three years his junior, she had joined the staff some five years after he had started teaching, and they had, despite some surface differences, become quick allies. Especially in the never-ending war against the drawn-out drudgery that was staff meetings.
Neither of them had patience for tedious hours of circuitous talking, or the blather that Albus liked to pass off as 'social pleasantries.' Neither of them had any patience, either, for excuses or students goofing off in their classes; after Snape first and McGonagall second, Hooch had taken off the third-most House points of any teacher in the school.
And Peregrin was intelligent enough that they could hold decent conversation at times. He'd been pleasantly surprised when, in a staff meeting shortly after she joined the staff, he'd made some subtle little barbed comment at Trelawney that had been, as usual, over the heads of nearly everyone present (certainly right over Sybil's). Albus's eyes had sparkled behind their glasses-- and Hooch had burst into outright laughter.
From that time on, they had shared a sort of understanding. (The two often held subtle competitions at the meetings to see who could insult the other staff members the most, without said staff members noticing they were being insulted. So far, Snape had managed to get everyone except McGonagall and Albus in one go, with Trelawney and poor Sprout twice each; Hooch reluctantly admitted he was ahead.) Many of the other staff saw her as nothing more than the Quidditch coach and Flying Instructor, and assumed that as such her knowledge extended only to the physical; but Madam Hooch had been a Ravenclaw during her school days. Of the three of that House on staff, Filius was a much too gentle soul for Severus to ever feel any connection with him, and Vector's head was often several dimensions away. Hooch was refreshingly ruthless, down-to-earth, and clever.
She was someone whom he thought he might actually consider a friend.
He sighed as he put the last of the powdered dragon fang away. It was time to head over to the little bungalow that clung to the edge of the Quidditch arena-- home to Madam Peregrin Hooch. For the sake of the staff meetings games alone, he owed her that much.
"...The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
"The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
"The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—
"And I love the rain."
--April Rain Song, Langston Hughes