Disclaimer: The inhabitants of Hogwarts are the property of JK Rowling.
Games of Skill and Chance
Part 1 - A Game of Risk
The click of the wooden cane on the grey stone floor echoed along the second floor corridor causing Severus Snape to inwardly curse the loss of the element of surprise. Would his dratted hip never heal? He sighed. He could almost hear Poppy Pomfreyís voice in reply: Not if you keep over-exerting it, prowling the corridors at night.
Still, he thought best while walking, even if that did cause him a certain amount of pain these days. And there was a lot to think about. It would be well worth the pain if walking brought some clarity to his endlessly circling thoughts about where he might find his place in this strange post-war world.
He had agreed to see the school through the autumn term, to give McGonagall chance to find her feet as headmistress before she had to start recruiting additional new staff. All through the first week of lessons he had been mentally ticking off potions, saying to himself, thatís the last time Iíll ever have to teach that one.
But while he was counting down the days until he could put this absurd sham of a teaching career behind him, every ticked off potion brought him a step closer to making the dreaded decision about what came next.
A burst of laughter rang out from the far end of the corridor, followed by voices and urgent shushing. Snape lifted his stick and inelegantly but silently hobbled the rest of the length of the second floor without it. The voices were coming from an alcove beside the stairwell.
"Gentlemen," said Snape, stepping into the alcove and resting his weight back on the cane with some relief. "What have we here?"
Four boys looked up at him with identical expressions of surprise and horror. As they jumped to their feet, one of them knocked a cardboard world map spread on the floor, causing a tiny yellow soldier to tumble into the Pacific Ocean.
"S-sir," stammered a first-year Snape recognised as Rupert Dingwall, a Ravenclaw. "We were just finishing the game."
"And why couldnít you do this in your Common Room?" demanded Snape. He realised the answer as he asked. The other three boys were Slytherin first years. Inter-house late night board games were still impossible. The greater evil might have been defeated, but the stupid cruelty of the house system remained. It looked like it was to be hard luck on Dingwall Ė custom dictated that this fragile new friendship between the first years would not last in the face of house loyalties. "Never mind. Put the game away and get to your rooms. And this will cost you five points each for being out late."
The boys looked despondent at having lost their houses the points, but stooped to put away the game with no further backchat.
"Wait," said Snape. "You said you were almost finished?"
The boys looked up with nervous hope shining in their eyes. Interesting, thought Snape. They havenít been here long enough to decide whether what the older brats say about me is true. He sighed and pulled out his wand.
"Commoro" he said, tapping the board. "That will hold your pieces in place until you get a chance to finish the game."
"Thank you, sir," mumbled Nicolas Kohler, the smallest of the Slytherins. The first years gathered up the rest of the game and shuffled out of the alcove setting off towards their dormitories.
As Snape took a few steps along the corridor he discovered his leg had stiffened up while he had stopped to deal with the gaming students. He hissed through his teeth at the pain which was momentarily dizzying and was forced to stop for a moment, leaning against the wall and screwing his eyes tightly shut. There was a patter of running footsteps and when he opened his eyes, four boys were gathered in front of him looking concerned.
"Are you all right?"
"Do you need Madame Pomfrey?"
"No!" he shouted, then rolled his eyes as the students backed away nervously. He tried to make his voice sound reassuring, the last thing he needed was students running off to the hospital wing to report that he too was illicitly out of bed. "Sheíll only fuss."
He might have succeeded in preventing them running off to Pomfrey, but the youngsters didnít seem as though they would be satisfied by anything less than seeing him safely to his rooms. The situation was so very ironic that contemplating it lightened his mood considerably. On the way to the dungeons he quizzed the quartet on the nature of the game.
"Itís a muggle game," explained Kohler with enthusiasm. "Rupert brought it with him. Itís brilliant, all about tactics and stuff, but it goes on for hours until someone wins."
Looking back on his next comment, Snape would later conclude that it must have been the lasting effects of the dizziness and pain fuddling his head.
"If you need somewhere to complete the game, Iíll be marking papers in the potions classroom on Thursday evening," he said.
Having been safely delivered to his rooms and shooed the first years off to theirs, Severus Snape collapsed into a deep armchair, shaking his head.
Definitely the dizziness, he thought to himself.
To be continued.
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