Thanks to DJay for betaing this for me, and JanAQ for helping me brainstorm and getting me excited enough to actually write this. Hope you all enjoy, and now, on with the story!
I turn in place gracefully and sneer down my nose at the student who dares interrupt me before class. "Yes, Ms. Granger?" Inwardly I curse my father for passing on his nose to me; I know that my glares would be so much more effective if I was staring down a straight nose at my students.
Know-It-All Granger is substantially less confident than she is normally. I find myself vaguely curious what this is about, but quash that curiosity harshly. I am not interested in a thing the over-confident Gryffindor has to say. Oh, she's speaking. "I was just hoping… well… oh, nevermind," she muttered, and turned to go.
"What is it, Ms. Granger?" I ask impatiently to her back, my curiosity even more piqued despite my best efforts. She turns around slowly to face me again.
"It's just… you have to promise you won't use what I say against him…" she responds slowly. Oh. So this is about Potter. How he got into my Potions class, nobody knows. But what does Granger have to tell me about him? She had better not expect me to give him 'remedial Potions' again.
She's watching me. She must be waiting for a response. I sigh impatiently. "Very well, Ms. Granger, I will try not to use whatever you say against 'him.'"
"It's Harry, sir." I roll my eyes to indicate that that much was obvious. She continues as if I had done nothing of the sort. "He—he's not speaking, and I was hoping that you would—that you would not call on him in class, just for today. It's just that he seems so nervous, you know, and we don't want to push him, because then he might just retreat even more, and we don't even know what's caused this except for that Disorienting Draft, and…" Do mine ears deceive me, or is Granger babbling?
"Disorienting Draft?" I question sharply, breaking off her babbling midstream.
"Oh!" she gives a little exclamation of surprise. "Oh, I thought you might have heard of that, from one of the other professors, you know. Someone force-fed Harry a Disorientation Draft, and Neville found him lost in one of the abandoned sixth-floor corridors. He hasn't talked since then; we only know that's what it was because Madam Pomfrey told us." She finally subsided, out of breath.
"I see," I reply shortly. "So Potter managed to somehow drink a Disorienting Draft and now he has been so 'traumatized' by the experience that he refuses to speak—and I presume that the other professors have been indulging him in this as well?" My recapitulation of she has told me is truly dripping in sarcasm, and I am pleased with the frustrated look that it evokes on the nosy Gryffindor's face.
"You promised not to use this against him, Professor!" she reminds me quickly. "Even if you won't leave him alone, at least please don't take advantage of him," she pleads, apparently oblivious to the scowl that is only growing on my face.
"Perhaps I can assist you in snapping him out of his childish moping; after all, he is a bit old for the silent treatment now, don't you think?"
There is an angry hissing sound from the doorway, and we both look up to see the subject of our discussion glaring at us. Actually, his glare seems to be focused on his erstwhile best friend Granger; I don't seem to be worthy of even a glance, or perhaps the boy has finally learned that his mind is no match for mine.
After having ended our conversation the sullen teen sweeps to a desk and begins setting up immediately. I cast a quick spell and see that it is almost time for class to start.
Despite my words to the know-it-all, I feel constrained by my Slytherin sense of honor (which, despite popular opinion to the contrary, we do indeed possess) to hold to my word—at least to the letter of it. I will act as if she told me nothing, but if a time comes that I would ask him a question and he refuses to respond… well, then, it's open season on the Gryffindor Golden Boy. I let the edges of my mouth turn up slightly in the beginning of a sinister smile.
At first I was angry when Minerva McGonagall insisted that Potter be allowed in my N.E.W.T. Potions class despite his low E on his O.W.L. exam. Since then, though, I have realized that I would have missed the chance to make a complete an utter idiot out of the boy in each and every class. I especially enjoy seeing him shaking with repressed fury; this, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that he never looks more like Lily Evans than when he is in this state. And even if it did, I could hardly be blamed for enjoying the moments when he looks least like his idiot of a father.
Still, as I stalk through the classroom distracting Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs and complimenting my Slytherins, I decide that there is something distinctly odd about the idea of a completely silent Potter. I will not take advantage of what Granger told me, but if the opportunity presents itself, I will gladly burst whatever bubble of self-pity the boy has retreated within.
"Granger, what is the main ingredient in a Destabilizing Draught?" I snap as the class is wrapping itself up and students are collecting their materials.
"Shredded eye of newt, sir," she responds immediately in her usual prim voice, but she seems to be relieved at my restraint. Not for long.
"And what stabilizes it, Potter?" I continue. The teen looks up at me, anger flaring in his brilliant green eyes, and then he points to a jar containing a large bezoar, not even opening his mouth. He's right. Not that I'm going to let him get away with that. "I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but I didn't hear that," I sneer in response.
"His answer was a bezoar, sir," Granger inserts angrily. Potter doesn't seem to be much more pleased than I.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for answering another student's question and speaking out of turn." The know-it-all huffs and my Slytherins snicker. I glare pointedly at her silent friend. "I'm still waiting for an answer from you, Potter."
Potter glares back, his fists clenched at his side and his slight frame shaking subtly with the force of keeping his anger in. To my surprise, he does not say a word despite his obvious anger. Well, two can play at that game. "Detention, Potter. See me after class." Potter merely continues to glare at me until I am forced to break the eye contact in order to supervise the rest of the class packing up and leaving. Besides, I'm much too mature to participate in staring contests with my students, even if I could outstare Potter any day of the week.
Finally, my dungeon classroom has emptied of all but Potter, who is still sitting on his stool, apparently ignoring me. "What have you to say for yourself, Potter?" The boy clenches his jaw and even grinds his teeth slightly, but does not open his mouth. I stalk up until I stand directly in front of him. "What are you hiding, Potter?"
He nearly falls backward off his seat trying to get away from my angry visage, and then he opens his mouth and hisses at me. How dare he? First he won't speak, and now he hisses…?
Wait a moment. He hissed. He's a parselmouth. "Are you speaking in parseltongue, Potter?" I ask, narrowing my eyes suspiciously at him.
Well, I've managed to shock him, that much is apparent from the expression on his face. He starts to open his mouth, then changes his mind and nods instead. "Can you speak in anything besides parseltongue?" He shakes his head. "Why haven't you told anyone?" I wonder aloud. He gives me a pointed look I can't quite decipher and shrugs his shoulders, before looking away in impatience.
"I needn't waste my time with you, I know," I reply, meeting his impatience and raising it by a factor of ten. "If you would rather go about unable to speak to anyone except snakes…" I turn as if to return to my office, but he hisses at me. I turn back to look at him. "That's what I thought. Now I need you to write down everything you can remember doing, consuming, or having cast on you during the twenty-four hours—" I break off at the frustrated glare that I'm receiving from the boy. He pulls out a piece of parchment and a quill and jots down a few lines. Then he hands it to me.
What he's written bears no resemblance to any language I've ever seen. If what he speaks is parseltongue, this must be parselhand, if such a thing exists. Whatever the case, it is apparent that this malady has affected not only his ability to speak English but also to write it. He's incredibly fortunate that only his production has been affected and not his comprehension.
"Alright, then, let's get you to Madam Pomfrey and she and I can work on—" The boy interrupts me again, this time by shaking his head furiously and reaching for his bag as if to leave. "You are not dismissed, Mr. Potter," I remind him sharply. He gives me a glance that poignantly states, 'You think I care?'
"You had better care, Potter," I respond to his unspoken statement, "for you are headed to the hospital wing whether you like it or not." He crosses his arms and glares at me angrily; it's really too bad for him that I've practiced my glare far too many times on myself to be even slightly phased by the pitiful attempt that he has turned on me. I snort lightly in amusement, just to rile him further. "Scary, Potter. Now, come on."
He shakes his head, then looks around the room at the shelves. I move toward him to take his arm and drag him to the hospital wing, when he suddenly points at one of the jars. Then he looks at me significantly. I roll my eyes impatiently. "Yes, Potter? Those are snake fangs you are pointing at, if I'm not mistaken."
He nods, then makes a circling motion with his hand and mimes being confused, then points to the snake fangs again. "Have you forgotten that you are the student and I am the Potions Master? I know that a Disorienting Draft has crushed snake fangs in it; I need no lessons, certainly not from you of all people."
He hisses lightly and shakes his head in frustration, then glares at me. He points to the snake fangs, then to himself, hissing again. "Don't be ridiculous, Potter, many people have taken Disorienting Drafts and none have ever even started to speak Parseltongue, much less become 'stuck' speaking it somehow. Why would mere snake fangs have such an effect on you?"
He rolls his eyes and hisses more vehemently. Frustrated with this inane conversation, I reach out to grasp his arm and drag him forcibly to the hospital wing so that I will not be charged with his care any longer. The only students who I am truly willing to undertake a teacher's responsibilities with are my Slytherins; all other students are merely impertinent brats who are much better hoisted off on the nearest available adult than left for me to care for, whatever type of care that might be.
Potter shies away from me as I reach for him, with a practice I'm surprised to see in him. Then I nearly roll my own eyes—he's a seeker, of course he has quick instincts. It's not a matter of 'practice,' it's a matter of speed of reaction. Where would the Gryffindor Golden Boy get practice dodging from angry hands?
"Potter," I begin to speak again with a remarkably even voice, though it is threaded with suppressed anger, "I cannot brew whatever potions you may need to be restored to your usual impertinent self now, and I will not have you underfoot as I attempt to do so. Therefore, you are going to the hospital wing; whether I have to stun you and levitate you or you come willingly is your choice." There—that was downright polite, for me. Especially considering the boy is severely testing my rapidly waning patience, which is already nearly non-existent when it comes to him.
Instead of moving to come with me, he turns to his knapsack and pulls out a potions book. He sets the large text down on the table and opens it up, flipping through to where he has a page marked. He pulls the pages fully open and then gestures to the book.
This book is from the restricted section, I know it. I give him a brief glare to indicate my knowledge, but he shrugs it off like water. I must be slipping. I turn back to the book and realize that he has marked a passage that specifically discusses the effects of several potions ingredients (all from snakes) upon parselmouths. It also explains which ingredients may be beneficial in reversing the effects in case of a problem.
Turning slowly toward him, I hiss (a figure of speech of course; my words are still intelligible to other humans), "Potter, tell me you were not going to try to brew a potion on your own."
The boy actually seems amused at this. He gives a little hissing laugh before recovering and sparing me an indulgent look. What did I say? I replay it in my head and groan (inwardly). Of course, the idiot can't tell me anything at the moment.
"Well, I suppose you could have saved me a lot of trouble, killing yourself with your complete ineptitude at Potions… I wouldn't have to deal with you in class anymore, and I wouldn't have to figure out how to reverse this almost unknown effect, either." I glance at him. "Where did you find this—Nevermind, I know, you can't answer."
I'm trying to keep up my irritable front, but really I'm a researcher at heart. Any new puzzle of this sort fascinates me, and having access to a Parselmouth (and one who cannot kill me at his whim, at that) on whom to experiment is like a dream come true. I quickly set to work on creating an antidote.
Hours later I am in the midst of my fourth try—the first three had no ill effects, but no positive effects either. Potter still hisses when he tries to talk, and his 'writings' are still scribblings on parchment. I'm forced to abandon my brewing temporarily when I hear Albus' voice calling from the fire in my office.
"Severus, have you seen Mr. Potter? Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger are frantic; Ms. Granger says that the last time she saw him was when he stayed after class to arrange a detention with you, and we cannot find him anywhere in the castle." The irritating twinkle in the man's eyes indicates that he has at least an inkling of where his favorite student is.
"If you give me a few more hours, I may even be able to return him capable of speaking English," I respond irritably. "But if his friends would prefer him back immediately?"
"Now this sounds like an interesting story," Dumbledore comments amusedly. "But it rather sounds as though you're busy. Perhaps when you're finished...?"
"Of course, Headmaster," I answer stiffly. "May I get back to my potion? I doubt the boy can manage much longer."
"Certainly, Severus. Good luck!"
I grumble some incoherent response and sweep out of my office and back to the lab, where despite everything I expected Potter has managed to continue the potion admirably. Not that I would ever admit such a thing. "Have you managed to botch it completely yet, Potter?" He fixes me with an irritated glare before realizing that it is having absolutely no effect. Instead, he breaks eye contact with me and steps back from the potion, though not without a smug look at the still perfect potion.
It is fortunate for both of us that Potter did not manage to ruin this attempt, as it is the one that has the desired effect. Both desired effects, in fact, since it is obvious from the insolent teen's expression that the taste of the potion is less than pleasant. The sweet irony of healing potions that smell and taste so horribly disgusting has always particularly amused me.
"Success, Potter?" I ask impatiently when he doesn't open his mouth immediately after having finished the potion.
He opens his mouth. "Yess," he responds, only a slight hissing quality remaining in his voice. He appears more surprised than I am, but manages to continue, "Thankss, Professor."
I huff impatiently. What does he think, that I'm going to graciously accept his thanks? "If you didn't manage to get yourself into these situations, I wouldn't have to get you out of them," I mutter in response. He nods meekly to this, surprising me, and turns to collect his belongings.
"If you are truly grateful…" I begin, waiting to see his response. He turns to look at me and waits patiently for me to finish my sentence. "…perhaps you might help me to discover the unusual effects of other potions ingredients upon Parselmouths?"
I am certain that he will decline in disgust, if nothing else because the prospect includes many more disgusting potions. Instead, and to my great surprise, his eyes light up. "Of course, Professor!" he replies, as though he has had an epiphany. "Voldemort is a Parselmouth as well!"
"And the Dark Lord has always been quite unavailable for testing," I respond dryly. Oh, I am definitely slipping, I think as the corners of his mouth turn up slightly. This is Potter for goodness' sake! "Very well. Detention tomorrow night at 7pm."
His expression goes blank in an instant, and he opens his mouth in protest. "But—"
I glare. "Surely even you are not so dimwitted as to be unable to understand what a 'cover story' is? Besides which, m—the Slytherins all heard me assign you detention, therefore you must serve it."
He looks less frustrated but the amusement is gone. Good. Job accomplished. "You may go, Mr. Potter," I prod impatiently. He looks into my eyes for the briefest of moments before nodding, picking up his knapsack, and rushing out of the room.
As I rush with long strides up toward the Headmaster's office in order to give him the promised report, I reflect that I have been given several new things to think about with respect to the Boy-Who-Lived—and I firmly refuse to give any of them even a second thought.