Severus opened one eye. He'd been half-dozing, stretched out on the nearly naked bed with his hands folded over his bony chest. "Yes?" he asked.
Harry jerked his head out of the wardrobe and slammed the door. "Think I left my good shoes in the library."
"Why would your shoes have been left in the library?"
"Er..." Harry's cheeks turned red. He shrugged, refusing to meet Severus' gaze. "Nobody can see my feet when I'm behind the desk."
"Ah." Severus closed his eyes again and settled into the mattress. A fist seemed to have closed around his heart of late. It squeezed with every jerky beat, draining most of the energy from the rest of his body. Still, it wasn't enough to stop him from pointing out the obvious when those around him were too preoccupied to notice. "So you are here, but your shoes are in the library. That proud of your socks, Potter, or do you simply enjoy the feeling of ice cold granite on your feet?" He let his eyes open just enough to get a vague impression of movement.
"Shut up." Harry toed into his trainers, which were nearly as worn as Severus' fifteen-year-old shoes (the ones he'd just finished properly breaking in). "Have a nap, all right?" He pulled his watch out of his pocket and flipped it open. "Double bollocks. Train's leaving in two hours, and I haven't even finished packing. You were supposed to help!"
"I supervised." Severus smirked and let his eyes shut properly.
Seconds later, he felt breath on his face. Looking up, he found Harry glaring over him. "Greasy bastard," Harry muttered.
"It's what I do best."
Harry snorted. "That's it, you're coming with me."
"I thought I was supposed to have a nap."
"You can nap on the train. Not that fragile, you walked halfway across the grounds and back yesterday."
"And I fear it's tired me out."
"Uh-huh. Just like you wandered down to the kitchen on Wednesday, didn't tell anyone where you were going, scared the life out of half the staff before someone thought to look there, and were too tired out by all the excitement to leave before you'd finished your crossword. I'm sure making that vat of stew didn't have anything to do with that."
"I'd say not. The house-elves did most of the work."
Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I give up. You're impossible."
"Does that mean I can have my nap now?"
"Like Hell. Where're your slippers?" Harry threw open a trunk and started rummaging through. "What in Hell's Fred doing in here?"
"You said to pack everything."
"I'll pack you, y'..." Harry trailed off, muttering, and stuffed the puffskein in his pocket. A moment later, two velvet slippers flew across the room and landed on the bed. "You, up, now. Don't make me Mobilicorpus you again."
"Hmph." Severus dragged himself to a sitting position. He sat a moment, clutching his skeletal knees, getting his breath. With a flick of his wrist, he batted the slippers to the floor and slipped his bare feet into them. When he stood, his robe billowed around him. "I'm sure that would go over very well, dragging my poor, defenseless body about like a toy. What would the students say?"
"Probably, 'Wish I'd thought of that'," Harry growled. He motioned to the door with his head. "Come on."
"Y'don't have to take the piss."
"No, but I do so enjoy it." Severus pressed his fingertips together in front of his chest and started for the door. Harry followed, locking the door behind them and falling into slow step at Severus' side.
The library was more or less quiet. Irma was nowhere to be seen, but several students sat about, studying under the subtle threat of the after-hours charms. Harry guided Severus to one of the chairs near the Herbology section. "All right," he said, making sure Severus was parked, "you stay here and don't get into any trouble, all right?"
"If you're only going to leave me here, why did I have to come?"
"Because I said so. Sit. Stay." Harry trotted off, casting several glances back over his shoulder.
Severus folded his arms and grumbled. "Sodding brat. Could have at least left me to suffer in peace." He shot a look at every student that tried to steal a peek at him. Much to his smug pride, most were reading Potions books.
Severus finally occupied himself with reading the titles on the Herbology texts. "'A Thousand and One Magical Uses for Common Garden Vegetables'? What sort of--?"
Severus blinked. He dropped his gaze about six inches, and then another two. Rubeus Nattery, one of the Gryffindor first years, danced from foot to foot. An idiot grin was plastered across his face.
"Mister Nattery," Severus said in a bored tone.
The grin somehow grew wider. "You really blew up half the school, didn't you?"
"Wow. That's so cool!"
"I hope you're not planning to emulate me. Otherwise, I'll march you straight to the Headmistress."
"Oh, no, nothing like that. Only... that's so cool! Why weren't you that cool when you were teaching?"
"Because I don't recall a great number of Death Eaters storming my lessons." Severus pursed his mouth, looking around for Harry. He tapped the fingers of his right hand against his ribcage.
"It was Incendius Solution, right?"
"I believe so." Severus restrained himself from kicking the bouncing little wretch.
Nattery shoved a hand into his pocket. "I made some, too! Want to see?"
"What?" Severus snapped his head around just in time to see Nattery come up with a vial of liquid. The liquid was a screaming, blinding, unholy red with no roots in nature. No Incendius Solution had ever been that shade of red. "What in the name of god is that?"
"Incendius Solution." Nattery held it out and beamed. "I got the formula out of one of the books. Only, I didn't have all the ingredients so I sort of had to change some. Want to test it?"
"No!" Severus wrenched the vial out of his hands. He carefully wiggled at the glass stopper, making sure to open it away from his face. As soon as he did, the stench of rotten eggs saturated the air. "Merlin's beard, boy, how much sulphur did you use?"
"Only what it said." Nattery stared at him. The idiot grin was gone, replaced with something between hurt and expectation. "Um... I didn't have any lead sulfide, though, so I had to make it."
Severus narrowed his eyes at the boy. "What did you do?"
Nattery shrugged. He'd stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Sulphur flowers..."
Nattery blinked up at him. "Slugs."
"You used slugs to synthesise lead sulfide."
"Sure, why not? See, my dad's got this book about Muggles, in America, a long time ago, and it keeps saying that slugs are made of lead and Muggles would throw them at each other with these sort-of wands..."
Severus stared. Some part of his brain had derailed at the very mention of using slugs for lead; another part wondered if the boy were going to somehow leave with Potions honours, or simply blow himself to bits midway through his third year. He opened his mouth, and found he could only make a weak sound that eerily mimicked interest.
Nattery brightened. Grinning again, he threw out his chest and announced, "So I crushed them up with the sulphur flowers. It wasn't easy, they kept trying to crawl away before I could squish them."
"I see." Severus could only sit and stare. Under his own power he couldn't move fast enough to escape the boy, and anything that might have upset Nattery... well, there was no telling what else he'd put into his poor cauldron.
"My book said it was supposed to turn red by the end, but it had gone sort of brownish and goopy so I added a vial of Rosare one of the girls had and the juice from some of the cherries my friend Nadja's mum had sent her and I think it looks about right."
"You added a full vial of Rosare."
"And maraschino cherry juice."
"Only a few ounces. It got a little bit slimy after I did that."
Severus sighed. Wincing inside at the loss of sugary goodness (cherries at that), he said weakly, "That would be the sucrose reacting with the Rosare, then."
"Yes." Severus very gently handed the vial back. "It was... a unique attempt," he said, wondering why he had the strange urge to pat the boy on the head.
Nattery grinned. "Thanks!" He tried to cram the stopper back into the vial. The thing slipped, and about half the liquid splattered across the floor. He yelped. "No! I spent hours on that!"
"You've got some left. I'll sort this. Go... go study," Severus said, eyeing the liquid. He moved his slippers out of the way, finally pulled his feet and his robe into the chair and away from the spreading pool. It seemed harmless enough. A faint pink stain was beginning to creep across the floor, but it might have only been due to the layer of what looked like stained vegetable oil. He pinched his nose against the smell of sulphur. Noises of disgust spread through the students as the stench hit them.
"It's a bit whiffy, isn't it?" Nattery said, stuffing the dripping vial back into his pocket. "Well, thanks for looking, Professor. I'll see if I can get some better lead sulfide next time."
"Yes, yes, very good," Severus forced between his teeth. He waved the boy away and looked around for Harry.
Who, in fact, stuck his head out from under the main desk and sniffed. He grimaced. "Ugh! Bloody... who did that?" he shouted.
"Nattery," came a voice.
"It was an accident! Professor Snape said he'd get it sorted!"
"Oh, Hell." Harry rooted around under the desk a moment more, dragged himself out with a pair of black shoes in tow, and stormed towards Severus. He shoved his hand into his wand pocket and groped around. "I'm telling Madam Pince about this."
"NO!" There was a pounding of feet, and the door slammed shut as Nattery scampered out.
"Bollocks." Harry shot a glare at Severus. "All right, you're telling Madam Pince about this, you know what's going on."
"Haven't the foggiest."
"Oh, I think you--WHOA!" Harry's arms flailed at the air as his foot hit the spreading pool of oil. He skidded, and slammed back first into the Herbology shelves. There was a creak, and a shudder in the wood. Harry whimpered and squeezed his eyes shut.
Harry opened one cautious eye, then the other. He was pressed against the freestanding shelves, the first of five housing the Herbology collection. His wand was clutched in one outstretched hand, his shoes in the other. He released a huge breath. "Oh, my god," he moaned. He pushed himself away from the shelves. As he did, the toe of one of the shoes pressed into a thick spine. The book shifted.
Every head in the library turned at the heavy groan that echoed on the stones. Harry gulped. He turned by degrees. The shelves he'd hit shifted a fraction of an inch. Harry whispered, "Good shelf."
It crashed. The thumps resonated as Herbology case after Herbology case went down like dominoes. Books spilled across the floor, thundering down in a torrent of parchment and dust. A heavy, grey cloud rose, and the smell of age and decaying bookworms retaliated against the stench of sulphur with extreme prejudice.
When the last of the booms had faded, the dust starting to settle, Harry finally managed to open his mouth. He squeaked. A long, thin, pink tongue wormed its way from his pocket. It darted into the oily puddle. Fred gave an insulted squawk and wrenched his tongue away from the mess.
Severus stared. One eyebrow flicked. From the corridor, he heard approaching footsteps. The door flew open, and there came a stifled gasp. Severus glanced back. Irma stood there, the colour of a sheet, staring. She opened her mouth, and a sound like an elderly hen escaped.
"I can explain!" Harry wheezed. "Honestly, I can--"
"HARRY JAMES POTTER, WHAT IN MERLIN'S GOOD NAME HAPPENED IN HERE?" Irma's face went from white to beet red in less than a second. (Severus hadn't even known she could make that much noise.) Harry said nothing, only stared at the shambles before him.
"It seems, Irma," Severus said in a slightly stunned voice, "Mister Potter was not content to leave Hogwarts without a bang of his own."
The blue streak that followed sent most of the students stampeding in terror, and completely redefined any and all notions of Irma Pince that Severus might have had. On the whole, however, he had to admit it was far more entertaining than a nap.
Return to Archive | prequel | sequel