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Summary: PoA era. Severus Snape takes a thoughtful stroll down Diagon Alley at the start of the Christmas holidays, but it soon turns into a quite a harrowing ordeal for our favourite Potions Master… UK English. Contains some dark humour. You have been warned!

The Trials of Severus Snape

Diagon Alley, 22nd December 1993

It was a cold, wet, blustery afternoon when Severus Snape stalked away from Knockturn Alley after an unsuccessful trip to obtain a (highly illegal) jarful of Withering Stingers. They were required for the new potion he was concocting during the term holidays. He had already christened it the Draught of Blissful Silence - one sip and the unfortunate victim's vocal chords were paralysed for up to eighteen hours - and had been hoping to test it illicitly on that insufferable know-it-all Granger during her next lesson (if Dumbledore asked, he would simply claim she had swallowed one of Potter's botched potions). But his trip for potential ingredients had been in vain, so it was with a heavy heart that he headed back up the seedy incline that led to Diagon Alley, intent on returning the majority of his Galleons to Gringotts. There would be no need for them now.

Diagon Alley itself was a broader, more friendly expanse of bustling people than the dark street he had just left. Its shoppers were busily rushing about, hoping to snap up a bargain or two for Christmas presents and he sneered at them contemptuously as he passed.

Idiots, the lot of them. Who cared about Christmas? It was nothing more than an excuse for greedy shop owners to offload sub-standard merchandise into the willing hands of gullible parents. An excuse to cram more food than usual into the gaping voids that passed for the mouths of their pampered brats - which, at least, had the pleasant side-effect of shutting them up for a while, he supposed.

Snape shuddered, but it had little to do with the biting wind.

Children. Who would have them? Whingeing, snivelling, useless little wastes of time. The unfortunate by-products of one night's earthly pleasure that had to be endured for over a decade and a half before one could be reasonably shot of them. What a pity it was illegal to sell them off. It certainly should not be. Imagine being lumbered with a brat that did not live up to one's expectations (of sitting quietly in a corner for seventeen years, until one could open the door and tell it to 'get lost' without fear of prosecution)? Still, if Diagon Alley had been crammed with shops trying to flog screaming children to a discerning public, the place would have gone out of business years ago.

He considered himself extremely fortunate not to have any.

Well, none of his own, at any rate. He sniffed in disgust at the thought of the chirpy, gleeful faces that would be returning to Hogwarts after the Christmas holidays. No doubt he would be forced to endure several days' worth of crowing as they fawned over their shiny new possessions and flocked together, either in corridors or on stairwells, to compare them with those of their friends from other Houses. Then, of course, there would be the unavoidable trial of the first day's lessons as they whispered in the classroom about their horrendous new jumpers (all of the Weasleys), gardening gloves (that bumbling cauldron-killer Longbottom) or Muggle football strips (Thomas - and if the boy dared stroll into his classroom with another West Ham United scarf draped around his neck, he would hex the stupid thing to choke the life out of him. No doubt his grateful parents would thank him for it).

The thought of Dean Thomas made him sneer (again). That boy's bold remark a few weeks ago about Lupin being 'the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher I've ever had' still irked him. Lupin. Of all people! Was the boy serious? It was nothing short of a miracle that the flea-infested mongrel could make it through an entire lesson without running around sniffing the unsuspecting brats while he discreetly selected the main course for his next monthly banquet - or cocking his leg in a corner to urinate like any common mutt - let alone teach a class full of snotty-nosed youths anything of worth.

Which only further reinforced his belief that children had no sense of objectivity. Had they no idea of the danger the wolfman presented? Were they so completely fooled by his mild-mannered ways and easy smile?

It was nauseating.

He stalked up Diagon Alley, scowling so fiercely that he scared the life out of two middle-aged woman exiting Twillfit and Tattings. He thundered angrily past the shop, completely oblivious to their gasps of fright and swerved out the way of parents and brats alike.

"Daddy, can I get the new Firebolt for Christmas?" whinged a girl of ten, clinging to her harried father's arm beseechingly as he passed a large crowd outside Quality Quidditch Supplies. The man must have refused, because the girl's voice escalated into a shrill cry of, "Please, Daddy? Please, please, please, pleeeaase, Dadddyyyy..."

Ugh. If that horrible child had been his, he would have left her bound and gagged in a cupboard at home (until adulthood) where she could never bother him. With, perhaps, the occasional visit to the bathroom so she did not foul the floorboards. And also the odd meal or two per week, to prevent the smell of her decaying corpse from putting visitors off their tea. Not that he was sociable enough to tolerate visitors; but Dumbledore would insist on popping round during holidays for an annoyingly pleasant chat, so one had to observe the niceties.

The thought amused him so much, he failed to notice a young boy running straight into his path and they collided with a whump! He staggered to the left, trying to balance himself, but the boy's feet caught at his ankle and he went sprawling over the (wet and filthy) cobbled streets, grazing his hands when he thrust them out to cushion his fall. There was the unmistakable tearing of cloth and he felt the cold stone beneath his left knee as he landed on all fours. The child had escaped the worst of it, having been pulled quickly aside by his father, and he watched the fallen wizard with big brown eyes.

"Sorry, mister," he squeaked as Severus pulled himself up, brushed himself down and glowered at him.

"You alright, mate?" queried the father, looking a bit too amused for the fuming wizard's taste. A few onlookers were sniggering and pointing in his direction and he scowled even more.

"I do not doubt that I would be, if you had never met the boy's mother," he snapped.

"No need to be like that, mate. Young Dermot didn't mean it. Just anxious to get to Eeylops, weren't you, son? I'm getting him his first owl today, so he's a bit keen to see what's on offer. Isn't that right, Dermy?"

The blond man looked at his offspring for confirmation.

But instead of the expected answer (not that it interested him in the least), 'Dermy' lifted a podgy finger and waved it at Snape's face. "Look, Dad! His nose is even bigger than Nana O'Flaherty's. It's huge!"

He glared at the brat in offence. Could the child have possibly yelled any louder? He would not be surprised if the only people not to hear the annoying twerp were the Himalayan Hidey Hags (hags so hideous, that only a blind yeti would have them).

The boy's father chuckled - chuckled! - fondly. "It might well be, son. In fact, it definitely is..."

The onlookers laughed and Snape growled.

"...but there's no need to embarrass the poor bloke. Go on; say you're sorry."

"Sorry, mister...but really; your nose is ginormous."

His father, seeing Snape's dangerous expression (and realising the danger to his offspring's continued existence) hauled the brat away before he could do any more damage.

Furious, Snape wiped his hands on the inside of his dark coat and waved his wand over his filthy trousers. The dirt vanished, but he was unable to repair the tear at the knee without a needle and thread and was forced to put a Binding charm on it to hold it together until he got back to the school.

Brat! If that had been one of his students, he would have given the little mutant detention for a month and made him disembowel rats. Or toads. His eyes followed the two offenders as they scurried across the street and he briefly debated following them to demand a proper apology. Deeming it beneath him, he pivoted on his heel, gave the remaining onlookers a scathing glance and continued on his way to the snowy white building that was his destination, mulling over the short encounter with a potentially future student as he walked.

Fortunately for him, he had an excellent memory. Unfortunately for the brat, Snape now knew his name. It would only be a matter of time before he would be able to assign Dermot (possibly) O'Flaherty the requisite punishment for his cheek. And if O'Flaherty was the surname of his maternal grandmother? Well, fortunately, he was a skilled Legilimens, too, and there were never enough Dermots attending Hogwarts at any one time for him not to be able to probe all of their minds in order to confirm the correct surname. He could wait a mere three years...

Cheered by the thought, the slightly damp Potions Master swooped down the alley once more, intent on getting into and out of the Wizarding bank as quickly as possible so he could return to Hogwarts without further delay.

Not that all children were bad, he mused. In fact, there were some he could tolerate reasonably well for short periods of time. Draco Malfoy, for instance. Now there was a boy he would not (always) be ashamed to call 'son'. Pleasantly ambitious, charmingly witty, kind to both his (sycophantic) friends and small animals. Not that he would be particularly bothered if Draco was unkind to small animals. And, just like his father, he was keen to share his (skewered) opinions and (blood) money among the needy (Crabbe/Goyle/anyone else that required a bribe). Although, it had to be said, that Lucius Malfoy was leagues ahead of his progeny in both the ruthlessness and arrogance stakes (which was saying a lot).

Both Malfoys did, however, share the same shameful tendency to cowardice and would rarely be found admitting to their individual errors in judgement and taking their punishment on the chin as any man worth his salt should.

Although, if Lucius had admitted to his true involvement in the Dark Lord's ranks all those years ago, half the Ministry's officials (if not more) would be a great deal poorer...

He sneered scornfully at the thought of the spineless man. Malfoy Snr might be one of the wealthiest wizards in Britain, but he was not as smart as he would like to think. The devious fool might have the money to keep Fudge in his pocket, but all his Galleons and elaborate scheming had not prevented him from being outsmarted by a twelve-year-old brat who had tricked him into freeing his ridiculously gooey house-elf. It never failed to amuse him when Lucius yelled out for Dobby to bring him a bottle of wine, or demand that he clean the entrance hall to Malfoy Manor - only to realise that the elf was no longer a member (slave) of his household. It was almost enough to make Snape want to dash back to Hogwarts and award ten points to Gryffindor. And he might have too, if the brat who had afforded him such amusement was not his hated enemy's offspring.

Potter.

Snape's lip curled in contempt. That brat was just like his father. Cocky and arrogant. It riled him no end to see the green eyes of his beloved Lily staring up at him three times a week during Potions lessons - staring up at him from the cretin's Potter-ridden face! Those eyes belonged to Lily and the constant reminder that his own foolishness had chased her right into the dubiously comforting arms of James Potter was like a persistent slap on the cheek. The very person who, along with that rabid mongrel Black, had made his school years a living hell! And who had later galloped to his defence (albeit to save himself from expulsion) at the Whomping Willow when Black tried to serve him up to their pet werewolf for dinner!

Could there be any insult greater than imparting his vast and impressive wealth of wisdom to the ungrateful and talent-less child of such a man?

He grimaced. Of course there could. Having to protect the brat because he was the Boy-Who-Bloody-Well-Lived. Yet, he was still Lily's child. For her sake, he would do whatever was in his considerable power to keep the brat alive.

Snape stalked past the Cauldron Shop before coming to a grinding halt and favouring it with a sidelong glance. It put him in mind of the other possible Chosen One. Why had the Dark Lord not gone after Longbottom instead? He was a Pureblood, after all, and surely the Dark Lord would have considered him the greater threat? That way, Lily might still be alive. Oh, it would still have grated on his nerves to see her with that animated lump of venison, but it would have been worth it to be able to see her at all. It was still devastating to him to know he would never see her again. He could have been spared so much pain if his former master had selected the other child.

But would Alice Longbottom have been able to save her son in the same manner that Lily had saved Potter? And, if so, would he honestly have wished her to die just to spare his agony?

The shop door opened and a few people walked out, barely sparing the silent, thoughtful figure in black a glance on their way past the cauldron-filled window displays.

Alice had never been a friend of his at school, that much was true. And no other girl could (or would) mean as much to him as Lily, but she had never done anything to him that would make him want her dead. In fact, she had always been surprisingly pleasant (for a Gryffindor). She had greeted him politely in the corridors when their paths crossed and had kindly offered him the use of her spare cauldron after Potter and Black had hexed his to run out the classroom and down the corridor of the dungeons (with his half-finished Felix Felicis slopping wildly over the sides). And once, she had even rounded angrily on Black after the mutt had callously started a vicious rumour that Snape fancied Professor McGonagall.

True, she had been angrier at the slur to her teacher's character, but, nevertheless, the normally sweet-tempered girl had spent five minutes yelling at the witless fool in front of every student (and most of the teachers) in the Great Hall for being 'an embarrassment to Gryffindor' and 'the sorriest excuse of a wizard' she had ever known. Then she had jinxed his trousers, making them shrink to the proportions of a ten-year-old boy's (which had been one of the most satisfying things he had witnessed in all his school years). Black's dubious manhood had been strangled almost to the point of necrosis as they tightened ever steadily around his groin and Snape had laughed as hard as everyone else when the mutant mongrel had fallen writhing to the floor, trying desperately to whip them off in front of all and sundry. Alice had been awarded a month's detention (by McGonagall herself) for endangering 'the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black'.

Which, in his opinion, was unfair. Gryffindor or not, she should have been given a medal. After all, Black never had procreated, had he? Unless he had met an attractive poodle or some other alluring bitch after his flight from Azkaban. In fact, for all Snape knew, he could have a litter of newborn pups scattered across the length and breadth of Britain at this very moment, all barking and yelping for Daddy. The gestation period for dogs was just over sixty days, after all, and Black had been on the loose twice as long as that.

Smirking, he pulled his thoughts from Alice and settled them on her son.

Hmm. Neville Longbottom as the Boy-Who-Lived? Whereas that might have been more tolerable to him personally than Potter Jnr, the thought of the meek, awkward and utterly incompetent Gryffindor being any sort of threat to the Dark Lord was laughable. If - when - his former (and much loathed) master ever did rear his ugly head again, it would take more than a brat who was scared of his own shadow to defeat him. Longbottom would never be able to present any sort of challenge to the Dark Lord. Indeed - even in his third year of Potions - he was unable to so much as present a decent Boil-Cure Potion to his teacher, and any first-year Slytherin could do that. It seemed that Alice's son would always be a disappointment to her and - as much as he may regret her current lack of lucidity - it was better for her that she never realised it.

Which meant, like it or not, he was lumbered with the protection of the cocky Potter brat.

Grumbling in displeasure at the thought of possibly seeing his nemesis when he got back to the school (and his annoying lackeys - they had ruined his Christmas break by deciding to keep him company at Hogwarts), Snape turned away from the Cauldron Shop and stormed towards the towering white structure that stood tantalisingly near. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to halt (yet again) just as he was walking past the second-hand robes shop. Mrs Weasley had stepped out of it with her daughter and the third oldest of her boys and she had already spotted him.

Damn it all!

"Severus! How are you?" she enquired in her motherly fashion, smiling widely at him (when others would run screaming for the hills).

Magnificent. Just what he wanted. A cheery chat with Jolly Molly. He wondered how she would react if he said, "Mind your own business!" or, "Of what possible interest could that be to you?" and stormed off, but he refrained from being so rude. It was not that they were friends, but she was the mother of (half of) his students and she was one of the few parents who took a keen interest in her children's progress in his classroom. As such, they spoke more often than usual and it would be rude to slight her now.

Suppressing his irritation at the interruption to his journey, he gave a brief nod of his head.

"Very well," he said indifferently, before adding: "And very busy," hoping she would take the hint and leave him be. He did not have all day to dawdle. He was just about to move off when she spoke again.

"Oh, I know exactly what you mean! It's all go, go, go today..."

Maybe for her it was, but not for him. It was all stop, stop, stop. At this rate, he would never get to Gringotts.

"...what with Christmas just around the corner and all this rushing around to buy last-minute presents..."

The girl, Ginny, flushed, looking mortified that her mother had brazenly admitted to buying gifts from a second-hand shop. Snape felt a sudden, uncharacteristic pang of sympathy for Mrs Weasley and scowled at her daughter in disapproval. Another ungrateful brat! She should count herself lucky she had a roof over her head and food on the table. And that was she was allowed out of her cupboard before her seventeenth birthday.

"...it's like there aren't enough hours in the day for all that needs to be done! And what about you, Severus, dear? Are you all full of the Christmas spirit yet?"

If anyone else had called him 'dear', he would have Crucio-ed them on the spot.

But Mrs Weasley looked at him hopefully, always ridiculously eager to make sure everyone was as happy as they could possibly be, so he refrained from cursing her. He heard the girl mumbling under her breath and glanced at her sharply, convinced he had heard her say: "He's full of something." But she had the nerve to smile at him innocently and he gritted his teeth, unwilling to Avada Kedavra her in front of her mother.

Not to worry. There was a barrel full of frog's brains waiting for the brat when she returned to school. And she would return. It would not be Christmas forever…

"I am as effusively happy at this time of year as always, Molly."

Which basically meant he was as miserable a git as ever.

The girl sniggered, but turned it into a cough when he glowered at her again. Hmm. Apparently, it was time for the cauldrons' annual scrub, also. All two hundred of them. She would be in detention until she hit the menopause.

"Oh, I am pleased to hear that!" declared the red-haired woman happily.

Snape sighed. Did she ever shut up?

"Percy was just telling me how very much he's enjoying his final year of Potions," she offered proudly, beaming at the tall, thin, bespectacled boy. The girl looked at her brother, shoved a finger in her mouth and mimicked vomiting.

"Is that so?" he replied in a long-suffering voice.

Mrs Weasley missed the sarcasm. "Absolutely. I think he'll be very sorry to leave Hogwarts…"

Perhaps he would be. But Hogwarts would not be sorry to see him leave. And neither would Snape. He was sick of the ambitious brat's smug superiority. He looked at Percy (who had his chest puffed out self-importantly) and wondered absently why the Sorting Hat had placed him in Gryffindor when he would have made the ideal Slytherin.

"...unlike Fred and George...oh, speak of the devil. Fred! George! Over here!"

Could this day possibly get any worse? He swivelled his head to the right and, to his very great disgust, saw the twin evils of Hogwarts exiting Gambol and Japes and heading straight for them. They had been whispering conspiratorially and examining the contents of a brown paper bag when they left the joke shop, but closed it as soon as they clapped eyes on the man standing next to the unfortunate woman that had given birth to them. Within five seconds, he was surrounded by a gaggle of Weasleys.

"Hello Professor..." said one of the brats.

"...Snape," finished the other insolently.

He clenched a fist. If there was anyone he loathed as much as Potter, it was the Diseasley twins. They disrupted his classroom more often than James Jnr and that cauldron-slaying Longbottom idiot combined. He had awarded the red-heads several detentions for not addressing him as 'Professor Snape', yet the dastardly duo still flaunted their disrespect by simply splitting his name up between them and annoying him anyway.

"Mr Weasley, Mr Weasley," he growled in greeting, wanting nothing more than to reach over and smack their heads together.

"We were just talking about you, sir," offered one of the smiling blights. He looked at his brother and they grinned even wider.

"Is that so?" Snape drawled silkily, dropping his eyes to the brown paper bag and wondering what plague they intended to visit on his classroom next. "And what so intrigued you about me, that you would spend your precious holidays discussing me?"

"You always intrigue us Professor..."

"...Snape..."

"...not just during the holidays, Professor..."

"...Snape..."

"...sir..."

Mrs Weasley looked thrilled that her sons were getting on so well with their teacher, but Snape could have happily killed the smirking Diseasleys on the spot.

"...but we were just saying that we're really looking forward to our next Potions lesson, Professor..."

"...Snape..."

"...sir!"

The girl sniggered, which was annoying. He was running out of ideas for detentions for the brat. And now, he would have to think of some for her twin siblings, too. He glared at the boys, wondering why in Merlin's name Molly had not seen fit to have her husband neutered after giving birth to Percy.

Still, perhaps he could discreetly assign the brats some detention under her nose? He gave them a thin smile and their grins slipped a little.

"And I am looking forward to reading your essays on the medicinal value of Runespoor eggs."

He sneered at them triumphantly as they gaped at him in dismay.

"Essays?" puttered one.

"Surely you have not forgotten already, Mr Weasley? Tut, tut. I would hate to think your future career may suffer because you have not kept abreast of your academic obligations."

The brat looked at his mother, who scowled at him in disapproval.

"On Runespoor eggs?" spluttered the other.

"As I said," Snape replied in deep satisfaction.

Mrs Weasley transferred her glare to the other horrible brat.

"And, erm...how long was it, again?" choked the first youth.

"Twenty inches of parchment, as you are already aware."

"Twenty inches??" they gasped in unison.

He gave a theatrical sigh of exasperation (for their mother's benefit).

"Yes. Twenty inches. Each. Due on the first day of term after your return."

"Why, you sly devils!" screeched Mrs Weasley, cuffing them each on the head with a hand (and dropping her numerous bags to do so). "You told me you didn't have any homework. And with your O.W.L.S. coming up, too! Well, you can just forget about that Puddlemere United match until you get it done! I'm ever so sorry, Severus, dear. They can be a bit too naughty at times for their own good. Don't you worry, though: I'll make sure they finish it, if I have to stand over them myself while they write! And if it's not done by Christmas Eve night, you can forget about getting any presents the next day!"

The brats paled.

How deliciously satisfying! That had worked out better than he could ever have hoped. The threat of their glowering mother hovering behind them (possibly with a rolling pin in hand) would be enough to keep them busy for the next two days. And if they did not have it completed by Friday evening, the Diseasleys would be experiencing a very Measly Weasley Christmas!

Splendid!

Exceptionally pleased with himself (and almost ecstatically happy at the looks of utter devastation sported by the brats), Snape thanked her politely.

"How very considerate of you, Molly. As you know, the intellectual well-being of my students is of the utmost importance to me..."

Percy nodded in agreement, but the twins and their brat of a sister glared at him.

"...and I would be remiss in my duties as a teacher if I did not ensure it flourishes even in their absence from my classroom. Therefore, you have my gratitude for your vigilance in reinforcing it during the holiday season."

His undying gratitude.

"That's very kind of you to say. Well, I think there's been enough shopping for one day, don't you, boys?"

Mrs Weasley glared at the twins and snatched the brown paper bag from their grasp. "And whatever this is," she barked, waving it in their faces, "you can forget about seeing it again until I see your O.W.L. results! Now, pick up those bags and let's be off. I'm certain your father will have a word or two to say to you when you get home!"

Snape was so relieved to be spared the nuisance of whatever the brats had had planned for Potions when they got back, that he seriously debated reaching out, grabbing her to him, and snogging the life out of her. But - with great effort - he mastered the impulse and gave her a rare, genuine smile instead (which had the added bonus of making the girl look genuinely nauseous).

"Merry Christmas, Molly," he said smoothly, offering her a gallant nod of the head. "To you and all your delightful family."

And with that, he turned on his heel and made his way to Gringotts with (almost) a spring in his step.

"Merry Christmas, Severus, dear!" she called out behind him and he could hear the smile in her voice. It was enough to make his cold heart warm a little.

Until...

"Merry Christmas, Professor..."

"...Snape..."

"...sir."

He stopped and whirled around to see that the twins (and their sister) had recovered enough from their collective ordeal and taken it in turn between the three of them to send him off with that final stab in the back. They waved at him cheerily and turned to follow their mother as she led them back down Diagon Alley.

Brats!

Fuming at their irrepressible nerve, he glowered at the back of their heads for a full minute before returning his gaze to his intended destination and heading towards it for the last time.

Children! Who would have them?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Author's Note: The Dean Thomas quote is taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 9, Page 128.

This is the first time I've attempted Snape, so I may not have his character quite down to pat, but I hope you had a giggle anyway.

I may have made a mistake with Snape's reference to James' and Sirius' Animagi forms at this stage - but it's too late to change it now without messing everything up. Sorry folks :(

Please review if you did. It really is my only reward.

Kara's Aunty :)