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Chapter Twenty: Catastrophic Brain Damage

Harry waited patiently for Snape to finish reading through the essay he'd been forced to write after the events of his last detention. He'd actually had a difficult time cutting it down to the length that Snape had assigned because Harry had messed up so many things in the two potions.

This was much easier than actual class.

If class was like this, Harry could make the same grades as Hermione with half the effort.

"You're quite detailed in your assessment of your failures in brewing the potions correctly," Snape commented finally, "you may not use your book tonight, complete both the hair removal and regrowth potions using only these notes."

Harry appeared to have spoken too soon.

He also appeared to have made a mistake in cutting down the length of the essay.

Snape held the essay out to Harry who accepted the parchment despondently. Harry quickly tried to remember all the things he'd removed from the essay, and wondered if he could jot them down without Snape noticing and getting in a tizzy over it.

Probably not.

Fighting down a groan, Harry retrieved the ingredients—hoping he could remember all of them and how to prepare them. Harry was beginning to think that maybe he shouldn't rely solely on Hermione for scraping a passing grade in potions—but this wasn't class Harry reminded himself firmly. This was detention, and all that mattered was that he carry out the task assigned or he'd get…more detentions…

Unpleasant and repetitive…right.

Harry frowned down at the ingredients he'd gathered from the storeroom…something was missing. Harry turned and strode back into the storeroom to see if he could recognize it on sight.

Harry examined every ingredient with a critical eye, he was missing something and it was in here. He'd have to know it if he saw it, he'd brewed one of these potions twice before. After a while, Harry plucked a senna fruit from its basket and returned to his work station, warily glancing at Snape as he hurried past.

Snape merely raised an eyebrow at Harry and waited for him to begin brewing.

Harry began slicing whatever flower he had and Snape picked up his quill and began marking papers.

Harry's mind was racing as he looked over all the ingredients he'd gathered. He wondered how he'd ever remember what to do to them or what order to add them in…his essay wasn't nearly as detailed as he'd remembered making it.

Was this Snape's way of saying, "I hate you no matter what anyone says and also, maybe, it wouldn't kill you to write more detailed essays?"

Well-played Snape. Well-played.

At least Harry had noted which colors the potion was supposed to turn and which ones it wasn't supposed to turn. That way he'd at least know when to keep going and when to dump it and start over.

This was going to be a long, painful night.

Probably payback for the long, amusing night that Harry'd had the night before.

"Day two with no bath?" Seamus teased as Harry rolled out of his bed, wearing the same robes he'd had on the night before.

"I took one before detention yesterday" Harry muttered, "Aren't you late?"

"Not as late as you'll be," Seamus replied cheerfully, "and that's all that really matters, right?"

"Lupin won't mind," Harry replied, and he roughly ran his hands through his hair—he probably looked like he'd been held prisoner for two days…which wasn't far from the truth.

"I dunno," Seamus replied lightly, "I feel like the Professor has a dark side that we don't know anything about! He's too nice, you know?"

A cold lump settled in Harry's empty stomach at Seamus' teasing words. He probably didn't know anything about the secret Lupin was harboring, but that didn't mean that his words might not make someone more curious.

"Nah," Harry replied and it took some effort to keep anxiety from leaking into his voice, "I think we're just used to teachers who have been here so long they've lost all their patience."

"Used it all up on Fred and George," Seamus agreed sagely, his eyes were narrowed thoughtfully as he slowly nodded his head. "I see what you're getting at, Potter."

Then Seamus threw his tie around his neck, grabbed his vest and robes, and grinned at Harry.

"See you in class," Seamus declared as he headed to the door, his voice full of playful challenge.

Harry patted his hair and frowned down at his wrinkled clothing from the day before. Fortunately, they weren't grimy today, but they certainly wouldn't pass for…well, passable. He didn't really have time for anything else, though, he was already behind and Seamus was right, Harry couldn't be too much later and get away with it. No matter how kind and patient Lupin was.

Growling, Harry snatched up his school bag, which was unfortunately still full of anything he may need in order to perform successfully in one of Snape's detentions. There was no time to trade them out Harry reminded himself, he had to leave now.

He took off at a run, and when the thought crossed his mind he pulled a bit on his clothes to try and smooth the wrinkles out, but it was probably of no use.

After a long, mad dash through the school Harry entered the defense classroom at full speed and stumbled to a halt, he was deeply out of breath and he'd never before noticed how small and intimate the defense classroom was until now, when he was hard pressed to find an empty seat. He needn't have worried about it because in the second he took to find an empty seat all his classmates saw his appearance and began snickering about it and Professor Lupin cleared his throat to draw Harry's attention. Lupin had the appearance of someone trying to imitate McGonagall's sternness, and had about as much success as Hermione did most of the time.

"Mr. Potter," Lupin said softly and the barest hint of a laugh managed to color his words, "may I have a word with you in the hallway?"

Harry stood up and yanked at his robes a bit to try and force some wrinkles out and tried to act as confident as he possibly could while the whole class watched him walk out, laughing about his appearance.

Harry went out into the hallway and dodged out of view of the doorway, standing near the wall so none of his classmates could see him awkwardly waiting for Lupin to join him. Harry raked a hand through his hair and was sure that doing so would only make his hair look worse. The door closed with a click behind him and Harry turned, bracing himself for whatever Lupin was likely to say…he'd be nice about it, but it would still be ungodly embarrassing.

Lupin had his arms crossed and was taking a very obvious assessment of Harry's appearance. The professor's eyes were sparkling in clear amusement, and his face held the grin that he only seemed willing to show in private. It made him look younger, less sickly, and to a degree…like Fred and George?

"Might I recommend a bit of light reading?" Lupin asked genially, "Simple Tidiness for the Inept Bachelor has spells for vanishing odors, removing wrinkles, cleaning teeth—"

Harry ducked his head and fell against the wall with an embarrassed groan and Lupin let out an unguarded burst of laughter which was so out of character that it nearly startled Harry into slamming his head against the wall.

"I mean, I would understand if you're hoping to get Snape in trouble for having his detentions go too late—"

"You can do that?" Harry demanded and he jerked his head up in surprise, "I can report him?"

"I wouldn't want to see how he'd retaliate," Lupin warned Harry quickly, holding his hands out as if Harry was running down the hallway and he sought to catch or stop him. "There's no telling what he'd do…but I'm wondering what's been going on to keep you up so late…"

Harry rolled his eyes and looked up at Lupin with a sigh, "He's having me re-brew this one potion I messed up in class and write papers on what I did wrong, I have to have it memorized by the end of the week." Harry groaned and looked down at his hands as if he could see the potion ingredients lingering on his hands, "Last night he made me brew it using only my papers as a guide."

"That's…harsh," Lupin concluded tilting his head as if he was a dog that could pick up on some distant sound and glancing at the door to the classroom as if he could see through it. Then he took two steps to the door and yanked it open before calling in, "Mr. Finnegan don't give me that look, I know exactly what you were doing! Five points from Gryffindor—do behave!"

Harry supposed that settled the matter of whether or not werewolves had enhanced senses.

Lupin closed the door and then rolled his eyes with a soft smile, "Listen, Harry, I'm going to dismiss you from class because you've broken dress code—consider this your verbal warning and your punishment is to go get cleaned up and find that book I recommended in the library. I'm sure Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley can catch you up, or I could if you can manage to find some free time," Lupin cast a dubious, but amused look over Harry's appearance.

Harry nodded, feeling as though his cheeks were liable to burst into flame out of embarrassment.

"And perhaps we can think of a way to approach Snape regarding your detentions—a way that would prevent retaliation," Lupin added with a smile before turning back to the classroom door, immediately beginning to chide Seamus and Ron for misbehaving.

Harry groaned and leaned against the wall feeling more embarrassed than he had in a while.

Wait a minute…

"Dress code?"

"Technically, I was in uniform!"

"It's more of a code of appearance conduct," Hermione giggled as she flipped through Simple Tidiness for the Inept Bachelor, "It's actually very precise. Oh, here's one on how to keep food from sticking to your face, Ronald."

Ron glared at Hermione and took a huge bite of his chicken—it was impossible to tell if he had intended to smear the seasonings all over his face or if it was simply how he ate.

Harry frowned down at his own chicken in confusion, "But how have I never noticed before?"

Hermione gave Harry such an intense look of disbelief that Harry began to doubt his own existence.

So apparently Harry was just completely unobservant up to the point where it was obvious that he didn't even observe himself. It was a wonder that Harry was able to pick up that inference from only Hermione's facial expression considering that was the case…but he wasn't in the mood to admit that to Hermione's face.

"Right, I'll just assume that everything changes constantly behind my back then," Harry sighed as he ripped a dinner roll in half.

"You just never pay attention," Hermione retorted, "I could have told you anytime, or you could have found out on your own—all the rules and regulations were included in your Hogwarts letter—"

Harry remembered how thick that first envelope had seemed, when he picked it up and hadn't thought to hide it from the Dursleys. However, he could only remember there being a supply list along with the letter when he'd finally gotten to read it.

"—and I can understand why you wouldn't read the student handbook or Hogwarts, A History—"

"What?!" Ron spat out his food and it flew across the table to land on Neville's face, "Did you just say what I thought you said?!"

Neville sighed as he reached for his napkin and muttered, "Why does this always happen to me?"

"—but you didn't even read your whole Hogwarts letter?"

Apparently Harry hadn't gotten his whole Hogwarts letter…but nonetheless, "Student handbook?"

"Right," Hermione agreed, nodding so hard that her hair bounced and looked like it floated weightless for a second, "You can get a copy from McGonagall."

That would look very good; maybe get her to forget a little bit about the holly thing. Harry decided he needed one of these handbooks as soon as possible, even if he didn't intend to read it.

"She has office hours today, right?" Harry asked and even though this whole conversation had been annoying and embarrassing, it was worth it just to see the looks of disbelief on Ron and Hermione's faces.

"Please tell me you aren't going to read that thing," Ron groaned. He looked a bit frightened of what would happen if Harry did actually read the handbook, and was staring down at the small booklet as if it was Pandora's Box and would somehow unleash upon Harry all the desires for academia that would be necessary to turn him into a second Hermione.

Harry glanced back down the hall to make sure that McGonagall hadn't left her office after them and replied, "Hadn't planned on it."

Ron looked at Harry as if he were a chess board and was trying to figure out what would be the best play, "Just trying to get back on everyone's good side?"

Harry nodded and shrugged in agreement, "Pretty much…damage control, you know."

"Yeah," Ron said nodding, but he looked as though he didn't really need Harry's answer or explanation to know it was true, "do you still have detention with Snape tonight?"

"Yeah," Harry sighed, "last one of term."

"Honestly," Ron sighed, "I'm getting to the point where I'd rather have detention with Snape than listen to Hermione complain while you're gone."

That last detention hadn't been different from the others, and even progressed as one would assume following the prior detention. This meant Harry had to brew the potion solely from memory, without even his essays for guidance…but that didn't prepare him for this…

Nothing could prepare him for this.

This wasn't real life.

Swallowing, Harry trailed his fingers gently across the parchment the quiz was printed on in disbelief; it had to be a hallucination. Some kind of residual brain damage from the quidditch game that was only now showing up…

This couldn't be real. There was no way this quiz was real.

Snape had told him—

Harry closed his eyes and breathed deeply in through his nose trying to make sense of everything.

—to have the potion memorized—

Harry felt like he was going to hyperventilate, he was already lightheaded and confused. His brain was just swelling from the fall, that's all, when he opened his eyes the quiz would be over something else.

—by the end of the week.

It was Friday, Harry reminded himself, hoping to clear his brain with facts. It was their last class before the end of term and Snape had given them a pop quiz over the potion that they'd brewed in class on Monday.

Harry opened his eyes and the parchment was still there and Harry still knew all the answers to the questions…because of the detentions Snape had given him—the detentions where Harry had been brewing this potion.

Snape couldn't do this, there had to be laws against this.

Favoritism or something? Right?

No one would ever believe that.

Harry bit his lip and wondered if it was test of some sort, if Snape would turn him in for cheating—no one would believe that Snape had told him all the answers to the quiz and even, in his own Snape-ish way, told him the date of it.

Harry reached for his quill and desperately tried to figure out what to do, did he fail the test on purpose? This option had the added bonus of spiting Snape; he'd done well on the essays assigned as punishment, so it would make Snape doubly enraged to have Harry fail the quiz.

Or did he put the correct answers to every question? This had the added bonus of pissing Snape off due to the fact that Harry could have done well in class with the proper incentives, not to mention Snape would be forced to give him a good grade.

Or did he go for a nice mid-range grade? This had the added bonus of making sense, and not causing Harry further mental upset. If Harry had studied the potion, but not been forced to learn every integral detail of it, then Harry would probably make an Acceptable. Not only that, but Snape would be incredibly enraged that Harry had only learned things partially.

And that was acceptable…but as Harry began to force himself to write down incorrect answers; he found it difficult to do. He knew the answers because he'd worked damn hard to figure this potion out. He deserved an Outstanding.

Harry smushed his quill against the parchment, and watched as a massive inkblot overtook the incorrect answer he'd begun to write.

How about…he'd write the correct answer, but he'd strategically misspell things so that Snape would end up taking points, but Harry would have everything else correct.

This had the added benefit of making Snape's eye twitch from the minor errors as he graded the paper.

Yes, that definitely seemed like the best course of action. Harry slowly worked his way through the quiz, carefully misspelling certain words but not past the point where they wouldn't be recognizable.

Harry finally completed the quiz and nearly stood up to turn it in so that he could get out of the room as quickly as possible…until his eyes fell upon Hermione who was anxiously biting her nails as she read over her answers.

Harry would have a really difficult time explaining to her why he'd finished the quiz before her…it may even be so difficult that Harry might have to tell her the truth about the detentions…and then maybe even the truth that had led to the other detentions…and then Ron would have to know too.

Then there was Malfoy—if Harry finished before Malfoy then the little twit may decide to stick his pointy face where it didn't belong. Malfoy couldn't be trusted to know anything about Harry's life—especially not things that involved Harry's detentions with Snape. And that really included all the Slytherins really, there wasn't anything overly special about Malfoy—all Slytherins couldn't be trusted, not even a little.

In fact, no one could be trusted…Harry couldn't let anyone get suspicious because frankly this whole quiz situation was extremely suspicious.

It appeared Harry would have to settle in and wait for everyone else in the class to finish.

He was going to be here a long time.

Neville hurried out as fast as he possibly could, leaving only Harry. He stood up, grabbed his quiz, and went to deposit it on Snape's desk—Snape was already marking them and it seemed that Harry would escape without notice if everything went well.

Of course, this was Harry and Snape, so nothing ever went well.

As soon as Harry set his quiz down on the desk, Snape, without looking growled out, "Potter."

It sounded more like a warning than anything else, really. The tone clearly implied that Harry should stay in the classroom while Snape looked over his quiz or prepare for imminent death.

Harry wasn't sure why Snape seemed to think there was a difference.

Snape raised his eyes from the quiz he was marking to take hold of Harry's, all the while the professor gazed dispassionately at Harry until he began to squirm. Then and only then did Snape lower his head and began marking Harry's quiz. Harry was incredibly pleased when Snape's eyes began twitching two seconds into his reading and grew steadily worse as the professor realized that the quiz was, in fact, completely riddled with asinine spelling errors.

"Did you suffer catastrophic brain damage in the last twelve hours, Potter?"

That was debatable.

...Harry was still trying to decide if this was a hallucination or not.

"Depends," Harry replied with a shrug, "do you think it would make a discernible difference in my intelligence?"

Snape looked as though he wanted to congratulate Harry on his self-degradation abilities, but just barely managed to refrain, "You have fifteen minutes to reacquaint yourself with a dictionary or I'll give you detention for the entirely of next term for your little act of defiance."

Harry quickly plucked his paper from Snape's hands and returned to his seat to scribble out each misspelled word and replace it with the proper one.

Why had Harry misspelled so many words? This was surely going to take more than fifteen minutes! Harry should really have figured out by now to not cross Snape…maybe he really was a massive idiot?

Harry could feel Snape's eyes on him the entire time as he rushed through and made as many corrections as he possibly could before running the quiz back up to Snape who immediately began re-marking it.

Finally, Snape laid his quill down and declared the verdict:

"Detention until January thirty-first."

Snape dipped his quill in red ink before circling the words of a spell that was recited to stabilize the potion, and above it he correctly spelled the word out, "I suggest you brush up on your Latin if you want to be a wizard when you grow up."

At least it was two weeks he would be forced to spend with Snape, rather than the entire term.

Speaking of terms…Harry inhaled deeply, and even though the dungeons were musky and the potions classrooms reeked of dead things and rotten, fermented roots it was the sweetest breath of air he'd had in a while.

It was the first free breath he'd had in months.

Snape couldn't assign detentions during Christmas break.

Harry nearly skipped from the classroom.

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