October 31st, 1971
James Potter let his gaze sweep across the Great Hall for a fifth time that evening, trying to spot Remus Lupin’s tawny head. Sighing when there was no sign, he turned his attention back to a game of Exploding Snap being played between Frank Longbottom and a Muggle-born girl named Lily Evans. Remus was one of the first friends James had made upon his arrival at Hogwarts for his first year. His friend had already left school twice to visit his sick mother and it didn’t seem fair that Remus would land in the infirmary for his first Halloween at school. Rumor had it that a group of Slytherins had hexed Remus from behind while they were all leaving their Transfiguration lesson. James was angry with himself for not being close enough to help his friend or to see what really happened.
The Great Hall was dressed to impress with giant Jack-O-Lanterns floating in the air and the tables weighted down with all manner of sweets. Sugar Quills, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Licorice Wands, Cockroach Clusters, Acid Pops, and the list went on. Most popular that night were the Chocolate Frogs. A mountain of them had been stacked on a platter at the start of the evening and placed on a table at the front of the Hall along with two bottomless punch bowels. Only a few Chocolate Frogs remained and James sighed again, thinking of how Remus would have enjoyed a good piece of chocolate.
“You’re starting to sound like a lovesick Kneazle sighing like that, Potter.”
James looked up to see Sirius Black slipping into the seat across from him. He stared at the gray-eyed boy warily, though he had not spoken unkindly. Black was a bit of a marked man in Gryffindor. Everyone in the house wanted to like him and support him (he was a Gryffindor after all) but he was a Black. Blacks were meant to be Slytherins. Because of this confusion, Sirius was alone a fair bit, but none of the Gryffindors would tolerate him being treated badly.
Sirius was looking at him with a rather hopeful expression. “I didn’t mean to tease.”
“Yes you did,” James said with a small smile.
Sirius fidgeted in his seat. “Do you want to play Exploding Snap?”
James was painfully aware that several people were watching them surreptitiously. He knew that most of the first years would follow his lead if he befriended Sirius, but he also knew that his parents might not be too happy with him for hanging around a Black. He looked up, fully prepared to say “No thanks”, and then caught the look of loneliness in the other boy’s eyes. His parents would get over it.
“I’d like that,” he said quietly. He immediately felt the weight of all the watching eyes leave them.
As Sirius was getting their game ready, someone plopped down beside James. He turned and was happily surprised to see Remus’ tired, smiling face. “Remus! Old Pomfrey finally let you go then?”
Remus nodded. “I’m dying for a piece of chocolate!”
James froze. All the first and second years sitting around them quickly scooted further away. Remus’ sweet tooth was already legendary, as were the moods he could get into if he couldn’t satisfy a chocolate craving. Only Sirius stayed put, looking a bit amused. Searching the table, James realized with a cold sense of dread that there were only Acid Pops and Muggle candy corn left. He was doomed.
Sirius must have noticed his distress because he quickly regained his attention. “James, up at the punch table.”
Turning his head quickly, James saw that one Chocolate Frog was left. He wasted no time, leaping to his feet and sprinting for the punch table. He never noticed the slouching, rail-thin boy heading for the same goal until he slammed right into him.
Severus Snape looked out across the Great Hall of Hogwarts from the darkened corner where he stood. Two months hadn’t made him feel anymore comfortable among the open spaces and boisterous children of Hogwarts. He felt exposed in all areas but the dungeons. Their cool, moist air and low ceilings made him feel safe and hidden. Still, he felt a certain amount of awe at the sight of thousands of candles floating about and the Hall floor, which was currently charmed to look like glossy, black marble. The piles of sweets were another thing he’d never seen the likes of before.
He didn’t touch any of the candy, was almost afraid to even consider it. His father, Tobias, had never allowed such indulgence in his son. Eileen, his mother, had slipped him a sweet treat here and there in his younger years, but a bite of chocolate was not worth a beating. He learned that about two years before his Hogwarts letter arrived. That was one lesson that stuck out most prominently in his mind: everything had a cost, especially good things. He got a sweet and his mother got a slap in the face. Even a nine-year-old could see that the exchange was unfair and wholly worth avoiding. It had distressed his mother when he asked her to stop procuring sweets for him, but she gave in to his request. He’d been too naïve to realize that Tobias Snape would simply find other reasons to be displeased with his wife and son.
Severus scowled. Why was he allowing his Muggle father to control his decisions even here? Why shouldn’t he enjoy himself in such a small way as eating chocolate? He looked out across the Hall to the punch table. Professor Slughorn, his Head of House, was serving punch and chatting with Lucius Malfoy, a seventh year. Then he spotted it, less than a meter away from the two conversing Slytherins, a single Chocolate Frog left on the platter. None of the other candy available at the Slytherin table seemed to suit his tastes so he decided to go snatch up the chocolate treat. He was certain that he was probably the only person in the Great Hall who hadn’t had one, so he didn’t feel guilty about taking the last.
He was almost to the table and already reaching for the treat when someone crashed into him, sending him arse over tea kettle to sprawl on the ground. His assailant didn’t fair much better and landed right in front of him. The face was familiar, as were the round-framed glasses. The boy was wearing Gryffindor robes and appeared to be a bit dazed from their tumble. Severus pulled himself to his feet with as much dignity as he could muster, smoothing out his robes. He smirk as the Gryffindor shook his head and leapt to his feet with very little grace.
“Sorry about that,” the boy said. “I was in a bit of a hurry. I’m James Potter by the way.”
Severus stared at the hand the boy extended, wondering what it would take to distract the idiot and get his Chocolate Frog before any more over eager dunderheads tried to make his acquaintance. With a tiny, impatient huff, Severus took Potter’s hand, shaking it quickly and releasing it as if it burned. “Severus Snape. Now if you’ll excuse me, I was about to get a snack.”
James frowned thoughtfully at the Slytherin boy before him. He seemed rather…cold, but, then again, the Slytherins were a formal, aloof lot and he had just ran right over the poor bloke. The he caught sight of the “snack” Snape was going for. “Oh no!”
The Slytherin turned to scowl at him and James briefly wondered if the boy’s face ever managed any other expression. “What is your problem, Potter?”
“Well…er…you see, I need that Chocolate Frog.” James bit his lip as one of Snape’s eyebrows arched high beneath a lock of rather greasy, black hair.
“Really,” the Slytherin drawled. “Matter of life and death is it?”
“Nearly,” James insisted. “One of my friends really needs a piece of chocolate.”
Snape sneered, making his list of facial expressions grow to a whopping TWO. “Oh well, if your friend needs it, then by all means make the rest of us suffer. Honestly, why don’t you just admit that you want the bloody thing for yourself instead of making it into some noble act? I thought Gryffindors were meant to be honest and all that rubbish?”
James wrinkled his nose. A Slytherin would think honesty was rubbish! “I’m telling the truth. Have you heard of Remus Lupin?”
Snape’s brow furrowed. “Isn’t he the one who made that Hufflepuff cry last week? Something about eating the last piece of German chocolate cake?”
“Yes,” James exclaimed, nodding eagerly. “The Hufflepuffs were out of cake and Lydia Bones came over to our table to see if she could nip a piece. Frank gave her the last one and Remus went nutters over it! He’s down right scary when he’s having a chocolate fit like that. So you see, this isn’t a selfish thing. I’m doing it for the greater good.”
Severus just barely managed to suppress a snort. It wouldn’t have gone well with the mature image he was attempting to project. Leave it to a Gryffindor to get melodramatic about something like a Chocolate Frog, acting as if Grindelwald would rise again if his little friend didn’t get a bit of cocoa in his system. “I’m sure your friend has had enough chocolate already. Personally, I don’t care if he wails like a banshee over it. I’m going to eat that chocolate.”
Potter looked taken aback, as though he couldn’t believe that appealing to the goodness in Severus’ heart had failed. “But there is absolutely no chocolate left anywhere in the Great Hall.”
“Indeed,” said Severus smoothly, “how…disappointing for him then.”
Potter growled and Severus let his wand slip into his hand from where he had tucked it up his sleeve. “Listen, Snape, I’m sure there’s something else you could have.”
“No,” Severus said, shaking his head slightly. “This is what I want. Its mine and I’m taking it.”
“How do you figure,” Potter asked, and Severus saw the boy also had his wand drawn.
“I saw it first.”
Potter looked like a gaping goldfish and, if Severus wasn’t the mature, eleven-year-old he was, he might have giggled. However, giggling was highly undignified and infantile. He opted for glaring at the Gryffindor in a superior kind of way before turning to grab the Chocolate Frog. That was when a jinx narrowly missed his head, hitting one of the Jack-O-Lanterns instead and making it turn a lurid shade a fuchsia with yellow spots. So much for noble Gryffindors.
James really didn’t know what possessed him to fire a jinx at Snape, but, luckily, he didn’t really aim and it flew harmlessly past the Slytherin boy. Still, from the look on Snape’s face, one would have thought he’d just hit him with an Unforgivable. Before Snape or himself could fire off any more spells, the pleasant voice of the Headmaster stopped them.
“Boys! Boys! May I ask what is going on here?” Professor Dumbledore gazed at them over the rims of his half-moon spectacles with a gently admonishing expression.
Professor Slughorn stepped forward and James suppressed a groan. Old Sluggy was the head of Slytherin house. He’d take Snape’s side for certain, leaving him with no witnesses. Never mind that he had fired off a jinx while Snape’s back was turned. He didn’t actually try to hit him. “Ah, Headmaster, I believe the boys were having a bit of a disagreement over who would get the last Chocolate Frog.”
“Indeed,” said the Headmaster. “And what were you doing, Horace?”
Slughorn offered up a charming smile. “Simply waiting to see if the young lads would settle things peacefully. I was about to step in myself before you arrived.”
“Of course, Horace,” Dumbledore said with a smile. James got the impression that, while Dumbledore didn’t necessarily believe Slughorn, he was amused by the man’s behavior. Wasn’t anyone angry that he’d tried…er…accidentally almost jinxed Snape?
“Now, boys,” the Headmaster said brightly, “as I know for a fact that there are no more Chocolate Frogs in the kitchens, we will have to settle this like gentlemen.”
James frowned. He wondered how exactly Professor Dumbledore would want them to go about doing that. A duel possibly, and he wasn’t too worried about that, but he had heard rumors about Snape before. There was the occasional whisper that the Slytherin knew curses that only seventh years were taught. How was he meant to go up against that? Of course, maybe Dumbledore would just have them play a game of Exploding Snap. He could do that.
“What would you like us to do, Headmaster,” Snape asked calmly. There was a glint in Snape’s eye that made James think that the boy probably wanted a chance to duel him and get even for the jinx.
“Why, I believe this calls for a Dirty Dozen show down.” The Headmaster looked far too pleased with himself and James was completely confused. Snape and Slughorn didn’t look much better.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” James said with an expectant look. “What exactly do we do for this…er…Dirty Dozen…”
“Dirty Dozen show down? Well, it’s actually a Muggle concept where they would call each other terrible names until one or the other became incensed and attacked. The one to “keep his cool”, so to speak, was the winner,” Dumbledore said, still smiling and oblivious to the fact that everyone was looking at him as though he were barmy.
That really didn’t sound too bad. James didn’t think he would have any problem insulting the slimy git who was denying Remus a bit of chocolate.
“Of course,” Dumbledore said, stroking his beard, “it would not be appropriate for me to encourage you to be hurtful to one another, so we’ll try this a different way. You’ll each be given a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans from which you’ll pull six beans each. Alternating back and forth, you’ll take turns eating one bean. The first of you to grimace, gag, or produce any form of gastric displays will lose and the other will win the frog.”
James smiled wickedly. He loved Every Flavor Beans. This was going to be a piece of cake. Of course, he didn’t take notice of a certain blond Slytherin eyeing him with a look of malice as Dumbledore gave them their boxes of beans.
Severus kept his face blank as Dumbledore gave him the box of candies. He wasn’t particularly fond of anything sweet aside from chocolate, but he was willing to suffer if he could show that arrogant prat Potter up. He cast a sidelong glance at Professor Slughorn and noticed Lucius standing back from the small crowd that had gathered with his wand in hand. The blond gave him a nearly imperceptible nod and Snape looked back at Potter with a malicious smirk. He drew out his six beans with confidence and placed the rest of the box on the punch table. Potter followed suit.
“Right then,” Dumbledore said with his benign smile. “Mr. Potter, I believe you should go first, considering your little display.”
Severus smirked as Potter gingerly picked up his first bean and placed it in his mouth. He chewed slowly and Severus could tell from the way the muscles in his cheeks twitched that he wanted desperately to at least wince. Considering Lucius’ vicious personality, he’d probably hexed the beans to taste like something similar to dragon dung. Potter didn’t have a chance.
It was his turn then. Severus grabbed a bean and popped it into his mouth, chewing quickly and swallowing just as fast. There was no point in letting it linger in his throat any longer than necessary. It was liver flavored, not a particularly pleasant taste, but nothing that was going to make him spew all over the Great Hall. Potter was glaring at him suspiciously and Severus simply smirked back. They could check his wand. He hadn’t done anything to the beans.
They carried on in this manner until they were each down to one bean. After his liver bean, Severus managed to get through the flavors of tripe, lutefisk, and sour milk and had been rewarded for his trouble by his fifth flavor being peppermint. Potter, on the other hand, was not fairing very well. He’d still managed to avoid making any sign of his discomfort beyond a twitch here and there, but a thin sheen of sweat was now on his brow. Severus was certain at this point that even if he lost it would be a gratifying experience. However, he wasn’t going to lose. Potter would crack on that last bean.
He watched eagerly as Potter placed his final bean in his mouth and began to chew. His effort lasted only a minute before he spat it out. “I give up! I quit! This is the most revolting, disgusting, and damaging experience of my life!”
Severus sighed and tried to appear benevolent in victory by not pointing out the Gryffindor’s relapse into melodrama. He turned towards the punch table, intending to go and claim his prize, only to be assaulted by the image of yet another Gryffindor attempting to snatch his Chocolate Frog! Luckily, Professor Slughorn saw the boy as well.
“Mr. Black,” the professor called out just as the Gryffindor began to open the piece of chocolate. He looked up startled. “I’m afraid that that particular article of chocolate already belongs to someone.”
“Oh,” Black said with his eyes wide. Severus met his gaze with an accusing glare, making it obvious just whose piece of candy the glutinous Gryffindork was trying to steal. “Sorry!”
Black hurried over and offered the Chocolate Frog up with a reluctant smile. Severus rolled his eyes and snatched it away. “Yes, well perhaps you should pay better attention to what’s going on around you.”
Black shrugged. “Whatever you say, Snape. Enjoy the frog.”
Severus opened up the candy then, fully intending to eat it right there in front of Potter to make him suffer a bit more. He took a bite and closed his eyes, allowing an expression of pleasure to cross his face just to make sure he hit the point home. That was when the laughter started.
James gazed sullenly at Snape as he began to unwrap the Chocolate Frog. The whole situation was miserable. Not only had he been beaten by a Slytherin, but now he didn’t have any chocolate for Remus. He sighed and just tried to comfort himself with the knowledge that he could always cast a strong Silencio at his friend if he wouldn’t let it drop.
He frowned as Sirius came to stand beside him. He couldn’t understand how he’d been so unlucky! Every one, every single bean had ended up tasting like earwax with each bean seeming worse than the first. It was all he could do not to vomit all over his own shoes.
He looked at Sirius, wondering if the other boy would laugh at him, but instead was gifted with a quick wink and Sirius jerking his head back towards Snape. James looked back at the Slytherin just as he took a bite of the frog. Before Snape had even finished chewing the mouthful of chocolate a wave of white light passed over him, leaving him dyed an atrocious shade of neon green. He was shining like an Irish, Muggle pub sign from the top of his head to the soles of his shoes, hair, robes, and all.
It took Snape a few moments to figure out what the laughter was all about, but when he did he drew his wand, coming straight for James, who was giggling uncontrollably. Professor Slughorn intercepted the boy and quickly ushered him from the Hall, presumably to head to the infirmary.
Sirius was smirking and called mockingly after Snape, “You should pay better attention to what’s going on around you!”
When James resumed a modicum of control, he looked at Sirius with a bright smile. “How did you do it?”
Sirius shrugged. “It was just a little jinx I found in a book over the summer. That was the first chance I’ve had to try it. I cast it on the frog while everyone was paying attention to the two of you dueling.”
James frowned. “But…why were you holding the frog? Isn’t everyone going to know that you did it now?”
“Maybe, but who’s to say it hadn’t been jinxed all along?” Sirius grinned. “At least this way no one can blame you. Besides, the prat had it coming. He was with the two Slytherins who hexed Lupin after Transfiguration.”
James chuckled and then quickly quieted down. “I still don’t have any chocolate for Remus. I suppose he’s going to throw quite the fit.”
Sirius ran a hand through his hair. “It’s sort of strange, if you ask me. Lupin seems so…mellow all the rest of the time.”
“I know and he really doesn’t get like this very often,’ James said quickly. “It’s just that nothing comes between that bloke and his chocolate.”
“Well, if you think he won’t mind turning in…I have a few Chocolate Frogs stashed away in my trunk,” Sirius offered with a somewhat insecure smile.
James beamed at him. “You’d do that?”
Sirius grinned happily. “Sure, James. What are friends for?”
While signaling for Remus to come and join them, James suddenly became quite serious again. “You know that he’s not just going to let this go.”
“Of course,” Sirius replied. “I swear that Slytherins stick closer together than Hufflepuffs if they’re after a common goal. I bet one of them jinxed your beans too.”
“Makes sense,” James said with a frown. “I pretty much figured the same thing, considering that every, blasted bean tasted like earwax! We’ll just have to beat them to it then.”
“You know what, Potter,” Sirius said, flinging an arm around James’ shoulders. “I like the way you think.”
“You think it’s a good idea then,” James asked eagerly.
“Don’t worry, Jamie-boy,” Sirius said with a cheeky grin. “I’m sure we’ll be able to think of something.”
Severus sat on an infirmary bed with his arms crossed over his chest. Madam Pomfrey had just informed him that he would have to remain colored that horrid parody of green for an entire week.
“The jinx has to ware off on its own, I’m afraid,” she had said in a stiff tone. She acted as though he’d asked to be dyed a color that would have made leprechauns swoon in ecstasy.
This was all Nott and Avery’s fault and they’d be hearing from him for certain. If the idiots hadn’t hexed Lupin then Potter never would have needed the bloody Chocolate Frog. Then there was Black, the imbecilic traitor who jinxed the piece of candy. He’d heard the older Slytherins going on about how Sirius Black was befouling his family’s good name by getting himself placed in Gryffindor. Not that Severus really gave a damn what the rest of Slytherin house thought of the Potter and Black. This was going to be about his own, personal revenge. This meant war.