Life Lessons - Shaving with Snape
A/N: DISCLAIMER: This story is the product of my own mind (muddled though it may be). The characters are, sadly, not mine. They belong to J. K. Rowling. I just play with them, and bend them to my will occasionally. Occasionally they see fit to take over the story, and then I am at the mercy of their will. By the way, this is completely AU. It's a little thing I've had rattling around in my head that just begged to be written. Please forgive the weirdness.
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"Ah, Severus come in my boy, come in." Headmaster Dumbledore twinkled in his disarmingly annoying manner. "So glad you could make it. Sit, sit. May I offer you some tea, a scone perhaps?"
Severus harrumphed and glided to the chair nearest the door.
"Do come closer, my boy. You should know by now that I do not bite."
"Not with teeth you don't. The closer you want me, the bigger the favor you'll ask." Severus bit as he deigned to shift to the chair directly across from the large, ornately carved desk behind which the headmaster safely sat.
Albus smiled his all-knowing smile as he intensified the wattage of his twinkle ten-fold. "Now my boy, you exaggerate. I merely wanted to discus a few of the more delicate needs of some of our…" Albus paused several beats, "…students."
"Indeed." Severus warily scrutinized his employer, "And this is of import to me because…?"
"Yes, yes, child." Albus grinned. "All in good time, Severus. All in good time. So tell me, Severus, how is your Quidditch team fairing this term? You have young Mr. Malfoy as a beater this year, if I'm not mistaken."
"If memory serves," Albus glanced over the top of his glasses and leaned forward resting his elbows on the desk. "… and I'm sure it does. Mr. Malfoy has been the seeker for Slytherin for the last five years. Care to enlighten me about this change?" Albus leaned back just enough so that his elbows no longer rested on the desk.
"No. I don't, but as I have no doubt that you'll insist on an answer, and I'm sure there are no other means for me to get to the real reason for my summons, oh do excuse me, Headmaster, invitation," Severus drawled sarcastically, waited several beats, then continued, "I shall answer. Mr. Malfoy is hopeless as a seeker."
Severus paused has his mind filled in the empty seconds with its own commentary, 'But of course everyone already knew that - after all, the brat bought his way onto the team with daddy's money. No Quidditch talent at all, just like his father.'
Smiling inwardly, as it would never serve for Albus to see him smile, Severus continued his answer to the old mage, "Draco's far too aggressive for that position, not to mention too impatient. The team felt Mr. Malfoy's aggressive nature would best be served, as would the interest of the team, if he were to move to the position of beater."
Severus glared at the headmaster and made to rise, "Now, if that's all you required of me, I ha…"
Albus interrupted the Potions Master, "Severus, please resume your seat. Indeed that is not all." The headmaster steepled his fingers before his face, hiding his smile but not the twinkling of his eyes as he continued, "As you know, several of our students have regrettably been left without fathers, some without mothers, and others without both. I have tasked certain of the professors with duties I feel necessary for more … well-rounded educations for these students by enlisting the help of these professors in teaching certain life-skills to these young adults."
Severus could feel the beginning of a monumental migraine coming on. He knew this was not something he wanted to hear, nor was it anything from which he would be able to escape. Oh, he'd try, but he knew before even exerting the effort that he'd fail. He was going to crash and burn in his efforts, as he always did when confronted by one of the headmaster's "scatterbrained" schemes.
Severus wasn't going to react. He wasn't going to say a thing, but after nearly five minutes of very tense silence, he relented. He knew the headmaster could out-wait him. "With whom have you spoken, and what 'lessons' have you assigned?" The dread carried within these words was so thick the words almost stuck in the Potions Master's mouth.
Albus grinned, "Oh, my boy. It has been simply wonderful, the response I've received. Minerva agreed to teach the young ladies to cook. She even held a class for the young men, something about bachelor-ring-git, whatever that is." The headmaster shrugged, a most unheadmasterly maneuver and beamed with self-satisfaction.
"And?" Severus raised an eyebrow and immediately wished he hadn't. His headache was infiltrating his skin, and even that miniscule movement caused additional pain.
"Professor Sprout volunteered and taught hair grooming and then held a lesson on herbal skin products for young ladies and gentlemen… oh, yes, in separate classes of course." Albus chuckled.
"Of course. And?" This time Severus remained perfectly still, and just let his voice convey his distain.
"Madam Pomphrey volunteered and taught sex education and …" Albus cleared his throat and paused as he took a bite of his scone. "..hygiene to both the young ladies and gentlemen… oh, yes, in separate classes." Albus chuckled again.
Albus quirked an eyebrow at the younger wizard's lack of retort, and continued, "Professor Flitwick all but jumped at the chance to instruct the students on dating etiquette, of course in separate classes."
"Fine, fine, Albus. You, however, did not invite me here simply to garner my approval for these classes; nor, I'm certain, have you recited these accomplishments simply for words of congratulations from me that I shall never utter. The point of all this is?"
Severus tried not to let his face betray his distain for the topic at hand, or the confusion he felt about the role he was destined to be roped into playing, for to do so would surely provoke additional lightening bolts of pain to shoot through his already pounding head.
Albus leaned back fully in his leather chair, clapped his hands once and began, "The other professors have already taught their classes. Your class is the only one left. You, my boy, have the fewest students, and the easiest task of all." Albus finished with a triumphant look of immense self-satisfaction.
Severus didn't believe a word of it. He raised his right hand and began to rub his right temple so hard that he was leaving bruises. After counting to ten … four times, he ventured, "And my class is?"
Albus grinned, "Your class is, that is to say the lesson you will teach, is shaving." Albus was almost glowing, his eyes were twinkling with a ferocity heretofore unknown, even among his closest friends and staff members.
'Did I hear that right?' Severus' mind screamed so loudly he was sure the headmaster had heard. After counting to ten another three times, Severus bellowed, "I'm teaching what?" Then, after taking a dozen deep breaths, letting them out to the count of eight each, and with an air of resignation, he all but whispered, "To whom?"
"Now, Severus. Someone has to teach the young men how to shave. We wouldn't want them slitting their throats wo…"
"Speak for yourself!" Severus barked as he rose to leave.
"Now, now… I know you don't mean that." Albus responded softly as he raised his wand and spell-locked his door, effectively trapping the younger man. "Someone has to teach them. You are closer to their age than any other staff member, and you are the only clean-shaven male on the staff. You can't expect me to teach them. I haven't touched a razor in over a hundred years."
"Fine, fine… who are my students?" The professor wearily conceded waving his hand in dismissal - or perhaps defeat.
"At least this should only take an hour. I suppose I can get through on just a vial of calming potion and a half-vial of pepper-up." He muttered as he rifled through the pockets of his robes checking to be sure he had said potions readily available.
"If that doesn't work, a long, quiet stretch in St. Mungo's wouldn't be amiss. I dare say, it might, indeed, be welcome." Severus continued muttering. Then brightening almost imperceptibly he added, "…for Albus. Minerva could fill in for him."
Pretending he didn't hear the last of the Potion Master's mutterings and leaning forward, Albus fixed the younger wizard across the desk from him with a long measuring look over his glasses before responding, "That's the best part, Severus. You only have two students. Mr. Potter and Mr. Longbottom are the only two seventh year male students in need of this class … at this time."
"no.! No.! NO…" Severus rose with all the self-righteous dignity he could muster through the pain in his head and the dread left coursing through the rest of his being. "A million times, no. I refuse to get anywhere near either one of them if they are to be holding any sharp objects."
'That's right, my boy. Get it all out. Yell and holler, rant and rave a little more before you agree' Albus thought ruefully as he watched the other pace, robes billowing menacingly behind.
"Have you no mercy? Has nothing I've done counted for anything? Do you take such joy in my torture that you willingly, no not willingly, maliciously … throw me to these cretins repeatedly. And now, you want me to place sharp objects in the hands of the boy who has yet to brew a potion without melting a cauldron, or nearly killing his classmates for almost seven years. You are knowingly placing me in a closed room with Harry-The-Boy-Who-Lived-and-Lived-and-Kept-on-Living-Despite-Hoards-of-Death-Eaters-and One-Dark-Lord Potter, and expect me to teach them to shave?!"
Severus stomped to the chair and flopped into it. Mind you, Severus never stomps, nor does he flop. He gave those actions up many, many years ago; but now he's feeling like the recalcitrant child he was never permitted to be.
He sat there wanting to stamp his feet and beat his fists. He wanted the luxury of a full-blown tantrum, but his sense of decorum wouldn't permit it, so he sat instead, and glowered as strongly at the headmaster as the headmaster was glowing at Severus. A very uneven tit-for-tat, indeed.
"Batty old coot. Don't know why he thinks the insufferable brats need to be taught to shave. I figured it out on my own. No reason they can't, too. It's not as if it takes any kind of skill. It doesn't even require so much as a modicum of intelligence." Severus was quietly ranting as he made his way to the special classroom Albus had set up for the shaving lesson.
"Then again, why can't the dunderheaded prats just grow beards like their overprotective, overbearing, over … everything headmaster? On the other hand, I can just see Longbottom (three or four years down the road, repeating this year's potions class - after failing it several times) with a long, blond beard stewing in his potion as he looks on completely confused. Damn boy probably wouldn't even know it was his own beard." He grumbled as he reached for the handle of the classroom door.
Severus stopped briefly before opening the door, took a deep, cleansing breath, straightened his stance and then threw open the door.
Before the door even closed, he was declaring in rapid-fire words - the speech he had practiced that morning as he dressed - "There will be no ridiculous wand-waving, or monotonous incantations in this class. As such, I don't expect either of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is shaving. However, for the edification of whatever it is you call brains rattling between your ears, I shall endeavor to impart the knowledge required to see to it that neither of you slits your throats during the benign act that, Merlin willing, shall become part of your morning ablutions."
Harry and Neville watched, open-mouthed, as the professor stormed into the makeshift classroom-come-bathroom. Neither of them had had any idea what to expect, but neither had ever thought the greasy Potions Master would be tasked with teaching them … to shave, of all things.
Severus stopped in front of the sinks, whirled around to face his two startled students, and dug in, "By the looks of your hair, Mr. Potter, this particular form of visual aide is unknown to you." He then glared at both boys and pointed behind himself, "Permit me to introduce you to … a mirror." Severus smirked.
"Git.!" Whispered Neville.
'And you know about mirrors by … well obviously, by the look of your hair, not to mention your yellow-gray teeth, you must have learned by word-of-mouth, without the benefit of visual aides, and no one told you that it's the shiny side you look into.' Harry thought slightly less than charitably.
Biting the inside of his cheek, Harry managed to mumble, "Mir…ror." Baiting the professor.
"Yes, Mr. Potter, mirror. In the name of … " Severus drew himself up to his full height, determined to rise above the situation. "It will show you your reflection." He sneered. 'If it doesn't shatter first.' he thought with a smirk.
Harry glared at the professor, "Obviously."
"Insolence, Potter. Now," Severus continued, picking up an old fashioned straight-razor, "This is a razor. One could use a razor such as this to shave…"
Severus stopped. "Yes, Mr. Longbottom. What is it?"
"Uh, sir … I mean, Professor Snape, sir … that's just a blade … I mean, well couldn't we … ?"
Severus was cheering inside. He loved seeing "the brats" squirm. Who knew that all it took was a simple Muggle invention like a straight razor?
"Mr. Longbottom, had you permitted me to finish, I would have advised that although one could use a razor such as that to shave, we shall be using one such as this." As he finished, he drew from his pocket a silver plastic safety razor and held it up for the boys to see.
Severus turned from the two students and prepared the sinks for the lesson. As his back was turned, Neville turned to Harry and whispered, "First he brandishes a lethal weapon at us telling us we'll shave with it, then he presents us with some plastic Muggle toys. I think he's going barking mad."
Severus whirled around, pointing three safety razors at the boys. "Barking mad, am I?" He bellowed. Then lowering his voice he continued, "Indeed. I must be to think I could teach either of you the delicate science and masculine art of shaving. However futile it may be, I shall commence the lesson."
The classroom-come-bathroom was originally a regular classroom. The front of it had been transformed by Albus' good graces for this particular class. He had transfigured the blackboard to be a large mirror that spanned the length of what had once been the teacher's desk. The desk had been transfigured into a six-foot long counter in which three sinks had been sunk. The rest of the classroom remained as it originally had been built.
Severus ordered the students to stand before the mirror. He placed Neville to his left and Harry to his right. Each one had a sink before him. The professor picked up a rather colorful can, the likes of which neither boy had ever seen before, and explained, "Some men shave dry, some with water only, some use shaving cream or lotion."
He saw Neville's eyebrows furrow as if in deep confusion, or perhaps it was constipation. Severus fervently hoped for the latter, but was certain it was the former. Trying to ignore the questioning expression on the boy's face, he plunged on, "Shaving cream or lotion may be used with or without first wetting the skin. This is shaving cream or shaving lotion …" He sighed wearily, finally giving up when Neville raised his hand to ask a question, "Yes, Mr. Longbottom?
Neville looked at his feet and watched as the toe of his right shoe traced patterns on the stone floor as he mumbled, "Sir, I mean Professor Snape … uh, which is it? Is it lotion or cream?"
"What does it matter?" He roared. "Cream. Lotion. It's the same bloody thing." Severus closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he gathered his reserves of quickly dwindling patience. "Think synonym, Mr. Longbottom. No, I won't explain that. Look it up, boy."
Shaking the can as he continued, "Whether you choose cream or …" glaring at Neville, "… lotion makes no difference. It is a matter of personal preference, and no, Mr. Potter, I am not going to divulge my preference." He stopped his lecture to fix Harry with a steely glare. Harry's mouth snapped shut.
Removing the lid, he explained further, "After you have thoroughly shaken the can, remove the top and depress the button to dispense a small mound of the substance onto the palm of your hand. A small amount, Longbottom. You have enough there to shave the whole bloody Gryffindor Quidditch team. Wash your hands and start over." He barked.
Severus handed Neville another can of shaving lotion and watched as the nervous young man shook it and deposited a small mound of the white foam onto the sweaty palm of his shaking hand.
Severus gave an almost imperceptible nod as he took up his lecture, "Now that you have your lotion ready you will coat your face with…"
Severus' hand shot out and grasped Neville's right hand as he was coating the refection of his face in the mirror. "Mr. Longbottom, pray tell, were you planning on shaving the mirror? For certainly even you must realize you must shave your face, not your reflection, you stupid boy." Severus' scathing words weighted the air in the room, causing Neville to gasp for breath.
Neville trembled as he caught his breath. "I'm s … sorry, Professor. I gu … guess I'm a little nerv…" Neville sighed and gave up trying to explain. Instead, he just looked down and shook his head dejectedly.
After taking a few seconds to get himself together, Neville scooped the shaving lotion off the mirror and returned it to his shaking hand. Severus wet a towel and cleaned the residue off the mirror as he thought, 'Albus, you doddering old fool, you'll get yours. Remember payback is a …'
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, boy. Start again." Severus bit out as he again turned to Neville. "As I was saying, you will coat your face wi …"
He stopped and sighed in complete exasperation, counted to ten … several times, and finally spoke, "Mr. Longbottom. What is it in your upbringing or genetics that causes you to act before instructions are fully given?"
Handing a can of shaving cream to Neville for the third time, Severus ground out, "Wash your face and start again. You do not apply the lotion to your forehead … unless of course you plan to shave your forehead."
Leaning over the trembling boy's shoulder, the professor hissed, "Is there something about your parentage you wish to tell us, Mr. Longbottom, something that would necessitate you to shave your forehead in addition to the normally logical facial features requiring such meticulous treatment, something that might necessitate hiding a furry, prehensile tail, perhaps?" Severus paused and glanced at the boy's backside, then at the boy's reflection in the mirror. "No? Fine. Begin again, now." He barked.
Harry silently, pityingly, watched the exchange in the reflection of the mirror. He noticed that the professor didn't have any sign of beard. There was no five o'clock shadow, no stubble, nothing to even suggest he has any facial hair at all. He began to wonder if the professor shaves, or if he's just naturally hairless.
Finally, Neville had his mound of shaving cream again. The Potions Master began yet again, "Now, once again … apply the shaving cream to that part of your face you intend to shave. Only that part." He glared at Neville.
"You do not need to apply a lot, just enough to coat your face and soften your beard. Well, your beards once you grow them." He sneered.
Harry chuffed at the comment. "Mr. Potter. I am well aware of the eight or ten whiskers you presently proudly display. They do not, however, constitute a beard. For the purpose of this lesson you both will shave as if you were men, and as if you actually possess the physical maturity - not to mention - mental and emotional maturity - to require shaving."
"Mr. Potter, put your righteous indignation away. We are not amused." Severus sneered at Harry's response to the barb about their level of maturity - or lack thereof.
Using the reflective properties of the large mirror before them, the professor watched his students as he handed each a razor. He handed Harry a bright yellow plastic razor, and Neville was gifted with a pastel-pink plastic razor. Severus kept the silver razor for himself.
Smirking inwardly, Severus continued the lesson, "If you want a close shave, you will take your time. You will allow the shaving cream a few seconds to soften your beards. Hold your razors at an angle so that the blades scrape gently…"
He grabbed the offending pink razor from Neville's hand, "Again you fail to listen. What is so hard to understand about the word "gently". Wash your face … again, Mr. Longbottom."
'I am so going to pay you back, Albus.' Severus thought as he gathered what few wits he had left at his disposal.
Severus picked up a small white stick-like looking thing, "This, Mr. Longbottom, is a styptic stick. It will stop the bleeding. Yes, Mr. Longbottom, I am well aware of the fact that it does indeed sting a little. Now, be a man, and stop your sniveling."
Handing Neville the shaving cream for the fourth time, and again pinching the bridge of his nose, Severus sighed, "Start again, Mr. Longbottom."
Severus lathered his own face as he watched the boy to his left copy his motions. He picked up the silver plastic safety razor, and holding it delicately between his thumb and first two fingers of his right hand, angled the razor and rested it against the skin just in front of his right ear.
He continued with the instruction, "Gently run the razor along your skin, going with the grain … Mr. Longbottom … go the direction the hair grows. Must I spell it out for you, boy?"
Severus glanced at the progress Harry was making and thought, 'At least one of them can follow directions. Too bad the boy can't follow directions in potions.'
Turning to Neville, Severus instructed, "Boy, if you can't follow directions, perhaps you can follow an example. Watch me in the mirror, and do as I do."
Severus turned to the mirror and slowly, oh so slowly, continued to shave. Neville watched every movement and copied it. He copied the professor has he puffed out first his right cheek and shaved it, then puffed out his left cheek and shaved that. He watched as the professor lifted his head to stretch the skin on his neck and shaved there.
Neville copied everything the professor did, and when they both were finished, the professor was clean-shaven and clean. Neville, was clean-shaven with several nicks and cuts on his cheeks and neck, and shaving cream smeared in his hair and stuck behind his ears. Neville, however was somewhat less than clean; the front of his robes looked as if he'd been in a food fight with whipped cream … and lost.
Severus handed each boy a towel, told them to rinse their faces. He handed Neville the styptic stick telling him, "Suck it up, boy. The nicks and cuts hurt more than the antiseptic. Now, get out. Both of you."
As the boys were reaching the door, Harry ran his hand over his now-smooth face and quietly - almost a whisper - said, "Thank you, Sir."
Severus nodded once in acknowledgement, and dismissed him with a weary wave of his hand.
The Professor stopped Neville with his final piece of advice, "If you wish to be clean-shaven, I have one word for you, Mr. Longbottom, 'depilatory'. Look it up, or ask your grandmother." Severus smirked as he whirled out of the classroom-come-bathroom, past the two dumbfounded boys, and strode down the hall to his dungeon retreat and a tall glass of fire whisky.
Several hours later, Severus rose from his comfortable chair, donned his cloak and left Hogwarts. Finally outside the anti-apparation wards, he apparated to the Leaky Cauldron. Once he had Tom's word not to let anyone know he was there, he made his way to the room he'd rented. By his estimation, he deserved this week … away from everything and everyone … to which he was treating himself.
Finally, dressed for bed, and excruciatingly tired, he picked up the new Potions book he'd bought. He checked the time. 'Good. Five minutes to eight. Damn lesson took three hours. Albus should be back in his office by now. Dinner's been over for half an hour.' Severus thought.
Severus grinned as he threw a pinch of floo powder in the fire, then schooling his expression he called, "Albus Dumbledore."
The delighted face of Albus appeared before the Potions Master, "Ah, Severus, my boy. I take it class went well?"
Severus snorted. "If by well, you mean I didn't kill the miscreants, then yes, it went well. I did, however, find one interesting piece of information."
Albus' eyebrows rose. "Well, I'm glad the class went well. I'm sure your help wi…"
Severus interrupted the old mage, "I discovered both Mr. Potter and Mr. Longbottom were in the hospital wing Wednesday last, and missed the 'class' on sexuality. I told them you'll be glad to instruct them. You'll find a most useful box of assorted teaching aides on your desk. They should be knocking at your door right … about … … now. Good night Headmaster."
Before his employer could so much as open his mouth, Severus had put out the fire, disconnected it from the floo network and bounced happily on the bed, book in one hand, and a glass of fire whisky on the rocks in the other. Severus smiled.