"Today, I have been asked to speak to you about . . . not getting yourselves into trouble."
Severus surveyed the seemingly innocent faces before him until a Gryffindor boy's hand shot up.
"Yes, Mr Taylor?"
"What kind, sir?"
"What kind, sir, what?" asked Severus, keeping his face an impolite blank.
"What kind of, er, trouble are we supposed to keep out of, sir?"
The students began to laugh at Taylor's question.
"ALL OF IT!" thundered Severus.
The students, Gryffindors and Slytherins alike, fell silent.
Glaring at them lest they even think about laughing again, Severus continued, "As I said, we will be discussing how you might keep out of trouble by brewing . . . a birth control potion."
Pennyflower, one of his Fifth Years, raised her hand and began to speak without leave. "W—wouldn't a spell be easier, sir?"
"Oh, certainly—if you're prepared to accept only a seventy-eight percent chance of success."
Glancing about the room, Severus observed Miss Yaxley grow quite pale, indeed. From dungeon patrols of previous years, he understood her concern.
Yes, Yaxley. It is a wonder your older sister left Hogwarts without becoming a mother.
"Sir, it's really only seventy-eight percent effective?"
"That is correct, Miss Yaxley," he said, repressing a snort and thinking, so you should pay more attention to me than to your reckless sister.
"And the potion's percentage of efficacy, sir?" Yaxley pressed.
"Why not a hundred?" asked Taylor.
Severus cleared his throat.
"Sir," Taylor obediently added.
"Because even brewed correctly, one must allow for human error," Severus explained, sweeping his gaze across the room. "As well, there are some magical conditions, which Madam Pomfrey will be discussing with you, that cause hyper-fertility. Hence, it would behoove you to take the potion and cast the charm—or better yet," Severus went on, pushing off from his desk and walking to the back of the room, "don't fu—"
"Don't you dare!" admonished an elderly witch, her shocked, expressive face white within her frame.
"—umble the potion at a delicate moment." Severus finished, unwilling to disturb former Potions mistress Priscilla Pratt further. "Now, get to work! The instructions are on the board. You have sixty minutes. If you brew this potion correctly," he told them, watching the students scramble towards their cauldrons, "it should only take you twenty."
"Indelicate," Pratt remarked, sniffing loudly.
Severus had been expecting a comment like it and replied, "Necessary."
"Beatings no longer work on the little, amorous monsters?"
"You know full well that—Taylor!"
"Don't wave that unstoppered phial around! Keep it on your workbench!" Severus insisted, storming in Taylor's direction amidst the giggling of the other students.
Coughing through the smoke as he spoke, a male student remarked, "At least . . . at least it wasn't your—"
"Don't you dare, young man!" Pratt exclaimed.
Resolving to remove Pratt to his office, Severus Vanished the acrid orange smoke and glared down at Taylor's pitted and stained workbench. "Well?" he demanded. "What have you got to say for yourself, you dunderhead?"
"Er, well, I'm er, not used to getting such an explosion."
The room again erupted into laughter while Severus peered around to assure himself that everyone was well.
"He deserves the chains!"
"Taylor'd never last under those circumstances," Yaxley told Mistress Pratt, earning her a glare from Severus as her classmates tittered and issued rude asides.
Ignoring Pratt's protest of "Well, I never!" and efficiently casting the necessary spells to restore order to his classroom, Severus cleared his throat.
Most of his Slytherins turned towards him, but over half of the Gryffindors continued to make rude comments.
Severus narrowed his eyes. "The next one of you to issue a sound—any sound—will have detention with me UNTIL AFTER THE CHRISTMAS HOLS!"
Silence fell so hard the Severus almost felt as if he'd been struck by it.
That's better, he thought, smirking.
Someone gasped to see it, or so it seemed, but Severus let it go. He had no desire to keep the budding Pennyflower at Hogwarts over the holidays.
Too young, too eager . . . too much trouble.
Someone attempted to stifle a cough and exclaimed in dismay.
Severus rolled his eyes and spoke. "You now have fifty-two minutes to complete your potions. Do not waste any more of your time."
Thoroughly vexed by the way his day was going, Severus swept back to his desk. He made certain to look as "vampiric" as possible. It was a stupid rumour, his being a vampire, but it had its advantages.
Oh, shite, that's right! he thought, too late. Pennyflower likes sodding vampires. Damn it!
Severus had done everything he could think of, including asking Poppy for advice, to distract Pennyflower from the formidable crush she had on him. Nothing had worked.
Picking up a quill and pretending to mark scrolls, Severus sighed. Today, I have been asked to speak to you about not getting yourself into trouble. Begin by keeping your eyes up and your wand down, something which will help you avoid noticing that Pennyflower has nice ti—
"Professor Snape!" snapped Pratt.
Severus started, but only just. "What is it, now?"
"Mr Taylor may be about to destroy another cauldron!"
"Hey! That's not fair! I'm following the directions!" Taylor protested, as green-tinged, orangish bubbles began to flow rapidly from his cauldron.
"You are destroying my classroom, you idi—"
Portrait curtain firmly closed on Pratt and Taylor's cauldron's bubbles popped, Severus took a deep breath.
He didn't truly let it out again until after the evening meal when the Firewiskey he'd poured himself burnt away the remains of his irritating day.
Classroom management was a bitch.