Professor Snape's first years opening speech was a masterpiece of well timed theatrics. Yes, it was always the same words, but he liked to think with age he had become increasingly more intimidating and awe inspiring.
He saw Draco Malfoy lean forward in his seat, ensnared, and had to suppress a look of satisfaction.
Naturally, the only student who appeared completely unimpressed was Harry Potter. He hadn't even seemed to acknowledge the Potions Master, preferring to doodle aimlessly in his schoolbooks, it looked like.
"Potter," he barked.
He challenged the bratty little thing, making sure it was nearly out of his depth. His lacking responses were dauntless, and he looked utterly disinterested in Snape. In fact, his behaviour toed the line of insolence when he suggested the girl next to him should answer in his stead. To make it clear he wouldn't tolerate such attitude, he took points, privately both enraged and surprised by his bravery.
Then again, it was the prized trait of a Gryffindor.
When the Longbottom spawn melted his entire cauldron, Snape whirled on the unsuspecting dolt across the aisle.
"Potter!" He barked again, and blamed him. He was fully aware it was unjust, and took great joy from it as his Slytherins hissed with laughter at the indignation on the spoiled child's face. He nearly argued before the orange mop next to him elbowed him harshly.
At least that one has some self preservation.
Snape dismissed the class with another sneer for Potter, who scurried away without a glance back.
The Wizarding World's wonder boy had no idea who he was going up against. Snape would never, ever succumb to the boy's conceitedness, fame, money, or stubbornness- he swore it to himself.
He would also overcome his weakness to those eyes.
When his gaggle of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor third years ambled into class with the sad resignation of veteran Potions students, Snape drove any thought of the uppity boy out of his mind.
Out of mind, out of sight, all was well for the time being.
"Sixteen points, Professor Snape?" McGonagall called from further down the hall,
"Professor McGonagall," Snape replied smoothly. "What a keen eye you have."
"It's the first day!" Minerva hissed. "Classes have barely begun! How on earth can you reason this?"
"Ask your Gryffindors, not I." Snape offered with no small amount of pleasure. "It's a burden your House has so many avid rule flaunters."
"You find teaching a burden," McGonagall eyed him with cool annoyance. "feel free to take it up with the Headmaster, not take it out on my students."
"I am a paragon of equality, Professor," Snape said with an oily smile.
"Oh you don't say, Severus." She gave a familiar snort of disbelief. "Now I feel assured all is as it should be."
Snape seated himself without preamble, not deigning to answer. Minerva took her own seat with a harrumph and a disapproving glare he was well used to before he became a Professor.
"How is Draco Malfoy adjusting to Hogwarts, Severus?" Minerva asked after a moment's silence, her curiosity getting the better of her as it usually did.
"Like a merman to freshwater." Severus glanced over at the students slowly filling the Slytherin table. "He's spoiled... but as you know that has long been a concern of mine, nothing new. He's made friends quickly."
"He reminds me," Minerva said carefully, "terribly of his father." Severus knew she did not mean this to be a compliment.
"Draco has had no other role model but Lucius," Severus agreed neutrally. "Some degree of separation may do them both good."
"I'm sure you'll be a good influence on him, Severus," she said lightly.
"I believe I may have that opportunity," Severus shrugged. "He's not hopeless, and he has spine somewhere underneath that bravado."
"Your position as Head of House was not lightly earned, Severus," Minerva said in a rare display of genuine affection. "If anyone can get through to him, you will."
Snape snorted. "I don't know about that. I just don't want Malfoy- and others- to follow in the footsteps of their fathers."
"I think there is nothing you cannot succeed in once you've set your mind to it."
"Don't expect miracles, Minerva." Snape said without any of his usual bite, and the wry twist to his mouth felt defeated.
The Potions Master was enjoying an uncommonly warm first week of September. The unrelenting sunshine drew him out of his dungeons, particularly on the Friday afternoon, after his NEWTs students had their lesson.
He strode across the Transfiguration Courtyard, making for the Ruined. He knew the first years were having their first flying lesson- at least he remembered just as he was about to walk out onto the field.
Snape wasn't a fan of flying, never was. He would end up thinking about the ground and how far away it was. He preferred the convenience and speed of apparation or floo travel.
When Neville Longbottom sailed into the sky, he wasn't entirely surprised. The boy's lack of skill seemed to be in every class and not just potions. He say Hooch take control of the situation and was glad he'd managed to walk across some afternoon entertainment.
The boy was lucky it was only a wrist he broke, with how he was shrieking and jerking about.
As the flying instructor herded Longbottom away, Snape intended to find a peaceful and empty courtyard, but was stopped in place by raised voices. Familiar raised voices.
If he was correct, Draco Malfoy was starting a shouting match. Now that simply wouldn't do.
It was, of course, Potter he appeared to be standing in front of. Draco seemed to be holding something out of reach, and the only boy that could rival him in spoiled ness was demanding he give it over.
Snape smiled involuntarily when Draco took to his broom, agile and trained from years of practice at the Manor. The boy'd always had a knack for it, despite his mother's fawning and his father's haughtiness over the sport.
Potter proceeded to shrug off his housemates and shakily clambered onto his own broom, and with no skill but a shitload of control, nearly careened into Draco before swooping around to spin in front of him.
He had to admit Potter was fairly talented, despite his inexperience. Malfoy lost his surety, and Snape saw the split second he made up his mind to chuck the little object as far away from himself as he could, before flying down to the training ground again.
Stupid, stupid Potter immediately spun to dive after it.
He's going to kill himself, the Professor realised. He was zipping at breakneck speed for the tower, uncaring of the nearness, straight for that little thing that was still falling in a graceless arc.
With as much intent as he could muster, he cast a layered cushioning charm at the stone, safe in the knowledge that Potter would no longer kill himself but only be humiliated when he bounces off the tower.
Instead of that, he saw Potter reach out, nearly unseated from his broom, then execute an expert pivot halting mere inchesfrom the charms he'd conducted. Snape, in spite of himself, was awed.
The boy swooped down to his cheering Housemates, sunlight glinting off the small object in his hand, Draco scowling at the boy's success.
Once his heart stopped beating out of tandem, Snape's anger began to swell. Of all the idiotic- he could've died? Has he no idea how dangerously fatal that was? If he hadn't swerved in time? And if I hadn't been here to cushion the wall... he would be dead! Just like that...
Snape found himself trembling with anger and fright. He straightened his shoulders, and took a controlling breath.
Time had come for him to make himself known, but as he prepared to stalk down the yard he spotted Professor McGonagall strutting over. She descended upon Potter instantly with a feral gleam in her eyes, cheeks rosy with a rage that Snape had rarely been able to coax out of the woman.
"Never- in all my time at Hogwarts-" McGonagall was nearly speechless with apoplectic anger. "Potter! Follow me now!" She whirled and marched back toward the tower.
The boy's triumph was short-lived, and Draco gave him a snotty look. A now mortified Potter trailed after his Head of House, those thin shoulders slumped in dread.
Serves the show-off right. Snape approved of him being caught, only a tad let down he couldn't ream the child himself. He's in her house, all said and done. She should establish the expectations.
"McGonagall!" Snape's angry bark caused a startled hush to descend upon the staff room as every head turned to stare at him.
"Yes, Professor Snape?" Minerva answered primly.
Severus ignored the mild rebuke in her tone and dropped into the chair beside her, lowering his voice. The other teachers returned to their own conversations. "Excuse me... Professor McGonagall... please tell me that the rumour I have heard is untrue," he snapped.
"Well, that depends," Minerva frowned. "Which rumour are you referring to?"
"Tell me you did not reward Potter's theatrics on the quad by appointing him to the Gryffindor Quidditch team ?!"
Minerva frowned. "Don't be absurd, I do not reward or condone recklessness. I have assigned lines regarding his irresponsible behaviour. Although, he did it in defence of a friend."
Snape nearly rolled his eyes, likely story.
"Of course I also assigned him to the team."
"What?" He snarled.
"I take it you saw his flying? He's a natural born seeker with those reflexes, hah!" Minerva gushed happily. "And to think he's never flown before- it's miraculous, nothing short of miraculous."
"He's a first year!" Snape protested.
"Well, given Harry's extraordinary aptitude, Albus has agreed "
"That boy is spoiled enough as it is! Making exceptions for him just feeds his deluded notions of self-importance. I am going to formally protest this blatant favoritism, mark my words," he hissed.
"Oh, Severus, your anger seems a little extreme for the circumstance." Minerva said sweetly. "Are you concerned about the Cup?"
"That's not the point I'm making." Snape snorted.
The thought had occurred to him, but he wasn't going to admit it, and it was not why he was mad- it was Potter. Being rewarded for foolhardy behaviour! Ha!
"You know, Professor Snape," she murmured slyly, "You really should be more careful. You sound nervous."
"I am not concerned by any paltry competition, Minerva. I merely object to the preferential treatment Potter receives."
"I'd hardly call encouraging his talents preferential treatment, Severus. Hogwarts has always recognized and honored students with exceptional abilities," Minerva chided. "We are allowing Harry to join the team based on aptitude. His unfortunate celebrity has nothing to do with his potential as a Seeker."
"Ah it's just a cute coincidence, I can gather." Snape replied snidely.
"Perhaps not," Minerva conceded. "It is more likely his talent is hereditary. As I recall, his father, James, was a fantastic Seeker. Nearly never lost a game."
Snape swallowed the frustrated shout, it's not fair! They overlook the danger of these 'allowances', just like for his father before him!
He rose from his seat without another word, too embroiled in the past. It was his favourite place to linger.
He levelled with McGonagall before absconding. "James Potter was an insufferable braggart with little to no thought for consequence! Consider what good his skill on a broom did him in the long run, before trying to churn out a duplicate in his son. Or perhaps the nostalgia is too good for you, Minerva." He stalked for the side door, not looking back.
"Nothing ever really changes," Minerva spoke aloud to herself. That's what he believes... James reincarnated. He is certainly hypocritical to be thinking of others' faults. Merlin knows, Severus Snape has plenty of his own.
However she, like the Headmaster, had been largely ignorant to the bullying that made up his youth. Sometimes she did feel the guilt of it, wondering if with more guidance Severus wouldn't have drifted down such a dark path... and James, perhaps, would be here today.