The Sugar Quill
Author: Icarus (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Deserving Man  Chapter: A Deserving Man
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A Deserving Man

A Deserving Man
by Icarus



The walls of the dungeons dripped with moisture, the humidity of summer sank and cooled
[PC1] , pooling in the cracks and crevices. While outside it was sunny -- probably -- daylight never touched these rooms of ancient stone, older than any other part of Hogwarts[PC2] . One could almost feel the ponderous weight of the old fortress bearing down on the walls[PC3] .

 

A distant drip of water interrupted the only other sound in the room: a delicate, hesitant scratching of quill on parchment. The scribbling paused, then renewed with a kind of erratic staccato rhythm, before it stopped again suddenly.

Those familiar with young Severus Snape's handwriting knew the results would be a tiny, jagged[PC4]  scrawl, written at great speed and virtually illegible.

Severus chewed the end of his quill, then bent once more over his task, his black hair narrowly missed being dipped in the inkwell. Already his desk in the Potions classroom was littered with half-opened scrolls and crumpled strips of parchment, which appeared to have many scratch-outs and corrections.

 

The first page had only one word[PC5] : Syllabus.

'Professor' Snape threw down his quill, ignoring the resulting blotch, and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms. His Syllabus for seven years of classes was due, like homework[PC6] , by the last staff meeting before the school year. Truth be told, nothing in his previous nefarious[PC7]  career had prepared him for anything like this.

 

'Professor' Severus Snape. He thought of the title in quotes, as some sort of cosmic joke played on him by an unkind god. He had just turned twenty, yet the misery of his teens had come back to haunt him, manacled him to his past. To his mind, the empty Quidditch Pitch still echoed with undeserved cheers for a Head Boy who was now a year dead. Certain hallways made his jaw clench with remembered bullying and cruel pranks -- though the worst offender, Sirius Black, was in Azkaban[PC8] . A sweet thought. At least this one thing in his life had gone well.

The Great Hall still set his teeth on edge. Slytherins bumping into the dark, skinny Prefect -- until he made it perfectly clear he was willing to abuse his authority, flagrantly, to pay them back[PC9] . It didn't make him popular -- that was for the likes of Potter and his crew -- but it did earn him a grudging respect, or at the very least, cautious distance. Which was close enough.

Fortunately, the Potions classroom had[PC10]  no particular memories beyond the burbling of cauldrons and a successful N.E.W.T. exam.

Teaching. Severus winced, and tried not to think which Slytherins, his soon-to-be students, would remember him from his seventh year. While teaching was an honour to Ravenclaws, a duty to Hufflepuffs, and a noble profession to the Gryffindors, any Slytherin knew the truth: it was the mark of a has-been, the last refuge of those whose dreams had come to nothing[PC11] .

At twenty. And he had nowhere else to go[PC12] .

Severus reached for the Muggle pack of cigarettes in his top drawer, though he didn't light one, merely rolled it between his fingers. He had purchased the quasi-contraband in Knockturn Alley in a fit of rebellion. This teenage habit of his had deliberately flown in the face of everything his pureblood family exemplified, though true, it was fairly common amongst the Slytherins[PC13]  of his generation. This 'Muggle' habit was the first thing the Death Eaters had made him abandon. He slipped the pack back into the drawer, telling himself he didn't know how tobacco would react to the residual potion fumes, and returned to his attempt to become a teacher.

Hours later, the sun[PC14]  outside had set, though the dungeons remained the same[PC15] . Severus had given up on being creative and was searching for something, anything, the prior Professor had left behind. He'd found a syllabus. From ten years before. It was out of date, but who cared, really? He didn't know why he was trying so hard at this.

The door squeaked open, and Severus glanced up over the candles. His lip curled at this visitor in a combination of embarrassment and anger. If it were Professor Dumbledore -- no, Albus now, he insisted -- checking up on his progress…

The bins pushed through the door first, and edged it open further. The rest of the cart followed, and the hideous head of Argus Filch
[PC16]  poked around the door.

"Eh. Didn't expect anyone in here," he said.

Severus returned to his mangled syllabus. "Yes. One usually finds unattended candles burning in empty rooms."

Filch ignored that and squinted at him, a gesture which made his scars even more grotesque than usual. "You? Young Severus Snape is the new Potions professor?" he chortled.

Severus favoured him with a steady glare. This echoed his own train of thought far too closely. He decided to pull rank, or else this demon of past detentions would never let him be. "That's Professor Snape, to you."

But Filch continued to gurgle[PC17]  gleefully. "Heehee[PC18] … teacher… Professor Snape to me… oh-ho, that's rich." He nearly choked with laughter. "We'll be seeing the backside of you right soon enough." He continued trundle his garbage bins into the room.

"Albus," Severus very deliberately used the first name, "seems to think me qualified. What is it you do around here again? Oh, yes... you are the janitor[PC19] ."

Filch's grin faltered, then returned with renewed malice. "Qualified. Albus has a charity project every year. They never last." He began emptying garbage bins, by hand. Severus wondered at that. It was easy enough levitate bins across the room. Was Filch the back-to-the-land sort, the kind of wizard that insisted they'd grown too dependent on magic? "There's a bet on how long you'll last. Minerva," Filch emphasized the first name, "gives you ‘till Christmas."

He rolled his cart back to the door, which he yanked open. "Good luck to you, Mister[PC20]  Snape. You’re going to need it."

The door thumped shut behind him.

So. His loving colleagues welcomed him to his face, and placed bets behind his back. That stung[PC21] , more than it should have. He didn't doubt Filch was telling the truth; he wasn't known for his imagination. And it fit with Severus' experience of human nature.

He had thought there was nothing more humiliating than being doomed to be a teacher[PC22] . He was wrong. Being fired as a teacher, with nowhere else to turn, was infinitely, mind-bogglingly worse. The picture of Dumbledore's soulful, apologetic face arose unbidden.  "My dear boy," he would say, "I have done what I could[PC23] , but much as I would like to keep you on..."

Severus set to work feverishly. Dumbledore wanted a syllabus? Well, he would give him a syllabus beyond his wildest dreams.



Finis.

 

 


 [PC1]Great description here.

 [PC2]Or “the school” would work, too—the whole title was just too long and awkward-sounding.

 [PC3]The weight of the fortress is bearing down on the walls?  This sounds a little strange.  Normally, I’d say the weight of a building (even the figurative weight) rests on the floors, or some such horizontal device—nothing vertical.  Perhaps you could explain this a little—or make it more logical.

 [PC4]Good word choice, too (here, and in that last paragraph, especially, about the quill).

 [PC5]This line made me smile, mostly due to the single word—together with the previous paragraph, obviously Snape is having some trouble with his syllabus. J

 [PC6]This phrase, “like homework” is confusing.  Upon my first reading, I thought you meant that homework was also due by the last staff meeting, which didn’t make any sense.  It took several readings before I realized you were trying to compare the Syllabus itself to homework.  That is what you intended, isn’t it?

 [PC7]The phrasing here is a tiny bit awkward, the way you put “previous” and “nefarious” together—the sounds are too similar, and it’s just too long.

 [PC8]You should elaborate a little more here;  “was in Azkaban” is just too brief.  Something like “was rotting away in Azkaban,” although clichéd, or “would never walk them again, as he’d been sent to Azkaban for life” would work, or just another few added words.  Anything will do.

 [PC9]I like this line a lot.

 [PC10]I think something like “brought back” would work better than “had" here.

 [PC11]Interesting analysis of the four houses.

 [PC12]Very dramatically stated—I like it.

 [PC13]If it was fairly common among the Slytherins of his generations, and we’ll assume many (or at least several) of those Slytherins went over to Voldemort, wouldn’t the Death Eaters spend a lot of effort trying to stamp this out?  Let me rephrase this: the way Severus talks about smoking and Slytherins in the first sentence implies that it’s become rather commonplace and accepted, but the sentence about Death Eaters contradicts that.  One has to be false. 

 [PC14]The sun outside?  Versus what—the sun inside?  I’m deleting this.

 [PC15]You could even say something along the lines of the dungeons always looking the same, day or night.

 [PC16]As far as I can tell—I looked in both PS/SS and CoS (I don’t believe Filch was in any of the later books much, was he?)—Filch doesn’t have any accent, at least not one that’s visible from the writing, like Hagrid’s.  He does have some peculiar turns of speech (like to Mrs. Norris, “my sweet”), but you don’t have to write an accent in for him.  Which makes things loads easier for you. J  But taking out a few of the things you tried to do for his accent, I think you’ve got his turn of speech down pretty well, so he sounds okay, at this point.

 [PC17]I don’t really like this verb, “gurgle.”  The chortling was okay, but now it sounds almost silly (like he’s choking, or something similar!)—it’s a little overdone, I think.

 [PC18]Well, you (obviously) don’t have to keep this “ha,” but I thought that “HawHaw” bit was a little too much.

 [PC19]You seem to have the characterization of Snape down quite well in this interaction—his comments really are quite witty, and, well, Snape-ish.

 [PC20]Why does he call him “Mister?”  Is this mocking, or were you trying to make it a part of Filch’s character?  It doesn’t really sound right.

 [PC21]You used a very similar phrase in the prologue.  You might want to change this one.

 [PC22]This whole sentence sounds a bit awkward.

 [PC23]The verb tenses here are a bit muddled.  I think it should either be “I did what I could” or “I have done what I can,” but not what you have here.

//
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