Disclaimer: The inhabitants of Hogwarts are the property of JK Rowling.
Games of Skill and Chance
Part 2 - Solitaire
Dark, bitter and powerful. Strange, how characteristics so dangerous in a wizard could be so perfect in a cup of coffee, thought Snape as he breathed in the steam rising from his breakfast cup.
In front of him the hall was filling up with students. A quidditch team fresh from early morning practice was piling bacon onto plates, a bleary-eyed sixth year girl appeared to be making a last ditch attempt to finish homework with quill in one hand and toast in the other, first years made light-hearted fun of each other’s morning hair.
The cacophony of laughter and banter grated on his nerves. Your last term, he reminded himself, flicking to the jobs pages of the Daily Prophet spread in front of him. Shop work, hospital work, no, he didn’t think he was cut of for either of those. Pen-pusher at the ministry, not bloody likely.
He looked up at the hall again. The dark-haired Ravenclaw boy, Dingwall, was sitting alone at his house table with a wistful, lost air. Despite his best efforts, Snape felt a pang of sympathy for the boy. Damn stupid hat, damn stupid system. He took another gulp of coffee.
It was only then that he remembered his idiotic offer the previous evening. Why? What on earth was he thinking giving away the peace of his dungeons at the drop of a hat to a group of undoubtedly noisy boys? Well, perhaps they wouldn’t take him up on the offer after all. He would be teaching them all before Thursday and could certainly scare them off.
The last ever essays on the interactions of mercury with magical ingredients, he thought as his quill scratched its way across yet another hopeless piece of homework.
There was a knock at the door and in answer to his sharp "Yes!" four boys tumbled into the room carrying their game.
Snape was astonished. He had shouted at their classes and picked unkindly at their faults in potions brewing. Was there no way of putting them off? Had one moment of weakness marked him out forever as a kindly teacher who ran some kind of games club?
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell them he’d changed his mind, that the room wasn’t available for games. But the cheerful young Ravenclaw in front of him was such a contrast with the one who he had observed sitting alone at meals every day this week – a pointed reminder of another boy who had so often eaten alone.
"Keep the noise down," he told them, waving them over to a table where they could spread out the game.
An hour later he was distracted from his marking by a cheer and looked up to see the skinny Slytherin Roger Treaster doing a victory dance. He frowned at the noise, but was forced to admit to himself that the quiet buzz of voices and rattle of dice hadn’t actually been all that bad while he was marking.
"Well done, Mr Treaster, I take it the game is over."
"Yeah, sir, I whupped their asses!"
"Be very careful Mr Treaster, I have been known to remove points for vulgar Americanisms," he said, keeping a straight face despite the surprising laughter threatening to bubble up.
The boys packed away the game and made their way out of the classroom. The door thudded to behind them. A second later it opened again.
"Sir?" said a clearly nervously Kohler. "Are you always marking here on a Thursday evening?"
"As a general rule Mr Kohler."
"Then could we meet down here again?" he asked, then suddenly blurted out: "Or could we get Rupert switched into Slytherin? Because none of the Ravenclaws talk to him, just because he started hanging around with us on the train before we were even sorted."
"There’s no going against the hat Mr Kohler." Snape paused, hardly able to believe what he was about to allow. "But so long as you play quietly you may use the dungeons once a week."
What is Pomfrey putting in that Slow Skele-gro? he wondered after Kohler left. The medi-witch had devised the potion that would knit his shattered hip back together. Being no simple break it was taking time to heal correctly even with magical cures. Could the new potion have some kind of mood altering side-effects?
He pulled down some books and began to search for information.
To be continued.
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