Disclaimer: 'Draught of Sleeping Death' doesn't belong to me. It belongs to JL Matthews, if I remember correctly.
Painted on My Heart
The Gryffindor and the Slytherin: Part Three
The raindrop hit the marble floor of the terrace.
Another one. And another.
Severus stretched his long body on the floor, spreading his arms as wide as he could. The chill made him shiver, but he didn't mind. The soft breeze was turning into the quite a strong wind, bringing the scent of lemons and cypresses along. He inhaled deeply, turning his face slightly to the east where the scent of the eastern gardens was coming from.
Tap, tap, tap, tap...
His fingers drummed the rhythm against the white marble.
Tap, tap, tap, tap...
His clothes were soaked already; wet fabric clung to his body, pressing him slightly down to the hard, cold floor. Greyish clouds were blocking the sunrays, but not entirely. I bet there's going to be a rainbow, he thought. He closed his eyes, enjoying the streams of water running down his temples, into his hair and ears. Wide grin spread across his face, forcing him to swallow the drops that were falling straight into his mouth.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap...
It was raining harder; keeping up with the rhythm was getting difficult, but boy, it was fun to try. The sleeves of his robe, heavy with water, limited the freedom of his hands, but he didn't give up. His fingers were splashing the water that gathered in small pools around his form.
Tap, tap, tap... knock, knock! tap, tap... knock, knock, knock!
Brutal reality broke through the delicate tapestry of magically induced dream. Severus' eyes snapped open. Dampness that made the bed sheets cling to his bare skin was due to his own sweat, not the rain. Grey-golden sky turned into the ceiling of his Hogwarts room. The sunrays hidden behind the clouds were now filtered by the dark-green curtains. Instead of the even sound of rain falling he could hear the day awaking outside.
The old grandfather's clock showed six in the morning.
"Who is it?" he shouted, angry to be bothered so early in the morning. Sleep didn't come easily to him, damn it!
"Callina." There was a tone of urgency to the high-pitched feminine voice that came muffled through he door. "Snape, it's important! The fourth and fifth-year prefects had a huge row and I can't make them cooperate! If you don't help me we're going to have Andermin on our backs before breakfast!"
Shit. Being a prefect was proving more trouble than it's worth.
"I'm coming, one minute!"
Once out of Hogwarts I won't have to deal with this hind of things anymore, he thought while dressing. Those endless political crises are damn exhausting sometimes. No wonder three quarters of Ministry's officials recruit from Slytherin. We learn manoeuvring between other sharks since we are eleven. Or younger.
Pining his prefect's badge to the uniform he noticed his hands were shaking slightly. He must have overdosed the Scarlet Elixir yesterday night. The perspiration on his skin was a little too abundant too. Merlin, he would have to slow down with it or Andermin was going to notice.
"You look terrible, " Callina Edelman, the other seventh-year prefect, commented when Severus emerged from his room.
"Why, thank you, Edelman," he sneered, "for those dark circles you have just granted me by disturbing my beauty sleep. If I won't get elected Witch Weekly's Mr Handsome it will be all because of your incompetence."
The insult slid off her like water off a duck's back. Thank gods, Edelman was one of the few sensible people around. Her grades and no-nonsense attitude granted her the responsibilities of a prefect, but the position was sometimes too little to ensure the obedience of fellow Slytherins. For a daughter of a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff the nuances of the interaction between the Slytherin-bred members of the House were still hard to grasp.
"So, what's going on?"
"Iunius Deleney caught Tricia Lancre snogging with some fifth-year Ravenclaw when she should have been patrolling. His sense of decorum was apparently mortally offended and he was on his way to Andermin when Morgan Bulstrode appeared and announced that if Tricia loses her badge he would resign too. Then Shawna O'Connor said that if Attila Actus would be appointed in Morgan's place, Morgan can kiss his apprenticeship in Malfoy Company goodbye. Tricia lashed out with threats on Shawna and Morgan; Morgan and Iunius begun to play whose-father-has-a-bigger-wand game." Callina was filling Severus in with a gun-speed on their way to the common room, clearly upset there was nothing she could do. "I have no idea why Iunius thinks his position is strong enough to defy the rest of them, but he insists on telling on Tricia. That was when I left to fetch you; I hope they haven't progressed to hexing yet."
The two of them entered the common room to see the four younger prefects red-faced and yelling at each other. The only one that managed to retain some class was Patricia Lancre. Even when screaming, she had this peculiar Slytherin air of power and control, reminding him strongly of Severia. One of the reasons he steered clear form Lancre.
"...twenty five thousand Galleons you can throw away, Lancre, you would earn this much just lying on your back," O'Connor was hissing, "but it won't help you get into Delacroix's good graces!"
"Really, O'Connor, if I hadn't known better I would think you're jelous! No word from Adrian? Perhaps your father shouldn't have shown up in the Deleney's interview!" Tricia replied venomously, making her adversary almost choke with anger.
"You leave my brother out of this!" Iunius Delaney barked, diverting his attention from Morgan Bulstrode. "You're not..."
Snape cleared his throat, but to no avail. The wand in Deleney's hand, previously pointed at Bulstrode, quivered in Lancre's direction. Bulstrode wasn't going to pass up such a good opportunity, raising his own.
"Expelliarmus!" called Snape and four wands shot straight into his hand. That got their attention. Angry shouts were quickly swallowed at the sight of the oldest prefect. It was better not to rise voice around Snape for nobody could be sure what his reaction would be - prompt hex delivered so quickly that counteracting was an impossibility, a humiliating remark that made the victim a laughing stock of the whole common room for a week or a cynical arch of an eyebrow encouraging to elaborate.
"I have neither time no desire to get into your little differences," he started. Patricia Lancre wrinkled her face in apprehension and drifted behind Bulstrode. Sensing Snape's dislike she had made it her strategy to hide whenever he was in vicinity. Meanwhile, Severus continued: "First thing: nobody goes to Andermin, is that clear, Deleney? We're already fifty points behind Ravenclaw and it's only six weeks into the term. Lancre..." He pierced the fifteen-year old with a coldly scornful look. "If you happen to see a Ravenclaw out of bounds past curfew, you detect points, not fuck him, understood? Next time kindly satisfy your sexual drive more discreetly or I will personally pour the Hideousness Potion into your pumpkin juice and the problem will solve itself. Bulstrode, if the reason of your resignation will be something short of a fatal disease, you'd better learn to resist Imperius because I have no intention to deal with that idiot Actus on the prefects' meetings. Now, O'Connor, if I remember correctly, the board in Malfoy Company suspended your father for incompetence, so stop making empty threats or I will reconsider putting a good word for him to my mother and the International Potions Makers Association will close his case without a second thought." He made a long pause for dramatic effect, looking from one to another. "All's clear?"
"Crystal clear, Snape," murmured Bulstrode, the only of four whose pride allowed acknowledging of a threat. The fighting spirit left them and they marched off to their dorms, exchanging hateful glares. Having to take their wands back they were forced to pass Snape, who made a point of handing them tips-first. It symbolized the loss of control over one's wand. Never let the heat of the argument cost you your power and control, was the unspoken message.
"That's it?" Edelman sounded doubtful.
"Usually you're more subtle... I thought you would reason with them and make them make peace."
"Peace?" Severus snorted. "Edelman, that would be a day. Deleney and Lancre hate each other's guts, it's a family feud. O'Connor's and Lancre's mothers both hope to marry off to Delacroix's father so there's no love lost between them either. Bulstrode is O'Connor's enemy just because he's Lancre's friend and the Bulstrodes would skin alive anyone who has any connection with the press. Since her parents' divorce O'Connor has a grudge against Deleney because of his brother's interview. They won't make peace, Edelman, and I'm not going to flex my mental muscles thinking up the kinds of bribes they could offer each other in order to make peace a remote possibility. I'm too busy with my N.E.W.T.S. Threats are simpler and in this case the only arguments they are likely to understand."
Not to mention he was still a little too dazed by the effects of the Scarlet Elixir to reason with four angry Slytherins first thing in the morning.
"I don't know how you do it," Edelman sighed.
"Know everything. Who with whom, when and why. You're not Slytherin-bred either. Your family is from Durmstrang."
Snape shrugged. Durmstrang's Circle of Green Flames most of his family used to be members of - and him too, for the first two years of his education - was as good as Slytherin House in imprinting paranoid urge to know everything about the people around. You never know who would turn your enemy and what information might come handy. Besides, he was as pure-blood as the most snobbish of the Slytherins and richer than most. Rich purebloods tended to form an exclusive circle no matter what school they attended to or what country they lived in. Severus had been taught genealogic trees since the cradle.
"I have a knack for spying, didn't you know?" he asked mockingly.
Edelman winced. Last time a word 'spying' was mentioned around Snape, the person's robes were set on fire. He didn't like to be reminded about the favourite taunting lines of his four Gryffindor rivals. The wisest thing to do was to not follow the thread Snape himself set.
"I'm going for breakfast, are you coming?"
Severus hesitated. He wasn't particularly hungry - another side-effect of the Scarlet Elixir - and he needed a shower, but he hasn't missed breakfast for weeks now. Since the Rogers girl arrived.
It's ridiculous. I'm not going down for breakfast just to see her. "No," he replied and went back to his room. After all he substituted for Professor Monday today. Sixth-year Ravenclaw and Gryffindor double class, first period. Hermia's class.
Hermione collected her textbooks from the table with little enthusiasm. Potions with Professor Monday were first. Harry and Ron would be overjoyed to have him teach Potions instead of Professor Snape. To her, the classes were boring. Professor Snape's classes were never boring. They were sometimes hard to endure when he was in particularly bad mood, but they were challenging even then. Listening to Professor Monday made her irritated over the loss of time she could spend actually learning something instead of simply preparing the concoctions she had been able to brew her second year. She wondered how did Snape turn out to be one of the best Potions Masters in the world - if not the best, as Dumbledore's remark suggested - when he was taught by Professor Monday. He sure seemed to spend a lot of time with books, but Potions was kind of a subject that required a mentor. Books couldn't teach the precision that made the potions making effective, they couldn't hone the sense of smell so important in the art.
Oh, well. She would take Moste Potente Potions and read it after she's done with the potion Professor Monday would assign. He wouldn't notice.
"Laura, have you seen my copy of Moste Potente Potions?" she called the only dorm-mate who hasn't left for classes yet. Laura didn't even turn away from the mirror, still doing something with her face. She was probably worse than Parvati where looks were concerned, always talking about the newest beauty potions and charms. Hermione, having lived as a prefect in her own room for a year, has forgotten how terrible sharing a bathroom with such a person could be.
Hermione sighed. "Big, thick volume bound in dark green leather, marked 'restricted section' top left corner, no title on the front page?"
"The one you left on the chair by the window?"
Hermione didn't remember where she had left it yesterday night, the last conversation she overheard between James and Sirius being on her mind back then. They were making plans for the future. Hermione withdrew after two minutes, feeling incredibly guilty and depressed. It was hard to know what kind of future the two of them would be facing.
"Might be," she responded to Laura's question.
"Check on Daisy's bed."
"On Daisy's bed? What Moste Potente Potions would be doing on Daisy's bed?" Hermione tried to stay calm, not to think of the consequences of a restricted book in hands of Daisy Powell. She went to Daisy's unmade bed and dug the book out from beneath the pillows.
"We saw a chapter about love potions and - "
"You didn't try to make them, did you?" Hermione felt she was starting to panic. Even Ron wouldn't be so stupid to try to make a potion listed in the Moste Potente Potions. The fault would be hers if something dreadful happened. She squeezed the book in her hand protectively. She would have to learn that she didn't have much privacy now. Not to leave restricted books lying around.
"Well, no." Laura finally looked at her, brush in her hand. "They were too difficult. And the ingredients were weird." The blond girl eyed Hermione hopefully. "Perhaps you could..."
Hermione only humphed and left the dorm. It was too late to go to the library. She would talk to Anthony Wood from Ravenclaw instead. He mentioned he owned Music Charms.
"Merlin, not Snape again!" she heard somebody mutter as she entered the classroom. Her head automatically tuned to the teacher's desk and she experienced a strange feeling of déja vu. Not déja vu, she told herself, a memory. How many times did I enter the potions classroom to see Snape sitting at the desk? More than I can count. But he wasn't seventeen then, and he wasn't sitting with his back rigid as if he had trouble to be in control. It was most unfamiliar. His older counterpart's serpentine form was always leaning easily against the chair, emitting an aggressive confidence.
"What is he doing here?" she asked Anthony.
"Substituting for Professor Monday," Anthony replied reluctantly. "He has taken his Potions N.E.W.T.S. after his fourth year and he's Monday's assistant now. Takes his place when Monday's ill. Thinks he knows everything, the slimeball."
Hermione sat at the desk she shared with Marissa Hunter. Marissa was the weakest Gryffindor at Potions, even by Monday's standards, and Hermione found herself monitoring her every step in the class as she did with Neville Longbottom. Marissa wasn't clumsy like Neville, but she couldn't remember simplest potion recipe.
Out of habit, she focused on the teacher and found him looking straight at her. The shiver that ran through her entire body was a familiar friend by now. She welcomed it every morning at breakfast. It worked like a shot of caffeine in her system, making her feel more alive, filling her with energy. It's lack today left her disappointed and unfit to enjoy Sirius' and James' jokes.
Students were slowly filling the classroom, but all Hermione could see was the pair of black eyes boring into hers, unwavering.
"Hermia, what are you doing?" Marissa's quiet whisper broke the spell. Hermione smiled weakly.
"Sorry, I spaced out."
"You'd better pay attention. Snape can get really mean when somebody disturbs him too much. Last year he made Daisy cry and said such things that Albert broke up with her. I think he would consider staring disturbing."
"Thanks," Hermione mumbled, wondering why Marissa was engaging in lengthy explanation since it seemed important to be quiet. Snape being verbally abusive was nothing new for her. She could remember wishing sometimes his insults were directed at her. Anything but the cold indifference. Well, she had it now.
Finally, Snape stood up, still rigid. He measured the class up and came closer to the separate desk with a cauldron on it.
"Professor Monday wanted me to show you the differences in brewing popular Sleeping Potions and the Draught of Sleeping Death."
Somebody laughed and called from the back of the Gryffindor part of the classroom: "You must be going on the latter!"
Amused snickers spread throughout the class. True, Snape didn't look particularly well, paler that usual, his eyes burning as if in a fever. His fingers clenched on the edge of the cauldron.
"I might make you going on it too, Freeman," he hissed venomously." Easy to arrange unless you listen to what I have to say."
Freeman's rebellious face made it clear he didn't believe one word, but Snape's quiet icy tone forced him to subdue.
"I'm about as eager as you to do this, so I suggest you all shut up so that I can make it quick," Snape continued in a slightly calmer manner. He summoned several phials and let them levitate around the cauldron.
Most of Ravenclaws looked somewhat impressed at his effortless synchronisation, but tried to hide it. Levitating more than two objects was a very difficult task, which most of the students had hard time mastering in Professor Flitwick's class. Actually, Hermione was the only one able to do it regardless of the number of objects involved.
Snape proceeded with the demonstration. The students, especially the Gryffindor part, were far from attentive, which gave Hermione bizarre impression of unreality. Nobody was ever unattentive in Professor Snape's class. After Severus' angry snarls and biting remarks failed to silence the room, he dropped his voice to such a low level, that the Ravenclaws had no choice but to calm the Gryffindors themselves in order to hear anything.
Hermione wasn't concentrating on the notes she should be taking (not that she needed to, Snape covered Sleeping Potions her first year), but on the teacher himself. His quiet, almost intimate tone as he spoke about Potions had the same effect on Hermione it had before her 'accident'. The old pattern was resurfacing - the need to impress him, longing for some kind of connection she knew was possible but never had a chance to develope.
She raised her hand when he mentioned the Somnus Quietus Potion. Snape blinked in surprise.
"Don't the newt's eyes react with Somnus Quietus Potion, cancelling it's properties?"
A short pause and a flicker in black eyes preceded the reply. "They do. But not when the concoction of asphodel and wormwood is prepared two or more days before making the rest of the potion."
"The long state of rest of wormwood makes sleeping potions too strong. In Somnus Quietus Potion, combined with eagle's claws, it can cause hallucinations."
Snape abandoned the cauldron and sat on the teacher desk, quite unaware of twenty seven amazed pairs of eyes following his actions.
"It can be prevented by adding the liquidized maple-leaves instead of powdered ones. The extract, however, is very hard to brew and that's why Somnus Quietus is so rarely used."
The information was puzzling. She could remember her fifth year and ovearhearing Snape ordering one of the seventh-year Slytherins to make the extract. Another thing that would change in twenty years? Hermione ignored Marissa's shocked expression.
"Why is it difficult to make?"
An amused smile crept to Snape's lips. "Rogers, you people in Maori Institute have much easier access to Japanese maple-trees than us, here in England. Or generally in Europe. Only the Japanese maple-tree leaves can be liquidized. It takes a lot of skill and precision. We also lack in Professors Asadas here, so if somebody wants to take Somnus Quietus, they must be prepared for hallucinations later on."
To the complete astonishment of the rest of the class, for the next forty minutes the exchange continued, interrupted by Snape's trademark statements like: "Here I was, thinking you have a brain bigger than a chestnut, Rogers, but you insist on proving me otherwise. Draught of Shallow Sleep is not the same as the Nap Charm! They might work the same way, but the after-effects..."
Snape's stiff back relaxed as he was shooting the drawings of the exotic plants and animal's body parts onto the blackboard. Hermione's argumentative mood she habitually eased into and Snape's undivided attention almost sent her into euphoria. There were moments when his belief in his own omniscience about potions was becoming annoying, but still... She had never had a discussion like this. Ever. Free exchange of thoughts, the partner immediately knowing what she meant, catching her ideas, following her train of thought without much difficulty, not requiring explaining her leaps of logic. Even to Professor McGonagall she had to explain the problems step by step.
Everything except the two of them and their topic disappeared. In the fervour of discussion she wasn't thinking about his reaction to her more forceful statements, but he didn't seem to mind. His cutting remarks that could hurt deeply when uttered by an adult Snape, now didn't matter - they were more off-hand than anything she had ever heard him say. It was just a habit of his, with no meaning behind.
The hush that has fallen over the classroom passed unnoticed by either of them. Twenty seven pairs of eyes were switching from one to another like on a ping-pong match. Some got bored after a while, some were taking notes furiously, some were just watching the interaction trying to comprehend how is that possible that a Gryffindor can talk to Snape.
"Eleven o'clock!" somebody called. "End of the lesson!"
Severus and Hermione were interrupted in a mid-word, which broke the trance-like connection between them. Snape stood behind the teacher's desk frozen, as though returning to the real world was something hard. He forgot to sneer at the students that were quickly leaving the classroom. His eyes focused on Hermione again and, again, she felt the edges of the reality blur a little. It was like being sucked into a dream...
It stopped abruptly. Snape rushed out, as if he had all demons of hell on his back.
Forty minutes, Hermione thought. One lesson. And everything has changed.