Small Victories

by dead2self

Marie's first day of classes had not been entirely dismal so far. Orion had led all of the first year Ravenclaws to their classes because he was Head Boy, and also in Ravenclaw. It was a nice gesture, but Marie was certain Orion was not a nice boy because every time he looked at her, he sneered. Then he laughed dryly under his breath. It never failed.

Just to make sure, Marie made eye contact with Orion when he turned to make sure all of the first years were following him down the stairway into the dungeons. He blinked, sneered, and then laughed. It was like clockwork. Maybe I should keep count, Marie thought. It could be like a game – how many sneer-laugh combinations could she rack up in a day?

The very idea was pitiful, but Marie needed something to hang onto. Her first class had been Transfiguration. Professor Knackerby – the lumpy old witch who had left her to drown in the lake – had largely ignored Marie from the moment she set foot in the classroom to the moment she left. This was much preferable to the cold reception she had experienced at breakfast. The most food she had been able to snatch before she fled was a buttered slice of toast. Someone hit her in the back of the head with a spoonful of oatmeal, and while waiting for Orion to lead the rest of the first years out, Marie had valiantly combed it out of her hair.

Marie had been itching to try out her wand – she had even cracked a few of her dusty textbooks to find easy-to-do spells. Three pages fell out of her Charms textbook in the process. Ironically, the pages had described a Sticking Charm. She had resolved to put them back in once she mastered that particular charm, but at the moment she only felt awkward waving her wand around. She had decided to wait until properly instructed to try magic. Unfortunately, Knackerby's class had been entirely lecture, with a promise that they might try real Transfiguration the next day if they did their homework properly.

Since Marie's next class was potions, it was a safe bet she would not be using her wand any time soon.

Marie cast one last glance at Orion (Two, she counted, when he shot her a final glare) before shuffling into the classroom. The rest of her classmates had taken their seats and the Hufflepuffs had been in the room before the Ravenclaws came. They had only left one seat open, a table in the front row beside the Professor's desk.

The Professor was not in the classroom yet, but as Marie walked to her lone seat she heard murmurs. Professor Snape, the Deputy Headmaster and highly-ranked Death Eater, was the potions master, she heard, and he was always most irritable on the first day. Better sit in the back and escape notice, they said.

Biting her lip, Marie sunk into her front seat and arranged her things on her desk. Her transfiguration notes had been a disaster with the brittle parchment and the well-worn quills she had been provided. It was a wonder she could read them with all the ink splotches, and now her hand was black with ink. She wiped her hand on her robes (honestly, they could not get much worse, so why not?) just as the door to the classroom slammed open. Jumping half a foot in the air, Marie managed to knock over her inkwell and completely ruin her clean parchment. The snickers around her were quelled as Snape swooped towards the front of the room.

"Scourgify!" Snape said waspishly, and the ink vanished from her parchment. That was all well and good, but now Marie was out of ink. What she would not give for a ballpoint pen!

"A wonderful indication of things to come," Snape hissed before taking roll call. Marie slunk further into her seat and tried to salvage what was left of her ink. Finally the professor set down the ledger, flicked his wand at the board, and tucked the wand away in his desk while chalk began writing potions ingredients on the board. When he addressed the class his voice was so quiet, even Marie had to lean forward to hear; yet somehow, he commanded the attention of every person in the classroom.

"Wands away. We will not be exploring such fickle magic in this classroom. You will be studying the precise art of potion making. Some of you may be disappointed by this subtlety," he added, and Marie suspected he had heard her disappointed sigh, "but not everyone can fully appreciate this branch of magic. It is likely that more than half of you will be dismal potions brewers." His eyes raked over the room and Marie realized he was observing the Hufflepuff section of the room. His eyes jumped to her before he continued.

"For those of you that are passable potion makers, all the opportunities of the world will be placed at your fingertips. Whether you want to bottle luck, death, or love, there is a potion for it." He spat the word "love" with such distaste that Marie got a bitter taste in her mouth just hearing it. She leaned forward nonetheless, enthralled and expecting more, but Snape did not continue. Instead he turned to a very small Hufflepuff girl and snapped, "Barret! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Katie Barret jumped and dropped the cauldron she had been cradling in her lap. It hit the ground with a clang and she jumped again. "I-I don't k-know, Sir," she answered.

Snape's lip curled. "Naturally. He continued his interrogation of Barret, who remained consistently ignorant, and Marie's attention wandered to the board behind him. The chalk had finished writing the instructions for a potion to cure boils. It had strange ingredients like porcupine quills and snake fangs, but the directions read like a recipe straight out of her mother's cooking magazines. A grin rose unbidden on her face.

"You find trapping someone into a lifeless sleeping state amusing, Miss Hangleton?"

Marie's smile staggered until she realized she had cracked her grin exactly after Snape had described the Draught of Living Death (aptly named, it seemed). While her brain scrambled to catch up, Marie justified her smile with the first thing that came to mind.

"N-No, Sir. I was just happy because this seems a lot like cooking!"

Apparently, it was the worst possible thing she could have said. Laughter erupted across the classroom and Snape's face contorted into such a glare that Marie shrank back in her seat.

"Likecooking?" Snape said softly, approaching her table. "Howeloquent of you." He leaned over the desk, and Marie could see each gray hair, each angry line on her face, and his large nostrils flaring.

"Sorry," Marie said. Her voice came out smaller than she had intended. "I didn't mean it like that. I mean, it must be much more complicated than… than cooking…"

"You'll find it is," Snape said. Under his constant stare, Marie found his soft voice more frightening than if he had been yelling at her. Abruptly, Snape straightened and jabbed a finger toward the board. "What are you dunderheads waiting for? Begin!"

There was a flurry of activity as students leapt to their feet to retrieve their ingredients. Somehow, though she was nearest the ingredients cabinet, Marie got a hold of her ingredients last. Everyone else had already started stewing their horned slugs when she finally got back to her seat. It was hard enough to focus on the instructions scrawled across the board without the Hufflepuff girls behind her squealing over the disgusting slugs, but Marie managed to produce a decent boil cure potion by the end of class. She carefully bottled a small vial of potion and presented it to Professor Snape. He took it without comment, but Marie could not help feeling proud. Her potion had turned out exactly like the description on the board!

When Orion came to pick up their class, Marie made eye contact again. Three… she thought, adding another tally to the running total. No, wait, make that four. It was going to be a long term.

A/N: Alright, I'm really curious... If anyone is actually reading this, I'd like to know what you thought of Professor Snape. I somewhat like the idea of him carrying on his interrogation tradition, perhaps as a memorial to Harry (who is dead in this story, by the way). I think Snape will be an interesting character in this story. So what do you think of him?