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Snape pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes and leaned his elbows on the desk in his private office.


Why did they do things like that? Were they out to get him or did the Weasley twins really disrupt everyone's classes so dangerously?

Without seeming to know or care, those two had come very close to permanently injuring someone today. There were specific reasons why dung bombs were especially prohibited in his classroom. The smell was secondary…

If someone had already added their infusion of spiny-quill to their potion… If a piece of that accursed shrapnel had ended up in that particular cauldron… Well, the splatter would have burned a hole right through the unlucky person, causing permanent injury or death.

Detention was not enough, Snape decided suddenly. Perhaps an essay on the components of those nasty things in comparison to today's potion. Full marks only if they realize what they could have done.

He took a deep breath. Luckily it had been too early in the class for a real disaster. The day's work was totally ruined, of course. It was too dangerous to continue with the noxious vapors permeating the room.

He sat back in his chair; eyes still closed and let his arms go limp at his sides.

Breathe, relax, you have class in ten minutes. He went over the planned lesson in his mind. First Years. Yes, he did not need to change his plans. A mild wart removal potion should not be affected by the dung bomb residue. The smell would have faded by now, but many advanced potions would still be sensitive to it.

It was really a good thing that it was first years next; a double period with Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. He groaned aloud. Hufflepuff, Flavius' girl. He shook his head, refusing to be sidetracked.

The worst thing that could go wrong with this potion was a minor puff of an explosion. Even that did not ruin it. It took dedication and skill to mess this one up.

He stood and shrugged his shoulders to loosen them.

Time to get moving.

Gwylan set out her potion things with precision, arranging them as her father would have expected.

"Did you hear, Gwylan?" Ansel asked as he sat next to her "An upperclassman set off a dung bomb last period. I was afraid the room would still smell."

"What? In here?" She looked up in alarm. "That can be very dangerous. What were they making?"

"I donno." Ansel replied, shrugging. "I thought dung bombs were mostly harmless smell."

"Most of the time, yes." Gwylan agreed, rubbing the scar on her chin. "But not around other potions. Someone could have been hurt."

Conversations died as Snape thundered into the dungeon.

"Today we will work on a very simple potion for removing warts."

Gwylan studied his face for signs of strain. She decided he definitely looked worse for wear. There were fine tension lines around his mouth.

"If you will all open your books to page twenty four, you may begin assembling your ingredients.

Snape sat impassively at his desk while the students found the recipe and began their preparations.

Gwylan laid out her ingredients in order. Dried garlic, pickled gooseberry leaves, fish bile, frog's eyes, and a single, expensive Albanian toadstool.

"If you have all read the directions." Snape said suddenly, "And selected your ingredients, can someone please tell me /why/ you should not disturb your cauldron for fifteen minutes after adding the frog's eyes?" His eyes flashed as he scanned the room.

Gwylan touched her scar before raising her hand.

"Yes, Miss Pyrene?"

"The frog's eyes need time to react with the gooseberry leaves, or they will cause an explosion." Gwylan said nervously.

"Yes, indeed. Five points for Hufflepuff. The book, unfortunately, does not contain that information. It just says to let the potion rest." He paused for effect. "While an explosion would not harm your potion, rest assured it would harm your grade should one occur. You may proceed. First remove the garlic clove from its papery shell. Cut it in half to be sure it is completely dried. Then crush it to powder."

Gwylan grinned down at her garlic. Five points. So much for the rumor that Snape only gave points to his own house.

There was only one small explosion that period. A Ravenclaw boy in the back of the room knocked into his desk five minutes after they had all added their carefully chopped fish eyes. Gwylan looked up just in time to see Snape jump with what looked like real alarm. It quickly twisted into a mocking sneer.

"You were warned, Mr. Harris." He drawled. "Five points from Ravenclaw." He paused to make a mark on what she assumed must be the grade sheet.

"All of you, write me an essay on the volatility of gooseberry leaves, due next class." He glared at them. "Short and concise; Twelve inches should do it, but complete."

The class groaned and the boy hid his blush behind his textbook.

In her dorm room that night, Gwylan set her scrying bowl on the floor. She cast the flame charm and then the communication spell.

Her father's face appeared in the flames.

"Hi Dad." She smiled.

"Hi, Pumpkin. School treating you well?" He asked jovially.

"Well enough." They chatted for a few minutes before she asked. "Can you tell me anything about gooseberry leaves?"

"Severus has you making wart remover, hasn't he."

"Yes," she said wryly. "We have an essay due."

"Naturally. Well, the best source is the big gray book I gave you before you left. However, the thin green one makes some interesting points as well." He paused. "Oh, and the explosion is immediate and fierce if you use the eyes of the South American tree frog. Do you remember that experiment?"

"Yeah, Mum was really mad. Thanks, Dad."

"Anytime, sweetie. Your mom sends her love." He smiled. "And this." He reached through the fire to hand her a small parcel. "Bye now."

The parcel was wrapped in cloth and tied with a bit of string. She opened it curiously. Inside was a stack of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

She smiled. She missed her mother. She retrieved the books her father had mentioned. She took them to the common room where her friends were waiting for her to help them research.

Snape was not surprised that every Hufflepuff student had used every piece of information that Miss Pyrene could find for them. However, careful comparison showed that they had more in common with the four source books that each cited than with each other. Their official text, one he had recommended to her and two he recognized as books he had used as a student. That showed her father's influence.

Understandably, the Ravenclaw efforts were consistently inferior.

Snape snorted. Ah, cooperation, one of the trademarks of the Hufflepuffs.

He picked up the last, and longest, essay; Miss Pyrene's own effort. He spread out the roll and anchored it with weights. Twice as long as specified. Interesting.

He began reading. It was the same information, but with a N.E.W.T. level analysis of the information.

Snape shook his head. He did not think he could have done better. So much for the theory that her paper was one more undeclared source for the rest of them. He doubted most of them would understand the more involved parts of it.

He got to the end and read her comments about the South American tree frog. He let out an odd, choking laugh. Incredible.

Snape glanced down at her citations. She credited the same four sources as the others, plus the other two books he had recommended and the final line, 'F. Pyrene. Private conversation."

He finished the essay without marking a single error. He shook his head again and stood. He crossed to the fireplace and took a small pinch of powder from a jar on the mantle. He threw it into the flames.

"Flavius, if you have a moment?" He said, wearily.

"Ah, Severus, how are you?" Flavius grinned from the flames.

"Talk to me about South American tree frogs, if you please." Snape said wryly, returning to his chair.

"Ah, she used that in her essay, did she?" Flavius laughed. "I thought she might. It is true, of course. One of the biggest explosions I have ever made." He grinned broadly and Severus was reminded of the little boy he had been so long ago.
Snape cleared his throat to cover a grin. "Did your analysis of the unknown component suggest that it might cause such a reaction?"

"No, not at all. So I went ahead and tried it. What a bang!" His grin faded a bit. "Rowena came running, of course. When she saw I was not hurt she beat me around the shoulders with the rolling pin she had been using." Flavius shrugged.

"Was Gwylan there?" Snape asked.

"No. It was a good thing, too. The force of it cracked the cauldron in two." He paused. "How is Gwylan doing?"

"Fine in my class. I may start assigning her extra work. She is so far in advance of her year." Snape sighed. "I already recommended some books for her. I hesitate to recommend advancing her out of her grade level…"

"We, her mother and I, would rather avoid that. She needs the social aspects of classes with her year mates." Flavius said.

"She and her housemates are definitely social. They all wrote their essays from the same sources, including two of your books. I believe she may have led a discussion of the information, making sure they all understood it. There does not seem to be any cheating because no two are exactly alike. Then she went on to write this." Snape held up her essay. "The blasted thing belongs in a book itself."

Flavius chuckled. "That's my girl." He sobered quickly. "That's the problem too. I want her to be a little girl for now. She can grow up and write books in due time." He grimaced. "I think I made a mistake apprenticing her so young."

"Very well. I will not assign her formal extra work. I will just let drop interesting topics and bits of information during her classes." Snape tapped his fingers on top of his desk.

"Good." Flavius affirmed. "That is how I usually assigned her topics. She is likely to pick up information that way."

Snape nodded. "That way if she is interested she can pursue them. If not, there will be no pressure. She can goof off with her friends" He grimaced. "Or pay attention to her other studies." Snape sat back in his chair. "This should be an interesting year."

"I hope so," Flavius agreed. "Oh, by the way, I have something for you." His hand appeared in the fire, and in it…

"South American tree frogs?" Snape asked, taking the jar.

"Whole, preserved in brine." Agreed Flavius, nodding. "Have fun." He popped out, leaving a bemused Snape holding a large jar of small frogs and a thick roll of parchment.
He shook his head, opening the roll. It was a copy of Flavius' analysis and lab notes. Just in case he ever wanted to make something go boom?

Some days that sounded like a really good idea.

Gwylan looked at the note on top of her essay one more time. "Please copy this for my records. Excellent Work."

Professor Snape had returned their essays just as they were leaving, so she had not looked at it until she was in the hall.

Liza, Marcia and Ansel suddenly noticed that she had lagged behind.

"What is it?" Ansel asked. "You don't want to be late for McGonagall."

Gwylan let the parchment roll up again and hurried to join her friends.

"What's wrong?" Liza repeated Ansel's query.

"Nothing is wrong, exactly. Just not quite what I expected."

"Did he take loads of points off?" Ansel asked. "I told you not to make it so long."

"No. This is the only mark on it." She reluctantly showed them. They all stopped to get a good look.

"Oh, wow." Marcia breathed. "That may be a school record. Snape keeping student work for reference."

"Too weird." Ansel agreed.

"Never mind." Gwylan said. "What do you think we will be transfiguring today? Thumbtacks into cotton balls?"

Her friends followed her hint and let the subject drop.
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