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, 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. One could almost feel the ponderous weight of the old fortress bearing down on the walls.


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 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: 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 some sort of homework, by the last staff meeting before the school year. Truth be told, nothing in his prior nefarious 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. 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. 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 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.

At twenty. And he had nowhere else to go.

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 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 outside had set, though the dungeons remained the same. 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 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 chortled gleefully. "Heehee… 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."

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, young Mister 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 bothered him 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 teach. He was wrong. Being fired from teaching, 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, 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.





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