It was business as usual at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Every year at precisely the same time, on precisely the same day of the week, precisely the same people would gather in the same room for precisely the same reason; the first staff meeting of the year. It was as much a ritual as it was an odious necessity. For those involved there were certain occurrences that were expected to happen on the occasion.
First, the DADA Professor would never be in attendance. Second, most everyone else would gather early to gossip. Third, Severus Snape would never arrive until the exact time the meeting was to begin, always sat in the same spot, and would be quite grumpy if his usual place was unwittingly occupied. The entire staff would have been quite alarmed if these things simply didn't occur. It was the gauge of whether or not the term would start off on the right footing.
That year was turning out to be no different. Severus Snape swished into the meeting at a brisk pace and took his usual seat. Every year, that one being no exception, he chose not to speak with anyone else or otherwise engage in small talk. Not that anyone else was so inclined to speak with him either, as glares, snorts, and sarcastic comments were hardly endearing to the good folk of Hogwarts. That year, as every other, Severus glanced at Albus and they held eye contact. Whatever Severus expected to find in the gaze upset him as he set his face into a scowl. However, it was part of the ritual and therefore had to be observed.
It took roughly three years after the first time it happened for the other Professors to finally figure out what it meant. That one brief moment of eye contact was the Headmaster's way of informing Severus if he had been given the coveted DADA post for the year. Every year, despite the odds, Flitwick had a secret betting pool, and every year there was always at least one person who bet on Severus' chance of actually getting it. It didn't matter that the person who bet on Severus only did so because they drew that chance out of the Sorting Hat. They gleaned excitement where they could.
Rolanda Hooch was the unfortunate of the year. Considering that she also had the tact of a wet dishrag, she made the mistake of giving her commentary on the matter.
"Curses! Foiled again!" she said, while chuckling madly.
Her comment spurred a series of laughs around the room and Snape was watching. They tried to hush it up, but he knew. Oh, he knew, all right. Severus glanced around the room to see exactly who was participating in said laughter. Flitwick, Hooch, Sprout...all would find themselves on his 'list' for the year. At one time or another, they would need something, and well, they'd be sorry then, wouldn't they? Minerva held in her laugh, going for a smirk. He'd have to watch her for sure. 'Oh, how soon you've forgotten, Minerva!' Having Mrs. Norris chasing after her for two weeks after a nasty love potion incident apparently hadn't made much of a dent. Pince and Pomfrey knew better, having learned the hard way. 'Wise women, those two.' The others chose to play it safe as well. 'Ah, yes, they'd better, if they know what's good for them,' Severus thought darkly.
Looking at the glare and narrowed eyes that Severus sent in her direction, Sprout was the first to stop. She started to glance nervously at Flitwick and Hooch. Flitwick had the sense to catch on, but it took Sprout stepping on Hooch's foot to get her to stop her infernal cackling.
Albus chose that moment to officially start the meeting.
"Oh, I'm so glad to see all of you back for another year at Hogwarts! As you know, at the end of last year, we initiated some muggle teaching techniques as a little experiment. Once we review and share our experiences this morning, we're going to determine whether or not to continue this term," Albus began happily.
Severus snorted. 'Not if I can help it, old man,' he thought bitterly. It was too early in the morning to see that blasted twinkle in his opinion. Well, it was too early to see that twinkle anytime really. No, Severus did not like twinkles at all; or lemon drops, or his co- workers, or his students, or their parents, or small cute fuzzy animals, or foolish wand waving, or anything really. Well, maybe Old Ogden's because even he wasn't foolish enough not to make an exception for that.
"I do hope that this doesn't go the way of the team-building exercises that we tried during our staff retreat last year," Albus said sadly.
At Albus' words, everyone shot a glance at Severus, who sat there trying to look innocent. However, he fell short of his objective because he couldn't help smirking.
"What?" Severus queried lightly.
Everyone merely shook their heads.
"Or, the textbook selection committee fiasco of '91," Minerva added.
Everyone turned back to look at Severus again, who was looking at the ceiling to maintain his stoic expression and failing miserably.
"What about the Inter-House Sensitivity Training incident?" Flitwick contributed.
Everyone groaned. That one went horribly wrong. Another look at Severus revealed the man sporting a look of evil glee on his face.
"Yes, well, let us put the unfortunate past behind us and look to the future. As you all may know, the Muggles are years ahead of us when it comes to innovative teaching techniques," Albus began again. "We talked at length about instituting classroom management plans, putting up bulletin boards, hanging up class rules, and displaying student work, amongst other things. Now, it's time to see how your colleagues implemented these techniques in their own classes. Perhaps we can all learn something and take steps toward improving our individual teaching styles."
Everyone looked to Severus again when Albus said the words, 'improving our individual teaching styles.' It was all Severus could do to keep from rolling his eyes. 'Oh, why even bother stopping it?' he groused to himself. He rolled them and added a snort for good measure.
Albus set up a pensieve projector. At the end of the previous year, everyone had contributed their memories of the techniques they chose to implement. Not everyone had chosen to implement all of them, but in a surprise move, Severus had volunteered to do just that. Albus was especially interested to see if his Potions Master had turned over a new leaf. The fact that the man had volunteered for anything was a cause for hope in that respect.
Minerva knew this as well, but took a decidedly more skeptical view of the situation. Severus volunteering for anything wasn't a cause for hope; it was a cause for panic. The insufferable man had something up his sleeve, she was sure of it.
The lights dimmed and a projection screen appeared out of nowhere. Everyone was treated to inspiring scenes. McGonagall's colorful bulletin board, Flitwick's use of three positive interactions with a student for every negative interaction, Sprout's incentive chart, Hooch's high flying student of the week, all had everyone clapping and excited. Finally, it was time to view Severus' class. Albus enthusiastically introduced the next clip and made the announcement that Severus had taken on all of the techniques.
Everyone exchanged surprised glances. Severus' face gave nothing away. Confusion reigned until the clip started to play.
The screen showed the fourth year Slytherin-Gryffindor Double Potions class. That alone clued Minerva in to the fact that her hunch was right. Albus still had his twinkle. The poor man had no idea what was coming.
Snape's voice filled the room. Severus apparently had done his own voice-over to explain what was occurring.
"Three positive interactions for every negative."
"Potter! You've seemed to reach a new height with your ineptitude," the video Severus stated menacingly to his least favorite student.
"But, I didn't do anything, sir!" an outraged Potter retorted defensively.
"You are positively incompetent, positively pathetic, and positively hopeless at potions," Severus gleefully informed the young Gryffindor.
Video Potter looked momentarily confused.
"Are you positively sure, sir?"
"Ten points from Gryffindor for your cheek, Mr. Potter. Positive teacher/student interactions are apparently lost on you. But you can't say I didn't try." Severus sighed in a melodramatic manner.
The video Harry glared back at the video Snape. The video quickly cut to the next scene.
The clip showed a picture of a nice chart with little silver stars and student names listed. It was titled, Snape's Shining Stars.
"Longbottom! That's another cauldron. Take a star," Severus bellowed. It was said in the affronted air of one who was affronted quite frequently.
"Please, Professor Snape! I didn't mean to," a nervous Neville quickly countered. However, Severus cut him off.
"Come and get your star, Longbottom," Severus deadpanned in a monotone voice.
The video Snape held out a little silver sticker to Neville. The poor boy hesitantly made his way up to the front of the classroom and took the sticker out of Snape's waiting hand. He then marched over to the chart and put the star in a slot next to his name.
"How many is that for the week, Mr. Longbottom?" Severus queried in a bored tone.
"F-f-five, sir," Neville stuttered.
"You know what that means, don't you, Mr. Longbottom," a drawling Severus stated.
"Detention, sir?" Neville queried. The poor boy looked hopeless.
"Indeed. Do stay behind to set up the time," Severus responded.
The video Neville was close to tears as he trekked back to his seat.
"Class rules and consequences."
The video cut to a plain white chart in black letters.
Snape's Class Rule
Do whatever Professor Snape tells you to do.
If you don't follow this rule, then you will live to regret it.
"Mr. Weasley. What did I tell you to do not five minutes ago?" Severus queried in a dangerously silky tone.
"Not to breathe too loudly, sir," the young Gryffindor responded sullenly.
"So, did you, or did you not, break my class rule?" Severus asked lightly.
A red-faced Ron Weasley sighed loudly.
"Yes, Professor," the Gryffindor answered.
"And the consequences, Mr. Weasley?" Severus drawled, while raising an eye-brow.
"I will live to regret it, sir," Ron answered, certainly already regretting the unfortunate circumstances of Potions being a required class, if nothing else.
"Too right, you will. Five points from Gryffindor, for breathing too loudly, Mr. Weasley," a gleeful Severus informed his unfortunate charge.
The video Ron was visibly gritting his teeth as the video clip moved on to the next scene.
There was a large bulletin board that took up the entire back wall of Snape's classroom. It was covered in black and had a green and silver border lining the edges. It was divided into two sections. They were titled respectively, Snape's Dunderhead Of The Week and The Cauldron Of Shame, complete with a cardboard cauldron cutout.
"Well, Mr. Finnegan! It would seem that you've surpassed Mr. Longbottom this week in taking over his longstanding Dunderhead Of The Week title," Severus said in a mocking tone.
"Professor Snape! Please just give me detention," a frantic Seamus pleaded.
Seamus Finnegan was visibly panicked on the video. Neville looked extremely relieved.
"Come now, Mr. Finnegan! I'm sure being in the same house as Mr. Potter has given you a few pointers on how to handle being a celebrity," Severus glibly replied.
Snape picked up a camera from his desk.
"No Professor! Not the Hexing Hasselblad!" Seamus whimpered pitifully.
"No need to be camera shy, Mr. Finnegan," Severus answered, chuckling darkly. As Severus never chuckled, it was quite disconcerting enough by itself. The result sent all of the students, Slytherins included, into a frantic scramble for cover.
The video panned off of the scene and a loud explosion followed by screams was heard. The next scene showed a picture of Seamus Finnegan with a soot blackened face, singed eyebrows, and hair standing on end gracing the bulletin board.
"Miss Granger, I'm positively shocked! You've truly outdone yourself this time."
"Sir?" Hermione warily asked.
"Precisely, what did you not understand about writing a two-foot long parchment essay on the twelve uses of dragon's blood?" Severus quizzed the young swot.
"Um, Professor, I understood everything perfectly," the poor witch responded hesitantly.
"Sure of that are you?" Snape asked her dryly.
"Of course I'm sure, sir!" a scandalised Hermione responded loudly.
"Then why is your essay four-feet?" Severus asked gleefully.
"I found the topic fascinating and decided to expand my research," the unfortunate witch responded in her best know-it-all tone.
"Well, as it wasn't the assignment, I'm sorry to inform you that you received a D," Snape retorted. He didn't sound sorry in the least.
"A dreadful! You gave ME a dreadful?" the bushy-haired prefect said, her eyes round in disbelief.
Video Hermione looked as if she was going to explode, faint, throw a tantrum, have a nervous breakdown, any number of positively dreadful things.
"I think this little gem deserves a place of honor, don't you?" Severus said, obviously relishing the entire situation.
"No, Professor! Really. It's all right. I'll rewrite this essay. I CAN rewrite the essay can't I? I'll rewrite the essay. Yes, I'll rewrite the essay. I'll even understand if you then give me an E instead of an O. That's okay, isn't it?" Hermione asked, looking around wildly.
Video Hermione was hyperventilating. The poor girl looked as if her worst nightmare had come true. Video Snape made a show of walking over to the bulletin board and attaching the offending essay to the wall under the Cauldron Of Shame section.
"Shall I read it out loud so the whole class can enjoy the experience of a Granger essay?" Severus sadistically kept up the torturous parody he had set into motion.
"Nooo!" the Gryffindor girl screamed shrilly.
"Tsk! Don't be modest, Miss Granger, it doesn't suit you," Severus admonished.
"I'll rewrite the essay, Professor Snape. See? Look, I'm starting on it now. Yes, I'll rewrite the essay..." Hermione responded. The poor girl was obviously lost in her own nightmarish thoughts.
The video stopped with the last scene showing a frantic Hermione getting a quill and parchment out.
The lights came back on and the conjured screen disappeared. Everyone looked at each other and then to Snape who was busy examining his nails. Albus merely sat there, unmoving, looking to where the screen used to be, blinking repeatedly as if he wasn't quite sure of what he had just witnessed.
Minerva was the first to recover.
"Really, Severus! The Cauldron Of Shame?" she asked. She sounded appropriately scandalized.
Severus looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, that was particularly inspired, wasn't it?" He smirked.
Albus finally looked up. Minerva felt so bad for him. The poor man looked shell shocked.
Clearing his throat, Albus said, "Well, that was certainly... interesting." He paused briefly and shook his head. "All right, I suppose we'll need to vote on whether or not we want to continue...this." He stopped again.
Minerva took over.
"All in favor of continuing the Muggle teaching techniques?" she queried.
Severus raised his hand. He was the only one. He looked to his colleagues and shook his head in mock disgust.
"All opposed?" Minerva asked, whilst looking at the assembled group.
Everyone else, including Albus, raised their hands.
"Curses! Foiled again!" Severus said. He flashed his best evil smirk. He mentally added a 'mwahahaha!' for good measure. 'Oh, but I'm so very clever,' he thought gleefully to himself.
No sooner had Severus said his little piece, than Albus regained his voice and his twinkle.
'Not the twinkle!' Severus thought frantically. That blasted twinkle was its own omen of doom. Added with the saccharine disgusting sweetness of a lemon drop being popped into Albus' mouth, the resulting outcome would certainly be catastrophic.
"Well, this year, considering all of this Voldemort business, I felt we'd need some fun activities planned for the students. So, we're going to have a Halloween Ball, a Yule Ball, a Valentine's Ball, and a Leaving Feast Ball. And we all know that balls don't plan themselves," Albus began happily.
The man was twinkling madly now. Minerva started to brighten up and exchanged a knowing look with Filius. Severus had a terrible sense of foreboding.
"I was hoping to have a faculty member to sponsor a student committee that would help plan the festivities. I've already had students from all four
houses express an interest, so it wouldn't do to disappoint them now. Plus, I thought it would be especially nice to have some potions brewed for the occasions. You know, disguise potions for Halloween, temporary love philters for Valentine's Day, that sort of thing." Albus stopped and turned to Severus.
Severus was praying and hoping that his Dark Mark would burn, or Hagrid would let loose some creature, something, anything, before Albus finished completing his train of thought. 'Please, no,' he mentally pleaded.
"Severus, since you have been in such a voluntary mood lately, and we do need those potions, it would be perfect for you to take over the committee," Albus finished brightly.
'Too brightly,' in Severus' opinion. The man looked positively smug.
Minerva quickly asked, "All in favor?"
Everyone raised their hands; everyone except Severus, that was, which was a given by that point.
Hooch was chuckling again.
"All opposed?" Minerva asked smiling.
Severus stubbornly raised his hand, even though he knew it was useless.
"Splendid!" Albus twinkled brightly.
Hooch was about to fall out of her chair.
"Oh! Cauldron Of Shame, indeed. Eh, Severus?" She giggled maniacally.
Severus glared at her. Yes, he was thinking about making his 'list' a permanent thing instead of just clearing it out and starting over every year. Rolanda, Minerva, and Albus would be at the top. He folded his arms and waited for the meeting to end. He had some serious revenge to plot. He'd show them just what he could do with a cauldron. Yes, he knew all sorts of things to brew that would cow them all sufficiently. Severus sneered. 'Oh, yes, Rolanda. Laugh it up while you can. I'll show you the Cauldron Of Shame, all right. I'll show you all,' he thought sadistically and added another 'mwahahaha' for good measure.
Yes, it was business as usual at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The year was off to a great start.
Author's Note: I've had this little bunny hopping around in my brain for a while now. It had to get out. Please review and tell me what you think.