Albus Dumbledore sat at his desk, pondering the student in front of him. The bright red hair and pale freckled face placed him squarely in the Weasley family. When the boy refused to meet his gaze, he sighed.
“Ron,” he said gently. The boy lifted his head and gazed shamefully at the Headmaster. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
The boy opened his mouth to speak, when a cold angry voice came from the corner of the room.
“I’ve already explained what happened, Headmaster,” Snape practically spit out. Ron looked fearfully at Snape and started to tremble.
“Severus!” Dumbledore admonished. “Let the boy explain.”
Snape crossed his arms, annoyance flashing over his face as he glared silently at Ron.
Dumbledore turned his attention back to the boy. “Well, Ron?” he urged.
Ron eyed Professor Snape fearfully and then quietly answered. “I thought it would be funny to change the labels of Hermione’s potion bottles around.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Now why would you do that?” he asked, keeping his voice even.
Ron sat up straight and looked Dumbledore in the eyes. “Well, sir, here’s why. She’s always so bloody perfect and looking down her nose at me. So, I thought it would be funny to have her fail a Potions lesson, like I always do.” His voice broke at the end.
Dumbledore stroked his beard. “Did you not think about how dangerous that might be?”
“No, sir. I did not.” Ron hung his head waiting for the punishment that was sure to come.
Snape could not be silent any longer. “That’s because, Weasley, you never pay attention. How many times have I told you that mixing unknown ingredients is dangerous?” Snape’s eyes flashed.
“Lots of times, Professor,” Ron replied quietly, without looking up.
Dumbledore interrupted. “What exactly happened to Miss Granger?”
Snape’s gaze shifted towards the Headmaster, faltering a little.
“She turned blue,” Snape muttered softly.
“Well, I understand, Severus, that Miss Granger would be undeniably upset about her botched potion. But I meant what bodily harm, specifically, did Hermione suffer?”
Snape sighed and looked at the ceiling. “The bodily harm is that she literally turned blue. Her skin, fingernails, eyes, and even her hair are all blue.”
Dumbledore’s mouth twitched, but he kept his laughter under control. “Well, Mr. Weasley. I think you need to reorder all the potion bottles in Professor Snape’s lab, clean all the cauldrons, tables, and tools without using magic, and you also need to prepare written apologies to both Miss Granger and Professor Snape. Plus, I want to see you next Wednesday to see if you are complying with this punishment. Understand?”
Ron nodded, his eyes still downcast. “Yes, sir.”
“Then you may go.”
Ron jumped up quickly and ran out the door, barely stopping to say good-bye.
Once the boy had left, Dumbledore turned his attention to the seething man still standing in the corner. Sweeping his hand toward the now abandoned chair, he said, “Please have a seat, Severus.”
Snape stalked over to the chair and sat down stiffly. Glancing at the Headmaster, he managed to growl out one word, “Why?”
“It was a prank, Severus. No one was hurt, and I am sure that Mr. Weasley feels horrible.” His attentive eyes noticed the tense lines on the man’s face.
Snape’s mind flickered to a prank from his school days that was not so harmless. Why didn’t Dumbledore understand that these things only accelerated unless handled properly?
Standing, he excused himself. “If that is all, Albus, I must go clean up Weasley’s mess. I have a class in an hour.” Turning to go, he was stopped by Dumbledore’s voice.
“Severus, before you leave, I have a request. I need you to do a favor for me.”
Snape looked at him, astonished.
“A favor?” he sputtered.
“Yes. Serena Daniels should be arriving this evening on the Express, and I need you to pick her up and escort her back to the castle, please.” Seeing Severus’ peevish look, he added, “You’ve already met her and she might appreciate seeing a familiar face.”
Snape sneered, thinking that after their last meeting, his face was probably the last one that Serena wanted to see.
“I suppose I have no choice,” he replied stiffly. He turned and stormed out of the office.
Muttering to himself, he made his way down to the dungeons, cursing the infuriating new professor, and Dumbledore, for taking him away from his lab. Slamming the door to his classroom, he surveyed the mess that Weasley had made. He pushed the French woman out of his mind. Then, rolling up his sleeves, he pulled out his wand and started to clean up the chaos that one child had managed to make. No matter what he did, Severus’ mind kept going back to one single thought- that he would have to see that woman again very soon, and Severus wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about that.