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The Perils of Running a School

Chapter Text

   The unfortunate fact about opening the doors on any institution of learning, McGonagall thought to herself as she watched the graceful parabola of a seed pod the size of a small dragon flying out of the Forbidden Forest, was that trouble would happen. It would not wait for feasts to end, nor for tests to finish successfully, and least of all would the most ordinary of troubles disappear simply because the Dark Lord had come again to lead his followers in a daily cavalcade of mayhem, destruction, and more often than not, death. As much as she would have liked for the everyday perils to give them some respite when they had far more dire things to worry about, here she was standing on the Hogwarts green not quite two weeks into their first term, next to Albus Dumbledore, watching a shrimp lily pod make a fair sized hole in the gymnasium roof.

     "Well," she remarked with a sigh. "I see we shall have to find a new practice space for the gymnastics exercises this afternoon. Will you want to tell the students when they sit for supper to leave any spores where they lay, and to hand over to Pomona the ones they've already taken, or will you want the Heads of Houses to see to it?" Unfortunately, shrimp lilies had terribly strong powers for breaching wards and raining bad luck on whatever they touched -- hence their ability to damage the roof at all when so many spores were taken together.

     "Both, I think. They'll hardly pay attention to a single warning," the Headmaster answered. "And we'll want to install spore attractors outside each of the entrances to the House residences." He turned to her with an inscrutable face. "For the ones that stuck to the children's pockets without their realizing it. Naturally."

     "Naturally."

     "They burrow," Albus exclaimed, pushing his glasses up on his nose. The man could have stood to sound more annoyed and less scholarly on the subject. "Did you know that, Minerva? Even though they're plants!"

     "Indeed, I was aware, Albus. Their stubborn ability to infest was much of the reason why I requested the Board of Governors to remove that intrusion from the Forbidden Forest fifteen years ago." Many things in the Forest were deadly, but shrimp lilies were simply more trouble than they were worth.

    "It would seem we missed a spot."

     Already they could hear the students in the area looking on with wide eyes and murmuring questions about whether the Death Eaters had attacked the school. Albus had raised his hands above his head to get their attention and called out, "Never fear! In the words of an occasionally misguided but more often factually accurate philosopher -- sometimes a shrimp lily is just a shrimp lily! You will all be safe as long as you keep your distance from the gymnasium." Once done, he turned back to her and stroked his beard. "At least it's early in the school year. We should be able to shuffle the budget enough to repair a hole that size and bring in a Curse Breaker of the appropriate level to double-check all our facilities. Funds may be tight, but--"

     As he spoke, a ring of roofing five times again what the hole had been fell through before their eyes. McGonagall sighed again and started off toward the teachers' common study. "I'll retrieve the supplies for a fundraiser."

~//~

     As far as Snape was concerned, he saw no reason why they should resort to these sorts of measures rather than simply asking the more well-off parents and alumni for their largesse. One or two of them would see some virtue in endowing the funds to repair the gymnasium roof. There was no need to subject themselves to this level of indignity. But the school charter demanded that they make every effort to provide from the community as a whole before resorting to such gifts. Helga Hufflepuff had supposedly insisted among the founders that community equality depended upon it, and everyone knew that what Helga Hufflepuff wanted, Helga Hufflepuff always achieved. If there were an afterlife, he intended to complain to her personally about the ridiculousness of all the faculty here, now, in these times of trial, gathered around a parchment with that awful enchanted pen, in line to scratch their names and "volunteer activities" down on the list -- presuming one could be called a "volunteer" when one's respectability in society hinged on playing along with such games.

     Horace Slughorn was chortling halfway across the room, any sense of dignity he may have had as Snape's own professor long since lost. "Ah, yes, the Diligensia Determinus! Or as we used to call it in my day, the Dilly-Quilly, you know. Quite a spot, that! To this day, I will never know why it decided that the appropriate activity for me to undertake was to sit in the dunk tank, all day having students throw balls at a target to drop me in the water! But the fundraiser was a success. I'll give it that. Never once have I seen the Dilly-Quilly plan an event that failed to raise exactly the amount of money needed! It's quite a cunning enchantment, you know, stunningly complex. A Mr. Cummings at the Ministry of Magic, one of my good friends and strictly the best in enchantment repair, said he'd never seen--"

     Tuning out the rest of that drivel before his brain leaked out his ears, Snape took the quill itself from Dumbledore's hand with a sigh. The wizard smiled at him as if nothing were wrong whatsoever. That was one of the few things left that could make a chill run down Snape's spine, but he walked over to the table without a shudder showing. So far, the list said only, "Albus Dumbledore: Tea Room". Hardly awful. And by stepping up to the table as soon as he could, he'd limit the chances of taking one of the more abhorrent options. Nothing in this world would make him risk appearing in front of the school in clown make-up.

     He set his hand down and wrote his name, then felt the quill's magic take over. His eyes went wide as he saw the first few letters coming from the pen, but even taking his hand off didn't help. It went on writing without his power.

     Severus Snape: Kissing Booth.

     "This is preposterous!" he spat at the headmaster, who was standing right next to the table and chuckling softly. "I will not! I cannot! These are my students. It's entirely inappropriate."

     Dumbledore shrugged. "I don't believe the manner of kiss in a Kissing Booth is set in stone. A peck on the cheek should be fine, don't you think, Minerva?" From her post by the inkwell, McGonagall looked on silently with a thin-lipped grimace that Snape thought boded ill for his chances of changing assignments. "Well, there you are, Severus. And since you've gone so early in the draw, there's no question that it's what you're best suited for. You can manage a sign and a booth frame by bright and sharp on Saturday?"

     His nostrils flared, but he didn't say a word. There had to be some way out of this other than throwing a tantrum like a child, but he wouldn't find it here.

   "Excellent." With a smile, Dumbledore held up that infernal quill to the next professor in line. "Aurora, if you would? Yes, right there. Thank you... Well, a planetarium, is it?! That sounds lovely. Ah, Filius! Your turn..."

     Not a soul remarked on Snape's march out of the room. All he heard was Dumbledore's banter with the line of faculty and the whip of his own robes billowing through the air.

Chapter Text

     Ron grumbled his way to his seat, the rest of their Defense Against the Dark Arts class milling about in clumps as they waited for Snape to come in. "Blamed spore stealers. So I didn't turn one of those shrimp lily things over to Professor Sprout. Just one! What's the fuss about? I wasn't going to do anything wrong, now was I?!"

     "Just put it in McLaggen's dinner, right, Ron?" Harry laughed back at him.

     His friend shrugged and dropped the scrolls from last night's homework on his desk. "Well, McLaggen's a tosser. Don't see why I shouldn't have done."

     "I wasn't going to complain."

     They both scanned the room, looking for a sign of Snape. Being absent when students were around wasn't like him in the least. Even when DADA was first thing in the morning, like now, he was always there, always haunting the corners and shooting looks to keep students from whispering at their desks; but at the moment, he was nowhere to be seen. Ron bit his lip as he looked at the empty teacher's desk. "If Snape's not here to get these essays today, do you think you'll have a chance later to double check my countermeasures for Poltergeist Pox?"

     Harry took his seat and shook his head. "I'll look at it now, if you like, but there's no chance Snape's going to miss class. Not in a million years." But before he could get the scroll open, they heard more footsteps coming through the door. Both of them cast their eyes left to see who was coming in. "Maybe Hermione actually found that... book..."

     Neither the ginger-haired man nor the blonde lady to walk through the door were Hermione in the least, nor were either of them carrying a fabled tome from the depths of the library that actually mentioned Poltergeist Pox (unlike any of the standard textbooks in their curriculum).

     "Bill?!" Ron called out, jaw falling to the floor. "What on Earth--?"

     The oldest Weasley brother just winked and shook his head, heading back towards closed door into the teacher's study behind the desk at the front of the room. His fiancee, Fleur, didn't leave his side, but did blow Harry a kiss. He could feel his cheeks heating up to match the bright red blush running from Ron's forehead to his collar, and the whispers all around the room reached a new pitch. Something wasn't right here.

     They went straight in. Snape must've been in there, hiding out of view of the students.

     "What I wouldn't give to hear what they're saying in there," Ron groaned.

     "Just give me your ear," Harry answered, pulling his Extendable Ears out of his pocket.

     Ron grinned and followed him down the aisle. "Wicked."

     You never knew when something like that might come in handy. Better to carry them at all times. They tip-toed close enough to the door to get the business ends near, plugging one back end into his own ear and handing the other off to Ron. They barely dared to breathe as they listened, always keeping an eye on the door for any sign of Filch. Nothing good would come of their bounty from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes getting confiscated, or of earning themselves a set of detentions.

     "--will start tomorrow, early, and hope to have it cleaned up before the fair begins. Thank you for the offer to help. No telling where the spores will have dug themselves to. The more eyes the better. And of course, we'll be more than happy to work with your classes while you attend to your volunteer duties."

     "I'm sure the school will be very grateful for your contributions, Mr. Weasley, Ms. Delacour," Snape intoned. "And far be it for me to deny my students the chance to hear about real world applications of their studies. Perhaps it will convince some of them to apply themselves."

     Bill's voice came back. "As long as we're here to do maintenance on the school grounds, it's an honor to have the opportunity, Professor. Will one class period be enough for you to, erm... take care of... I'm sorry, what preparations do you need to make, precisely? Professor Dumbledore didn't explain that part."

     "I'm sure one class will be more than sufficient. Details are unnecessary, Mr. Weasley."

     "We 'ave 'eard you will be een ze Keessing Booth, no? Ees zere more to do zan zis?"

     Ron's jaw looked like it might have unhinged as he mouthed, 'Kissing Booth?!' and Harry felt his own eyes going wide enough that they might fall out of their sockets. Also, a hint of heat under his collar that he couldn't quite explain drifted out of the mass of conflicting emotions boiling in his stomach every time he heard Snape talk.

     "If you must know, Miss Delacour, I am required to construct my own prison. Each teacher is responsible for the physical existence of their booth."

     "Sounds like you don't fancy the idea, Professor."

     "I should hardly think I would."

     "Maybe we can help you there, too, then. After all, the assignment is just to organize, isn't it? You wouldn't have to be the one in the booth during the fair. Fleur and I could--"

     "Yes. Zis is better, I theenk. Students will not weesh to kees an old man." Harry could just imagine the scowl on Snape's face that went with the sharp hiss. After all, Snape wasn't exactly an 'old man', Harry thought to himself. He compared his mental picture of the Slytherin head to some of the grizzled ancients around Hogwarts, and he certainly couldn't think of a teacher he'd rather see in a Kissing Booth. And it'd just be odd going to a booth to kiss his best mate's brother or future sister-in-law.

     Fleur didn't seem to notice any of that.

     "I am glad to 'elp ze school of my 'usband to be. Bill and I will tell your 'eadmaster today."

     Hermione spotted them the instant she walked through the door and rolled her eyes at their surveillance. Now Malfoy was the only student not yet in the classroom, but the two of them waited just long enough to hear Snape say, "We can discuss the details later. At present, there is a class to teach," before they retrieved the Extendable Ears and rushed the rest of the way over to their desks. By the time the professor came out of his study, they'd almost reached their seats.

     Where Ron tripped over his toes, and ended up grabbing his homework scroll as he flailed for purchase. The sound of it ripping in half cut through the now-silent classroom. Harry hadn't even known you could rip rolled-up parchment that way. Neither had Ron, he guessed from the way he gawked at his homework's betrayal.

     Harry shook his head and sat down, whispering, "Bad luck, mate."

     "Hermione! Tell me you know how to stitch this back together, please!"

     Before she could answer, Snape waved his wand at the front of the room, and all the essays flew from students' desks into a pile at the front of the room. The larger half of Ron's essay joined them. "I think half credit should be appropriate for half an essay, don't you, Mr. Weasley?" Snape shot at Ron, ignoring all of the younger Weasley's grunted protestations that he had the other half right in his hand.

     Striding over with a sidelong grimace for their teacher, Bill made a pass with his wand. A puff of aubergine smoke came out of the end and settled in a crown on Ron's head. One or two other students in the class got one as well, but Ron's was the largest. "I knew it. How many of those shrimp lily spores did you pick up?" he asked. When Ron put up five fingers on his hand with a grimace, Bill sighed. "Well, I think I know where we can start with today's lesson."

     Snape slammed shut the chest where he'd stowed all the homework scrolls, drawing every eye in the room. "For those of you who may not have deduced it," he called out, "today your class will be treated to a guest lecture from Mr. William Weasley, the Curse Breaker this school has leased from Gringotts to manage our present infestation of ill luck, and from his colleague Miss Fleur Delacour, whom I believe you all know. You are to treat them with the same respect you ought to muster for all your professors. Do not think that, simply because I am not in the room, I have no way to know if you misbehave or to punish you for it. You will find yourselves quite mistaken. We shall resume our normal studies at your next class."

     With that, he swept out of the room, never a glance back at the 'guest lecturers' looking after him with their eyebrows in their hair. Hermione leaned over to Harry and murmured, "Is it just me, or is he in an even fouler mood than usual?"

     Not quite sure what to say, or whether Bill and Fleur would start their lecture straight off, Harry just winced.

     Ron had plenty to add as he scrambled back to his seat. "Snape's cheesed off because he has to run a Kissing Booth at the fair tomorrow," he answered in a murmur. "We heard him telling Bill and Fleur. He's off to do the whole set up now, is why he won't be teaching today."

     Not loud enough to reach the front of the room, where their substitute teachers were discussing between themselves what order to use in setting out a display of tools. Plenty loud enough for Neville to hear from the row behind them and hiss, "You're joking! Professor Snape in a Kissing Booth?"

     At least Harry wasn't the only one with the uncomfortable blushing feeling that wouldn't leave him alone. He saw a bit of red creep into Hermione's cheeks as well, and at least five other faces in eyeshot -- a few more every second that word got further through the classroom. The students all leaned in to hear Ron whispering, "I know, right? Can you think of a teacher you'd want to kiss less than Snape?" and Harry knew every single one of them was feeling the same unexpected confusion that'd hit him. If the question of kissing Snape had ever come up before, he would have expected to feel just as much distaste as Ron did, but somehow the distaste wasn't there. And where the distaste wasn't, curiosity crept in, will he or nill he.

     Now, at least half the class, himself included, seemed to have the idea lodged in their heads for good. It couldn't have been the spores' magic. Most of the sixth years had known better than to pick one up. And he didn't feel enchanted. If he'd been enchanted, he wouldn't be able to resist saying he sort of did think it might be worth a go -- kissing Snape, just the once. As embarrassed as he felt just thinking it -- and meeting eyes with Hermione for a flash before she looked away, knowing she was thinking the same thing -- he clearly had enough of his senses handy that he hadn't been compelled, right?

     Maybe he'd ask Bill to give him a look-over anyway, just in case.

     "Why not Firenze?" Ron asked, turning to Hermione. "Don't all the girls like him?'

     Her lip curled with a shudder. "Some. Not me. Divination is such a turn-off. I don't think I could." More slowly, and with her eyes carefully trained on the process of unrolling a new scroll to take notes, she said, "And if you think about it... theoretically, there are quite a few teachers I'd fancy kissing less. Just start with Professor Slughorn!" Ron made a face like he'd drunk sour milk. "Professor Snape might actually be the youngest and most attractive wizard among the teaching staff since Professor Lupin had to leave. As an objective measure," she added quickly. "Nothing I've considered personally."

     "Well, that's a low bar then, in'it?!" Ron slumped back in his seat, scowling at the leftover half of what used to be his essay before he tossed it into his bag. "We're all saved, though. My brother and Fleur said they'd step in. That'll be a sight better than Snape, won't it, Harry?"

     The heat in his face seemed to have blocked up his throat. It took him a forced breath and another flicker of a glance at Hermione that she and him were probably never going to ever discuss out loud before he managed to say, "I think class is about to start. Your brother's calling for you."

     Bill was, in fact, waving Ron up to the front of the room. His friend stood up with a moan, walking himself and his crown of aubergine smoke up to the desk, and Harry hoped with every bone in his body that Ron would had forgotten this conversation by the time class was over.

Chapter Text

     Despite all Snape's best efforts to find Dumbledore yesterday and this morning, the man had been impossible to track down until they were standing in front of the thrice-damned Kissing Booth itself, with the fair starting all around them. Not that his offer of substitution seemed to make a whit of difference.

     "That's actually what I wanted to discuss with you, Severus." Dumbledore stared at him mildly, patting the pockets of his robes as he looked for something.

     He didn't seem the bit least surprised or upset at Snape's request to change the personnel populating his wretched little booth at this dismal affair -- which was, perhaps, the most unnerving part of the entire interview. Not even the sight of Flitwick calmly testing the flight and dodge charms for the targets on his ring toss booth or of Slughorn training shills to stand in the crowd around his shell game made Snape want to crawl back to bed to pretend the sun had never risen quite so much as did Dumbledore's voice in that moment. The headmaster had completely circumvented Snape's prepared speech as to why Mr. Bill Weasley and Miss Delacour were better suited for the task of kissing Hogwarts students; his expression said he'd already considered the arguments and was well prepared to convince Snape to step inside the booth of his own free will.

     That, of course, presumed that any man's will could be considered entirely free once Albus Dumbledore introduced his powers of persuasion to the social equation. There had never been a point in their acquaintance when Snape had felt like his faculties were befuddled, but certainly several times when he'd felt like the application of reason had twisted his metaphorical arm. Above which, there was simply something unnatural about a man being so reliably able to prove himself right as Dumbledore always was. So, equally certain that he would never wish to step into a Kissing Booth, that it would never be a good idea, and that the papers Dumbledore was now pulling out with a mild look of satisfaction would somehow convince him (by heretofore unknown argument) that he ought to do it anyway, Snape sighed and flared his lip in disgust.

     "Ah, here we are," the Headmaster said. "My office received these petition letters all yesterday afternoon and this morning, requesting that you yourself -- and not your substitutes, as able as they are -- be responsible for the Kissing Booth. Some of them are quite eloquent." The papers were contained in an accordion file to compress them to pocket size. Once withdrawn, the stack of petitions stood noticeably taller than Dumbledore's hands could span, with three flags in red, yellow, and blue sticking out the side, and packed densely enough to feel as solid as a wooden block. There would have to be several hundred pages all told.

     Very close to three quarters of the school, Snape estimated with a growl. How had the students even found out?! His substitutes insisted they'd told no one!

     Dumbledore nodded at the papers in perfect mimicry of dumbfoundedness. "Given the sheer volume of requests from the populace, I'd say the Diligensia Determinus knew its business assigning you as it did. Obviously, the final determination is entirely in your hands. Hogwarts would not force you to take on any duty where your objection outweighs your commitment to the cause." Snape narrowed his eyes at the old man, but listened on in silence. "But before you make your choice, you ought to consider all the facts."

     He stared at the papers in front of him, recognizing the handwriting of Katie Bell on the first letter under the red flag, Ernie Macmillan at the top of the section marked in yellow, and the blue section of the pile topped by a letter from Padma Patil. None of them were signed, but one did not grade over a thousand handwritten essays each week without learning to tell one student's quill work from another. "I suppose I should take some satisfaction in knowing that no one from Slytherin submitted one of these letters. I assume they're sorted by House?"

     "Indeed. Although I can't guarantee that one of yours didn't slip a letter in with a friend's."

     And with one sentence, Dumbledore had guaranteed he'd have to actually read each individual petition to find out for certain whether anyone in Slytherin now needed detention. The requests themselves were of no consequence, of course. None of their opinions would sway his own, and he preferred to keep out of this business.

     Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Draco shoving Crabbe's shoulder and snapping, "I'm not going to snog Professor Snape! He's like my uncle!" The boy locked glares with him for one tense second before he said, "Let's go," and turned off toward McGonagall's shooting range.

     For the best. Those were questions Snape would not have relished hearing from Narcissa.

     To his other side, a dark-haired figure had approached Bill Weasley, a sneaking look about him and a blush on his impudent face as he glanced once over his shoulder back at Snape. Potter. No doubt the source of all of his troubles. The boy was growing up to be more like his father every day, in every respect -- except for his eyes, of course, but that may as well have been adding insult to injury. There was nothing else about him Snape wanted to compare to Lily. It was easier to just think of the boy as James reborn. Much, much simpler than the risk of introducing reasons to think of him as anything else.

     "And you're absolutely sure?" the boy was asking the oldest Weasley. "Nothing wrong at all?"

     The young man shook his head. "Clean as a whistle, Harry, although you mustn't touch any spores if you happen on that last batch we haven't accounted for yet. I hope those trackers find it soon. But really, you shouldn't worry. I cast three detection spells on everyone in your class, and you came out as safe on all of them. Is there something in particular that's got you in a twist?"

     Snape thought he saw Potter glance back at him again before he answered, "... No, sir. Just wanting to be safe."

     If he found a letter from Harry Potter in this stack, he'd find a reason to give the boy detention even if, as a Gryffindor student, Snape technically had no say in whether he was punished for submitting a cheeky request to the administration. Snape doubted a reason would be hard to find.

     He set the pile of papers down on the counter behind him. The thump tolled like thunder over the horizon. "Headmaster, I'm afraid my decision is final. I doubt these petitions are anything more than the pernicious humor to which students are so widely prone, and I am in no mood to be made a fool. If there is nothing further--"

     A quiet crackling interrupted him, quickly growing into snaps of wood and the tell-tale heat of a roaring fire pushing against his neck. Snape and every witch or wizard in the vicinity turned around at once to see what was once the Kissing Booth and a stack of student petitions erupting into flames. Between Mr. Weasley, Miss Delacour, Dumbledore, and himself, their extinguishing spells made short work of the fire, but the dried, blackened wood collapsed to a heap in the same instant. Only the glass jar where students were meant to deposit their knuts and sickles had survived to roll across the floor to Snape's feet.

     Madam Hooch ran the several yards from her high striker, brow twisted up in surprise. "I've never seen anything like it! Bones brought the mallet down, and the puck flew up to hit the bell so hard, sparks flew right off! I never would have thought one would get all the way over here..." Snape held out an arm to stop her from getting any closer. That sort of bad luck simply could not have been a matter of chance.

     "Mr. Weasley, Miss Delacour, would you do the honors?" he asked. He eyed the smoking rubble where, he hoped, no one would be required to kiss anyone.

     Their consultant waved his wand quickly, and sure enough the aubergine smoke coming from its tip hovered in a cloud over the burnt out ruin. "I believe we may have found the last nest. At least, I hope it's the last one. Thank you, Professor."

     Barely three seconds later, the floor stones collapsed into a hole, and the probing pink tendrils of a shrimp lily close to exploding into another shower of spores rose up into view.

     "Contineo!" Weasley shouted at the plant, arresting its movement before it could explode or burrow any further -- the first third of the annoying process of dealing with a shrimp lily: Contain, dessicate, then clean up both the physical matter and the residue of misfortune. Snape had to begrudgingly admit that the Weasley man was worth his fee. This morning, he'd proved to be one of the very few wizards Snape had ever seen perform the second spell simultaneous with the first. The containment of the pernicious little buggers required a spellcaster to cast the first spell and hold his lock on the plant until the second spell had been completed. If his attention broke, the shrimp lily would inevitably wriggle away to parts unknown. Even now, Bill Weasley had his wand trained and his eyes locked on the twitching flora as if holding it on an invisible leash.

     Plants near to bursting with new spores, of course, were more troublesome than the immature specimens they'd faced this morning. A single sprout was something a skilled witch or wizard could hold in thrall while they silently dessicated the budding end, and Snape had seen this Weasley manage as much as seven at a time, but this was closer to wrestling with seven hundred at once (if not seven thousand). Miss Delacour and Snape himself, however, wasted no time, yelling in chorus, "Exaresco!" as they blasted it with their wands from both sides. The pod started to shrivel, still shaking in the invisible grip of Weasley's spell.

     They all saw the end of another tendril, nearly as ripe as the first, crawling out from a blind spot between two rocks. They couldn't let this one go before it'd been killed completely, Snape thought, shouting another, "Exaresco!" as fast as he could alongside Miss Delacour, but the second couldn't be allowed to burst all over the assembled populace of the school.

     Teachers had stepped out of their booths to raise Shield charms between the threat and all the students nearby, and Snape could see Dumbledore reaching for his wand with the blackened remains of his right hand. Greatest wizard of all time though he might arguably have been, it was hard to believe he had the muscular control at the moment to win a grip match over his wand with a cornered, frightened shrimp lily. Not a risk he planned to take with this institution, nor with Dumbledore's reputation. Snape glanced at Miss Delacour, who nodded at him that she had the situation under control, and he moved his aim at the new bud about to burst.

     Another voice got to the spell half a breath before he did. "Contineo!" yelled the cheeky young hero-presumptive, whose assistance had been entirely unnecessary and would no doubt claim later that he'd saved the day. Potter grabbed his wand with both hands as soon as he realized how difficult the tug of war with the shrimp lily would be, a look of shocked panic coming over his face.

     "At least you did it properly," Snape snarled and whipped his wand at the plant. "Exaresco!" It shriveled quite properly under his fury, and within the next minute, the four of them had reduced the entire infestation to dead, dry husks.

     Before much longer, Professor Sprout had brought out the containment bin where they'd put the various bits of the shrimp lily for containment, and Weasley slotted the root of their present infestation into the primary pod. "Well, that accounts for all the missing spores, and there don't appear to be any broken offshoots. We'll still want to do one more run-through after curfew, just to be sure we've decontaminated anything it might have touched, but we're in good shape now." He threw a grin at Potter, who looked entirely too pleased with himself. "And look who was paying attention in class!"

     "For once," Snape scoffed.

     The boy looked at him with that wounded, defiant expression in his eyes that always brought Snape uncomfortably close to forgetting that this was James Potter's son. "I always pay attention in class. Sir."

     Weasley turned back to the rubble of Snape's fair booth, breaking the tension in the air. "Well, let's get this cleared up. Iucunditas invalesco!" A spray of chartreuse sparks flew out of his wand, and where they hit, the dark purple of the clouds above the wreck faded to a candy pink.

     "Iucunditas invalesco!" the rest of their party joined in. Bit by bit, the cloud cover telling them where the bad luck had stained the area all faded to pink, and eventually winked out of existence entirely.

     Snape brushed the remnants of dust and ash off his robes, turning to Dumbledore as he resettled his collar. "Well. If your fundraiser enchantment knew what it was doing by assigning me as it did, perhaps it was simply able to divine where I'd position myself for such a ridiculous assignment, such that a trained team would be at the ready when the shrimp lily emerged and no sensible attraction would be affected." Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at him with an inscrutable bemusement on his face. "This situation will end all talk of Kissing Booths or petitions for me to be in them, I should devoutly hope."

     He felt a hesitant pressure on his elbow from someone out of his line of sight, and Snape whipped around to demand to know what could be so important as to pull on his arm at this moment, but he never got the chance to speak. Instead, he found Harry Potter, up on his toes and pushing up too fast to avoid kissing him on the lips. The boy's grip tightened when the realization hit him, making him impossible to push away while retaining any semblance of dignity. Luckily, it only took a few seconds for him to retreat on his own. Blushing bright crimson with his eyes as wide and terrified as a deer's, Potter dropped back croaking, "Meant... cheek..." so low under his breath it could barely be heard. Even as he looked to his feet to avoid Snape's silent stare, his ears betrayed the flames in his face.

     With all the school looking on in a hush, however, no student with Potter's reputation could let himself go for long without repairing his impudent bravado. Snape almost laughed -- internally -- as the boy pulled himself up, put on a face that screamed, 'I meant to do it exactly as I did,' and rolled the collection jar upright with his foot. "For the roof," Potter said, dropping a Galleon into the glass with a brash clink.

     He did have his mother's eyes. For that, and because there was no trace of scorn in the boy's palpable embarrassment, Snape kept his tongue and let Potter walk away from that unscathed. Straightening his robes once more, he turned back to Dumbledore to rest his case as to how they ought to end this farce once and for all.

     And found the headmaster smirking as almost every Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw, not a few Slytherins, and a fair number of other professors had formed up in a line headed right for Snape. Dumbledore looked immensely pleased with himself, for all that he'd done nothing but deliver a few hundred petitions. With a snarl, Snape rated his chances of escaping that line without incurring more ill-will than he could afford at present, alongside accusations of favoritism for how he'd clearly been willing to kiss Harry Potter.

     Minimal.

     With a glance at Mr. Weasley and Miss Delacour and their helpless shrugs of confusion, he growled, "This is preposterous," and whipped a levitation spell onto the collection jar and its single gold Galleon within. He could at least meet his fate with dignity.