Death, where is thy sting? The grimmest of prospects, most dreadful of days. How could it be any worse? If only there was some alternative; if only I could refuse. Could there be a less auspicious beginning to the year? Please, let me survive this.
Double potions, first lesson back after the summer holidays.
With those blasted Gryffindors.
It was a well-tested and long-favoured technique: glide along the corridor as silently as a stalking panther, slither up to the door as a snake in the grass…and then throw it open as violently as possible, scaring the dunderheaded pupils out of their minimal wits.
Snape amused himself by keeping a tally of the number who actually squealed as he stormed into the classroom. That morning, five of them in total made some sort of terrified squeak, and Neville Longbottom, bane of any teacher's existence, looked gratifyingly nauseous with fear.
"Put that thing away, Miss Granger." Without even looking at Hermione, probably the most capable student of her year – perhaps any year – Snape reached his desk and dropped into his chair, lacing his hands before him on the desk in a languid manner which somehow managed also to be menacing. Hermione, with a small frown, put away her wand as instructed.
"I assume that you are all as delighted as I am to return to this class after the holidays." There were a few, very quiet, derisive snorts from the assembled pupils. " I further assume that everyone has completed the required holiday reading for this term." Many unhappy looks were exchanged. In fact, Snape had set so much reading that it was unlikely even Merlin himself could have managed it all without suffering eyestrain and psychological burnout. Snape was aware of this; it also amused him, in a detached sort of way. But a hand was waving in the air. Longbottom's.
"P-p-please, professor, I c-couldn't…"
"Detention, Longbottom, during which you may explain why not. And ten points from Gryffindor for your laziness." Neville hid his face in his hands, unable to meet Snape's cold glare. Another pupil did meet it, however, and with matching dislike – a boy with black hair and green eyes behind round spectacles; a boy with a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. Harry Potter found the judgement unfair and, unlike poor frightened Neville Longbottom, was not afraid to demonstrate it.
"Don't glare at me like that, Potter." Snape murmured lazily. "That'll be another ten points off for your insolence. And now for today's lesson…" Not hearing Ron Weasley's mutter of "git", Snape rose to his feet and pointed at the blackboard with his wand. Two words appeared on it:
This was followed by a long and complicated set of instructions and ingredients.
"We will be learning today about Invisibility Potions…not that some of us need them." He added with another sharp glance at Harry. "At least, I will be teaching…whether you lot will actually learn anything from it remains to be seen. Now! Pair off, collect your ingredients…" As the class prepared to make their first potions of the new term, Snape wandered among them, hissing instructions and making disparaging remarks – except, of course, to his own Slytherins, for whom he reserved an occasional sharp word of praise.
"Good consistency, Malfoy."
"Thank you, sir." Simpered the unspeakable Draco Malfoy, while his enormous henchmen Crabbe and Goyle looked on admiringly. Snape offered a grimace-like facial twitch in response, approximating a smile. Malfoy smiled sweetly back. Ron mimed being sick behind the professor's back, causing Neville to giggle…but a filthy look from Snape made him turn hurriedly back to his near-completed potion. Unfortunately, however, he had attracted attention to himself…and Snape glided over to loom behind the boy as he worked. Neville gulped; his hands shook as he attempted to add the final ingredients. He was so close to getting this almost right…for once, his potion would be a success…
It may well have been , had Snape not been standing over him, doing his best to intimidate the wretched boy into failure. Neville stirred his potion unhappily now, sure that something somewhere must have gone wrong. Mercifully, Snape turned abruptly away, returning to his desk.
"Everyone should have completed the first stage by now. On my word, you will add three drops - three, Longbottom! – of Essence of Henbane. You will then draw off a small amount of the liquid into a pipette, and administer it to your partner's hand." There was a pause, filled only by the sound of nervously shuffling feet. "Now." Said Snape, grimly. Right on cue, Hermione added her Henbane Essence; the potion turned silver, bubbling slightly, and she carefully withdrew a little, dripping onto Harry's hand. She beamed as a hole appeared.