Author's note: I don't own My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic either.
"Severus!" Lockhart chirped, in a voice that indicated the two of them were best of friends. "I'm so glad to see you again!"
Lockhart was grinning madly at Snape, and wearing those stupid pink robes he'd worn the year Dumbledore had appointed him DADA teacher, but with one very important detail changed: He was wearing no shirt underneath, putting his gleaming pectorals and rock-hard abs on full display. Snape resisted the urge to throw up in his own mouth; clearly the Brighteyes girl had absolutely no concept of practicality or decency. Then again, neither did Lockhart, but he at least kept himself covered.
"I thought you were at St. Mungo's," Snape observed. There was no known safe remedy for getting Obliviated - torture didn't count, no matter how effective it might be - and Lockhart was, for better or worse, particularly talented in that regard.
"Oh, I was," Lockhart acknowledged. "Fortunately, a particularly talented young fan of mine was able to cure me."
Snape groaned. Of course she did.
"What's more," Lockhart continued, oblivious to Snape's increasing dismay, "She found a blockage in my magical powers and was able to remove it." He flourished his wand, and a shower of sparks danced at the end. "I think I'm quite ready for a rematch on that duel, dear Severus."
Snape's stomach sank, and he silently gestured for the rest of the anti-Brighteyes conspiracy to back up. "I'm game," he said, keeping his voice level.
"Excellent!" Impossibly, Lockhart's grin became even wider. "And afterwards we can talk about why the lot of you aren't smiling!"
He flicked his wand at Snape, and an invisible ball of force knocked Snape off his feet. Somewhere behind him, he heard Lily scream his name. Somehow, Snape performed a perfect backflip - no mean feat in full robes - and landed on his feet in a catlike crouch. His braid of hair had fallen off his shoulder while he was in midair and now lay in lazy loops across the floor.
Shit. He wasn't kidding. Apparently Lockhart's magic was now powered by sheer force of personality.
"Surprised, Severus?" Lockhart crooned, stepping forward. "I suppose you would be. You never appreciated my true genius as a master of public relations, but then, you never cared about things like thatr." He gestured, and an iron-bound trunk faded into view nearby. "Fortunately, I'm fully prepared to make sure that none of your sourpuss cronies interfere."
Lockhart kicked the trunk, and the lid flew open. A flock of nightmares poured out, and it only took a moment for Snape to identify them.
Boggarts. A lot of them.
One or two of them might have been easy for the group of students to handle, but Snape estimated there were at least two dozen - possibly more - and with the current emotional state of his group they would be more susceptible to fear effects.
"Lupin!" he called over his shoulder.
"On it!" the werewolf called back. "Students! Remember what we learned!"
Snape nodded grimly. Now, as for Lockhart…
He flung a spell at Lockhart, who countered it easily with a round of merry laughter, only to return fire with a blast that sent Snape sliding back several feet. Snape gritted his teeth; Lockhart shouldn't be able to duel his way out of a damp paper bag. Just another case of the Brighteyes girl messing with things.
Snape went on the offensive, flinging hex after hex at Lockhart - it didn't hurt that the man just annoyed him intensely by default - to try to maneuver him away from the others, forcing Lockhart to deal only with him. As expected, Lockhart kept his distance from Snape, blocking some spells, countering others, occasionally responding in kind.
"Looks like you've lost her favor, Severus," Lockhart laughed. "You shouldn't have tried to ruin her happy ending. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself one scene change away from a horrible offscreen death - or worse, she'll write you otu of this story entirely!"
Snape didn't really care one way or the other what Andromeda's opinion of him was - not right now, anyway. She was a student, for Merlin's sake. A sixth-year witch who didn't know how the world was supposed to be. And a bad writer.
As this last thought Snape heard an unholy shriek somewhere above him. He grinned wickedly; he was sure he would pay for it later, but for the time being he'd found a chink in her plot armor.
Back to the issue at hand, though-it was becoming increasingly clear that he wasn't going to defeat Lockhart through pure magic. Dueling was supposed to be magic only, of course, but with the powered-up Lockhart this might not be entirely feasible. Not with Andromeda writing the rules.
So the logical answer was not to follow her rules.
He wrapped his braid around his wrist a couple times and flicked it towards Lockhart.
"Carpe Retracto!" he commanded. Orange flames animated the entire length of his braid, and it shot forward, easily closing the distance between them and wrapping around Lockhart's wand arm. For a few startled beats nothing happened. "Get over here!" Snape shouted, jerking back on the braid. The second part of the spell activated cleanly, yanking Lockhart off his feet and towards Snape, who kicked upwards, slamming the heel of his boot into the formerly-pretty face of Gilderoy Lockhart.
The sound of Lockhart's nose breaking was the most beautiful music in the world.
As Lockhart fell, stunned and bleeding, to the floor, Snape was already turning to regard the Boggart situation. He heard screaming and cries of Riddikulus!, but far too many of the former and decreasing amounts of the latter. A single Boggart was a minor threat, but the pack that had been released could potentially overwhelm their little band of rebels with terror, regardless of their training. He disentangled his braid from Lockhart and ran to join the fray.
Suddenly, he was confronted with Lily Potter, an expression of absolute revulsion on her face. Snape froze.
"You monster!" she hissed. "How could you do all those things? I hate you!"
It took a few moments to collect his wits. He glanced around and saw Lily - the real Lily - combating her own nightmares some distance away, and then he returned his attention to Boggart!Lily.
"Riddikulus!" he cried, and at once the vision of Lily hating him was stripped nearly naked, except for strategically arranged whipped cream. It swirled away only seconds later, but Snape felt eyes on him. One glance confirmed that it was Lupin, who was, understandably, giving Snape an odd look.
"Really, Severus?" Lupin asked.
"Say one word to either of them and I get a silver crossbow," Snape returned, feeling his face turning red.
Lupin threw up his hands, and the two of them returned their attention to the cluster of terrified students.
That was when Snape heard the music starting up, with no particular source in evidence.
"What on Earth…?" Snape asked, and then saw Luna Lovegood in the center of the chaos, surrounded by giant spiders, demonic manifestations of various Hogwarts teachers, possessed furnaces, and other terrors.
"Oh, this should be interesting," Lupin said, smirking. "Miss Lovegood always dealt with Boggarts in the most unorthodox ways."
Luna began to sing.
When I was a little first-year and the sun was going doooooooown…
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. "Tell me she's not," he said.
The darkness and the shadows there would always make me froooooooown…
"She is," Lupin confirmed.
I'd hide under my pillow
From what I thought I saw
But Dumbledore said that wasn't the way
To deal with fears at aaaaaall.
"Then what is?" asked Ginny Weasley.
He said, "Luna, you gotta stand up tall
Learn to face your fears
You'll see that they can't hurt you
Just laugh to make them disappear!
She turned to a giant spider. "Riddikulus!" she commanded, and in a puff of smoke it was wearing a jester's cap and painted in bright colors.
She continued to sing, twirling and dancing around, while Boggarts found themselves neutralized by a sort of area-effect Riddikulus spell.
Giggle at the ghostly
Guffaw at the grossly
Crack up at the creepy
Whoop it up with the weepy
Chortle at the kooky
Snortle at the spooky
She stopped in front of a huge monster that seemed to be mainly hair, eyes, claws, and teeth, with her hands on her hips.
And tell that big dumb scary face to take a hike and leave you alone and if he thinks he can scare you then he's got another thing coming and the very idea of such a thing just make you wanna... He he he ha ha ha,
The giant hairball was suddenly covered in pink bows.
After this, it was only a matter of seconds before the remaining Boggarts had swirled away into the shadows, leaving Luna beaming and breathing hard in the middle of the Great Hall.
Snape rubbed his forehead. "That was… words fail me." He pulled out a chair and sat heavily. Where on Earth had Lockhart - or, for that matter, the Brighteyes girl - managed to get that many Boggarts? Absently he wound his braid back into a coil and looped it over his shoulder.
"Is everyone okay?" Lupin asked. "Everyone still accounted for?"
There was a ragged chorus in the affirmative, followed by two voices:
"SHUT UP, POTTER!"
"Enough!" Snape barked. "This is no time for any petty inter-House grievances, is that understood?"
Vague grumbling greeted him.
"Understood?" he repeated.
"Yes, Professor Snape."
"We'll need to get someplace safe," Lily said, approaching him, and he was relieved to see no sign in her expression that she had seen her Boggart self. "The Great Hall is too obvious, and if she sent someone after us, then she probably knows we're up to something by now."
"And we better take him with us," Harry said, glancing past Snape.
Smape looked, and found that Lockhart was starting to stir, reaching up towards the ruins of his nose with one sluggish hand.
"Is that…?" Hermione asked.
Snape nodded. "Lockhart, sprung from St. Mungo's. We'll have to bind him. He's got actual magic now."
"But where will we go?" Minerva asked. "We can't all fit in the Headmaster's office, or your office."
There was a long pause.
"The Chamber of Secrets?" Ron Weasley asked.
"Sealed, last I heard," Minerva said.
"It was sealed the last time, too," Harry said. "And I don't know if I'm still a Parseltongue so I can open it."
"If you can't, I probably can," Ron said, with a cautious glance at his Dark Mark.
"And we'd be crazy to go down there," Luna piped up brightly. "Which means it's the last place she'd look."
Snape gave Luna a long look.
"At the very least," Snape said, "It'll be difficult for her to get in unless she's another Heir of Slytherin. Let's go. Potter, Weasley, lead on. Granger, stay close to the front. The rest of you, stay close by. We don't want any stragglers." He scrubbed at his forehead with the heel of his hand. "I am not looking forward to trying to ward that place."
"I'll help," Lily said, taking his arm.
"As will I." Lupin said from his other side.
That took at least some of the burdern off him, at least.
"Thank you," he said finally. "Now get some rope and tie up Lockhart."
"Gladly," Lupin said.
Later, it seemed to Snape that Lupin took special glee in this last task. At the time, though, Snape turned his attention to keeping himself alert and their little group together. If she had recruited Lockhart, there was no telling who else she might still have on her side.
Like Tom Riddle. If he had anywhere near the power he had as Voldemort, and she was pulling his strings, there was no telling what sort of damage she could do, and that was if she maintained control of him.
Snape shivered. He wasn't sure which possibility would be worse.
End Chapter 7.