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One week later:

"Here is your master syllabus with the lessons and drafts you'll be brewing with each of your classes for the next two weeks," Severus handed Harry a rather long parchment with the two first year classes he'd be teaching timetables and potions lists, which also contained the correct formulas to brew each draft, ingredients, and the counterdrafts should something go wrong. "And here are the rolls of students in each class." He handed Harry another parchment with the names of all the students in each class. There were twenty students total in each class, ten from each House. "I suggest you take roll each class until you are familiar with all the students."

"Okay. But I've never seen you do that."

"That's because after sixteen years, I know almost all my students, save for the newest first years, and those I memorize while in the Great Hall during the Sorting."

"How do you do that?"

"I have a photographic memory. Even so, when I was a new teacher, I found it easier on myself if I took roll in the beginning. It will also make the students know that you pay attention to who is absent from your classroom, and hopefully they will make an effort to not be so. If not, don't hesitate to take points."

Harry nodded, though he was beginning to wonder if this were such a good idea after all. Last week it had seemed so, he had even been excited, but now, with one day left before he set foot in the classroom, he was starting to think maybe he wasn't ready for this. What if the kids didn't listen to him? What if, Merlin forbid, they blew up the classroom?

He knew Severus had said to make a good impression, but how was he to do that when he was a mere four years their senior? "Severus, can I . . .uh, borrow your cloak?"

One eyebrow lifted. "My cloak? Whatever for? You have your own."

"I know, but . . .mine doesn't . . .do what yours does."

"What in Merlin's name do you mean?"

"It doesn't . . .you know, fly out behind me like . . .like wings . . ." Harry could feel his face getting hotter and hotter. I sound like such an imbecile! Oh, why didn't I just keep my mouth shut?

Severus stared at him, an amused smile stealing over his face. "And do you think that is necessary in order to teach potions?"

"Well . . .no, but . . . it makes a good impression." Harry said lamely. "How do you do it?"

"It is something that requires much practice, it's not a spell. It has to do with posture and carriage and presence, things which you can't learn in a day. And a cloak made from the right material."

"Oh." Harry sighed, wondering what else he could do. Then he recalled how McGonagall had entered her classroom when he was a first year. "Then will you give me permission to transform into Freedom? Just for a bit, so I can kind of . . .surprise them? Please, Sev?"

"Harry, you're not putting on a performance, you're teaching potions. There's no need for such dramatics," he began, then sighed when he saw the boy biting his lip and gazing at him with those soulful green eyes. "Very well. You may become Freedom, but only for the beginning of your lesson. That should serve to make them sit up and take notice, though why you assume they wouldn't when you are one of the few adjuncts I have ever had teach my class . . ."

"Thank you." Harry gave him a quiet smile. "I just hope I don't . . .make an ass of myself."

"You will not. You know the material you'll be teaching, you have brewed the drafts flawlessly and the counterdrafts, and there is no reason for you to feel self-conscious in that regard."

"But I've never taught anything before."

"Follow the steps I've outlined for you on your syllabus and don't forget to write the directions on the board and you'll do fine. Also remember to watch each pair of students closely to prevent accidents and if anyone gives you cheek, take points. They'll be testing you, to see if you can keep them in line, and you must establish your authority, otherwise they'll walk all over you."

"I wish I were taller. At least when you glower at someone, you have to look down on them."

"Harry, you can be as small as Flitwick and still have authority. It's all in the way you carry yourself. Head up, shoulders back and look them in the eye. And act confident, even if you don't feel that way. They'll never know the difference." Severus laid one hand upon his apprentice's shoulder. "Relax, fledgling. You will be fine. Your first class tomorrow morning is Slytherins and Gryffindors, and I doubt if your Housemates will be a problem, they will be dancing in the street to not have me teaching and my Slytherins know to behave for a substitute or else they will answer to me. You should have minimal problems."

Harry was still doubtful. He wished he possessed a tenth of Snape's presence and self-confidence, never realizing that those qualities had taken years to perfect. "I can come by tomorrow before class and pick up the case of counterdrafts, right?"

"Yes, and if you wish, have breakfast here, since you will probably be too nervous to eat and I'll have to force feed you," Severus said, deadpan.

"Ha, real funny. You know, the more I eat when I'm nervous the more risk there is of my throwing up on your boots."

"That is why we invented potions, Potter. I'll be sure to have you take some before your class," said Severus silkily. "Now, go and get a good night's sleep, you'll need to be up early tomorrow."

"Yes, sir . . ." Harry moved over to the office door and opened it before adding slyly over his shoulder, " . . .Dad." Then he bolted away before Snape could react to that piece of utter insolence, his green eyes dancing with mischief.

It was a moment before Severus could process his apprentice's final words and by then it was too late to scold the incorrigible child for daring to address him in such a familiar fashion. And yet . . .deep down a small part of him thrilled to hear that word, a word that he had been certain no child would ever say to him, or want to say to him. You're a bold saucy piece of baggage, Potter! I don't know why I put up with you.

He returned to marking papers with a sigh. Harry thought that facing a roomful of teenagers was bad, just wait till he had to read over their assignments and decipher their chicken scratch handwriting without developing a severe migraine. Severus would take the classroom over that any day of the week.

* * * * * *

Slytherin common room:

Draco was bored, having finished most of his homework during his free period that day and most of the rest of his House was either studying or sleeping or watching wizard chess, there was a killer tournament going on between sixth-year Allison Motte and seventh-year Lance Andrews, and several of the House had placed bets on the outcome. Draco had placed a three Galleon bet on Lance, but didn't feel the need to watch, since Goyle was already there and would inform him if he won.

Vince was reading some boring book Hagrid had given him called The Habits of Rare Rainforest Magical Species, and Draco wondered how he was managing to slog through it, even if it did have some neat photos. Who cared about species in the Amazon rainforest anyway? It wasn't as if they were ever likely to go there and see them, Draco thought with a sneer. Crabbe would end up staying right here in Britain and joining the Death Eaters upon finishing school, just like his father and Draco's had done. So what was the point of studying about something you'd never see?

He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the table, he was sitting in the far right corner of the room, far away from the chess crowd. He was never allowed to behave in such an unrefined manner at home, not with both his parents being so stuck on decorum, but here at school he did what he pleased. Merlin's toenails, but it's so boring I might as well take a nap.

Just then, a rather small first-year came through the portrait hole, panting slightly from running all the way from the library to make it back before curfew. His dark hazel eyes were wide with trepidation as he glanced about the room. "Is . . .Professor Snape here?"

"Nah. He's still in his office, he always grades late on Thursdays, so you're safe Witherspoon," commented Crabbe, who seemed to have some kind of sympathy for the perpetually late first-year.

"Safe from him, but not from me," drawled Malfoy, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of having a bit of fun with the shy firstie, whose diffident demeanor irritated him for some reason. "Come here, Witherspoon."

The small towheaded youngster made his way over to where Malfoy was sitting, looking like a puppy afraid of receiving a reprimand, his tie askew and his bookbag hanging off his shoulder.

"Aw, lay off the kid, Draco," Crabbe ordered in an undertone.

"Shut your trap, Vince," Malfoy hissed out of the corner of his mouth. "I'm his prefect and I'll deal with him as I see fit."

"Only 'cause you're bored," Crabbe shot back. "Otherwise you'd leave him be."

Malfoy ignored that comment, though Crabbe was right, and focused on the trembling first year. "Listen up, Witherspoon. You're giving our House a bad name by being late for everything and it's going to stop."

"I'm sorry, Prefect Malfoy," muttered the boy, hanging his head. "I just . . .I keep getting lost and . . .I'm sorry, it won't happen again."

"It had better not, or else you'll see what we do to House members who keep forgetting the time, Witherspoon." Malfoy growled warningly. "I won't report you to the professor . . .this time . . .as long as you do something for me in return."

Witherspoon looked up at him uneasily. "W-what is it?"

"I've heard that Potter is going to be teaching first-year potions tomorrow morning, that true?"

"Yes. Professor Snape told us last class that Potter would be taking over for awhile."

A sly smirk crept over Malfoy's face. "Perfect! This gives us a chance to make Potter look like the world's biggest idiot. I want you to get together with Vandernoose and Rhys and start some kind of trouble," he ordered, his eyes gleaming. The other two firsties were pranksters, and good ones.

"But . . .but . . .Professor Snape said to behave . . ."

"What the professor doesn't know about, he can't punish you for." Malfoy said smoothly. "I want you to play a good prank on Potter, make a cauldron explode or somebody get splattered with something and have to go to the Hospital Wing. Then the professor will think twice about putting Potter in charge of another class and everybody will know that the precious Boy Who Lived can't teach for turds."

Witherspoon gasped. "I can't do that! Professor Snape will kill me!"

Malfoy grabbed the other boy by the collar and hauled him up to dangle in front of his face. "Listen, Witherspoon. Either you do what I said, or else I tell the professor what a hopeless procrastinator you are and he'll make you wish you never set foot here. Got me?"

The kid looked like he was about to cry, but he swallowed hard and nodded. "Good. Now get your arse in your room and start thinking about what you're going to do." Draco set him down and gave him a shove.

Witherspoon fled as if hellhounds were nipping at his heels.

Crabbe set down his book and gave Malfoy an incredulous look. "I can't believe you just did that. What the bloody hell were you thinking? Snape's gonna tear him to shreds if he finds out."

"Only if he gets caught, the little wimp. If he's smart, he won't and that'll be that." Malfoy said loftily. "What do you care anyhow, Vince?"

"Unbelievable. You just set him up, you know that?"

"So? Kid's a pansy, he needs toughening up, acts more like a Hufflepuff than a Slytherin."

"Just 'cause he's quiet don't mean he's a coward, Draco," Crabbe argued.

"Whatever, Vince. Go back and read about the rainforest and let me worry about the firsties." Malfoy said, then he rose to talk to the other two first-years who were supposed to be in on the prank.

Crabbe shut his book and slipped from the room, going into the first-year dormitory, where he found a miserable Witherspoon, shaking and shivering upon his bed. "Hey, kid."

The boy looked up, his lower lip quivering.

"Don't listen to Draco. You do what he said, and Professor Snape will kick your arse. Ya know that, dontcha?"

"Yeah, but . . .if I don't . . .Draco will tell and Professor'll give me a million detentions anyway, cause I'm a disgrace." He sniffled.

"Look, kid, ah . . .what's your name?"

"Jace. Jace Archimedes Witherspoon III."

Crabbe whistled. "That's some monicker. Mine's Vincent Crabbe. Just call me Vince though. The professor won't give you detention for being late, he knows it takes time to learn where stuff is at school. Matter of fact, Draco oughta be helping you, stead of tellin' you how to break rules. Anyhow, listen up. Keep your head down and just behave like the professor said. Let those other two idjits act up and get in trouble or whatever."

"But . . .what about Draco?. . .He'll hex me, like my cousin Alvin does when I don't obey him."

"I'll handle Draco. You just worry about yourself, okay?" he clapped the boy on the shoulder. "A bit o' advice, kid. Never ever do something the professor told you not to. Because he always finds out and you've seen what he does to those that don't follow his rules, huh?"

"Yeah. Are you still on detention with him?"

"Yeah, but that's what I got for bein' stupid and following Malfoy. Good night."

"Night, Vince. Thanks."

"Don't mention it, kid."

Crabbe returned to his own room, scowling. Draco needed to be taken down a peg in a big way.

* * * * * *

Friday morning:

Harry hesitated before entering the classroom, his stomach was churning madly. Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick. He rubbed a hand across his eyes and slid open the classroom door. He could hear the quiet shuffle of feet and the thump of bags being set down and whisperings between the students. He felt his palms start to sweat. Come on, Potter, pull yourself together. You faced the bloody Dark Lord, how bad could a class of twenty first-years be? Never mind, I don't want to answer that.

He peered at his watch, he had five minutes before class started. Dammit, Severus, I knew I shouldn't have let you talk me into eating breakfast. Even with your Stomach Soother I feel ill. Why did I ever agree to do this? He swallowed hard, wishing he didn't feel as if he were walking barefoot into a nest of hungry manticores. Okay, here goes nothing. He lowered his head and concentrated, transforming into Freedom a scant minute later.

The red-tailed hawk soared into the classroom, startling a few of the girls who were sitting nearest the door. Freedom soared a quick circle around the room, getting a bird's eyeview of the room and the children in it before he settled on top of the desk, gave a soft kree-ar! and then blurred into Harry.

There was a collective sound of "Oooohh!"

Harry straightened, pleased with the way all of the students gazed at him, with awe and curiosity. He was wearing a plain black robe without a crest, so he wouldn't seem biased, and had a set of good trousers and a dress shirt underneath it. He had even used a Hair-Sleeking potion to make his hair lie flat.

"Ooh, Harry, that was wicked!" squealed little Maureen Hughes, a Gryffindor, looking at him adoringly.

Harry bit back a groan. Help a kid with her Transfiguration homework and you were her hero for life. But he quickly recalled Snape's advice about not letting students get familiar with him. "Thank you, Miss Hughes. And it's Professor Potter."

The girl giggled and looked at her hands.

"All right, well, as you know, I'll be filling in for Professor Snape, and even though some of you are in my House, I'm going to ask that you call me Professor Potter and not Harry, since I am your teacher now."

Several Slytherins snickered at that and were promptly glared at by the Gryffindors.

Harry cleared his throat. "Okay. I'm going to take roll, so hold up your hand when I call your name." He picked up a quill and the sheet of parchment with the roll for the morning potions class. "Abraxus, Mandy."

A tall redhaired Slytherin raised her hand.

Harry looked at her and then checked off her name.

"Brown, Sydney."

This time a short dark-haired Gryffindor raised his hand.

And so it went, all the way through to "Witherspoon, Jace."

A small towheaded boy in robes that looked too big for him shyly raised his hand.

"Good. All present and accounted for." He set down the parchment and pointed his wand and whispered an Unlocking Charm.

The potions cabinet at the back of the room opened, allowing the students to get ingredients. He then turned and aimed his wand at the chalkboard. "Scriberius!"

The ingredients for the Pepperup Potion wrote themselves magically on the board, which Harry was grateful for, since he doubted if he could have written legibly himself, he was so nervous he was sure his hand would have shook and rendered his writing unreadable.

"Okay, today we're going to be brewing a Pepperup Potion. Who can tell me what that's used for?"

Several hands shot up, including the shy Slytherin's in the back of the room. Harry pointed and said, "You . . .Witherspoon, is it?"

"Yes, sir," came the soft reply. "The Pepperup Potion is used for colds, sir, to cure them."

"Very good, Witherspoon. Five points to Slytherin."

The Gryffindors gasped at seeing him award points to their rival and the Slytherins just looked surprised. Harry fought to keep from grinning. He had hoped that awarding points to Slytherin might prevent them from causing any mishaps.

"The Pepperup Potion is a standard remedy for colds and it's not all that difficult to brew. You have an hour and ten minutes. All the ingredients are in the back cabinet, check the list on the board for directions. Any questions?"

That was a mistake.

Several Gryffindors bombarded him with questions, all of them speaking at once, on everything except potions.

"Hey, Harry, when's the next Quidditch match?"

"Are you going to be teaching us permanently?"

"How did you become an Animagus?"

"When you were a hawk, could you understand people, or could you only understand birds?"

"Is Professor Snape retiring? I heard that's why you were teaching, Harry."

Harry felt his head begin to spin. What the hell is going on here? Is this potions class or social hour? He held up a hand before the questions got any more off topic. "Hold it. Hold it. Any questions you have about me you can ask me later. This is potions, remember? Let's get started, before you don't have time to brew. And no, Professor Snape is not retiring, he'll be back to teach you in a few weeks."

"Aww, but we wanted to talk about Animagus forms," groaned half the Gryffindors. It's much more interesting."

"And Quidditch."

"Who wants to make potions anyhow?" groused a Slytherin.

"Can't we just pretend to make the potion and have a free period?"

"This isn't up for debate. Go on, get your ingredients," Harry ordered, wondering if he'd ever been that whiny at that age.

Finally, they started pulling things from the back cabinet, and Harry went around and lit all their cauldrons, figuring it would be faster if he did that.

Then he retreated to the front of the room to watch as they collected their ingredients and started to prepare them.

As Harry had said, this potion was not too difficult to prepare, and only had you grinding and chopping a few ingredients, most of them could be added right out of the jars at the proper time.

Harry watched as the students ground up yarrow root and pepper and diced some pickled onions and smashed red clover blossoms and minced dragon tongue.

Five minutes later, one of the Slytherins was having an argument over how fine you had to grind the yarrow with his partner. Harry went over to examine their ingredients, but while he was doing that, two Gryffindor girls on the opposite side of the room had trouble dicing up their dragon tongue.

"Eeew! It smells! And look, it got all over my new manicure!"

"Gross! Harry, do we have to cut this up?"

"This is almost the right consistency, keep grinding for a minute, then move on to the next step," Harry told the Slytherins. Exasperated, he turned about and called over his shoulder at the girls, "Yes, you do! Next time wear gloves and it's Professor Potter." Merlin, why do they keep forgetting they have to call me that? Is it really that hard to remember? I'm beginning to think Sev is right, and they really are dunderheads.

Just then there came a sharp "Oww! I'm bleeding!" from Tom Matthews, another Gryffindor.

"See, I told you to watch where you were cutting, Tom," lectured Mabel Fairchild, a pretty Gryffindor. "Just hold a cloth on it, for Merlin's sake."

Harry turned around, just in time to see a tall Slytherin working next to Tom's cauldron keel over.

"Ah, Merlin's arse!" groaned his partner, a plump brunette girl. "Davy's fainted. It's the blood, he can't stand the sight of it."

Harry rushed over to them. "Tom, let me see your finger." The boy obediently held out his bleeding hand and Harry chanted a quick Wound-Repair charm. "Next time, be more careful with your knife."

"Yes, sir." The boy blushed.

Then Harry knelt beside the passed out Slytherin. He carefully felt the boy's head for bumps, and finding none, cast a quick "Ennervate!" waking up the unconscious boy with a quick wave of his wand.

"Huh? Wha' happened?"

"You fainted," Harry said helpfully. He held out a hand to help the boy to his feet. "Do you feel all right . . .Davy, isn't it?"

Before the other could reply there came a huge BOOM!

Harry hauled the poor Slytherin to his feet and spun around.

Four cauldrons away, towards the back of the room, two Slytherins were covered in red potion and there came a crackling sound as a cauldron on the Gryffindor side exploded as well, showering the students with more unfinished potions.

Some of the girls screamed and Harry clenched his teeth and snapped, "Nobody move! Stay where you are."

He marched over to those students who had been splattered and cleaned them off with a quick Scourgify and asked if they had been burned. No one had, the potion had barely gotten hot before it had exploded.

"I don't know how it happened, sir!" babbled one Slytherin. "I hadn't even added the dragon tongue yet."

Harry peered inside the cauldron and saw, to his irritation, a large Fillibusters Firework. He levitated it out of the cauldron and banished the contents with a quick "Evanesco!" Then, still holding the firework, he said to them, "Sorry, you'll have to do it over."

He went to examine the second cauldron and found yet another firework. After that, he stalked up to the front of the room, both fireworks in his hands. Great, just great! Now I have a bloody prankster to deal with too. He fixed the class, who had all frozen, with a disapproving glare.

"All right. Who is going to tell me who these belong to?"

No one said anything.

"What's this? No one knows? Very well, I shall take five points from each of you until someone tells me who did this. " Harry crossed his arms over his chest.

Then he waited.

There were outcries of, "No fair!"

"How should I know?"

"It was probably a Slytherin, they're always causing trouble." That from a Gryffindor.

"Says who?" shouted back a Slytherin. "You lot are always cutting up in potions."

Harry gritted his teeth. Did they not take him seriously?

"You have five minutes before the points start adding up."

More muttering occurred.

Until finally a Slytherin, Harry thought his name was Vandernoose, stood up and said quietly. "I saw him do it, Professor Potter." And he pointed directly at the quivering Jace Witherspoon.

"Me too," added another Slytherin, black-haired Macsen Rhys.

Witherspoon said nothing, just looked stricken.

"Yeah, see I was right! Scummy snake!" yelled a Gryffindor.

"Aw, shove it up your arse!" cried a Slytherin and drew his wand.

"Make me!"

"Okay, I will, you coward!"

Before Harry could move, hexes were flying everywhere.

Bloody hell! I turn my back to speak to someone for two minutes-TWO MINUTES-and look what happens! What is wrong with these kids?

In a minute all was chaos. Students were ducking behind cauldrons and desks, Stinging Hexes were flying through the air, along with Color Change ones, and some Sticking Charms too.

For one instant, Harry was at a loss. How had this happened?

Then he felt his temper spark and he pointed his wand at his throat and cast a Voice Amplifying Charm. "Sonorus!"

"Everybody, freeze!"

They did, some of them in mid-word.

His eyes flashing with a temper to rival their absent Potion Master's, Harry spoke a quick, "Accio all wands!"

Everyone's wand was yanked from their gasp, if they had been holding it, or from wherever else they had it, and deposited at Harry's feet.

"All of you-sit down! Now!"

There was a mad scramble for chairs and within two minutes the whole class was seated.

Harry canceled the charm on his voice. "What did you all think you were doing? Anyone care to answer that one?"

No one said anything. Most of the Gryffindors looked either ashamed or upset, and so did some of the Slytherins. Only a few had smirks on their faces, but they quickly lost them when Harry declared, "All of you will be getting a zero for today's work and will be re-doing this potion next class. I will also be taking twenty points from each of your Houses for your horrible behavior. And don't even think of saying it's not fair."

"But it's not!" muttered Todd Wilson sullenly.

"Mr. Wilson, would you like to join Mr. Witherspoon in detention?"

"No, Harry . . .I . . .m-mean Professor Potter . . .sir."

"Didn't think so. Start cleaning up, and you have two feet of parchment on the properties of the Pepperup Potion and correct behavior in my classroom," Harry finished. "Mr. Witherspoon, you have detention with me tomorrow at . . .two o'clock. Meet me here."

"Yes, sir," whispered Jace.

Harry went around and vanished everyone's failed potion, feeling his head start to pound as he did so. He couldn't believe how quickly things had gotten out of hand. It was utterly humiliating. I should have known better. I can't teach, I'm pathetic.

He retreated to his desk for the last ten minutes of class, pretending to work on the next class syllabus. Finally it was time for the class to be dismissed.

Harry looked up. The classroom was neat and clean.

"Dismissed."

The students all ran out the door, eager to be released from the hell of potions. Harry noticed that Witherspoon was the last to leave and he did not speak to any of his Housemates. Probably afraid of what they'll do to him since he got them all in trouble and lost House points. He almost felt guilty giving out that detention, knowing how hard Slytherins were on their own. But then he reflected that if he hadn't, they would have assumed he was a pushover, and whatever respect they had for him would have been lost.

As soon as he was gone, Harry slumped and put his head in his hands. Without a doubt, he was probably the worst teacher in the history of Hogwarts. Well, maybe the second worst teacher, Umbridge had been the worst. I'll bet this never happened to Severus. Or McGonagall either.

He packed up his papers and his potions counteragents and then locked the door of the classroom. My first day teaching, what a disaster!

* * * * * *

"So, how did your first day of teaching go, Harry?" Hermione asked brightly when he entered the hall for lunch.

So far, it was mostly the fifth and sixth years at the table, the younger ones had lunch at a different time. "Don't ask, Hermione."

"It was that bad, mate?" queried Ron, sitting down at his usual place.

"Worse."

"What happened?" Hermione queried. "Did they blow up a cauldron?"

"Two of them."

"It was Slytherins, right?" Ron predicted.

"One of them, yes. But our House was no better."

"You took points from Slytherin, I hope." Ron said.

"I took point from both Houses."

"BOTH?!" Ron cried.

"Yes, Ron, because both of them started hexing each other," Harry said sharply. "Look, I really don't want to discuss it, okay?"

"Maybe your next class will be better, Harry." Hermione said comfortingly. "I can't believe our firsties behaved like such . . .hooligans."

Ron nearly choked on his pumpkin juice. "Hooligans? What the bloody hell are those?"

"Rude, out of control, annoying little beasts," Harry supplied. "And that's just what they were like."

He finished his sandwich and crisps then said quietly, "I'll see you later, I have to report to Professor Snape about this morning."

"Think he'll bite your head off 'cause you had to take points from Slytherin?" wondered Ron.

"I don't know. I gave one of his House detention too, for exploding the cauldrons."

Ron's mouth fell open. "Oh, Merlin! Now you're dead, Harry."

"Why? It was deserved," Hermione pointed out. "Harry did the right thing."

Ron looked doubtful. "Good luck, Harry."

Harry nodded wearily and went towards the dungeons. He knew Hermione was right, but would Severus see it that way?

* * * * * *

Severus listened quietly as Harry related the disastrous potions lesson to him. The apprentice did not spare himself anything, admitting that he should have been more aware of what was going on and then perhaps the whole exploding cauldron thing could have been prevented. When he was finished, he waited for Severus to unleash his temper on him, and tell him he was, without a doubt, the worst teacher and he shouldn't ever think about setting foot in a classroom again.

Severus watched his apprentice closely, noting how tense Harry was, and sensing instinctively that the fifteen-year-old was expecting a lengthy reprimand. Severus drew in a breath. "Why don't we go up to the Room of Requirement, Harry? Seems like you could use a bit of sparring with the bag to work off some of that frustration. And spar with me as well."

"Huh? You mean . . .you're not mad at me?"

"For what?"

"For . . .for taking points from Slytherin. And giving detention to Witherspoon."

"Harry, you are hardly the first teacher to take points from my House or give detention to a Slytherin. Although, I must say I'm surprised at Witherspoon, the boy is usually so quiet his shadow makes more noise and I would not have thought him the kind to play pranks like that."

He rose and Harry followed him as they walked up the stairs to the seventh floor.

"I wouldn't have thought so either. But two members of Slytherin said it was him, so . . ."

"Wait a moment. What two were these?" Severus asked, immediately suspicious. He was familiar with the members of his House, and knew that Witherspoon was occasionally the target of other, more bullying, Housemates.

"Uh . . .Vandernoose and . . .Rhys, I think."

"Humph! That explains it." Severus said grimly.

"Explains what?"

Severus did not reply, they had reached the Room of Requirement, and he opened the door and they stepped inside.

As before, the room was set up like a boxing gym, and they quickly removed their robes and Transfigured their clothes and put their shoes on.

Harry began to wrap his hands, saying as he did so, "Explains what, Sev?"

"It explains why a shy student like Witherspoon caused a problem in your classroom." Severus elaborated. "You see, Vandernoose and Rhys are consummate pranksters. I believe they were the ones who put the fireworks into the cauldrons. Then, when you asked who did it, they put the blame on Witherspoon. In short, you were had, Potter."

"But . . .why didn't Witherspoon say anything?"

"Because he was probably too afraid. If he accused them, and you believed him and gave them detention, they would take it out on him later, if they could. Or perhaps he felt he would not be believed, since two of his own House accused him."

"Oh, Merlin. I really screwed up. I just gave detention to a kid that didn't deserve it. Now what do I do?"

"Make him serve the detention, but allow him to complete his potion, and give him a grade for it. Next class, watch those two troublemakers, and if you catch them misbehaving, give them detention. That will even the score."

"I don't think I want to go back." Harry admitted quietly. "They probably think I suck worse than Lockhart."

"Stop that, Potter!" Severus ordered sharply. "Self-pity serves no purpose. Do you think you're the only teacher who has ever had a student trick them like that? Or a class run amok?"

"No, but . . .I'll bet you never had that happen."

Severus raised an eyebrow.

Harry sat down, gaping. "You . . .did? But . . .everyone's scared to death of you!"

"Hardly. Students still misbehave in my class, Potter, as you ought to know, since you were one of them. I simply know how to salvage the situation better now than I did when I first taught. And my reputation took a few years to develop. Why do you think I am the way I am? Because I know all too well how much damage an exploded cauldron can cause. You actually did well for your first class, Harry."

"Oh, sure. Two exploded cauldrons, forty points, a whole class that has to be redone, and a detention on the same day."

Severus took him by the shoulders and gave him a gentle shake. "Yes, but no one died, no one had to go to the Hospital Wing, and the classroom is still standing. I have seen many first year potions teachers have worse mishaps than you. Now enough whining, boy, put your gloves on and hit that bag the way you wish you could hit those troublemaking brats."

Harry smirked. "How did you know?"

"Experience," Severus answered, then pulled on his own gloves and went to work out with the speed bag while Harry worked with the heavy bag.

After fifteen minutes, Harry was more relaxed, and once he had drank some water, faced off against his mentor, sparring in the middle of the room.

At first, he had been fearful of throwing a punch at the other man, but Severus soon disabused him of that notion. "You'll be lucky if you can land one on me, Potter, now quit pussyfooting about and just hit me! I won't curl up and die."

Thus had begun their sparring sessions, and Harry had to admit, he loved boxing his mentor, since Severus was so unpredictable, and even though he rarely managed a hit upon the other man, it was fun to spar against a real person rather than a bag. And while Severus did not go easy on him, neither was he brutal, and Harry quickly learned how to dodge and block as well as attack.

They sparred for an additional twenty minutes, and Harry managed to get in one or two good ones to Severus's ribs before ending the match and cooling down.

"Just wait till you have homework to grade, Harry. Then you'll think what just occurred today was nothing," Severus warned.

"Why? What's so bad about homework?"

"You'll see." The Potions Master said with an evil little smile. "Homework is a professor's nemesis."

"You've got that backwards, Sev. Homework is a student's nemesis."

"Think so? Wait and see, Professor Potter."

Harry was not minded to argue with him, not after the day he had just had. So he simply said, "Whatever you say, Professor Snape." But privately he thought Snape was exaggerating a tiny bit, maybe having a little joke at his expense.

* * * * * *

His second class, with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, went much better than his first one. He introduced himself as Freedom, and then watched everyone like a hawk after taking role, setting a Monitoring Charm on half of the room, while he worked with the other half, a suggestion from Severus that enabled him to keep an eye on the entire room at one time while still managing to assist students.

"You could have shown me that before, Severus!" he had complained after his second class had been dismissed.

There had been no exploded cauldrons and no fighting, everything had gone fairly well, though some students had messed up their potions and gotten marked accordingly by him. Still, it was a much better experience the second time around.

"Why? Experience is the best teacher, Mr. Potter." The Potions Master replied slyly.

Harry shot him a glare. "Thanks ever so much."

"How did your detention with Witherspoon go?"

"Okay. He was really glad I let him brew his potion over and I sort of apologized for punishing him."

"Well done. I think Witherspoon will be a good potion maker. He has the brains and the discipline for it."

Harry agreed, Jace was better at brewing than he had been at that age, at least he was once Harry got him alone and away from yearmates who liked to use him as a scapegoat.

The next class he had with the Gryffindors and Slytherins was a much more subdued one.

No one called him Harry, and he cast the Monitoring Charm as soon as they had sat down and begun to work, and when one of the troublemaking Slytherins attempted to sabotage a neighboring Gryffindor's solution, he caught them in the act and had the pleasure of saying, "Detention, Mr. Vandernoose! Seven o'clock tomorrow evening. I don't tolerate ruining another's work in my classroom."

Vandernoose had gaped at him. "Huh? B-but, professor . . .I didn't do anything . . ."

"Don't bother lying, Vandernoose. I saw you out of the corner of my eye."

"How?"

Harry promptly shifted his eyes from human to hawk. "That's how."

An instant later he shifted back and took a Headache Remedy once he was back at his desk.

But that was enough to start rumors among the firsties that Professor Potter had eyes like a hawk and saw everything that happened in his classroom, just like Professor Snape.

"All the bloody potions professors have eyes in the back of their heads or something," he overheard Vandernoose complaining to his mate Rhys as they left the classroom that day.

Harry chuckled. Sometimes it was good to be a little different. And now he understood better why Severus sometimes muttered about throttling some of his students.

He then picked up the large pile of homework essays and headed back to his dorm to lock them in his trunk before lunch.

After eating, he began to read over the homework essays and soon discovered that Severus had not been joking.

He could barely read half of the essays, the penmanship was so awful, and the grammar and spelling were worse. By the time he had read through five of them, he was beginning to doubt if the students had passed primary school, or if they had they must have paid off the Headmaster.

Merlin's blasted beard, but these are . . .I can't believe anyone doesn't know how to spell "mustard" . . .or that the past tense of grind is "ground" not grinded . . .the list of ingredients are right in their potions text, God help me! And this other one . . .I'm lucky I can read one word in three, it's smudged and blotted so badly. And I have HOW many more of these to grade?

By the time he was done, his eyes were crossing, he was developing another headache, and he finally understood why Snape always seemed so cross the morning after a test. Grading homework bloody sucked! And the worst part was, he had just assigned more of it, so he would be going through this again the next day.

He groaned and hit himself in the head. I'll have to ask Severus if there's a spell that can figure out awful handwriting. Or do I just have to guess at what the words are supposed to be and hope it makes sense?

When Snape asked him casually the next morning at breakfast about his homework essays, Harry growled, "They were bloody wonderful!"

"That bad?"

"You knew they would be," Harry said accusingly.

Severus smirked. "I warned you, Potter."

"Is there a spell to fix awful handwriting?"

"As a matter of fact, there is."

"What is it?"

"The Re-do spell."

"I never heard of that before. How do you cast it?"

"Hand the paper back to the student and say "Re-do this, so I can actually read it." Severus replied. "It works quite well."

"You're a riot, Sev," harry grumbled.

"I do my humble best, fledgling," said the Potions Master, then he chuckled quietly. "Homework is a necessary evil, Harry. Like death and taxes. And mouthy apprentices."

Harry made a face at him. "You know, I think I liked you better before, when you didn't have such a wicked sense of humor."

The Potions Master snorted. "Whining does not become you, Mr. Potter."

"Aw, shut up, Sev!" Harry said, very very quietly.

"What was that, Mr. Potter?"

"Uh . . .I said you were right, Sev," Harry recovered hastily. Because teacher or not, he was still Snape's apprentice and the last thing he needed was for his firsties to learn that he earned himself detention with his mentor for being a smartass.

All in all, however, as his second week merged into his third, and then into his fourth, Harry discovered that he did enjoy being an instructor, despite his occasional urge to hex his troublemaking students. Perhaps Severus was right, and he should seriously consider becoming a professor instead of an Auror. Always assuming, of course, that he lived long enough to have a career after finishing school.

As his OWLS drew near, his dreams of Voldemort standing there, holding a crystal ball, and laughing, while about him lay the bodies of all those Harry cared for, were becoming worse. Harry was Occluding every night, as much as he could, but sometimes even that wasn't enough, and he woke up exhausted and out of sorts, until he admitted what was happening to Severus, and the master spy used his own form of Occlumency and imposed a shield upon Harry's mind that halted the dreams for three nights straight.

"You should have come to me immediately. How long has this been going on?"

"Uh . . about a week."

"A week? Dammit, Potter, why did you wait so long?"

"I thought I could deal with it, okay?"

"No, it's not . . .okay!" Severus snapped. "All it takes is one slip and he might gain access to your mind, seeing through your eyes, knowing what you know. We can't afford that, Harry! I thought you understood that."

"I do! I just . . .I just don't want to keep running to you for every little thing."

"This is not a little thing, Harry. If the Dark Lord possesses you . . .next time, come to me, I don't care what hour it is, and tell me the dreams have returned and you can't block them out. Fool's pride will get you killed . . .or someone else. Understand?"

"Yes, sir." Harry hung his head. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry, fledgling. Just ask for help, dammit. I'm your mentor, Harry, that's what I'm here for."

"Okay, Sev." Harry sighed.

"Get some sleep, before you fall face first in a student's cauldron tomorrow," Severus said gruffly, but then he reached out and ruffled Harry's hair. "You're forgiven."

And Harry smiled.

But the next morning the Prophet headlines reported another breakout from Azkaban. Voldemort was gathering his followers back to him and Severus suspected he would be making a move upon the Ministry soon, if Harry's dreams were any indication. Though he did not tell the boy this, he suspected that Voldemort was going to try and break into the Hall of Prophecies, to seize the globe with the false prophecy, and they must be prepared to meet him, if they could. It could be an opportunity to thwart or maybe even injure him. If they could manage to destroy his current body . . .it would give them time to find and destroy the Horcruxes.

So far Minerva had not heard from Dumbledore, and though Severus would normally have waited for Albus before calling an Order meeting, he felt they should not delay, time slipped away from them, and the Order should at least be informed of the Dark Lord's possible plans and motive, so he sent a coded letter around to all the Order members, including Albus, requesting a meeting at Grimmauld Place. He hoped that the missive would reach the Headmaster, because the old wizard's absence was unnerving.


 



Chapter End Notes:


How did you all like this one?

It was based, loosly on some of my own experiences teaching a class of unruly 7th graders in English. And the part with the homework too! This was before kids could use computers to write assignments, and anyhow most of the kids where I was teaching in Trenton, NJ didn't own a computer. So . . .I went insane trying to read their handwriting.

Next: Harry accompanies Severus to Grimmauld Place and has a long-overdue conversation with Sirius. Much angst ahed!

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