phoenix ashes
the path of the serpent (chapter 2)



"What do you think is going on?" Harry asked as an almost hysterical crying Ravenclaw first-year girl stormed out of the dungeons. He, Ron, and Hermione could barely get out of her way in time to prevent a collision.

"Snape just being Snape, I guess." Ron shrugged his shoulders. Since when would Snape need a reason to act as the downright son of a bitch he was? The mere existance of other people always had been reason enough for him.

"Maybe, but even you will have to admit that during this last week he is in an even fouler mood than usual." Hermoine looked concerned. "Something seems to really be bothering him."

"Yeah. Us." Ron dropped his books on the table and took his seat next to a grinning Harry.

"No, something el--"

Since Snape suddenly looked up from the parchment he had been writing on, she wisely shut up. As did everybody else.

"Put your books away. You will not use them today," Snape snarled. After which he smiled. Uh oh, a smiling Snape. That was not good. And a smiling Snape before class had started was even worse.

Here and there students exchanged anxious glances while everybody put their books back in their bags as quickly and silently as they could. Still smiling, Snape slowly rose from his chair. All students held their breath. This felt wrong, so wrong!

"Lets see how good you insufferable little brats are at using those deranged braincells of yours, shall we?" He turned towards the blackboard and flicked his wand. Immediately the formula of an Attraction Potion appeared. "You will have exactly one hour and a half to make this childish potion. Now go to work."

"Eh, sir? We, eh, never made that potion before," said a very cautious Pansy Parkinson.

"I fail to see the significance of that remark, Miss Parkinson," snapped Snape haughty. "Am I wrong in assuming that you can actually read?"

"N-no, sir." Pansy's face turned a kind of tomato red.

"Well then, read and get on with it. All of you!" Snape moved to the side of the classroom and watched with his hands on his back, quite disdainful, how the students picked up their required ingredients and silently got to work. In no time the dungeon was filled with boiling and steaming cauldrons and the sound of chopping knives and scraping spoons. Everybody worked quietly and timidly, hardly daring to even look up from their workspace. Snape felt the tense atmosphere and revelled in it. Even after so many years of teaching, it still felt very satisfying to scare the hell out of those intellectual wastebaskets.

He started to walk through the classroom, a predator looking for prey and then going for the kill.

"You may want to pay particular attention to this potion, Miss Granger." It didnt take long for him to find his first victim. It never did. "Looking like you do and having the disadvantage of being of Muggle descent, it could mean your one and only escape from approximately 3.224 Saturday nights you may not be asked out."

The Slytherins laughed out loud while the Gryffindors looked quite appalled at this nasty hit below the belt. Ron was fuming and opened his mouth to tell Snape exactly what he thought of him when Harry saved his life by stepping on his left foot and pushing an elbow between his ribs.

"Hey, what?" Ron turned his attention away from Snape to his friend.

"Just shut up!" Harry hissed and gestured him to go on with his work. With the mood Snape seemed to be in, he would have Ron for dinner. Ron opened his mouth once more, caught sight of a rather hopeful looking Draco staring at him and got the message. Bending down over his squashed ladybirds, he grunted something unintelligible and concentrated on his work again.

"Time is up. Bottle your potions and put them on my desk. Then clean up your mess." All too soon time had ran out. Reluctantly, Harry bottled his yellow potion (which should have been purple by now), brought it to the table, and went back to clean up his workspace. He felt really exhausted and very tense. A quick look around confirmed that most of the students felt that way. Neville looked as if he was about to burst into tears and even Draco Malfoy looked somewhat concerned and nervous. And with reason, Harry thought.

This had to be one of the weirdest potion classes they had ever had. Snape tricking them into making a potion they had never attempted before was well, Snape. But aside from that one very foul comment towards Hermione, he had been silent. Suspiciously and nerve-rackingly silent. Oh, he had turned up behind their backs, looked over their shoulders, sniffed at the contents of a cauldron or two, but that was it. No humiliating remarks, no mean sniggering, snorting, bullying--not even a look of disbelief, disgust, or even pure loathing. Nothing! Absolutely nothing! And that was alarming. Very alarming. Somehow, somewhere, there just had to be a catch. There had to be! When even Snape's favorourite puppy Malfoy showed some signs of discomfort, there had to be something terribly wrong

Snape took his place behind the desk and looked rather pleased with himself for some reason.

"As I am sure you all will be pleased to know this assigment will be graded and will also be part of your markings for your OWLs this year," he informed them casually.

Stunned silence. Utter disbelief. Shock. Horror. He saw the panicky emotions on their faces and loved it. Just loved it. Oh yes, their reactions made it almost satisfying to be stuck at this ungrateful job. And it worked every time the realization of actually having to achieve something always made them crumble before his very own eyes. "Class dismissed!"

No one dared to comment or protest and every single Gryffindor as well as Slytherin fled the classroom as soon as they could. For once, the students of both houses agreed with each other.

"The bastard!"

"The unbearable arsehole!"

"He can't do this!"

"We've never had this potion before! And it was so hard to make!"

"I think I forgot to take the legs off of one ladybird," groaned Dean, defeated.

"Mine wasn't purple, more a darkish blue," Hermoine mused.

"Ladybirds?" Neville was moving towards a panic attack.

"Well, Granger, hopefully you--"

"Fuck off, Malfoy!" Harry and Ron simultaneously pointed their wands at Draco.

"Tsk, temper temper, boys." Their eternal enemy shook his head in mock-concern before he, indeed, walked away. But only after noticing that the nearest, and only, Slytherin was Goyle. No hope for real back-up there. Oh well, some other time.

And while the dungeons and hallways cleared with remarkable speed, the Potions Master locked the bottled, and no doubt pathetic, potion samples away in one of his many spell-protected cupboards. He would grade them later. Right now there was a more urgent matter to consider. Something that would not allow any more delay.

Lost in thought Severus retreated to his private rooms, poured himself a brandy, and flopped down in his chair by the fireplace. Today was Friday. He had to make up his mind in the next hour or so. He still hadn't been able to do so. Even during this last class he barely had been able to think of anything else. His pride was telling him very strongly not to go and just to ignore Lucius as he had ignored him. A dose of his own medicine--that would teach the arrogant, beautiful bastard! Some other very persistant cells of his brain warned him. Lucius would not take kindly to his declination of the invitation. True, he was probably the only one who would eventually get away with it and still be relatively unharmed. But undoubtedly that had more to do with the fact that Lucius wouldnt dare to risk having Severus as his enemy. And while all those thoughts raced through his head, his body desperately yearned for touches, and, frankly, a good and thorough shag. In short, decisions and plans had to be made. He poured himself another brandy and went back to his chair. With a deep sigh, he leaned backwards and closed his eyes.

And suddenly, after maybe half an hour, the solution came creeping out of a dark hole in the back of his mind. Yes, that was it! It was so simple that it almost scared him--this way he could go and take Lucius up on the invitation and get back at him at the same time!

A short look at the clock told him he had just enough time to make the desired Numbing Potion. With renewed energy, he got out of his chair and started to collect the necessary ingredients. The look on that man's face when he would not get any physical reaction! He knew Lucius well enough to know that he would take that as a personal insult and be very, very upset--it certainly would be amusing and, to a certain extent, gratifying. To start with.

Almost two hours later, Severus left the castle in one of the coaches of the school, which were always to the disposal of anyone who had a need of one. Of course he could Apparate, but arriving in a carriage really had more style. Something Lucius would surely appreciate.


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