Title: Practicum: Gathering Fresh Materials
Author: Raven Dancer
Rating: PG for minor language

Summary: Professor Snape is coerced into taking his older classes into the Forbidden Forest on a field trip.

I often wonder what goes on in that head of his. This has to be one of the crazier ideas Dumbledore has come up with, and he's come up with some doozies. Rubbing my temples does nothing to assuage the headache that's been growing steadily worse as I rework my lesson plans for the next several weeks.

Field trips. Real field trips. Into the edge of the Forbidden Forest to gather plants and fungi for potion making.

I know, it's a practical set of lessons. I even gather a variety of plants and fungi as I need them. It's the only reason I go into that wretched forest. (I don't count apparating to him a reason. I have no choice in that.)

But the thought of taking 25 or so students with me to gather is insane. I tried to reason with the Headmaster, but to no avail. Sprout was the logical person to take them. Sprout was the herbology master. He would not even consider it.

You are the brewer of potions, you know how to select
the best ingredients. You will pass this knowledge on
to your students, he said firmly, or as firmly as the Headmaster ever gets with me, smiling eyes dancing behind the half-moon glasses. I growled as best I could. He just poured more blackberry tea into my cup and produced a small packet of divinity.

Damn you, I said as I looked longingly at the sweet. He laughed at me and carefully extracted out the small chunk of divinity and placed it on a saucer. I noted the knife and realized he'd planned this attack carefully.

So I let him convince me as he sliced the candy thin just the way I liked it, putting piece after piece on my fingers as he extolled the benefits of training the students to gather their own ingredients. I was half-way through, the divinity melting on my tongue, when I heard myself agree.

Fool. Selling yourself for mere whipped sugar,flavorings and a few nutmeats. Dumbledore knew me too well. At least he had the sense to stuff me with the sweets thus dulling my resistance further. I probably would have agreed to taking half the school into the heart of the forest searching for unicorns by the time he finished with me.

As is, I'm taking each 5th, 6th and 7th year potions class out to gather. 6 separate trips into the woods with children. 6 separate chances for disaster.

Doesn't the man ever read fairy tales? Brothers' Grimm? There's a reason it's called the Forbidden Forest. But I can't get out of the assignment.

Damned divinity.

At least I can arrange the trips as I wish; I know which group will be last. 5th year Slytherins and Gryffindors. My head pounds harder at the thought. Malfoy and Potter in the forest. At the same time. It's hard enough to control them in class let alone in the castle. The forest? I shudder.

A knock at my door distracts me. I wave the it open and the Headmaster looks in, smiling.

You've missed dinner, Severus, he says pleasantly enough, his eyes tell a different story.

I've been busy, I reply, carefully indifferent.

He enters the room and moves to my desk. If he touches me I'm dead; he'll know about the headache and the upset stomach. I pull back slightly and sneer.

I'm preparing my plans for the field trips, I try to distract him.
I'm starting with the 6th years' class on Monday. He smiles triumphant as he pretends to study some jars on the shelf near me. I shuffle the parchments on my desk.

Then on Wednesday the second group of 6th years. I've
decided to do the 7th years back-to-back on Friday, I glance out of the corner of my eye as he picks up a jar of desiccated emu liver and grimaces slightly before putting it down.

He shares my aversion to liver in any form.

So you're leaving 5th year to the following week, he suggests as he moves slightly.

Well, yes. I just thought, I begin.

You'd leave Harry and Draco to the last? he asks innocently. Ruffled, I turn all my attention to the desk top, putting a lid on my ink well and moving all the quills to their cup. A stupid move, he's behind me now and I feel his hands rest on my shoulders. I freeze.

It's an intimate touch; he can read me easily enough without it, there's no defense when he does touch.

he softly feathers across my shoulders. I shrug. He is bold enough to gently move to my neck, rubbing over-taut muscles a few moments. I try unsuccessfully to stifle a groan. He knows the pressure points and loosens the the tight knots that have built up there. This dissolves my resistance almost as well as the divinity.

and he pulls the chair back, pulling me reluctantly up and out into the hallway. I know where I'm going. We walk steadily down the halls and through several arches. He doesn't hurry, I adjust my stride accordingly. We stop finally in front of a portrait of fruit; one of the few still life paintings in the castle. He tickles the pear and the wall drops.

Let's have some dinner, shall we Severus? and he drags me into the kitchen where I'm sure to be pawed and tended to by Dobby. Plied with my favorite dishes.

I told you he knew me too well. I sigh and allow the pleasantries to begin.

Nearly two weeks later I'm heading out the castle doors with the final group of 5th years. I'm feeling extremely confident; each team has a specific map developed during the previous 5 forays. Each has a specific list of items to find, marked on the aforementioned map, complete with pictures of the items.

The groups are formed along house lines; no mixed groups to tempt fate. I've even added the precaution of listing in order what each group will gather making sure they all have different orders. Two groups even have completely different items! Potter and Malfoy have no reason to be near one another. I sigh happily. So easy.

Lulled into false security with over-planning.

Hagrid waves as we near the caretaker's house. Blasted dog is all over me slobbering. There are no potions I can think of that would utilize Fang's drool. UGH! Bloody shame as the creature produces pints of the stuff. Potter pulls him off with a bemused smirk while I wipe my hands on a proffered rag. I note Malfoy and his little group have faded back. He's afraid of the dog for some reason. I sneer at him unpleasantly.

Five points to Gryffindor, I say quietly, only Potter hears and his smirk melts to a grin. Why I felt compelled to do that is beyond my understanding at the moment. No problem. I'll have plenty of opportunities to take points as the afternoon unfolds. Longbottom is in this group! Moving finally to the first trees I call the group together. Briefly I review the task at hand. I caution them about wearing gloves as the groups move out.

Hagrid joins me for the venture, although I assured him I had everything under control. He just smiled and matched my pace, pointing out several varieties of flowers that were in bloom. From what I understand he was trying his hand at bee keeping. He promised me a jar of honey. I suppressed a grimace remembering the treacle fudge I recently received. Oh well, what could he possibly do to honey?

Within the first twenty minutes I had treated Longbottom twice for wild sumac poisoning. He mistook it for oak or holly from what I can get out of him.

Good thing ya came prepared, Hagrid grunted. I nodded as the child in question scampered off to rejoin his group.

And check with Granger before you touch anything
Longbottom! I snarled after him. Idiot. I dropped the jar of itching potion back into my emergency bag, making a mental note to make a new batch this weekend.

As the class progressed Hagrid and I split up and followed after the student groups. He readily admitted he didn't gather ingredients well, his hands big and strong crushed and tore at times. But I had to grudgingly admit he had a better eye, finding rare plants on his rambles through the forest. He'd brought me to many patches of plants I'd missed in my forays.

Dumbledore was right; each of the staff did have something to contribute to the whole. Although I was still waiting to discover exactly how Trelawney fit into the scheme of things. Comic relief didn't count.

Potter and his group were scrabbling among the rock scree at a stream's edge. I watched them as they poked along. They'd found everything on their list and were just being curious, I suppose. Nature of the child-beasts. A couple pebbles bounced near them. Strange.

I looked up the embankment; it was nearly perpendicular at this point, about 10 feet high. At the top was a stony outcropping.

And two Slytherin students looking down. Great. I had only factored Malfoy into my Potter equation. Here were Crabbe and Goyle testing the larger rocks with their shoulders, then stopping to gauge where they'd fall if pushed. I thought Longbottom the idiot; here were textbook definitions. I started to move towards them when several things happened nearly simultaneously.

Potter moved away from his friends, a clear target. Goyle, in his eagerness, shoved hard against the standing stones, sending them cascading over the lip of the precipice. I drew my wand out without thought.

Accio Potter! I threw the charm harder than I intended and watched the 15 year old as he was jerked towards me. Well, that wouldn't be too bad, I firmed my stance to stop him. What I did not expect was quick thinking on Granger's and Weasley's part. A chorus of echoed through the forest and Potter's flight was accelerated by over double.

This is going to really hurt,' I thought as the flying body sped towards me. The rocks hit the ground and then a 120 pound plus bundle of knees and elbows ploughed into me. The combined force sent me back clutching the boy tightly against me as I crashed onto the rocky ground. All the wind was driven out as my back and head connected with something hard.

The next thing I knew I was being levitated and my chest being bound firmly. I slit my eyes opened and noted Longbottom and Granger working over me. Potter's voice came filtering in.

It's ok, Professor. Ron's gone for Madam Pomfrey and
the Headmaster, he was supporting my head for some reason, I felt something cool and wet against my hair.

Hagrid's gathered the students and is taking them
back to the castle, Granger added. He said to be sure
to tell you he'd hold all the plants for you to check
later on.

Hagrid was smarter than I usually allow. He knew better than letting some of those plants disappear into the castle. I let a groan escape as the binding was secured.

Sorry, Professor Snape, whispered Longbottom, you've
possibly cracked some ribs and you definitely have a

I muttered as Granger began to wipe my face off. I noted the redness of the cloth and figured I'd cut my head.

Fifty points to Gryffindor, I managed to get out, and
a hundred points from Slytherins to start.

He's delirious, Longbottom cringed.

No, just disgusted, I rattled and I heard Potter laugh.

Things were jumbled for awhile as the three students cleaned me as best they could. Using a cooling spell Granger fashioned a cold pack for the back of my head; it felt extremely good and I was tempted to add another fifty points. I could just make out someone running into the rocky copse and was saved from embarrassing myself.

Dumbledore peered into my eyes, which I was sure by the sharp pain in my head, were dilated.

I said respectfully, I am NOT leading any
more field trips! I felt four sets of eyes on my face so I sneered to add to the effect.

Ok, Severus, the Headmaster agreed, although I distinctly heard him whisper, this term at least' and the quelled snickering of three students.

Divinity won't change my mind, I added as a precaution, silently cursing myself for revealing my weakness. I felt rather than saw the fine, kind hands on my face reading my secrets.

Wouldn't dream of coercing you, Professor, he said firmly; I'm sure his eyes were twinkling.

Oh, no, never, I groused, loosing consciousness as his warm, healing energy crept through me.

Field trips, bah!