Chapter One

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The agitated tapping noise of his fingers on the roughened wooden table was the only noise to be heard on this side of the dungeons.

Severus glared unseeingly into the corner of his library, where a surprisingly large fern held residence. It was a gift from Pomona, one he'd refused and yet it had still found its way into his living quarters and had thus far refused to die no matter what he did to it.

At the moment, it could have burst into large purple flames and he wouldn't have blinked. His thoughts were occupied with more important matters, deeper and darker matters.

He hated this day. From the time he awoke in the morning, already weary because he knew what day it was, to late that night when he fell back into the bed or an arm charm depending on how emotionally drained he was, Severus Snape violently hated everything about this day.

Well...almost everything.

The tapping abruptly stopped. His dark eyes went from the plant in the corner to the small cotton bag sitting upright on the table closest to the door. He'd placed it there so it wouldn't be forgotten, and now the cheery colors of the fabric seemed to mock his bleak mood.

Disgustedly he snarled and before the thought had thoroughly panned out in his mind, Severus had burst from his spot at the table, and snatched the cotton bag up and was striding toward the fire.

"Lacarnum Inflamarae!" Flames exploded out of the fireplace with the intensity of his casting before quickly calming down to a steady roar. Severus breathed in and out harshly and looked down at his hand. He was grasping the bag so tightly that he knew the contents were probably a little worse for wear, but not damaged to the point that they were useless...but if he threw the entire bag into the flames....

The large and sudden sound of the dinner gong startled him, and the moment was over.

Hesitantly, Severus dropped the harmless looking bag into the outside pocket of his cloak. He wouldn't have been able to destroy it anyway, no matter how desperately he wanted to, he knew it wasn't an option. Not now, and perhaps not ever.

With despair written across his face, and shoulders sunken in defeat, he headed up to the feast that awaited him, as it had for the past five years. He found his place at the Head Table and ignored, to the best of his abilities, the excited talking of the students and the ghastly decorations. They were about the same every year, the Great Hall was festooned with candy-filled pumpkins, black cauldrons of big lollipops, carrot cake, and orange streamers were haphazardly hung from one side of the hall to the next.

Knowing the task he'd be faced with later made the time seem to drag by. Dumbledore said a few words and Severus ignored every one of them and eyed the live bats flying overhead instead.

There had to be a sort of shield charm in place to keep them from bombarding the students. He wished to know which one it was, if just to remove it and watch them all run about.

"Severus? You look darkly amused, do I dare ask why?"

He glanced at McGonagall, and then busied himself with making a cup of tea when her eyes softened at the noticeably darker circles under his eyes. She didn't speak another word, and he somehow refrained from snapping at her when a large slice of Sheppard pie levitated itself onto his plate.

When the students seemed to be finished, and there was more conversation going on around the room than eating, Dumbledore stood up to announce the nights entertainment.

"Now that we have all finished the delicious meal so graciously prepared for us, and are contentedly plump, I'd like to introduce the Bewitching Bedlam Brothers!"

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