Monday morning: Double Potions. Or was it Tuesday? Severus Snape, Potions Master at Hogwarts, found he didn’t really care.
The classroom was filled with the quiet chop-chop-chop of ingredients being prepared. Cauldrons bubbled and hissed, and even though Snape had not uttered a threat or an insult this morning, the few conversations held at the work benches were done in hushed whispers.
Snape, normally moving silently through the classroom, ready to catch any trouble makers, hadn’t moved since sitting down behind his desk. He was exhausted. Too exhausted to bother with anything anymore. This strange numbness had been with him for the last weeks and somewhere at the back of his mind a part of him was alarmed by it. But he was too far gone to do anything about it.
The only relief from the numbness were, ironically enough, Death Eater meetings. When in the presence of the madman and self-proclaimed Dark Lord Voldemort, Snape’s mind was alert and sharp like it always had been. He had to keep his wits about him and luckily, he still could. This meant, however, that he was aware of all the gruesome things that were going on, he couldn’t shut out the terrible things he had to witness and they burnt themselves into his soul.
In a way it was a relief to be back in the dark dungeons and sink back into his numbness. Teaching had become more than a burden these days. It was utterly pointless and draining.
His eyes roamed over the students who stood bent over their cauldrons and he realized that he didn’t even know which class he was currently teaching. Whispers seized, when the student’s felt their teacher’s eyes sweep over them. Snape had a fierce reputation and it paid off now, giving him control over the classroom without having to say a word.
His eyes settled on a student with unruly black hair in the first row.
It was quite alarming that not even the sight of his worst enemy’s son could evoke any emotion from him. Maybe he should take a few points, just for good measure? To keep up appearances?
“Potter,” he drawled.
The boy looked up in disdain. He obviously expected to lose some points now – one way or another. His student’s green eyes grew puzzled when Snape kept looking at him without making any comment.
Not even Lily’s eyes staring back at him could evoke any form of emotion. Snape knew now that something was very wrong. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to care. He just shook his head and turned his head away from Potter.
“Professor!” a panicked voice called out from somewhere in the classroom.
Something stirred inside Snape. He was out of his chair in a moment. Panicked students in a Potions class were never good.
Out of habit he had immediately moved towards Longbottom’s desk, expecting the boy to have caused some disaster. That was his mistake. It hadn’t been Longbottom, but Malfoy who had called him. He should have recognized his godson’s voice.
When he realized his mistake and turned to Draco, the students had already fled from a fiercely glowing cauldron that was humming dangerously.
Nevertheless, Snape ordered them to, “Stay back!”
He strode towards the cauldron, while all the students left their desks and fled to safety in the far corners of the room. A protection shield couldn’t be cast now. The potion was most volatile and any form of magic could set off an explosion. Snape knew exactly what had gone wrong. Draco had added the wormwood and clove too soon and the only way to keep the cauldron from exploding was to -
A sharp hiss could be heard and the teacher knew he was too late.
Something was off with Professor Snape. He hadn’t taken points in the last few lessons and even though Harry knew how ironic this was, he started to get worried. What was the dungeon bat brooding over that he even lost interest in tormenting his least favourite students? Whatever kept Snape occupied, it couldn’t be good. Harry didn’t trust the dark wizard, no matter what Dumbledore said, and the brooding silence of the man made him nervous.
Harry froze. With the wooden spoon he had used to stir his potion still in his hand, he looked up guiltily. Had Snape read his thoughts? But he hadn’t looked him in the eye! He couldn’t have …
Reluctantly locking his gaze with his Professor, Harry was surprised to find none of the usual hostility and hatred in the man’s eyes. They seemed to be expressionless, nearly void of any emotion. His teacher looked at him, but Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that Snape didn’t really see him.
Without a word Snape turned his head away from him. Harry was confused. Did he do something wrong? Did Snape want him to come up to the front? With a quiet sigh, Harry abandoned his potion and walked around his desk.
“Professor!” Malfoy called out to their teacher and there was uncharacteristic panic in his voice.
Understandable, for when Harry looked at Malfoy’s glowing, humming cauldron, he too felt panic rising inside him. This couldn’t be good.
“Stay back!” Snape ordered and briskly walked towards the cauldron.
Was he mad? Why didn’t he just cast a protection charm around it first? Or created a containment field?
Harry’s wand slid into his hand from out of his sleeve and while the other students scrambled to the corners of the room, he stayed where he was, his eyes firmly on their teacher.
Snape had nearly reached the cauldron when a loud hissing filled the air.
The teacher stopped in his tracks. “Take cover!” he ordered and the students dived under the desks, bumping into each other while they scrambled to safety. Harry too edged away from the cauldron, thinking that maybe he should hide under Snape’s desk, but he stopped when he saw that their teacher hadn’t moved. Snape’s eyes were glued to the dangerously hissing cauldron and no emotion could be seen on his face.
“Professor!” Harry called out, but his voice was drowned out by the high shriek that emanated from the cauldron as it started to move on the table. The boiling potion splashed onto the table and ate holes into the wooden surface.
Snape turned his head into Harry’s direction, his expression unreadable. The cauldron exploded.
Harry acted on pure instinct. He called out a spell that send his teacher flying through the classroom and out of harm’s way just as pieces of the exploded cauldron were flung through the air and the poisonous potion splashed on the ground where Snape had been standing only moments ago.
When the roar of the explosion was over, a deathly silence settled over the classroom. It was only disturbed by the sizzling of the potion as it burned holes into their classroom floor.
Snape got to his feet swiftly. With a wave of his wand the destroyed cauldron and the rest of the potion vanished. He looked up and let his eyes wander over the students still hiding under the tables, probably checking if any of them were injured.
Harry found he couldn’t take his eyes of the dark Professor who acted now as if nothing had happened.
“Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said. His voice was calm, but sounded uncomfortably loud in the quiet classroom even though he had spoken softly.
Draco got to his feet shakily, his face paler than usual. “Professor … I … I am sorry … it wasn’t really my fault …”
He stopped when Snape just looked at him without commenting.
“You will attempt to brew this potion again, Mr. Malfoy.”
Malfoy hung his head. “Tonight?” he asked.
There was a quidditch match on. Snape wouldn’t deprive his own team of their Seeker, would he?
“Tonight, and every night for the rest of the week.”
Malfoy’s head shot up. “What? But …”
Snape ignored him. “Class dismissed.” He turned back to his desk.
The students didn’t have to be told twice. They got their school bags and hurried out of the room. Furious whispers started as soon as they went through the door. Had Snape really just given Draco Malfoy detention? For the rest of the week?
Under normal circumstances Harry would have been as excited about this as his fellow students, but his mind was on other things. He watched his Professor and tried to build up the courage to speak.
Snape didn’t seem to notice that he was still here, or maybe he just ignored him.
“Are you alright, sir?”
His Professor didn’t look at him. “Class dismissed, Mr. Potter. That includes you as well.”
Harry listened carefully, but he didn’t hear any of the usual hatred in the man’s voice. He stepped around the desk, fully aware that he was invading his teacher’s space, and faced Snape.
“Sir,” he repeated. “Are you alright?”
Snape looked up, his expression blank. “You made sure of that, didn’t you, Potter?”
Harry froze. Was Snape reproaching him for saving him? “You … you didn’t move!” he defended himself. “I had to do something! That cauldron …” The boy stopped and searched his teacher’s face.
“Why didn’t you move out of the way, sir?”
Snape returned his stare. He didn’t answer for some time and Harry felt his blood run cold. The Snape he knew would have ripped his head off by now. He would have hexed him into next week for even attempting to have a conversation with him. Why wasn’t he? Why wasn’t Snape taking points and rejoicing in the idea that he could expel Harry now for using magic on a teacher? He would have tried to twist the whole incident to his advantage somehow only months before.
After a long moment Snape broke their eye contact. “You’ll be late for your next class, Potter.”
With that the teacher turned around and left the room, leaving a very confused and worried Gryffindor behind.