Snape's Worst Class ------
At the start of his fourth year of teaching, Professor Snape found himself the target of the fifth-year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw combined Potions class. He wasn’t sure if it was caused by a single event, or if it was a decision made by the students during the summer, but he realized one September morning that the twenty students were organised against him.
No one was talking in the hallway outside of class. No one was talking during class.
All assignments were finished and handed in on time. And almost all were correct on every point.
There were no accidents in the cauldrons.
The class was...perfect.
It was the assignments that first annoyed him. They were all worded differently, but they had very few errors in concepts or spellings.
The tests were next. The class curve had been at "Acceptable" for the past three years. The students’ works were now "Outstanding".
Something was going on.
He kept his eye on them for weeks, but didn’t see anything he could take points for, nothing directly out of the ordinary that would explain the almost perfect papers and the high test scores. Nothing in the Great Hall, nothing in the corridors or library marked these students as different from any other group. None of the other teachers made any remark of things being out of the ordinary in their classes. (Not that he would admit to them that anything was amiss in his.)
It was time to get back into the habit of spying.
He followed them on the first Hogsmeade visit of the school year, staying far back enough to appear as just one of the staff members out for a walk to the village.
He stood outside in the lane and watched the general swirl of students, keeping his eye on the twenty, some of which were in Honeydukes, the usual first stop of the teen-agers.
Six of the fifth-years students bought something and hurried out of Honeydukes to the Owlery.
Snape followed them, slipping into the building, and then sliding immediately into a half-hidden opening between the outside wall and the wall of perches. He had been here many times years before; he remembered to do a Bubble-Head Charm to keep the dust, feathers, and dung out of his nose.
“All four, same address?” the postman was asking. “And two to St. Mungo's?”
The students paid him, and watched while he filled the orders.
“Contents?” the postman asked. Snape heard the answers and glowered.
While the postman tied the packages onto the owls, Snape carefully slipped out and went around to the other side of the building, casting a Scouring Charm on his robes. He scowled as he watched the birds fly away, the boxes swinging below them. The mystery of how their papers were so accurate was solved. Four boxes of crystallized pineapple to former potions Professor Slughorn, always eager to please for a price, and two boxes of the finest chocolates to St. Mungo’s Potions Master Jean Smyth, a soft touch and an all-around goody two-shoes.
Apparently the two had been proof-reading the students’ essays: he was being undermined. If he made a mistake in his grading, neither would ever let him forget it. He mulled over his options and decided he would give pop quizzes for the rest of the term.
For the first surprise test they got low scores. Then – somehow – they got flashcards to test themselves. At mealtimes, in the library, in the courtyards, whenever the students had free time, their cards flashed pictures, questions, and diagrams.
The students used them publicly around the other teachers, but never when it was just himself, where he could confiscate them without a public outcry. Around the students of the other two houses, the cards simply appeared to be ordinary face cards. He wished he had a set for the Slytherins, but they were not in any of the catalogues, and he was not going to lower himself to asking where they got them.
He suspected Flitwick had some hand in it, but his colleague made no indication of ownership, and instead fussed over the novelty. Snape wondered if the students were plastering them on the walls of their dormitories and common rooms. Before long, the class aced every exam.
Perhaps, he pondered, he could get them on a practical exercise.
He wracked his brain, thinking of what could possibly upset the class members the most while they were doing their best. Then he remembers a prank pulled by a Slytherin the previous year, and it involved…Dungbombs. However, Dungbombs took more than a week to prepare, and then they were too stationary for what he had in mind.
He wanted something that would make a noisy stink when it hit the right temperature at the right time. He searched for such a potion in the small library that he kept in the back of the classroom.
Oudre of the Awefull. Old English name, terrible spelling, but perfect potion - especially if all twenty cauldrons exploded at the same time. Or, one after another, like popcorn. Too bad he would be – where? – at a meeting? Of course! His face hurt from the unaccustomed grin, as he unconsciously rubbed his left arm.
After the twenty students silently filed in, sat down and sullenly faced him, it took every ounce of self-control to put and keep a scowl on his face.
“Class, here are the ingredients and directions of today’s lesson. After completing it, please write one foot of parchment identifying what the potion is, and its use or uses. Unfortunately, I have been summoned to a meeting, and will not be here during most of this class session. If I am not back at the end of class, please leave your paperwork on my desk. Any questions?”
Almost gleefully, he stormed out of the room, his robes billowing, and went to the staff room, where he sat, waiting and reading periodicals while keeping an eye on the clock.
An hour later, when he thought the potions might be almost ready (he longed to see them flustered), he returned to find the empty classroom clean and neat, and not smelling one mote different than he left it. On his desk was one foot of parchment, signed by all twenty students.
To: Professor Snape
Re: Classroom assignment
School regulations from the Hogwarts Student Code Book, page 3, section 9, paragraph 4 states: “No student shall prepare a potion in the absence of a member of the faculty or staff.”
So we didn’t.
We did however, comb through the Potions Class library by the storage and found that the potion's ingredients and procedures listed in today’s lesson is the ‘Oudre of the Awefull’, which is the liquid basis of what is commonly referred to as ‘Dungbomb’. The uses of the Oudre are as listed, but not limited to….
Twelve solid inches, with no spelling or grammatical errors. It even included fourteen uses he wasn’t even aware of, including “toenail fungus remover”. And every use was footnoted.
He had to grit his teeth: it was another “Outstanding” paper.
At the holidays, the Hufflepuffs hired Slughorn for extra classes; the Ravenclaws, Smyth. Snape learned about it in Slughorn’s annual Christmas letter, and Smyth actually had the nerve to invite him to her class. (He ignored the invitation, but used the parchment it was written on to practice his Incendio! spell.)
He missed all their gossip. He had no idea who was seeing whom, who dueled whom (and how the match ended), how anyone was doing in any other class, or if anyone of the class was on a Quidditch team until he was actually at the game. He missed the Gobstone semi-finals, sponsored by the fifth-year Hufflepuffs; he learned - too late! - the night of Ravenclaw Poetry Bash. (Not that he was into poetry, but it usually gave him a week of material for sneers, puns and rude comments.)
He longed for some sort of variety to the weekly set of perfectly brewed potions, the error-free essays, and the still and silent youth, who were busy stirring up mischief elsewhere....
When fifth-year Ravenclaws Josephine Miller and Belle Topper got into a cat-fight, and both ended up in the hospital wing with whiskers, tails, and fur, he learned about it at dinner a night later, after they’d been set back to right.
When Hufflepuffs Tim Cratchit shoved Richard Wilkins off the Astronomy Tower, he found out only because the Slytherins were reenacting the scene.
And when Tim’s twin, Belinda Cratchit, was given detention by Professor Sprout for growing some banned plants, her detention job was to scrub a greenhouse's glass walls with a toothbrush. The Hufflepuff miscreant bribed the caretaker, Filch, with a charmed toy Doxy that sang, "This is the Song that Never Ends", so he allowed her to use magic to finish the job. Snape discovered the giddy caretaker singing and dancing to its "music" in his office at midnight, and heard all the sordid details from him. ("Are you going to give her another detention?" Filch asked eagerly.)
Hufflepuff had a food fight on a Sunday night. Not a single dig he made the following Monday morning received anything more of a response than Jacob Marley (Ravenclaw) politely pointing out that they were there for their Potions class, and not to rehash hash. The students ignored Snape’s witty comeback.
Every Monday morning the twenty came, voiceless, soundless, made their potions, took their notes, sat for their exams, and left, like so many emotionless Inferi. The only noises were Snape’s quill as he scratched it across the papers he was grading, the squeak of his shoes as he roamed about the classroom, and the faint “dink, dink, dink” of sand falling through the hourglass. He put a partial Silencing Charm on himself when he realized all body sounds in the class were his and his alone, and when he made them, one or two students would give him a cold stare for so rudely interrupting the quiet. In any other class, someone would have snickered and lost a few house points, maybe even have received a detention, but the cold and frosty looks were beyond the pale.
Perhaps if the class had been in the afternoon, or maybe Friday, or even Thursday, he would have looked forward to it. But it was Monday morning, and the rest of the week was work, work, and more work.
He wished desperately for that class’s ready-to-publish papers as he swept red ink all over each and every sorry excuse of an essay, written by the students in the other classes.
He longed for the class’s quiet behaviour when first-year Slytherin Rose Maylie threw her cauldron at Gryffindor Noah Claypole for something said two days earlier. (Ten points from Gryffindor for Claypole's failure to stop the cauldron. After class, Maylie was quietly assigned detention in the Hospital Wing, folding bandages.)
He compared the class’s discipline to that of the fourth-year Ravenclaw and Gryffindor combined class, when two students started a shouting match about sunstones or moonstones for a warming hand lotion, which somehow involved the rest of the class as it shifted into the topic of who snogged whose girlfriend at what tapestry, and then diverted into who stole whose paper in History of Magic class, and where did the notes go anyway? And there was something about chocolate frogs and mint crickets, but he missed what it was.
How he let the arguments go for so long, he really wasn’t sure, but he did secretly enjoy it. When the melee ended, most of the students were hoarse and a few in tears; each had zero points for the day, two feet of parchment make-up essay, and Saturday detention. It being a Hogsmeade weekend, it went over as well as could be expected. That Saturday, it was pouring rain. Everyone was outside, picking up litter and raking the grounds under his, Filch’s, and Professor McGonagall’s supervision. (Snape thought Sprout and Hagrid were too soft on students, and Filch wouldn’t - or couldn't - take a bribe with McGonagall standing next to him.)
He was a bit mortified, he lied to McGonagall, that he had not stopped the tiff when it started. Then he remembered that two feet of make-up essays meant forty feet of fourth-year Ravenclaw and Gryffindor jumbled garbage, forty feet of tedious paperwork for him. The joy was gone.
The day of the O.W.L. exams arrived.
“Amazing, Professor Snape,” said one of the examiners. “If I hadn’t administered the test myself, I would say that there was some foul play here, but each of these particular students breezed through; the most thoroughly prepared class I have ever seen! Why, not one of them broke a sweat during their individual oral exams! What an outstanding job you’ve done here – no pun intended, of course. I assume you were testing out some newfangled teaching method? Well done; I suggest you use it for all four houses next year.” The examiner smiled as he swept the top of his quill down the list he held. Snape could see that the Slytherin and Gryffindor grades were as abysmal as he thought they would be.
Snape could only glower. Never again would there be a class like this. His reputation of turning out top students was already ruined; next year’s O.W.L.s would be back to ordinary. This whole group could be in his N.E.W.T.s class next year. Would any of these students put up with him for another two years? Could he put up with them and their continued silent treatment?
The day of the Leaving Feast, Professor Snape was standing in the entrance of the Great Hall, staring at the hourglasses. He had decided on twenty points per student; two hundred for each house. Should the points be awarded for being the least disruptive, most productive, most obedient class he had ever had? Should the points simply be forgotten, a truce as it were, between students and teacher? Or should the points be taken away, for being twenty of the most insufferable, know-it-all prats ever!
Author's Notes: Beta-ed by jynx67 - thank you!
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