"Sir, did you know that Gin Weasley and Neville make a powerful potion-making team?" Harry knew he didn't look nearly as mild as the question sounded in his head. It felt like he was thrumming with energy - including the sickening sense that it was probably a bad idea to be thrumming with energy in Snape's presence.
"No," Snape said, letting the one syllable fall, and lie there, and start to sink into the ground. Eventually, he continued, "I did, however, suspect as much."
"You've been giving Neville detentions just as much as you've always given me them!" Harry asserted.
"Yes, though you can hardly argue he doesn't deserve them." Snape sneered - as the sneer wasn't primarily directed at Harry, Harry chose to ignore it.
"Why did he get to do his detentions in the greenhouses, while I had to serve mine with you?" Harry demanded, his voice surprisingly level. I sound more like a detective than a school-kid.
"I've already told you the answer to that," Snape said laconically. He'd make a good 'Speak No Evil' with those thin lips of his.*
Harry fought the urge to pace - unlike Hermione, he did his best thinking on the pitch (though try telling her that his homework actually improved after a flight. he'd have to bring appreciable evidence). "You said that your teaching style does Neville no favors..."
"Indeed," Snape said.
"Then why go to all the bother to take your most hopeless student..." Harry paused, rusty gears turning in his head, "He wouldn't be quite so hopeless if you weren't teaching, sir?"
"Perhaps, perhaps not," Snape said, "Mr. Longbottom, upon arrival at Hogwarts, was sorted into House Gryffindor, which was perhaps the absolute worst place for a child of his upbringing."
Harry shook his head, "Worse than Slytherin?" Harry thought about Neville's parents, that he never mentioned to anyone.
"Gryffindors are pig-headed and boisterous folk, too used to looking out for themselves to think about others. Slytherins, on the other hand, find uses for even the smallest person. Neville would have been included, somehow." Snape said.
Harry Potter nodded, nourishing a trickle of belief that Neville's inclusion would have required Snape's Direct Intervention.
Snape continued, "Pomona Sprout treats Neville as a junior partner. His skills in her class rival most apprentices, whether or not he has the ambition to grasp for the actual title."
Harry suddenly found himself thinking of Hermione, and suppressed a rueful smile. Heaven help the corker that got in her way!
"That has taken time to grow, of course." Snape continued. "I consigned him to the greenhouses because I felt that his attitude would improve with exposure to Pomona's kindness and support. Augusta Longbottom is not a very kind person, prone to strictness and propriety. Were I a more caring person, I would wonder how often he was hugged as a child."
Harry suppressed a smile. Snape was, in point of fact, wondering. Not that he wanted Harry to get the wrong idea, obviously.
"And me, sir?" Harry asked, his face still. On another teacher, he'd have used a hopeful smile. But Snape would tell, or he wouldn't.
"You needed discipline, and a reminder that life is not all apples and roses." Snape said, "I felt Minerva would be too lenient."
Harry choked back a snort. McGonagall? Lenient? Only Snape would dream of putting those words together.
"Don't look so surprised, Potter," Snape sneered. "James was one of her darling Lions, and she loved Lily as if she was her own daughter."
*Harry's still on about the whole Law and Order thing. Feel free to ignore him.
[a/n: up next: Ginny. Guesses as to why Snape thought she'd be good? She's certainly no star in his class...
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