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Chapter 5:

"It is very comforting to believe that leaders who do terrible things are, in fact, mad. That way, all we have to do is make sure we don't put psychotics in high places and we've got the problem solved."
--Thomas Wolfe

Severus paced the aisles of his classroom, supervising the students as they made the latest assigned potion. Inwardly, he grimaced. Usually, he'd be up at the front marking essays, but so many of the OWL level potions had explosive stages that he simply didn't dare.

He stopped by each table, watching each student work, and making them nervous at the same time. He had made sure to issue dire warnings to all of them about dropping extra ingredients or joke items in cauldrons and threatened expulsion to anyone who survived that happening. Severus had no wish to spend time cleaning bits of students off the walls, ceiling, and floor of his dungeons. If they blew themselves up, their various bits and pieces would be no good to use in potions, after all.

Severus stopped briefly and eyed Longbottom's potion. "You do realize that your potion should be dark blue, not puce, don't you, Mr. Longbottom?" he asked silkily.

"Y-y-yes, sir," the boy stuttered.

"Correct it," he snapped. "And no, Granger, you may not help."

Severus strode forward and stopped next to Potter's table. He'd been watching the boy more carefully than usual, especially since the Headmaster had left the school. The boy had an Occlumency lesson with him coming up, and he hoped that he could talk to the child then. He peered into the boy's cauldron, absently noting that the color was right for the stage they were in. As Potter started stirring the mixture, he caught a flash of white on the back of the boy's hand.

Inwardly, Severus cursed. It was a scar, and from the quality of it, it was fairly recent. "Potter," he snapped. "See me after class."

"Yes, sir," was the quiet reply.

Severus ignored the glares he was receiving from the Golden Trio and continued to inspect his students' potions, stopping here and there to keep the classroom from being blown up. He didn't want a repeat of what had happened with Finnigan.

Time seemed to creep by slowly until it was finally time to send them off. "Bottle your potions, turn them in, and clean up," he snapped.

Severus walked over, sat behind his desk and waited for the students to clear out. It seemed forever before the last student scurried out of his classroom. With a casual flick of his wand, he closed the door and put up locking and silencing charms.

"Let me see your hand, Mr. Potter," he ordered.

Wordlessly, the boy showed him his left hand. Severus repressed the urge to sigh and roll his eyes. "The other hand, Mr. Potter."

Reluctantly, Potter showed him his hand.

Severus examined the scar his mouth tightening in anger. 'I must not tell lies,' was carved into the back of the child's hand in his own messy writing. "And how did you acquire this scar?" he asked, his voice silky and dangerously soft.

"Detention," Potter mumbled. "With Umbridge."

Before they could go any further, Severus glanced at the clock. "This isn't over," he promised. "But so you don't get into trouble with her, you had best leave for class." He grabbed some parchment and his red self-inking quill and scribbled the boy a note. "Don't be late for your lesson tonight," he said, then took down the charms and opened the door with another flick of his wand.

"Yes, sir," was the reply.

Severus watched as Harry grabbed his bag and hurried out the door. The only ways he could think of to acquire such a scar involved Dark magic or illegal Dark items. That meant the rumors were true, and the Toad had been abusing his students. They were only children, for Merlin's sake!

If she had abused the Potter child in such a way, it was more than likely that he wasn't the only one. Why none of the students had come forward, he didn't know, but that would soon be rectified. He would take Harry to see Minerva, and they would arrange House meetings to find out who else had been forced to inscribe words on their bodies by Umbridge.

Due to circumstances, he could not have the odious woman removed from the school. A slow, evil smile spread over his face. However, there was a set of pranksters set on making her miserable who could... benefit from his expertise. Hopefully, they would manage to get her out of the school so that she could be prosecuted for her actions. Child abuse was highly illegal, after all, and depending on how many students she had hurt, she could end up in Azkaban for a very long time. In his opinion, it couldn't happen to a nicer person.

Severus steepled his fingers and looked down his nose at the Weasley twins. He had invented a pretext to haul them into his office for just this... opportunity. He had spent time going through some old notes to unearth the potions that he currently had bottled in his top desk drawer. Normally, he wouldn't dream of helping students create mayhem, but the Weasley twins would be taking their NEWTs in a few months, and this was, after all, a special case.

"Professor," Fred began.

"...Whatever it was..." George said.

"...We didn't do it," Fred finished.

The two of them both gave him nervous smiles and attempted to look innocent. Severus didn't buy it for even a moment. "You're not in trouble," was his quiet answer.

"Then why..." George said.

"...Are we..." Fred continued.

"...Here, Professor?" George asked.

"It has come to my attention that Professor Umbridge has been abusing the students," Severus began silkily. "With the current level of control that she and the Ministry have over the school, there's not much we can overtly do about it right now."

"We know..." Fred said with a frown.

"...She's been making..." George continued the thought.

"...Everyone miserable," Fred said.

Severus gave them his most evil smirk. "There are, however, some other things we can do, with which I require your assistance."

Twin suspicious looks greeted him. "Our help?" George scratched his nose casually.

"Why ever would you..." Fred leaned forward a bit and gave him a skeptical look.

"...Need that, sir?" George finished the question.

Severus opened his desk drawer and pulled out the potion vials. "These, boys, are some little things I invented when I was your age. I've... tweaked them a bit to personalize them for Umbridge."

The twins exchanged a look and then turned toward him, sporting identical mischievous smiles. "Gred--"

"And Forge--"

"...At your service, sir."

"What do they do?"

He handed Fred a few vials of a plum-colored potion. "This one will make her stand up and proclaim randomly that Fudge is an idiot, Dumbledore is wise, and the Dark Lord is back." Severus smiled nastily. "The effects have been spelled to linger for two months."

Fred took the vials reverently. "Thank you, sir."

Severus picked up three vials of rainbow-colored potion and gave them to George. "This will make her hair and skin change colors every time she clears her throat or touches a door." He grabbed some vials of a sky blue potion and handed them over. "And finally, this will make her say the opposite of whatever she planned to say."

"Thank you, Professor," George said with a wide grin.

Severus inclined his head, then handed them a few sheets of parchment. "Here is a list of other experimental potions with prank effects that I have come across over the years. If any of them look useful in your anti-Umbridge campaign, please inform me at once."

"We'll be happy..." Fred began.

"...To help, Professor Snape," George finished.

"I have one condition--tell no one where the potions came from," he said. He nodded as they agreed, then ushered them out of his office. He leaned against the wall and smirked. The pranks that the Weasley twins were responsible for were just as clever as the Marauders' pranks had been, only without malice. They, unlike his school--time nemeses, were equal-opportunity pranksters--with their help, revenge on Umbridge would be sweet.

Severus shut the door behind Harry, who had actually been on time for once, then took the seat opposite of the boy. "Tell me how you came by that scar," he demanded.

Harry slumped and studied the stone floor. "I did," was his soft reply.

Severus repressed the urge to lash out at him. He was trying, honestly he was, but his first instinct was to insult the child; he had been doing that almost as long as he'd been teaching. "In detail," he said.

Potter sighed and rubbed his hand across his forehead. "Professor Umbridge assigned me about two weeks of detention at the start of the year," he began. "She gave me a quill and told me to write lines--I thought it was odd that there wasn't any ink, but she said I didn't need it." Potter's voice got softer. "When I started writing, it started to dig the words into my hand."

Severus's mouth tightened into a thin line. "A blood quill, then. Do you know of any other students she did that to?"

"Lee Jordan," was the subdued reply. "She got him for insolence--you probably would have just taken house points or made him scrub cauldrons. She made me do it again for the Quibbler article, too."

Severus inclined his head in acknowledgment. "I believe, Mr. Potter, we should see your Head of House about this; Umbridge should not be allowed to abuse students in this manner."

"But she didn't listen before," Harry protested.

"She will now," he insisted. Severus stood up and motioned towards the door. "This is a matter for the Heads of Houses to deal with," he said.

Harry stood up and started towards the door just as it banged open and Draco Malfoy ran in. "Professor Snape, sir," he gasped, then looked confused as he noticed Harry.

"Go ahead, Draco," Severus said. "Mr. Potter is here for Remedial Potions," he hated falling back on their cover story with Malfoy, due to the fact that Lily's boy had enough to deal with as it was, but there was no help for it.

Draco leered at Potter. "I didn't realize you were that thick, Potter," he said. "Now Longbottom is, but that's different."

A quick glance at Potter showed that he was barely holding back from cursing Malfoy. While it was true that Mr. Longbottom was absolutely hopeless at brewing, it simply wasn't done to insult another student in front of a professor. "Well, Draco, what is it?" he demanded impatiently.

"Professor Umbridge sent me," said Malfoy. "She needs your help—they've found Montague and he's jammed inside a toilet on the fourth floor, sir."

Severus thought he knew who was responsible for it, and in a way, he admired how they'd made the child disappear, but attacking students could not be allowed. As soon as he had proof, he'd have to assign the Weasley twins detentions. "How did he get in there?" he demanded.

"I don't know sir," Malfoy admitted. "He's rather confused."

"Very well," he said dryly. "Potter, report to Professor McGonagall's office, and we will continue our lesson tomorrow evening instead."

"Yes, sir," Potter responded.

He chivvied the boys out of his office and locked it before he swept down the hall with Malfoy trotting at his heels. He hurried up to the fourth floor lavatory and helped unstick Montague from the toilet. Making his excuses, he left and walked towards McGonagall's office, his long legs eating up ground. Upon arriving, he knocked on the door and entered to find her plying the boy with biscuits.

"Minerva," he nodded to her before seating himself.

"Severus," she said. "Might I ask why you have sent Mr. Potter to me?"

Severus raised his eyebrow and glanced at Potter. "He did not show you his right hand, I take it?"

"No, he didn't," she said. "Mr. Potter?"

Reluctantly, Potter showed her his hand. Minerva's mouth tightened as she examined the scar. "Umbridge's doing?" she asked in a deceptively soft voice. From that voice alone, Severus knew that she was beyond angry.

"Yes, ma'am," was Potter's almost inaudible reply. "In her detentions. She did it to Lee, too."

"Thank you, Mr. Potter," she said. "You're dismissed--go straight back to your Common Room."

They were silent until the office door shut behind Potter. Severus gave her a piercing stare. "Flitwick and Sprout must be informed," he said. "I believe a few of my cheekier Slytherins served detentions with her as well."

"We should call whole House meetings," Minerva said.

Severus steepled his fingers. "I shall have to threaten expulsion for anyone who tells Umbridge about the meeting," he observed.

"You know your students best, Severus," she said.

He inclined his head. "If you will talk to Pomona, I'll talk to Filius."

After mapping out what exactly they planned on saying at the meetings, Severus left and headed to Flitwick's office. They had to do their best to protect the students--all of them, regardless of whether they liked them or not. Snape held no illusions about himself. He was a nasty, vindictive, sadistic, sarcastic bastard, but he still had the spark of the person he used to be--the person who had been Lily Evans's friend. It wasn't something he showed the world. Everyone had masks, and his were thicker than most to hide the fact that he did actually care about a few things.

Because of his potions, he had been responsible for great evils in his life, but there were certain things that he would not stand for, if it were in his power to prevent them. Child abuse was one of them. It was reprehensible enough when a parent was the responsible party, but it was even worse when a teacher abused both the students' and the parents' trust.

While there was little he could do to force Umbridge out of the school, he could assist in documenting what she had done and see to it that she was held responsible over the summer. Umbridge didn't have a chance.