Year One: The Seed
“Miss Davindra Collins?”
Snape’s eyes fell on a young girl who sat nearly half a head taller than her classmates. She was pale and thin with straight, thick hair the color of obsidian and unyielding, pale green eyes. Her back was straight and her arms were folded gracefully on top of the desk. The stare between them didn’t waver.
“Am I right in assuming you are related to Demelza Collins?”
He tried to look unimpressed when he spoke the name of a favorite Potions professor from his days at Hogwarts. Horace Slughorn held the position of Potions professor during Snape’s school years and for nearly fifty years in total, but he'd had a habit of overindulging in many things which often left him unfit to teach. The usual substitute was a Hogwarts alumnus who found her fame by creating amazingly complex potions while leading a very quiet and private life.
Where Slughorn had doted and fawned over the likes of Lily Evans, Madame Collins seemed to favor Snape, which did his young and battered ego good. Often he had wished that Slughorn would quit or be deemed unworthy of the job, so that Madame Collins could be hired in his place. If, indeed, this new first year was the offspring he suspected, Snape might have to be more on guard than he ever imagined to be in front of simpering eleven-year-olds.
The girl smiled coolly and replied, “Yes, she’s my grandmother.”
Snape broke the uncomfortable eye contact and paced across the room, holding his hands behind his back.
“Then I can safely state that your other grandmother is Lillyth Sparrow.”
“Yes, you can.” Her voice rang clear in the large room where every pair of eyes flitted between the unusual girl and Snape’s dark, towering form.
“Interesting.” Snape turned swiftly to face the class. “It seems we have… royalty in our presence, class.”
He had almost said ‘Mudblood royalty’ but stopped himself. Both Madame Collins and Madame Sparrow, despite being from long lines of supremely talented purebloods and revered in the wizarding world, had married Muggles. Both had also produced at least one Squib child. Cleverly though, the two women, probably spurred on by Madame Collins’ special interest and experience in love potions and matchmaking, had decided to pair their useless children together in hopes they would create something better. Snape gazed at the child before him and decided the plan had worked well. If this girl had a tenth of her grandmothers’ talent, she should excel in Potions.
The class had turned to stare at Davindra Collins in awe, though Snape was sure few actually knew who the women were he had named.
Davindra looked back at the class, making eye contact with each one briefly before looking to the next. She didn’t shrink nor blush at the gawking she was receiving, but seemed to dare them all to challenge her importance. One by one, the students all did look away, until she was the only one with her eyes not on the floor, a desk or the wall.
“But I’m sure Miss Collins realizes that there are no star pupils in this class, unless they earn that distinction with hard work, diligence, and astute observation.”
Again, she looked at him, into him, with no notice of the message he had wished to convey.
‘Haughty little wench,’ he thought. ‘We’ll see how smug she is before long.’
Through the fall and winter months, Davindra Collins repeatedly proved herself, almost effortlessly. Snape was careful to never show how impressed he was when she was the only one to properly crush snake fangs, or to boil daisy root into the right consistency or to understand the proper handling of monkshood.
But Snape could see that no one seemed to like her. Though she didn’t boast of her accomplishments, chide the other students for their failures or even project hostility, the other students kept their distance. It was as though her very presence was unsettling to those around her. He saw her attempt friendliness a few times: suggesting a lower flame on a cauldron so as not to scorch its contents, or offering some of her already prepared supplies to someone running behind. The ungrateful little sods would accept her help, but never pay her back with anything but a weak ‘thanks.’
He saw her walking alone, eating alone and studying alone. Rarely did he ever see anything but utter calm on her face. Only a few times did he catch a spark of disappointment when the group of fellow Ravenclaw girls moved when she sat down, or when no one would volunteer to partner with her. Snape would cringe inside, for he would remember similar times from his own youth. The pain of wanting to fit in, to be a part of the group, but feeling anger and loathing for those who would not accept him. In the end, he had just kept to himself rather than risk the continued disappointment.
He had to admit, though, that there was something almost unsettling about her. When she chose to really look at someone, she could make them squirm, even him. Severus Snape never squirmed. But this young girl had eyes that seemed to read through everything and everyone.
Sometimes, he would make the mistake of looking at her during class. It would appear she was paying rapt attention to every word he spoke, but on closer assessment, he would see that she wasn’t so much hearing him as she was reading him; she was studying him, perhaps to find his weakness or a way to deceive him. A small smile would play at her lips, and Snape would find he had lost his train of thought. He would cover it up by telling the class to read the next twenty pages in their books or assign homework.
Late in the day, right before the Christmas break, she came to his classroom. Her presence surprised him; he had simply turned and found her standing there, smiling curiously, her head cocked slightly to the side.
Wishing to conceal the fact she had startled him, he scowled down at her and folded his arms.
“Miss Collins. I trust there is good reason for this disturbance?”
“Yes, Professor,” she said, still smiling. “I have something for you.”
Snape’s scowl deepened. He detested students attempting to win favor with gifts.
“Are you trying to bribe me, Miss Collins? There is no need. You are far ahead of your classmates in your marks.”
She shook her head, the movement sending a ripple down her long hair and making her bangs flutter against her forehead.
“It’s a Christmas gift, sir, from my grandmother and me.”
“I can assure you it’s not necessary nor encouraged at Hogwarts.”
“Perhaps not.” Oddly enough, her eyes darted away from him, and her smile was almost shy. “But this is something that my grandmother told me you’d appreciate, Professor.”
Snape was intrigued. Madame Collins had been one of the few professors who had seemed to understand him and his ambitions, who had respected his hunger to obtain perfection in his potion-making. What could she believe he would want?
He held out his hand for whatever Davindra held behind her back.
She lay something heavy and smooth in his hand and then drew hers away. Left behind was a dark, teardrop-shaped object that nearly took up his palm.
“Is this what I think it is?” he asked suspiciously. “Is this really a floxenium dragon seed?”
He studied it more closely. It was a perfect specimen of a quality he had not been able to procure for many years.
“A purple spotted floxenium dragon seed,” Davindra added, her eyes nearly dancing with delight.
Snape held the seed up into the weak afternoon light at the dungeon windows. “The hull is unbroken, no cracks even. It’s still pliable.” He looked back at her. “You realize this is the key ingredient in some very intricate potions?”
“So I’m told.”
“Where did you get this?” he demanded, striding back to her.
His own personal stash consisted of a few dried grains of weak potency he had managed to barter for long ago. Since, he had used as little as possible, for it was uncertain when he could find more. Though there were substitutions, none gave the effect of real floxenium dragon seed.
“I got it from my grandmother,” she reiterated with a grin. “Where she got it from, one could only guess.”
“Yes.” He gazed at her through narrowed eyes. “I can imagine your grandmother has many sources.”
“Or she simply plucked it from a purple spotted floxenium dragon herself.”
Snape nearly spat out a laugh. “The only known living plant is...”
Forcing himself to remember they were talking about Madame Collins, it would not be of any surprise if she had managed to get access to that very plant.
“You must convey my deepest gratitude to your grandmother,” he said, regaining his normal, icy demeanor.
“I’m sure you’re very welcome, sir.”
A quiet pause followed, in which she continued to stare up at him, a light smile on her lips.
“Professor,” she began, breaking the silence, “I was actually hoping to get a bit of your time, after the holiday break.”
“So this was a bribe,” Snape said, his suspicions renewed.
Again she shook her head.
“No, you see, I’ve been doing some work on my own, from one of Grandmother’s textbooks, and sending owls back and forth has become rather tedious. She suggested that maybe you could give me some guidance since you would be familiar with the book I’m using, seeing as it’s one you were taught from. In third year, I believe.”
There was an honestly hopeful look in those normally cool and serene jade eyes.
“You’re using ‘Parlypoint’?” he asked, remembering the book that seemed ancient when he was a boy. “There are many potions in that book that the Ministry has since declared unsuitable for a child of your age to attempt. And many of the potions call for items not easily found anymore.”
Snape looked at the seed still in his hand, the scheme finally revealed. “Such as floxenium dragon seed.”
Again he narrowed his eyes and gave her his best cold smile. “My, you are the true offspring of Demelza Collins. Crafty and cunning to the core.”
“Shall I relay that as a compliment to my grandmother?” she asked innocently, her wide eyes sparkling mischievously.
‘I should report her bribery to Dumbledore immediately,’ Snape thought to himself. ‘But this could be beneficial in the end,’ another voice supplied.
Davindra stood and waited for his answer. She wanted something. Madame Collins wanted something. Snape contemplated the quandary momentarily.
Turning from her, he placed the seed in a box on a shelf and sat himself at his desk to continue some work he had thought would appear important.
“It’s best you be off, Miss Collins. The train waits for no one.”
She didn’t move. He could feel her stare sucking the breath from his body.
“We’ll discuss your extra project after you return from the holidays,” he quickly added to get rid of her.
He knew without looking that her smile had widened.
“Merry Christmas, Professor,” she said and walked from the room, closing the door behind her.
Snape did keep to his word to help Davindra with her studies after the New Year. However, it was with strict orders that none of her other classes would suffer from this side-project and that only Hogwarts-approved potions would be attempted. Mostly, she tackled second and third year level potions with his help.
The students around her begrudgingly began to accept that Davindra was an exceptional Potions pupil and actually began asking for her help. Even a few second and third years knew that asking her was quicker and easier help than rummaging through old books in the library themselves.
But some students also began to see her as Snape’s favorite. He hated to have anyone believe that he favored someone other than a student from his own house, Slytherin. Perhaps worst of all was that Davindra, herself, believed this and seemed to view their relationship not as simply teacher and student, but more as master and protégée. Her manner with him, especially when alone, was always familiar and casual, which made him endlessly uncomfortable. No amount of coldness on his part could break her placid approach to him.
Once, in a rather heated debate about the use of copper cauldrons versus cast iron cauldrons, he had grown so infuriated with her refusal to accept his knowledge and experience on the subject as superior to her own, that he actually reached out and grabbed a handful of her robe and pulled her up until they were nose to nose.
“Miss Collins,” he had hissed angrily. “I suggest that we drop this subject on the grounds that it could greatly affect your standing in my class if we continue.”
She had simply appeared amazed, her pale eyes widened in fascination, without the least bit of worry. That had enraged him all the more, so he dropped her and ordered her to stay well out of his sight and not to return until she had learned some manners.
The next day, she had come into his classroom shortly before dinner and attempted a mournful look. Her apology was beautifully worded; she felt ashamed for being disrespectful, and he could be assured it would never happen again, and if he felt the need to put her in detention she would willingly accept, if he would only give her another chance.
Snape had wanted to tell her he didn’t appreciate being mocked and that her acting skills were atrocious. He had also felt the overwhelming desire to smack her with the broad side of his wand.
But he had simply looked at her, raising an eyebrow to acknowledge her pitiful effort, and said she was excused.
With her hand on the door she had turned back, cocked her head and said, “Oh, Professor, I’ve started on the section with mists. I’ll have a few questions for you later.”
She smiled and left without waiting for his reply.
Snape was convinced six more years was going to be a very long time to deal with this child.