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An Education In Potions

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Severus Snape had been a very nervous boy when he'd first boarded the Hogwarts Express at eleven years old. He'd been excited at the idea of learning more magic than bits and pieces snatched during brief times with Mother or from turning through her books at night. Her selection was considerably more limited than the school, judging by his required book list, and Mother's focused almost entirely on potions, things which could become potions ingredients, the ways the changing seasons and astronomical alignments could affect potions, and painful spells for anyone who dared to interfere with your potions. He had hopes of learning other things, so when he could live in his own place, it wouldn't be small and dingy and always have odd smells combining unwashed laundry, stale beer, and the lingering fumes of potions.

His friend Lily Evans had also been there, which had helped. He was still nervous, and when he was nervous he became quiet and suspicious and more sarcastic. Lily said it made him look like he was glaring at the world. Severus responded by insisting that the world was full of far too many stupid people. Then he'd gone pale and felt cold, worried Lily would be angry at him for snapping at her and proving her right at the same time.

Lily had understood, and hadn't held it against him. There had been a few other people they'd met, some wanting to rile up or frighten the ‘wee little firsties' who hadn't shared Lily's understanding and forgiveness. Severus was quite certain far too many of them were also stupid, except for the ones who seemed like bullies, which was worse than simply stupid.

A pair of cousins, calling each other Jamie and Siri, had been particularly obnoxious, mocking him for his old robes and the nose he'd had the misfortune of inheriting, sharp and prominent and looking rather like those on some of the old marble busts of old Roman men. Severus hoped he'd grow into his nose, because it looked ridiculously large for an eleven year old – which didn't mean he wanted those obviously rich boys to taunt him about it! They'd taunted him about his robes, about his hair looking greasy, about his nose, about looking sullen and disagreeable and being a ‘useless waste of space'.

Lily had chased them out, one hand clutching the laces of her winter boots, which she was swinging about like a weapon. Watching her beat them about the head, shoulders and defensively raised arms with her boots was a thing of beauty. Severus hoped they'd keep the bloody lip and nose, and wind up with black eyes.

They'd been taken into a magnificent castle and waited to be sorted, and he'd learned that Siri was Serious – or perhaps Sirius like the star? – Black, and he'd been sorted into Gryffindor, which was the red house. He'd felt the defensive glare slide into place as Lily was sent to Gryffindor. He'd eventually gone to Slytherin, and he'd felt more nervous and prickly with every step. Jamie turned out to be James Potter, who also went to the red house. Severus was immediately concerned for Lily, trapped in a dorm with the two boys she'd already tangled with on the train. He was pleased they both still had bruises.

By the time they went to their dorms in the dungeon, Severus was certain half the Slytherin house hated him already, or would for his muggle father or the family's limited funds. He'd been even more defensive and irritable than normal, and snapped at twelve different members of his new house and reduced a third year to tears. Not an auspicious beginning… It gave Severus low expectations for life at this school, though at least he'd be away from his father.

Severus was proven correct in his estimates. He had no friends in Slytherin, and had been put into a small room with two other first year boys. He'd established a neutral near-silence with Julian Vespasian, who spoke fluent Italian and Latin, and felt the majority of churches were lead by hypocrites. On the other hand, Andrew Cobble was an ignorant, barely-literate ham-fisted Neanderthal who couldn't read without moving his lips and had only the vaguest ideas of manners or hygiene. Cobble had spent most of the first three days trying to insult Vespasian and Snape both, though the greatest challenge to his insults was deciphering the thick Cockney accent.

By the end of the first month, Severus had concluded as a rule the Hufflepuffs were far too cheerful and should be avoided. The Ravenclaws would be a constant source of academic competition, even if half of them had no idea what to do with a bit of information once they had it. The Gryffindors… emotional, loud, impulsive, far too likely to follow senseless athletics – who cared about quidditch or broomstick racing? – and less likely to study or use sense in life. It made him fear for Lily's future. As for too many of the Slytherins, they seemed to be caught up in games of politics and schemes to benefit with minimal work, and focused on those rather than on learning.

Why were so many people such dunderheads?

When Potter and Black began to show a fondness for pranks, Severus felt irritation and relief. Irritation because he'd never understood the point of pranks, seeing them as a waste of time and embarrassing for the one hit by them. And relief, because it meant they might not be as nasty to Lily as he'd feared. Though as the months passed, he started to realize their pranks disrupted studies and could be used to cause problems for people they couldn't affect with more respectable methods, and the teachers just dismissed their behavior as harmless pranks, and boys trying to stave away boredom. Potter and Black must have been two of the most bored people in the United Kingdom, and it made him wonder how they managed their class work.

Severus had plenty of time for his own studies. Lily remained his only friend, though she'd made several new friends, particularly a pair of cousins named Alice Sedgewick and Victoria Catchborough. He sometimes studied with his room-mate Julian, though neither of them considered the other a close friend. It took until November to convince Slytherin Head of House Professor Slughorn to move Cobble out of their room, and that only happened after Cobble touched a potions experiment Severus had going – one he'd told both of his room-mates not to touch and placed signs with large, dark print ‘potions experiment – do not touch!' Cobble was expected to be released from St Mungo's around New Years, and he would be switching rooms with Thomas Yaxley, quiet, observant, and Yaxley's boots were more intelligent than Cobble.

Yaxley's comment about his interactions with the rest of the house were to suggest since he lacked impressive family connections, his choices were to fade into the background, collect enough blackmail to be left alone, or become useful enough for his family background to not matter. Yaxley didn't mention the fourth option, of making yourself useful and convenient enough to someone with power to only need to worry about their whims and tastes rather than those of everyone.

Severus knew full well he was too sarcastic and not nearly skilled enough at remaining silent in the face of dunderheaded stupidity to fade into the background. Nor was he anywhere near submissive enough or good enough at pretense to take the fourth option, which was admittedly often more distasteful for the girls. He would just have to observe for potentially useful information while working to become skilled enough to stay unbothered.

And then Potter and Black started doing more pranks, many of their efforts aimed at the Slytherins. It became worse when a pair of Weasleys – Martin and Philip – took this as a challenge. In theory, the teachers should have reined them in, kept their pranks from interfering with the learning and studies of other students. Professor McGonagall had too much to do to properly track and rein in her Gryffindors. It made Severus wonder how it was even allowed for someone to teach one of the core classes and be a Head of House and be Deputy Headmistress, because she was really too busy to give enough attention to any of those positions. Professor Slughorn was too busy with his cultivation of potentially useful social contacts, like the future heads of House Potter and Black, to defend his less important students.

Headmaster Dumbledore dismissed the whole thing as ‘amusing, light-hearted pranks'. Or maybe that should have been Light-hearted, because it was obvious to many of the Slytherins Headmaster Dumbledore favored the traditionally Light families, and thought they could never do anything with intent to cause harm – harming someone wasn't Light, therefore they couldn't intend to do that. And he seemed to view Light as interchangeable with Good and Dark as interchangeable with Evil, which was not only a vast oversimplification of current Ministry classifications but also wrong. While there had been many evil people from traditionally Dark families, there had also been evil people from Light families.

Severus was trying to learn exactly what made someone Dark or Light anyhow. It assuredly wasn't a question of good or evil. Nor was it a matter of how nice a person might be, because one of the nicest, friendliest people Severus had ever met was a third year Hufflepuff named Persephone Alektios, from an old Greek family long associated with the Dark. She was appallingly friendly, excelled at Herbology, and while absent-minded and for some reason obsessed with pomegranates, she was just… nice. She had the sort of features which weren't quite pretty, but suggested she would be quite striking once she'd grown into her nose and firm brows, like some great queen of antiquity.

On the other hand, the Potter and Weasley families were counted as Light, and both seemed obsessed with pranks and quidditch, though it might be just a bit biased to judge by the ones at school. Severus refused to accept quidditch or pranks as a basis for classifying someone as Light or Dark. He'd been listing the families at school, identifying which were associated with Light or Dark and trying to make sense of it all.

Lily hadn't laughed at his confusion, sharing it herself. Gryffindor didn't give any more of an explanation of Light and Dark than Slytherin had. The question intrigued her, and she had volunteered to add to his lists as much as she could.

By his third year, he'd secured a place of pride among the Slytherins, consistently top in his year in Potions and within the top five for Defense. He'd even regularly been assisting students from fourth and fifth year for their potions, generally willing to help in exchange for potions ingredients, or new spells outside of the curriculum, or useful information regarding potions. More of them were willing to help against Potter and Black, mostly to preserve their potions tutor rather than any sense of affection. He'd found himself in a pattern of mutual loathing mixed with respect for their skills with Potter and Black, pure loathing for their year-mate Pettigrew, and a confused dislike for Lupin. Lupin didn't participate as much, but not once did Severus see the taller boy even try to stop Potter and Black.

He and Lily had a few ideas about the Dark-Light question, slowly pieced together over the years. Many of the Darker families traced back to Celtic or Nordic roots, and had some traditions involving natural cycles and giving back to the lands. Some even admitted perhaps previous generations had sacrificed birds, rabbits or swine at important dates, though of course such things were in the past. Rumors that any family had ever sacrificed anything more were all just malicious slander best not repeated. Light families seemed to trace more commonly to Roman or Frankish roots, and seemed more about directing things according to human will.

Lily's first reaction had been confusion. After all, so many philosophers and fiction writers in the muggle world, thought some of the philosophers were from before the Statutes of Secrecy and the related muggle-magical separation, insisted the effort to bend nature and others' behavior to their own will was of the Dark, while the Light was all about compassion and forgiveness and the expanse of knowledge. Severus had understood her confusion, sharing it himself. Except many of the Celtic and Nordic traditions involving the natural cycles included blood sacrifice. While there were extensive arguments over just how much of those traditions remained in face of the growing official stance discouraging any sort of blood sacrifice or use in rituals or potions, the simple fact was most families had been identified as Light or Dark centuries ago and remained counted in the same category now.

Such a strangely simple thing to separate someone over. Centuries-ago Grandpa's willingness to ritually kill an animal at solstice forever marking a family as ‘Dark'… How was slaughtering and then eating an animal at solstice that much different from being willing to kill and eat the same animal at some date of no astronomical significance? How was keeping a family unified through a meal of grilled rabbits at a celebration on the spring equinox any worse than a meal involving hams and abundant sweets during the spring holiday called Easter?

Lily was right, magical people were strange folk.

End part 1.

Never the most social of people, Severus remained rather limited in his interactions during his years at Hogwarts. Some of the other Slytherins taught him bits and pieces of magical tradition in exchange for potions tutoring. He'd stabilized into reasonably polite study arrangements with a few Ravenclaws, some of which involved exchanges of knowledge and others just the occasional deciphering of various hand-written texts. Severus was much better at reading anything described as angular-spiky, Glorianna Brabbant excelled at open-loopy handwriting, Oliver Kinsey did well with angular-blocky, and a baffling Ravenclaw called Geminus Powell who refused to use he or she for personal references was the unquestioned expert at deciphering left handed scrawling, being a lefty theirself. He wasn't afraid to admit his first impossible crush was on Persephone Alektios, and he was quietly distraught when she left after taking her OWLs, with rumors about having an arranged marriage in Greece.

Through it all, Lily was his best friend. Quite a few other Slytherins objected to this, citing her lack of heritage. Calling her pushy and temperamental and an intruder. Calling her, like others of muggle parentage, a mud-blood. Julian said he'd lost count of the times Severus' friend Lily Evans had fought with someone for one of her causes or after being insulted. Severus would nod, but he could tell the exact number of times.

Third year, with the beginnings of elective classes, had made the class-work more difficult. Severus learned most of the wanded classes considered the first two years ideal for a basis in theory, with the later years good for increasing magical use and demand, which would have another sharp increase if they took the classes at the NEWT preparatory level. Severus had opted for Arithmancy, Runes, and Healing with semester classes in Household Magic, Household Maintenance and Home Modification, and the options to gain additional languages at a rate of one per month for the rest of his time at Hogwarts or until Madame Pomphrey determined he needed to change his language-acquisition schedule.

It also marked James Potter deciding he wanted Lily to date him. This meant his hostility towards Severus increased, viewing Severus Snape as a rival for Lily's affections. Lily, naturally, wanted nothing to do with dating James Potter. She even called him an arrogant toe-rag, a braggart, and a publicity-seeking show-off with delusions of merit.

Though only to himself, Severus would admit that Potter did possess a few areas of talent. He was quite talented at flying, such that even the Slytherins who hated his family and behavior admitted he could fly. Potter was also quite talented at Defense and Transfiguration, such that if he ever put the folly of pranks behind him, he could do amazing things. Except Potter was too determined to have what he considered fun.

Severus had no intention of telling anyone how James Potter's determined, if inept, pursuit of Lily had caused him to see her in such a way as well. And Lily was wonderful… Lily was his second crush. Possibly third if one counted an impossible wistfulness for one of the HolyHead Harpies chasers, Amanda Stratford. But Severus didn't count an impossible tangle of lust and admiration for someone not only a decade older but whom he'd never even seen in person as the same thing at all.

Tensions in the Slytherin dorms only increased. More and more students were complaining about the many mud-bloods and how mud-bloods had no respect for old traditions. How they kept bringing in their muggle clothing and muggle holidays and muggle food, talking about their muggle ways and wanting everyone to act just like muggles, but with wands. Some had even started muttering about how mud-bloods should be put back in their place, or dealt with. Fights with spells and occasionally knives were becoming more common.

Lily and a Hufflepuff named Aaron Galackowitz had managed to create, just before winter break in their fifth year, a runic project which would enable a muggle electrical device to run on ambient magic. Their proof of concept for their runic array had been a muggle record player, and there had coincidentally been more than a few muggle records on hand. They'd started gently, with their in-class demonstration being a record of Beethoven's compositions, followed by a second record with classical orchestra pieces. Then, after class they'd began to play the Beatles, and Celtic folk songs and Ziggy Stardust. They'd played Queen and Led Zepplin. Few of the magically raised had any idea muggle music could sound like that.

Someone had managed to get copies of the runic array onto other record players. Severus still thought there had been a few special plants added to some of the snacks served at the resulting Hufflepuff party, the smoke escaping from beneath their door had been particularly pungent. The Ravenclaws had started with an assortment of classical instrumental pieces and somehow wound up with things involving loud guitars and shouting with a great many drums. Gryffindor had started into the debate of Beatles or Elvis, with no clear winner. And a riot had broken out in the Slytherin dorm when someone had played Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, resulting in almost thirty students needing treatment from Madam Pomphrey.

He'd have thought that was much more amusing if he hadn't wound up with a five inch slice along the bottom of his left arm and a cracked jaw from the brawling. And he had no intention of ever telling anyone how he'd bitten the arm of the person trying to smash him against the floor.

For that matter, it was a small miracle he managed to remember anything from the second half of his fifth year, what with the frantic preparations for OWLs, the rampant rumors, the increasing hostilities, and the recurrent loud music at all sorts of unpredictable times, including once at three in the bloody morning. These all contributed to the increasingly frequent fights among Slytherins, with spells and knives and fists and occasionally flung books and chairs used as weapons.

Several people were almost certain Remus Lupin was an unregistered werewolf, including Glorianna Brabbant and Thomas Yaxley. Though a few in Slytherin, among them that idiot Cobble, had fallen in with the absurd theory proposed by Malcom MacMillan and his girlfriend Hannah Trancy about Lupin really being a girl, and ‘she' dating at least one if not more of ‘her' room-mates to compel them to keep ‘her' secret. Severus alternated between thinking even Dumbledore wouldn't be mad enough to think a werewolf would be safe at a boarding school and thinking he'd consider the whole thing quite amusing so long as none of his favored students were harmed.

Her dorm-mate Lydia LeStrange was convinced Alecto Carrow had been pregnant in early February, but had managed somehow to miscarry before it would become obvious. As Alecto Carrow wasn't known to be involved with anyone, and in fact her brother Amycus was almost rabidly over-protective of her, this theory raised more than a few eyebrows.

One of the seventh-year Weasleys over in Gryffindor had quite publicly asked his girlfriend, the shy, dark-complected Priyana Muniyappa, to marry him after Gryffindor's last quidditch game. The other had asked a muggle-born Hufflepuff named Natalie Reed. Muniyappa had accepted her Weasley, Severus had no idea if the Hufflepuff had done the same.

He didn't have much in the way of clear memories during OWL exam week. A few fragments of a food-fight starting between Potter, Black and a pair of Weasleys, which had grown to include most of the Gryffindors and part of the Hufflepuffs. Black had, quite gloriously, wound up with a pitcher of cream spilling all over his face. A pair of the sixth year Slytherins – Willahelm Langley and Ruben de Aquitaine - had managed a partial duel in the common room the day he'd taken his Charms OWL, and both had been dragged away to the hospital wing. And a third year Ravenclaw from the Lovegood family had wound up in a screaming match with a Gryffindor about whether or not Tyranolagomorpha were real or just made-up tosh.

Except by the time he made his way onto the train to go back to King's Cross in London, there were rumors he'd called Lily… but he'd would never call her that. And he couldn't remember any angry words with Lily even nearby.

He'd searched the train for her, desperate to find Lily and learn what had started those ugly rumors. She was in a compartment near the back of the train, with her friend Alice Sedgewick. "Lily? I… there were people saying… the rumors don't make any sense!"

"Why should she even talk to you?" Alice glared at him.

Her glare was a good deal more intense than he recalled and normal. Either her boyfriend Frank Longbottom had been involved in another horrendous exchange of name-puns with Black or she was mad at him.

"I have known Lily for years. And I have very little firm idea of what happened this past week. Such uncertainty is quite unsettling," he snapped.

"You don't remember?" Lily's voice had a tremor. "Look me in the eyes, Sev."

For several long moments, Lily stared into his eyes, her frown changing from suspicion to dismay. "How many spells have you been hit with in the last week? What's been going on down in the dungeon?"

"Too many, and nothing I want to talk about," Severus slumped, his forehead resting against Lily's. "You have no idea how many morons are blathering on about how their ancestry makes them superior, and how they want to put the… put those they consider unworthy in their place. But they've got it all wrong, they have no idea who is or isn't worthy, and it isn't all about ancestry. Though that seems to help a good deal with money. Money clearly matters a great deal in either world."

They'd had a long, awkward talk, involving house rivalries, blood prejudice, the frequent pureblood incompetence, and an astonishing variety of jinxes, hexes and curses. Worse, their long talk had involved discussing their feelings. And then they hatched out a plan, which they promptly swore Alice to secrecy concerning, before involving her with later revisions. He would give Lily information he learned among the snake-pit of the Slytherin dorms. Lily would get the information to Alice, who had a number of relatives in law enforcement. Criminals might be dealt with and plans thrown into disarray. There was a long history of anonymous tips, and an even longer history of people wanting to stay anonymous to avoid the retaliation of being labeled a tattle-tale or an informant, or even the nastier term spy.

But for it to work, he and Lily had to maintain an appearance of continuing friction and anger. The past few years had vastly improved his silent glare, and Lily had improved menacing temperamental snarls to an art. It hurt to glare and stalk – Severus Snape did not stomp like a petulant child – away from Lily. Far too much of their future communication would be by way of letters transported by a particularly bland looking owl.

Lily was worth the trouble. He just hoped they could accomplish enough to make the charade worth it.

End part 2.

His sixth year was dreadful. Pretending a quiet indifference or angry scowl at Lily in the halls hurt. Not partnering with her for Potions or Herbology stung, like he'd been asked to work without both hands, or someone had switched one of them for a foot instead. No longer being able to sit beside her in the library to ask about the latest tricky bit in Charms.

No longer arguing about the use of mud-blood in the Slytherin Common room, though he made a point of being too caught up in his own works to be expected to join any of the discussions. He'd only had to threaten dismemberment twice, maiming half a dozen times, and being cut for fresh wizard blood just over thirty times during the school year. Quite an improvement from what little he could recall of his fifth year.

Rumors were spreading about a mysterious wizard called Lord Voldemort. Nobody seemed quite certain where he was from, perhaps somewhere on the Continent? He seemed to want to make big changes in political directions, and was gathering a lot of support from Dark families, or traditionalists. He talked about stopping the influx of muggle ideas, stopping the erosions of traditions, too often done with the excuse of easing the way into magical society for the muggle-born.

Not that muggle-born were really allowed to properly join magical society. Menial jobs as clerks and secretaries, register-minders or back-room production crew for stores, an assortment of housekeeping for those who couldn't afford house-elves, or marrying someone, likely someone of mixed heritage or one of the assorted poor full-bloods, the sort who didn't make much fuss over being ‘pure-blood' for the requisite seven generations because they hadn't the coin to make a fuss with. Sometimes they could manage being private tutors. Or an assortment of illegal jobs, none of which Severus or Lily heard more than bare hints. Just enough to know there were a large number of illegal occupations, and most of those didn't care about your ancestry.

There were only two things close to a benefit. Firstly, Potter wasn't getting any closer to Lily than he could be. In fact, while Severus didn't know the details, Potter had apparently asked in just the wrong way at just the wrong time and wound up in the hospital wing instead of Transfiguration. Severus suspected Lily might have tried to write to Petunia again – her sister had potential and intelligence, but could be such a spiteful… there were no polite words, though he knew quite a few impolite ones. Secondly, Thomas Yaxley had managed to arrange an introduction to a Potions Master, Phinius Ulster. They'd exchanged a number of letters where the Potions Master was obviously testing his understanding of the field, and it was starting to look like he might be able to apprentice under Master Ulster after he graduated from Hogwarts.

Severus, like many students, left the castle over the holiday break, which he knew older magical tradition had called Yule, and had been grudgingly changed to ‘winter holiday break' on the official documents ten years after Dumbledore became Headmaster. Another decade and it had started to be spoken of as ‘the Christmas holiday break', in reference to the holiday known to most of the muggle-familiar students. This was exactly the sort of eroding traditions many of the magicals were upset about, and Dumbledore was one of the leading figures.

Severus just didn't understand why the Headmaster would seek to erode magical tradition so thoroughly. The Dumbledore family was a long established magical name, going back at least six centuries, though the Headmaster, his surviving brother – and hadn't that been a surprise, the Headmaster having family! – and a deceased sister, were counted as half-bloods, as their mother had been either muggle-born or the daughter of a muggle-born. Information was a bit difficult to discreetly find, though the Dumbledore family had made their income from bees, selling honey and beeswax, as well as bee stingers, wings and antennae as potions ingredients. The Dumbledore apiary had been sold shortly after the death of Percival Dumbledore, father of Albus, Aberforth, and Ariana Dumbledore.

That winter break, though Severus hadn't intended to celebrate any holiday, regardless of name or tradition, he had a meeting with Potions Master Ulster. The man had been quite tall and rather thin, with wisps of ash-grey hair and eyes scarcely any darker. They had talked in person, and Severus had found the man's almost whispery voice, which he'd explained as damaged by decades of potions fumes. After several hours of discussion, Severus had signed a contract, where so long as he received at least an Exceeds Expectations for his potions NEWT as well as three other passing NEWT scores, he would become Master Ulster's apprentice until he made his Mastery, or twenty years, whichever occurred first. As an additional clause, traditionally used to ensure Potions Masters got off to a good start, Potions Master Ulster would have the right to negotiate Severus' first job as a Potions Master.

Such an opportunity seemed almost too good to be true. Everything in the contract seemed in order, there were no hidden clauses… maybe Severus was just too suspicious. Maybe for once, things were going in his favor.

Things seemed to be going almost too well for the rest of sixth year. Oh, the teachers piled homework and quizzes on them as if they expected a sudden demand from the Ministry that each student be ready for their NEWT exams the next Monday. Fighting from stress and politics and blasted hormones more common than Severus could ever remember, and Slughorn was who-knew-where doing anything but deal with the mess as a Head of House should. Hardly two days could pass without someone needing to see Madam Pomphrey, and far too few of those visits were for the witches' biology being unkind. From what his study partners said, Ravenclaw was in a similar state of high tension, with more stress induced hysterics and fewer spell-fights, and quite a few needing medical assistance for over-use of wit-sharpening potions, sleep-replacers, pepper-up from studying by drafty windows, or study-accidents. A few had even managed to overdose on calming potions in an effort to avoid hysterics.

During one of his visits to the infirmary, the result of not getting behind solid cover fast enough when the quidditch team started arguing again on how and why they'd lost to Hufflepuff, he'd chatted with Madam Pomphrey about the mood of the castle. While he remembered things getting tougher after the holidays, this year seemed more intense than previous years.

Apparently, the various political maneuverings of the traditionalists and the progressives and whatever name they were using for Lord Voldemort and the moderates which meant Dumbledore's faction were becoming more heated. Which meant politicians and lowly ministry employees were feeling the pressure, and sharing it with their families, including children off at boarding schools. So this year was worse, though the problems had always been there. It was quite unfortunate for all the students, especially the youngest, who weren't ready to defend themselves from the pressures and dangers.

It was enough to give him moments of feeling sorry for the youngest students. Those moments didn't last long, but they did make brief, uncomfortable appearances.

Seventh year seemed to rush past, in a blur of secret brawls and walking on in too many people snatching passionate moments – often with questionable people in poorly chosen locations. No doubt another reaction to all the pressure and stress. Over the course of the year, almost a dozen girls from the fifth, sixth, or seventh years would be reported as ‘suffering from lucinam iustosque.' A consultation with the Latin dictionary helped Severus figure out was a natural consequence of their poorly chosen rendezvous with their paramours. A few more managed to be fortunate enough to time their few days to a few weeks away from school with the winter break.

Severus had no idea what happened to the resulting infants, or if in fact any of them were delivered and alive, or if some might have… dealt with matters using less wholesome methods. He had too many other things on his mind to worry about the possible illegal dealings of in at least two cases influential families, a multitude of hormonal teenagers, a probably comparable multitude of unhappy adult relatives, questionable medical habits, and the potential whereabouts of infants. Infants were certain to be even more frustrating than first year students. He had school work to focus on. He had to fend off the amorous advances of Mircalla Le Fanu whom he was certain was only trying to make the young wizard her family wanted her to marry go away, since he was almost certain her true affections were reserved for a witch in Ravenclaw, Nora Brunswick. He was continuing his correspondence with Master Ulster as well as working on ideas for his Mastery research.

And he'd found a minor spell to disguise his handwriting to send letters to Alice by way of Lily. Most of them had rumors, or names which bore further investigation. A few had some of the bits and pieces of plotting he'd overheard, in one case a plot to rape an heiress in Hufflepuff, thus forcing her to wed someone who would take control of her inheritance, and in another to poison the Ravenclaw seeker with what could easily have been a fatal dose.

While Severus felt far too many people were making poor choices for liaisons and partners, who was he to argue with their right to choose? But the idea of rape offended him on deep levels, in addition to breaking several of the oldest magical laws and traditions. If the rumors were correct, such actions would make the instigator or instigators – in fact, everyone but the victim – incapable of several acts of higher magic, more than a few rituals, and incapable of making a whole category of healing potions. And while he knew some people thought a great deal of Quidditch, he hardly thought who won a game was worth killing over, especially at a school.

He had no idea what investigations or results may have come from the majority of the rumors he passed on to Lily to give to Alice. But the would-be poisoner vanished, with only a flurry of rumors giving eleven different ideas as to what may have happened. The would-be rapist was carted away by a pair of Aurors, and sported several highly visible bruises. The Daily Prophet later reported he'd been found guilty of plotting line-theft and intended rape, though there was insufficient evidence to determine if he planned to kill his near-father-in-law and intended victim/bride, neither of whom were named for their protection. For his crimes, the would-be rapist was to have his magic bound and to be cast out of the magical United Kingdom, with a claim that he would be monitored to prevent future violations of the laws.

Severus wondered if anyone had thought to obliviate the scum before sending him away. Binding his magic would hardly enforce proper behavior. Removing magic as a method would limit his options for causing problems, but it wouldn't stop them all, and it still wouldn't prevent him from attempting any further assault. It would only limit his list of potential victims by excluding those in possession of magic and training.

He would be so pleased to graduate Hogwarts. Then he could leave all the dunderheaded drama and stupidity behind and fling himself into a study of potions. His growing sense of caution had prompted him to begin corresponding with some of the older students he'd been on tolerable terms with, so the idea of him sending and perhaps receiving letters became common-place, and not a reason for suspicion at all. Most of these people were some of the Ravenclaws he'd studied with, or a few individuals who'd mentioned family connections to sources for potions ingredients. All perfectly understandable for his interests… and maintaining a connection and civil terms over letters was far easier than speaking in person.

Unfortunately, Lily returned from winter break looking horrible. She wasn't sleeping well, based on the dark circles under her eyes and waxy skin, as well as Alice's concern. She wasn't fighting with anyone, or sending angry hexes, and had gone nearly silent in classes. Potter had taken to following her around, like an over-protective puppy. And Lily was too far gone with whatever had her numb to chase him away.

Severus managed to learn from Alice that Harry and Rose Evans had been killed in an automobile accident over the holidays. A drunk driver had sped through a red light and smashed into the Evans' car, killing Harry and Rose almost instantly. As if that hadn't been enough, the house Harry and Rose had lived in had gone to that spiteful harpy Petunia, and she'd promptly thrown Lily out.

He would have gone and cursed Petunia with a whole variety of spells almost as black and vicious as her shriveled heart except for being stuck at school for another few months. But once he'd graduated, once he'd reached a suitable point in his potions studies… Actually, a potion would likely be a better choice than a curse. There would be time for longer suffering as well as time to get far away and establish an alibi. It would also be harder for the Ministry and law enforcement to detect, harder still to trace the source.

Once he'd had a bit of studies and a chance to ponder the matter sufficiently, he was sure he could properly express his displeasure towards Petunia Evans. Lily was wonderful, and should be appreciated, not cast aside with spite. Not that he was biased, and Severus was quite willing to admit he knew spite. Petunia Ebrill Evans was filled with spite.

End part 3.