The Sugar Quill
Author: Sada (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Only Thing You Have to Fear  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

The Only Thing You Have To Fear...

AN: All the HP stuff belongs to J.K. Rowling. The original plot bunny belongs to Emeraldd Star. She let me write it. Yay! And special thanks to Jedi Boadicea for beta-reading.

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Megan Lyney ran into Hogwart's library, earning a scowl from Madam Pince. Megan's face was already white with fear and she couldn't possibly get any more terrified than she already was. But she didn't want to lose points for Ravenclaw, so she slowed to a brisk walk as she searched for her friends.

She found them sitting at a large table between the Arithmancy and History sections of the library. Clara Bones and Nate Weaver, both in Hufflepuff, were staring at their schedules with glum looks on their faces.

"Hi Megan," said Nate, barely looking up from his schedule. "How is your first day going?"

Megan, Nate, and Clara had met on the Hogwart's Express yesterday. They made a pact that even if they were sorted into different houses, that they would still be each other's first friends, and that they would meet every morning after breakfast in the library. It was hard, being at a new school. They wanted to hang onto every friend they met. Megan had been disappointed when Nate and Clara were sorted into a different house, but was secretly very happy the sorting hat chose Ravenclaw for her. Even after a day, she couldn't see herself anywhere else. She hoped Nate and Clara were just as happy.

But she wasn't worried about that right now. She had news, big news!

Clara looked up at her, forgetting her own worries for a second. "Megan! What's wrong?"

Megan caused to catch her breath. She looked around wildly, making sure there was no one within earshot. "Oh, it's horrible," she whispered, leaning in close to them. "It's, it's S...Snape!"

Nate and Clara grew wide-eyed.

"Oh no!" Clara groaned. "Snape is bad news. And we have his potions class first off!"

"In an hour we'll be in the dungeon with him," agreed Nate morosely. "When I was buying my supplies in Diagon Alley, someone told me the most terrible story about him!"

Megan gave him a sharp look. "Could it be as bad as what I know?" she thought. "What did you hear?" she asked aloud.

"Well," began Nate. "I heard that six years ago Snape was having his class work on a Treacherous Path Potion. Everyone in the class thought that the potion would get rid of debris in your path. It didn't! But Snape let them think it anyway."

"What did the potion do?" asked Clara.

"It put debris in your path! It created a treacherous path! What kind of potion is that anyway?" asked Nate in disbelief. "And it lasted a long time! Those that were lucky enough to make it out the classroom alive had junk falling in front of them for a week!"

"That must have been so dangerous!" said Megan. "I can't believe Headmaster Dumbledore would allow such a thing."

"One person was hit by a falling Bludger from a Quidditch game over 700 feet away," continued Nate. "Can you imagine? They ended up in the hospital wing for two weeks! And another was smacked in the head by a package of Exploding Bonbons, so that was like getting hit loads of times. They ended up in the hospital wing for a whole month!"

"Has the hospital wing ever seen anything like it since?" asked Clara.

"No," he answered. "153 separate injuries in that first week alone. It's a record."

Megan and Clara just stared at him.

"And of course he blamed it all on the students. He gave everyone a detention for ruining his potions supplies - made quite the mess it did. He said they should have known what the potion did and prepared an anecdote, and that they all learned a lesson the hard way."

"Yeah," said Megan. "They all learned never to trust Snape."

Clara nodded self-importantly. "That's what my sister told me," she said. "Never to trust Snape. She's had him for four years now."

"Has anything ever... happened?" asked Nate, who still had some hope that Snape had committed his worse offence six years ago.

Clara nodded.

"Well, let's hear yours," prodded Megan. "It still can't be as horrible as mine," she thought.

Clara gulped.

"My sister Susan somehow managed to convince Snape to let her do an extra-credit assignment. I guess he never does that," she started.

"Well," said Nate. "That's a good thing then."

"No," Clara shook her head. "It wasn't good. It wasn't good at all! Even my Mum cried for days afterwards!"

"What happened?" asked Megan.

"He had her dilute Bundimun secretions, so it could be used as cleaning stuff," Clara said slowly.

Nate and Megan nodded. Like any children, their parents made them do chores. Bundimun was potent and made a mess if you used too much of it. If too concentrated, it would eat away at and spread fungus on whatever you were trying to clean.

"Well," said Clara, even more slowly, afraid to say it aloud. "Well, he told her that when she was finished, she had to use the dilution to clean the Gargoyles!"

"The Gargoyles!" shrieked Nate and Megan.

"So she asked him, 'Which Gargoyles?' hoping that it would be the nice protective ones," Clara continued. "You know, the ones that help keep watch over Hogwarts."

"Oh no," said Nate. "He didn't!"

"Oh yes," said Clara. "He did. He made her use the untested solution on the horrible Gargoyles! The ones found near the dungeon windows! The ones with the disembodied heads and gaping mouths that scream and chomp at you!"

"I'd wager the Gargoyles didn't want to be cleaned," said Megan, her face turning a tad green.

Clara nodded her head. "Susan said it was horrible! If she made the potion correctly, the Gargoyles would be sparkling clean. And the last thing Gargoyle's want is to be sparkling clean. It ruins their credibility. And if she made the potion incorrectly, they would be all decayed and covered with fungus. This was more acceptable to them, but it meant Snape would think she failed. So she had a choice, have the Gargoyles mad at her or have Snape mad at her."

"What did she do?" asked Nate, cringing.

"She couldn't choose," Clara said sadly. "A Gryffindor, she's not. She stood there, in front of the Gargoyles, watching them throw a huge, scary fit. Behind her was Snape, glaring at her, demanding she clean them!"

Megan's face turned white again.

"She threw down the potion and ran away. I guess it removed all the dirt from the area it hit, but that was no consolation to Snape. He gave her a detention and took away points for not finishing the assignment. And the Gargoyles held a grudge because she even dared to think about cleaning them. They still scream at her every time she walks by," Clara finished.

"Uhhhh," whimpered Nate, sliding down in his seat.

Megan looked grim. "Then I guess the warning I got was true," she whispered. "Snape is the meanest, cruelest, most spiteful professor around. And this year he intends to be the meanest he's ever been!"

Clara and Nate turned to her.

"You were warned? By who?" Clara asked.

Megan looked like she wanted to cry. She thrust her hands in her lap to keep them from shaking.

"It all happened last night," she began.

"So someone in Ravenclaw?" interrupted Nate.

"Hush!" Clara said. "Go on Megan."

"No," continued Megan. "No one in Ravenclaw. They were all asleep. I was asleep too. Then I was visited by a ghost."

"A ghost!" shrieked Clara, forgetting to not interrupt.

"But it wasn't an ordinary ghost," she said. "At first I thought I was just dreaming because the ghost seemed a lot more solid than The Grey Lady. And he wasn't glowing white. Then I remembered Peeves doesn't either."

"Peeves seems solid enough," agreed Nate.

"This ghost was young. Well, older than us, but not old. It was dark, but I could tell he had bright red hair. And he kept moving all around the room. One second, he'd be on one side of my bed, and the next second, he'd be on the other," Megan said. "Once he even doubled himself!"

"Wow," breathed Nate. "That must be a powerful ghost!"

Megan nodded. "I know. I was scared to death! Then he started talking about himself, and Snape."

"W… what?" asked Clara, torn between wanting and not wanting to know.

"He said, 'I am the Almighty Paracelsus, the greatest potions master that ever lived.' Whoom! He was on my other side, 'Or died!'"

Clara and Nate gasped.

"'I have a message," whoom, 'and a warning!'" Megan continued. "Then he doubled himself and ran all around the room waving his arms above his head muttering, 'I am the greatest! I am the greatest! Yes, you are the greatest, after me of course.'"

"What was his message?" asked Nate.

"What was his warning?" asked Clara.

Megan gulped. "When he finally settled down he got really close to my face and said, 'Although he'll try, Severus Snape will never be a greater potions master than I!'"

BANG! The sound of a book dropping echoed loudly from the library shelves. Megan, Nate, and Clara jumped, then calmed their beating hearts as they watched Madam Pince get up to investigate the source of the disturbance.

"Then he stood up straight," Megan said, lowering her voice slightly. "He said, 'A fortnight from tonight, Snape will attempt his greatest potion ever.' Whoom! 'The Voco in Dubium potion!" Whoom! 'It can only be attempted on the night of a full moon,' Whoom, 'When he can call on the power of the magnificent moonlight,' Whoom, 'and call into question the logical,' Whoom, 'natural,' Whoom, 'magical order of the universe!'"

Nate looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there. Clara let out a small moan, and Megan's voice began to tremble as she continued.

"On the night of the full moon," repeated Megan, "Snape is going to make a potion that drains the goodness out of every person at Hogwarts! Then he is going to bottle it up and unleash it on the dark forces!"

Clara screamed, her voice piercing through the silence of the library.

"B... But, Snape is supposed to hate the dark forces," Nate cried in disbelief. "I know he can be horrible, but that is downright evil!"

Megan nodded and bit her lip, "That's what I told Paracelsus. And he said just because Snape hates the dark forces, that doesn't mean he likes the light forces!"

Nate looked utterly defeated and flopped his head down on the table.

"Wait!" yelled Clara, still at the top of her voice. Megan looked around nervously, but Madam Pince was nowhere to be found. "Didn't Paracelsus say that Snape would fail?"

Nate jerked his head up from the table.

Megan slowly shrugged, "That's what he said, but..." her voice trailed off.

"He will!" yelled Clara, her eyes darting all over, "Snape will fail and his next potion will be his worst ever! It has to be!" She smiled broadly, refusing to believe anything else.

Nate grinned back. Clara's optimism was contagious. Megan looked from one friend to the other, trying to smile as well, but there was a sinking feeling in her stomach. A horrible feeling that was trying to warn her everything was not right. A horrible feeling that had been there since the ghost visited her. He had whisked himself away before she could ask him any more questions. And she had so many questions. Why did he come to her -- a lowly, if clever, first-year? Why not go to Dumbledore? Surely Dumbledore must suspect something! And if he didn't, did Snape have him under his power? How powerful was Snape? And why did Paracelus feel a warning was necessary if he was so sure Snape was going to fail? Was Snape really going to fail? Or was that just wishful thinking? Or was the ghost just jealous? Megan's head was spinning. Maybe Nate and Clara were right. Maybe everything would be okay.

She let out a tentative grin. Clara took this as an affirmation that she was correct. "That's right Megan," she cried. "Snape's no good. Why, he can't even get the Defense Against the Dark Arts job!"

"Yeah," Nate chimed in. "He's no good at all! I bet he's actually terrible at potions!"

Megan smiled despite her misgivings. "Absolutely!" she agreed. "I bet Snape fails at potions all the time! That's why he's so mean to his students! He doesn't want them to make him look bad!"

Clara and Nate let out a burst of laughter. This time, it didn't take Megan long to join in. She was the loudest of them all and was so caught up in her laughter that it took her a moment to realize that Clara and Nate's jubilation had trailed off. She looked at them quizzically.

Nate was staring down at the table and Clara was staring at something behind her, her eyes wide and unblinking.

"What's the matter with you two?" asked Megan, twisting around in her chair.

She froze, for standing in between the bookcases was Snape, looking ominous and cruel in long black robes that matched his long, black hair.

Megan's mouth opened but no sound came out.

Snape lifted half of his mouth into a sneer, his eyes boring into her.

"Well," he said softly, a layer of thinly veiled sarcasm penetrating his voice. "I am a failure at potions am I?"

Megan closed her mouth, gulping hard.

He lifted an eyebrow and surveyed Clara and Nate.

"I am terrible at potions?" he asked Nate, a queer look on his face. He turned to Clara,"I am no good, at all?"

The three students remained frozen in their seats.

"It's a shame when first year students don't realize how much they have to learn," he smirked as he walked slowly towards them.

He returned his gaze to Megan. "A Ravenclaw, are you not?" he asked her.

Megan remained silent.

"Answer me!" barked Snape.

Megan jumped in her chair. "Y...yes," she answered in a small voice.

"You don't have potions until two days time," he said. "Unlike your two Hufflepuff friends." He spit out the word Hufflepuff like it was an obscenity, glaring at them.

"I believe," he continued, "That extra lessons are in order."

Megan sneaked a look at Clara and Nate, 'Extra lessons?' she thought.

"Yes," murmured Snape gleefully as if he could read her thoughts. "You will be joining your friends in potions this morning. I think you all will learn a lesson you will never forget." He snapped upright, all satisfaction gone from his face. "Follow me, now!"

Megan scrambled up from the table. She could hear Clara and Nate doing the same behind her.

Snape turned around with a grand sweeping of his robes, and stormed out of the library towards the dungeon. The students hurried after him, not daring to speak to one another. It seemed like an eternity before the reached the classroom.

Snape billowed inside, striding purposefully towards the front of the room. All the other students were already there, gazing fearfully at Snape. The nervous atmosphere in the room got worse as they watched Clara, Nate, and Megan hurry after Snape, terrified looks on their faces.

With a start Snape turned around. Clara, Nate, and Megan stopped in their tracks so they wouldn't crash into him. He glared at them and motioned for them to sit.

Then he surveyed the rest of the class.

"Today you begin potions," he began as in introduction. "Although, my plans have changed." He cast a look at the three students, the same queer look coming over his face. The rest of the class followed his gaze.

"Life will attempt to teach you lessons," he continued, his voice unsteady. "But learning from them is up to you. Some things will seem real, and some things will seem like illusions." He stopped a moment to compose himself. "Potions can help or hinder you. You need to understand that not everything is as it seems, and that some things are more real than you'd ever imagine."

He surveyed the class slowly, his mouth trembling slightly.

"I need to prepare," he snapped. Then quickly retreated into his adjoining office, leaving a room full of stunned students behind him.

"Quietus," Snape murmured as he slammed the heavy door behind him. He stood still for a moment, reflecting on the scene in the library. He walked over to his desk, the look on his face queerer than ever before. He struggled with his composure, trying to get himself under control.

"Ridiculous students," he muttered. He sat down at his desk. A smile finally cracked his face and strange noises began to burst from his lips as he looked at the closed door.

"Quietus," he started to repeat in a soft strangled voice. But he never finished his words. He placed his head down on his desk, tears running down his face, silent peals of laughter engulfing his words.

The End!

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