Disclaimer: The inhabitants of Hogwarts are the property of JK Rowling.
Games of Skill and Chance
Part 3 - Exploding Snap
He awoke with a start, drawing a rasping breath as though he had been drowning in the tangle of his dreams. Images scattered leaving only an impression of noise and confusion as he felt his pulse rate gradually settle to normal. He realised he had been fighting Voldemort in his sleep once again.
As if in response to the thought, his hip twinged painfully. "Lumos," he muttered, conjuring a light by which he could find the painkilling potion tucked between the stacks of books piled on the table beside his bed.
As he waited for the potion to take effect he flicked lazily through one of the books. There was nothing to suggest that the potions he was taking would suddenly cause him to start coddling the pupils. It was inexplicable. There had been plenty of lonely children who had passed through his lessons and he had never before felt compelled to interfere in the nasty politics of boys’ friendships. Life was tough and it was as well to learn early that you could only really rely on yourself.
Keeping an eye on Potter had been different. Part repayment of debt, part essential duty to ensure the boy fulfilled the prophecy.
Which made it all the funnier really that they’d got it all so wrong.
His grip on the book loosened and he slipped into sleep.
In his dream he lies on the quidditch pitch-turned-battle field, unable to move. All around him are Hogwarts staff, Order members and Aurors, locked in combat with Death Eaters who are letting rip with unforgiveables with no more qualms than a second year using tickling charms. He sees Potter fighting his way across the field towards Voldemort, the seventh year student looking grim and determined, flanked by his ever-present friends.
The dark wizard turns to focus his attention on the boy. It will all be over soon, one way or the other.
Then, out of nowhere, a zigzagging bolt of green fire striking Voldemort in the head. The Dark Lord crumpling to the ground.
Off to one side of the action Neville Longbottom is standing, wide-eyed in shock at the effects of his spectacular misfire.
"Oops," says Longbottom in the dream, although Snape knows there was too much battle noise for him to have heard the boy speak in reality. And then Snape is laughing, high-pitched, hysterically, unstoppably. And the war is over.
The first year students returned the next Thursday and played their game while he marked papers. It was not entirely annoying. Roger, Rupert, Nicolas and the quietest of the Slytherins, Dafydd, were polite, quiet and respectful. All were obviously bright and he had been pleased to see they all worked diligently in potions classes.
Perhaps there was no harm in it. After all this was his last term in teaching. There was little need to worry about his reputation any longer. And anyway, somehow the marking was less of a chore with the gamers present than it was in a silent, empty laboratory.
By the third Thursday he greeted them with an almost-cheerful "good evening" that would have left his older students stunned.
The friends set up their game and Snape turned to a pile of third year homework, dipping his quill into a well of red ink. He had almost reached the bottom of the pile when Nicolas’ voice reached his ears.
"Ah-ha," crowed the boy. "My black armies have swept across Europe destroying everything in their path. Tremble in fear puny ones!"
Crash! A bottle of red ink shattered as it landed in the middle of their map.
"Out," said Snape in a low growl, struggling to his feet behind his desk. "Get out."
"Sir?" The boys exchanged frightened, confused glances.
"GET OUT!" roared Snape. They fled, leaving the ruined board game behind them.
Snape held the tiny black plastic cavalryman between his fingers, trying to stop his hand from trembling. Under his breath he cursed his stupid loss of control in front of the students.
He dabbed ineffectually at the red ink covering the board. Having made up the magically indelible ink himself, he knew for certain that the game was completely destroyed.
That should put an end to these absurdly cosy evenings, he thought.
He sat staring at the mess for a long time.
To be continued.
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