Sticks and Stones
The entire student body of Hogwarts was assembled in the great hall, causing
their usual annoying racket. The Potions Master paused inside the entrance,
wincing and rubbing his temples. Great. Just what he needed. He swept past the
inanely jabbering students to take his place at the head table, favoring a few
of the louder ones with a cold, icy glare. He allowed himself a brief flash of
savage triumph as they quailed before him. The tight-lipped Professor McGonagall
silently shifted to the left with a curt nod as he approached, giving him room
to slide in. Not that he really needed it -- he had always been on the thin
side, and these past few months had caused him to become scarcely more than a
rail. He had never been exactly happy with his looks, but now he looked
positively ghastly. He had fine, prominent features that usually bore an
unhealthy white pallor, but his eyes had acquired a sunken look, and his cheeks
had become pinched and hollow, casting his admittedly large nose into even
stronger relief. In short, he looked as bad as he felt, and that was saying a
This story takes place shortly before the end of Harry's Fifth Year. This story
is rated PG-13 for mild swearing and mild violence. . Spoilers for Sorcerer's
Stone through Goblet of Fire.
"On saura jamais ce qu'on a vraiment dans
Caché derrière nos apparances
L'âme d'un brave ou d'un
complice ou d'un bourreau?
Ou le pire ou le plus beau?
ceux qui résistent ou bien les moutons d'un troupeau,
S'il fallait plus que
-- Né en 17 a Leidenstadt -- Freddericks, Goldman,
//No one ever knows what is in our guts
Hidden behind our
The soul of someone brave, of an accomplice or an
Or the worst or the most beautiful?
Will we be those who
resist or just sheep in the flock,
If more than words were
Snape looked down at his plate with a heavy sigh. Not that there was
anything wrong with the food, of course. The Hogwarts house-elves always managed
to outdo themselves with scrumptious meals. He simply was not hungry. A quick
glance across the head table told him that he was not the only one. While Hagrid
and Dumbledore sat merrily devouring their food, the other professors were
eating sparingly. Some of them winced when an especially loud laugh broke out
from a student table. He turned his patented glare on them, but they utterly
failed to notice him boring holes in the back of their skulls. Useless, each and
every one of them. If they could not sense that danger was near, how would they
ever survive the rise of the Dark Lord?
He dropped his fork on the plate with a clatter at that thought, causing a
few of the professors to glance at him questioningly. He stubbornly avoided
their gaze, staring fixedly at his plate until they turned away. No need to turn
his malice on them -- they had enough worries at the moment. Final exams were
approaching, and while the students had the luxury of cavorting about and
shrieking at the top of their lungs (but not so loudly when he was around, lest
their houses lose more precious points towards the House Cup), the professors
were not so fortunate. There was the usual pre-exam tension around the staffroom
as each teacher struggled to put together a formidable and challenging
end-of-the-year culmination of all the knowledge that had been crammed into
their students' heads. Snape knew without a doubt that that knowledge had leaked
out of the ears of his Potions pupils the moment he had poured it in. The
majority of his pupils were hopeless gits. There were only a handful that
actually made teaching worthwhile. Draco Malfoy was one of them. He was
attentive and bright, always impressing Snape with his grasp of complex
mixtures. It was nice to have a sharp Slytherin around to keep those
God-forsaken goody-goody Gryffindors on their toes. Then again, he had to keep a
sharp eye on Malfoy. He knew all about his father's activities, and from
everything he'd seen so far, Draco was a chip off the old block.
Snape took a small morsel of food and forced himself to swallow it. His
stomach cramped painfully in complaint, but he managed to take a few more
mouthfuls before it gave serious signs of rebellion. He then rested the fork
against the plate and sat back slightly, giving his digestive system time to
adjust before attempting to repeat the procedure. He could feel McGonagall's
eyes upon him and resolutely avoided her gaze. It was none of her business how
much he ate.
"Are you feeling all right?"
Snape instinctively scowled at the inquiry. "Fine," he spat, shooting her
sharp look of warning. She nodded briefly and returned to picking at her own
meal. The sallow-skinned man rested his head against the chair and closed his
eyes briefly. At least she had stopped bothering him. Unlike most of the other
people in the school, she could take a hint. Severus Snape had a few unwritten
yet very rigid rules that his coworkers had learned to accept very quickly.
First off, no inquiries of a personal nature. Secondly, no remarks on his
appearance, especially his hair, greasy though it may be. And lastly, under no
circumstances, must he be touched. Hagrid, a rather touchy-feeling man by
nature, had unfortunately had to learn this lesson the hard way.
He felt another pair of eyes sizing him up as well, as he scowled at the
plate before him. He wondered if he could get away with a spell to clear the
plate of its contents. He was sick of the stares, the murmurings. This time
Dumbledore was the one eyeing him. 'Dammit, old man, can't you just leave me
alone?' he seethed inwardly. 'You have no right to pity me! After all, it was
*you* who put me in this impossible situation in the first place!' He angrily
speared another chunk of food and chewed it thoroughly, the anger distracting
him from his nervous stomach, wondering idly if he could arrange to take his
meals in his private chambers. He hated feeling like an insect primed for
dissection. All those eyes on him. Knowing. Judging. Some accusing, some
pitying. It was the pity, above all else, that he abhorred. He was doing what he
did of his own volition. Yes, he knew he was putting himself in grave peril.
That was nothing new. But he did not go into this blindly. He knew the risks far
better than anyone else, and he had survived this long. He was merely making the
best of a bad decision he had made in the past, and would spend the rest of his
life atoning for.
A fierce burning on his inner forearm finally permeated his distracted mind.
He froze, every muscle paralyzed, unable to accept what was happening. What it
signified. No. Dear Lord, no! It was as if the crazy, zigzagging thoughts in his
mind had brought the Dark Mark to life. 'Please, not yet!' he begged internally.
'I need more time!' It was only half a lie. Part of him had prepared for
occurrences such as this since his assumption of his post of Potions Master at
Hogwarts. The other part of him knew that he would never be ready, no matter how
many times he was Summoned. The pain then overcame his shock and he curled
forward, hissing sharply, clutching his arm with his other hand. His eyes
squeezed tightly shut, blocking everything else out but the agony radiating
outward from his branded arm. 'Control it!' he berated himself. 'You've felt
pain on many different levels. This should be nothing!' But it was what the pain
symbolized than the sensation itself that so upset him. Voldemort was calling
him. He had no choice but to respond.
The diminutive Professor Flitwick approached and placed a hand on the
shivering man's shoulder in a show of concern. It was exactly the wrong thing to
do. Snape immediately jerked away from the gentle touch, jumping to his feet,
upsetting his chair. It fell to the floor with a loud clatter. 'Smooth move,
Severus,' a detached part of himself observed dryly. If everyone hadn't been
looking at him before, they certainly were now. This time his eyes actively
sought Dumbledore's, scarcely realizing that he was massaging the searing mark
on his forearm, thankfully concealed under his robes. The aged Headmaster gave
him one sage nod of understanding and permission. It was all he needed. Pivoting
neatly, he swept majestically from the hall, his head held high, mouth frozen
into a foreboding scowl to anyone who dared look his way.
Once outside the room, however, he allowed his expression to change into a
grimace. His feet wanted nothing more than to take him back to his chambers,
where he could safely curl up in bed with a good book and the comforting thought
that Lord Voldemort was far away from this haven. But if he had learned anything
at all in his professed service to the dark wizard, it was to never
underestimate Voldemort. He had found his way into Hogwarts before, and he could
undoubtedly do so again. This was why Snape could not afford to relax his guard.
He had to keep tabs on the one most commonly referred to as You-Know-Who or
He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named. It simply would not do to ignore the summons. 'Is this
it, then?' Severus wondered, as he did each and every time he was called to his
lord's side. 'Is this the time he discovers my deception? Is this the time I
His musings were cut short rather abruptly as he collided with something
solid and unyielding. A quick glance on the floor offered an explanation. The
old, familiar scowl reformed as he beheld the figure sprawled on the floor,
glasses askew, unruly dark hair cascading everywhere. "Get up, Potter," he spat.
"Get out of my way. I'm already late."
He followed the young man's shocked gaze down to his own arm, where the
sleeve of his robe had slid aside to reveal the Dark Mark. It had formed into an
ugly black splotch, the way it always did when the evil Lord summoned his
followers. Curse him, he knew! Potter *knew* what that sign meant for him! He
hastily shoved the sleeve down, clamping his hand over the throbbing mark as
another bolt of pain shot through the appendage. He bit his lip, tasting blood,
and yet he refused to cry out. Never would he show weakness before this whelp,
who was so like his father it made Snape want to smack him in retribution for
all the harsh things James Potter had said and done. Never would he yield! Not
to Voldemort, not to Potter, not to anyone!
"Don't look at me like that! Five points from Gryffindor," he snapped. And
still Harry did not look away. His horrified gaze slid from his branded arm to
Snape's face. It took everything the professor had not to shrink away. There was
pity on Potter's face, to be sure, but there was more as well -- understanding,
and sympathy?! It was too much! "Don't look at me!" he gasped, tearing away from
the searing stare and stumbling towards the nearest exit. Those eyes followed
him mercilessly until he had finally darted out of sight. He ran as fast as he
could toward the broom shed -- he'd need a broom to fly to the edge of the
school grounds. Once beyond there he could safely Apparate to his
He shuddered, his stomach lurching at that word. How had he allowed anyone,
especially someone as revolting as Voldemort, to hold dominion over him? The
mark still throbbed, but he could not bear to look at it any more. Potter's eyes
upon him had made him feel ashamed, dirty and low. Why shouldn't the boy think
that way? It was, after all, what everybody said about him when his back was
turned, and had been that way ever since he had begun his own schooling at
Hogwarts. The only difference was now everyone had a tangible reason to fear and
loathe him. A Death Eater…. '*Former* Death Eater,' he insisted. Now a Death
Eater in name only.
The words echoed in his head as he kicked off, sending the rather battered
Shooting Star broom into the air. He clutched it, leaning forward a bit more
than was necessary. He had always hated flying! He wished with a sudden pang
that he had had the chance to summon a coach, but they weren't nearly as fast as
a broom, and speed was of the essence. Still, he was a rather poor flyer and
could certainly never pull off any of the amazing stunts that the Potter brat
had managed to make look easy, just like his father before him…. He wrenched his
thoughts violently away from that subject. He needed his mind to be clear and
sharp for the coming confrontation, his thoughts quick and agile, always one
step ahead. It was the only way to keep Voldemort from guessing his true
intentions, always maintaining a double feint.
Try as he might, he could not shut out the voices from his head. They echoed
within the confines of his skull, building into an insistent crescendo: "That
Snape Boy! I always knew he was up to no good." "Didn't I tell you it's always
the Slytherins that go bad?" "Knew from the moment I saw his greasy hair and
bony face that he wasn't someone to associate with." Always talking about him,
whether they realized he was there or not. It was a fact of life, something he
had come to accept as inevitable as the sun rising every morning. Very well
then. Let them talk. But if they could be harsh and petty, so could he. He could
cut someone off at the knees with the best of them. He had an endless store of
hexes and razor-sharp barbs that had kept him well-defended through his school
years and beyond. But somehow, they now seemed empty. He was an adult now, a
professor, no less! Shouldn't he have been able to leave this behind him
somehow? He laughed aloud, but it was a bitter, short sound. There was no
escaping who he was. As long as he was Severus Snape, he would be mocked and
ridiculed. The only answer was to strike first, strike fast, strike hard. To not
give them a chance to hurt him first. His face sometimes felt as if it had
frozen into a stiff, cold mask. All the better, for what lay ahead.
* * * * *
He returned nearly two full days later, feeling an overpowering wave of
relief as he stepped foot inside the Hogwarts castle. Amazing. He had survived
once more. Then again… maybe it was an ominous sign. Lord Voldemort had called
him to his side merely to brew a few simple potions that surely even that
spineless Peter Pettigrew could create. Why had he summoned Snape for such a
piddling task? The answer was all too obvious. It had been a test. The Potions
Master could only cross his fingers and pray that he had passed. His heart was
still beating, wasn't it?
A shudder ran through him at the memory of seeing his old class "chum"
kneeling at his master's feet. 'All this time… Black really *was* innocent…. It
was Peter who betrayed the Potters,' he marveled. He had not believed the news
when it had come from Lupin and Black, and those wretched Gryffindor children.
He had honestly believed that Voldemort would have told him if Pettigrew was
involved. It seemed that, even back then, Voldemort had hedged his bets with his
Death Eaters. Black had finally had his name cleared after nearly a year of
wrangling and hearings.
Still, Snape thought he had known Peter, as
twisted as that sounded, for they surely did not get along. The boy always
struck him as shifty yet cowardly. It was painfully clear to him now that he was
the reason for Voldemort's resurrection. All the more reason, of course, to
bring him down. Snape's mouth curled in its characteristic sneer. It seemed that
yet another of his classmates had found a way to bring him torment.
He stepped up his pace a bit, realizing that he just might be in time for
his last class. Dumbledore would surely allow him some time to recover from his
latest visit to the dark side, but Snape would have none of it. Madame Pomfrey
had been kind enough to volunteer to cover his class, having a small amount of
knowledge in potions, but he found that his class needed an iron hand to guide
them along. Shame that he hadn't been able to arrive a bit earlier -- the class
with the Potter brat and his Gryffindor friends was just ending. Tormenting them
always seemed to lift his spirits. Ah well, tomorrow was another day.
It must have been the sheer relief at having returned safely and in one
piece to Hogwarts that distracted him. Normally he was aware of everyone around
him, but for the second time in two days, he ran smack into someone in his path.
He flashed a quick snarl at the offender, certainly not offering remotely like
an apology, and turned to hasten to the dungeons. A large, strong hand clamped
down on his bicep with a force that made him wince. Severus tilted his head,
staring in horror at who had seized him. Of all the people…!
A rather sunken face glared at him fiercely, the man shaking his long hair
out of the way with a quick flick of his head. The man's appearance wasn't quite
as wasted and neglected as it had been when he'd first returned to Hogwarts, at
Dumbledore's insistence. The aged Headmaster had bade them to shake hands and
make their peace, but it looked like the tenuous truce was about to be ripped
wide open. "Let go, Black," the raven-haired professor hissed. "I don't have
time to spar with you. But I can promise I'll make it up to you another time."
Just because the man had been pardoned was no reason for him to strut around as
if he owned the whole blasted castle!
"Very funny," the other man drawled, gripping Snape's thin arm even harder.
Severus choked off a gasp, not wanting his longtime adversary to know the degree
of discomfort he was feeling. This was quickly getting out of hand! Sirius was a
fool to pick on him. He was not much stronger than he had been in his teenage
years, but Sirius was diminished from his years in Azkaban and subsequent life
on the lam, so the stronger man had lost much of his edge. Plus, Severus had
always been renowned for his wide knowledge of curses and hexes, and that skill
had only grown in the years. If it was a fight Black was spoiling for, he just
might get his wish.
'Keep calm, you're a professor! You can't just go brawling in the halls any
time you feel like it! Just put your icy mask back on… yes, that's it….' He
forced himself to take deep breaths, trying to get a handle on the rampaging
fury that boiled just beneath the surface. What was it about those blasted
Marauders robbed him of his sanity? "Let…me…go…." he said in soft yet dangerous
tones, letting Sirius see that his hand was inching for his wand, concealed
within his robes. And for a moment, it seemed that Black would back down, as the
crushing grip on his arm relaxed.
"Go then," Black spat, shoving him against the wall, and he clipped his head
on a statue of an owl. The sharp spike of pain very nearly shattered his tenuous
hold on his control. He hissed threateningly, dark eyes flashing an unmistakable
warning. Black tossed an offhand comment as he turned to leave, "Surprised you
even came back, since you're such a good pet of Voldemort's."
With an inarticulate cry, Snape launched himself on his longtime enemy,
pummeling him with blows. His advantage of stunning Black was brief, however, as
the stronger man managed to kick him aside. A bony yet powerful fist caught him
on the shoulder as he half-turned, but in that instance he had whipped out his
wand. He knew he could never win a fight with fists alone, but with his wand in
his hand he was unmatched. Snape yelled out a vicious curse in defiance, and a
bolt of bluish energy shot from the end of his wand. Black was unfortunately
more on his toes than Snape had anticipated, for he dodged and just barely
missed the streak as it sizzled past his ear, striking a statue and causing it
to sizzle and melt slightly.
As Snape positioned himself to deliver a second curse, Black struck his
outstretched hand, sending the wand skittering across the floor, out of reach.
Any advantage the smaller and frailer man had had was gone, but it hardly
mattered for him. The emotions that had been roiling in him ever since
Voldemort's return simply erupted, and his hands locked around Black's throat,
mindless to everything but exorcising all the rage that burned inside him.
Sirius gave a rather satisfying choking sound but managed to land a blow on his
jaw, loosening his grip. The next strike was to his stomach, causing him to lose
his balance. The pain he received felt nearly as good as the kind he inflicted.
It reminded him that he was alive, that he had to keep fighting, that he was not
completely dead inside.
"Accio wand!" he called as he knelt on the floor. The slender bit of
wood responded automatically, soaring to meet his outstretched hand. Just as his
fingers brushed the surface, a large boot stomped down on his hand, causing
stars to swim past his vision. He was trapped, on his knees before an attacker!
As he tried to work the wand between his fingertips, to aim it and use it,
Black's mighty fist swung downward and caught him directly across the bridge of
his prominent nose. A sickening crack was audible to both of them, and then his
black robes were coated with a rush of red. He clapped his free hand over the
injury, a shrill cry of pain escaping him. Black had never been this vicious
before! This went beyond their adolescent fistfights and duels of the past. He
had been right along not to trust Black -- the years in Azkaban had clearly
Black effortlessly plucked the wand from his now limp hand, smirking at the
defeated man at his feet. "Shall I snap this in half?" he mocked, seemingly
unmoved at the growing streams of blood that leaked from underneath Snape's
hands onto his robes. "You have no right to be here, Severus. Dumbledore may be
fooled by your lies, but I'm sure not. I know exactly how deceitful you can be.
But at least without this, you won't be quite as dangerous."
Snape followed the wand in Black's grip with wide eyes. He had become very
attached to that particular wand. It was said that the wand chose its owner, but
in time the owner surely became accustomed to the wand's quirks and
idiosyncrasies, so that no other wand would do nearly as well. He tried to move
his hand from under the boot, but Black merely ground his foot down harder,
waving the wand out of his reach. Snape glared at him balefully. "I see some
things haven't changed."
"But some things have." Sirius stared meaningfully at the hand trapped
underneath his book, the Dark Mark concealed by the arm of his robes.
Snape flushed an angry red. "How dare you judge me?! You know nothing of who
"Come now, break it up!" a firm voice called out, followed by a brisk clap
of hands. Snape looked up to see Professor McGonagall approaching, a look of
disapproval on her face, pushing through a throng of students. Her expression
changed to one of shock when she beheld exactly who had been fighting. "Mister
Black! I expected better of you! Let him up this instant! Your childish behavior
shames our house." She held out her hand expectantly, and he reluctantly handed
back the wand, removing his foot only after grinding the trapped hand one more
time. "Now go somewhere else. Far away from me, preferably." Throwing one
baleful glare over his shoulder, Black stalked off for the nearest exit. He
moved a bit stiffly, revealing that Snape had gotten a few good licks in after
"My gracious, Severus, what has he done to you?" she breathed as she saw the
amount of blood that spattered his clothing and still dripped from his hand. She
reached for his elbow to help him to his feet, but he gave her a cross look and
pushed himself up with his other hand, already bruised and swelling. It was then
that he fully realized that he had an audience of stunned students. He fixed
them with his fiercest glare, which was somewhat mitigated by the hand that
still was clenched over his nose. "Get lost!" he roared, and they scattered like
a flock of startled birds, but already they had started to whisper. Great. Just
great. He had put all that effort into cowing and intimidating them so they
would leave him the hell alone, and now they had seen him whipped into a bloody
mess. With his luck, Potter would have been watching too. Watching and smirking.
Just like his insufferable father. Damn them both.
"Come on," she said briskly. "I'll walk you to the hospital wing."
"I'm fine, Minerva, honestly," he sighed. "I can manage on my own."
She shook her head at his stubbornness, handing his wand back, which he
stuffed angrily back into his robes. "Dumbledore will have my head if you pass
out from loss of blood on the way." They set off together, him grumbling some
rather colorful things under his breath as she worked a brief charm to staunch
the bleeding. He was irked that one of his coworkers had found him in such a
humiliating predicament, but if it had to be anyone (besides Dumbledore
himself), it might as well be Minerva McGonagall. Despite their continual house
feud, she was one of the few professors he could actually converse with for more
than two minutes without feeling the need to rip out his hair.
"Do you know two Hufflepuffs nearly fainted when they saw you bleeding? I
believe they were under the misguided assumption that you were… nosferatu." Her
usual stony, no-nonsense expression does not change in the slightest, but he
caught the smallest of twinkles in her eye. He allowed himself a brief smirk,
and wonder of wonders, a slight chuckle vibrated in his chest. The stern woman
nodded. "I thought that would amuse you. Did you start that particular
The smirk reappeared. "I can't take credit for that one. However, I have
also made no effort to discredit it." He found it highly amusing that some of
his students were gullible enough to think he was a vampire. Maybe he should've
bitten Black's neck for effect. Served them right for gawping at him getting
McGonagall stepped in front of him and flung open the door to the infirmary,
calling out, "Got a patient for you, Poppy!"
Madame Pomfrey turned from her herbs and vials, her jaw dropping as
Professor Snape entered, both hands clasped firmly over his nose, more to cover
the injury than to assuage its pain. She gasped and shooed him into a chair,
tapping her foot impatiently until he reluctantly removed his hands. Both
McGonagall and Pomfrey winced at the bruising and swelling that surrounded the
broken bone. The Transfiguration professor lingered for a moment longer, then
turned and silently left. Severus was clearly uncomfortable and embarrassed
about the situation as it was. He didn't need a larger audience.
The nurse began to very gently poke and prod at the injury, marveling as he
patient held stock-still, showing no sign at all of pain. She opened her mouth
to ask how it had happened, then shut it with a snap. He would view such
inquiries as intrusive. She was relieved that he had at least come to her this
time -- he had a habit of treating his injuries himself, and while he was
extraordinarily talented in the art of potions, he wasn't nearly as good at
healing. Muttering a few soft words under her breath, she reduced the swelling
as best she could. Then she grasped his nose and pushed it upward in one quick
jerk, waving her wand above it with her other hand. "There! Good as
Snape took the hand-held mirror from her and gave it the briefest of
glances. His reflection scowled back at him, mocking him. His injury looked
immeasurably better, though there was still some noticeable swelling around his
nose and surrounding tissues. 'Just great. Now it's even more prominent than
ever.' He tossed the mirror aside, unable to bear the sight another moment. With
a slight nod, he swept out of the infirmary. "You're welcome…" she said