Chapter 6 - Secretive
The night of the first dueling club found Snape in a particularly sour mood. As a matter of fact, Snape had been in a sour mood for a couple of weeks. It had all started when he had gone to speak to the headmaster about the creation of this idiotic dueling club.
Snape had been flabbergasted when Dumbledore had told him that he believed the club was a good idea and that he would continue to encourage and support Lockhart in this matter. Snape had even tried arguing that he feared for the safety of the students. He tried to verbally dance around actually accusing Lockhart of being incompetent by calling attention to his inexperience in dealing with children. Dumbledore had listened intently and when Snape had finished he was sure that he had finally gotten through to the old man. Instead he did the unthinkable…he assigned Snape to assist Lockhart and in doing so could personally observe the students properly.
At first Snape had thought that the old man had been teasing him, but one look at the headmaster's face was proof enough to show how serious he was. Snape had, at first, flat refused even considering threatening to resign if he was forced to do this. However, Dumbledore had been steadfast in his resolve and finally justified the task as a perfect way to get in a few cheap shots at Lockhart and make him look foolish in front of he students.
In the end it hadn't been the words that Dumbledore had spoken, but the tired and worn expression that had been on his face. He had never seen his old friend looking to ragged and he could only attribute it to the increased amounts of stress that he had been under since the first bloody message had appeared on the wall.
He could hardly stand the teasing from Minerva and Filius when they had discovered that he had not only been unsuccessful at changing Dumbledore's mind, but had also gotten assigned to supervise Lockhart.
"What was it the you said, Severus? You were sure that you could talk some sense into him?" McGonagall said with a malicious smile one evening as they gathered in Sprout's sitting room.
Flitwick chimed in and said, "Do tell us again how your conversation went. I especially enjoy hearing about the part where he told you to keep an eye on Lockhart."
"Oh, are we all so very humorous tonight," Snape had growled. "How was I supposed to know that Albus had completely gone mental?"
To add insult to injury, on the day of the dueling club, Snape had been forced to file an incident report after an inexcusable prank in his second year potions class that resulted in several students being splashed with swelling solution. While he was able to successfully able to reverse the effects of the spell on the affected students, he had been unable to pinpoint the culprit that had been stupid enough to throw a firecracker into one of his Slytherin student's cauldron. He had been fairly certain that Potter had been behind it, but he had been unable to prove it. He was sure that he could have gotten the truth out of him if he had truly wanted it, but he had been concerned that he only suspected Potter because he had wanted him to have been responsible. As a reasonable man, Snape was able to recognize his desire to punish the boy and did not feel like dealing with McGonagall's incessant babble about him targeting her golden boy. So, in a manner that was so much unlike him, he let the incident slide, vowing instead to keep an even closer eye on Potter and his cohorts.
Of course it had been only about an hour until he noticed the missing ingredients from his storeroom. He noticed the boomslang skin first, which sent him into a harried inventory of his remaining supplies in which he also noted his missing bicorn horn. This probably should have concerned him greatly, but instead delighted him since he was confident the culprit would be incapable of producing an adequate Polyjuice Potion. The thief would inevitably end up in the hospital wing with Fluxweed Fever using plants not picked at the full moon or viridi vomitum, a severe stomach condition that would come as a result of not brewing the lacewing flies for the required twenty-one days. This left him with nothing to do, but speak with Madam Pomfrey and ask her to find him immediately if any student presents with either of these conditions. He didn't bother revealing to her his suspicions about the illegal brewing of the Polyjuice Potion, in an attempt to avoid having to explain the embarrassing thievery of his private stores.
As he waited to hear from the medi-witch, he began mentally reviewing the many nooks, crannies and out of the way places around the castle that could potentially serve as an illegal brewing location. His added night watches, he decided, would be the perfect time for conducting vigilante searches in order to catch the illegal brewers. He could easily do this under the guise of inspecting the castle for any other oddities that may give him some clue about the Chamber of Secrets that could have been previously unseen fifty years ago.
He had done some research on the recorded stories about the Chamber and the students that had been in attendance when it had last been opened. Dumbledore had already shared his memories and suspicions about Tom Riddle, but Snape didn't want to accept that answer. He could not conceive of anyway that Riddle could be involved with the Chamber now, which left him scouring the past and current years' attendance rosters in search of any repeating surnames. Not surprisingly he found a sizable lists of them, but none that he could believe could be behind the attacks. Which meant that he had hit another dead end.
His first thoughts after learning about Dumbledore's experience with the chamber had been to seek out Hagrid and have a talk with him. While he agreed with Dumbledore in the half-giant's innocence, he thought perhaps he would have some kind of information about the type of creature that could be responsible. The only thing that Snape did learn from his visit was that they did not share a common definition of the word edible.
The lack of answers and relentless string of ridiculousness thus far this year was more than enough to put Snape in a bad mood. So it was no wonder that now, as he was being forced to chaperone this pompous buffoon preparing to make a spectacle of himself, he would be careful considering which spells he could use against him that would put him in his proper place. Naturally it would need to be something that the students wouldn't be dumb enough to pick up on and emulate on each other, while still packing enough of a punch to leave a bit of a lasting impression and hopefully relieve a bit of pent up frustration as well.
As it turned out, a simple disarming spell was more than enough to demonstrate to the gathered students how ill-prepared their lavender superstar truly was. It wasn't difficult to notice the many satisfied smiles and stifled laughs the gathered students displayed as their Defense teacher was blasted off the platform and into the wall. Some of the braver students, most from of them Slytherin even cheered out loud. He did notice several of the lovesick females looking all concerned but he had expected that. Of course the idiot tried to play the move off as one that he had intended to do, which only fueled Snape's hatred for the man, which he made plenty obvious through the look at hatred he did not even attempt to disguise on his face.
Much as he suspected, only one demonstration was needed before the buffoon decided to jump right in to the student demonstrations. The plan was to have the students break up into pairs and have them practice on each other, but Snape wanted to be sure that he helped a bit with the pairing.
He knew that Potter and Malfoy would eventually end up having a go at each other anyway considering the obviously growing animosity between them, so what better way for them to get it out of their systems than to do so with proper supervision. Besides, he had to admit that he was curious about Potter's skills.
Snape, who had come to a preliminary conclusion about who it was that could have stolen the missing ingredients from his supplies thought that perhaps it might be amusing to see Miss "Know-it-all" Granger paired up with someone that could show her that it is not always brains over brawn that matter. Millicent Bulstrode. She was a beefy girl with very little in the way of brains, but he knew that he could count on her to put Ms. Granger in her place. This could potentially be even better than giving her detention.
He watched in delight as the pairs began to duel. As he had expected Ms. Bulstrode had abandoned the idea of using her wand and was currently holding Ms. Granger in headlock. Malfoy and Potter were both faring fairly well against each other. Around the rest of the room students were being blown backwards or thrown across the room each time risking, albeit narrowing avoiding, serious injury. Finally, it was suggested that the students learn basic blocking spells before continuing the demonstration.
Snape was quick to intervene when Lockhart attempted to pair up Potter and Longbottom, and was quick to volunteer Malfoy for the demonstration. There was a spell that Lucius had said his son had mastered over the summer that Snape was curious to see that he was sure would liven up the match a bit.
With a quick whispered word in the blonde boy's ear, Snape stepped back to observe the match. When the snake erupted from the end of Draco's wand and landed on the dueling platform the collective gasp of the gathered students was more than worth the demonstration. He stepped forward to get rid of the snake when he heard the strange hissing sound.
Looking up he realized that the hissing sound was coming from Potter. The boy was speaking to the snake. He was a parselmouth?! How in the world did that happen? Does Dumbledore know about this?
As Snape tried to sort through the hundreds of questions that sprang to his mind as he watched the boy, he realized that it looked as though he was pushing the snake to attack a student standing on the floor in front of the platform. This thought pushed him into action and he stepped up to the snake and performed the counter making it disappear.
There was not a single sound in the room as everyone, including Snape, stared at Potter in disbelief. Finally, Ms. Granger & Mr. Weasley stepped up and quickly escorted him off the platform and out of the hall. Immediately after the door closed behind them, the remaining students encircled Justin Finch-Fletchley and all began trying to talk to him at once.
Snape only vaguely heard any of the ramblings and concerns of the students as he tried to understand what exactly had just happened. He knew that he was going to have to pay Dumbledore yet another visit, but was not looking forward to doing so. He had a feeling that he was about to discover yet another of the old man's little secrets and he was not happy about it.
The dull buzzing of the children's chatter called him back to the Great Hall where, he noticed, Lockhart was still staring dumbfounded at the place where the snake had disappeared. As much as Snape loved to see him fumbling around like the idiot that he was, he decided that this circus had gone on long enough.
"Quiet!" he barked as the students immediately silenced. "I believe that we have seen enough for today. Curfew is fast approaching and I'd hate for any of you to be caught wandering the halls after hours."
Much to his relief the students cleared out quickly, most likely to be the first to spread the news about Potter and the snake. He had no doubt that the entire school would be aware of the incident before the night was over. So much for rumor control. He had nothing that he could do or say to diffuse this situation.
The departure of the students awoke Lockhart from his little trance, causing him to jump into a monologue about how well everything went and that he hoped Snape would be willing to join him for the next meeting. He hadn't seemed at all fazed by what had just happened, which struck Snape as somewhat amusing. He had either not realized what it was that had just happened or was trying to ignore it. While he was glad to not have to discuss what had happened with the overgrown peacock, he was surprised by his apparent disinterest.
Pushing aside all thoughts except for finding Dumbledore, Snape hurried out of the Great Hall and collided into Professor McGonagall nearly knocking her over.
"My goodness, Severus," she exclaimed. "Is everything all right?'
With a sigh he responds, "I am afraid not. Perhaps you should accompany me to see the Headmaster since this does involve one of your students."
"Which one," she asked hesitantly.
"Mr. Potter of course," he replied with a weak sneer.
With a look a grim determination, McGonagall nodded and walked along with Snape up to the third floor.
"What does this mean, Albus?" McGonagall croaked when Snape had finished recanting the events of the night.
Rising from his chair and moving to stare out of his window, Dumbledore shakes his head. "I am afraid I don't quite know. It is possible that this is a side effect from the Killing Curse."
Snape snorted. "Well that doesn't seem likely. How would a Killing Curse cause him to become a parselmouth?"
"You misunderstand me, Severus," the headmaster replied without turning from the window. "I don't think it was the curse that gave him his abilities, but the caster of the curse."
"You can't be serious," McGonagall whispered in alarm.
"So you think that the Dark Lord gave him the ability when he failed to kill him? Is that even possible?" Snape questioned.
Dumbledore sighed and said, "I don't know. Unfortunately Harry is the only person to ever have survived a Killing Curse, so there is no precedent in determining possible side effects other than death."
"What do we do about it?" McGonagall asked.
"Do?" Snape jeered. "Do? What is there to do Minerva? Tell him to stop being a parselmouth? Maybe try the Killing Curse again to see if it goes away?"
McGonagall glared at Snape and seemed to be trying to formulate an angry retort when Dumbledore finally turned from the window.
"Severus is right, Minerva. There is nothing that can be done for the boy. What is done cannot be undone," Dumbledore said sadly. "Instead we need to continue to be vigilant and do what must be done to protect the students."
"Are you suggesting that Harry's ability has something to do with the chamber?" McGonagall asked hesitantly.
Dumbledore shook his head. "No. I do not believe that Harry has anything to do with the Chamber, but the sooner we figure out who is responsible, the sooner any rumors can be placated."
"So, need I ask?" McGonagall began. "Are we any closer to figuring out who is responsible?"
"Sadly, no. I have had my hands pretty full trying to keep the Ministry and the Prophet out of here, but I do not think I will be able to continue to hold them off if there is another attack," Dumbledore said.
"Well I don't think there is much more we can do to search for the chamber while the students are here," Snape answered.
McGonagall snorted. "You honestly do not believe these attacks are truly a result of Salazar's chamber do you Albus?"
"I'm afraid we not have any other option than to seriously consider all possibilities," Dumbledore sad sadly.
"But the castles has already been searched numerous times and I thought it had been determined that the Chamber was nothing more than a myth?" McGonagall protested.
"At this point, Minerva," Snape cut in, "I'd rather hope that these attacks are a result of an ancient creature hidden in the castle than think that there would actually be a student, or dare I say, staff member that is behind these attacks."
The three of them stood staring at each other unsure of what to say and each afraid to voice whatever real concerns that were occupying their thoughts. Finally without another word, McGonagall turned and left the room prompting Snape to nod to the headmaster and follow her out suddenly anxious to get back to the comfort of his own quarters.
Snape was fairly certain that the chill that had descended upon the castle the following day, had very little to do with the turbulent weather outside of the castle and more to do with the bone chilling events that occurred within the halls of the castle that morning.
He had heard about the attack well before the owl had delivered the news from the headmaster. There was to be a staff meeting this evening to discuss increasing security even further to attempt to keep the students safe. This was to be expected. What was not expected was the scribbled postscript that had been penned at the bottom of his memo.
"The boy is scared. He is hiding something."
Of course he was scared, Snape scoffed to himself. The subject of the attack this time was the very one that he seemed to have been targeting last night. While he hadn't known what it was that Potter had been saying, he was doubtful that it was as malicious as it sounded. His very limited experience with the ancient language had shown him that even the most heartfelt and happy message would sound most sinister when spoken. As much as the boy irked him, he doubted that he was truly capable of causing harm to others.
He wasn't quite sure what to make of Dumbledore's little message, nor what he was expected to do about it, but he was sure that Dumbledore intended it to be more than a simple informative note. There was rarely anything simple when it came to the old man.
He could not continue seeking this child out and trying to hold his hand through every bump and scrape that will be inevitable as he progresses throughout his schooling. Not only would it cause irreparable damage to the boy's abilities to problem solve and function in day-to-day issues, but it would also undeniably tarnish his own reputation with the rest of the student body. He had worked long and hard at creating a commanding and domineering presence that is more than adequate environment of fear and awe in his classrooms. All of that could be destroyed if it becomes common knowledge that he is playing nanny to a silly Gryffindor especially if that Gryffindor was the prodigal son of his archenemy.
No. He refused to do that to himself or to Potter. The best that he could do would have to be to keep an eye on him from afar and monitor his behavior in hopes that he would relinquish some hint or clue about what is was that he was hiding from the headmaster. He was fairly certain that what was being hidden had a lot to do with the missing potion ingredients from his stores. Based on the abysmal brewing abilities that Potter has displayed in class he was confident that his failure to successfully prepare the stolen ingredients would lead to his exposure. Then he would not only have his culprit but he would be able to confidently inform the headmaster that the thing his golden boy was hiding from him was nothing more than a mirror image of his father's delinquent behaviors. Feeling confident that he had come to an acceptable solution to both of the problems plaguing him he continued with the preparations for his upcoming classes without another thought to the issue.