Let me take a moment to thank you for sticking with me this far. Thanks for caring that much. For having faith in my writing. It's been an honor to write for you. I hope you liked it. In any case... the things you know are Jo's are Jo's... the rest is mine, though I've loved sharing it with you. Please let me know what you think of the whole of it. 3
THE POTIONS MASTER
Students returned on the train the next day. A first year had fallen into the lake, returned to her boat by the giant squid. Snape dried the girl off with the wave of his wand, trying, with difficulty, to remain firm with her in front of the other first years. As the Headmistress' second in command, he led the Sorting Ceremony – a strange experience, as he had never participated in it except when he was sorted, and then observing from the Slytherin table, and later, from the faculty table.
He opened the doors to find the Great Hall much noisier than usual. Students were still milling around, with much more between-table conversation than there had been before. The returning eighth years from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, and the one returning eighth year Slytherin surrounded Potter, neatly guarding him, fending off the merely curious with flinty, pointed glares. He caught McGonagall's eye and she rapped for attention. "Please be seated!" she called, and there was a mad scramble for seats as the students turned to look at the procession of first years.
Snape led them to stand before the head table, turning them to face their peers, then back to the dais and the stool upon which sat the torn, mended, slightly-the-worse-for-wear Sorting Hat. It opened one rip near its brim to begin its poetic tale, and the Hall fell silent, wondering what this year's bad poetry would bring. The Hat admonished them to overcome the divisions of House to retain the bonds of friendship forged during the Battle, and to hold their love for those now in residence at the Black Lake in their hearts. It protested Sorting, as it had done before, and suggested they prepare for changes. It sang the virtues of each House more optimistically than it had before, and Snape eyed the Slytherin table, slightly emptier than usual before Sorting, dubiously, then shrugged. Not his concern, thank Merlin.
The first person on his list was the formerly soggy girl, now a Gryffindor. Well, he thought, that was predictable. She turned and grinned at him and he felt his lip twitch in reply. The entire Hall cheered, and the girl skipped off to sit next to Ginny Weasley, now Quidditch Captain. His eyes flicked to Potter's – Harry's – and he shook his head and smiled slightly in shared amusement.
The second person sorted was a dark-haired, exotic-looking girl who eyed the Hat beadily before she sat down, taking no note of Snape glaring down at her. The Hat was silent for long moments, then shouted, "SLYTHERIN!" There was a general gasp from those at the Slytherin table, echoed here and there from around the Hall.
"But – she's MUGGLEBORN!" someone at the Slytherin table protested above the hubbub.
The girl plucked the hat off her head, tossed it back on the stool and sauntered to the Slytherin table. "That's right – Muggleborn! Who wants to be friends with the first Muggleborn to be sorted into Slytherin House? What am I bid, ladies and gentlemen?" There was laughter and the Hall broke into cheers and applause again.
Snape sighed and shook his head, turning slightly to look at McGonagall out of the corner of his eye. Her lips were pressed tightly together, but he saw them twitch in amusement. He snorted and called the next name in the roll. Each pronouncement of the Hat's was greeted with cheers from the entire Hall. Snape wondered how that would play out once House points began to be awarded and deducted and the competition for House Cup began in earnest with Quidditch season.
More students were Sorted into Slytherin than usual, to balance the House enrollment. Two other Muggleborns joined the table, their eyes calculating how they could best take advantage of their status while it lasted. Snape found himself exceedingly grateful not to be in charge of that lot, though… he eyed the now-dry, giggling girl next to Ginny Weasley. Gryffindors. He shook his head. This will be… different.
The Hall was noisier than usual throughout the feast, quieting only for the Headmistress' address, her welcome less idiosyncratic than Dumbledore's, but as warm, or warmer, for all her sternness. She gave the usual warnings against entering the Forbidden Forest despite that it was surely safer this year than in years gone by, and acceded to Filch's request that she remind them not to drag mud through the halls on rainy days, as the new flagstone was still curing.
She talked about the fifty-four fallen heroes lying by the Black Lake, and invited students to visit them, admonishing them to "Try for just the tiniest bit of respect," shaking her head when someone giggled. She made a point of inviting students to visit her in her office if they needed someone to talk with, said that the faculty stood ready to help those who might have trouble adjusting to being back at school, back at the site of the Battle, and encouraged those with nightmares to seek Madam Pomfrey for Draught of Dreamless Sleep. Poppy leaned forward to catch Snape's eye, and he nodded. A cauldron of that potion was already cooling in its vials in his lab. The feast ended with a moment of silence, then renewed babble as the students pushed back benches to get to their feet.
The students went off to their House common rooms, but Hermione, Ginny, and Neville joined him and Harry for a quiet discussion and tea before they went off to Gryffindor Tower and their beds, after his reminder that he would not tolerate any tardiness in seventh-year Potions, which would meet immediately after breakfast on the morrow. He and Harry sat talking over a game of chess, until Snape reminded Harry that they needed to be up early the next day. He got ready for bed, then went to lean against the door frame to Potter's room, his arms crossed over his chest, one ankle crossed over the other, watching the boy settle in.
"Dad?" the boy said from his bed.
He shook his head and laughed, his heart still feeling an echo from Potter's. "What is it?"
"I love you, Dad."
He walked to Harry's bed and drew the blankets up around him. "Go to sleep, silly boy," he said softly, but he let his fingers drift across the boy's head in blessing and the boy turned onto his side, his eyes closing, a smile on his face.
Snape strode into the potions classroom on September second, his black robes flaring, the door slamming shut behind him. He took the dais and spun to face the class of NEWT level students, who, for some reason, did not fall into the instant silence he had come to expect.
"Quiet," he drawled. They quieted, but turned expectant, curious, and… unintimidated… faces on him. He glared at them.
There were rather more students present than usually made it to this level, partly because of the inclusion of older students who had been unable to attend the past year due to being on the run, or who had missed much of the year due to the need to hide in the Room of Requirement. Among those who were taking advantage of the opportunity to remediate were Hermione Granger, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, and Neville Longbottom, whose request to attend Snape found he did not want to, could not, deny. And, of course, Potter. They joined Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and other seventh years from all four Houses for this introductory lesson, after which they would be split into two smaller groups, for safety's sake. Even then, the groups would be larger than usual.
"As our classroom will be crowded this term, I expect your complete cooperation and undivided attention during all classes," he said in a soft, menacing voice. "Any student not paying close attention, or causing damage to others through carelessness will be… invited… to… leave. Is that clear? Yes? Let's begin."
He read the roll. When he came to Potter's name, he glared at him over his parchment. Harry grinned at him. Hermione Granger, to the boy's right, elbowed him, but she too grinned, her eyes gleaming. Ginny Weasley, behind him, looked up at Snape, her eyes bright with suppressed laughter. Neville had a lopsided smile on his face. Snape flicked his eyes to the rest of the room, watching him expectantly, and sighed. Discipline was going to be difficult.
"Mr. Potter," he drawled. "Our… resident… hero. How kind of you to join us, as you deemed it unnecessary to attend school your entire seventh year. I suppose you thought you did not need… the education." He narrowed his eyes at the boy.
Several students muttered something hostile, of which he did not bother to take note.
"Tell me, Mr. Potter…" he said, leaving his desk and crossing the room to stand in front of the boy, gathering his robe in his hands to cross his arms severely over his chest. He glared down at the boy, his eyes glittering. "What would you have if you combined Ashwagandha root and long pepper oil?"
The muttering renewed.
"You would have the ingredients for an anti-inflammatory, sedative and calming tea, Professor," Potter said calmly. "It also enhances… libido." His eyes sparkled.
Snape's lip twitched and Granger choked. He glared at her. "Control yourself, Miss Granger." He turned back to Potter and went to ask something else, but the boy continued his reply. "However, Professor, one would also need to add honey. Sir."
"And – why would one need the honey, Mr. Potter?"
"Honey would enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of the potion… Professor."
Snape narrowed his eyes at him. "And, Mr. Potter?" he drawled.
"And it makes the potion drinkable, Professor. One should never underestimate the curative effects of taste."
"And what, Mr. Potter, are the main ingredients for… Veritaserum?" he asked, drawing out the word meaningfully.
"Valerian, motherwort and linden, Sir," Potter stated calmly. "And it requires a full moon cycle to mature."
"Thank you, Mr. Potter. When I wish for additional information… I… shall… ask. Prior to that, kindly refrain from additional commentary."
The boy glared at him, though his eyes twinkled.
"And what, Mr. Potter, are the main effects of Veritaserum?"
"Veritaserum is a truth serum, Professor. The main effects are that the person is unable to lie to others," the boy said, looking him solidly in the eyes. "Or even to themselves. Sir."
"And… is there any antidote or method to prevent the serum from working, Mr. Potter?"
"Not when made by a potions master, Sir."
He stared at the boy. "And… tell me, Mr. Potter, do you know any… potions masters?" he drawled out.
"Yes. I do. You. Sir," the boy said, narrowing his eyes at him.
He glared at the boy through his own narrowed eyes, his arms firmly crossed over his chest, his eyes glittering blackly, for a full ten seconds, the tension in the room palpable. He spun on his heel and returned to the front of the class, where he picked up a quill and dipped it in the inkwell on his desk, preparatory to checking off the boy's name in the roll.
"Well said, Mr. Potter. Five points to Gryffindor," he muttered.
A gasp went up from around the room, and Ginny turned a laugh into a cough. He glared at the class from the corner of his eye. The boy grinned up at him.
Hermione ducked her head down to her hand, shoulders shaking with laughter as more gasps came from around the room. Ginny grinned openly. Neville turned around to meet Luna Lovegood's eyes, smiling.
"That's lovely!" came Luna's ethereal voice.
"You're joking!?" someone – Seamus Finnigan, he thought, burst into the sudden silence.
The rest of the class was staring up at Snape blankly, immobile, shock written all over their faces, then turning to stare at Potter as if expecting him to look hexed.
"Why aren't the rest of you copying that down? And turn to page 245, where you will find the directions for the potion in question. You have one hour."
No one moved.
"Well… what are you waiting for?" he snapped. "Page 245!" and the class jumped and threw open their books. He glanced at Potter, who looked up at him, still grinning. He narrowed his eyes at him once more.
"When we are in this room, Mr. Potter, you will address me as Professor or Sir. Is that clear… Son?"
"Yes, Sir," the boy said, trying not to laugh.
"Cheeky boy," he muttered.
"Veritaserum is not really effective," Luna Lovegood commented into the rustle of turning pages. "My father says only the heart knows the truth."
Hermione and Ginny laughed out loud. Seamus snorted and shook his head.
"Oh, shut it, Seamus," Ginny said mildly.
Snape sighed. Discipline was going to be exceedingly difficult.
***** A New Beginning *****