The Extraordinary Potioneers
Summary: One Professor, four students, and forced participation in an organization none of them want to be in. What could possibly go wrong?
Author's Note and Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything you recognize likely comes from J. K. Rowling (and Dr. Seuss in one case). If you don't recognize it, then it likely comes from my own warped imagination.
Think of this as a series of one-shots that fit together. There are no warnings except for the use of occasional foul language, so I'm playing it safe by rating it T.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my story. Please review, and thanks for reading.
Chapter One: And Other Duties As Assigned
"Ah, Severus! Good to see you! Good to see you!"
Slughorn's jovial hand slapped Severus on the back, and Severus could barely maintain his aloof demeanor.
"To think I'll be back at Hogwarts this year! Well, it was Harry Potter that decided me, really. Couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts after meeting him. The boy could certainly use my connections to help him along. It wouldn't be right of me to hold back on The-Boy-Who-Lived!"
Severus definitely felt a migraine coming on. For Albus Dumbledore to even entertain the notion that Severus Snape wanted to attend the annual conference of The Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers with him and Horace Slughorn was unfathomable. This type of thing apparently fell under the category of 'and other duties as assigned' in his teaching contract, as had once been condescendingly explained to him by Albus. That one seemingly innocuous clause regularly caused him trouble.
The whole Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy debacle and Dumbledore having a blackened hand apparently wasn't enough to daunt the Headmaster from wanting to use Ministry money for the purpose of staff professional development before the term.
Even though they were already waiting with their hands on the Portkey, which looked suspiciously like one of the socks that Granger menace used to knit for house-elves, Severus thought it prudent to attempt a last ditch effort to get out of it.
"I'm not even teaching Potions this year, Albus."
"Neither am I. Have you ever been to Grosvenor House, Severus?"
Severus immediately perked up. A posh five-star hotel in Muggle London- seriously? This was unprecedented in the Society's history. Usually they just booked the Leaky Cauldron and had done with it. Though Severus wouldn't really know, as he hadn't actually attended an annual conference in ages. He always told Albus he was going and then skived off.
"Five-star, you say? We're at a five-star hotel this year?" he asked incredulously as the Portkey activated.
When they arrived at their destination, Severus only surmised that he did not care for Albus Dumbledore's sense of humor- at all. They left him holding the sock.
"No, I merely asked if you'd ever been there, not that we were going to go there."
The conference was at the thrice-damned Leaky Cauldron once again.
Slughorn laughed delightedly.
"Almost had me going there, Albus, and I'm on the planning committee!"
Severus was already grinding his teeth in frustration. He had Dumbledore on his right and Slughorn on his left, and they both practically goose-stepped him over to the registration table.
"Gladys! My dear, you're looking lovely. Not a day over twenty-nine!"
The elderly witch, who was running the registration table, tittered like a schoolgirl as Horace Slughorn fawned over her, and Severus thought he was going to vomit. Albus apparently caught the look on Severus' face because he quickly stuck a 'Hello, My Name is: Sev Snape' badge on his frock coat, shoved an itinerary and a complimentary gift bag into his hands, and dragged him into the Leaky Cauldron's meeting room with his good hand.
"Severus! Where's your fez? It's required dress-code," Dumbledore asked, while peering at Severus over his half-moon spectacles.
Severus sneered. "Albus, I am not wearing one of those infernal hats."
Albus Dumbledore looked supremely unconcerned and continued on as if Severus hadn't said anything at all. "Oh, but this just won't do. You must wear a fez. No matter. It's a good thing I'm a dab hand at Transfiguration- or so I've been told."
With that and a wave of Dumbledore's wand, Severus was wearing a red fez with a black tassel. It was absolutely intolerable. If he had been inclined to forget why he always skived off, it was the fez that reminded him. Not that Severus was inclined to forget. His only consolation was that everyone else looked just as ridiculous as he did.
Slughorn caught up to them garbed in his own requisite fez and looking entirely too excited about it. The fool had even added a smoking jacket to his ensemble. What was next? Rides on flying carpets? Severus looked around in disgust. He had to be the youngest wizard in the room, which was yet another reason he usually skived off- he didn't like being treated as a perpetual adolescent by a geriatric group of witches and wizards.
"Gladys made sure we got a good table- not that there was ever any doubt we'd get a good one!" Slughorn told them both in that same jovial tone that irked Severus to no end.
Slughorn led them over to a table in a corner near the front. It had a white tablecloth, and was surrounded by three very comfortable looking armchairs. Prominently placed on top of the table was a very large hookah that already had hot coals. Severus saw Slughorn rub his hands together before picking out and sitting in the comfiest looking of the chairs and immediately propping his feet up on a little ottoman.
"This is the life, eh? Shame this is the first time you've joined us in about five years, Severus!"
Albus, who had just sat down in his own chair, after adjusting the upholstery to a ridiculous looking chintz pattern, eyed Severus sharply.
For his part, Severus merely glared at Horace Slughorn. The man had done it on purpose! If looks could kill, then Slughorn would be dead. Slughorn met his eyes and Severus could have sworn the man smirked at him when Albus wasn't looking.
Dumbledore's face had taken on that disappointed look, which also irritated Severus to no end. Then again, many things irritated Severus.
"We'll definitely be revisiting this little revelation at another time, Severus."
Severus merely gave a non-committal huff before sitting in the remaining armchair at the table. The cushion was set too low and was entirely too lumpy to be comfortable. It figured they'd leave him with the defective one.
After sitting down, Severus attempted to let all of the conversations flow around him. One old wizard walked by and jammed his walker up against Severus' armchair and then had the audacity to glare at him.
"No decency to get out of the way!" the old man ranted.
Severus ignored him.
It was then that the lights flickered off and the room was awash in candlelight, which almost would have been nice, but for two, no, three things. One, the old wizard with the walker was still trying to pry his jammed walker from where he'd got it stuck on Severus' chair- now in the dark. Two, Severus, despite being in the dark, was still at the wretched event. Three, a spotlight came on and was pointed directly at a stage.
Usually, Severus didn't mind a bit of entertainment. He wouldn't go so far as to consider himself a patron of the arts, but he appreciated them. He'd been to the symphony, to Broadway musicals, to the ballet, and to more than a few plays in his time. It didn't matter that most of those times weren't voluntary on his part- it was a downside to knowing Lucius Malfoy and 'going way back.' Severus considered it an unfortunate consequence for his youthful indiscretions of hanging out with the wrong crowd. Regardless, what began occurring on the stage was in a different category altogether and was reminiscent of watching a train wreck.
A grey haired wizard with a handlebar mustache, a bowtie, and who obviously bought his robes from the same place where Molly Weasley got her youngest son's Yule Ball robes, came onto the stage to great applause. All of this was bad enough, but what really sealed the deal for Severus was the fact that he did it to incidental music.
Incidental music! At first, Severus wasn't certain, but as the man spoke, introduced himself, told jokes, and paced, the music was matching what he was doing and saying. It was intolerable and Severus was determined to attempt to ignore that too.
With the final thought of, 'Forget this rubbish,' Severus took a book out of his robes. He moved his armchair closer to the table, lifted the tablecloth slightly and placed the book in this lap. It wasn't the most comfortable position from which to read, but if he angled his wand just so, he might be able to read effectively by wand light under the table.
Severus had read one full page, his ears had almost relegated the incidental music to a form of very annoying white noise, and he was at a point where the book was getting interesting, when it happened.
It was the sound of a tin being clicked open. Then there was the rustle of the paper inside the tin. Then there was that sound- a terrible sucking noise. It was the sound of a sherbet lemon in Albus' mouth.
"Tsk. Severus!" a voice whispered next to him. The tin made its way into his line of sight. "Tsk. Do you want a sherbet lemon? Tsk."
"No, thank you."
"Are you certain? Tsk."
Then Severus had to endure Albus leaning over in front of him to whisper loudly to someone at the next table over. He was still holding the tin out.
"Eh? Who's that?" the old codger at the next table called back.
"Tsk. Yes! Sherbet lemon?"
"Do. You. Want. A. Sherbet. Lemon?" Albus whispered even more loudly and slowly. He rattled the tin.
"Sherbet lemon? Oh, yes, thank you, Albus."
"Severus, would you?"
The tin was rattled directly in Severus' face and he barely managed not to rudely snatch it before passing it on. Then, when it finally made its way around back to him, Severus passed the tin to Albus, who made a rather big deal out of making sure Horace got a sherbet lemon too, and then clicked it shut and put it away again.
"You know, I think I need to stretch my legs a bit. I'll be right back, Severus," Albus told him rather loudly.
Severus watched Albus leave the room and go out towards the bar. Lucky him.
"You know that's code for going to the toilet. Then he'll have to go to the bar and talk to everyone and get a drink with an umbrella. He'll be ages," Slughorn said as soon as Albus had left.
"I'm assuming you want something, Horace?" Severus asked in his driest tone.
"If it's not too much trouble, Severus. You know I wanted to stay retired. So Albus has agreed that you're to still brew the potions needed for the hospital wing."
"As if I didn't have enough to do! I thought it would be your job now," Severus groused.
Horace took a big puff from the hookah and smirked at Severus.
"I mean to do as little as possible. I've put in my time. I'm not brewing for the school. I'm not having anything to do with Head of House duties, even to relieve you on occasion. I'm not supervising Hogsmeade days. I'm not doing any patrols for curfew. And I'm certainly not going to be reigning over any detentions! If Albus would allow it, I'd not grade papers either."
"Well, that's just super. How nice for you."
Severus knew this would happen. And, as per usual, he'd be the one to pick up the slack. Severus hid any further frustrations he had by picking up his complimentary gift bag and looking inside. Inside was a new stirring rod, an issue of the society publication (which was the only reason for being a member as far as Severus was concerned), a charmed record of Celestina Warbeck's greatest hits, and a shot-sized bottle of Old Ogden's Firewhisky.
"And now, the moment we've all been waiting for! Our special drawing!"
Severus rolled his eyes. With his luck it would be a year's supply of magical denture cream. He tuned out the hubbub on the stage. Considering everyone's attention was at the front of the room, Severus immediately filched the shot-sized bottle of Firewhisky from Albus' gift bag and was in the process of taking Slughorn's, when the inevitable happened.
A spotlight was immediately on him and luckily only Slughorn caught on to what he'd done, because he grinned wickedly at him.
"Once a Slytherin, always a Slytherin, eh, Severus?"
Severus was gritting his teeth by now, and was sure it looked like a constipated grin.
"Well, come on up to the stage, young man, and claim your prize!"
Severus swept up to the stage in a swirl of black robes and stood there with a glare on his face.
"Our youngest member! How exciting! Severus has just won a voucher for a tour of Old Ogden's Distillery, where he will get to select his own barrel of Ogden's Own Special Brew. It's small batch. The barrels used are particularly rare for a magical whisky, as they are charred oak barrels that have once held select Muggle Bourbon Whiskey, shipped all the way from Kentucky! There are distinct notes of vanilla and cinnamon, and it is considered one of the best tasting whiskys on the market. Retail price is currently 100 galleons per bottle."
Wait- what? This was bloody fantastic! His own barrel of whisky! Severus felt his glare turning into a real smile. Not only could he drink the most sought after magical whisky anytime he wanted, he could use it as leverage against his co-workers. He looked straight at Slughorn and gave him a shark-like grin. Horace would cave- he'd have him and all of his other co-workers doing his bidding soon enough.
Then, the other shoe dropped.
"Of course, we couldn't make this too easy! There's a catch," bowtie man chortled.
Wasn't there always?
"We've decided to tie this year's prize into our annual membership drive! Severus, in order for you to receive your extraordinarily expensive barrel of whisky, you will have to personally bring more new members into the society before the first of January, than –" Bowtie man stopped to draw another name out of his hat. "Horace Slughorn! Otherwise, the prize will go to him!"
Severus wanted to rip the man's bowtie off and shove it down his throat. He glanced down at where Horace was sitting, only to see the older wizard laughing delightedly, and being smacked on the back by the others sitting hear him.
"Show that young devil you've still got it, Horace!"
"May the best wizard win!"
As soon as Severus was seated once again, Albus came back to the table, holding a drink decked out with a pink umbrella in his good hand.
"What did I miss?"
"It looks like I'm going to start the Slug Club back up, Albus!"
"Oh! That's wonderful, Horace! The students always enjoyed that. It's good for them to mix with students of other houses."
Horace sent Severus a smug smirk. Did he really think he'd win with his Slug Club leading the way? Not if Severus had anything to say about it. Just because Horace would feed the students supper and stroke their egos by inviting them to parties to meet famous people didn't mean he would find anyone interested in joining the society. Membership had been down for years. Oh, who was he kidding? Horace had the best chance of getting new members among the students, and Severus knew it.
No, what Severus needed was a plan. He needed a plan that would get him some small term gains even if he lost the war. Then, Severus got an idea. An awful idea. Severus got a wonderful, awful idea! And he smiled. An awful smile. Severus smiled a wonderful, awful smile!
"What's that you're doing there, Severus?"
Horace sounded a bit panicked. As well he should, Severus thought.
"You'll see, Horace."
He might not win the whisky, but Severus sure as hell would at least have students doing his grading, brewing the school potions, and doing whatever else he could dream up- so long as he didn't call it detention. He just had to keep Albus in the dark. The man didn't approve of student assistants. Horace may have had the ambition of twenty Slytherins, but Severus came out on top when it came to the cunning.
He held one of the shot-sized whisky bottles he'd filched throughout the evening- he'd got at least five up to the stage and six on the way back- and held it up to the light. It was truly a lovely amber color. He tore the top off with his teeth and drank it in one go. Leisurely sipping? Not in present company.
Maybe he'd even have a hit on the hookah too. He was certain that there wasn't just tobacco in there.