Professor Severus Snape slid his finger in a soothing, repetitive motion around his goblet. The first years were being ushered in by Professor McGonagall, gawking at the ceiling and the House tables, eyes full of nervousness and yet, wonder. It was the same each year.
However this year there were two faces amongst the throngs of new students that Snape knew would claim his attention soon enough – one face was familiar; one infamous. But he brushed aside his faint curiosity to study the latest DADA teacher at his side.
"Are you well this evening, Professor Quirrell?" Snape's tone was openly mocking, he could admit. He saw Burbage shoot him a disapproving glare- she had taught Quirinus, she was biased.
"S-sorry? I... I'm quite f-fine, Severus!" Quirrell stuttered, clearly startled. Then again, he always was these days.
"You seem unnerved. And to think classes haven't even begun," Snape purred.
"N-no! It's s-simply the s-start of n-new t-term is s-so exciting, don't you think?" the man's right eye spasmed, especially eager to stop looking at the dour Potions Master.
"Mm." Snape was not of the same opinion, and he gave a cursory evil eye to the plotting teenagers that filled the Hall.
As a matter of fact, Severus Snape had always detested Quirrell. He was a stammering and simultaneously overconfident bookworm that was nearly as incompetent as that nasty cow, Trelawney. Who, he could see, had once again managed to avoid the Welcoming feast. Apparently large crowds clouded her Inner Eye.
Snape often took perverse pleasure in intimidating the bashful man, even when he once was the Muggle Studies Professor. But now, he, above Snape, had secured Defence Against the Dark Arts.
But something about Quirrell had changed over the summer... something Snape couldn't quite pin down. He only knew the man felt different. There was an unfamiliar air about the teacher- as if he were concealing secrets behind that mild expression. Once or twice, Snape had thought he glimpsed cunning in the man's darting eyes, but that must have been a trick of the candlelight. That godawful new stammer was far too distracting for him to look closer.
He couldn't imagine that the ineffectual idiot was any sort of danger, except as a shoddy Professor, but Quirrell's altered bearing made the Potion Master's senses tingle with vague menace. Snape knew better than to ignore his instincts entirely. He had not survived his part-time service to the Dark Lord by sheer luck...
Quirrell would bear watching, he decided.
The Sorting Ceremony was just commencing as another odious Hat song wrapped up, and Snape followed the DADA teacher's gaze as the first Gryffindor– a girl with frizzy hair – was sorted. Minerva McGonagall finally came to the first name of consideration in Snape's book.
Snape watched the Malfoy boy's angular face as the Sorting Hat loudly proclaimed,
"SLYTHERIN!" after barely touching Draco's shiny, blond head.
That's no surprise, Snape thought, giving him a slight nod as the lad jumped off the stool and went to the Slytherin table. Too pretentious for his own good, if Lucius has set any example, and far too confident. That swaggering walk, so reminiscent of his father.
Snape had been a frequent guest at Malfoy Manor during Draco's childhood, and he had made a point of establishing some example to the boy that wasn't the cold, distant airs of his father. He knew there was a sharp mind behind that arrogant face and Snape was determined to draw it out. As Head of Slytherin House, he would have the opportunity to influence him, and he hoped to undo at least some of the damage Lucius had done to Draco's character.
Perhaps he could keep the son from making the same mistakes as the father, and the mistakes Severus had done himself.
Snape's thoughts were so focused on Draco Malfoy he almost missed that name when Minerva called it out.
A ripple of chatter rose from the tables, craning necks kept forth. Even the staff at the Head table perked up, attentive. There was a shuffle in the middle of first years, then a boy stepped forward.
Snape didn't know what he had expected, really, but it hadn't really been this... this waif-like, embarrassed-looking child.
Potter was shorter and skinnier than most of the other first years. He seemed hardly big enough to get onto the stool, but managed. Snape got a quick impression of wildly curly black hair and glasses too large for a pale face... then the boy sat, his back to the Staff table, bony shoulders drawn into himself. Thin arms were rigid, and his small hands gripped the seat so hard his knuckles were white with tension.
Snape leaned forward curiously to see him from the side. Potter's eyes were squeezed shut in fierce concentration, and he looked to be silently chanting. A long, hushed pause heightened the suspense, everyone in the Hall seemed to be holding their breath.
What is taking so long? Snape found himself eager as the rest, hands in tight fists.
Finally that annoying voice cried out,
Snape told himself he was not interested, or worse, disappointed. Certainly, any Head of House would have welcomed the prestige of the famous boy hero... but this was James Potter's son, after all was said and done.
Of course he'd be a Gryffindor- just like his father and, Snape added unhappily to his own thought, and his mother.
He watched the child wiggle off the stool and nearly skip over to the Gryffindor table to be greeted by his new housemates. People were chanting for Merlin's sake, and he was being grabbed at by every Housemate that could reach.
Snape observed Minerva's tight smile that he knew to be of pride, and snorted in disgust.
So now it begins, he acknowledged. Five minutes in the school and the child's already being treated like a celebrity. He glimpsed the boy's eager face through the crowd of students and grimaced with distaste. Frightfully unkempt... poor eyesight... need for crowd theatrics– a Potter certainly!
Determined not to spoil his appetite, Snape ignored the Gryffindor table until after his salmon and rice had been spooned onto his plate. He began to eat with his eyes carefully aimed at his plate and nowhere else. Out of misguided politeness and a bout of overconfidence, Quirrell made a few attempts at conversation, which Snape completely ignored.
As he sniped at the man to leave him be for a final time, his glance happened to fall on the Gryffindor table for the second time that evening, just as he had been avoiding. The Potter boy was looking up- in fact, he appeared to be peering directly at the Potions Master. He spoke to the older Weasley boy, then stared at Snape again. It was the first clear view Snape had gotten of the boy's face.
Messy hair– round glasses– vague little smile, more of a smirk... James Potter all over again, Snape realised irritably.
He spoke to the older Weasley boy, then stared at Snape again. It was the first unobstructed view Snape had gotten of the boy's face. For a moment, as the boy turned to the Head Table, he looked past the glasses, into green-grass eyes.
Snape frowned to cover his discomfort, purely reactionary. Everything faded away except those familiar eyes. he could almost see red hair framing a freckled face that was smiling at him, him- and saying "Sev! Come over here, no Mary doesn't mind-"
Then he saw the boy's brows furrowed in anger, and he saw again the black framed glasses and blacker-still hair. A small hand rose to rub fitfully at the scar hidden behind curled bangs, but the eyes continued to meet his, unwavering. Snape swallowed hard, agonised by the sudden lump in his throat.
Fearful that his past was too clearly written on his face, Snape did the only thing he could- he scowled fiercely to establish himself. The green eyes blinked, but didn't look away as he'd wanted.
To his shame, Severus Snape was first to break eye contact. He sat mute and grim, Quirinus finally silent besides him, his sour expression concealing the pain underneath.
Snape glowered at his now half-empty plate, pushing rice around mutinously and silently plotting.
Enjoy your adoring masses while you can, Potter. You'll find your fame will not sway me. Let all the rest spoil and treat you, but your cocksure attitude won't aid you in my domain, I promise you. When I'm done with you, boy, you won't even dream of pulling one over on anyone ever again. I'll eradicate that Potter attitude, once and for all.
Said Potter was gaping wide-eyed at the heaping platters before him. Snape couldn't resist looking up again. His mouth was open, slack-jawed, as if he were in delayed shock. He was piling up on every helping he could, slices of each delight in sight.
Look at that, you'd think he's never seen food!
He was glancing around, watching uncertainly as the rest of the table ate noisily, his own plate cautiously guarded between two narrow arms.
Deplorable manners, Snape noted spitefully, as the boy began hastily shovelling what looked to be half of the feast into his mouth, as if afraid it would disappear as quickly as it had appeared.
As the Hall finally cleared out it left Snape sliding his finger in a soothing, repetitive motion around his goblet, far more glumly.
Those eyes. He couldn't shake the feel of them.
Now that he could remember just exactly what they looked like.