Based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling
by Susan M. M.
Severus Snape sat at his desk. He scowled as he dipped his quill into the inkwell. This was the part of his job he hated most. He enjoyed working with potions. Had he chosen to live in the Muggle world, instead of embracing his mother's wizardly heritage, he probably would have been a chemist or an apothecary, possibly a biochemist. He enjoyed passing his knowledge on to young wizards and witches. But grading papers ... he sighed.
He picked up the next scroll in the pile. He recognized whose test it was by the atrocious handwriting; he didn't need to read the name. Execrable penmanship, printed rather than in cursive, wretched spelling, non-existent grammar – this paper was Gregory Goyle's. Snape raised a thick, dark eyebrow. The first five questions were absolutely correct. Goyle must have been copying off Malfoy's paper. The next five questions varied from not quite right to so completely and utterly wrong that the answers didn't even seem to apply to Potions class. From what Snape could see, the answers didn't seem to apply to Charms or Arithmancy, either.
Snape frowned. His teacher's instinct, honed by years of classroom experience, told him that Goyle had copied off Malfoy's paper and that halfway through the test, Malfoy had moved his arm so that Goyle couldn't see the rest of his answers. However, he hadn't actually seen Goyle cheat ... although he could think of no other reason that Gregory Goyle would get half the test correct. He glanced at the house points monitor. As head of Slytherin House, Snape had a scale model of the monitor that measured merits earned and demerits taken in his office. McGonagall, Sprout, and Vector, as the heads of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw, had similar devices in their offices. Slytherin was currently in second place – a very close second to Gryffindor. But if he took fifty points for cheating from Goyle, and another fifty points from Malfoy for assisting a cheater, then Slytherin would move down to third place. He hadn't actually caught them cheating. He only had suspicions. Better to simply keep a closer eye on him in the future. He wrote on the paper, "Please use complete sentences" and nothing else.
The next scroll had far better penmanship, and slightly better answers. Neville Longbottom seemed to be understanding the basic principles – finally! – but when it came to applying them, he still had considerable difficulty.
Snape read the next scroll carefully. The penmanship was clear and elegant. The spelling was perfect. All the answers were in complete sentences. Some were answered in neatly indented paragraphs, giving more detail than could fit in a single sentence. Every single answer was correct. Snape sighed. She might be a Mudblood, she might be an insufferable know-it-all, but Hermione Granger was definitely the cleverest witch of her year.