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Pointy Horns or Black Hats

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Summary: Inspired by EmylnII’s “Ever After”, Giles and Severus: brothers, best friends, bitter rivals.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Giles-Centered > Pairing: Severus SnapedulcineaFR1590295,82735203204,05124 Jan 0527 Jan 07Yes

Unwanted Advice

As the sky faded from orange to pink to purple, Spike paced behind his crypt door. He had places to go, people to see, and this sunset was just too damn slow. Tonight the soap opera network was doing a special marathon of last season’s Passions. While he had probably already seen the episode they were showing at seven, the later episodes originally aired during his slight incarceration with that damn military group.

Normally, a Passions marathon would be an excuse to head over to the slayer’s mom’s house, but Joyce had cancelled on him earlier in the week when she got Dawn’s report card. Evidently, the slayer’s sister was having as much trouble with algebra as her older sister had, and that meant no television. However, Spike was old enough to know not to panic. He had a contingency plan. Sure the watcher’s television was hardly the widescreen affair the Summers had, but odds were he could watch the show uninterrupted, and as a bonus he could watch Giles be verbally berated by his step-brother during commercial breaks. Add that to the ready supply of blood in the watcher’s fridge, and Spike couldn’t wait for the night.

As he felt the last trace of sunlight fade from the sky, he heard voices outside the crypt. “All right, men, spread out!” A familiar voice barked.

“Oh brother,” Spike muttered, slipping into the hidden room of the crypt. The commandos were the reason he had missed the show in the first place, surely they wouldn’t keep him from watching the repeat.

“We’re not going to let some sissy girl top our capture records men. Keep your eyes peeled for any HSTs.” The voices got closer. “Even if the sissy girl is Finn’s girlfriend,” the good natured chuckling sounded like it was right outside of Spike’s sanctuary.

“Miller, how about you and I take this crypt?”

Then again, it was quite possible these wankers wouldn’t see things his way and insist on interrupting his night of Passions. Spike scowled as he saw Captain Cardboard himself enter the crypt followed by another soldier boy. The two men aimed their flashlights at various corners, startling several spider webs. “Just like old times, eh Captain?” Miller asked kicking the base of the urn.

“Yeah, like old times, only with less mad scientist ploys.” Riley answered, distractedly. “Is it just me, or does it look like the dust has been disturbed recently here?” Spike shook his head; he was getting sloppy in his old age.

“Sure, that might be a new trail.” Miller agreed, “But, I’d be hardpressed to tell you what it means. Maybe a newbie stopped here last night, maybe some kids tried to break in here during the day, maybe a raccoon came through. It’s hard to tell from just a clear patch, especially one that leads to a flat wall.”

“Around here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the raccoons were as demonic as everything else.” Riley shot back, surprisingly irritable for what was supposed to be a fun night out with the guys.

“Missing Iowa again?” Miller grinned in return.

“No.”

“Ah. Then you must be missing Buffy.”

Riley turned away from the wall Spike was hiding behind to face Miller. “I am capable of going a day without my girlfriend you know.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“At least I have a girl.” Spike tried hard not to groan. Yes, he had been looking forward to an evening of melodrama, but he was thinking more of the gorgeous actresses of Passions, not the oafish military twits of Sunnydale.

“Hey, not all of us can be dating Xena, Warrior Princess. So how
is ol’ Buff?”

“She’s good. Actually we were going to see about getting coffee after patrol.”

“You know, coffee could keep a girl up all night long… not that that’s a bad thing.” Miller grinned.

“Get your mind out of the gutter.” Riley blushed.

“I know you were thinking it too.” Riley chose not to answer. “Come on, Finn, what’s got your shorts in a twist?”

“Nothing.” Graham’s snort let him know he wasn’t getting away with that. “No really, it’s no big deal; it’s just, when I talked to my mom last night…”

Oh no…” Graham groaned. Spike couldn’t agree more. “What did Mama Finn have to say?”

“She wants to meet Buffy.”

“So she’s coming out here? That’s not the best idea.”

“No she’s not coming out here if I have anything to say about it. She wants us to go to Iowa for Christmas.”

“What’s the big problem with that?” Graham asked, absently kicking the base of a decorative cement urn.

“She never wants to meet my girlfriends unless she thinks it’s really serious. Maybe my mom knows something I don’t?”

“Everyone knows something you don’t.” Graham teased. “First of all, you’re like what, 25?”

“24.”

“Whatever, you shouldn’t be getting relationship advice from your mom. Second, Buffy can’t even drink legally; it’s way too early to be thinking wedding rings. Third, both of you have the life expectancy of a pet hamster. Do you really want to waste that being tied to someone likely to kick it any day?”

“Well when you put it that way.” Riley rolled his eyes.

“I’m just saying your mom’s in Iowa. I’m sure she’s a nice lady, but out here things are different, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what to do.”

“I suppose you have a point.”

“Great, so should we radio the others and go for Plan B?” Graham couldn’t see Spike eagerly nodding his head.

“Sure. I bet ol’ Willy will be so eager to have us stop in for a few beers.” Riley grinned.

“Great.” Graham picked up his radio and pressed the call button. “Alpha unit calling all units.” Over the static the other groups called back. “We’ve got nothin’ here.” Graham flashed his light into the corners of the crypt one last time as if to prove his point. “Anyone up for a Plan B? Finn’s got the first round.”

“Hey now!” Riley weakly protested.

“Alright, that’s a 10-4. We are out.” Graham smiled back at his friend. “Come on, Finn, it’ll be fun.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Riley followed Graham out of the small crypt.

Spike anxiously listened as they headed out. “Wankers.” He muttered on his own way out of the crypt. If he ran fast and the watcher hadn’t moved his fake rock with the key, he should be able to make the start of the program.

~*~

“Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“You got ‘Magical Beasts: A to Z’ out of this. It was a fair trade.”

“That was before I knew you were going to give all of the Slytherins your notes.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“No, but you implied it to Lucius, which is pretty much the same thing.”

“Trust me. It’s not the same thing.” Rupert gave his brother a knowing wink.

“You know one of these days, you’re going to get caught, and I won’t be able to bail you out.”

“Considering your bailing skills, I don’t think it will be that much different than it is now.”

“You shouldn’t be so critical of my assistance right before I do you a favor.”

“Speaking of, you better get going if you’re going to meet Lily on time.”

Severus grabbed his book bag and headed for the potions classroom. He arrived one minute before four and began flipping through his extensive potion notes. A minute later, Lily arrived, panting from her run down the stairs. “You’re late.”

“I’m sorry, I had to stop by my room after class to grab my potions book and… hey, wait a minute. That clock says I’m right on time.” Lily brushed her hair out of her face.

“To be early is to be perfect. To be on time is to be late.” Severus repeated one of the few sayings he had picked up from his Snape family heritage.

“How about we skip over the Zen lessons and go straight to potions, hmm?” Lily smiled thinly, already thinking of just what she was going to say to Rupert next time she saw him.

“Very well.” Severus pursed his lips and took a seat on the edge of one of the tables. “Tell me, what are all the uses of dragon’s blood in potions?”

Lily rattled off a list. “You left off the use of buffering formulas at above-burning temperatures, but we haven’t yet covered that in class.” Severus reluctantly admitted. “How does a bezoar work?”

Lily once again recited the answer. “Alright, I’m going to list several ingredients, and I want you to tell me animal, vegetable, or mineral. Lime.”

“Mineral, or vegetable.”

“Wolfbane.”

“Vegetable.”

“Ashwinder.”

“Animal.”

“Faerie Lights.”

“Which kind?”

“Both.”

“Green is mineral, yellow is animal.”

Severus continued his inquisition for several minutes. “Well, clearly, you seem to know all the basic information. I don’t know why Rupert insisted I needed to waste my time on you. Is this some sort of set-up?”

“No, it’s not a set-up.” Lily answered, surprised by the question.

“Are you sure? Rupert’s not just trying to get me out of the room so he can steal my notes, is he?”

“No.”

“If I find out you’re an accomplice in any of his tricks, I promise you’ll regret the day you were ever born. I should have known better than to…”

“It’s not a trick!” Lily finally snapped. “It’s not the book trivia I’m having trouble with. It’s the potions that get me. They all just explode on me, or go flat, or turn different colors.”

“Some of them are supposed to turn colors. You do realize that, don’t you?”

“No, I thought they were all supposed to be clear.” Lily shot back sarcastically. “I meant they turn different colors from the rest of the
class’ potions.”

“Well, that can be a problem.” Severus frowned. It made no sense. Clearly this girl understood the fundamental basics of potions. Why would all her potions be failing? “Let’s see you make a simple potion then. Start with a Lethe’s Breathe Base.”

“Simple, he says.” Lily grumbled as she got out her cauldron and dragged it over to the sink.

“What are you doing?”

“Filling the cauldron with water. It’s supposed to start with a cauldron full of boiling water.”

“Merlin help me.” Severus glanced at the ceiling. “Alright, first of all, you should never get water directly out of the sink for your cauldron. It hasn’t been properly purified and charged. The sink is only for cleaning cauldrons once you’re through. Surely you haven’t seen any one else fill their cauldrons from the sink?”

“Honestly I haven’t been looking. When I was a first year, every time I tried to get a hint from the people around me, Jigger would yell at me to concentrate on my own work.”

“That’s Professor Jigger to you.” Severus corrected.

“Fine, Professor Jigger would yell at me.”

“Well, he has a point; you shouldn’t look at other people’s potions. However, you should have noticed that you never ran into anyone at the sink but always ran into people at the supplies table.”

“Fine, I’m completely unobservant.” Lily pouted as she set her cauldron back up on the lab bench. “So if I can’t get water from the sink, where exactly am I supposed to get water from?”

“Well from your kettle of course.” Severus replied.

“What kettle?”

“You don’t have a purification kettle? They’re on the basic supplies list for first years.”

“No I do not have a purification kettle.” Lily blushed. “I never figured out why we’d need a kettle when the book never told us what we’d need them for, so when my parents went to get supplies, I told them not to bother with that.”

“You’ve been doing potions for five years using sink water? Incredible!” Severus frowned. “Well, just for today I guess I can let you use mine.” Severus pulled out a little teapot that looked more appropriate for cream and sugar than potion brewing.

Lily picked it up and tilted it over her cauldron. “It’s empty.”

“Of course it’s empty. It would be ridiculous to keep a kettle full of water when it wasn’t in use.” Severus looked at Lily oddly. “Where were you on the day we covered water kettles?”

“That was after Professor Jigger kicked me out of the lab.” Lily admitted, her checks turning a red to match her Gryffindor tie.

“Oh, that’s right.” Severus smiled wickedly, “I can see why he did so. You can’t even function for five minutes in the lab without screwing up.”

“Yes, I’m aware of the fact. That’s why Rupert asked you to help me in the first place.” Lily said between clenched teeth.

“Clearly.” Severus rolled his eyes. “Alright, basic rules with using
a purification kettle. To start the flow of water, tap the side once with your wand and say ‘fluere’. It will fill up to the top and then stop. If you want it to stop refilling, tap it again and say ‘sistere’, and it will drain out. However, most new kettles automatically shut off if you haven’t used them in half an hour, so you generally don’t have to use sistere as much as fluere. I guess potion masters were getting sick of replacing rusted kettles. Here, see?” Severus demonstrated the use of the small kettle, pouring a bit of water on the counter before muttering a cleaning charm.

“So that’s what they do.” Lily stared at the small metal object with a new sense of wonder. “Could tap water really be responsible for all of my potion problems?”

“Honestly? No. For most potions, tap water is sufficient. It’s just very bad for the wrists to be carrying around a full cauldron of water.”

“Oh.” Lily deflated.

“However, it could account for some of the discoloration issues you’ve been having. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hogwart’s plumbing was full of trace minerals.”

“So how do I get one of those nifty kettles?”

“You can pick one up at the apothecary’s next time you’re at Hogsmeade. Of course, the next Hogsmeade weekend is still two weeks away.”

“And I can’t go to Hogsmeade anyway.” Lily frowned.

“That’s right. I had forgotten you and Rupert were stuck here all semester.” Somehow, the empathy in Severus’ voice failed to materialize.

“I suppose I could ask Margaret to pick one up for me.”

“You’re going to trust your money to MacDuff? That’s hardly a sound idea. She’d likely lose it in a snow bank. I have an owl-order catalog for Banesbroth’s Emporium. I’ll have Rupert give you the form, and you can have them owl you a kettle by Friday.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“No, really, this means a lot. I hate being so far behind in my classes.”

“No, really, don’t mention it. I’d rather not be reminded that I’m spending my Wednesday helping you when I could be studying for OWLs.”

“Fine.” Lily tucked her hair behind her ears. “Alright, so back to the Lethe’s Breathe Base.” She picked up the kettle and was about to pour the water into the cauldron.

“STOP!” Severus interrupted. “You haven’t turned on your fire.”

“I thought I would turn it on after I added the water.”

“Not if you’re making Lethe’s Breathe. The whole point of the base is to create a full head of steam.”

“I know that. That’s why you add a lid to the cauldron after you
add the water, for the steam to build up.”

“Maybe if you were making spaghetti that would work, but this is not a muggle kitchen.”

“But whether I pour the water in now and light it or light it first and then pour the water, it doesn’t really matter. It takes the same length of time to heat up.”

“If you were just going to pour the water in, then yes that’s true, but that’s not how it’s done.” Severus took out his wand. “First you light the fire under the cauldron using the inflammare spell.” He was about to demonstrate when Lily beat him to it.

“Yes, yes, yes, I do know how to do a simple floating fire charm. I’m actually competent in charms.”

“I wasn’t saying you weren’t. I just have no idea what you really do know and what you’ve simply parroted from books.”

“My parroting, as you call it, is limited to potions.”

“Very well, so what does the book tell you to do after you’ve lit the fire?”

“Add one liter of water in a primal fashion,” Lily answered as she was lifting kettle, “Which is why I wanted to add the water before turning on the heat.” She shot him a scathing look.

“Stop! What are you doing?”

“I’m adding water.”

“In a primal fashion.”

“Right, I’m adding the water primarily, hence first before I add anything else.”

“Oh good heavens! You really are clueless.”

“Alright, what secret handshake am I missing now?” Lily set the kettle back down.

“In potions, adding something in a primal fashion means adding drops in a sequence of the prime numbers. Lethe’s Breathe depends on the water to form the arithmancy base everything relates back to. If you just dump all the water in at once, the rest of the ingredients will be out of calibration and it might cause everything to combust.”

“What?”

“Combust, you know, go boom?”

“I know what combust means. What I’m in shock over is that no one has bothered to mention it before. It’s not in the book. The book just says add in a primal fashion.”

“No, it’s not in the book, but we spent a whole day on this during one of the earlier labs. It’s critical to the success of this potion.”

“Lovely, yet another lesson I missed out on.” Lily rubbed at her eyes, but held herself together. She was not, under any circumstances, going to let this grimy Slytherin see her cry.

“Here, watch the inside of the cauldron.” Severus instructed as he picked up the kettle and his wand. “You control how fast the water leaves the spout with your wand. One tap for each drop or hold your wand against the side for a continuous pour. Alright, Ms. Bookworm, count out the primary numbers for me.”

Lily took a deep breath before starting the count down. “One. Two. Three. Five.”

“Slow down.” Severus stopped her. “As soon as you’ve put in that many drops you have to watch them until they evaporate. The higher the prime number sequence you count out, the more precise the potion. For your purposes, you only need to go up to nineteen. Alright, now, let’s start.”

“One.” Lily counted.

Severus let a single drop of water fall from his kettle. It hit the bottom of the warming cauldron and evaporated immediately. “Okay, it’s ready for the next one.”

“Two.” Lily said as Severus let two drops fall into the center of the cauldron. As they evaporated, Lily saw a small whisp of smoke.

“That’s weird.”

“You should have said three.” Severus said as he dropped the next group of water droplets.

“Three.” Lily mumbled. “I meant it’s weird that you can see the whisp from them. Normally steam is clear. Five.”

“Well, obviously, it’s because this is magic.” Severus said as he added five drops to the dead center of the cauldron. “The closer to the center you land the drops, the more they resonate with the magic of the cauldron, and thus appear as haze. Many people try to rush the process by adding their drops to the side so that they evaporate faster. However, that weakens the strength of the spell. Alright, we’re ready for the next one.”

“Seven.” Lily announced. “So is it hard to get all the drops lined up in the middle?”

“Well, we’ve been practicing since first year. I’m just amazed for the number of potions we’ve done with a primal base that you haven’t blown yourself up yet.”

“Small wonders.” Lily rolled her eyes.

“Surely all those days Professor Jigger sent you to the library, he gave you a list of books that could explain the basics?”

“He gave me a list alright, but half of those books weren’t available, and the other half were written back in the 1500s. I could barely understand their titles and the print was fading. I think they were written in Latin as well, but I could be wrong on that.”

“Ah yes, Hebrock and Hebrock. It’s a classic, but the Latin does make it a bit slow at times.” Severus smiled.

“Are we ready for eleven?” Lily asked as she watched the last of the seven drops dry up. Severus quickly tapped the edge of the kettle the requisite number of times. “So for every potion that says to do a primal base, you’re supposed to count out drops of water in prime numbers?”

“Well, it’s not always water. Take the basic wound cleaning potions. Their base is…”

“… Alcohol, right?”

“Alcohol.” Severus confirmed. “It’s the alcohol that gets added by drops then.”

“So how do you decide how many drops to add?”

“That’s part of the art. Generally, you get to the point where the drops you add spead over the bottom of the cauldron. If you add so many drops at one time that the bottom of the cauldron is covered. Speaking of which…”

“Thirteen.”

“Once the bottom of the cauldron is covered, it’s really a battle of diminishing returns. Of ocurse, some spells are worth the added security. This summer, one of the potions I was working on required an entire liter of water added by the droplet.”

“So, by adding water by the droplet instead of all at once, will that solve all my potion problems?” Lily asked hopefully.

“It can’t hurt, but in your case I severely doubt that will solve even a fraction of your problems.”

“Thank you so much.” Lily rolled her eyes. “I feel so much better now.”

“You should. Learning how to do a primal series pretty much always shows up on the OWLs in one form or another.” Severus answered, keeping his eyes focused on the evaporating drops on the bottom of the cauldron. “And, considering I only agreed to meet with you for an hour, getting an answer to an OWLs question is a considerable bargain.”

“About that…” Lily frowned. “Clearly I’m going to need more than one hour’s worth of help. Would it be possible to meet again next Wednesday? And, I think we’re up to seventeen now.”

“Before I agreed to meet with you, Rupert had to offer me something in return. There isn’t really anything of his I need right now, so I would say no.” Severus said as he counted out seventeen drops.

“Well, isn’t there anything I could do to convince you?”

“Well…”

“Within reason of course. I’m not one of those tarts who will do any sordid thing for a top mark.”

“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe you would take me for someone so pathetic. I’m a Slytherin; I have standards. What do you have to offer, honestly?”

“How should I know what you want?”

“Well, clearly, I don’t need any of your study notes, as I have access to Rupert’s. As a muggleborn, you lack most societal connections that would make an alliance useful. Really, you’re in a very poor position.”

“I know, but I really need your help. Surely you must see that?”

“That sort of reasoning may work with Hufflepuffs, but desperate begging really doesn’t work well when dealing with rational people like myself.” Severus frowned as he waited for the last drop of water to join the swirling gray smoke in the bottom of the cauldron. “I know.”

“Oh?”

“Can you be discreet?”

“It depends on the circumstances.”

“I guess that’s a fair response.”

“Nineteen.”

“I need to have some correspondence delivered to a certain member of your house, without the other members noticing. If you can deliver the letter and bring back a reply, or get the reply to Rupert for delivery, I will tutor you again next week.” Severus answered with the plan he’d been working on ever since he read that article Gran sent.

“I should be able to do that.” Lily nodded.

Excellent.” Severus finally took his attention away from the cauldron bottom to look at the girl across from him.

“So, now what? We obviously didn’t use an entire liter.”

“No, but it’s easy enough to estimate a liter in a size four cauldron, as it’s exactly at the half-way mark.”

“Really?”

“Evidently your little study group has not covered the history of cauldron construction yet.” Severus frowned. Carefully, he poured water into the cauldron until the liquid had risen to the half way mark. The steam that had been collecting at the bottom rose to the top, making a slightly covered dome of steam. “See how the smoke has formed a sealed bubble? That is what is meant by a head of steam.” Severus lectured.

“That’s fabulous!”

“Alright, now what do you do next for the Lethe’s Breathe potion?”

“I add a sprig of mint and three powdered heelsplitter shells.” Lily answered.

“Does it matter which you add first? What sort of mint? How will you prepare the sprig? What size of shell? Do you even know how to powder a shell?” Severus ranted. “You know, potions are much more complicated than just memorizing recipes and throwing things in willy-nilly. It’s an art form, and the fact that you have not been held up to that high standard for five years is truly atrocious.”

“Knock, knock.” Rupert announced, peaking his head into the classroom.

“Rupert, what are you doing here?” Lily asked with a hopeful look in her eyes. Perhaps he was going to put her out of her misery.

“I thought I’d come by and check on you. It’s time for you guys to wrap up if we want to arrive at dinner on time.”

“Excellent.” Severus pulled out a piece of parchment and began scribbling a message. Clearly, the lesson was over.

“Dinner’s not until five-thirty.” Lily frowned as she extinguished the flame under her cauldron.

“Well, yes, but if you wait until five-thirty to finish up, then you will be late, and what’s worse, you’ll both be late. Trust me when I say you do not want to be seen arriving to dinner late with us. At least, I know Severus wouldn’t be caught dead with you at dinner.” Rupert teased his brother who gave a knowing snort, but failed to comment.

“So how did the lesson go? Are all your potion worries gone?” He asked hopefully. He knew Severus was a bit overbearing, but after being potions partners for five years, Rupert knew there was no one better to get help from.

“Well…” Lily grabbed the cauldron handle to drag it to the sink. “I think it went well. We covered a lot.”

“Do you need any help with that?” Rupert grabbed a pair of dragon-hide gloves from the sink area and helped Lily tip the steaming cauldron into the sink. “It sounds like things are on track then. That’s wonderful. You’ll be running circles around us in no time.” Once again, Severus snorted from his seat across the room.

“Well, maybe not circles.” Rupert corrected himself. “The important thing is that you figured out what you were doing wrong and hopefully won’t make that mistake again.” The last bit of water drained out of the cauldron and Rupert took the handle from Lily. “Here, let me take that for you.”

“Thank you.” Lily smiled. Why couldn’t all boys be as chivalrous as Rupert? He would be the perfect boy if he wasn’t so clearly oblivious. Lily led Rupert back to her area where the cauldron belonged. She carefully put away the rest of her supplies that she hadn’t used while Rupert hung the cauldron from its proper hook. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” Lily asked as she picked up her potions book.

“Of course. We’ve got a date with herbology, right?” Rupert grinned.

Lily blushed. “Of course. I just hope Beatrice’s notes this year are as good as they were last year.”

“They’ll probably be even better. You know she loves that plant stuff.”

“Too true. Well, I guess I should go. It’s dinner time and all. Thank you Severus; thanks Rupert.” Lily headed for the classroom door.

“Halt!” Severus called out, not looking up from the paper he was writing.

“Halt?” Lily shot Rupert a questioning glance. He just shrugged; sometimes there was no explanation for Sev.

“Come here.” Severus ordered, and Lily approached his desk. He dropped his voice so that Rupert could barely make out what he was saying. “If you want to meet at this time next week, I expect you to deliver this and bring back a response by Friday. If anyone other than the intended recipient reads this, then all future dealings are off. Do you understand?”

“Who am I supposed to give it to?” Lily watched Severus quickly fold up the parchment he had been writing on.

“The name’s on the paper.”

Sure enough, when Lily flipped over the folded note, ‘Lupin’ was written on the back. “Remus? What business do you have with him?”

“It does not pertain to you.” Severus remarked.

“Fine. It’s just a bit suspicious that you would be writing to … Remus.” Lily was thoroughly puzzled by the exchange.

“Of course it is suspicious. That is why you have agreed to act as messenger. Now if you don’t feel up to the task, you can give that back to me and you can consider your potions career over. What is your decision?”

“I’ll give him the note.” Lily rolled her eyes. “Now if that’s everything…”

“Go.”

“Yes Herr Snape.” Lily sarcastically saluted before fleeing the classroom.

“Well that looks like it went well.” Rupert commented as his brother stood up.

“Are you kidding me?”

“It couldn’t have been that bad if you’re making arrangements for future lessons.”

“It was worse.”

“How can it be worse?”

“She’s hopeless. If I didn’t need an in to that damned house, I would have given up after ten minutes with her.”

“She can’t be that bad.”

“Do you know what we spent the entire time working on?” Severus fixed his withering glare on his step-brother. “Boiling water. She’s fifteen and doesn’t know how to boil water.”

“Ouch.” Rupert winced on behalf of his friend.

“Exactly.” Severus nodded, wondering if being around an idiot like that, even if just an hour a week, would be enough to cause him lasting injuries.

“Well, on that fine note, how about we go to dinner. If we’re lucky, Lucius will bore us with yet another hour of how the Slytherin team is poised to take the house cup this year.”

“At least he can boil water.”

“Or have his house-elf boil the water for him.” Rupert said walking into the hallway.

Severus turned to the potions room once last time. “Nox,” he whispered and closed the door on his favorite room in the castle.
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