The Sugar Quill
Author: Violet Azure (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Surface Tensions  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.

[night before Valentine’s Day]

A/N: Hester Moon has appeared previously in High Spirits and Gifted and Talented here on the Quill.  


A/N: In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it appears that Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday but the calendar for 1993 has Valentine’s Day fall on a Sunday. 


Disclaimer:  I’m just a tourist in J.K. Rowling’s universe.  No money is being made off of this writing.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my student loan officer.   


Thank you to my beta, Alkari!  The inspiration for the “Health and Hygiene” class comes from her wonderful fic, A Most Unusual Student.


Surface Tensions



February 13, 1993


I hate Valentine’s Day.


Severus Snape stalked through the dark, icy corridors of Hogwarts like an ill-tempered panther as he made his way to his dungeon quarters.  He was more than ready for a good night’s sleep after completing his last sweep of the castle.  Tonight’s patrol had been rather fruitless; no young couples out after hours, prematurely celebrating this wretched holiday.  Or, at least none that he had found.


Perhaps it was the lack of meting out punishments that set the Potions Master on edge this particular evening.  Or perhaps it was the fact that some sort of monster was slithering around the halls, petrifying students, and that damned Potter had a penchant for exploring the castle after hours.  Or it could be Lockhart, who had jabbered on incessantly at the staff meeting on Friday about his numerous rendezvous planned for the weekend.  Lockhart had even generously offered to fix Severus up with a witch who was, “only slightly cross-eyed and just the teensiest bit warty.”  Severus’s refusal, coupled with the phrase, “would rather drink troll piss”, had merely encouraged Lockhart to waggle his eyebrows and make innuendoes about “secret trysts” and “a special lady.”  Bloody Valentine’s Day. 


In all fairness, Severus loathed most holidays (including Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and birthdays) but he found Valentine’s Day particularly odious.  A whole day devoted to love and romance.  As if teenagers needed any more encouragement to moon about, giggling and making doe eyes at each other when they should be concentrating on whether they had added enough sneezewort to their Befuddlement Brews or had properly crushed their fire ants for a Strengthening Solution.


Slap, slap, slap!


Severus paused outside his chambers and turned his head toward the noise.  Tightening his grip on his wand, he mentally ran through a series of advanced defensive spells as he moved silently toward the sound, cursing the sudden increase in the beating of his heart.  


He reached the end of the corridor near a staircase close to the dungeons and listened again.


Slap!  Slap!  Gasp!  Slap!  Slap!


It sounded like the rubber backs of slippers smacking against stone.  Although little was known about the monster in the Chamber of Secrets, Severus was fairly certain that it didn’t wear slippers or get winded from running, which meant that a student was out of bed or it was another member of the staff.  Either way, the rapid rhythm of the footsteps at this late hour signaled trouble.


Slap!  Gasp!  Slap!  Slap!      


The person was at the end of the next corridor.  Severus quickly rounded the hall and became illuminated by a narrow beam of light, like a sinister dark angel.  He heard a yelp of surprise, a scuffling of feet, and the clatter of wood hitting the floor. 


Severus was now sure of three things: One, the person was female.  Two, she was student, not staff.  And three, she was most likely going to be spending some time in detention, the length of the sentence depending on whatever crackpot story she came up with. 


Wordlessly, he lit his wand.  He arranged his features into something resembling a smile and prepared to inform the student that they were about to face something more terrifying than Slytherin’s legendary monster.  His eyes traveled over the night-time wanderer and he raised an eyebrow in surprise.


“Miss Moon?”  His voice was silky and cool.  “What are you doing out of bed at this hour?”


“Pro-Professor Snape!” Hester Moon gasped.  She stood there across from him, chewing her bottom lip and dithering.


“You know better than to roam the hallways after dark, especially in light of…recent events.”  He frowned at her.  “I would expect one of my prefects to exercise a little more sense.”  His eyes went to her chest and Hester instinctively clutched at the small silver badge on her dressing gown.


Ple-please, sir,” Hester stammered.  She glanced down and picked up her still-lit wand.  “I—I was going to get Madam Pomfrey.”


Severus’s mood shifted back to a high state of alertness.  “Has a student been hurt?  Has the monster attacked again?”  He closed the space between them in a few strides.  As he advanced on Hester, she backed up against the wall, bumping into a portrait. 


“Hey!  I was sleeping!” an old man in a floppy black cap snapped, as the chair he was reclining in tipped over and dumped him on the floor.  The man staggered to his feet and set about righting his chair while muttering, “Students…no respect for their elders,” under his breath.  He settled into his chair and fixed Hester with a glare before pulling his hat over his eyes and returning to sleep.


Hester seemed reluctant to tear her attention away from the portrait.  Her eyes skidded over Severus’s face and then beat a hasty retreat so that her gaze was settled somewhere between his right shoulder and elbow. 


“No-no monster, sir.  It’s nothing to do with the Chamber of Secrets.  Please, sir—we need to get Madam Pomfrey!”  


“And why,” Severus continued in his low and deadly voice, “did you not inform your Head of House that a student was ill?  My quarters are much closer to the Slytherin dungeons than the infirmary.”  His stared down at her and Hester ducked her head like an ostrich looking for a hole to disappear into. 


“Um…” Hester became deeply interested in her slippers.  She glanced back up at him and then closed her eyes as if not looking at him would somehow make the task less painful. 


“Professor, it’s…well, sir…it’s—it’s sort of a—a girl…situation.”  Her voice dropped so low on the word “girl” that she nearly mouthed it.


Severus straightened up before she could see the dull flush creeping over his cheeks. He had not been aware of how close he was leaning toward her and he took a step back as if he had nearly crossed a threshold into a room filled with highly contagious and poisonous germs.  Severus waited until Hester had cracked her eyes open to gauge his response and then he nodded curtly at her. 


“Hospital wing,” he muttered, barely moving his lips before setting off at a brisk pace to the infirmary.  Hester hesitated for a minute and then joined him at his side. 


Severus kept his gaze straight ahead and tried not to look at Hester as they marched along the corridors.  It seemed that she was doing her very best not to look at him either.  He had told Dumbledore on numerous occasions that each House should have at least one male and one female Head for circumstances such as this one.  There were certainly enough professors of both genders at Hogwarts to implement such a plan.  But since it was his House, he would have to be the one to handle the situation instead of simply turning Hester over to Astrid Sinistra or Charity Burbage,   Well, not Charity—she taught Muggle Studies and that wouldn’t have sat well with his Slytherins—but some other female professor—any other female professor, even that mystical twit Sybil Trelawney—would be a better choice to deal with…lady troubles than him. 


And for that matter, he thought, there were certainly enough older girls right there in the dormitory to provide whatever sort of assistance that was needed for such things.  Hester was in sixth year and mostly past that giggly stage which seemed to affect all females between the ages of twelve and fifteen.  Certainly Hester, or another elder girl, was capable of explaining the mysteries of the female lunar cycle to a hysterical second or third year girl.  Unless he was missing the point completely, Severus did not think that monthly female problems were such an ordeal as to require the services of the school matron at such a late hour.  It seemed a bit…excessive. 


Severus cast a side-long glance at Hester trotting along at his side.  “Why, may I ask, did you not ask one of the other prefects to accompany you to the infirmary?” he asked in a light, casual tone.


He noticed the tensing of her shoulders and the long pause before answering.  “None were available, sir,” she said carefully.  “You know that Drusilla is home this weekend for her grandfather’s funeral.  She won’t be back until Sunday night.”  Severus nodded, encouraging her to continue.


“And Eunice is still in the infirmary after that accident in Herbology with the Devil’s Snare and the Venomous Tentacula.  I visited her after dinner and Madam Pomfrey said she’s finally breathing on her own.”  Hester gave a little shudder.  “I was the only prefect around, but Ursula is watching them until I get back.”


Severus nodded, but then the corners of his mouth turned down in his usual scowl.  Ursula Gorey was one of Hester’s friends.  Not the brightest star in the constellation, but one who tended to mind her manners and follow the rules for the most part.  That wasn’t why he was frowning though.  Them? 


What Severus Snape knew about teenage girls—or women for that matter—could easily fit into a teacup with plenty of room left over for cream, sugar, and a biscuit for dunking.  Still, he was fairly certain that their monthly lunar cycles didn’t all synchronize together as one giant clock.  They weren’t ruled by the waxing and waning of the moon like a pack of werewolves for heavens sake!   But if more than one was sick at once, sick enough to get Hester out of bed alone in the middle of the night with a monster on the loose…it was all sounding rather suspicious.  And as it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, Severus would bet his broomstick that someone had had an accident with an illegal Love Potion or something of that nature.  Between his office being broken into earlier in the year and illicit potion making in his own House—which ought to know better—he was having a difficult time mustering up sympathy for the fact that they were now ill.  Serves them right, he thought with a nasty sense of justice being served.  


He narrowed his eyes at Hester and slowed his pace. 


“And the student in question?  Surely it would have been a better idea to bring her to the infirmary along with some assistance from Miss Gorey?  I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to be roaming the corridors alone at the present time.”  Severus looked down his nose at her.


“Well, I’m a pure-blood, sir, so I didn’t think I had anything to worry about.”  Hester stated this like it was the most obvious thing in the world.


“I hardly think the monster from the chamber is going to pause to inquire about your blood status before petrifying you.”  Severus gritted his teeth.  As unpleasant as the topic of conversation was, it was his job as a teacher to uncover any rule breaking.  Just as it was his job to then punish said students for rule breaking.    


“Is the young lady in question so ill with her, ah…female situation, that she is incapable of accompanying you to the hospital wing?” he continued in a mock puzzled voice, slowing down to almost a stroll but not waiting for Hester to answer. 


“It would seem to me that if,” here his mouth twisted as if to spit out an olive pit, “girl things were so traumatic, then nearly half the school would be bedridden every month and I do not believe that is the case.  So, why not stop wasting my time, Miss Moon, and tell me what is really going on.  Is the student, in fact, ill?”


“Yes,” Hester’s voice was barely more than a whisper.  The semi-calm demeanor that she had managed to pull together since running into him was unraveling faster than a ball of yarn on a kitten farm. 


“Is the student female?”


“Yes…ummmm…well…itsmorethanonegirlsir.”  This came out in a great rush.  Andwearegoingtoneedawomantohelpthemsir.”


Severus came to an abrupt stop just outside the Great Hall and Hester nearly stepped on his foot.  “Repeat that, Miss Moon,” he said slowly.


Hester glanced over her shoulder as if hoping the Monster of Slytherin would suddenly come sauntering down the hall and gobble her up for a midnight snack.  Severus narrowed his eyes at her.  She took a deep breath and spoke very fast.


“It’s not just one student, sir.  Several of the second and third year girls are…affected.  And I really think they need Madam Pomfrey.”


“Precisely how many students are ill, Miss Moon?”


Hester gulped.  “Four second years and three third years, sir.  All girls.”


“Pray tell me, what exactly were these girls doing to prompt such a sudden wave of illness, Miss Moon?”


Hester cringed.  “Sir,” she tried to plead but Severus’s dark eyes bore into her with a fierceness that communicated that one way or another, he would get the truth out of her.  She took a deep breath and continued speaking as a wave of crimson washed over her cheeks.


“Well, you see, sir, last term a lot of the classes study spells having to do with—with size…you know, Shrinking Solutions in Potions and…Growth Charms…” she stressed the last two words and glanced up at him to see if it was absolutely necessary for her to keep speaking.


“Continue.”  He added a sprinkling of snow to each syllable.


“Some-some of the second year girls mixed up a potion—and then the third year girls got involved with charms—and—and…it was all Pansy Parkinson’s idea!”  Hester burst out before falling silent again.


After a moment, Severus folded his arms and made an impatient sounding noise.  “Miss Moon, please stop dawdling and explain to me, in as precise and explicit a manner as possible, just what was Miss Parkinson’s oh so brilliant idea?”


Hester closed her eyes briefly and then faced him, chin up and determined although her bottom lip quivered. 


“It was just after eleven o’clock and there was a lot of noise coming from the second year dorm.  I was the only one in the common room—I was working on my Herbology essay for Monday—when I heard them.  Since none of the other female prefects were in the House, I went up to tell them to go to bed and I…I discovered some of the third year girls were in the dorm as well and that Pansy and some other second years had…had mixed up a Swelling Solution.” 


Hester paused to give him a meaningful look, which he returned with a blank stare.  It was easy enough to produce an antidote to a Swelling Solution; Severus was certain Hester could make a Deflating Draught with one arm Petrified behind her back.  At least it wasn’t a Love Potion or some other such nonsense, he thought.  But it did seem like an odd choice of potion to make on the sly. 


He nodded at her to get on with her story.  Hester’s face twisted like she was in pain.  She plucked a thread from the cuff of her dressing gown and began winding it tightly around her index finger before continuing. 


“I think the third years tried an Engorgio Charm but I can’t be sure and it didn’t work…well, no that’s not right.  It worked too well.”  Hester snapped the thread off.   She stared at her hand with a devastated look on her face as Severus watched the tip of her finger fade from bright red back to her normal color.


“I think they mucked about with the recipe for the Swelling Solution, sir.  You know what happens when you add too much meadow adder venom; it interacts with the puffer fish eyes—and then they combined it with the charm and everyone knows that it is highly inadvisable to add a charm or any other verbal incantation to a potion that does not require such spells because the results can be unpredictable and highly…unstable.”


Severus took a moment to feel the tiniest twinge of pleasure that Hester had remembered, nearly verbatim, his lecture from last week’s class.  At least there was one student in the castle whose skull was not so thick that his words were unable to penetrate it.


“What on earth were the girls doing with the Swelling Solution?”  Severus asked, completely perplexed. 


“Sir!”  Hester squeaked as if he had just asked her to go skinny-dipping in the lake with the giant squid.


“Well?” he insisted after a moment.  


“They…they were,” here Hester waved her hands around her torso.  “Sir?” she pleaded, her voice so high and squeaky that a mouse poked its head out of a crack in the wall.


“Miss Moon,” Severus growled, “I am growing rather tired of your stalling.  Perhaps I ought to go to the dormitory to investigate for myself.”  He turned to head back in the direction of the dungeons.


“NO!”  Hester made a move as if to grab his arm and stop him.  “Sir, they—they were trying…to—to…enhance,” Hester gestured in the general direction of her chest as if she was holding two very large cabbages before dropping her hands to her sides. 


The color drained from his face for a moment and then returned in a great rush.  He decided to look at the ceiling while Hester made a careful investigation of the floor.


“I see,” Severus said slowly, trying desperately not to see the image that was forming in his mind of Pansy Parkinson and her little group of friends.  Short, blonde and smug, strutting around the common room…the front of her robes straining with lumps nearly the size of her head…a bunch of idiotic, slack jawed boys staring at her…For the love of Merlin’s dirty drawers!  How was he supposed to lecture the girls on their foolishness or assign them detentions—never mind teach them anything useful come class this week? 


Argus Filch was right—Dumbledore was a little too hasty in outlawing whipping as a form of punishment.  Those girls ought to be chained to a wall in the dungeon and …another picture flashed into his mind…Mulciber…his odd predilections …a crumpled magazine, the pages wrinkled, torn and stuck together in places…passed around the boys’ dorm for a laugh, for a thrill…Severus jerked his head violently, revulsion and shame buried from years ago rising up over him. 


“They were making so much noise, you see,” Hester continued, ignoring his discomfort and gushing out words like a full bottle turned upside-down with the stopper removed.  “When I went in to tell them to be quiet, they tried to hide the cauldrons under their beds, but when I saw them it was rather obvious they had done something.  It looked like they all had…Bludgers under their pajamas, and I knew that couldn’t be right, so I found out what happened—I got it out of Millicent Bulstrode.  They wanted it to be a surprise…for Valentine’s Day.”


Severus snapped his head so that their eyes met.  “Valentine’s Day?” he spat the words out like a handful of vomit-flavored Bertie Bott’s Beans.  “They’re—they’re second years!” he sputtered. 


Children, he thought with some distress.  Barely out of pigtails and they’re worrying about romance and seduction?  Why, a good chunk of them weren’t even old enough to go into Hogsmeade to buy sweets for their Valentines, let alone thinking up provocative uses for innocuous potions.


“I know!”  Hester wailed in agreement. “They’re too young for such nonsense!” she said in a fierce, final sort of voice.  She balled her fists and shook her head in exasperation, her mouth pursed in a rather priggish manner. 


For a moment, their eyes locked and identical indignant expressions crossed their faces.  Severus almost thought he could see Hester shift from an awkward student prone to fits of shyness into the confident, gifted witch he had glimpsed on previous occasions.  In that instance, they were not teacher and student, but rather two colleagues, sharing a similar philosophy on how the world ought to work.  It was only a moment before Hester regressed back into nervousness. 


“I think they fancy some boy…it’s all very silly.  I tried brewing a Deflating Draught because while I talking to Millicent, their…you know, kept expanding and went from the size of Bludgers to Quaffles.”


Thank you very much, Miss Moon, Severus thought, slightly delirious with embarrassment.  I am never going to be able to enjoy a game of Quidditch ever again. 


“I gave them the draught but it didn’t work!  The Engorgio Charm must have altered the properties of the Swelling Solution!  And I didn’t want to waste any more time brewing a Shrinking Solution because I didn’t have any leech juice in my Potions’ kit and I didn’t know if I should run to the student cupboard and all the while they just kept getting bigger and bigger—“ Hester illustrated this with accompanying hand motions.


“That will do, Miss Moon,” Severus said faintly, lifting his palm in a weak protest, but Hester apparently hadn’t heard him. 


“And then the girls were starting to get hysterical and cry and their,” again Hester flapped her hands in front of her chest, “won’t stop growing, professor!”


Severus covered his eyes with his hand and slumped against the wall, shaking his head.  Once again, the complete and utter idiocy of teenage girls had found new and astonishingly irritating ways with which to pillage the depths of his already limited patience.  He sighed and gritted his teeth. 


“Wouldn’t it have been wiser to have taken the girls in question directly to the infirmary?”  Severus asked straightening up and setting off again at a brisk pace, this time in the direction of the hospital wing.  Hester strode alongside him.


“I thought about it, sir” she said with complete sincerity, “But their pajama tops were…busting open—um, I mean, not staying on anymore.  And besides, I would’ve had to levitate them and I couldn’t have done it with just Ursula—”


“Levitate them?”  Severus interrupted. 


“Yes…well, you see, sir—the girls were having a bit of a problem staying upright and I didn’t think they’d be able to make it to the hospital wing unassisted. know…were nearly the size of Hagrid’s Halloween pumpkins when I left.  They sort of kept…toppling over every time they tried to stand up.”  Again, Hester provided a helpful illustration of the problem by leaning back and flapping her hands about.  “It was all Ursula and I could do just to levitate them onto the beds.”


An image popped into Severus’s head of his second and third year girls, bouncing and rolling around the dormitory like a school of trussed up plimpies or overturned tortoises.  He quickly quelled the powerful urge to laugh.  He glanced over at Hester, wondering if a good chuckle might calm her down a bit, but Hester frowned slightly and turned away from him.  When she spoke again, her voice was calm and more than a little cool.


“It seemed the best idea was to head to Madam Pomfrey myself and have her come to the dorm.  I know I shouldn’t be out alone, sir, but I didn’t want to get Damian or Marcus or Saul to help out.  I know they’re prefects, but…but they’re boys.  They don’t understand these sorts of things and…and I didn’t want them to make fun of the girls, sir.” 


Severus jerked his head in a nod to show that he was listening, but he couldn’t help but wonder if Hester was now the one lecturing him.


Hester sighed and then her expression turned dark.  “I also didn’t want the boys to get any ideas.  I mean,” she looked up at him, a look of pure terror spreading over her face, “not-not that the boys’d get the idea to—to use that potion for their…stuff.  Things!  Never mind!” 


Hester’s face scrunched up in horror and she clapped her hand over her mouth.  She squeezed her eyes shut, tucked her chin firmly to her chest and quickened her steps.  Severus reached out and yanked at her elbow to stop her from plowing into a suit of armor.     


Tomorrow morning, Severus thought, I am going to hunt down an Obliviator and pay him a hundred Galleons to have this conversation permanently erased from my memory. 


Thank Merlin they had finally reached the staircase that lead to the first floor where the infirmary was located.  But the staircase seemed to have shifted and they were met with empty space.  Severus wasn’t sure how long they should wait before doubling back to the main set of marble stairs.  He glanced at the landing on the opposite side, wondering if he could leap across the chasm if he had a running start…


Hester seemed to think the cure for embarrassment was more chatter, because she removed her hand from her mouth and continued twittering, although her eyes remained closed. 


“What I meant to say, sir, is that I kept the girls in their dormitory because their housemates shouldn’t see them in that state.  And…and I didn’t want the older boys to…to gawk and stare at them or give the girls ideas about…about what a woman should look like,” she said, a trace of bitterness coating her words. Hester opened her eyes and glanced down at her own rather decidedly un-Swelled chest.  She frowned as if remembering something unpleasant and drew her dressing gown around herself more tightly, hugging her arms around her torso. 


“Boys can be so stupid!” Hester snarled through clenched teeth, before she remembered her present company was in fact a member of the male species.  “I…I meant no disrespect, sir,” she said in her typically soft voice.


“None taken,” Severus replied out of the corner of his mouth, keeping his head rigid and his eyes forward.  He had to admit that he agreed wholeheartedly with her.      


He wondered if Hester’s little outburst had anything to do with her fourth year when there was a period of time where her classmates, particularly the boys, had taken to calling her, “Crescent” and “Eclipse.”  Although Severus failed to see what was so terrible about those nicknames, they had upset her a great deal.  He had never done anything about the teasing and had just taken her red face and her unusual silence in Potions that year to be a sign that she was just too sensitive and that she ought to learn to toughen up.  One time he had even had to give her a detention when, in a very uncharacteristic burst of anger, she had flung an ink pot at Roderick Baddock’s head before class.  Now he wondered if perhaps the teasing was a little more…sinister, a little crueler than he had previously thought. 


“Any sort of…praise or admiration from the boys would only encourage the girls to do it again and,” she drew herself up primly although her face was still the color of a ripe strawberry, “that is not a Ministry approved use of a Swelling Solution.”


“Indeed,” Severus remarked dryly.  


“I would have got you, sir,” Hester said as the staircase finally started moving toward them, “but I’ve never seen you in the girls’ dorm—not that you should be in there!”  Again, her eyes found her slippers and she continued to address them as the staircase ground to a halt. 


“But, I know boys can’t enter the girl’s dorm because I read in Hogwarts, A History of the enchantment by the Founders and I was afraid I’d have to bring everyone down into the common room for you to help them.”  She chanced a glance at him.  “I didn’t want the rest of the House to see them…and make fun of them,” she said softly as the staircase ground to a halt in front of them. 


Severus swept past her and started climbing the stairs.  An odd sort of lump had blossomed in his throat and he coughed a few times to clear it away.  It was so like Hester to be considerate of her housemates’ feelings, even risking her own safety to roam the corridors at night with a monster on the loose in order to spare the feelings of a few featherheaded girls.  It was something Lily would have done.  Whereas his personal motto was that abject stupidity deserved public and absolute humiliation, with Neville Longbottom being Exhibit A. 


Teenagers, Severus thought glumly as he reached the next floor.  Why wasn’t the Department of Mysteries studying the workings of the adolescent mind—unless that was the powerful and fearsome force kept behind locked doors at all times.  He supposed everyone did something stupid when they were that age.  Even with his superior intelligence, he hadn’t been immune to teenage folly…


It was Christmas and the unthinkable had happened—Lily Evans was going out with James Potter and rumors were flying that he was going to ask her to marry him by the end of the year.  He and Lily hadn’t spoken since he had called her that horrible word…since that damned James Potter had dangled him upside down and shown half the school and Lily his old gray pants…since Lily—Lily!— had called him Snivellus.  She had actually used Black’s horrible nickname to address him. 


And now Lily wouldn’t speak to him at all, even though he had apologized over and over again, had sent her letters all that summer that had gone unanswered except for one short note: “Leave me alone.”  He had made a few overtures during sixth year to try and patch things up, but she wouldn’t listen to him.  Mulciber told him to forget it, that she was just a stupid Mudblood and he had agreed and laughed with his supposed friends, all the time thinking of her...


And now James Potter had got her at last, nicked Lily away from him the way Potter always nicked the Snitch from Madam Hootch so he could show off for his little gang.  Well, Severus wasn’t going to let that happen.  It couldn’t be Potter’s sparkling personality or wit that won Lily’s heart.  Hadn’t she once called him a toerag?  Severus had been over the possible reasons for Lily liking Potter and had narrowed it down to the following: Potter had slipped a love potion into her pumpkin juice, she had fallen off her broomstick and suffered some sort of head injury or…Lily thought Potter was handsome. 


It was this last possibility that Severus was afraid was the most likely.  Severus couldn’t compete with Potter’s money or bloodline or Quidditch prowess, but if Lily was the type who fancied so-called “handsome” blokes, then he could at least try to do something about his appearance if it meant Lily would pay attention to him again (although he never would have guessed Lily to be so shallow).  But Potter wasn’t really that good looking—Black was the one who drew girls to him like gold to a goblin.  And if Lily was just interested in what was on the surface, then she should be going out with Black and she wasn’t…But the thought of Lily laughing and smiling and holding hands with either of those…those berks made him feel like a thousand rats were scratching and gnawing at his insides, so he didn’t dwell on the logic of the matter for very long.  What he needed was a plan to win Lily back. 


Severus took all of his pocket money and sold his few Christmas presents and bought a variety of skin and hair potions and health tonics.  He would have just brewed them himself, but the winter holidays were too short for some of the potions to be brewed properly and he needed to speak to Lily without the intervention of other students.  Unfortunately, since he wanted to stretch his supply of meager coins, the stores he went to weren’t exactly known for providing the best products. 


He cut through the path in the woods that ran next to the river between Spinner’s End and Lily’s neighborhood and gulped down the contents of the bottles he had bought, discarding the empty containers in a hollow tree.  He waited for the potions to take effect, anxiously checking for progress in a small, dusty pocket mirror he had stolen out of his mother’s bathroom.  When it became obvious that the potions were finished taking effect, he set off until he reached Lily’s house.


Now he stood on her doorstep, clutching a small bouquet of ice lilies—delicate, nearly translucent pearly white flowers that bloomed only in the winter.  They were scarce and expensive and the money could have gone toward better potions, but they were Lily’s favorite magical flowers.  And besides, the results of the potions weren’t too bad.  All right, his skin was a weird shade of pale orange, but all of his spots had cleared up.  If the light was dim enough, it was possible that he didn’t look like a jaundiced pumpkin and he could just pretend that he was merely very, very tan from a tropical holiday.  The tonic to give his scrawny frame some muscles had been a great success—but the effect was localized to just his upper arms and nowhere else on his body, so that he resembled a string bean flanked by two giant hams.  The potion for his teeth had worked well—maybe a little too well.  They were so bright now that they appeared to glow in the dark…but if he kept his lips fairly close together when he talked he wouldn’t blind anyone.  His hair wasn’t too bad—sleek and shiny, if a bit on the feminine side.  He ran a hand through it to give it that messy windblown look that seemed to work for Potter.


He knocked on the Evans’ front door but didn’t wait for anyone to answer and instead bellowed, “Lily!  It’s Sev!”


The door opened and his heart caught in his throat, only to sink into his bowels when he saw the horsy face of Lily’s Muggle sister.


“What do—“ she started to say before clapping a hand over her mouth that didn’t quite muffle her laughter.  “Lily!” she shrieked turning around and retreating to the interior of the house, “that Snape freak is here to see you—and he’s brought flowers!”  Around the door frame Severus could see her at the foot of the staircase, her back toward him.  She was shaking with barely suppressed giggles.


Anger boiled up inside him and he felt his left arm twitch.  One word, or perhaps two, and this Muggle nobody with a face uglier than the backend of a hippogriff would be at his feet, writhing in agony…begging for his mercy.  His hand inched toward the wand in his pocket.


“Tell him I don’t want to see him,” Lily called from deeper in the house, most likely her upstairs bedroom. 


“Are you sure? You’d have a good laugh.”


“Tell him to go away!”


Petunia returned to the door, quite cognizant that he had listened to the entire exchange.  A nasty sneer curled Petunia’s thin upper lip.  “You heard my freak sister,” she said in a snotty tone.  She moved to close the door in his face.  Just before it shut, she smirked at him, looked him up and down and said in a vicious, cold voice, “Guess magic can’t cure everything!”  Her laughter mingled with the sound of the slamming door. 


“Lily!” he hollered, backing away from the door and slipping on the icy walkway.  “Please, Lily!”  He saw a flash of her red hair from behind a curtain, saw her head shake, “No” before the curtain closed completely and his world fell apart.  He kept shouting her name until Mr. Evans came out and told him that if he didn’t go home, he’d call the “please-men.” After that, Severus  didn’t remember throwing the flowers into the snow right where any old horrible, stupid Muggle could see them, couldn’t remember skating and slipping across snow and ice as he ran back to his home, back to Spinner’s End.  His footsteps carrying him away from Lily, back to the forest, and toward a rapidly darkening path…


“For future reference, Miss Moon,” Severus said as they walked along the first floor corridor, his voice slightly gentler, “Heads of House may enter into all of the dormitories.”  Severus neglected to mention that Hogwarts, A History had conveniently glossed over the incident of Byron Rochester, the Ravenclaw Head in the 1790’s who had run off with a sixteen year-old student.  


“I’m sorry!  I should have got a professor, but I was afraid we’d lose House points  and it wasn’t fair that Gryffindor beat us last year for the Cup—I mean, that’s not the point!  The girls need medical attention and I didn’t know what to do!  I’m the worst prefect ever!”  Hester looked like she was about to burst into tears.


Severus cleared his throat and gave her a look so stern that any tears that had thought about escaping from her eyes turned around and retreated into the ducts.  That was one thing he liked about Hester Moon—she never seemed to be in floods like so many girls.  She might stammer and blush and wail, but she always managed to keep her tears in check, lift her chin, and address him properly and he admired her for that.  He raised his arm to put a comforting hand on her shoulder but thought better of it. 


“You are not the worst prefect, Miss Moon,” he said in what he hoped was a kind tone.  That would be Remus Lupin, he added silently, aiding and abetting his horrid friends and their clever little “pranks.” 


“You did what you thought was best for your fellow students and for your House.  I must however stress, that in the future you should immediately notify me, another professor, or Madam Pomfrey when a student is ill, no matter the origin of that illness.  While it is admirable that you tried to handle the situation as calmly and as logically as you could, it is much better for those of us who are older and wiser to attend to such matters.  Do you understand?”


Hester focused her gaze on her hands, which she was absentmindedly wringing in front of her.  She nodded her head to show that she understood.


“As for House points…twenty points from Slytherin from each girl, for improper use of a Swelling Solution outside of class.  And a week of detention for each of them.  I think they’ve had enough of Potions though,” he added hastily. “I believe Professor Sprout could use some assistance weeding her Babbling Begonias and Professor Sinistra mentioned the other day in the staff room that the astronomy telescopes are due for a polishing.  And Professor McGonagall needs help with…something or other.”  Severus waved his hand dismissively.


Hester nodded meekly as if to agree that this course of action was fitting. 


“And as for you, Miss Moon—” 


Hester looked up at him and seemed to brace herself for the punishment that was sure to follow.  She moved as if to unpin her badge and hand it in.


“Ten points to Slytherin for the quick and expert brewing of a Deflating Draught.  I know your Potions work and I am sure you made it just fine,” he said before she could protest that the solution hadn’t worked. 


“Another ten points for leadership and decisive action befitting a prefect and another ten for thinking so kindly of your fellow students and not subjecting them to further ridicule and embarrassment, although a healthy dose of both would not have been remiss,” he muttered the last part under his breath.  “Ten points to Miss Gorey,” he added as an afterthought, “for providing help in the absence of any other prefects.  


“And,” he said with almost a weary sigh as he nodded toward the infirmary’s door, “one hundred points to Slytherin if you would be so kind as to explain the delicate nature of this…situation to Madam Pomfrey, assist her with the administration of the antidote, and give me your solemn promise to never, ever again mention this in my presence.  Do we have an accord, Miss Moon?”


“Yes.  I promise.”  Hester smiled shyly, eyes downcast and gave a tiny little giggle.


“Wonderful,” he sighed, holding the door open for her. 


After waking the matron, Severus went to wait outside her office while Hester explained the reason for their late-night visit.  He wasn’t sure, but he thought Poppy rolled her eyes and tut-tutted rather impatiently in his direction when she came out of her office and passed by him. 


As he escorted the two women back to the Slytherin dungeons, he was rather annoyed to discover that this was not the first time Madam Pomfrey had had to rectify such a situation for the young ladies of Hogwarts.  Feeling rather insulted that all the knowledge in his classroom was being put to such an undignified use, Severus decided that first thing in the morning, he was going to have a talk with Dumbledore about the creation of a Health and Hygiene class.  Poppy could teach it.


Severus settled himself into an armchair and stared at the fire, shifting his attention only to glare at any student who dared poke their head out of their dorm to see what was going on.  Poppy and Hester disappeared into the second year’s dorm and went to work returning the girls to their previous state.  Severus heard the voices of some of them drifting down the stairs as they tried to convince Madam Pomfrey that she had shrunk them too much and couldn’t she make an exception and did this mean that they were never going to develop properly now?  Severus rolled his eyes and rubbed his hand over his eyes and forehead as he watched the low flames twist and flicker. 


Fools.  Worry about properly developing your minds not your bodies.


But of course, they wouldn’t listen to him—they never did.  He wanted to tell them that any bloke truly worth their time and attention was more interested in what they had between their ears rather than what was below their necks.  Of course, since the skulls of most students contained nothing beyond specks of marshmallow fluff drifting aimlessly among draped cobwebs, perhaps he ought to seriously consider adding Beautifying Brews and Love Potions to his curriculum if his students had any hopes of marrying and propagating the wizarding population into the next generation. 


Severus snorted, imaging his students’ reactions to “Professor Snape” lecturing about love.  His thoughts were running away from him, a contrivance of the late hour and the impending holiday.  Bloody Valentine’s Day…what did his students know of love?  A fistful of flowers and a poem cribbed from a book.  A box of chocolates and a quick grope in an empty classroom.  No wonder those idiot girls had resorted to potions to conjure up love.  He doubted that any of them could fathom love— real, deep, all consuming love. 


He had loved Lily long before she became A Girl.  He couldn’t remember the precise moment he fell in love, only that after she entered his life it was like a shaft of sunlight breaking up the clouds after a long bout of rain.  It wasn’t her hair, the color of a phoenix’s plumage, or her petite little nose that crinkled when she laughed or the way her body started to shift and curve when she was fourteen that made him love her.  He had loved the way her lips would pucker when she was concentrating on a spell.  Or, after that first disastrous flying lesson, her patience at helping him learn to ride a broomstick followed by her whoop of joy when he finally got it.  And the way Lily always put her hands on her hips, which she slightly cocked to the left, whenever she got into one of her bossy or self-righteous moods.  And had loved her eyes not because of their brilliant shade of green, but for the kindness they contained.  


It was the same kindness he saw so often in Hester’s eyes, the look she had now as she glided toward his chair to inform him that Madam Pomfrey had put the girls right again.


“…used a countercharm with a modified Shrinking Solution.  Very clever.  Ursula’s already gone up to bed—I told her about the ten points.  She was quite pleased!  And I swore her to secrecy that she wouldn’t tell anyone what happened,” Hester lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “I used a Tongue-Tightening Hex, just in case—but don’t tell her that.  Is there anything else I can do, professor?”


“No, Miss Moon,” he sighed, rising to his feet and suppressing a yawn.  “I believe there has been enough excitement for one evening.”  His lip curled in a half-hearted sneer before returning to his usual dour expression.  Hester nodded and turned to go. 


“Miss Moon,” he began, not sure of what he wanted to say to her.  He knew that within a week Pansy and her friends would be back to causing mischief for Hester.  They would never know or appreciate the kindness she had done for them, nor would Hester demand recognition for bestowing this bit of mercy to the ungrateful lot of them.  He also wanted to apologize for some of the cruder members of his sex, and let her know that all those stupid boys, (well, a handful of them at any rate), eventually grew up into men who would see her for Who She Was and Who She Was just happened to be a very sweet and kind young lady who didn’t need a potion to trick a boy into thinking she was beautiful. 


But Severus was never one for long speeches, and he certainly wasn’t going to cultivate a taste for them at one o’clock in the morning while Poppy waited impatiently by the door.


“Thank you.  For your help during this...incident,” he gave her a jerky sort of nod.


Hester pressed her lips together, the ends twitching into a smile.  “What incident, sir?” she asked rather impishly. 


He paused for a moment and his mouth softened a bit before he gave her an approving nod.  “Exactly.  Off to bed,” he motioned toward the staircase that led to the girls’ dormitory.


“Good night, sir,” Hester said politely, giving him a little wave and as she headed to the girls’ dormitory. 


He walked over to Poppy and offered to escort her back to the hospital wing.  As he held open the door for the matron, he happened to glance over his shoulder at Hester ascending the staircase.  He watched Hester until the hem of her dressing gown disappeared out of sight, and a strange feeling settled in his chest.  


It was as if a few drops of Swelling Solution had been trickled directly onto his heart.


Rubbish, he thought shaking his head and stepping out into the hall.  A night dealing with teenage girls and their own unique brand of ridiculousness was enough to give the even the heartiest of blokes indigestion and heart burn.  Valentine’s Day surprise indeed.


Merlin help the first person who mentioned that wretched holiday to him come Monday morning.

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