The Sugar Quill
Author: Blithe  Story: The Parent-Teacher Conference  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 Parent-Teacher Conference

Author’s Note:  I do not own, pretend to own or ever dream of owning anything in connection with the Harry Potter universe, that is the intellectual brainchild of J.K. Rowling, whom I thank for her wonderful books.  The only characters that I have created are Aliena and her children, whom JKR can have if she wants.

 

Thank you to all who have helped me with this fic, with an extra thanks to my beta reader, Chary.

 

***

 

Severus Snape scowled at the blonde-haired girl in the front row of his classroom.  Cecilia Darcy winced under his glare and  he thought he saw tears beginning to well up in her blue eyes.  A glance at her cauldron revealed that her sleeping potion was currently a sleeping poison.  He briefly indulged himself considering all the things he could say to the girl.  If she had been nearly any other Gryffindor, he could have held her potion up to ridicule, or even test it on an animal to remind them of the dangers of improper potion brewing. 

 

But instead he bit his tongue and settled for using a sarcastic and condescending tone.  Miss Darcy, I trust that you are aware that your potion is supposed to be a light pink color instead of that revolting brown?”

 

The girl nodded slowly.

 

And Gryffindors were supposedly known for their bravery.  “Well?”

 

“Yes, sir.”  Tears were in imminent danger of spilling out of her eyes.  Severus glared at the girl for a moment longer.

 

“It is still salvageable.  You added too much wormwood and not enough milk thistle.  After you add more milk thistle make certain you add more water or this mess will be even worse.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“Freshwater, not saltwater.  Get back to work.”  He stalked off to the next table and mentally cursed Cecilia’s mother for her interference in his classroom.

 

It had begun when the oldest of the four Darcy children arrived at Hogwarts six years earlier.  Brennon Darcy’s incompetence caused his first potion to explode, sending Darcy, his lab partner and the two students sitting in front of them to the hospital wing.  Severus remembered raging over the boy’s foolishness and inability to follow simple directions while Darcy attempted to argue that it had not been his fault.

 

Severus had not given that incident much thought until a few days later when an owl arrived for him at breakfast.  It delivered a cordial note from Mrs. William Darcy requesting that he meet with her for lunch in Hogsmeade, with the addition that it would be nice to reminisce about their days in school together.

 

He had ached to send the owl back to its owner with a blistering refusal, but it was not wise to ignore a summons from Aliena Malfoy Darcy.

 

When he arrived at The Three Broomsticks, a grinning Rosmerta immediately ushered him to a private booth where Aliena was reading Arithmancy Monthly.

 

She looked up when he was about to sit down and put away her book after carefully marking her place with an embroidered bookmark.  Severus, thank you for coming.  Please sit down.” 

 

He sat on the opposite side of the table.  “Good day,  Mrs. Darcy.  I trust you are well?”

 

“Very well, thank you.  It is so good to see you after all these years.  Really, I don’t believe we’ve spoken to each other at all since You-Know-Who’s downfall, nearly nine years ago.”  Her voice was cheerful and pleasant, as if she were speaking with a very good friend whom she was delighted to see.

 

He wished she would get to the point.  “We have not had anything to discuss since then.”

 

“Oh,  we could have reminisced about old times.  Our families were, for want of a better word, friends.  I remember how you used to follow after Nero and Lucius when you were a boy.  My brother and cousin were your heroes.  They even arranged for your initiation into that revolting little club they belonged to.”  Aliena glanced at his left forearm.  “And the two of us knew each other during school.”

 

“You were a fourth year Gryffindor when I entered Hogwarts, we hardly spent any time together.”

 

“No, we did not.  But it is amazing how much we know about each other despite that.”

 

Severus had heard rumours that Aliena Malfoy Darcy kept a virtual stockpile of evidence that could destroy the good reputations enjoyed by many old Slytherin families.  He had always been grateful for whatever reasons kept her from sharing her information with the rest of the world. 

 

“And we did interact.  Maybe not as much as you would have liked, but much more than normal for a Slytherin boy and a Gryffindor girl three years his senior,” she pointed out in her irksomely cheerful tone.

 

Severus was getting tired of the game; she would not come to the point unless he brought it up himself.  “I assume we are here to discuss your son.  Shall I give him your regards?”

 

“I would prefer you never told him, or any of his fellow students of any house or year, about this conversation.”

 

He resisted the urge to ask her why she had even bothered coming if that was the case. “Your son’s performance in Potions has been abysmal.  He shows little aptitude for the subject but with increased diligence he may prove capable of earning a tolerable grade.”

 

“You know that after three weeks in class?  How do you decide?  Is it based on how your students respond to bullying tactics, your opinion of their parents or simply which house they are in?”  Aliena responded in the slightly detached manner that Snape recalled from his youth.

 

“His performance on their first practical assignment was appalling.  I expected more from him.”

 

“I see.  If what I have heard of your teaching methods is true, your interpersonal skills have actually decreased over the years.” Aliena’s tone became slightly incredulous.

 

“He must learn to show greater respect to his professors.  The lack of attention he paid to the potion’s instructions showed his complete derision for the art of potion-brewing.”

 

“If I remember correctly, when we were in school, we did not brew that potion until the end of second year.”

 

“I expect more out of my students than that.   If I were to go easy on them they would quickly become bored and when students are bored, they only cause trouble.”

 

“So you expect that the entire class is as advanced as you were, and then bully them when they can’t meet your demands?  Someone as obsessed with respect as you are should know that fear and respect are two very different things.  The way you treated my son was entirely unwarranted.  There is a difference between reasonably high expectations and unreasonably high demands.”

 

“If the students would simply apply themselves to the art of potion making they would be able to meet my demands.  They would also be able to deal with their problems without hiding behind their mothers.”

 

Aliena shot him a disgusted look.  “One day you will learn that everything is not about you.   When that happens you might make some friends and you will finally understand that every mistake in Potions class is not a calculated insult against you.  I had hoped that we could have a simple discussion where this would not be necessary.”  She paused briefly and pulled out a bundle of envelopes bound with a green and silver ribbon.  “I believe you will recognize these.”

 

Snape picked up the packet and recognized his own handwriting.  Miss Aliena Malfoy, Malfoy Manor.  “You only kept three of them?” he asked in as disinterested a tone as possible, hoping she could not discern how horrified he was.

 

“The rest are at home.  My mother put rather strong Preservation Charms on all of them and I would not want anything unfortunate to happen if they fell into the wrong hands.” Aliena’s tone was just as disinterested as his had been, as if they were having a particularly dull conversation about the weather.

 

Snape remembered the letters.  He had written things in them that he now hoped no one else would ever see.  “And now you are using our correspondence as blackmail.”

 

Aliena raised an eyebrow.  “Correspondence would indicate that I replied to your epistles.  We both know I never did.  My children will be attending Hogwarts for the next fifteen years.  You will behave reasonably towards them and I will ensure that they do not happen upon any of these.  If you think you have problems with respect now, imagine what will happen when the school discovers how you spent your summer holidays.  It is the discretion of others that makes living in a community as small as ours bearable.  You would have been wiser to chase after a girl your own age, as I suggested to you that September.”

 

Snape remembered the conversation.  At the beginning of his second year Aliena had sat him down and told him that while she was flattered he cared enough to write her twice a week all summer, she did not think they were ‘right for one another.’  She had then told him he should give more thought to the girls in his own year.  ‘Several of them are quite pretty, Lily Evans in Gryffindor will be absolutely beautiful when she grows up and she has an absolutely adorable personality, from what I’ve seen.’  Her meaning had been perfectly clear; a Snape was so far below a Malfoy that he might as well be a Mudblood.  Then there had been the humiliating experience where Evans had tried to ‘save’ him from Potter, assuming he needed her protection.  Really, Gryffindor girls were even more trouble than their male counterparts.

 

He was brought back from his reverie by the realization that Aliena was watching him.  “Do you enjoy leading me into humiliation?” he hissed.

 

“No, I do not.  But I will not allow you to bully my children.   As long as you leave them alone, the letters will remain where they are and my children will not be told about them.

 

“That is blackmail.”

 

“Would you prefer it if I had no incentives to not share them with my children, or my cousin?  Or to not leave them in a place where they might be found?”

 

“You and Lucius Malfoy have not held a civil conversation with one another in over a decade.”

 

“Perhaps it is time that we mended the rift.  He would treasure anything that would give him power over a Hogwarts professor.  Even one from a family that our ancestors worked so hard to promote.”

 

Severus decided he was finished with the conversation.  “If you wish me to coddle your children, I understand.  Your relationship with your cousin is none of my concern.  Now, Mrs. Darcy, I must return to the castle to teach my next class.  I am certain you have plans for whatever it is that bored, idle women with large dowries and wealthy husbands do with their time.”  He had then stalked back to the school to terrorize a class of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor sixth years.

 

Now six years later, Severus was still afraid of the humiliation those letters might bring him.  Some of them contained things about his family that he would rather die, or at least be civil to the four Darcy children, than have his students discover.  He knew that as a twelve year old, his declarations of love ranged from awkward to farcical.  And if the students ever discovered that he had written such nonsense…. 

 

He shook his head and stalked back to Cecilia Darcy’s table.  The tears had stopped and her potion was perfect.   

 

 

 

 

//
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