It's been a while, as usual, mostly because I got distracted by other things. Can't exactly remember what those things are at the moment. And, hey, this thing hit its 6th birthday this past May. How utterly depressing.
Someone asked about the "interludes", particularly why one chapter is labeled "first interlude" and another is labeled "fifth". I thought it was pretty clear, but, just in case: every time the story changed POV or went into a flashback, that was an interlude, and most of them weren't their own chapters.
... Oh god, that sounds so pretentious. OH GOD, there are flashbacks in this.
As always, I'm sorry about the delay and the typos. Please enjoy.
Warnings: Snape enjoying the misery of others and being rude to Dobby, Potter getting hurt, possible incongruities with previous parts.
A Series of Events
Severus was not sad to see April finally end. His robes still had bits of dirt grounded into the cloth. His body still ached unexpectedly, his insides trembling at the slightest provocation. His magic still rebelled against him.
However, as he strode down the garland-festooned halls and past the elves' attempts at horticultural whimsy, he was beginning to hate May more. The students had taken to ignoring their studies with a vengeance, opting instead to stare dead-eyed out the windows. The Headmaster had yet to return from his latest walkabout. Severus' very skin itched as the exams drew closer, torn between dreading young Mr Malfoy's final attempt at the Headmaster's life, and wishing that it would just happen and put Severus out of his misery.
He banged his knee on the potted hyssop shrub left by his classroom door. Severus could think of at least ten lucrative uses for the budding blue flowers alone, but if those elves think they could placate him with potentially expensive ingredients, they were sorely mistaken. He snarled at the plant and, for pride's sake, considered setting the damn thing on fire as he unlocked his classroom door.
Severus took three steps in before noticing the elves had not stopped with the hyssop. Tiny glass phials overflowing with pansies sat dead center on each desk. Daisy chains hung from the blackboard and the illustrated Dark magic guides on the walls. A pair of blossoming quince branches arched out of a large vase and over his lectern, dropping blood-red petals onto the floor.
Severus sucked in a breath through his teeth. He didn't know which was worst: that those elves decided to invade his classroom with their atrocious interior design ideas, or that they had used pansies and quince. He did not want nor need the pansies to remember, and the quince's red flowers, the ones that practically screamed "temptation" and "sin", were not welcomed either.
He grabbed the nearest dustbin and went to work, throwing every single scrap of glass and weed into it. The quince branches dug into his palms as he snapped them in half. The large vase crashed and shattered on the stone floor, spilling water everywhere.
He stared at the mess, his hands covered in petals, water, and crushed leaves. He took a step back from the spreading pool of water. Vase water flowed into the gaps and grooves between the stones, dragging red petals and green bark in its wake.
Severus pulled out his wand, more out of habit than anything else. His hand adjusted and tightened its grip round the smooth, dark wood. He rolled his stiffening shoulders. "It's a simple spell," he said through gritted teeth as he shook his arms loose. "You can cast a simple fucking spell." His skin burned with magic as he pointed his wand at the growing mess. He took a deep, shuddering breath.
An elf popped into view by the blackboard, startling Severus. "Professor Snape mustn't hurt himself," it said, ignoring the wand that had moved to point straight at its long nose. "He still needs rest." The stack of knitted hats on its head bobbed from side to side as the elf snapped its fingers, emptying the dustbin and clearing away the mess.
Severus froze for a moment before remembering his manners. "And what do you know about it?," he snarled. The elf—Potter's elf, he realized with some horror—took the empty bin from his slack fingers. "Or your master?"
The elf stared up at Severus, its nose nearly reaching Severus' shoulder. "Dobby has no master," it said with an insolence it no doubt had learned from Potter. "Dobby is a free elf."
Severus glared at the elf. "Then who told you that I 'need rest'? Potter?"
"Professor Dumbledore asked Dobby to make sure Professor Snape doesn't hurt himself," the elf said as it moved the bin back to its place by the door.
"How considerate of him," Severus said under his breath.
The elf popped back out of sight without another word. Severus glowered at the dustbin before letting out a frustrated sigh. His shoulders slumped as he put his wand away and brushed a few remaining quince petals off his lectern.
The day had barely started, but he had a feeling it was well on its way to being simply awful.
"Today," Severus said in a low voice that made the class of sixth years immediately fall silent, which amused him to no end. "You will be working with these." He tapped his finger on the flimsy cardboard box beside his lectern. The odds and ends inside rattled for attention. "Cursed objects."
Several of the students paled. Miss Granger's hand shot up into the air. "But, sir—"
"Three points from Gryffindor for interrupting." He plucked a plastic, brightly-colored Muggle watch out of the box and held it up for the students to see. "Your task is to first determine the curse on the object, then write 14 inches on both the curse and what method you would use to counteract it."
"But, Professor Snape," Miss Granger wailed, "we haven't covered curse-breaking—"
"Ten points from Gryffindor," Severus said. "If you have done the reading, then you should be prepared."
That started a small rumbling of unrest among the morons. Severus stared at the lot with half-lidded eyes and great disinterest. "Work in pairs, if you must, but the paper," he glanced over at Potter, who had once again taken a seat in the very back of the room, and Mr Weasley, who was paired with the know-it-all for, no doubt, insidious reasons, "will not be a joint effort. Duplicates will be thrown away ungraded."
Young Mr Malfoy lifted his pale, drawn face to weakly smirk over his shoulder at Potter, who, for his part, was doing his level best to stare a hole through Severus' head. Severus blithely ignored them both and dropped the watch into the box. The cursed objects shuddered and jumped with excitement.
The students glanced about, their eyebrows furrowed and their heads low. Severus bit the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing outright in the cowards' faces. For a moment, his mind drifted away and he thought about the sweet rush of free time that having no papers to grade would give him, before spotting Potter rising from his seat.
The corners of Severus' lips curled down. Potter strode down the center aisle towards the box, his shoulders tense and his head slightly lowered. He glowered at Severus from over the top of his ridiculously thick glasses. Severus stared back with half-lidded eyes, his eyebrows arching, unimpressed.
Potter did not look away from Severus' face as he thrust his hand into the box. After a breath, he jerked it back out, a blue clamshell purse in his grasp. Potter looked at the coin purse, his eyes widening in disbelief before staring at Severus, as if expecting Severus to explain why the stupid boy had not lost a few fingers in the process.
"Your papers are due at the end of class," said Severus over Potter's head. He leveled a glare at Potter. "I suggest you get started."
As he prowled around the room, Severus could see that, in many respects, his decision to have the sixth years work with cursed objects should have been more thoughtfully considered. Curses were tricky to neutralize, cursed objects doubly so, no matter how innocuous the curse. He had, in fact, designed the task with the seventh-years in mind, but… circumstances had influenced him to place the task before the sixth-years as well.
It was unfortunate that recent events had made several of the students, particularly the Gyffindors, reluctant to even begin their assignments. Identifying the curse or hex on any of the objects should take no longer than a minute, but Mr Goldstein was still poking halfheartedly at a pocket-watch. On the other hand, at least he was attempting something; a few, like Miss Parvati Patil, still had not chosen an item from the box.
However, fewer students finishing by the bell meant fewer rushed, badly written papers to slosh through that night. Severus could very nearly taste the boxed wine he planned on indulging in as he lounged the non-grading hours away and reminisced on this very moment. He would slump into his couch, glass of cheap red in his hand, and laugh aloud at the memories of Mr Corner's face as a hexed cufflink repeatedly shocked him and at Miss Granger's sweaty temples as she searched through her books in vain.
For the moment, however, Severus would have to content himself with the sight alone.
He stopped by Potter's table to give his feet a bit of rest and held back the sneer desperate to overwhelm his face. Potter stared dead-eyed at the clamshell purse gumming at the corner of his textbook while his partner, Mr Longbottom, waved his wand back and forth, as if intending to lead the cursed purse in song.
"I believe," Severus said, startling both boys, "the task is to identify the curse, not to conduct the Royal Philharmonic."
Severus' lips curled with dark amusement as Mr Longbottom's face went ash-white. He lingered by the desk and watched as Longbottom attempted and consequently botched an ineffective Revelo, before walking away with a sneer on his face.
Oh, yes, he'd be raising his glass in honor of all his incompetent students tonight. He tapped a finger on Miss Bones's desk and held back a snort as the cursed belt in her hand whipped out at her face, nearly taking out an eye.
Potter let out a shout as his cursed purse leapt up and bit the idiot boy right on his nose. Severus couldn't stop himself from smiling at the sight. This truly was the lesson that just kept on giving.
He let out a very light huff of derisive laughter as Potter jumped up out of his seat and began to flail his arms. "Fifteen points from Gryffindor for disrupting class." Potter clawed at the purse clamped around his nose, making little distressed noises as the purse bit harder.
"Harry, hold still so that Neville can Stun it," Miss Granger said.
Severus frowned. "Five points from Gryffindor for speaking during class." And for attempting to ruin all of my fun.
Mr Longbottom maneuvered Potter for a clear shot at the purse. "Move your hands!" The tip of Mr Longbottom's wand wavered as Potter struggled, the distressed sounds growing in pitch. Mr Longbottom pushed the tip of his wand right against the purse. "Stupefy!"
Potter collapsed backwards, the cursed purse falling off his nose. He slammed his head against the edge of the desk before landing, shoulder first, onto the floor, his head bouncing hard on impact. Blood speckled the edge of the desk.
The class rose to their feet, their voices rising in alarm. "Stand aside, you imbeciles!" Severus said as he shoved students out of the way.
Mr Longbottom dropped to his knees, his wand shaking about. "Rennervate!" he cast, the red light hitting Potter in the chest. The idiot boy did not stir.
"Longbottom, stop waving that thing around," Severus said. He knelt by Potter's head. "It's obvious you don't know how to use it." He lightly slapped Potter's cheek. The stupid boy did not wake.
He slapped Potter again. "Wake up, Potter." Someone was whimpering.
Severus pressed his fingers against the boy's throat, seeking out a pulse. Potter breathed against Severus's face as he pulled Potter's eyelids open. The boy's eyes crossed and rolled back. The side of the boy's head was wet with hot blood.
Severus' wand was out before he realized he intended to use it. His insides clenched, tensing up in anticipation. He cursed Potter and his own wretched ill fortune.
Resarsiscey! His magic ripped through him and down his arm like jagged ice. The spell flowed out of his wand in a soft green mist and settled gently over Potter's face. Severus' abdomen muscles went into spasms, knocking the breath out of his lungs. He curled up and pressed his wand arm against his side.
Potter breathed out a moan and slowly opened his eyes. The pupils stayed wide and black as he focused on Severus' nose. Two spots of color formed hot and red on Potter's wan face. His lips parted slowly-
"Professor," Miss Granger said, her wobbly voice cutting through Severus' thoughts, "is he…?"
Severus cleared his throat, his own face growing hot to spite him. He pushed himself to his feet and away from the idiot boy bleeding on the floor. "Next time," he said, tucking his wand away and leveling a glare at Mr Longbottom, "aim." His knees locked as another wave of spasms ran up his wand arm and down his spine. "Escort your…," victim, "housemate to the Hospital Wing, and try not to bang his head on any hard surfaces on the way."
Potter slumped, dazed and white-faced, as Mr Longbottom looped an arm around Potter's waist and hauled the concussed idiot to his feet. Potter's head flopped to the side. He stared glass-eyed at Severus as Longbottom half-dragged, half-guided him out of the classroom. The rest of the students were still out of their seats, necks stretched to catch a final glimpse of Potter being shepherded down the hall.
Severus drew a deep breath, pulled his shoulders back and stared each student down in turn. "Do you not have papers to write?" They stared blank-faced at him. "Get to work!"
The students gave Severus sour looks as they shuffled back to their seats. Young Mr Weasley looked like a particularly unappealing tomato that was ready to burst at any moment, but Miss Granger had that disgusting calculating look on her face again.
Severus glanced at the clock and exhaled as another wave of tremors ran up and down his wand arm. His hand was sticky and red with Potter's blood. He discreetly wiped his hand clean on the inside of his robes and leaned on his lectern until his magic settled and the spasms stopped.
Next time: That thing with Malfoy, The Detention, and Harry figures things out. Possibly. (I make this stuff up as I go.)