Disclaimer: The characters belong to JK and her publishers. No copyright infringement is intended etc etc.
This story was prompted by some lines in 'Post-mort' by Duj:
"There must have been a moment when you realised," she added. "When was that?"
Colour crept into his wan cheeks.
"You were consoling Longbottom after his toad died."
For those of you who like spotting that sort of thing, there are three Rickman references in this story.
The story takes place in the early Spring of 1997, half-way through Hermione's 6th year at Hogwarts. Taking my cue from 'Post-mort' it is AU, i.e. non-HBP compliant. Its AU status only affects this fic in that Snape is still teaching Potions in year 6 instead of DADA.
In keeping with my other portrayals of Neville, I have hinted at his Northern origins through his speech, but without attempting to recreate the full Lancashire dialect. (It's not that my grammar is atrocious!)
Severus Snape regained the sanctum of his office. He had no purpose in mind except escape. Locking the door behind him he warded himself against the outside world and its temptations. And stood, breathing deeply, his heart pounding, the blood rushing as though an invisible levee had been breached. He had forgotten where he had been going, forgotten his hunger, forgotten the meeting with Dumbledore. He remembered nothing but that moment. The touch of her fingers still tingled on his skin. He poured himself a drink. His hand on the whisky bottle was unsteady; the glass trembled.
"You fool!" he censured himself. "You contemptible, self-deluding fool!"
At last she had found him.
"Neville!" she hissed in the loudest stage whisper she dared. This corridor led to the dungeons so it wouldn't do to shout. You never knew when Snape would be on the prowl.
The boy didn't hear her, or at least gave no indication of having heard, but kept on walking slowly, sunk in thought, oblivious to both his surroundings and her summons. He was carrying a box.
Hermione hurried to catch up with him.
"Oh, 'ello, Hermione." He sounded glum, but then he very often did. Who'd been getting at him this time? Hermione didn't have time right now to wallow in the injustices of an antiquated wizard educational system that turned a blind eye to elitism, discrimination, favouritism and institutionalised bullying. It was too big a topic for a casual chat - it called for proper research and an official forum… a subject for School Council perhaps.
"Neville! Hold on. Stop a minute. Where've you been? I've been looking all over for you. I must have missed you at breakfast, and then I had double Runes, and then - well, look, the thing is, I need my microscope back. Preferably now, if you've got it on you. You've finished with it, haven't you? You said you'd managed to identify those lichen spores…"
Neville gawped at her blankly. She might as well have asked him to solve an Arithmancy equation in his head. Self-importantly busy, Hermione forged on.
"I've got to have it back for Potions straight after lunch – I'm going to prove something to Snape. I mean, I know I argued the points extremely clearly in my essay, but I don't know if he'll accept a scientific explanation. So, if he dares to give me an A, or scribbles sarky comments about non-magical methodology, I'm jolly well going to demonstrate to him that I'm right. He won't have a leg to stand on. You see, it's quite simple: if you just get the Salamander scales after they've been immersed in the Essence of Igneum, and examine them under the microscope, it's so obvious that the effect on cell structure… Neville?"
"Huh?" His habitually bemused look of well-meaning incomprehension was more than usually vacant. Hermione would have to impress someone else with her resourcefulness - it was all academic as far as Neville was concerned. Potions had never been his thing. Never would be. Hermione switched to a subject closer to his heart.
"And Ginny says, if you've got a minute, could you have a look at her Venus Fly Trap. She doesn't know what she's done to it, but it keeps spitting out the flies. Apparently it'll only eat cheese!"
Even this absurdity failed to raise a smile.
"She'll be at lunch – c'mon, you could ask her about it. Aren't you coming up to Hall?"
Hermione swivelled, confidently expecting Neville to follow her lead.
"No, you go. I'm, er…" He nodded down the corridor, passive but not obliging. "I'm just going out for a bit."
There was an exit nearby. In all her six and a half years at the school Hermione had never used it herself, but she had noticed it on the map of the castle in 'Hogwarts: A History' - the Foot Gate it was called, strange name for a door. At the time it had struck her as rather a quaint name, conjuring up images of footmen, or tradesmen, walking in through their own service entrance, laden with provisions… It was only when she turned the page that she'd read an alternative derivation: that it had been – allegedly – named for those poor inmates of the dungeons whose final exit from the castle was when their corpses were smuggled out as inconspicuously as possible through that door, feet first. Why a castle built as a school required such a facility remained a mystery. Had punishment in the time of the Founders been even more arduous than Snape's Detentions? She might have to review the precedents for bullying if she wanted to win that case.
"Out where? Neville, what's up? Has something happened?"
Demoting all grandiose notions of policy changing debate, and the scarier but intellectually tantalising thought of challenging Professor Snape on the efficacy of his Non-flammability Fluid, Hermione eyed her friend uneasily. It was most unlike Neville to skip lunch.
"Neville? Speak to me. Is everything all right?"
Usually it amused Hermione when he said that – he sounded so much like his grandmother – but now Hermione wasn't laughing. There was a bluff obstinacy about him, that stalwart, no-nonsense, northern streak of independence that surfaced on occasions, making him proud and prickly, unapproachable. Hermione knew how to get round this: appeal to his basic honesty.
"What's wrong Neville? What have you got in the box?"
His hold on the box tightened; he clutched it protectively to his chest. The face that turned towards Hermione was struggling manfully to be brave, cruelly betrayed by the quivering lower lip.
"It's not like he were anything special like Harry's Hedwig, or clever like your Crookshanks, but he were mine!" he exclaimed, his voice desolate. "He were mine," he repeated brokenly. And I loved him.
"Oh no!" Hermione assessed the squareish box. "Not Trevor?"
Snape crumpled the Floo message that had just sashayed onto his desk from the fireplace and flicked it in annoyance back towards the unlit coals. Another impromptu lunchtime staff-meeting he could do without. Would he care to join the other Heads of House for an informal performance review? No he damn well wouldn't. He had better things to do. Scheduled things. Things that wouldn't wait. Things for which he had purposely allocated time this lunch hour: twenty minutes to deconstruct the pitiful fruits of this morning's second year Ravenclaw class; twenty minutes for a quick snack, no, make that ten, leaving himself a clear half hour to prepare for this afternoon's NEWT students. Was the equipment going to set up itself? Would the Salamander skins miraculously make their own way out of the store cupboard and spontaneously self-dissect into identical samples?
A phalanx of optimistically filled flasks awaited his attention. He glared at them for a second, weighing the pro and cons: the potions would deteriorate if left to stand, but if he marked them now he would miss Dumbledore's introductory preamble. No contest. Flexing his critical faculties he picked up a quill. Not that he needed to examine the disconcertingly kaleidoscopic array of liquids before him to know which children in the class would have produced a workable Shrinking Solution. The majority were attentive and did their woeful best: 'A's working towards 'E's, most of them. As for the rest – bah! – you get a few bad apples in every barrel.
'The opacity of this potion reflects the turbidity of your understanding' he wrote, adding an oblique and spiky D next to the name Billings. No, this was going to take too long; he would have to be more concise. 'Frothy', he pithily condemned the next flask; 'murky', 'bilious', 'fuliginous'. The list of adjectives grew. 'Scrofulous' – he dismissed a flask whose pus-coloured contents had coagulated and settled into a scabbily encrusted slime. Call it a potion? He wouldn't give it to a dog! Who had concocted this aberration? Ah, Mr Vivian – talented at vivisection but brewing skills had somehow by-passed his brain. The 'Longbottom' of his year. 'See me' he added ominously to his notes. 'Unnecessarily effervescent' he commented next, though awarding a grudging 'A', twisting the flask to read the name label. He might have guessed. This one was brewed by that wide-eyed, dark-haired, irrepressible girl whose name he never cared to remember; however many times he cut her down to size she always bounced back with the same unrelenting friendliness. Merlin preserve him from cheerful women!
With a scowl at the time, Snape snapped the book shut, vanishing the residual potions, clearing the desk and restoring order with a few brisk flicks of his wand. He hated to be rushed when he was working with potions; haste led to error and inaccuracy. There was no margin for error. Error was unacceptable. It was deuced inconsiderate of Dumbledore to spring this on him at such short notice. Inconsiderate. Inconvenient. He crossed to the cupboard, skimmed his eyes over the labels and, decisively, selected five squat bottles, placing them on to the table top with the exaggerated precision of controlled fury. Was he Dumbledore's lackey? Did he have to jump when the wizard clicked his long, bony fingers? Was it beyond the wit of the headmaster to plan his day in advance? At his beck and call, that's what I am. If it's not one master summoning me, it's the other… Which is worse - a Crucio or a plateful of Dumbledore's whimsical fondant fancies?
The set of silver cauldrons was stored on a low shelf. They were not often required, but for Flammability Fluids the receptacle had to be pure silver. Snape dragged them out, noticing signs of tarnish, but having no time to polish them. He was late already, damn it. They would have to wait. The Salamander skins would have to wait. He stood up, brushed the dust from his knees, shook out his cloak and, sour-faced, irritable and hungry, strode out of the classroom.
"Oh, Neville, that's awful. When? What happened? Are you sure?"
Well, he might be hibernating, mightn't he? It was completely the wrong time of year for toads to hibernate, Hermione knew, but he might have got his body-clock mixed up. Or somebody might have spelled him to keep still. Goodness knows it was tempting, the silly animal was always escaping in class, causing havoc, getting lost. A surreptitious Petrificus Totalus would have done them all a favour; after all, it wasn't as though Trevor ever did anything useful.
"I know he wasn't much to look at, and he wasn't very magic, and he never did anything useful - " (Hermione started guiltily) "but I'd got used to having him here..." Neville hugged the box even harder as though he might cram it into his inside chest pocket and restore Trevor to his habitual nesting place. "I keep… I keep feeling in my pocket and he's not there and I'm thinking 'he's escaped again, I must look for him, I wonder where he'll have got to this time' and then I remember… I remember… he really is gone. He's not coming back. I can't believe he's not coming back. I can't believe that he's… he's…"
Neville looked away abruptly and cleared his throat with an odd, choking cough. Then he heaved a long, quavery sigh and turned back to Hermione.
"That's that then. He had a good innings. It had to come sooner or later. Life goes on." The gruff tone and forced air of resignation didn't fool Hermione. It was a valiant attempt but she could see that he was heartbroken. "I was just going out to…" He couldn't bring himself to say 'bury him'. "…to perform the necessary." Where did he get these phrases? It was Granny Longbottom all over again, with her generation's curious reticence about naming death, of speaking the unmentionable, of tempting fate with irreverent talk.
"Have you chosen some words?" Hermione asked.
"Words?" Dismay streaked across his features. Was there some ritual incantation he was supposed to know?
"Special words," Hermione explained, "like a song, or a reading, or a poem. Anything you want. Anything particular you want to say."
Neville gave a doleful shrug.
"I was just going to say 'goodbye'," he muttered forlornly.
"Would you like me to come with you?" Hermione offered.
"Nay. I'll be right. You go to lunch. I'll be along later. This won't take long. It not as though it has to be…" …a very big hole. Nothing like the gaping chasm he left behind him.
Neville shuffled off a couple of paces and then faltered to an uncertain halt, as though he had lost his bearings or had forgotten where he was supposed to be going. He blundered on again, slowed, then stopped, helplessly adrift, blinded by the tears that were coursing down his cheeks.
"Oh, Neville. Come and sit down."
Putting her arm around the shaking shoulders she led him to the deep window recess and there they sat, all three of them: Hermione, Neville and (in his box) Trevor.
Hearing the murmur of conversation, Snape froze, instantly suspicious, instinctively wary. At this hour the place ought to be deserted. The pupils should be in Hall, filling their ungrateful little faces with, he reflected ruefully, a decent meal. Although the corridor itself was not strictly out of bounds, the dungeons were off limits to unsupervised students: there were too many hazardous ingredients in the laboratory, too much potentially lethal equipment. A momentary doubt assailed him – had he locked the classroom door? Get a grip, Severus! Of course you locked the door. You always lock the door. And if you didn't, you've got that door so well trained it'd virtually lock itself. Wand at the ready, senses on adrenalin alert, he eased himself up the dungeon stairs, step by silent step. One could never be too careful.
Longbottom and Granger! Those two? What was this – Beauty and the Beast? Oh, this was laughable! He felt his heart-rate plummet and level out. He ought to give them a detention on the spot for causing him unnecessary stress. As if his job wasn't stressful enough already. What were they doing here? What was going on? A tryst? The girl had her arm round him, for Merlin's sake! But no, there was something conspiratorial about the way their heads were bowed, their foreheads almost touching, their muted voices grave and intense. Unobserved, Severus the Spy slipped into the shadows behind a stone buttress to listen and learn.
The spring sun warm on their backs, diffused through the irregular swirls of the ox-eye window panes, was comforting at least. Neville blew his nose loudly.
"You must think I'm a daft ha'porth," he sniffed. "You know, soft in the head. All this carry on, about a toad." He essayed a watery grin.
"Neville, he was your pet. You've every right to be upset. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Everyone thinks he were a rubbish pet. No - I know what they say about him, and me. They think he's a joke because he's – he was – ugly…"
Ugly? And the rest! Smelly, lugubrious, unappealing, poorly house-trained, disobedient… Hermione controlled herself and nodded in sympathy.
"Looks don't matter, Neville. He didn't have to be beautiful for you to care about him. It's what's inside that counts. Ignore what other people think - they don't know -" She struggled to find something positive to say about the warty lump. "They didn't know the real Trevor."
Too much? Was that going too far? Would Neville think she was mocking him too? But he gave a wan smile. Just now he needed to hear something kind. It didn't have to be the truth.
"I suppose I've got used to him. I've had him that long. My Great-Uncle Algie bought him for me."
"Yes, you told us."
"I used to wish he hadn't. At first, I mean. I used to think, 'Why couldn't he have got me a proper animal, like an owl?' Having a toad – well, it's just one more thing for people to pick on. But then I began to feel right badly about it. It's not as though it were his fault - Trevor's fault. He couldn't help it. He were mine, and that's all there was to it. It were up to me to look after him. If I didn't, who would? I was all he'd got."
And vice versa, Hermione added to herself.
"Remember how he -"
Oh dear, was it already time for maudlin reminiscences?
"…he used to puff out his throat - fit to burst sometimes he were - like a big, brown balloon, when he were singing…?"
Singing? That farty gurgle? That toad had a voice like a choked gutter, like a blocked drain, like…
"Yes, he was so funny when he did that," Hermione agreed, smiling fondly at her misty-eyed friend. Trevor had barely hopped off to the Great Damp Ditch in the sky, and already memory's selective filter was re-shaping him into some kind of talented amphibian angel – he'd be sprouting wings and playing the harp next!
"And the way he used to eat Dungfly grubs out of my hand…"
One could, Hermione reflected, grow to love even the most obnoxious creatures.
"And now… he's gone. It's so unfair! Why? Why?"
Happy memories would, in time, bring consolation, but for the moment they only accentuated the barren emptiness of bereavement. Why? There was no easy answer. Old age? Flesh Eating Slug Repellent? Hermione joined Neville in a soulful sigh. Shaking her head she felt she might be more supportive, more convincingly sorrowful, if the words of a kiddies' counting song, learned years ago at Playgroup, hadn't suddenly, wickedly, popped into her brain:
'Now there were no more speckled frogs. Glub. Glub.'(1)
"You know, I can still see him," Neville mumbled, shame-faced. Hermione's glance shot to the box. Was the lid open? "I see him everywhere," he confessed in a washed-out, drab tone, drained of all expression. "Out of the corner of my eye. I can see him there just behind me, or in dark corners, or under things – under cupboards or chairs, you know, like, peeping out. Those beady eyes blinking at me… And when I look round, he's gone. He's not there any more. He slips away. I'm never quite quick enough. I can't catch him; can't get him back. I… I just want him back… You think I'm off my rocker, don't you?"
"I think you miss him terribly. I think you're not ready to let him go."
Neville was fiddling with his handkerchief, aimlessly folding and refolding it, finding some solace in the mindless, repetitive motion. For a long while he stared down into his lap, avoiding the girl's gaze. Finally he peered at her sideways, apologetically, his eyes pink and swollen.
"I did my best." A defensive whine had crept into his voice, making him sound both plaintive and morose. "I thought I were good at looking after things. But it wasn't good enough. I tried to give him a nice home. I only wanted him to be happy…"
Happy? He was a toad, Neville. Give him a juicy slug and he was ecstatic!
"Of course he was happy. He was the happiest toad I've ever met."
Hermione Granger, what are you saying? White lies and porky pies?
"So why did he keep running away?" wailed Neville. His eyes brimmed again – tears of guilt and self-reproach, of grief and self-pity, and raw, inconsolable loss.
Eavesdropping behind the buttress, Snape scoffed in disgust. Simultaneously repelled and curious, he would have preferred not to witness – or overhear – this sickening soul-baring. Why was he wasting his time on such nonsense? Mawkish sentimentality! Emotional incontinence! What was wrong with young people these days – had they no dignity? Had they no shame?
The voices fell silent. Were they gone? Conscious of the indelicacy of his position – invading his students' privacy – but braced to brazen it out if need be, Snape risked a quick look.
Unshockable as he was, the tableau before him made him catch his breath. Framed by the window, a shaft of hazy sunlight glinting on her hair, her face cast into soft, golden shadow, the girl – Granger – had her arms around Longbottom and was gently rocking him. The boy was a snivelling wreck, clearly deranged and weak-witted (Snape had suspected it all along), but the girl… There was something about her - a stillness, compassion, a profound and timeless serenity… Freak of the light or no, she appeared at that instant strangely luminous, she glowed, illuminated like an icon of early Renaissance art.
Snape watched, until he could bear it no longer.
Now she was speaking, a reassuring balm of anodyne phrases, the kind of crooning mantra of sound and sense you might use to lull a distraught child. The power lay not so much in the words, but in her quiet confidence, her sensitivity, her calm.
"Shh. Not running away, Neville. Trevor was never running away from you. Not escaping. It was his spirit of adventure. He was a free spirit, Neville, a free spirit… He was like… …like Mr Toad: he wanted to see what lay beyond the river, beyond the Wild Wood. He was looking for his rowing boat, his motor car – poop-poop! – his canary-coloured cart… But the thing about Mr Toad, Neville, is that he always came back to Toad Hall. That was his home, the place he felt safe, the place he loved best. And that's what Trevor did too, Neville - you were his Toad Hall…"
Who would have imagined that Granger – that outspoken, opinionated, bookish, Gryffindor Know-it-all, could be capable of such tact and tenderness?
And, for an unguarded moment, Snape too surrendered to the soothing caress of the schoolgirl's voice.
"What is going on here? Why are you not in Hall?"
Snape swept into view. It was time to put a stop to this childish tomfoolery.
"Stand up when I'm speaking to you!"
Hermione had jumped to her feet at his sudden appearance (Professor Snape? Where the dickens had he sprung from? Could the blasted man Apparate inside the castle?), but Neville remained slumped on the window seat like a stranded jellyfish.
Snape targeted the boy, not trusting himself to address Granger lest he betray his agitation.
"Unless you have a valid excuse – and to my knowledge you have not undergone recent spinal surgery –I suggest you get up, Longbottom, and show some respect."
He regarded Neville's devastated, tear-stained face with distaste. Why was the boy toting some defunct animal down to the dungeons? No miracle potion existed to resuscitate the dead. Was he hoping to embalm it? That might be possible, provided that putrefaction had not already set in. He would have to ascertain its condition.
"What have you got there?"
Neville had slid Trevor's box sideways across the sill behind him in an ineffectual bid to hide it from Snape's hawkish sight.
"Nothing, eh? Nothing is a copious commodity in this school. It is extraordinary, Longbottom, how often I catch students sneaking around the corridors carrying suspicious containers of nothing. It generally turns out to be something. Give me the box."
It was a stand-off of wills, and Neville's was already crumpling like a collapsed soufflé.
"The box, boy!" Snape held out his hand.
Unable to watch Neville suffer any further, Hermione stepped forwards, putting herself protectively between her friend and the Potions master.
"Miss Granger?" Snape was totally unprepared for the way his stomach crimped at her approach. "Do you also have nothing for me?"
She came close, closer than he felt comfortable with. Encroaching on personal space was one of his favourite tactics – effectively disarming – but he was unaccustomed to having the tables turned.
"Sir," she pleaded in a low voice, not much more than a whisper. She didn't want Neville to hear. "Don't make him. It's Trevor, Sir, his toad – he died."
Brown eyes sought his, appealing to some naïve notion of his 'better nature', but behind the imploring gaze he read defiance, anger and a fierce, female loyalty – the eye of the tigress.
"Longbottom, give me -" he began again, not allowing himself to look at her. He had a face and a façade for all contingencies – except this one.
"Sir! Please -" Hermione reached up and pushed down his outstretched hand.
"Stand aside!" Snape had jumped at her touch, and was now staring at his hand as though expecting the imprint of her fingers to be branded on his palm.
"So, Longbottom, the creature has croaked its last! Some might consider it a lucky escape."
Ignore the girl, Severus. You can't… You have to ignore her. Focus on the boy. Baiting Longbottom was never difficult. And today, now, the idea of goading him, crushing him, was more than usually appealing Behind him Snape heard Hermione's insulted intake of breath; Neville's puffy lids widened in shock. The Potions master picked up the cardboard coffin and prised it open. An inanimate olive-brown mass grinned up at him from the folds of his red and gold crested shroud.
"Since when have school regulations stated that Hogwarts linen may be used as winding sheets?" Snape yanked at a corner of the towelling, jerking Trevor into an undignified back flip. The toad lay awkwardly upended, rigid and unyielding. Rigor mortis was already well-established. "The cost of a Gryffindor hand-towel will be added to your battels(2) for this term."
"Y-yes, Sir," Neville stammered.
"So, why the corpse, boy? Shall I assume you intend it as a donation? A surprisingly innovative attempt at ingratiating yourself, but wasted on me. I prefer my samples fresh." As if to emphasise the point, Snape prodded the toad with a long finger, then casually let the lid drop shut. Hermione bristled with outrage.
"You're not having him! Trevor's not going to end up pickled in a jar like one of your horrible specimens!"
She flayed him with indignation and Snape felt his pulse quicken. But his voice was still sheer, silky sarcasm.
"Shame. He might have inspired another Singing Valentine. A worthy memorial – don't you think – to be immortalised in song?"
The snide retort slid so glibly to his lips that for a moment Hermione was stumped. She swirled her thoughts, panning for the reference, searching for the glint of relevance amongst the dross. The only glint, however, cold and triumphant, was in Snape's eye.
Pickled…? Pickled…? Then she had it: a shiny nugget of memory from her second year. Lockhart and his Love Potions; a grumpy dwarf, golden wings askew, his harp shoved under his stubby arm, reciting Harry's Valentine:
"His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad…"
Good grief! How had Snape known about that? He hadn't been there, had he? She could picture the delighted queue of first years, the group of Gryffindors, but no staff. Percy had come along, and Malfoy… Ah, the Slytherin 'spy-vine'. Or maybe he'd overheard Fred and George. It had been at least a week before they'd tired of taunting Harry with the silly rhyme. Fancy Snape remembering. The man was sharp, she couldn't deny it. Sharp as a viper's fang.
"I didn't realise you were an expert on Valentines, Sir. At least Trevor's got people who want to remember him. Who care about him," she retorted, challenging him to read as much into the comment as he dared.
Snape scowled, thrusting the box back at Neville. If they didn't want him to embalm the creature, what were they doing sneaking around the dungeons?
"Very well. How then do you account for your presence, Longbottom? What were you looking for – the sluice? Would not a simple Evanesco have sufficed? Well? Let me make this easy for you. Were you, perhaps, making the rash assumption that the dungeons would be unoccupied during the lunch hour? What were you intending to 'borrow' from my stores this time, eh? Formaldehyde? Have you not mastered even an elementary Stasis Spell? Is that too much to expect? Might I suggest a permanent Petrification? Your fugitive familiar might at least make itself useful as a paperweight. Let him atone for his life of slime."
"Toads aren't slimy," Neville mumbled.
"Do you have to be so nasty?" cried Hermione, pushing herself back to Neville's side, her face flushed and fiery. "We're not here to steal your precious potions. It's none of your business – Sir – but, if you must know, we were going outside to bury Trevor. We were going to find a nice, peaceful spot somewhere – maybe down by the lake…"
Neville made a limp gesture of assent. Snape concealed his discomfiture.
"Toad-in-the-Hole, eh? A wake by the lake. Don't let me detain you. You'd better be quick about it, or you'll be late for class. Animal interments do not excuse unpunctuality."
Suddenly he wanted them to be gone, to get out of his sight, to leave him alone. He knew he should have put Granger in detention for speaking to him like that; he wasn't sure if he could endure her presence. Would he have to hex them away?
"Go on then!" he snapped.
Benumbed with grief and exhaustion, all cried-out, Neville was just glad to have someone making the decisions for him. Cradling Trevor's box in his arms, he stumbled a few paces. Hermione paused, turning her head just long enough to throw Snape a look of undiluted dislike and contempt.
"Are you completely heartless? He loved that toad," she hissed.
"Love?" Snape's mouth twisted. On his lips the word sounded tainted and hollow. Raising his voice not only for the boy's benefit, he sneered: "Such foolish affections invariably bring disaster."
A/N: If you want to find out what the disaster is, then you have to read 'Post-mort' . Thanks Duj.
As this is a one-shot and I won't be able to tell you in a next chapter, I'll give you the Rickman films now: Murder Obliquely, Something the Lord Made, Closetland.
Thanks to Possum 132 for her very relevant suggestion - I have tweaked accordingly.
Please review, and many thanks to everyone who does.
1 '5 little speckled frogs/Sat on a speckled log/Eating their most delicious bugs. Yum, yum./One jumped into the pool/Where it was nice and cool/Now there were 4 speckled frogs. Glub. Glub." And so on, down to nought.
2 Battels: account for incidental expenses incurred during the term.