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Chapter 23: Life Lessons
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Severus' second day of classes was nowhere near as peaceful as the first. As he'd predicted, the proximity of James and Sirius throughout the entire day was nearly unbearable. Apparently eager to revive the previous year's feud, they took every opportunity available to provoke him. With all of their class time being shared, any hope of giving them the slip was soon squashed.

In Herbology, they wasted no time in hexing his giant sunflower into trying to attack him. Severus, in turn, made theirs spit boil-causing venom. Needless to say, all three of the boys earned detention from Professor Terrarum.

Their next class was Transfiguration. If their detentions weren't enough to dissuade them from anymore hijinx, McGonagall's strict gaze wasn't going to impact their decision, either. Sirius vanished Severus' chair before he sat down. Detention number two for Sirius. Before class ended, Severus managed to vanish Sirius' ears without detection from McGonagall, filling him with a sense of victory.

It was to be short-lived, however. Their next lesson was Potions, and Severus was eager to see what was on the syllabus for that term. He frowned as he and Lily took their seats – James and Sirius were seated in the very back, as far away from Melison's eyes as they could get. The Slytherin was immediately on his guard.

“They're planning something,” he whispered to his friend. She turned around in her seat and glanced at the boys in question, eliciting a smile and a wave from the pair.

“Don't do anything rash, Severus,” she cautioned. He wrinkled his nose in displeasure. He had wanted to cast something at them before Melison came in, but knew now he would not be forgiven very easily. “Ignore them,” Lily repeated as the sound of the boys' chuckles reached his ears, turning them beet red.

Melison entered, causing a hush to fall over the room. He set them to their lesson, and then began to walk among the students to survey their work. Severus kept one eye on the Gryffindor boys as he prepared his cauldron. Any moment now, he was sure of it.

He was not disappointed. As soon as Melison's back was turned, Severus saw James muttering, and pointing at his cauldron. Before he had a chance to react, the cauldron had overflowed, the watery contents spilling to the floor beneath his desk. Just before they reached the floor, however, a deafening boom filled the classroom, and sparks flew from beneath Severus' desk. Within seconds, Melison was by his side, extinguishing the wet-start fireworks and looking the boy over.

“Are you hurt?” he demanded, his eyes going over Severus' charred robes.

“No,” he said flatly, his hand clenched around his wand. He was in pain, but he wasn't going to let the Dynamic Duo see that. Melison, however, was not to be fooled.

“Get up to the Hospital Wing,” he commanded. “Have Madame Pomfrey check you over, just to be sure. Leave your things, I'm sure Miss Evans will bring them to you.” Lily nodded her agreement as Severus fumed the length of the classroom. As he was passing James and Sirius, their mocking snickers flooded his brain, and he mumbled a permanent sticking curse in anger. His spirits rose when he left the room without incident. The fools hadn't even noticed! They were still snickering at him as he walked out, oblivious to his own wide grin.

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“You boys need to stop all this silly fighting,” Madame Pomfrey tutted as she examined the burns on Severus' forearms. The boy remained silent, still relishing the fact that he'd won the day. He wished he'd been able to see the boys' faces when they found their feet unable to budge from behind their desk. Madame Pomfrey tutted again as the grin spread across his features, then instructed him to rest where he sat before she bustled off to a patient further down the ward.

He was still savoring the victory when Lily arrived with his books. She looked grim, and he arched an eyebrow in question, his smile still in place.

“I don't know what you're so happy about,” she chided, setting his books on the table beside his cot.

“I have the upper hand,” he exclaimed joyously. “What's not to be happy about? Tell me, were they furious?” he asked eagerly. “What'd they do?” Lily sat on the edge of the bed he was in and shook her head.

“At first, they weren't sure what had happened,” she explained. “Nearly everyone had stopped to stare, because they were going on about how they couldn't move. But Severus, everyone knows it was you. Everyone,” she stated emphatically. His grin faded slightly.

“What about Melison?”

“He was furious,” she said quietly. “He ordered everyone out of the room so he could start a de-sticking draught.” With her statement went the last vestiges of victory Severus felt.

“He can't prove it,” he muttered.

Nevertheless, after his release from the hospital ward, Severus spent the remainder of the day waiting for a summons from his Head of House. But none came.

At dinner, he continually glanced up at the professor, who was pointedly ignoring the boy. Despite the congratulatory remarks from his comrades about retaining the upper hand, a sinking feeling began in the pit of his stomach. Would this cause Melison to revoke the offer of his potions volumes? What, exactly, was his Head of House playing at?

He was soon to find out. The next morning at breakfast, he received a letter. Recognizing the handwriting as his uncle's, he again looked to his Head of House, who was again ignoring his existence. The sinking feeling grew as the boy read Sebastian's words:

Severus –

I cannot stress enough how very disappointed I am to hear of your behavior. After our conversation on the first day of term, I had hoped you would rise above petty retaliation. Apparently, you are more like your father than either of us previously recognized. Were it not for the fact that Slytherins do not air their personal affairs, you may rest assured that this letter would have been a howler, the likes of which you have never seen.

Perhaps you are not yet ready for the extra lessons we spoke of. Your future behavior shall determine that outcome.

~Sebastian

Severus turned his gaze once again to Melison, anger burning in his body. It was a stupid little feud – why did he have to write to his Uncle? Melison, as was apparently now the norm, made no movement to acknowledge the glare. The boy rose quickly from the table, his fists balled with rage.

At the head table, a grim smirk of satisfaction spread over Malichi Melison's features as the boy retreated from the Hall.

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The ensuing day was not getting much better. Severus' trepidation renewed as Professor Terrarum informed him icily that Professor Melison had requested the boy serve his detention with him on that Friday.

After Herbology had ended, Severus attempted to leave quickly, but Lily held him back.

“What's wrong?” she asked. “You act as though I'm going to bite you or something.” Severus shrugged, his eyes not leaving the forms of Sirius and James, who were making their way towards the pair. Shortly behind them were Remus and Peter, who had begun to stick to the Dynamic Duo like glue.

“I'll see you later,” Severus said shortly, ignoring Lily's protests as he rushed towards Defense Against the Dark Arts. As much trouble as he was in with his uncle – and presumably his Head of House – the last thing he needed was another confrontation.

His final class of the day was slightly better – the Slytherins shared the period with Ravenclaw, allowing Severus to breathe slightly easier. Professor Burtram was going over stinging hexes, which the boy had long ago perfected, and he allowed his mind to wander to his upcoming detention. Melison was playing at something, but there was no way of telling exactly what it was. Severus knew that any punishment he thought up would never compare to what Melison would be planning.

When the bell rang to end class, he retreated to the grounds and reread his uncle's letter. He couldn't remember Sebastian ever saying that he was disappointed in him. Angry tears threatened to well up as he thought over his behavior. Was he too much like Silias? He'd been trying to stay as far from that image as possible, but had it all been in vain? Was genealogy stronger than free will?

“Are you okay?” Lily's voice cut through his thoughts like a razor, and Severus quickly wiped his eyes before turning to her.

“Why did you hurry off after Herbology?” she asked. “I know you weren't worried about Potter and Black coming after you again – you saw them coming, you could have taken them, and they knew it.” He didn't even feel the urge to smile at the compliment.

“Melison won,” he responded morosely.

“I don't understand,” she admitted, her brows furrowed. “You haven't even had your detention yet –“ He thrust Sebastian's note into her hand, and she fell silent. There was no sound as she read the letter and he turned to glare out over the water.

“Oh, Severus,” she said quietly, folding the letter neatly and handing it back to him. “He's just upset – I'm sure he doesn't mean it.”

“He's right,” the boy retorted flatly.

“You don't really believe that, do you?” she questioned, trying in vain to suppress the quaver in her voice. Severus remained silent, and she continued. “If you were anything like your father, I certainly wouldn't hang around you.” He nodded absently, but his mind had not been changed. He knew that just as he'd inherited his father's hated visage, so too had he been burdened with his character flaws.

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“You gave me your word you'd have information today, Severus,” Lucius announced as the boy sat at the table for dinner. Severus glanced up at him before beginning to pick at his food.

“Things didn't go as planned,” he replied dully.

“So you have nothing?” the older boy inquired shortly. Severus shook his head as Lucius sighed in frustration.

“Do not make me regret choosing you,” he snapped.

“I never asked to be chosen!” Severus shot back, his eyes meeting those of his friend. A smile tugged at the corners of Lucius' mouth, but as the prefect glanced around at the others in the group, he forced them down.

“Be sure you have something by Friday evening,” Lucius compromised. Severus nodded absently. Friday was going to be a long day.

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Between worrying about his detention and seeking information on the first-years, the remaining days of the week seemed to race by. Severus entered Potions feeling somewhat confident, having just acquired a few tidbits about the prospective first-years, and took his seat beside Lily with an easier mind.

His uneasiness returned when Melison entered the room to begin the lesson. Passing over his usual nod in Severus' direction, the professor set the class to their task rather quickly, then sat at his desk to look over some papers. Though he tried not to let his Head of House's disinterest bother him, Severus continued to glance at the professor from the corner of his eye.

He was so lost in contemplating his professor's behavior that he didn't realize he was standing next to him until –

“Snape!” Melison's barking voice brought the boy's attention back to the class.

“Sir?” he responded promptly, not sure what he'd done to warrant his professor's attention. Melison was immediately next to him, grabbing a handful of Severus' chopped billywig stings and shoving it roughly beneath the boy's nose.

“What is this mutilated mess?” he demanded. Severus saw, to his horror, that his normally precise and even cuts were sloppy and disorderly. Apparently, he'd been too preoccupied with what Melison was doing to focus on his own actions.

“Lose your touch over the holidays?” the professor growled with a smirk. Severus maintained a stony silence, though he could feel the tips of his ears growing red with anger and humiliation. He glared at the professor before him, unwilling to let him win again. Severus did not turn away, even when he heard the barely suppressed snickers of James and Sirius.

“There is not sufficient time this period to rectify your error, Snape.” With an idle flick of his hand, Severus' station had been cleared. “A zero for today. I do hope this past week is not a glimpse of what I should expect from you the remainder of the term,” Melison announced scathingly. Severus, his angry stare unwavering, lifted his chin defiantly.

“No, Sir,” he replied.

“Glad to hear it,” Melison responded briskly. “For the remainder of class, you will observe Mr. Potter and Mr. Black. Perhaps you may learn something from them.” This last was too much for Severus. The redness of his ears spread to the rest of his face as his scowl increased. He glowered at the retreating form of his Head of House, his humiliation complete. Knowing that Melison would undoubtedly relish his refusal, the boy gathered his books and strode to his nemeses' side. The pair of Gryffindors wore identical smirks of triumphant glee.

“This ought to be the highlight of your life, Snivellus,” crowed Sirius quietly.

“Imagine, Sirius, Snivelly's learning potions from little old us. Guess you're not the teacher's pet any longer, eh?” Severus bit back the retort which sprang immediately to his lips. Instead, the fury within him continued to burn, growing with every slight from the boys' mouths.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the bell rang to mark the end of class. Severus sprang immediately towards the door, halting only when Melison's voice reached his ears.

“Snape! Your detention has now begun. Have a seat, son. Severus turned immediately, throwing himself into the nearest chair and glowering at the wall. His hands were clenched tightly into fists, the knuckles white with his barely controlled anger.

“Have a good afternoon, Snivellus,” James goaded as he and Sirius passed. Lily and Remus approached him, and Remus opened his mouth to say something.

“Oy! Remus! Come on, mate!” Sirius' call caused Remus' mouth to snap shut. He looked at Severus, then over to James and Sirius.

“Go on, Lupin. Don't want to keep your new friends waiting,” Severus snapped harshly.

“Sorry,” Remus mumbled as he hurried towards the waiting boys. Lily sat in the chair next to him.

“Severus –try not to get angry – don't do anything rash-“

“Miss Evans, class has been dismissed.” Melison's voice broke through her warnings.

“Please, Professor, I –“

“Unless you have something academic and pertaining to this class to discuss, you need to leave. If it is anything else, see your Head of House.” She looked at Severus apologetically as she rose.

“I'll see you later,” she promised. Once she had gone, Melison turned to Severus, who met his gaze with defiant fury.

“As you have most likely guessed from the hours spent in my office last term, one of my failings is lack of organization. Over the summer, my supplies have gotten into a sad state. Your task,” he explained as he led the boy to the storeroom within his office, “is to sort through and inventory all of this.” Severus balked at the sight which affronted his eyes. The stockroom was in total disarray – baskets were stacked haphazardly in every corner, bottles of all shapes and sizes were strewn about, and nothing was labeled. He started on the basket nearest to him with grim determination, his body still seething with rage. Melison knew this would be hell to him – he hated having his supplies out of place. The professor, meanwhile, stood in the doorway to the dimly lit room, studying the boy intently as he worked.

“You needed this lesson, son.” He spoke quietly, his powerful voice subdued. Severus did not respond, though he was hanging on every word. “You can't go through life – especially the one for which I fear you are destined – retaliating against every wrong done to you. Learn to choose your battles, and you will be better suited to control their outcome. Just something to mull over while you're working. I will return shortly to evaluate your progress.” With a flick of his wand, the torches around the room were lit, making it a bit easier to identify the items before the boy.

Severus turned only after he heard the sound of the door closing, his anger only slightly diminished. Though he fought stubbornly against it, his mind did begin to stew over his professor's words. What had he meant by the life he ‘feared' Severus would lead?

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The clucking sound of disapproval from the doorway much later drew Severus' attention from his work. Melison stood there, surveying the little progress the boy had made.

“If you continue on in this fashion, it will be Sunday evening before you're through,” he commented idly before retreating again to his office. Severus began again, working with renewed vigor as his stomach growled menacingly.

An hour later, Melison came to check on his progress again. “I must say, I thought you would have seen it by now,” he muttered as he left once again. Severus contemplated his words as he looked at the meager progress he'd made. Suddenly, it dawned on him that Melison had not confiscated his wand. Mentally chiding himself, he withdrew it and began again.

He was finished just as Melison came in for the third time.

“Ah. Excellent work, son. Lesson two for today: Don't permit your anger to cloud your thought.”

“May I go now, sir?” Severus was still burning with indignation, though his anger towards the professor was diminishing rapidly.

“I don't ask forgiveness for my treatment of you this past week,” Melison went on, ignoring his request. “I only pray you understand my reasons and my intent.” Severus made no response, and the professor sighed. “You may go.” Severus retreated to his dormitory to change into clean robes for dinner, all the while thinking over the man's words. By the time he reached the Great Hall, he had come to the conclusion that Melison had a far better method of teaching lessons than his father.

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