Chapter One

Death, where is thy sting? Grimmest of prospects, most dreadful of days. How could it be any worse? If only there was some alternative; if only I could refuse Could there be a less auspicious beginning? at least it will be over with. If I survive. If I want to survive

Double potions, first lesson back after the Easter holidays.

With those blasted Gryffindors.

It was a well-tested and long-favoured technique: glide along the corridor as silently as a stalking panther, slither up to the door as a snake in the grass…and then throw it open as violently as possible, scaring the dunderheaded pupils out of their minimal wits.

Snape amused himself by keeping a tally of the number who actually squealed as he stormed into the classroom. That morning, five of them in total made some sort of terrified squeak, and Neville Longbottom, bane of any teacher's existence, looked gratifyingly nauseous with fear.

"Put that thing away, Miss Granger." Without even looking at Hermione, probably the most capable student of her year – perhaps any year – Snape reached his desk and dropped into his chair, lacing his hands before him on the desk in a languid manner which somehow managed also to be menacing. Hermione, with a small frown, put away her wand as instructed.

"I assume that you are all as delighted as I am to return to this class after the holidays." There were a few, very quiet, derisive snorts from the assembled pupils. " I further assume that everyone has completed the required holiday reading for this term." Many unhappy looks were exchanged. In fact, Snape had set so much reading that it was unlikely even Merlin himself could have managed it all without suffering eyestrain and psychological burnout. Snape was aware of this; it also amused him, in a detached sort of way. But a hand was waving in the air. Longbottom's.

"P-p-please, professor, I c-couldn't…"

"Detention, Longbottom, during which you may explain why not. And ten points from Gryffindor for your laziness." Neville hid his face in his hands, unable to meet Snape's cold glare. Another pupil did meet it, however, and with matching dislike – a boy with black hair and green eyes behind round spectacles; a boy with a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. Harry Potter found the judgement unfair and, unlike poor frightened Neville Longbottom, was not afraid to demonstrate it.

"Don't glare at me like that, Potter." Snape murmured lazily. "That'll be another ten points off for your insolence. And now for today's lesson…" Not hearing Ron Weasley's mutter of "git", Snape rose to his feet and pointed at the blackboard with his wand. Two words appeared on it:

Invisibility Potion

Followed by a long and complicated set of instructions and ingredients.

"We will be learning today about Invisibility Potions…not that some of us need them." He added with another sharp glance at Harry. "At least, I will be teaching…whether you lot will actually learn anything from it remains to be seen. Now! Pair off, collect your ingredients…" As the class prepared to make their first potions of the new term, Snape wandered among them, hissing instructions and making disparaging remarks – except, of course, to his own Slytherins, for whom he reserved an occasional sharp word of praise.

"Good consistency, Malfoy."

"Thank you, sir." Simpered the unspeakable Draco Malfoy, while his enormous henchmen Crabbe and Goyle looked on admiringly. Snape offered a grimace-like facial twitch in response, approximating a smile. Malfoy smiled sweetly back. Ron mimed being sick behind the professor's back, causing Neville to giggle…but a filthy look from Snape made him turn hurriedly back to his near-completed potion. Unfortunately, however, he had attracted attention to himself…and Snape glided over to loom behind the boy as he worked. Neville gulped; his hands shook as he attempted to add the final ingredients. He was so close to getting this almost right…for once, his potion would be a success…

It may well have been , had Snape not been standing over him, doing his best to intimidate the wretched boy into failure. Neville stirred his potion unhappily now, sure that something somewhere must have gone wrong. Mercifully, Snape turned abruptly away, returning to his desk.

"Everyone should have completed the first stage by now. On my word, you will add three drops - three, Longbottom! – of Essence of Henbane. You will then draw off a small amount of the liquid into a pipette, and administer it to your partner's hand." There was a pause, filled only by the sound of nervously shuffling feet. "Now." Said Snape, grimly. Right on cue, Hermione added her Henbane Essence; the potion turned silver, bubbling slightly, and she carefully withdrew a little, dripping onto Harry's hand. She beamed as a hole appeared.

"Nice one!" Harry told her. Ron meanwhile was having less luck; Seamus Finnigan's left hand had turned completely blue. Snape peered at it with disgust, then, realising that something else was wrong, turned to Neville.

"Longbottom, why haven't you yet caused havoc? Can it be that you failed to follow my instructions and add the henbane?"

"Professor…I didn't add it because I don't think…"

"Silence, boy! You will do as you are told, or you'll find yourself in detention for the rest of the term!" Neville picked up the tiny bottle of Essence of Henbane and unscrewed the top unhappily; meanwhile his partner Dean Thomas was looking mildly alarmed.

"Get on with it." Snarled Snape. Neville, with a muttered prayer, tipped the bottle up, closing his eyes…

Even Snape was startled by the ferocity of the resulting explosion. Bits of cauldron flew everywhere; pupils dove for cover under their desks while Snape shouted for order and fixed a menacing stare on Longbottom…or at least would have done, had he been there. The boy had completely disappeared. Snape was utterly astounded. Could it be possible that Longbottom had actually made the potion correctly? Except, of course, for adding ten times the required amount of henbane…

"Longbottom! Where are you?" No answer save a slight sniffling in front of him, but Snape could practically see the empty air trembling in fear.

"Come here." Said the potions master dangerously. The sound of footsteps could be heard in the cold dungeon classroom…but they were retreating towards the door.

"Longbottom!" Snape cried. But the feet were running now, and as he watched, the door opened, and the invisible Neville Longbottom was legging it up the stairs.

"Longbottom…" Snape shouted after him a third time, then with a hiss of exasperation bolted after the runaway student, wand at the ready, while the rest of the class sat amidst the debris, stunned.

Snape ran swiftly along the corridor, chasing Longbottom, of whom a single foot could be seen protruding from his robes, which were soaked in the Invisibility Potion. Longbottom moved surprisingly quickly, making numerous dodges and turns, but Snape managed to keep within a few feet of him, ignoring the astonished stares of pupils and staff alike as he hurtled past them.

"Move!" He growled at a Hufflepuff who stood gaping as the professor raced past. She jumped out of the way with a shriek as Snape brandished his wand.

Longbottom could now be heard panting, and Snape was sure he must catch up soon…but then the boy reached the stairs, scurried up them, for once missing the dodgy step, and finally threw himself into the Gryffindor boys' bathroom. Snape, with an exasperated grunt, followed – and slammed the door behind him.

A sea of lavatories, some baths and shower cubicles…but no sign of the escaped pupil. Snape peered carefully around the porcelain glinting room, his black eyes eventually falling upon a sink in the far corner…a sink with a mysterious foot poking out from under it.

"Ha!" Triumphantly Snape advanced on the – presumably quivering, but how could one tell? – Longbottom, and pointed his wand at the air before him. Longbottom screamed. Annoyed, Snape muttered,

"Stupid boy…I'm not trying to murder you…come here!" He grabbed out as the terrified boy tried to slip past him, and holding the struggling Neville with one hand, he quickly turned the cold tap of the nearest bath. Neville squirmed. When the bath was half full, Snape simply picked up the boy and flung him into it…

Longbottom howled….

Became visible as the potion washed off…

And the bathroom door opened.

"Professor Snape!" Cried Minerva McGonagall, in horrified disbelief. "What are you doing to Longbottom?"

"I…"

"How dare you abuse one of my students?"

"Abuse him!" Roared Snape, his blood thoroughly up. "He's abusing me! The blasted boy…gets everything wrong…made me chase him through miles of corridor…"the run finally catching up with him, Snape was gasping for breath, paler than usual with vexation and oxygen debt.

"Please, professor…"

"Keep out of this, you!" Snape snarled at Neville. McGonagall brushed past him and helped the unfortunate boy out of the bath.

"Go to the hospital wing." She instructed. "Madame Pomfrey will give you something to warm you up. Snape…" she glared at the potions master, "come with my to the headmaster's office."

"How dare you address me as though I were a first-year…"

"NOW!" Roared McGonagall, and Snape winced.

"Fine." He hissed, rising. His robes were also dripping from Neville's frantic efforts to escape. Bits of the boy were still invisible. Thankful to be excused, Neville slipped away as the two teachers glowered at one another.

"I have had quite enough of this appalling behaviour towards any pupils other than the Slytherins." McGonagall said as she led the way to Dumbledore's office. "Such things should not be tolerated in this school."

"Really? And I suppose you will be recommending Dumbledore to fire me?"

"It would make everyone's life much easier!" Snapped McGonagall.

"Oh, indeed?" Sneering openly now, his voice rising above its usual low, sinister level. "I'm certain that's true." McGonagall's lips had by this time almost disappeared as she compressed them into an ever thinning line.

"Ever since you came to this school you've caused nothing but trouble." She told Snape harshly.

"That must be why Dumbledore sees fit to employ me."

"He employs you because he pities you!" Passing students were beginning to stare at them now. In fact, a small crowd of interested Gryffindors and Slytherins were following them, unseen, as the pair stalked along the corridor.

"Pities! Then what does he employ you for? Maybe he finds you attractive? Or perhaps he finds it useful to have a teacher who transfigures into a cat for no other reason than to impress dimwitted first years?" McGonagall froze in place, turning to face Snape, who also stopped, smirking. For the first time they observed their gathering audience, but both teachers were too incensed to do anything but glare at one another.

"Oh? I wonder why you never became an Animagus, Snape? Is it because you were so useless at Transfiguration that Dumbledore had to give you special tuition just to get you through O.W.L.S?" Snape growled in his throat.

"I see it all now," McGonagall continued, "Dumbledore's charity case!"

"Better than being Dumbledore's pet pussy!" Snape cried in response. A small burst of applause came from the Slytherins in the intently-watching crowd.

"How dare you…"

"Here, kitty-kitty!"

"I've never been so…"

"Haven't you? You surprise me, Minerva!"

"You are the most…"

"Why thank you."

"Rude, insufferable…"

"How kind."

"Greasy, ill-mannered, nasty piece of work I have ever encountered!" Cheers from the Gryffindors.

"I am not greasy!" Snarled Snape, blatantly lying through his teeth. Groans from the Slytherins.

"And what is more…" Fortunately for Snape – possibly – McGonagall's tirade was cut off by the approach of none other than Dumbledore himself, meandering cheerfully along the corridor towards them. The crowd opened to let him through.

"What's this?" He smiled, eyes twinkling. "A little meeting?"

"We were…" McGonagall began awkwardly.

"Yes?"

"Professor McGonagall was taking me to task in front of the students, headmaster." Snape said quickly, flashing a triumphant look at McGonagall, who scowled. Dumbledore's simle faded. He looked worriedly from one to the other.

"Really, Minerva, is this true?"

"Well, yes, Albus, but…"

"She was most rude." Put in Snape.

"Professor Snape," growled McGonagall to Dumbledore, "has been ill- treating Longbottom yet again. I saw him with my own eyes trying to drown the boy in a bath…"

"Drown!"

"I was doing nothing of the kind!"

"Yes you were! And what's more…what is it you've been doing in the Forbidden Forest, Snape? Madame Hooch and I saw him heading there yesterday at midnight." She added to the headmaster,

"Oh, did you indeed?" Snape cried before Dumbledore could get a word in. "And what were you and she doing there, I might ask?"

"We were discussing the Gryffindor Quidditch team if you must know." Replied McGonagall, primly. "Madame Hooch was showing me a new technique for handling one's broomstick."

"Well you know what you can do with your broomstick!" The Slytherins cheered.

"Severus!" Exclaimed Dumbledore, though he couldn't quite hide a smile.

"Oh, go and wash your hair!" Whoops from the Gryffindors.

"Minerva! Really, both of you! And as for you students…please carry on with your business, whatever that may be." The crowd dispersed slowly, some grumbling, some giggling. Dumbledore turned back to the teachers.

"Now that we have some privacy…I would like it known that I am very displeased with both of you. This behaviour is hardly fitting for Hogwarts teachers. Squabbling in corridors…" he held up a hand for silence as Snape opened his mouth to object, "squabbling in corridors is childish behaviour even for first years, but for two adults, heads of houses at that, to be seen firing verbal arrows in front of your pupils…" Dumbledore shook his head sadly. Snape and McGonagall were looking vaguely ashamed of themselves, but they still glared at one another.

"She started it." Muttered Snape.

"I did not."

"Liar."

"Please!" Dumbledore cried. "Enough! You are both behaving like children. And if you insist on doing that, I will be forced to punish you like children. This has gone far beyond dignified rivalry – much too far. I expect you both to set better examples in future, and to ensure you do…" he paused, and a smile briefly came to his lips. "Ah, yes. I have the perfect solution. I would like to see both of you in my office first thing tomorrow morning." Snape and McGonagall, both scowling, avoided one another's gazes and without a word headed off back to their respective classrooms. Dumbledore remained for a moment standing still, smiling to himself.

Tomorrow would prove very interesting indeed.



A/N Please review ( Sorry it's a bit slow to start, I wanted to set the scene. Action starts from now! Poor Severus and Minerva (evil grin). By the way I won't inflict you with more chapters if it's too awful! Please don't flame me though, just ask me politely to go away…