Disclaimer: Characters and situations not mine, they're JK's. All used without permission for non-financially stimulating reasons. Promise.
This bunny has been following me around for over a year now. I figured it was easiest to just give in.
Warning: This fic features CHARACTER DEATH, but nothing tragic or moving! Yes – I've done something I swore I never would…
It was the Christmas holidays and Hogwarts was practically deserted. Only three pupils had stayed behind this year, all in first or second year, so they tended to stay away from the still-scary adults and stick together for snowball fights or card games, only appearing in the great Hall for meals.
This suited Snape perfectly. The Headmaster and the few staff who were around understood his need for solitude in the absence of the majority of the school's repulsive adolescents, so for the most part, he was left alone to indulge his two great passions – brewing and brooding.
It had been a particularly violent Autumn term, with Quidditch injuries at an all time high, so Madam Pomfrey's stocks of healing potions had received a thorough bashing since September. Snape was rather enjoying the relaxing task of replenishing the simple salves and uncomplicated unctions in the huge quantities which would no doubt be required if the mid-air fouls continued at a similar rate in the new year. He found it more soothing to stir the enormous number 19 pewter cauldron – big enough to fit three first-years in, if chopped finely - than attending to the intricacies of the small desk-top ones.
The vat of Concussion Cure he was stirring had reached the perfect consistency, sending up green bubbles every few seconds with a melodious 'bloop' as he wound the mixture ninety-nine times counter-clockwise with a massive round-ended paddle. Snape's thoughts were miles away – formulating new witty insults to dole out on next term's inevitable curfew-breakers when he swooped down on them during his corridor patrols. Honestly, did they really think he did not know every secret hiding place in the entire school? That he had not used them for his own illicit purposes as a student? Or as a teacher, for that matter? The dunderheads always believed they were the first students able to use their pedestrian brains.
It must be so tedious, he mused, being a ghost. Doomed to prowl the same corridors for all eternity, watching different sets of brats perpetrate the same old crimes over and over again. Sir Nicholas, having more of an excuse for not using his head than most Gryffindors, seemed to actually enjoy recounting the old scandals, which did not have the effect that Snape would have expected. Rather than humbly accepting that they would never be creative enough to come up with a single original wheeze, they got inspired to rehash the tired old pranks through some warped sense of Gryffindor tradition.
Snape despaired. At least the Baron had the decency to keep his own counsel on such matters.
He reached his ninety-ninth rotation and reached for the phial of clarifying solution. Just a few drops would be necessary, even for such a large cauldronful. Still lost in his concoction of pithy put-downs, he pulled out the cork and carefully poured out the right amount to turn the mixture to the perfect shade of beige.
Only it did not turn beige, it turned a stomach-churningly vivid hue of purple.
Alarmed, the professor looked at the glass bottle in his hand, the label clearly declaring it to be 'Clarifying Solution' in his own writing, with the date he brewed it neatly printed underneath. Clarifying Solution was classified as a harmless substance, so it was odd to find it misbehaving in this way. Placing the phial carefully under his large nose, he sniffed.
The laboratory flickered before his eyes and turned purple.
Then deep, dark, impenetrable, unfathomable, irreversible black.
Professor McGonagall was feeling sick.
It did not happen often, as she never spent a great deal of time as a cat, but once in a while she would become painfully aware of a bloated, woolly sensation in her abdomen. It was usually accompanied by dry-retching. Though she would never admit to anyone else, she knew exactly what the problem was.
Fortunately, she had a sensible arrangement with Professor Snape, which dealt with her problem in a mutually-beneficial way. He would provide her with a potion which dissolved them easily and without fuss, if she provided him with such cat products as he might require in his potions, fur, whiskers etc. He was under no illusions as to his fate if she ever found out he had failed to keep her secret.
She made her way down to the dungeons slowly, willing her stomach to stop griping as she walked. The vague smell of burning did nothing to alleviate her suffering either. Oddly, it seemed to be getting stronger as she drew closer to the potions lab, smelling as though someone had left their old socks too close to the fire.
Pushing open the door, a plume of purple smoke poured out and spread across the ceiling of the corridor, leaving Minerva really alarmed. What on earth could have happened? Her colleague was usually so adept at containing the infrequent accidents which he had outside of term time. Something serious must be going on.
"Severus?" she called, casting a bubble-head charm on herself as a precaution. "Severus, are you there?"
An enormous cauldron sat in the corner of the room, spewing out blue bubbles as well as the purple gas as it furiously boiled over. Her eyes followed the trails of ruined potion running down the outside of the pot and onto the floor, where a pool of the garish liquid was forming on the flagstones, then to a pair of black boots sticking out from underneath a table.
"Severus!" she exclaimed, darting forward to help him and firing her emergency patronus to summon Dumbledore.
The potions master was lying on his back, every muscle relaxed and a peaceful expression softening his harsh features. Gone was the scowl, the hunched shoulders, clenched fists and overall aura of barely-contained menace; instead his face was free of its furrows and suspicious expressions. Looking at him now, Minerva reflected sadly, one could easily mistake him for a mild-mannered man in his thirties, instead of the nocturnal stalking terror of the school. She heaved a tremulous sigh.
Albus dashed inside, also bubble-headed, and took in the situation at a glance.
"Is he hurt?" he asked, quickly extinguishing the flame beneath the angry cauldron.
"No Albus, he's not hurt," she said quietly. He was about to ask another question when she interrupted with a less controlled statement, tears welling in her eyes. "He's dead."
AN: Another short, non-epic fic begins! This is a sort-of celebration of my first anniversary of writing fanfiction (yes, Wartime Distraction is a year old and no nearer completion, sigh). Thanks for reading! x