Auction Block Blues

I own nothing except the basic concept. I apologize in advance for the ineptly bleeped profanity, for some reason fanfiction dot net will not allow the 'at' sign or certain other symbols to appear on the page when saved. Also, Sibling Rivalry is not abandoned, I'm just suffering a tiny bit of writer's block.

Severus Snape stalked through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts with the same perpetual bad attitude that had characterized his behavior since the end of the war. True, he had been no ray of sunshine during his spying days, but at least then he could be counted upon not to do anything too terribly rash. These days he was a loose cannon, always ready to go off unexpectedly on random people for the most ridiculous reasons and it all came down to Fate- that traitorous whore. He'd only ever asked this one favor of her, but she couldn't even give him this one bloody thing!

Of course he couldn't have died heroically in the Final Battle. Oh no, he couldn't be that lucky! It wasn't for want of trying, either! He'd performed many a suicidal rush at the enemy, only to survive- practically unscathed- through every assault. It was as if he'd had a bloody guardian bloody angel on his shoulder- a rather thick one too, if it couldn't figure out that Severus Snape was better off six feet under! It seemed he was destined to die at Hogwarts, at the hands of Albus Dumbledore- though whether the weapon of choice would be apoplexy or humiliation was apparently yet to be decided. If the old fool didn't pick soon, Severus was going to bloody well take matters in to his own han-

"Ah, Severus, my boy!"

Wincing inwardly, he turned to face the Headmaster. "What do you want?"

"Now, now, there's no need to be so testy. I only wanted to tell you about the new plans to raise money for the castle repairs, but if you're too busy to listen, I shan't trouble you." The old man's eyes twinkled like sapphire colored stars… the kind that fell to earth and landed on the things that Severus cared about.

"Good, you can keep it to yourself. I'm not interested unless it involves free alcohol- and before you ask, I mean actually free alcohol, and not just the kind that you don't have to buy with money." Albus' parties usually had an open bar, but you had to purchase the drinks with attendance and, occasionally, courtesy. Severus had offered to pay in blood, but Albus turned him down- apparently it was too morbid.

"Severus, you're so suspicious. I only wanted to give you a little advance notice before I announced it at dinner in the Great Hall…"

"I'm not interested in being a one-man audience to your crazed money-making schemes. You can go peddle your 'charitable contributions' line to someone who actually cares about other people." With that he swooped away down the corridor towards the Great Hall- which was how he found himself staring in stupefied horror, his stomach threatening to hurl his roast beef back onto the table, as Albus Dumbledore explained about the charity auction he'd organized at Hogwarts. Not just any auction- a Bachelor Auction. And not just any Bachelors- War Hero Bachelors! The kind of rage that fell over him made Voldemort's maniacal wrath look like a temper tantrum. He stumbled out of the hall before he could hex anyone, and Dumbledore hurriedly finished, then followed him.

"ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY NOT!"

"Now Severus, be reasonable."

"I AM BEING BLOODY REASONABLE!"

"Please stop shouting; I'm not quite deaf yet."

"I AM NOT SHOUTING!" he shouted. "I am completely calm, you fu/!#&) bloody !#&)/ I am not participating in any sodding Bachelor Auction with Harry flaming Potter! I'd rather saw my own arm off &!#/&) and beat myself to death with it. So !&#/&() you, Albus, and the manticore you road in on!"

"Well, I'm sorry you feel this way, my boy, but you had your chance to object. There is a reason that scheduled staff meetings are mandatory; if you choose to miss them, I certainly can't be held responsible for not taking your wishes into account. Everyone else has already agreed to it. Why, Harry seemed downright enthusiastic!"

"You can tell that pretentious little prick that-"

"Oh, Albus, wonderful idea for the Bachelor Auction. I shall certainly come and bring my coven. Just think, I could purchase Mr. Moody for a night on the town!" Professor's Sprout's voice was dreamy, her eyes fever-bright. Severus took a step backwards and hoped whatever brain-liquefying disease she had caught wasn't contagious.

"Ah yes, Pomona, I was just explaining the details to Severus, but he's not as eager as some of us," Albus lamented.

The clueless witch finally seemed to realize that Severus was standing there. She darted a glance at him, and some of his maniacal fury must have shown on his face, because she gave a little squeak and began backing away, her eyes darting to and fro in search of the available exits. "I'll just, er, I have meeting… we'll talk later Albus." Sprout disappeared, as though the earth had opened up and swallowed her.

"Albus, I will not participate in this undignified farce of a charity and that is absolutely, irrevocably final!" He stormed off, the blood pounding in his ears too loudly for him to hear Albus' parting shot.

"Oh, we'll see about that."

Line Break

Severus sat in his office, hunched over a microscope with a copy of his contract in his hand. He painstakingly read the tiny print along the edges, disguised in the loops of what he'd thought was an elaborate border. Not so. Finally he came to the portion Albus had cited. Having read it through carefully three times, he commenced breaking every breakable item in said office. He set fire to the more un-breakable ones. The ones that wouldn't break or burn were thrown about violently and raved at until they were bloody sorry they couldn't be broken just to escape this madman's frothing tirade. He didn't curse though- his rage took him beyond words and into a realm of colors and shapes- colors like blood-red and shapes like long, triangles with razor-sharp edges. In his office, Albus smiled, eyes twinkling like crazy.

Line Break

The day of the Bachelor Auction dawned bright a clear, drawing a surprisingly large crowd. Of course every girl, and not a few boys, wanted a date with Harry Potter, but a number of them were willing to settle for Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, Remus Lupin, Fred or George Weasley (they were a matched set), or one of the other heroes of the Final Battle. Severus knew he had been strangely calm ever since the altercation a week ago. When Dumbledore had asked him how his presentation was coming along, he had merely sneered a bit and then let it go without a word. The old man probably suspected something, but Severus was fairly certain that he didn't actually know the plan.

For of course, consummate Slytherin that he was, he had found a loophole worthy of Salazar himself. With a smile of anticipation, he waited his turn. Each wizard was to perform some kind of trick, showing off his talents for the benefit of the swarming, hormonal locusts that waited with bated mandibles for the vending to begin. He was twelfth out of forty wizarding bachelors, though he was pretty sure some of these 'available' wizards were actually just there so that their girlfriends could bid on them. There were only four left to perform before it was his turn. He couldn't wait.

Line Break

Hermione had come to the Bachelor Auction because the entire Weasley family was going and she didn't have anything better to do with her vacation time. She had to admit to a certain amount of bemused curiosity as to just what the affair would entail. Besides, Ginny and Molly had been so excited about the idea that their enthusiasm was catching. She took a seat across the aisle from the Weasleys because she had no desire to sit next to a sulking Percy- the only member of the family besides Arthur who hadn't been invited to be a bachelor.

This gave her a surprisingly good view of the stage, in any case. She watched attentively as each wizard came out, performed some feat of magic, big or small, and then retreated to stand on individual platforms to be admired until the auctioning began. From out of the shadows slid an individual that Hermione had never expected to participate in this kind of a lark. Severus Snape took the stage and the crowd erupted in murmurs of surprise, intrigue, and nausea- depending on the person.

A be-spelled table hovered behind him, a cauldron, already bubbling, sitting atop it. He set to work without the word of introduction that the others had given, chopping and stirring for seven minutes in complete silence. There was no way of knowing exactly what he was making. Most of the ingredients were pre-measured and sitting in opaque bowls. The others that he used were mostly generic, except for the ashwinder eggs. Still, as he brewed, he fell into a kind of trance. He seemed to lose the stiff posture and his angry expression relaxed to mere concentration. With surety and grace, he stirred the potion carefully and Hermione saw several expressions change from revulsion to consideration.

Ten minutes into the preparation and he was finished. He extinguished the flame and carefully decanted the potion into a small vial. Most of it had evaporated, leaving a single dose left from all the elaborate preparation. It was rather anticlimactic, this tiny, clear potion that looked like nothing so much as a beaker of water. With a suitable flourish, Severus saluted the crowd, then the Headmaster, who was looking slightly concerned. With an evil yet triumphant smile, he drank it down.

Hermione felt herself jump to her feet, one of many, as the life drained from Snape's body. He crumpled to the floor, the glass shattering on the wooden stage. Madame Pomfrey hurried towards him and Hermione followed as Dumbledore tried in vain to keep everyone in their seats while Professor Snape was seen to. None of the spells seemed to be helping and Hermione was mentally reviewing what combination of ingredients that included Ashwinder eggs that could produce such a poison.

Finally Snape was levitated out of the room by a worried-looking healer and the auction continued, strangely energized rather than subdued. Hermione slipped aside to have a private word with Dumbledore.

Line Break

Snape awoke in the hospital wing, his face obscured by a draped white sheet. He sat up bemusedly, confused for a minute about what had happened. As the events of that day rushed back he began to smile maliciously. Their faces had been priceless! He remembered the frantic tone in Poppy's voice and Albus' self-recriminations as he drifted further into his enchanted sleep. Nirvana was faking your death in front of Albus-bloody-Dumbledore and getting away with it! So it was with a bizarre kind of triumph that he threw off his death shroud and pushed back the curtains around his bed.

Only to come face to face with Hermione Granger.

"Oh, good," Hermione said, smiling up at him. He watched her put her book aside and try to push her frizzy hair from her face. "You're up."

"Obviously," he snarled, feeling his buzz dissipate. If this idiot Gryffindor had figured it out, Dumbledore probably already knew.

"Well, you'd better cast a disillusionment charm before one of the portraits spots you," Hermione said, apparently unfazed by his most pointed glare.

He stared at her for a moment before casting the charm. "What game are you playing, Miss Granger?"

"I'm only being considerate, Professor Snape. I assume you'll want to surprise everyone at breakfast tomorrow," she said sweetly. "May I suggest transfiguring something to look like your body, so as not to rouse Poppy's suspicions?"

He kept one eye on her as he edged back into the room and quickly turned a nearby towel into a credible copy of himself. He draped the sheet over it and turned to the helpfully smiling Hermione. "So what's in it for you, then?"

"You wound me, Professor," she said innocently. "Can't I simply help you out of the goodness of my heart?"

He snorted inelegantly. "That implies that there is goodness in people's hearts."

"Touché. Maybe you weren't aware, but I've got a very prestigious position with the Unspeakables. I'm desperately in need of competent people and you seem to hate your job with the burning fiery passion of a thousand binary systems. Why can't we solve both these problems at once?"

"Because I refuse to take a position under someone half my age and one eighth my intelligence?" Severus suggested.

"Nice parallel structure," Hermione complimented, refusing to rise to the bait. "I'm offering you a partnership, with benefits, and a substantial pay raise. Think about it the next time Albus ambushes you on 'Surprise Hug Day,'" she said, her smile turning distinctly vindictive.

Severus didn't want to know how she knew about that; he had personally blocked most of that day from his memory. He hadn't even had to use occulmency, as no one in their right mind would want to retain such a memory- which brought him back to Dumbledore. Did he really want to live the rest of his life with that horrible old man tormenting him with his sheer Gryffindor-ness? His eyes slid to Granger. At least she seemed sane… relatively. His eyes slid down the rest of her robe-clad form- she was also a lot more attractive than Albus ever was. He pictured being hugged by Albus versus Granger and made his decision on the spot.

"Miss Granger, pending review of the contract, I will agree to take this position. However, there is one thing I want you to do for me in exchange," he said, trying to appear less intimidating.

"What's that?" she asked warily.

He smiled and she stepped back two paces. "Something that will make Albus wish he'd never screwed with Severus Snape!

Line Break

The next day Albus woke up to find his entire collection of weirdly colored robes and flamboyantly decorated socks had been dyed a deep, spell-resistant black. His rooms had been done over in neutral shades. His boxes of gag gifts and toys had been replaced with rocks, and his beard had been neatly shorn and dyed brown to match his new hair color. Even Professor McGonagall couldn't get his things back to their original conditions. He cried for hours.