The Sugar Quill
Author: Thing1 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Danse Macabre  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.

For Durayan; a Snape plot bunny that has been harassing the other plot bunnies under the sink for several months now. It is time to chase it into the garden.

Prepare to burn any pink towels you may own.

***

Severus Snape flung the door to his rooms open with such force that the ancient oak door groaned as it slammed into the stone wall, and every single jar, bowl and pot strewn about the place rattled and shook from the impact.

Pausing only long enough to reach back with one leg to capture the door and kick it closed, even as his hands worked at freeing himself from his robes, Snape's internal monologue came forth in a furious snarl once the door was securely closed.

"…bloody Longbottom! Idiot, idiot, boy! I have had enough dunderheads all these years, but this wretch…. Good gods! Off! OFF!"

He was now yelling as he swooped across the room towards the bath chamber, throwing clothes as he went, desperate to get the soaked material as far from him as possible as soon as he could, mentally calculating how long he had now been exposed.

Snape hesitated just before he ran naked into the bathroom, and cursed long and loud as he had to turn back and grab a few vials from his cabinets, then finally jumped right into the tub. He dropped the vials in an untidy mess on the side of the tub as he turned all three faucets on at once to start filling the basin. Snape continued to curse as the water flowed, even as he grabbed at the vials and started pouring their contents into the stream of water in front of him.

"Un-bloody-believeable! How anyone, ANYONE, can succeed in causing a cold potion to explode…. My own fault; here I was, safely assuming that I could get those children through a period without fires without A SINGLE INJURY and this is the thanks I get."

Snape continued to mutter various wizard obscenities that Muggles couldn't understand but which were very, very rude indeed as the tub filled further. Once there was a good foot of water, and Snape had finished pouring philters in (ending each one with throwing the empty vial violently against the wall where they shattered with a very satisfying sound), Snape plopped down in the water and grabbed a bar of birch soap.

He scrubbed at every inch of himself mercilessly; teeth gritted against the rough feel of the soap. But as every great Potions Master who had the unfortunate job of teaching children knew, nothing cleansed nor counter-acted spillage by imparting faint general protection properties like birch. Snape had a standing order with the Apocothary in Hogsmead, as he used about 25 bars of the soap each semester. He and the Apocothary did not get along in the slightest, and Snape suspected he made the soap harsher than was necessary deliberately, but at least it worked. Somewhere in the back of his mind Snape did know that telling the man he didn't make his own soap as such a mundane task was far beneath his abilities wasn't the wisest thing he had ever did.

Snape washed until the bar of soap was reduced to a soggy sliver, and this he threw into the far corner of the room where it fell with a soft 'plink' as it disturbed some of the detritus of his previous temper tantrum. Then he grabbed the single remaining vial, a typically strong dose of the Alyssum oil he kept on hand just for days like this, and poured it over his shoulders and neck, rubbing it in. As the oil worked its magic and slowly started to dissipate the hard edge of his anger, he reached own to now refill the tub with hot water, and added a large dose of lavender scented bubble bath for good measure. He finally sank down in the water, and closed his eyes. Once the water was high enough, he reached over with his foot and closed the tap, huffing away a rather large cluster of bubbles that had come too close to his mouth.

Snape began to relax, and the foul taste of the antidote he had drunk, after screaming at the 5th years to get out of the dungeons immediately, began to fade as he started munching on the black licorice he kept in a large jar next to the tub. He had told them all to report to Madame Pince where they were to spend the rest of the class period writing an essay on the importance of observing rules of safe potion brewing, and why even after four and half years they still seemed incapable of following them. There hadn't been a word of protest, not from a single Gryffindor or Slytherin, and Snape finally smiled to himself as he realized he had at last succeeded in terrifying an entire classroom all at once. Not even Malfoy had said anything; but since Snape suspected Draco was probably directly responsible for the incident, it was hardly a surprise that Draco had simply glided out of the room without a word to anyone. Snape decided he was going to have to rearrange the seating assignments yet again, and get Malfoy as far from Longbottom as possible.

But the idea of rearranging seats just got him upset again. After all, seat rearranging was what had got him into a similar predicament with this exact potion when he himself was a fifth year. Seat rearrangements and Sirius Bloody Black.

***

Professor Havers had simply had enough. At least, that was what she yelled at her fifth year Gryffindor / Slytherin class in such a tone that even Black had shut up immediately and Peter Pettigrew looked as if he may faint. Snape and Avery glared at Potter and Black, but the Professor told them not to look so damn cocky, seeing that they were hardly above suspicion themselves, as she was still highly unconvinced Remus Lupin had truly intended to turn his hair blue last month.

She started walking around the two rows of desks, arranged in a half circle about the cauldron she used to demonstrate, and called out pairs, pointing at the seats they were to take. The professor alternated Gryffindors with Slytherins, the ultimate expression of her displeasure. Snape, of course, asked to stay in front. Black had been deliberately positioned there, on the opposite side of the room from Potter. That Remus Lupin and Stella Carrington were allowed to sit behind Black and Pettigrew was still risky, but a safer bet. Lupin was far to stealthy for deliberately disrupting things on a whim, unlike his friends, although in Severus' opinion Remus was the one to really keep an eye on just because he *was* so damn quiet. Some of the stunts attributed to Black and Potter had their daring in their execution, but the sheer subtle genius of the idea had Remus written all over it.

Once the class was seated again, the Potions Mistress took up the lecture again, giving them all one last cold glance.

"As I was saying," here she gave both Potter and Parkinson dark looks, "today we are going to be brewing a 'cold potion'. Anyone? Yes, Carrington?"

"A potion that is brewed without the use of a fire. Generally has a very common or utilitarian purpose, as they can be easily brewed."

"Yes. Have a point for Gryffindor, I'm suddenly feeling a wave of compassion. Now, we are going to brew a potion today that is particularly useful for storing food, as it specifically shrinks organic matter without actually harming the object, and therefore allows one to store much more food in a smaller area. It is the Vietus Potion."

"Oh!" said Pettigrew, on Snape's left, "my mum uses this for her canning. She says it's dead useful."

Professor Havers nodded even as she continued to write out the ingredients on the board. "It is; but not just for cooking, although that is its main application."

"Professor?" called out Sirius Black's voice, in a tone that Snape knew bode no good for whatever he was about to ask.

"Yes, Black?" said the Professor in a rather tired tone as she looked back at him.

"What happens if this potion comes in contact with our skin?"

"You will be impacted by the potion, Mr. Black. The potion does not impact clothes or furniture or the like. And it will not wear off; it may only be counter-acted with an antidote, which is why is it always best to brew the antidote first, then the potion, in case of any accidents or spillage."

Black had a look on his face now Snape knew was even more dangerous than the tone in his voice. "So it behaves in accordance to its name, then? Shriveled, withered, and the like?"

"Yes."

There was now some low tittering going on around the room, though Snape wasn't quite certain what was so funny. Then Black looked him right in the eye.

"Best be careful today, Sevie; don't you have a hot date with Calista planned? Better not go sloshing any of this on your lap or it will put a bit of a damper on whatever may be up for tomorrow."

Professor Havers rolled her eyes even as she automatically called out '5 points from Gryffindor' and turned to back the board ignoring the laughs of most of the rest of the class. Snape could hear her muttering something about 15 year olds and the lack of flow of blood to their top halves. Snape turned to glare at Black over Pettigrew's head. Black noticed him glaring out of the corner of his eye and simply made a rude gesture without even bothering to turn to Snape. Lupin reached forward from his seat behind Black and quickly grabbed his arm and pulled it and the offending gesture down as Professor Havers faced the class once more. She gave Lupin and Black hard looks, noticing the rather dangerous shade of blue they were turning trying not to laugh, but then went on with the lecture.

"I have already prepared the antidote here in the demonstration cauldron, as it takes several hours to prepare. In your teams, please prepare half-batches of the Vietus Potion in your cauldrons. Keep talking to a minimum and as ever, please be careful. I will be walking among you to observe your progress."

The rest of the class period was noticeably quiet as everyone concentrated on their work. It was also quite uneventful, until the last 10 minutes, when the teams brought their potions up one by one to be graded, then empty them out carefully and clean up. Snape never knew exactly how it all happened, as he was not paying attention to the others at the time. All he could remember was a shout of 'look OUT Pettigrew!' from Avery, a small scuffle, a shout….then the feeling of someone crashing into him. He had just lifted the cauldron with their potion to take for grading, and it promptly soaked him with its contents as it was thrown against him.

Snape actually stood there clutching the now empty potion against him, his mouth hanging open in shock, for a few seconds before he saw that Peter Pettigrew had not only crashed into him, but had tripped over the low stone wall of the firepit and crashed into the Professor's cauldron. The antidote poured out all over the flagstone floor as that container also emptied itself.

***

Snape gave an involuntary violent shudder at the memory of that day. The effects of the potion had been practically immediate, and rather frightening, considering where he had spilled the liquid. He remained in the hospital wing until later that evening when a new batch of antidote was ready. Everything had been put back to normal, and Snape had only just managed to stop himself from weeping with relief in front of Professor Havers and the Matron. He managed to make it back to the dungeons and his dorm room, where he collapsed exhausted on the bed and went to sleep pretending he didn't hear his roommates questions or requests to take a look at any lingering after effects. He hadn't been above wishing Calista would ask to make sure everything was okay, of course, but she seemed to settle for taking his word on that.

Without thinking Snape couldn't stop himself from taking a quick physical inventory to make certain that everything was alright this time as well. Longbottom had, somehow, managed to make his potion explode. That was probably a very good sign that it was not going to produce the standard effects, but Snape wasn't going to take any risks assuming the potion was impotent. He had deliberately made extra batches of antidote in preparation for this particular class, and was now feeling rather pleased with himself for having been proved right, once again.

There was a faint rustle in the next room at this point, but Snape only took minor note of it. No doubt the house elves had arrived to collect his clothes, and hopefully to bring him a large pot of tea. He remained in the bath, simply soaking in the friendly-scented bubbles and trying to think of absolutely nothing.

That worked for approximately 37 seconds, when Snape realized he was humming, of all things. Funny, it didn't feel as if he were humming, but still he could hear…he realized that the sound was coming from the next room. Now he was a little irritated; he didn't mind the house elves coming and going to see to their duties, but what on earth were they doing disturbing him with humming? And why were they still out there anyway?

"Will you please simply take the laundry and go?" Snape called out, "And do stop that humming!"

Snape settled back down and closed his eyes once more…only to realize that the humming was not stopping, but in fact seemed to be getting louder.

"Right, that is it," muttered Snape, "it has got to be one of those 'asylum' elves Headmaster keeps letting in here - no incentive to respect rules!"

He climbed up out of the tub and grabbed at one of the extra-fluffy all cotton dusky rose-pink towels his great-great-aunt had sent him for his birthday that year. He had considered having her sent to St. Mungo's for observation, but let it go once he discovered that they were rather excellent, and considered there was no chance of anyone save the elves knowing he had them. He quickly wiped the soap off, and stormed into the next room as he wrapped the towel firmly around his middle.

"What the devil…." Snape froze as he looked up to see not a house elf but two skeletons that looked as if they had escaped the healing arts classroom leaning up against the mantle of his fireplace in a very casual fashion. For a moment Snape considered that two more ghosts had managed to take up residence in the castle, and he would have to call a staff meeting to have the issue dealt with. Then they turned to look at him and Snape saw the unmistakable glow of enchantment coming from their eyes. Someone was behind them, and someone could now see exactly what they saw.

Snape quickly ran through all of the possible culprits in his mind even as he started to move slowly to where his shirt, with his wand tucked carefully in the concealed pocket, lay near the table across the room. It had to be a sixth or seventh year, most likely, as they were the only students who were powerful enough to handle animation charms. There was the possibility that a small group of extremely determined Ravenclaws could figure it out, as there was in practically every situation like this, but this was not the style of the handful of Ravenclaws who went in for this sort of thing. No, Snape would bet his entire supply of dragons' blood that this was the work of ….

"Weasleys," he growled low his throat.

The skeletons seemed to ignore what he was saying, but now moved to stand between him and his shirt, seeming to understand that he was separated from his wand. Of course, the fact he was standing there in nothing but the absurdly fluffy and cuddly bath towel was probably their first clue to his situation. To his horror, they did not walk so much as they…shimmied. And he now realized that they were indeed responsible for the humming. They were singing 'Danse Macabre'.

Snape didn't have time to ponder how the devil, after 1000 years of safety, the staff wing had finally been breached. He tried to look around to see if there was a way around the skeletons to get to his wand, but they were now effectively situated between himself and the escape around the couch to the door. They continued to dance now, and the humming became more pronounced. Worse, they were advancing on him and circling. Snape tried to keep an eye on them both, but it was impossible. Then he felt an unmistakable tug on his towel from behind. Snape let out a sharp cry, even as he grabbed the towel tightly, and the skeletons gave up their singing to laugh, and then start whistling wolf calls at him.

This odd little game of circling, whistling, grabbing and swearing loudly (from Snape, not the skeletons) continued on for a few minutes. Snape finally decided he had only one chance, as it seemed that the end game purpose for these skeletons, and whoever was behind them, was to get the towel as some sort of sick trophy; evidence that they had achieved the impossible. Snape took a deep breath, and then leapt up over the back of the couch, between the skeletons, and ran for the door.

He threw open the door and tore out into the hallway, running flat out and making for the back entrance to the Headmaster's study. Not that he was thrilled at the prospect of Dumbledore seeing him like this, but whichever of the little bastards responsible for the skeletons (now clanking down the hall behind him) wouldn't dare take them up there.

Snape would have made it, he knew, had it not been for the fact that he had slowed just a bit to glance over his shoulder to ascertain where the skeletons were. Because of this, he missed seeing Sybil Trelawny appear from her own rooms until he plowed into her. And at that moment, the skeletons caught up. As Snape fell, he could feel the towel pulled off of him, and he lay sprawled across Trewlany, staring aghast at the two skeletons, retreating down the corridor towards the exit in front of him, singing again and holding the towel between them like some perverse banner. It took a timid squeek from under him to realize he was sprawled out on top of the Divinations Teacher, completely naked. Horrified, he looked down at her.

"I foresaw that something tragic would occur this day!" she managed to sputter before she passed out with a dramatic sigh.

***

There was no sign of the skeletons once Snape had managed to extricate himself from Trelawny, race back to his rooms for some clean clothes, and report the occurrence to Dumbledore. Indeed, save for Trelawny it seemed nobody else had witnessed anything, nor even seen anything unusual at all. Snape had personally checked to make certain all of the Hogwarts skeletons were accounted for, and had turned up nothing. He even verified with McGonagall (three times, and to her growing annoyance) that the Weasley twins were under her supervision in her classroom the entire period in question. Snape finally let go when Albus gave him a stern look and said he really needed to be moving on from this in response to Snape asking him if Lupin and Black had been on the premises that day for a secret meeting with Dumbldore.

About a month after the incident, there had still been no further intrusions, nor had there been a single peep from the student body about even the possibility of something odd happening in the teachers' quarters. Of course, Snape was still vaguely concerned that his bath towel had never shown up again, but eventually let the matter drop with the exception of telling Filch he would reward him 20 galleons if he found it and returned it without word getting out about it.

The second Quidditch match for Slytherin against Gryffindor came six weeks after Snape's encounter with the enchanted skeletons. By this time he had put it behind him, and moved on as there were any number of new concerns and annoying things going on to distract him. It was a perfect day that Saturday, and the entire school to a student and professor came out to sit in the stadium and watch the game. As usual, the Gryffindors were being overly loud and uncouth as they cheered their team on.

Snape glared over in the direction of the Gryffindors, watching them all suddenly stand up and start cheering. Expecting the usual house chant from them, he turned back to the pitch and watched the players. It took him a long moment before he registered that the students had a new cheer. His teacher's instincts forced him to turn his attention back to the Gryffindors, to listen to the chant and make certain it was 'appropriate'. Considering what the Ravenclaws had come up with the previous semester….well, even if they were chanting it in an obscure and ancient dialect most of the other students probably wouldn't recognize, it was absolutely unsuitable for underage wizards. Professor Flitwick had threatened to take points from everyone in the house, but hadn't. If Snape caught the Gryffindors doing something similar, well, he wasn't going to let them get off so easily.

But they were not actually saying anything. Rather, they seemed to be chanting a tune. And they were all looking in his direction.

Snape stood up now, openly glaring at them, trying to place the tune…. Snape felt his entire body start to shake as he saw that they were lowering the banners they carried to all hold up…pink towels. 1000 pink towels stared at him, and he suddenly recognized the tune. Danse Macabre. And as he stared at the sea of pink, he saw that the Gryffindor flag which flew above their section had been lowered. In its place, billowing in the breeze for all the school to see was his extra-fluffy all cotton dusky rose pink bath towel, with the words "PROPERTY OF S. SNAPE" written across it.

Snape fainted.

//
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