This story is based off of a challenge put forth by gershwhen on Potions and Snitches. The challenge: Harry saves Snape from serious injury caused by a Slytherin in a potions class. How does Snape react?
THE DAY THE SNOWFLAKES FELL
01 : ACCIDENT :
"And finally add four slices of beetroot skin." Snape's chalk tapped and slid across the black board at the front of the classroom.
I, Harry Potter, boy-who-lived, fourth Triwizard Champion and student of Hogwarts wanted to stuff wax in my ears and crawl into the small cracks in the dungeon floor brickwork. Potions class was boring on days like this when all the students just wanted to go outside and play in the fresh blanket of snow. Not to mention it was cold in the dungeons and it didn't help that Snape apparently decided that heating charms were out of style.
I vaguely heard Snape command us to get out our cauldrons and followed along with the rest of my compatriots in moving like sheep in a herd to grab our cauldrons and respective potions ingredients. I counted each ingredient, mentally going over the list of items that Snape had written on the board.
I passed Neville on my way out and nodded at him. He had the unfortunate honor of sitting at the desk in front of Draco Malfoy. I could easily remember the exploding slime and various disasters that befell Gryffindors who had the misfortune to sit in front of Malfoy.
"Who wants to bet four Galleons that Longbottom will botch his potion? Five says he takes out half the classroom!" Malfoy and his cronies heckled and catcalled poor Neville who was already nervous. I mouthed "sorry" to him when he passed my seat and he smiled tremulously. He was trying to be brave.
Snape barked orders for the slow-goers to speed things up. "This is not a tea party! Get a move on!" He swept across the classroom, a dark cloud in an even darker classroom. I set all my ingredients down and set the base in the cauldron to a boil. I added the first of the ingredients, monkshood and feverfew to start and let it roil around in the boiling and bubbling water. When it got close to adding the wasp wings I realized that I didn't have my stirring stick. It wasn't in my book bag and it wasn't under the desk.
"Hey, do either of you have an extra stirring stick?" I whispered under my breath to Ron and Hermione on either side of me.
"I only own one." Ron shrugged apologetically.
"I lent my extra one to Padma already." Hermione frowned, also apologetically.
"It's okay." I pushed out of my seat and walked over to the far side of the classroom where Snape kept all of his extra cauldrons, pestles and most importantly… stirring sticks.
"Lost something, Potter?" Malfoy sneered as I passed him.
"Lost the key to your straight jacket." I muttered.
"What's that, Potter?" Malfoy sat up straight.
I didn't reply but winked at Neville who was chuckling under his breath at my comment.
I rummaged around in the pile of cauldrons and looked for a stick that wasn't covered in slime, broken or otherwise unusable.
"Very good, Mr. Malfoy. Fine work as always." I heard Snape comment from the desks behind me. "Longbottom, your potion is pink… it is supposed to be brown." I looked up and saw that Neville's potion was indeed bright pink, hot pink in fact. Something tickled at the back of my mind. I had seen this before. Back in second year when Hermione had made the Polyjuice potion, there were a ton of extras left over and Ron and I had used them to practice for class while Hermione tended to the potion. Ron and I had accidentally made something using the exact first two ingredients for this potion that we were making now followed by too many dried lacewing flies. It was exactly that color of hot pink.
Neville grabbed a handful of the wasp wings and moved to put it in the hot pink concoction. Back when Ron and I had been experimenting he had added a single set of wasp wings, just to see what would happen, and the potion and not only exploded but melted clean through Ron's pewter cauldron. If it hadn't been for Hermione yelling out a shield spell—who knew she was that advanced?—Ron and I would probably have lost all our limbs.
"Nevile don't!" I didn't speak fast enough, the wasp wings dropped into the potion and for a split second I thought that nothing was going to happen. The whole room was dead quiet.
"Longbottom is there no end to your--" I stopped listening. All I heard was the near silent hiss coming from the core of Neville's cauldron where the pink was turning molten black. The explosion was coming. I backed away from it, and fell backwards into the pile of cauldrons.
"Everyone out!" Snape just realized what was happening too. The class room began clearing but Snape wasn't moving. He was fiddling with something right next to the cauldron. It was then I realized that his robes had been caught on a hangnail sticking out of the edge of the desk. He was tugging at the material and it was ripping but it wasn't coming loose. I scrambled to my feet, but instead of following the rest out I ran towards Snape. The hissing got louder and louder until all sounds to ripping cloth, breathing, footsteps hitting stone were all obliterated. My hands curled around the robes at Snape's back and pulled him away, torn cloth ripping through the hiss. I shouted the exact same shield spell that Hermione had so many ages ago and when the black potion blossomed from the cauldron it glowed like a million fireworks as it hit the shield and filled the dungeon with the sound of billions of breaking glasses.
Somewhere deep in my mind I realized I was casting a shield wandlessly, but that realization never reached my conscious mind. Because all I could think, all I could feel, all I could BE, was the burning on my back as the individual skin cells were seared away inch-by-inch. My failing was that, in casting wandlessly, I hadn't been thinking about protecting myself, but someone else. That wandless magic, wild and unpredictable protected as it was commanded to, but only the person who was in need of protection: Snape. The shield enveloped him and blocked the exploding black potion from reaching him, but the shield ended at my hands and did not cover them or any other part of my body.
The black potion on the walls and the ceiling convulsed in my vision. Pain was everywhere, I couldn't identify a specific place or even an offender. Everything tingled, twitched, burned, exploded with unimaginable fire. I closed my eyes as my vision became more black than color.
I heard things in the distance as I let myself sink to the ground near someone, I think I'd forgotten who it was. Whispers, sharp as glass, cold as the ice in a dead man's bones spiked through my ears and melted away in the void that had already taken away my vision.
The feel of the cold dungeon faded along with the subtle smell and taste of stale potions in the air. Chill turned to shale, taste to gravel, smell to dust.
Somewhere, someone called my name.
Someone, somewhere, cradled my head.
Sometime, some place, I dreamed of snowflakes.