The next morning, Snape saw from his schedule that the first class was Potions. The Slytherin and Gryffindor first years both had it together. Snape smiled as he read over the parchment: here was a piece of luck! He'd get to see Lily. Too bad Potter and Black would be there, too, but that couldn't be helped. He put on his best robes, the only new set he'd gotten in fact, and followed the others to the Potions classroom. It turned out to be in one of the dungeons.
Professor Slughorn was a short, paunchy wizard with a jovial attitude and a mustache that reminded Snape of a walrus. He made a short little welcome speech about the many and varied applications of potion-making, how it involved careful adherence to instructions but also required a bit of improvisation, etcetera. Snape had read the textbook and knew most of this already. Then Slughorn asked a few questions from the first chapter of the book.
Finally, the interesting part of class began. Slughorn pointed his wand at the blackboard, and a recipe appeared there. "Now, I want to see you all make a Clarity Concoction. The stuff's a wonderful treatment for the complexion, if you do it right... you all should've brought most of the ingredients in your kits, the rest are in the cupboard over there, and ..." He took a bottle from his pocket and set it on the desk so everyone could see. "Here's a sample so you can see what it should look like. Go on and get started, let's see how you do. I'll check your work in about twenty minutes." He sat down at his desk, put his feet up, and started reading a book.
Snape took out some ingredients, opened his Potions text, and went to work, glancing at the board occasionally. This was easy. Before long, his cauldron was full of a translucent, glimmering turquoise potion. It appeared identical to Slughorn's sample. Satisfied, he looked up to see how Lily was doing nearby.
She pushed her hair back from her face. A damp strand of it stuck to her forehead. Her potion was cloudy and too dark a shade of blue. "Whew," she said. "This stuff is harder than it looks, isn't it?" She noticed Snape's potion was already finished. "Hey, you've gotten it! That was fast. Good job."
Snape glanced round to see what the rest of the class was up to. Not far away, Potter and Black had quickly gotten bored and started horsing around. They began shooting sparks at one another and bouncing about, pretending to duel. If they weren't careful, they were going to cause an accident. Professor Slughorn was still immersed in his book and didn't seem to notice.
Snape hurried over to Lily's cauldron. "Here, let me help," he said, and bent over to look closely at the potion. "Too acidic," he muttered. "Try sprinkling in some powdered eggshell – just a bit, mind –"
Lily did so, and both of them watched with their heads together as the potion fizzed, then lightened and started to clear. Soon it was a nice turquoise color. "Perfect!" Lily exclaimed. "Thanks, Sev." She smiled at him.
Snape returned the smile, feeling very happy, and turned back to his own cauldron --
"Watch out!" somebody yelled. Just then, James Potter, who was still messing around with Sirius Black, dodged a line of sparks from his friend and lost his balance. He stumbled and fell, and his foot caught on the edge of Snape's cauldron, overturning it. Snape was splattered liberally with the potion. Since it was meant for use on the skin, luckily it didn't hurt, but it bleached his robes.
"Oops, sorry about that," said James, scrambling to his feet. A thin brown-haired Gryffindor boy passed him a handkerchief. "Thanks, Remus," James said, mopping himself. Then he turned to Lily. "Are you all right?" he asked, even though she'd been standing ten feet away.
"I'm fine," she said, without looking at him. "But I think you should apologize to Severus here. You've ruined his potion! Not to mention his robes."
"I said sorry, didn't I?" James said diffidently. "Oh, well..." He wadded up the handkerchief and tossed it back to its owner.
"What's going on over here?" boomed Slughorn, coming over to the scene of the mess. "Oh dear, seems we've had an accident ... are you all right, boys?"
"Fine," said James. "I'm all right," muttered Snape, not too happily. His best set of robes, ruined on his very first day ...
"Good show, then," said Slughorn, clapping his hands. He raised his voice to address the whole class. "Now, go back to your cauldrons and stand by them, and I'll come round and have a look."
Snape reached out to pick up his cauldron, glaring at Potter and Black as they returned to theirs. His potion was spilled and the cauldron had a big dent in it.
"Oh, look!" Slughorn called out. He was standing by Lily's cauldron. "Everyone look over here, see this beautiful Clarity Concoction that Miss Evans has brewed!" Several members of the class applauded.
"Er," said Lily, blushing. She looked quite pretty when she blushed. "Well, I did have a little bit of help, you know ..."
"Come now, don't be so modest," said Slughorn heartily. "Five points for Gryffindor. You did splendidly. Class dismissed."
Most of the class put out the fires and took their cauldrons to rinse out. Remus was still standing by his, trying to practice a cleaning spell on his handkerchief. "C'mon, Lupin, let's get a move on," said Sirius, picking up the boy's cauldron.
"Just a second, I've nearly got it now," muttered Remus, frowning at his handkerchief. It was still covered in blue potion.
"Oh, you can toss it in the laundry later! Let's go. You don't want to be late to Transfiguration, you saw yesterday how strict Professor McGonagall is."
"I was just practicing," said Remus, as he trailed out behind the other Gryffindors. "Bye," said Lily, and she followed them.
Snape rinsed out his own cauldron carefully. He wished there were time to run back to his room to change robes, but no chance: they had Herbology next and the Slytherin dorm was too far away. He'd have to go until lunch looking like this. Just his luck. The other Slytherins weren't going to be happy with him either, since he had helped Gryffindor get points. He hoped no one had noticed.