A/N: Ok the only thing I can say is THANK YOU to anyone who has kept with this story this freaking long because I seriously wouldn't blame you if you hadn't, with how lazy I've been. This is an extra long chapter because I actually wrote two versions of this chapter which were then combined together. Hope it's not too obvious and that everyone likes it.
The Veela Conspiracy
Chapter Nine: Woe is the Potions Master
Down, far down in the depths of the Slytherin dungeons Severus Snape was lightly sipping at a peach Daiquiri in a chair by the fire, when an ominous feeling crept over him. It was the same ominous feeling that crept over him the year Potter had started his first year at Hogwarts. It was the same ominous feeling that came over him when Potter got involved in that ridiculous Tri-Wizard Challenge. It was an ominous feeling that meant trouble was coming to him, and it was trouble in a small Gryffindor form topped with messy black hair.
He swept his fingers over his eyebrows to make sure that all the hairs were in line. In situations of imminent doom, he liked to know his hair was in place. It gave him a sense of control in a Potter-fied universe. Before Potter had entered Hogwarts he had tended to have fly-away wispy hair. Within a week of Potter receiving his acceptance letter, his hair had been placed under the rigid control of grease, grease and more grease. Snape attributed it to the subconscious influence of his mind upon his body.
Abruptly a ringing began in his ears which foretold the arrival of the one magical being that could make him angrier than Potter did. His fingers exerted that little bit too much pressure and the stem of his glass snapped just as Albus Dumbledore's voice spoke benevolently in his head.
'My dear boy, if you would like to join us all in my study, I believe we have to deal with some issues concerning Mr Potter.' The voice cut off. Severus Snape stood up, vastly irritated, moving towards his bedchamber to change into something that was not splattered with Daiquiri. The ringing began again. Dumbledore's dulcet tones struck again. 'And if you would be so kind, Severus, to make your way directly here. It's just I have a meeting with the Minister at six.' Snape shut his eyes slowly, trying to hold on to some form of patience. He walked stiffly, and wetly, to the door. The ringing began again. 'Oh, and if it is complete, will you bring Fawkes' tonic. He is awfully irritable this afternoon. So kind of you.' The end of the message was signalled with a high pitched ping.
It was official.
Severus Snape had a headache.
Tonic in hand, Snape skulked down the twisty turny corridors of Hogwarts. The fact that he was taking about five times as long as the journey could be completed in, was in no way related to his dread of the meeting which was about to occur. The awful blue twinkle was not the reason he was going up stairs he did not need to and retracing his steps through secret corridors. Snape was used to being manipulated and abused in all kinds of ways. No Severus Snape was using the extra complicated route for one reason.
He was being followed.
There was nothing so plebeian as the echoing footsteps or hushed whispers. Only the raised hairs at the back of his neck and about twenty years of service to a dark lord told him, he was being followed by those with evil intentions. He looked suspiciously at a mirror as he thought he saw a movement in the reflection as he passed. But there was nothing.
The un-named instinct which had saved his life on more than one occasion made him dodge to the left suddenly just in time to miss a putrid yellow coloured spell by half an inch. It was a probably a fairly harmless, humiliating spell such as Flectus Podia or Ex Osculum, but the fact that he had seen several spells of that colour rip a man's intestines out through his anus or interfere with the digestive tract in equally disgusting ways, in no way comforted him.
He spun around with the speed which had caught dozens of fornicating students in the past and found...nothing. He bore his teeth in a grimace of anger and stalked onwards, subtly leaving a trail of wordless spells which would attach a person's feet to the floor leaving him or her unable to spell themselves free. The Potions Master smiled a little smugly when he heard a startled gasp, followed by muted cursing but continued on his way. Best to leave the poor little fool to suffer for an hour or so; time to ponder the professor's revenge.
No doubt it was Potter or one of his cronies, taking some misguided form of revenge. As he passed a group of Fourth Year Gryffindors who did even less than usual to hide their looks of disgust as he passed, he realised with a sense of doom that the 'story' of what had happened to Potter seemed to have spread beyond the boy's closest group of friends. And knowing the school's unwarranted worship of the foolish child, the trapped, doomed little cretin could be just about anyone. He raised his personal wards and increased their strength a notch with every student he saw.
By the time he entered the Headmaster's study they were positively thrumming and Albus raised both eyebrows in surprise as he said.
'My dear Severus, I assure you, you have nothing to fear from me.'
His only response was a scowl as he handed Fawkes' tonic over to his aged mentor. He did however lower the wards fractionally as he crossed the cosy room.
'I presume that you have fired the air-headed Lockhart,' Snape said scathingly, breaking the silence abruptly.
'He has been asked to leave. But I have given him a week to get his affairs into order.' Snape snorted disbelievingly at that. What would it take to actually get fired from Hogwarts? Torture and Rape? Somehow he thought that renowned headmaster would excuse even that with a shrug and some pat excuse about the poor rapist's childhood.
'However the little affair has had some ramifications. Professor Lockhart's unfortunate spell casting has somewhat disrupted the transformation process. Mr Malfoy will have to make an extra night visit to Harry.'
Severus Snape allowed the slightest expression of horror cross his face before carefully arranging his features back into a sneer.
'I have already informed Mr Black and Mr Lupin who I have no doubt will inform Mr Weasley.'
Severus raised an eyebrow. 'I suppose we must all be glad it was not an extra week,' he said sarcastically. Dumbledore smiled in agreement, apparently missing the ironic undertone, though Snape had no doubt that he had picked up on it and was utilising his favourite coping method which was to ignore everything which did not agree with him.
'That is not however the main reason I called you here today. Apart from dear Fawkes' remedy, I have some concerns about the way you interact with the students.' Severus rolled his eyes and wandered over to a complicated 12th Century Wizarding puzzle which stood like a monolith in one corner.
He stared at it with heavy brows as Dumbledore started to talk about some nonsense such as conciliating with Potter and working together and strength in the face of adversity. The puzzle seemed to require a complicated set of unlocking spells applied in precisely the right place in precisely the correct order, combined with a random key word which was hidden in the decorative inlaid design on the structure. He set his formidable brain to work at the problem.
He only started to pay attention again when the headmaster started to talk about making himself more sympathetic to the students. SYMPATHETIC! Time was when a student would be lucky to get away with only a good walloping with an enchanted shoe. Now he was expected to be friends with the little miscreants who couldn't even be bothered to do the required reading before class.
'I'm sure all it would take is a small smile once in a while my dear boy. After all, the students know you fought on the same side as them during that nasty affair with Tom Riddle.' Good Merlin the Headmaster made it sound like a Quidditch scuffle. 'They just need to be reassured you're not going to attack them at the smallest provocation.' Severus clenched his teeth as he considered how much provocation he had been under recently. He could have sworn one of the Gryffindors in the corridor has actually hissed at him.
'Well maybe a little bit of practice is needed with your smile,' conceded the headmaster looking uncharacteristically solemn. He soon brightened up as he continued, 'But for now...' Severus's eyes widened as the headmaster's wand jumped to his hand and he followed its progress in a complicated series of loops all of which were entirely unnecessary and purely because the headmaster like making colourful swirls (Albus Dumbledore was fully capable of performing all manner of spells wandlessly).
Suddenly the Potion Master felt the corners of his mouth drawn unstoppably, inevitably upwards, displaying his teeth in what could only be called a horrible mockery of a smile. His eyes watered a little as he struggled to pull his mouth into something resembling a normal expression but only succeeded in looking desperate and crazed.
In his shock he was powerless to stop the old man from nudging him out of the study with the words, 'Let me know how everyone reacts to the new you, won't you my boy?' He shook his head in disbelief as the door swung shut behind him.
Stumbling down a back corridor, teeth bared in what looked like a smile but what was actually rage, desperate for revenge, Snape swerved towards his trapped prey. Somewhere, hidden beneath an invisibility charm, lay the perfect victim on which to vent his frustration. With any luck it was Potter himself.
His hands trembled with barely held back energy as he crossed paths with Nearly-Headless Nick who drifted past casually. Gryffindors.
He made no attempt to hide his encroaching wrath as he grew closer. Let the idiot wet himself with terror, but he would have his appetite for blood sated.
Finally reaching his designated destination, the Potions Master flashed a revealing spell across the width of the corridor.
Nothing! It passed down the corridor out of sight. His prey had escaped.
The students were working together.
From the second parallel corridor on the third floor to the Great Hall, Severus Snape was attacked by no fewer than three tripping jinxes, one large lemon meringue pie and a small Pit Bull dog named Boris. Snape had vague suspicions that the canine was a product of his tortured imagination; but all things considered, who could seriously blame him.
And all the while his teeth were bared in a way which Snape tried to convince himself was like a man at war. He flung the doors to the great hall open with a resounding crash and paused, his shoulders hunched and his head swooping from one side of the hall to the other like a bird of prey with a purely joyful grin on his face. Some second year Hufflepuffs wet themselves, the firsties simply fainted.
Somewhere to the back of the Slytherin table, flanked by a strange combination of heavily muffled Slytherins and Gryffindors, sat Harry Potter, who unconsciously shrank into the big blond figure at his side. Snape's eyes gleamed slightly as he saw his prey whimper almost imperceptibly. However it was not imperceptible to the Veela who sat up a little straighter and saw an opportunity to assert himself as the protector of his submissive. He gripped his wand firmly and Snape only had the sight of a determined chin rising and a flash of chartreuse light to warn him of the encroaching attack. It hit him like a clod of wet sand and Snape took a few seconds to register what had happened. No pain, good so far. Also clothes still present, so no instant humiliation which Snape was half surprised by. But then again that had never been the Malfoy style. Potter on the other hand.....
Finally Snape registered a faint tickling at his neck and a slight itching sensation all over his body. Something drifted past his eyes and he snatched at it, but before he had a chance to look at what he held, more of the substance drifted down and Snape did not have to look at his hand to realise what had happened. His HAIR! Dear Merlin HIS HAIR. The small feathery showers out of his sleeves and robes demonstrated this was not a solely a cranial issue, and all of a sudden he felt the brush of his fine silk under –robes a lot more closely.
At this stage a scowl of truly tremendous proportions would have appeared on Snape's face, if not for the Headmasters aforementioned spell. However his body shook with rage. Some nearby observers later said they also saw a twitch in the corners of his eyes, but otherwise the headmaster's magic held strong. There was silence in the Great Hall. Then from the Gryffindor table, a small snub-nosed boy snickered.
Where before stood a hawk or falcon now stood a well plucked chicken. Where there was one, others soon followed until the room was filled with half choked back laughter as the professor attempted once, and then twice, to reverse the veela's spell before remembering that veela magic was highly resistant to wizarding magic. It would take a potion specially brewed for a number of days or a particularly powerful wizard to undo this magic. Severus quickly ruled out the powerful wizards in the vicinity as either insane or deeply suspicious of him, and so took a deep breath and strode forwards to the staff table.
Why he kept on walking through the laughter, he didn't know. He did know, however, that he could not back down in the face of such insubordination. He had run away from the Marauders once in his first year, and for the seven years that followed they had not stopped chasing him. He settled down in his chair with all the dignity he could muster in such a situation, though his robes felt more like a shroud than the weapon that he was used to. When he nervously checked his personal wards, he discovered to his horror, that Dumbledore's spell had somehow opened a chink in his defences, and not being quite at the old wizards power level, Severus couldn't seal the breach.
'Severus,' Minerva murmured to him through the corner of her mouth, 'Everyone would understand if you retired to your quarters...or to the infirmary.' She looked at him a little more closely and sniffed. 'And is that...peach pulp on your robes.' He closed his eyes in agony, he had forgotten about the Daiquiri. Severus was unable to give the usual withering gaze which was his usual response to such remarks, and really when had they ever been on first name terms. Instead he turned to her and spoke through his smile.
'Minerva, I suggest you use your much flaunted wisdom to properly exercise your duties as Deputy Headmistress to control and discipline the students, and refrain from offering me ill-timed and ill-thought advice.' Minerva harrumphed and turned back to her sausages and mash, not even glancing his way for the rest of the night.
It would have been quite enough if Snape had simply had to sit through the immature snickering of a hall full of hormone doused adolescents whilst bald and grinning but, emboldened by the seeming defencelessness of their most hated professor (who it was rumoured had molested Harry Potter-the-saviour-of-the-wizarding-world) the student began to throw random hexes at unexpected intervals towards Severus Snape.
To be fair most of the ineptly cast spells were either....well inept, or fell widely short of the very small chink in his defences. However Severus did not appreciate the constant hiccupping or marked increase in his body odour which somehow managed to wriggle through. After enduring such humiliations for a full half an hour, Snape rose (imperiously) and walked rather hurriedly to a side door. Malfoy would pay in the only way which had ever been effective. Snape would tell Lucius Malfoy and let him deal with his satanic spawn.
His only consolation was that the Dog and the Wolf had not witnessed his humiliation. No doubt they were canoodling in an abandoned corridor. Never had Severus Snape thought he would endorse exhibitionist sex. Still, he wasn't safe yet. It was a full two floors to his quarters and the duo could jump out from anywhere. Saturdays were really not what they used to be.
Monday arrived bright and clear. Despite the fact that it was a school-day, the students chatted cheerfully and Hagrid was delighting in a new pair of Nattering Norwegian Newts and showing them off to Harry and Company.
'Yer see 'Arry, they likes to chatter and natter all through the day, and all through the night and all through the space in between. Don't think I've seen any so pretty.'
Harry and Company nodded their agreement while looking in vague horror at the newts, which were vomit green and let out surprisingly loud howling shrieks every few seconds.
'They like having their backs stroked. 'Ermione take Eglantine and I'll keep Egbert'
Something wet and slimy was placed in Hermione's hand. As she hesitantly stroked the creature's back with the tip of one nail under Hagrid's watchful and stern eye she tried not to think what the squishy stuff was that the newt had just deposited on her palm.
'Yes...well....hadn't we better be getting to breakfast.' Hermione suggested.
'I 'ad mine early. Isn't it a bit late for you to be getting to breakfast?' Hagrid asked.
'Oh but we're still growing...probably, need to have our breakfasts. Helps us learn. And Harry didn't you arrange to meet up with Draco at breakfast' said Hermione rather desperately. Harry brightened perceptibly.
'Well don't want to stop you from learning; I'll just take Eglantine from you then.' Hermione shuddered with relief as the abominable creature was removed. She scuttled off before Hagrid could say another word. Harry smiled apologetically and rather angelically at Hagrid.
'You know Hermione; she always wants to be the first to class.'
'She forgot her bag.' Hagrid pointed out. 'With all her books. You need books to learn. Why it was in my third year magical creature's book that I first learned all about these beautiful newts. You know during mating season, Eglantine here sprays a scent which can be picked up by male newts from up to ten mile away. Very rare these females are. Eglantine's a precious girl, which reminds me....'
'We we really have to be going Hagrid, see you soon.' Harry hastily interrupted and hurried off, followed shortly by Ron, Seamus, Dean and Neville. Unseen in dark corridors behind them Hufflepuffs scuttled after Harry who was making his way to the Great Hall as fast as possible.
The boys soon caught up to Hermione who was frantically wiping the gloopy substance from her hand with a tissue.
'Never mind Hermione,' sympathised Dean, 'Could be worse.'
'How could it be worse?' Dean couldn't think of anything at right that second but he was sure there was something.
'The North American Strangleweed moss asphyxiates its victims,' interjected Neville, 'before emitting a chemical which liquidates the internal organs. Be thankful Hagrid doesn't like plants.'
'I say, really?' Said Hermione, intellectual curiosity roused, before coming to her senses. 'You're not helping Neville. And this isn't coming off. Who's idea was it that we meet with Hagrid this morning?' Harry, who had been gazing in the direction of the great wooden doors of the Great Hall, went to hide behind Seamus.
'Well I think it was a very fortunate meeting,' said Seamus. The others gave him weird looks as he gazed dreamily off into the distance for once not noticing how close Harry was to him. Seamus was not generally a dreamy person.
'At least it's a nice day,' piped Harry musically. Hermione scrubbed more frantically at the substance on her palm.
Severus Snape was not aware that it was a nice day. He was hiding under his bedcovers, in his bedroom which had no windows and the door firmly locked. His hair was in the first itchy stage of re-growth. He was considering the relative value of staying in bed versus getting out of it.
After the disaster of Saturday, the professor had spent the rest of the weekend constantly looking over his shoulder for trouble. He had been almost left in peace after the day of horrors, no more hexes or hissing. But they...looked at him; looked at him with those horrid unblinking eyes and blank expressions. And horror beyond horrors he had even resorted to the staff room to escape them, only to encounter an over amorous Poppy Pomfrey. He shuddered at the thought. Women in the medical profession knew entirely too much about anatomy for comfort.
To add insult to injury Malfoy Senior, it appeared, had done practically nothing to chastise his offspring, who went along looking more satisfied with each day that passed. After a particularly loud Floo conversation, Lucius had all but promised the demise of Draco Malfoy as long as Severus continued with the visits to Potter's room each night. But as far as Severus could see the only effect was Draco studiously avoiding looking or talking directly to him for the past few days.
Worst of all, this thing with Potter was not even going to be over tonight but would drag on for one extra day. He did not know how much more he could handle of Potter-flesh. Even though all the text-books indicated that Potter was being turned into some physical ideal, Snape did not see that he looked any less Potter-like. His hair was as black and scruffy, he was still small in a way that made you want to squish him, and his eyes peered out from behind overly-large glasses as annoyingly as ever.
He rolled over, trying to ignore the fact that he was getting more uncomfortable by the second. He was only delaying the inevitable. If he tried to hide beneath the covers for too long, no doubt Albus would send the house elf choir to fetch him. He shuddered. He knew a Ravenclaw boy who had tried to cut his ears off to avoid the crooning of the house elf choir. Granted, the boy had had some emotional problems, but the anecdote was still apt. Gathering all his courage he stuck a toe into the cold air. He retracted it sharply, shivering. He wrestled with his thoughts for a few moments before flinging back the covers.
Sometimes, he thought bitterly, being a teacher just wasn't worth the long holidays
It was a thought that reoccurred to him as he arrived late to breakfast only to sit on something squidgy and wet and quite definitely at least half alive, as it squirmed beneath him in a way that made his stomach squirm in reply. For a few seconds he contemplated just sitting there and killing it, and by the feel of it, it was quite definitely something that deserved to be dead.