Disclaimer : I do abolutely not own Harry Potter and co. I merely borrowed them.
For once, even the plot bunny isn't mine, I adopted it from Bleedingstargodess.
Warnings : AU, people out of character all over the place...
Beta(s) : A huge thanks to Bleedingstargodess, because of whom this story does look more understandable, and 'Max' (I don't know yet what he wants to be called), my new one who took over. All remaining mistakes are my own.
Still here? On with the show!
Chapter 1 Hero complex will get you in trouble
It was one of those days, where a scent of summer still lingered, when the whole of nature seemed to hum a cheerful air. Even some of the more tearful first years (nearly all in Hufflepuff) seemed more at ease and less moping about their separation from their parents.
It was a perfect day for mooching around the lake, eating, throwing the occasional bit to the giant squid and joking with friends. Or for Quidditch practice, or, even better, idle flying and playing with the wind...
Certainly not a day for going downstairs, through cold corridors towards the class of doom: double Potions. And, as if this was not enough in itself, it was with the Slytherins. One would think that Dumbledore would have understood by now, from previous disasters, that nothing good would come of that. But no, being the stubborn old...hem that he was, double Potions with the Slytherins remained. Anyway, he kept on throwing two houses that hated each other together for lessons.
'Maybe,' Harry went on with his reflections, as he let his body move on its own, 'it is because Gryffindors are the only ones courageous enough not to let the Slytherins frighten them into complete panic...Or not to let them walk all over them.' Harry snorted. 'Well, Snape by himself is enough to frighten the more courageous students. The other houses do not need the added pressure of the Slytherins...'
He snickered, imagining Snape's reactions to a joint class of Slytherin and Hufflepuff – Snape going blue in the face, trying to get the poor panicked Hufflepuffs to get a move on while the Slytherins laughed themselves silly. Harry then imagined the same image with a change of cast, Ravenclaws instead of Hufflepuffs, and they would be practicing shielding charms and defending spells to protect their cauldrons from unwanted –and un-needed– ingredients. Either way, it was better to try and fill his head with happy thoughts than dreading in advance something he could not avoid. This way, he might even find some humour into the situation.
He sighed deeply, remembering some days when this habit had helped him through his life. He sighed again as he reached the door, earning another suspicious glance from his friends. It seemed he got a lot of those lately.
At least today would be interesting enough; they would do the Animagus Revelae potion, one which would bring forth their "inner animal". Harry smirked anew, conjuring a lovely image of Snape in Trelawney's usual attire, lecturing the students about their "inner animal"...With a nod, Harry decided to keep this image in mind to superpose on Snape if he became too unbearable. Speaking of Snape...
"Well, Potter, do you plan on standing there all day in the corridor, admiring the reflection of light on the dust – however close to your level it may be?"
Harry blushed, cursing mentally at his friends for not warning him of the opening of the classroom's door. When he let his eyes drift to look at Snape, he bit the inside of his cheek; it was all he could do to repress a giggle and thus caused Snape to frown harder. Biting his lips to prevent his laugh from escaping – something which would not go well with his sour professor, he carefully edged his way around Snape's looming form and into the classroom. He was on his way to the last seat available, next to Neville, when he tripped on a leg, attached to one Draco Malfoy.
As he was picking himself up from the floor and rolling his eyes at the snickers from the Slytherin side of the room, he noticed the black robes belonging to his professor stopping near him with a last swirl.
"Well, Potter, I see you didn't leave this attention-seeking at the door of my classroom. Get to your seat so that people who want to learn can. Five points from Gryffindor for this demonstration of clumsiness." Snape strode to his desk while Harry, his face red with embarrassment, scrambled to obey.
Snape began his lecture.
"Today we will try to complete the Animalia Revelae potion. It will enable you to discover what your Animagus form would be should you decide to make an attempt at becoming one. Which I do not advise some of you to do." His pointed stare at Harry left no doubt as to who this advice was directed. "Was there something you wanted to add, Mr. Weasley?" he asked without missing a beat when he saw Ron's face red with rage and his mouth opening.
"I thought not," he added with a smirk when Ron looked down at his desk, mouth snapping shut. "What are you waiting for? The ingredients are on the board. Begin!"
Neville went to collect what they would need while Harry busied himself with setting the cauldron on the boiler.
On his way back to their desk, Draco Malfoy "inadvertently" stumbled against it, making some of their Instictis herbs, used to call the animal forth, fall to the floor.
"Oh, so sorry, Scar-head." He bent to retrieve the bunch of yellowish herbs from the floor. "Here you go. Wouldn't want you to break your glasses bending down to get them, now would we?"
"Mister Malfoy, five points to Slytherin for your courteousness."
Frowning, Harry stared at the small bundle of herbs Malfoy had dumped into his hand; something didn't seem right but he couldn't place it.
"Well, Potter," he added, grabbing the herbs from Harry's hand and throwing them into the cauldron, "there's no use in letting a good potion go to waste. It is time to add the Instictis herbs. Now, stir ten times anti-clockwise. Your grades are abysmal as it is, no use to sabotage your potions," he tsk-ed when Harry opened his mouth to protest that it was him who had sabotaged most of his potions, winked at him and sauntered back to his desk.
"Mister Malfoy, I somehow doubt that even with your help they would be able to successfully complete a potion." Snape and Malfoy both smirked at a seething Harry. "Anyway, ten points to Slytherin for trying to help a lost cause."
Harry clung with all his might to his Trelawney-style Snape fantasy to avoid speaking his mind about what Snape could do with his "lost cause" and getting a detention.
Still, about those herbs...Harry was nearly sure that the herbs Malfoy had thrown into the cauldron were not the ones that had fallen on the floor.
A nearly panicked whisper from Neville brought him back from his musings.
"Harry, is the potion supposed to do that?" His voice was frantic.
Harry blanched at the sight of the dark bubbling mass their potion had become.
"What did you add?" he whispered sharply to Neville.
"The fairy wings, just as it's written on the board!" Neville squeaked.
Harry smiled at him to reassure the nervous boy.
'The problem with Neville is that he is insecure and eager to please at the same time. This is never a good combination,' he reflected, ' because when things go wrong, he hurries to correct the situation to avoid a confrontation. And the panic freezes his ability to think. The more he tries, the more he makes things worse. And the more he panics...' With a shake of his head, Harry refocused on the task at hand. He noticed that the potion was already beginning to lick the rim of the cauldron when it should only have been halfway full.
He quickly pushed Neville out of spraying range, sending him tumbling into the left wall of the classroom. They were lucky their desk was the last one...He paled suddenly, his gaze fleeing from the potion to the blond Slytherin whose desk was on the right of their own...It was a good thing Draco worked alone. Harry rushed towards him, grabbing the back of his robes, and, with the boost adrenaline gave him, he hauled the blond boy out of his stool before sending him flying into the arms of an angry Snape (who had been rushing to their side at the first sign of Harry Potter molesting one of his precious Slytherins). Both of them went sprawling to the floor.
There was no more time to think, dodge or even pray as the potion finally erupted. Like a geyser, it went straight to the ceiling, but it stopped before reaching the rafters though and poured down on poor Harry alone, and he became drenched in the failed potion.
As soon as the potion touched his skin, Harry screamed. A long keening wail, which shattered the glass vials located on the shelves behind Snape's desk as his magic tried to get it off and the resounding shockwaves shattered anything breakable.
Snape disentangled himself from Draco and sprang to his feet.
"Everybody, out!" he bellowed to his terrorized students, who were too stunned and shocked at the screaming Harry to move. They obeyed as quickly as they could when Snape's voice rang through their heads. However, Draco stayed sitting on the floor, his wide open eyes eating up half of his face. And Ron and Hermione lingered in the threshold of the door, unsure if they should stay and try to help or leave as instructed.
"If you insist on staying, make yourselves useful! Go and fetch Madam Pomfrey!" he barked at the two Gryffindors, who nodded and dashed in the direction of the infirmary in need of helping their friend.
Meanwhile, Snape slowly approached the still wailing Harry. He scourgified the potion covering Harry, to reveal a naked teen, his skin unblemished by welts or burns. He felt his breath catch; this was bad, it meant that the potion was being absorbed into Harry's skin.
Trust the foolish Gryffindor to end in these sorts of predicaments! He sighed and collected a sample of their potion for further analysis. Giving the sample to Draco, who clung to it like a talisman, he extended his hand towards Harry, whose scream was now more like a pitiful wail. Harry recoiled away from Snape's hand, curling up into a tight ball struggling to flee the contact. He even began to claw at his arms, trying to find another way to get rid of the fire cursing through his veins.
Pointing his wand at Harry, Snape tried a simple stunner, which dissolved before reaching the shaking teen, absorbed by the waves of magic rolling around the distraught and whimpering Gryffindor.
The ex-Death Eater was contemplating trying darker spells when Harry fainted. He immediately gathered Harry in his arms and, stepping over a shocked Draco, carried him to the couch within his office, a faint jingling sound trailing his steps, unnoticed.
Once sure that Harry was as comfortable as he could make him, he strode back to the classroom, collecting Draco on his way. Together, they returned the class to as much normalcy as possible, getting rid of the ruined bottles' potion contents and repairing the vials, dousing the fires, cleaning the students' cauldrons with a charm and sending their ingredients into conjured boxes sporting the names of the students. The shock was slowly receding from Draco. He dug the sample from his robe pocket, where he had put it to have his hands free while cleaning, put it on the table and left as soon as Madam Pomfrey arrived with the Headmaster.
While the nurse was examining Harry, Snape began to work on the sample, identifying all the ingredients used and their interactions to try and find an antidote. He was answering the Headmaster's questions as he went.
Dumbledore gazed at Harry with sadness before he and Madam Pomfrey left after all that could be done for the unconscious boy. It was left to Severus to figure out what had gone wrong and what would happen to Harry. Dumbledore bid Snape goodbye and left the dour Potions master and the insentient bane of his existence alone in the dungeons.