/r/Slytherin HP Writing Prompts #2: Write a story about funny/embarrassing situations involving Animagi.
Betas: fluffpanda, the most tolerant and merciful (and who slaps my grammar into shape!) & Story Please, who has the unfortunate habit of being around or awake when I desperately need someone to look at something or my brain will explode!
All Eight Legs of Embarrassment
"'It'll be a great comfort to you,' she said," Severus seethed to himself. "'It'll help you de-stress,' she said."
Bloody Gryffindor. Bloody Animagi… Stupid bloody life. He should have known that nothing in his life would be easy. Nothing, not even learning to become an Animagus, could possibly be both useful and unstressful at the same time. No, the simplest of things had to mock him while he was laying on the ground or as he was suspended by his ankles. He was his own greatest enemy, and if he could just reach the mirror to look at himself, he could prove it.
Severus Snape, Dark wizard, Potion Master, and Professor of Hogwarts was cringing in the corner of the female lavatory. It was not because he wanted to be there. No. He had been chased there by a screaming, blithering, maniacal, blond-haired young witch with an uncanny awareness of any spiders in a two mile radius. She wielded a large tome that he could have sworn she had stolen out of the library's Restricted Section. He had even seen the chain where it had been tethered to the bookshelf.
The library had seemed like a perfectly normal place for a spider to hang out, and he had taken it upon himself to explore his new form with only slight trepidation. He had easily squeezed under the small space under his door, walked unseen on the ceiling of the dungeon, and even enjoyed trying out a bit of silk-strand-assisted locomotion using the dungeon's many and frequent drafts. Getting used to the multiple eyes was the hardest part. Getting used to the multiple legs followed shortly after. He was still undecided as to whether being only a few centimetres off the ground was a curse or a beneficial feature, but he was leaning towards feature after having had to squeeze himself into a small crack in the floor as the insane witch started slamming the book against the tile in an zealous attempt to murder him.
The witch's voice was utterly shrill. Her clarion call summoned a fleet of other witches, who, in a perfectly reasonable herd mentality gone groupthink, joined in a group effort of screaming and hurling books in his general direction. Severus, of course, had long since vacated the area where he had last been spotted, thanking Merlin every step of the way. From what he could see of the destruction, the screaming witches would have hell to pay as soon as Madam Pince got a hold of them. The aforementioned witches had taken it upon themselves to stand on the library table, holding each other as though the entire floor were alive with man-eating crocodiles.
One mere spider had caused the entire traumatised debacle, and it had taken the two male Prefects to talk them down from the table, and even then only if they promised to keep their wands out in case that "evil creature came back."
Evil creature? Seriously? After this extreme reception, Severus had no doubt at all that, given the choice between the Dark Lord and a small spider, most of the students of Hogwarts would rather walk right up to Voldemort and shake his hand before being forced to sit in a room with a spider that might be out to get them. The key word there was might. Most rational people knew spiders weren't exactly out to get anyone. They preferred prey their own size, and even a large spider, save perhaps a fully grown Acromantula, could offer a real threat to a student or teacher at Hogwarts.
Apparently the fear of spiders invoked some base instinct in the hearts of homo sapiens, and that instinct was not to have and to hold. Rather, it led instead to the flinging of heavy objects and squishing with extreme prejudice.
There were times when Severus wondered if his genetics were either more evolved or lagging behind. Never in his life did have the impulse to stand on a desk or slam the latest Potions Monthly onto a wandering arachnid whose only crime was deciding to have a stroll across his teaching desk. His opinion was that it was better to have the spiders than what the spiders were eating. That did make him shudder a little. He had charmed all of his potion ingredient lids to keep insects out of his treasured reagents. Nothing was more aggravating than trying to measure out a spoonful of cattail root only to have part of an unknown desiccated insect carcass fall into a brewing potion and explode. Correction, nothing except maybe Neville Longbottom being in your class trying to brew something was worse than bug-induced potion explosions.
The screaming had finally quieted, and Severus fixed his multiple eyes out of his hiding place. Slowly, he pulled himself out of the crack and looked around, his eyes darting back and forth trying to sense any movement that might give away the approach of another mental witch with murder on her mind.
If spiders could sigh with relief, Severus was making his best effort. While his day had started out fairly constructive, it had not remained so. He was fairly certain that when he had his debriefing with Minerva on how his day "learning the ropes" went, he was going to experience no small amount of personal embarrassment.
He was sure that Minerva never had barmy witches attempting to stomp her into the ground or beat her to death with their reading material. .
"Relaxing, my arse," he mentally muttered to himself.
Of course, to be fair, Minerva was a cat. She didn't have people trying to kill her for being a cat, no, but she did have to suffer First Years picking her up as she was on patrol and hugging her to death, thinking she was an "adorable kitty." Severus felt one of his multiple eyes twitch at the very thought of it.
There was no part of Severus Snape that desired to be picked up and mollycoddled by anyone-student, faculty, or otherwise. Even with his improved reputation after the death of the Dark Lord, his demeanour had not become "cuddly" overnight, nor was it showing any signs of going in that direction.
Harry Potter's help had "fixed" a greater part of his branding as a murderer. A scroll that Minerva had found in a hidden compartment in the Headmistress' office had told the rest of the story from Albus Dumbledore's own hand.
Severus' life, however, had not come to the abrupt end that many had rightly assumed had happened. No one had been more surprised than Severus when his eyes had opened, coughs signalling the return of air into his lungs, and he realised with some disorientation that he was still alive. That had been due to a certain Gryffindor Know-it-all and her frantic and timely use of Essence of Dittany, a rather large bezoar, and a slew of other potions he had no idea she remembered how to brew let alone carry them around with her. The only reason he knew that she had used them at all was the taste that remained in the back of his throat for days after the incident.
He had always been overly vicious and hard on her in his class, but with what could only be foolish Gryffindor determination, she had thrown herself into saving him.
Whatever it had been, either Gryffindor determination or pure dumb luck, she had saved him, and he knew that, on some level, he owed her his life. The witch said nothing about it. She asked him no favours, expected no change in treatment, and made no effort to imply he owed her anything. It was so very foreign to him. To give something so vast and expect nothing in return was almost too strange to Severus Snape. No one had ever given him something without asking for something in return. Even Lily, the greatest un-love of his life, had wanted him to give up his Slytherin friendships to be friends with her.
Severus carefully skittered out from his hiding crèche and very slowly crept his way across the tile floor. He saw where he wanted to go and kept his eyes on the prize. All he needed to—
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! A SPIDER!" a female voice screamed as a bottle of shampoo slammed against the ground next to him.
Severus skittered as fast as his eight legs could carry him. It would be five hundred times worse if the headlines read "Pervert Hogwarts Professor Found Spying on Showering Female Witches!" He dodged a bottle of conditioner. He barely dodged a bottle of perfume (was that patchouli?) and slid over a streak where a wet soap bar had left a slick trail for his feet to slide over.
Mother of Merlin!
A large shoe slammed down in front of him, blocking his escape.
No! No. No. No. Please. Don't let me die here in the girl's bathroom. My reputation was horrible enough as it is.
A large hand scooped him up, and he panicked, scurrying around under the cupped hand as he was pressed against the fabric of a robe.
"There now, shhh. I've got ya," he heard a soft whisper.
Severus froze. The voice was familiar. The scent on the hand that was covering him was comforting. Who?
"Susan, for the love of Merlin," the muffled voice said. "It's a spider, not a rabid hound!"
"Sp…..s…s..s…spider!" the panicked girl babbled.
Whoever was holding him huffed in exasperation. "Honestly, Susan, you get amazing grades in DADA, but you freak out over a spider? I'm going to go set the poor thing free."
"NOT IN HERE!" Susan wailed.
"No, not in here, you daft girl," Severus' rescuer admonished. He would have chuckled if he wasn't in such a horrible situation. Calling the girl daft was more his style, and it amused him to hear it used by someone other than himself.
Severus felt himself being moved. The hand that was sheltering him from the sight and recurring wrath of multiple unhinged witches kept him secure against the robe's fabric.
After what may have been a few seconds or minutes (Severus wasn't overly sure) light peeked out between her fingers, and he was gently set on the most welcome ground.
Severus hesitated, his legs twitching as he tested them on a nearby leaf.
"It's safe here," the warm voice told him. "I come here to study. I don't fit in anymore you see. I can't… I can't be oblivious anymore." She chuckled. "Probably a good thing too. If it had been a year or two earlier, I probably would have thrown a book at you too."
The hand settled more firmly on the ground, giving Severus a good place to skitter off into the leaf litter. He wasn't exactly a huge spider, but he was big enough that he settled in the cup of her hand comfortably. He was still small enough that if he wanted to cram himself into a crevice in a wall, he could do it. She didn't seem to mind it, patiently waiting for him to decide to leave on his own.
"Thank you for not biting me," her voice said warmly. "In the panic, I'm surprised you didn't."
Severus transferred himself to the nearby leaf and carefully poised himself to look upward.
Hermione Granger was smiling down at him. Again, she had saved his life.
Hermione's face was warm and unguarded. Her brown eyes shimmered with a sort of emotional loneliness that he knew all too well. He saw it every day in the mirror. How was it that someone like her could ever be lonely? Was she not the heroine of the Golden Trio with wizards knocking on her door desiring to court her?
His answer was given when Hermione sat down with her back against the nearby tree. She opened a book and flipped to a marked page. Always the bookworm. He eyed the spine of the book with his multiple eyes.
Advanced Potion Making for the Modern Wizard and Witch.
Severus wanted to change right there and tell her what a horrible book it was. He wanted to scoff at her choice in books and ask her where all that he had taught her went.
"Imbeciles," Hermione muttered, catching his attention. She scowled at the book, her finger tapping the page. "Any idiot would know that adding spiderwort to the potion before stirring it counterclockwise would cause the potion to become more unstable." She made a disgusted sound.
Severus found himself perched on the edge of the book, staring down at the words on the page like a small eight-legged, multiple-eyed vulture. She knew the book was hogwash. There was more to Granger than she let on, or perhaps, there had always been more to her than he had allowed himself to notice.
"I'm afraid it isn't very good reading, my friend," Hermione said gently. "You're a friendly sort," she said with a warm smile. "I hope I won't have to rescue you from the girl's bathroom again. Susan is nothing if not determined when it comes to destroying all arachnids."
If Severus could have, he would have rolled all of his multiple eyes.
"Professor McGonagall wants me to consider an Apprenticeship here at Hogwarts, but I don't think the professor I want to apprentice with will let me within a hundred furlongs of the classroom. I may have to settle for Arithmancy or Transfiguration," she told the spider.
Severus, who truly wondered why he wasn't a cat with his insufferable curiosity, skittered over to her fingers and pressed his small feet on her finger as a friend might offer a comforting touch. Amazingly, the witch seemed to understand him, and raised one finger to gently stroke the back of his carapace. Severus felt the tiny hairs on his back ripple with a strange pleasure as she did so.
"Professor Snape hated me every year I was in his class," she confessed. "I was, and perhaps am, the 'Insufferable Know-it-all' with her nose perpetually stuck in a book." Her finger continued to caress the top of his back and down his abdomen. "What I wouldn't give to learn from him as an apprentice. A real Potions apprentice," she laughed. "Professor McGonagall will think I'm mad."
You are mad, Severus thought to himself. Who in their right mind would want to apprentice with me?
She would, a voice answered him. Severus politely told himself to take that thought and stick it somewhere dark and unmentionable.
"Septima and Minerva have both offered to take me on, and I suppose neither of them are bad choices," Hermione told the spider. "I'd never ask him though."
Why not? Severus found himself wanting to know. She was always so good about speaking her mind.
"He'll think I'm calling in a favour because I saved his life," she continued, answering him unknowingly. "He'll feel like I'm forcing his hand, and he'll hate me for it. I won't do that to him. It's selfish, but… I want him to choose me. I want to be good enough on my own."
Severus found himself kicking himself mentally. She already knew him too well. But, now he knew, and this gave him the opportunity to take an apprentice for the first time since he became a professor at Hogwarts. She was smart, adaptable, willful, determined, and resilient to his rancour. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad for either of them if he just got over himself and let her into his life.
It was starting to get dark, and while his vision was attuned for skittering in dark places, Hermione's human eyes were not. She scooped him up gently in her hand. "I must go, my friend. I hope I do not see you again in the girl's restroom, but I will confess that it was nice having someone to talk to."
Hermione gently placed her hand against the trunk of the nearby tree, and Severus slowly walked off her hand and onto the bark. His eyes turned to watch the witch smile at him before she turned on her heels to leave.
When the sight of the Gryffindor witch had finally disappeared up the path, the tall, darkly-clad Potions Master stepped out of the treeline and stared up to the darkening sky. Perhaps this embarrassing day had been useful after all. Perhaps there was hope, even for someone like him. Maybe it could be found in the heart of a witch who could take pity on poor, lonely spider with the misfortune of being forced to take refuge in the girl's bathroom.
He headed up the path with long strides, his robes billowing behind him. The future would be what he made of it, and Severus Snape was Slytherin. He intended to forge his future on his own terms.