5 November, 1976
On the third day of his internment in the infirmary, Severus’ Head of House finally made an appearance. Professor Sigmund Svartrunir, the man in charge of Ancient Runes was the essence of old. He was thin as a rail, and his hairline had receded only a small distance, enough to emphasize a prominent widow’s peak and steel grey hair shot through with streaks of pure white which he kept short and slicked back. His eyebrows were shaggy and expressive, and his deepset eyes were a deep brown. A pencil mustache came and went, depending on his mood. When he was forced to walk openly in muggle London once, a muggle had asked for his autograph, mistaking him for an actor named Vincent Price. He fancied that he was much more hale than that fellow, although the resemblance was uncanny.
A pureblood who trained at Durmstrang, Svartrunir was rumoured to have roomed with Grindelwald himself. He fought alongside Dumbledore and was essential in the clean up some of the uglier aftermath of Grindelwald’s followers prior to settling in for a quiet academic career. Dealing with house disciplinary matters was not the highlight of his day, but it was his job to advocate for his students. He knew as well as Severus did that the attackers responsible for Severus’ current state would get off with nothing worse than a slap on the wrist and that seriously rankled them both.
Walking slowly, Professor Svartrunir made his way across towards his student’s bed. His movements were always precise, and he had affected the use of a walking stick, which doubled nicely as a wand sheath and cudgel. He snorted softly. Severus was here so often that he had claimed the same cot every time and was therefore never difficult to find. As the Professor approached, the sixth year who had been sitting on top of the covers in his pyjamas, reading, came to attention at the sound of the cane on the stone floor. Putting the book to the side, the student stood up and walked over to another section, returning with a sturdy chair to set beside his bed. He smiled at Svartrunir and stood waiting for the man to seat himself creakily, one hand clutching the head of his walking stick for support as he did so.
“Well, my boy. What has befallen you this time?” The man’s voice was rough at the edges but the language exact and accent cultured.
Severus waited for the professor to spread his hand graciously to indicate the younger man should sit before making an attempt at answering. Raising his wand to cast, he took the look of one composing his response before the words appeared in the air next to him. His tongue was half grown, but he was still not permitted to use it. “I was attacked from behind as I was returning from the library where I had been researching. The others had left ahead of me, so I was quite alone. First, they cast what must have been a mistaken Langlock, as it left me lacking my tongue entirely. There was more than one, so at the same time I was trapped with an Incarcerous. Finally, they thought it would be funny to make me hairless like the snake I am before they left me hanging in front of the Great Hall to be found in time for breakfast, set with a golem who would play music, Muggle music, when anyone got near enough to cut me down. Mr Filch had to come get Madam Pomfrey as it was too high for him to reach even with the ladders, and I had been left hanging for hours as it was.” He coloured with anger at the latest abuse.
The Slytherin Head of House had taken much from Nietzsche and did believe that lessons should not be taken overly personally. To his credit, it troubled him that Severus had not been able to secure the allies needed within his House to prevent the recurrent inequity in numbers that the young wizard faced repeatedly. “Who was it? Need I even ask?”
Finding the floor at Svartrunir’s feet very interesting, Severus hesitated before flicking a his wand to air-write his response. “James Potter. Sirius Black. Peter Pettigrew.” He had not seen Lupin this time around, but that one seemed to hang to the back anyway. He was a Prefect, and probably absented himself for the shame of it.
It was James Potter’s will and Sirius Black’s genius that forced the feud to continue well past its expected shelf life. James Potter imagined himself to be in love with Lily Evans, who still would not give him the time of day, much less a moment of her time. Potter seemed to blame Severus for this issue, but Severus had lost much more when Lily turned and walked away from him. In every sense, Severus had lost twenty times as much as Potter had in their little war, but he had less to begin with.
Sirius tormented Severus in creative ways to further distance himself from his family. It embarrassed his little brother, who was a perfect child and had been sorted, as expected, into Slytherin. Regulus was a good student, and did make his parents proud, and that worked on Sirius like sand in his pants, but he couldn’t attack his brother directly. So why not Snape? Pettigrew was nothing but a simpering sycophant in these escapades. He seemed to get a charge out of being part of things. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but he did make sure he was never found out alone with Severus, or any other Slytherin for that matter.
Svartrunir heaved a sigh in exasperation. “No doubt those boys are rotten apples and spoil the rest of the House by mere association. They have become very wild. McGonagall seems to be slipping. Why she can’t make those two behave, I cannot begin to understand.”
Severus smirked. He had, of course, spent a significant amount of his recent life pondering ways to get back at the whole lot of them. So many possibilities. So little time.
Svartrunir knew that look, and he was quick to answer that smirk sternly. “Mr Snape, you recall my expectations, do you not? Do not let me hear of you engaging in such crass activity. A gentlewizard would never be caught dead in a prank war. You have such wonderful prospects. Don’t sully them.” The eldery wizard leaned back and his expression changed to that of a man delivering a treat, gesturing with his walking stick, held as one might a baton, “Just the other day Professor Slughorn was carrying on about how talented you are and how wonderful it is to have someone like you working in the lab.”
Severus coloured with pleasure at this praise, a twitch of his wand causing the golden words to shimmer in response, “Of course sir. Thank you, sir.”
Shaking his head in relative impotence, Svartrunir drew himself upright. A perfunctory pause was taken to inquire if Severus had everything he needed before the elderly professor took his leave of the teen, patting Severus lightly on the shoulder in a rare show of physical support. He had a fondness for this troubled lad, but felt that any more obvious display of affection would probably be bad for Severus’ character. Severus was quite touched, really, but schooled his features to a more neutral and polite attention as they took leave of each other.
At the beginning of every year, Svartrunir would gather his whole house for a chat about how the House of Slytherin managed. The rules were: Never get caught breaking rules. Always support your own, no one else will. So they were expected to watch each other’s backs, although not such that you stuck your neck out without known future reward. If you were caught in rule breaking, Professor Svartrunir would put the fear of Morgana into your heart and make sure you served reparations, no excuses. If you were not caught however, well all the better – especially if a Gryffindor was at the receiving end of the prank. The Head of Slytherin was not above acting as the affronted party when no evidence could be found, and rather enjoyed giving frustration to Minerva as much as she did.
Professor Minerva McGonagall allowed her students to get away with everything except the Unforgivables or anything that caused permanent damage. A letter to your parents and some detentions was the worst that was ever dealt out to a Gryffindor and everyone knew it. Well, that letter was an actual incentive for Sirius Black. Why, an offer to anger his mother even further, yes please! Potter seemed to be able to convince anyone who would listen that Severus Snape deserved everything he got.
Severus was improving at not being caught, but everyone seemed to understand that he gave almost as good as he got. The only things that prevented the feud from growing to ridiculous proportions in this rivalry were Snape’s lack of social backup and resources. He had some loose connections among his fellow housemates, but he lacked the political weight that he would have had if he were a pureblood of one the sacred 28. His main value to his fellow classmates was his talent. He was quick on the draw and had a genius for potions, something he inherited from his mother. If he could convince someone to help him, he’d easily put the Gryffindors in their place.
With a rueful glance after the retreating back of Professor Svartrunir, Severus eased back onto the pillows, silently staring at the expanse of ceiling. He knew its cracks better than the back of his own hand. He was unutterably weary of seeing them. Something had to be done.