Author's Note: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (response to: Scenario #32: Hogwarts holds some sort of quiz/comp/gameshow. How competitive is Snape, and who is his rival? What will he do to make sure he wins?; and Easy Pairing #23: Snape/Avery.) I have taken Certain Liberties with the canon timeline. Specifically, Rita Skeeter is now a year younger than Our Boys. I don't hear her complaining.
DISCLAIMER: I don't owns 'em. That's J.K. Rowling, don'chaknow. I just slips 'em out in the dead of night and makes 'em have little tea parties. Don't sue me. It'll all done in fun, I don't make a penny from my efforts (as the world at large seems so intent to remind me), and the most valuable thing I have is a kitten. If you sue me, she'll be sad. Do you hate kittens?
Part 12 - Another One Bites The Dust
Emeric closed his eyes and turned away when Severus walked into the library. He'd given in immediately and was paying Rita ten Galleons a week to keep mum. Severus sniffed and yet again flashed him a look of weary disappointment.
Lucius was at a corner table. He normally studied there, now that fear of NEWTs had full sway over the seventh years. Much to Severus' slightly disgusted surprise, someone was sitting with him. A pale, piggy someone with a pointed, rat-like face.
Peter's short hair quivered, as did his extra chin, when he spoke. Snape couldn't make out what he said, but Lucius suddenly stuck out his wand and turned a chair into a chipmunk, and back again before Madam Pince saw it streaking across the floor. Peter's eyes lit up and he nodded, grinning.
Severus walked up to them guardedly. "Lucius. Pettigrew. Fancy seeing the two of you here."
"'Lo, Severus." Peter hung his head, cheeks a bit pink. He smiled softly.
"I was just helping your little friend with his Transfigurations homework." Lucius seemed oblivious to the subtle way Snape's eyes narrowed. "Apparently, Potter and Black normally do it, but they're at Quidditch practise."
"Where else would they be when they should be studying?" That pair had never put in the same work and care Severus had. They simply slid through classes, doing the least possible amount of work and still getting all the accolades. It was enough to make a Slytherin ill.
"You might do some good to spend more time on the pitch, Sev. The season's not over yet, and... well..." Malfoy plucked at Severus' loose robe.
Severus yanked it from his grasp. "Don't you have homework to finish?"
"Perhaps." Primly, he gathered his books and rose to his feet, eyebrows fixed in a haughty rise. "We'll have to do this again, Pettigrew. I've had quite a pleasant time." He bowed his head to Peter, who blushed and mimicked him clumsily, and brushed out with barely a smirk to Severus.
"He's helped me a lot." The watery blue eyes sparkled when Snape took Lucius' seat. "Up for some tutoring tonight?" A hand snaked across the table to stroke Snape's.
Snape jerked it back. "I don't think so. I have work to do."
Peter froze. Slowly, his shoulders slumped. The pudgy lower lip hung loose. "What sort of work?" he said in a strangled voice.
"The same thing you should be working on, NEWTs. Some of us have more than just those to worry about, you know. In case you've forgotten, there's an Academic Bowl round in a week and a half."
"But... you already know everything!"
"That doesn't mean I don't have to work." Frankly, he didn't. The Osmosis Curse, hellish as it was, still allowed him to process information at an unusual rate. That didn't necessarily mean he could divulge it any more quickly than normal, which he supposed was the only reason he'd not been disqualified from the competition. His exams were... somewhat more detailed than those for the rest of his classes, but that was only to be expected. Very little failed to catch his brain.
"Well... can I help?"
"How could you help?"
Peter shrank from Severus' leer. "I thought you..." he trailed off. "M'sorry. Didn't mean to make you jealous."
Severus snorted. "You? Make me jealous? Please." He folded his arms and glared.
"Then what is it?"
"Maybe I'm getting tired of you following me like some sort of lovesick dog. If I wanted a dog, I'd use Black. He's certainly nicer to look at."
Peter began to tremble. Mounds of flesh rippled against his clothes. His eyes went wide and glazed, his breathing hoarse. Fat hands twitched on top of the table. He looked like he wanted to say one thing, then another, then another, then another. With more speed than he should have been allowed he shoved his chair back and raced for the door, wheezing loudly, bag scraping the ground.
Severus watched him, bored. He'd not really intended to end things so abruptly, but Peter was useless. He hadn't done a thing to help Severus in the Academic Bowl, the tedium of playing Romeo had long since grated on Snape's nerves, and there were only so many detentions to land Potter and Black in before it lost its fun. Fortunately, he'd used the Imperius Salve the previous week to prevent any, ah, verbal slips. With a sniff, he opened his bag and took out his half-finished Divination essay.
His mind kept drifting back to his visit with Tom eleven days before. Tom. Apparently, nobody had been allowed to call him by that name in nearly three decades. There was an odd rapport between them, though. By the end of the evening, Severus had a bit of time shaking hands without his chest going off in a flutter. It wasn't helped by a certain revelation.
When asked what happened to him, physically, Tom smiled sadly and said, "Some curses you won't have heard of. Beneficial, but there is always a price for improvement."
"What did the Osmosis Curse do?"
Tom's eyes had gone wide for a moment. He'd started to open his mouth. Instead, he looked Severus up and down. Quiet understanding flickered in his eyes. "Next you'll tell me you're an orphan."
He might as well have been.
However, Tom did tell him more about the Osmosis Curse than he'd known. It was a ritual-based curse, which meant it took a long time to cast and was probably done while Severus was asleep. At least that pinpointed the when. It wouldn't do much more than it already had, physically, although the insomnia was a "dreadful bother". He recommended a weak Drowsiness Draught half an hour before bed. And, when Severus scowled sadly at Tom's affirmation that the physical effects were permanent, the man merely smiled and said, "Some things never fade."
Severus' heart promptly skipped a beat, and went back to what it was doing.
Reluctantly, he forced himself to pay attention to his essay. It was long, and pointless, and covered such (yawn) fascinating subjects as comparing and contrasting the entrails of different bird species. Frankly, Severus couldn't give a damn what a starling looked like on the inside next to a chopped robin unless he needed a piece for a potion. Being the master of manipulative bullshit that he was, though, he managed to write three feet more than Trelawney requested.
Madam Pince kicked him out at eight. She tried, at least; it took her a few goes. At thirteen past, she slammed the door behind him and made sure to lock it extra loudly.
Smiling smugly to himself, Severus set off towards the dungeons. Dagger pains shot from his calves to his hips. He shifted uncomfortably. More to stretch his hip than for any other reason, he took a single, oddly-propelled step.
It didn't hurt so much.
Repeating it with the other leg, he found, again, a minimum of pain. Soon he was sweeping down the halls; his robe billowed behind him like wings. It felt a bit like skating. Severus grudgingly had to admit to himself that it was... fun.
The fun came to a screeching halt when a hand shot out from behind a tapestry and yanked him in. Snape blinked at the small alcove. Potter grabbed his head and jerked him down to eye level. "Shouldn't you be tutoring Peter about now, Snape?"
"I have things to do." Snape glared. "Take your hands off me right now, Potter. Wouldn't want me to scream, would you?"
Much to his chagrin, Potter clutched him by the nape and pulled out his wand. He muttered a soundproofing charm. "Scream all you like, Greaseball."
"You are assaulting a prefect. Ten points from Gryffindor."
"Peter's spent the entire evening sobbing his eyes out and he won't tell us why. I've got an idea, though. Ten points from Slytherin."
Severus snorted. "I hardly think that's justified."
"Oh, I think it is. How does this sound for a scenario?" Potter leaned close to Snape's ear. His hot breath came in soft, moist puffs. Snape closed his eyes, cringing inside at the way his nerves almost seemed to enjoy it. Low and soft and throaty, Potter said, "Imagine a boy gets detention. Not the smartest, not the most handsome, but certainly the kindest. His detention puts him in with the nastiest, meanest, cruelest bastard in the school. The bastard, however, is what some might call marginally attractive. Used to be, anyhow. The boy develops a crush, the bastard finds out, and he takes advantage of the situation. The boy falls completely head-over-heels with the bastard for reasons well beyond my comprehension. The bastard promptly throws it back in his face. Sound familiar, Snape?"
A last harsh puff made Snape shudder. Potter smirked; he must have taken it as fear. Snape blinked once, slowly. "Hardly, Potter." He wrenched out of the grip and pulled himself erect. Glaring down his nose a good ten inches, he drawled, "For your information, I never had any sort of interest in your ratty little friend. While he did attempt to seduce me, his skills are somewhat lacking. Really, you can hardly blame me for that."
Potter narrowed his eyes. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Because, unlike some of us, you're unable to deal with the concept of truth."
"If I find out you touched him-"
"Believe me, Potter, there are plenty of people I'd sooner touch than Pettigrew." He leaned close, smirking. "Including you."
Potter grimaced like he'd just gotten a mouthful of alum. "That's disgusting."
"Now you know how I feel about Pettigrew." He smiled, content in the fact that he was telling the truth. One long hand stroked unkempt black hair affectionately.
"Get away from me, you freak!" Potter shoved him and stormed out.
Severus, smirking lazily, leaned around the corner. "I've had better," he called. It was well timed - half a dozen third year girls were just coming down the corridor towards Hufflepuff. They stopped and stared just as James turned and saw them. He hurried away as the flurry of chatter started.
"Oh, my god. Potter did Snape?"
"I wonder where they put the hat?"
"Ew, gross, Tabitha!"
"Think we should tell Lily?"
"Well, if we don't, who knows when she'll find out? Think he'd admit to shagging Snape?"
"Evelyn Pierce said she did last year and she'd do it again first chance she got."
"You're joking! Our prefect?"
"But she's a girl!"
"Well, you know, Malfoy's always been a little, erm, elegant."
"I always thought Snape and Potter hated each other."
"Oh, come on. You saw the way they had their hands all over each other at the last Gryff-Slyth match..." the pack hurried away, chattering loudly. Severus smirked. Sometimes a reputation was a wonderful thing to have.
By lunch the next day the story was all over school.
Severus looked around, smug in the knowledge that he'd sullied the Golden Boy. Pettigrew's seat was empty (rumour held that he was off crying over losing James to a Slytherin); The Amazing Werewolf Brothers were absent as well, but Severus supposed they were off with their pet rat, or waiting for moonrise so they could get some practise baying; Black didn't take his slit eyes off Snape the entire meal; Potter kept his head down, gritting his teeth and clutching Evans' hand. Evans didn't look too comfortable, either. Severus allowed himself a small, satisfied grin. Now, I wonder why that would be?
Evan shook his head, watching the Gryffindors. His Potions book was open and forgotten next to his plate. "You've got to have the biggest balls in the world, Snape. They're going to kill you as soon as you turn your back."
Severus shrugged. "If they want to incriminate themselves, that's perfectly fine by me." He forked up a chip and gnawed.
"Wouldn't surprise me if he actually did it," Emeric muttered sullenly. "Everyone knows Severus'll shag anything that stays still long enough."
Conversation at their end of the table stopped. Skeeter looked terrified - her pocket money was in jeopardy. Not to mention her chance to break the news. Severus merely narrowed his eyes at Avery. "Does that mean you'd like a go?" He felt quite pleased with himself when Avery blanched.
"God, no," he said loudly. "I prefer quality, not quantity."
Severus leaned across the table so his face was inches from Avery. "Say that again, Emeric."
"No shock there. You're never satisfied with only once, are you?"
Severus surreptitiously leaned a bit closer so he could whisper directly into Emeric's ear. "Would you like me to announce to the entire Hall that you're a fucking queer? A quick Sonorus Charm would certainly make sure the message gets through."
Avery whimpered softly. "Please, don't," he whispered under his breath.
"Always, always remember, Emeric, I don't care what people say." He subtly, tenderly placed a kiss on Avery's ear, making a small hissing noise as he did to make it look like another whisper, and sat back down to eat.
Emeric picked for the rest of lunch.
Nobody else had the guts to comment.
When Severus stood up to leave, the rest of the seventh years followed. It was coincidental - they'd lingered just in case any new developments about Potter came up. All of them were going to the same class. However, Severus was satisfied at the way Black's eyes sparked at his entourage.
They followed him to History of Magic. Snape took his customary seat at the front of the room and got his parchment ready. There were a couple of minutes yet to wait. He busied himself with studying his notes while the rest of his class hissed and sniggered about Potter and Pettigrew sitting in the proverbial tree.
Professor Binns came into the room precisely on time, as always. Today, however, he did so without apparent use of the door. Even stranger, he didn't seem to notice. Severus scowled, lost between shock and crippling laughter as their... unusually transparent teacher picked up his book (or a ghost of it, anyway) and flipped through.
The rest of the class had fallen into dead silence when he came in. There were a few coughs. Each earned a short look from their teacher.
"Um, Professor Binns?" Narcissa raised her hand tentatively.
"Yes, Miss DuMarche?"
"Um... sir? You're... I can see the blackboard behind you."
"Well, of course you can. Don't be daft, girl, it's right where it's always been."
"You don't quite understand, sir. I can see the blackboard right behind you. Through you."
Binns actually looked annoyed. "I hardly think that's relevant, Miss DuMarche. All of you open your books to page eight-hundred and ninety-three, 'Squib Popes: The Catholic Church's Gripe With Magic', and let's begin, shall we?"
"But, sir!" Narcissa blurted. "You're dead!"
"That will be five points from Slytherin for interrupting. Now, if you'll kindly pay attention." To everyone's astonishment, he started to drone as if nothing was off.
Nobody retained anything. Not even Severus' curse could mentally counter the glaring detail that Binns had gone toes up.
Didn't the man ever fucking give up?
About five minutes into class, the door opened quietly. Binns didn't notice. He droned softly in the background. Professor McGonagall stuck her head in, looking rather grave. "Class?"
Ten heads turned in unison. Binns still didn't notice.
"I'm afraid your lesson has been cancelled for the day-sit down!" A disappointed chorus rose up as everyone shuffled back into their seats. "I'm afraid that Professor Binns has pass-"
"Do you need something, Minerva?"
She shook her head. "No, Plato. I'm only here to-Plato?" She frowned and stared. Her beady little eyes went round. "What are you doing here?"
"Teaching today's lesson. I'm sorry, Minerva, but could you make this brief? We have a great deal to cover."
"Are... you sure you're... up to it? Today?" McGonagall stared, blinking rapidly. She glanced at her hand, then at Binns, as if to make sure she wasn't transparent as well.
Binns looked at her quizzically. "Perfectly. Why? Do I look unwell?"
"Plato, you've died. I can see the blackboard through you."
Binns frowned commiseratively. "Hmm. I suppose I should give Slytherin their points back." He went back to his book.
"Plato, I'm not sure you grasp the gravity of the situation. You've... you've died. You don't have to teach anymore."
He blinked blandly at her. "If I've resigned myself to history, Minerva, what else would you suggest I do?"
McGonagall stared, mouth pinched and twitching. She appeared to be thinking about it. Finally, with a baffled look and a snort of surprised resignation, she said, "Quite. Sorry to have bothered you," and slipped out.
Binns looked at his students. "I hope you're still taking notes. This unit will be on the next exam."
The sound of ten heads colliding with ten desks echoed and was gone.
Severus flashed a smile at Black from across the room. He tapped his hat and leaned forward, eager for the next question. Black only scowled as the list of names - his being second - vanished from over the headmaster's head.
It had been a pleasant round overall. Ninety questions in, Slytherin was tied with Ravenclaw - mainly thanks to Frank Longbottom - with Gryffindor slightly behind Hufflepuff. Severus felt the credit there was all his. He rather suspected Black, Lupin, and Sharma agreed. After all, their star player had been so terribly late in detention the night before after punching Severus in the eye.
Of course, the fact that Severus kissed Black's cheek just prior was completely unrelated.
The question came quickly, "A three-percent boric acid solution, when combined with mandrake leaf and spitting cobra venom, will produce what two substances?"
Severus hit his bell without even thinking. It was so easy it was ridiculous. To his utter shock, Black got to it first. "When left raw, Tacitus' Tincture, a general-purpose antiseptic agent. When simmered, it forms Blind Man's Salve, useful for healing eye injuries."
Severus clenched his fists. His temper was starting to flare. The sore muscle around his black eye twitched. He hit the bell for the next question almost before he'd heard it.
"Incorrect. Miss Sprout?"
Severus closed his eyes and tried to breathe. It was a simple question about a simple chemical catalyst and he should have been able to answer it in his sleep. His mum was going to give him the lecture of a lifetime when she found out... only she wasn't going to find out. A lead weight settled in his stomach and he missed chiming in for the next question entirely. Fortunately, Narcissa got it. He was going to have to try a stronger dose of Drowsiness Draught. Or stop getting the crap beaten out of him by Gryffindors.
In less than five minutes the final tally was displayed. Slytherin eked a mere two points more than Ravenclaw, and only thirteen more than Gryffindor (who tied with Hufflepuff). Snape won out over Lucius, who won out over Narcissa, whose lip began to tremble when she realised she'd been cut. The Ravenclaws were reduced to Frank Longbottom and Imogene Pugglesby, the Hufflepuffs to Lisa Sprout and Evelyn Pierce, and, shame of shames, the Gryffindors were left with a cur and a wolf. Severus was a bit disappointed to see Devi go, but at least Naggy would stop playing Sickeningly Supportive Sweetheart day in and day out.
Narcissa immediately dragged Lucius off for consolation. Naggy did the same with Devi, and ever since the day Binns kicked the bucket Evan and Adam had been a bit wary of Severus. He wondered what Emeric had said. He ignored the lower years that tried to flock around him (not as many as after the first round, he noted) and, quickly, swooped out of the Great Hall, intent on a smoke.
He'd just situated himself in a small niche between hedges when he heard a twig snap. Plucking the fag from his lips, he barked, "Who's there?" He drew his wand, ready to annihilate his habit's evidence with a word.
"How could you?" Watery eyes peeked around a corner. Peter fiddled with his robe; it was a little tighter around his stomach. Of course - in the last few days he'd probably hit the Chocolate Frogs with a vengeance.
"I'm just that damn good." Severus took another drag, glaring. He let the smoke out through his nostrils. "Shouldn't you be off cowering somewhere?"
Peter screwed up his mouth. He blinked rapidly, trying to keep his eyes from dripping. "I don't know what I did wrong, but how could you just go and sleep with one of my friends like that?"
Snape snapped the cigarette out of his mouth again, pinched between his thumb and fingers. "You were born, that's what you did wrong. And I didn't sleep with Potter. If I did I'd have to cut off my nob and burn it."
"I meant Lily."
Severus stared. Absently, he dropped his cigarette and ground it out with his toe. "Bollocks."
"Lucius told me. I haven't said anything to James."
"And you're not going to!" He was going to kill Lucius - very probably literally.
Peter opened his fat, pink mouth. He took a short, wheezing breath and stepped up to Severus. Chubby hands trailed over the front of his robe. "I still love you."
"Bully for you."
Blue eyes, wide and clear and ingenuous, looked up. "How much do you want me not to tell anyone?"
Severus' lip curled. "You little rat. You're trying to blackmail me."
"I only want you back, that's all." He leaned up on his toes and tried to press his mouth to Snape's. Snape jerked back.
"Let go of me, you insufferable fungus." Anger saturated his hissing voice almost as much as fear did.
"Make love to me, Severus," the watery eyes fluttered, "or I'll go find James and tell him."
Severus backed up against the wall. He didn't know where Peter found the spine to even suggest it, but he had to listen to the tiny voice deep in his skull that said he'd do it. He went rigid as fat, pink hands crept up the front of his robe. Buttons were undone one at a time, and he no longer had a voice of his own.
The door slammed open. "LUCIUS!" Severus yanked open the drapes to Malfoy's bed.
Three heads looked up. "He's not here," Emeric said sharply.
"Then where is he?"
"Shouldn't be long, then." Severus sat down on Lucius' bed to wait. He crossed his arms and legs, twitching his foot to distract some of the urge to kill.
Wilkes sighed. "Can't you just go find a Gryffindor to shag and leave us alone?"
"Shut up, Adam."
"Why should I shut up? I'm not the one who raped his roommate over Christmas."
Severus squinted. "Pardon?"
Adam sat up. "Emeric told us what you did to him."
"Evan and me."
Severus' lips drew thin. "Then perhaps he mentioned that it was his idea to waltz over to my bed in the middle of the night and beg to be shagged rotten."
Emeric snorted. "Why the fuck would I do something like that?"
"Something about putting me to sleep, if I recall. You seemed fairly eager."
"You're delusional, Severus. If I wanted to get raped I think I could do better than an ugly git like you."
Severus' back stiffened. The absurdity of Avery's comment aside, "I'm a damn sight better-looking than you."
Avery cackled. "Have you looked in a mirror lately? I don't know what potion you've been taking, but you look like the-" he stopped. His mouth hung open. "Anyone would have to be desperate to look at you anymore."
"What do I look like, Emeric? The Dark Lord?"
Three shocked sets of eyes froze on him. Severus lifted his head haughtily at the silence pervading the room. Evan got up and made his wary way to where Severus sat. "Show me your arm."
"Why should I do that, Rosier? Don't tell me you've got one of those 'I'm-a-spineless-moron' skulls on there."
Evan sneered and grabbed Snape's left arm, shoving the sleeve back roughly before Snape could jerk it away. "He's clean."
"Of course I'm clean, you daft twit! If any one of you had any right to call yourselves Slytherins you'd have stood up to him, too."
Evan's jaw dropped. He quickly closed it. "You're lying."
"You wish I were." Severus stood up and backed Evan towards the wall. "If you want, you can ask him yourself. Unlike some people, I'm perfectly capable of handling myself with dignity, not crawling all over and pissing myself just because someone sticks a wand in my face."
"But... he could have killed-"
"I'm here, aren't I? You never had any spine, did you?" He stabbed a finger at Evan's arm. "Cowards."
Evan didn't say anything. Adam looked at Emeric, shaking his head. "Forget it. Either way, he's dug his own grave."
Emeric nodded slowly. Snape thought he caught a glimpse of regret in his eyes. He was very aware of the other three people in the room staring at him as though he were the guest of honour at a funeral.
Severus smiled sweetly. He patted Rosier's cheek and sat down to wait for Lucius.
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