Bernice Russell

Art by ABYSchan

Snape fic (Slash) This story was written as part of my obligation to the Severus Snape Fuh-Q-Fest.  Thanks to  TillyTilly, and Mac for beta.

"I got it in America, in New Orleans on our holidays, isn't it cool?"

"No! It's creepy! It looks just like him!"

"I charmed it to make it look like him. I got some of his hair-"

"Eeeuu, you touched his hair? I hope you washed your hands after!"

"- and put that inside and put lots of charms on it, and now it's going to be connected to him."

"I still say it's really creepy."

"We can stick pins in it! Or put it in a boiling cauldron! It'll be great to see him suffer like he makes us suffer, the horrible big-nosed git."

"I thought that Americans couldn't do magic. Didn't they kill all their witches?"

"They still have some, but the magic for this comes from Haiti, so it should work pretty well. Plus I added heaps of spells, even gris-gris and fetish charms. I got a book from Flitwick's office when he wasn't looking. I made a mixture of charms for golems and dopplegangers and used that as well as the Haitian voodoo. I even used some Catholic graven idol magic!"

"If you put that much effort into your homework, you'd be top of the school!"

"And he'd still take points from me."

"It's even got his dead corpse skin! Does it look like him all over?"

"I guess so... it formed itself after I charmed it."

"Hey, before you put the lid on, can I look under the robes?"

"Hey, you're the one who said 'eeeeeeeeuuuuuuuu'!"

"I'll jus' take care o' that, thank you very much," said Hagrid, leaning over the tiny forms of the students and plucking the box from their hands. "Sounds like yeh could be getting yerselves into some trouble wi' tha', so it's best we remove the temptation, eh?"

The small group of students squeaked in surprise and scattered quickly, throwing some resentful looks over their shoulders at the loss of the toy. Their startled looks made Hagrid grin. No one expected someone of his size to be able to creep up on anyone, never mind a group of highly suspicious mischief plotters. He hadn't heard much of what they had whispered, but he'd heard enough to know they were planning something that would get them into trouble.

He plucked the lid from the simple white box and sucked cold air through his teeth in surprise. Nestled carefully in tissue paper was a rather beautiful doll. From what little he'd overheard of the children's discussions, he'd expected some horrible wax form of the type he'd seen children giggling over in the past, but this was quite lovely. Its resemblance to Professor Snape was uncanny. Hagrid estimated it to be almost 18" long from shiny black shoes to long black hair, black robes sewn with childish enthusiasm, and skin like pale porcelain. It lay back in its box, eyes shut with tiny black lashes fanned on the sharp high cheekbones.

As Hagrid lifted the box up to see if even that magnificent nose was hooked in the same way as the original, the eyes suddenly opened. He gasped in surprise and nearly dropped the box, but nothing else happened. Eyes as black and secretive as the original's stared at him from the pale face with an angry accusative glare. When Hagrid laid it flat again, the eyes closed once more, making the doll look like nothing more than an angry cadaver in a cardboard coffin.

A little unnerved, Hagrid put the lid back on the box. "Let's be gettin' yeh somewhere safe then, before yeh get in teh any trouble. Yeh're not the kinda thing that should be in the wrong 'ands." He took the doll into his cabin and left it on his kitchen sideboard. He could hand it over to Professor Snape sometime during the week. The Professor would know what to do with it. Hagrid wondered if he should take over a plate of buns as well, perhaps he could spend the evening having a cup of tea with the Professor and listening to him hold forth on various subjects. That was always a pleasant way to spend the time.

It should be cold in the dungeons. It was nearly always cold. Only for a few weeks in the summer was the sun hot enough to provide enough continual heat for these deeply buried rooms to warm up even a little. But today Snape felt stifled. None of the students seemed unduly affected, they were as boisterous and addle-headed as always, but he felt hot and uncomfortable, as if there simply wasn't enough air in the dungeons today. Sweat was running down inside his collar and there was absolutely no rational reason as to why.

He tugged at his collar and yearned for another window to open. He wished desperately that these classes could be over so he could escape outside. To be honest, he always wished the classes could be over, in order to get away from the students, but he never wanted to get away from his dungeons. The claustrophobic feelings that assailed him were something totally new in his experience, and he wondered again if he'd been hexed recently. Some nasty little curse one of the less cowardly students had dared throw at him while his back was turned.

By the time the hour was up he was as anxious to be away as his students. He made sure not to give anyone detention; the last thing he needed was someone making him stay back inside. It was no cooler outside, and even gasping for the fresh air he still felt cramped, hot, and dizzy. He groped irritably inside his robe for a packet of thin cigarillos, walking to the back of the west tower where smokers were hidden from prying eyes. A small nook under an architrave provided a nice, private little garden. A gawky sixth year and a guilty looking fifth year were already puffing away, and all three of them studiously ignored each other, making no eye contact until they'd indulged their drug of choice. He could make a pack last a whole year; he'd never allow himself the luxury of addiction, but just now and then it felt so good to get that muggle nicotine high. For just these few minutes he'd tolerate the company of the students who smoked, so his nerves were steadier when he had to take on the rest of them.

He ground the small, black cigarillo butt into the grass with a vicious heel and strode away. If this feeling didn't pass, he'd have to see Madame Pomfrey and be checked out for fever or curses. The heat was becoming unbearable, and he wiped away drops of sweat from his lip. When he caught the little bastard responsible...

Suddenly the feeling of freedom was overwhelming, and he stopped for a moment to catch a breath of cool air. Whatever it was passed in a second and he had a moment of light-headed relief as the heat disappeared. Instead of being closed in he could feel the air moving around him, and a general sense of comfort. An odd feeling in itself. He decided it had to have been a curse instead of illness. Whoever had thrown it was afraid of being caught, and must have left a deliberate charm of wellbeing in its place, as Snape was left feeling comfortable and safe, which was a decidedly abnormal situation. Distinctly odd.

Hagrid peered at the doll, checking it closely. "I should've bin more careful! Leaving yeh in the sun like that, yeh could've melted!"

He looked the doll over, but could see nothing wrong. It just frowned, lips pursed in an expression of annoyance.

The soft, pliable skin was as perfect as before, and he couldn't really tell what the doll was made from. It couldn't be wax, as there was no sign that sitting on the sideboard in the sun had damaged it. But it couldn't be porcelain, despite appearances, as it was soft and warm, and the joints in the fingers were as smooth and flexible as those on a real live human, with nothing to show how they were put together. He held the tiny hand, which barely covered one of his own finger tips, and worked the elbows, fascinated by how easily they moved. There were no clicks of any kind of internal mechanism; it was almost as smooth as a rag doll.

He fingered the clothes; they'd been made by a student, and didn't quite match the Professor's usual style of dress, but they were close; hastily constructed black woollen robes. The shoes were shop bought toy shoes and slipped off when Hagrid investigated them, revealing tiny feet just as perfect as the rest of the doll. Running his finger across the little knot that held the black robe together, Hagrid gave in to temptation and pulled it open, letting the black cloth fall aside. He lifted away the robes and grinned at the little body held cupped in his hand. It really was perfect. He trailed his finger over the shiny hair and down the bony shoulders. Ribs, concave stomach, hip bones like butterfly wings, a tiny trail of silky black hair leading down to a small, perfectly formed set of genitals.

A soft chuckle escaped. Those children really had spared no detail!

"Well, yeh're a pretty little thing, ain't no doubt about that."

A response was apparently beneath the doll's contempt.

He rolled the doll over and traced the same path down its back. The doll folded over his hands as if relaxed, but not quite limp. It retained a kind of dignity of movement, despite its handling. The legs were long and slender, with the same kind of musculature Hagrid imagined the real Professor Snape possessed, and he couldn't resist gently running a finger over the doll's rear end.

"That's a very pretty arse yeh've got there, poppet," he said, running a finger up the inside of the doll's thigh. "A real peach! I wonder if the Professor's got such a lovely juicy peach hidden under his robes!" Shaking his head at his own silly imaginings, Hagrid placed a quick kiss on the peach he was admiring, then folded the doll back into its robes. He carefully placed it back on the tissue paper in its box and left it on the bedside table out of the sun. Eventually he'd have to figure out what to do with it, but he had his evening chores to attend to first.

Snape straightened up, eyes darting around to see if anyone had seen him gasp and double over. His relief at the loss of claustrophobia had been short lived as he'd suddenly felt like he was being pulled in different directions, a weird feeling of disorientation and movement, and then the distinct feeling of someone, something, touching his... He could barely stand to form the thought and glared around, trying to find out who was throwing hexes his way. Again. Little bastards. There was frequently someone who thought they were smart enough to get away with tormenting the hated potions master.

He always found them in the end though; he always made them suffer. And when he'd finished making them suffer, he'd give them to Filch. And Filch would make them suffer. Filch loved it, Snape loved to watch Filch love it, and the little shits never tried anything ever again. Ever.

There was no one the vicinity, although he could hear unhurried footsteps. The students were all getting ready to go to the great hall for dinner. He threw a few anti-hex charms around himself, and mouthed the words to a couple of protection spells, just in case someone tried again.

He made his way to the great hall and scanned every one of the children. No one looked guilty, or particularly brave, or interested in him in any way whatsoever. No one had a 'guilty' sign flashing over their heads. Nothing else happened during the meal, but he didn't relax at all. Perhaps that first time had been some kind of practice run, and he could look forward to a brutal round of public humiliation later.

He'd often been a favourite target for that particular type of punishment from his enemies. They hated his pride, his cool reserve, and loved to attack him on that front. The smart ones anyway. The stupid ones went for basic pain. They were the easiest to punish, with concrete proof of a violation. The little sods that just humiliated him were inclined to get away with some minor detention, Dumbledore never taking their attacks upon his dignity seriously. Dumbledore was prone to making the same kind of attacks himself, then trying to smooth them over with lollies and sweet words. Sometimes Snape really hated Dumbledore.

The evening faded quickly into a blur of paper work and petty irritations with no further strange incursions in his inviolate space. He moved mountains of papers, and wrote some vitriolic letters to parents who had produced some of the most pointless time-wasting children it had ever been his misfortune to teach. Didn't they know that their careless breeding was leading to a downturn in the quality of England's future wizarding population, never mind wasting the time of some of the most talented wizards of this generation? Dumbledore would never let him post the letters, but it was a wonderful catharsis to write them.

By bedtime he'd decided not to worry any further about the strange attack from earlier in the day. The children would have retired to sleep hours ago and he could relax. A quick bath and a clean night-shirt, a glass of sweet sherry, clean sheets, and a good book; a biography of Salazar Slytherin, with a large snake on the cover, written in labyrinthine prose - the new version with the expurgated bits put back. He tucked up in the cool bed and balanced the enormous tome on his lap to read for an hour or so before he could slide off into sleep.

Soap suds melted into the grass as Hagrid upended the entire barrel of rainwater over his head, and shook it off like a great dog, shuddering at the cold rush. He gave himself a sniff and was pleased he could no longer smell the sweat of his daily exertions. It had been a rough evening, with many uppity beasts needing attention and taming, and he was tired, muscles aching, and looking forward to crawling between the sheets tonight.

He pulled on some clean long johns and settled in bed with a groan, stretching his back until it cracked. He turned to look at the doll, and picked it up again. He'd been too busy to visit the Professor to return it, after all. Propping a few enormous pillows behind his back, he settled it on his lap. The eyes opened again as he sat it upright, and it glared directly at him.

"The children were right, yeh're a bit creepy for a doll." He ran a finger down the soft cheek. "Yeh're pretty an' all, but it's the eyes. Yeh really look like yeh're lookin' at me. It's a good thing yeh can't really see me."

The doll just glared back, looking quite offended at being called 'creepy'.

Again he pushed the robes aside, and carefully folded them into the box. The tiny perfection of the doll had him fascinated and he couldn't resist touching the soft velvety skin. If he thought they'd tell him he'd find those children again and ask them what they'd made it from, but he didn't want to admit to anyone his fascination with the toy.

That could lead to questions. Those could lead to a certain Professor finding out a few things that would no doubt cause the professor some embarrassment. And that could lead to Hagrid being blasted into many tiny little pieces.

Balancing the doll carefully in the crease between his thighs, Hagrid explored it a little more thoroughly. He couldn't resist stroking up and down the legs, enjoying the shape of the thighs and the turn of ankle and calf. He imagined the cool skin of the doll was the real thing, and how it would feel to have the Professor here, yielding to his explorations. How would Professor Snape react to having Hagrid's large coarse hands stroke his ribs, his belly, his hips? In Hagrid's gentle fantasy the slender wizard relaxed into his touch, eyes half closed like the doll's, and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being stroked and caressed.

The tiny delicate hands and feet were fascinating and Hagrid couldn't resist holding the doll closer so he could kiss them carefully, feeling the fingers curl at the pressure of his lips. He traced a finger over the tiny little nipples, rubbing them to test the difference in texture, the slightly smoother material used to make them as compared to the rest of the doll's skin, then back up to feel where the hair had been sewn onto the doll's scalp.

The work was so delicate, even eyebrows had been implanted instead of merely drawn on, and the workmanship had Hagrid fascinated. Was it goblin made? Surely human hands wouldn't produce something so fine, not even a doll meant for the pleasure of rich children, and surely not a doll made in the image of Professor Snape. Hagrid knew full well that the Professor wasn't popular in the school, although Hagrid couldn't really see why not. The man could be a bit sharpish, but he was clever, had a quick and funny wit, and was always brave and dependable. Hagrid had always put it down to the children's lack of insight; they didn't understand how lucky they were to be protected by such a fine man.

He couldn't resist gently nudging one finger tip at the tiny cock, amazed at the fine delicate work, the tiny foreskin that protected the head, the silky little hairs at the base, and the way even the crepe-like wrinkles of the scrotum had been added to the doll. The wicked feeling that he was touching the Professor himself like this made him glance around his hut with a guilty countenance, making sure all the windows were covered, and only the one candle lit the room. He'd never be able to explain to anyone peeking through his windows just what he was doing stroking a naked Snape doll!

The doll itself gave the impression of being somewhere between unimpressed and indifferent to Hagrid's investigations, the expression haughty, and the limbs still relaxed, yet not limp. Hagrid moved it this way and that, noting how the head seemed weighted, or perhaps the neck joined so that its face was always pointed towards him. Hagrid stroked its cheek. "What would the Professor say if he knew I was playing with yer like this, eh? I don't think he'd be too happy with that, somehow. I reckon he'd 'ave a thing or two teh say, don't you?"

The doll just glared at him in silent reproach.

"Tell yeh what, you jus' sit there and watch while I take care o' business, right?"

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Snape lay on his back, arms and legs akimbo, clutching his sheets as if trying to stop himself falling upwards towards the ceiling. The sound of his own not quite panicked breathing was loud in his ears.

Hands. Huge hands. He'd felt them. In the darkness. All over his body. Everywhere.

They seemed to have stopped now. His tormentor perhaps losing interest for the time being.

Snape had fought the urge to move how the hands had directed. Weaker than Imperious - more a desire to comply with a physical push than a deep need to obey someone else's instructions - but he hadn't been able to throw off the sensation of large hands fondling him in his most intimate of places.

He carefully pried his fingers loose from the sheets, and peeled himself off his bed, standing - a little wobbly - and moving over to the tremulous light from a wall sconce. He stumbled, barely catching himself as he felt the same large hands lift him again, felt the unmistakable sensation of being moved and put down. He froze, arms out for balance, and waited, but it was definitely over now. Whoever was doing this had deactivated the sympathetic magic they were using. Whoever was doing this was going to pay. With their hides, Snape promised himself.

He walked uncomfortably to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face and tried to will away his eager erection. His hungry flesh had reacted enthusiastically to even this abstract touching, making him realise his body was not as impressed with celibacy as his mind might have believed.

These touches were not the painful intrusive revenge he had been expecting, but instead had felt more like a curious exploration, as if from someone with no concept that their touches were inappropriate or embarrassing. A ghost who had nothing to lose, perhaps? Or perhaps someone who had no idea their sympathetic magics had been successful? They usually weren't. Such magics failed 90% of the time and were not even taught at Hogwarts except as special projects for seventh year students. Yet, even if they thought they'd been unsuccessful, why hadn't he felt pins or burns? Surely some frustrated pokes or even the force of the doll being thrown against the wall was to be expected?

He thought of chopping up slugs. He did not think about the embarrassment of having his bottom kissed by invisible lips. He thought of squeezing the fatty juices from flobberworm skin. He did not think of how large fingers had caressed his thighs and tickled his... there. Rat brains, frog spleens, boomslang intestines... Cold shower.

"They're playing some sort of game with me, I'm telling you! They're just waiting for the right time to launch a full attack."

"Yes, Severus."

Professors Snape and McGonagall walked into the staff room, continuing a conversation that they'd apparently started some time ago. Hagrid thought Professor Snape sounded more stressed than usual. Professor McGonagall had a long suffering note to her voice. Hagrid thought she should take Professor Snape more seriously. He was nearly always correct. He wasn't always correct in the right way, but Hagrid didn't think Professor McGonagall should sound so dismissive if Snape thought there was something to be worried about. Hagrid started to lean over, to show his willingness to listen, offer solidarity for the Professor's woes, but the headmaster chose that moment to start the staff meeting, and Hagrid had lost yet another opportunity to work on his relationship with the young Professor. He'd been carefully cultivating a friendship for years and was disappointed at every lost chance to make it a little deeper.

He consoled himself with the thought that it was only a few more hours until he could retire for the evening and spend some quality time with his new 'friend'. He'd decided there was no need to hurry about handing the doll over to the Professor. It wasn't exactly a matter for great urgency. He chuckled quietly to himself. What would people think of a man of his age and stature 'playing with dollies'.

There had been no more 'attacks' during the day, but Snape was still nervous and jittery as he put down his book and noxed his light. He waited, barely breathing, rigid and nervous, for a whisper of a touch, but nothing happened. He lay in the darkness, the sheets too cold, to see if he could catch a clue as to the identity of the mischief-maker, but slowly, as the time passed, involuntarily he relaxed, drifting into sleep.

A puff of warm air against the side of his face didn't quite disturb him, and he brushed a hand to wave the cobweb-soft warmth away when it repeated. Another puff of warm air. An exhalation. Like breath. Like breathing.

"Lumos!" He sat up in bed, heart racing, but no large beast or monster lurked by his bed, breathing down his neck. Instead the warm gusts continued, regular and measured, the same distant, yet very real sensation as the touches had been.

Concentrating, he tried to find something to give away the identity of the breather. He was so deeply focused on this light touch that he couldn't stop himself jumping at the feeling of a hand running down his back. Enormous, a hand that encompassed his entire body, each finger thicker than his own thighs. Definitely a fetish, a doll - the clarity of sensation, the size of the hand by comparison to his own body gave it away.

Dumbledore. He'd go to Dumbledore now, while the link was active, get the headmaster to track the culprit. Moving to get off the bed, Snape fell over sideways as roughened fingers brushed up his inner thigh. He grabbed ineffectually, as if he could make some concrete contact with the phantom fingers, then, clasping his night-shirt in his hand and pulling it down over his knees, he instinctively tried to cover himself against invasion.

The touches continued, gentle and investigative. Thighs, calves, hips, back, buttocks. Over and round. And Snape twitched and squirmed on the bed as he reacted, and tried to send a tracing spell. "I'll find you!" he shouted at the ceiling, in case the culprit had some way of watching his actions impact on his victim. "I will find you and I will..." he trailed off as the fingers were replaced by warm lips. He bit back a yelp as kisses moved from his cheeks, down to his neck and over his collarbone and chest.

Concentrate! he thought to himself. What could be deduced from the touch? A beard? A tickling flicker of facial fungus followed the firm press of lips. Dumbledore? Was this what the loony old fart meant by 'pursuing more closely a mentor relationship?' Hagrid? Hagrid was certainly eager and willing, he'd hardly been subtle in his clumsy overtures... and Snape knew he had done nothing to dissuade him. Snape groaned and stuffed his fist against his mouth to stifle the noise as kisses skimmed his belly... but Hagrid didn't have access to magic of this level and sensitivity. Nor the required Machiavellian personality for such machinations. An unshaven Lupin or Black? Lupin with his hopeful sighs and puppy dog eyes? Black with his numerous crude jokes about humping each other's legs and working out some aggression? There was a very firm, very definite kiss, with just a hint of tongue, between Snape's thighs and his eyes rolled back into his head. Hooch? Goodness knows that fruit fly had made enough comments about converting him and had boasted about being able to crack walnuts between her broomstick-addicted thighs... No, those lips were distracting him, making it harder to think. Hooch doesn't have a beard. Yet. And it couldn't be Lupin. Lupin wouldn't do something so sneaky as to lick him so warmly, so wet and firm, from the backs of his knees to the tops of his thighs without asking him first. And Black might think it funny to watch him writhe as a huge muscular tongue caressed his buttocks and the incredibly sensitive skin behind his balls, but surely he couldn't create such overwhelmingly blissful sensations by sucking his cock between soft lips and licking the tip in such an exquisite manner?

Snape arched off the bed, connecting with the surface only by his shoulders and heels as he reacted involuntarily to the heat and pressure. He grabbed handfuls of his robe, unknowingly pulling it up around his waist as he gyrated against the pressure applied by a tongue the size of a sofa cushion.

He couldn't keep thinking, couldn't follow a rational train of thought to keep trying to work out who was holding him in one hand, a massive thumb rubbing his nipples, while another urged him to spread his legs for further exploration.

Torment! Deliberate torment! It had to be. He slipped one hand down between his legs to take over when the touches moved up again. He took himself firmly in hand, stroking hard and dry, staring at the ceiling and focussed on the caresses that passed over his stomach and chest.

He gave up worrying about the potential of a voyeur as his nervous system went up in a conflagration of unaccustomed sensation. It wasn't the best orgasm of his life, but certainly one of the most unexpected, and he couldn't stifle a satisfied groan as he released many days' worth of tension into the hem of his night-shirt. With a sigh he relaxed back on the bed, but the touches didn't conveniently finish along with him. Pats and caresses, brush of hair and fabric. Tiny bits of his brain, those not actively involved in post-coital misfiring, tried to catalogue more information. Doll, poppet, voodoo charm. A pull, a shift, a carry. Whoever it is had better not be having a tea party with me! Snape thought.

"It's a doll, I've worked out at least that much," Snape's cool voice proceeded him into the great hall, pitched low enough for Hooch's ears only. Except Hagrid's big ears picked it up too, and he surreptitiously leaned in to catch what the two professors were talking about. "Now I just need to find out who has the capacity to create this kind of magic."

"It must be very distressing," Hooch's words were soothing, but her smothered grin was wicked. Snape was giving her a suspicious glare. "It's not me, honest, Severus!" she exclaimed with a great show of innocence. "If I had such a doll you can rest assured I would bring it to you directly. So we could discuss the issue... together." She lowered her voice at the last and waggled her eyebrows in a parody of seduction.

Hagrid gave a guilty start at the word 'doll', but was pleased to see Snape roll his eyes at her in amused disgust. "Xiomara I have told you before-"

"I know, I know. You're definitely flying on the other side of the Quidditch pitch, but you can't blame a witch for trying."

Yes you can, thought Hagrid irritably.

"Hmm, very trying."

"I could make you happy, Severus," She grinned.

"You're too much woman for me, Xiomara."

"True. I'd burst your head like a ripe melon, no doubt."

"Grotesque image."

Hagrid was pleased to hear the two of them joking. Obviously, although disturbed, Snape was not horribly distressed, but all that Hagrid was over-hearing now, tinged with what he knew was unjustified jealousy, was putting him off his food. For the first time in many years, Hagrid pushed his dinner away untouched.

"Talking of grotesque, how are you coping with the sympathetic hex?"

"I'm strong. I'll cope."

Hagrid thought the professor sounded very brave, and shifted in quiet embarrassment.

"Have you tried a tracing spell?"

"Of course I have, silly woman. Whoever created that doll has charmed it to block all of my attempts."

Hagrid tried desperately to think of some way he could distract them, something more subtle than throwing a bread roll at their heads. He had an awful feeling he'd made a huge error of judgement about the effectiveness of his new toy, and Madame Hooch was going to help Professor Snape uncover Hagrid's guilty secret. He grabbed a warm bread roll and crushed it nervously.

"Whoever it is has a beard," Snape confided, leaning over his broth.

Hagrid made a mental note to treat himself to a close shave as soon as possible and hope no one noticed the difference.

"Dumbledore? It's Dumbledore, do you think it's Dumbledore?" Madame Hooch squeaked at a pitch even non-half-giant ears could pick up and a few heads at the staff table turned curiously. "Noooo... don't tell me it's Dumbledore!"

"It's the kind of thing he might do," Snape hissed. "He'd think it very humorous."

"No... he wouldn't torture someone. Not even you! He likes you. Goodness knows why, you anti-social bastard."

"I didn't say he was torturing me," Snape made discreet shushing movements with his hands.

"Then what are they doing?"

Hagrid was leaning so far back in his chair trying to hear every word he was in danger of tumbling over.

"Touching me," Snape whispered emphatically. "They're using it to touch me."

Madame Hooch stared at Snape for a moment then burst into hearty laughter. "Oh, Sev, you had me worried for a moment!"

"Did not," Snape said petulantly, then looked around the hall and glared at everyone who had turned to see what the laughter was about. "You're not concerned at all."

Madame Hooch stifled her laughter, "I am sorry, Sev. I'm sure this is a most distressing situation." She choked back a snigger, "Still, combine that with the beard, and I would put good money on it being Dumbledore. It's probably his way of getting your mind off something unpleasant. Give you something else to think about."

"Maybe." Snape didn't sound convinced, but Hagrid relaxed a little and brushed the crumbs from his crushed roll onto the floor. If Madame Hooch could misdirect Snape's attention, that could give Hagrid time to think of something he could do with the doll. Dispose of the evidence before the Professor found out.

But could Hagrid destroy the doll? For one thing, he didn't know if destroying it would harm the real Snape, and for another, he'd grown rather fond of it over the past few days. Its glowering visage had been a welcome bit of company, in a peculiar kind of fashion. Now that he knew what it was, he couldn't keep it, didn't want to keep upsetting Professor Snape and certainly did not want to get caught with it.

His stomach churned nervously as he thought of what the Professor must have been feeling over the past few nights. Oh dear, I touched it everywhere! I licked it! No wonder he's been so jumpy.

Madame Hooch was talking again, low and decorously now her laughter had stopped. "I'll ask around, Sev, see if I can find out anything from the students. They'll talk to me. For some reason they all seem rather terrified of you."

"I have no idea why, Xiomara, I'm quite the lovable kindly type with my students," Snape said lightly, and they turned their conversation over to other subjects, leaving Hagrid to worry over ways to get himself out of the very large hole he'd dug for himself.

A list of all the students they knew had travelled over their holidays in his hand, Snape sipped at a snifter of brandy and started crossing off names. The unfortunate thing was he couldn't find out officially. He could hardly write to parents to ask without giving a reason, and if he started questioning the students directly, it would raise too many questions.

Madame Hooch had been very helpful, asking her Quidditch teams and flying classes - the students opened up to her more readily during casual conversations. But there had to be many names missing. Snape crossed the Slytherins off the list. They all loved him, he knew. Then again... his pen hovered, ...that could be a clue in and of itself. He started making notes beside the names. Those too stupid to do this type of magic. Those too smart to risk their lives for revenge. Those too preoccupied with throbbing hormonal urges to bother.

Now, if it was only pain being inflicted he could simply find those that were smart, travelled, and loathed him. 'Travelled' could have narrowed the field considerably. But the types of touches made it far more difficult. A student with a crush? Surely it wouldn't be the first time. Half of Slytherin house was mooning about after him at any given time. He could smell the desperate arousal on Draco at 10 paces. Marcus Flint had made a crude suggestion or two, leering from behind his attention-focussing teeth. Flattering, and goodness knows he'd been there himself at that age, but certainly none of them would be stupid enough to do something like this. Would they?

A line through one name, a question mark by another. Of course there was always the chance that the maker of the doll was no longer in possession. What if a valorous Slytherin student had rescued it from the vengeful hands of some black-hearted Gryffindor? This also was a distinct possibility. Six names at the end of his musings. Smart, not smart enough, a crush, a grudge; a possible route of investigations.

"Oh, yeh've got me into a right pickle, haven't yeh, Poppet."

Hagrid spoke to his little companion. Propped on Hagrid's table, back against a cold teapot, lips pursed in a moue of disdain, the doll gave Hagrid a look of contempt. "What am I goin' teh do with yeh?" 'Poppet' offered no suggestions. "If I throw yeh out, it might hurt the Professor. If I keep yeh, he might track yeh down. He's no fool, if he catches me with yeh, I jus' don't know what he'd do." The doll looked as if it could think of a few unpleasant things.

"I jus' didn't think yeh'd work, I didn't think he'd actually feel what were bein' done teh yeh. I was just playing. It were fun to think yeh were the real thing and all, but what must the Professor be thinking?" The expression on the doll's face summed up everything Hagrid thought the Professor would be thinking. "Azkaban's goin' teh look like a holiday at Weston-Super-Mare after he gets through with me!" The doll wisely decided to keep its own counsel.

Grabbing the box, Hagrid put the doll in, checked its clothes were neatly back in place, wrapped it back in its tissue paper, and hid it deep under his bed so he wouldn't have to face its condemnation while he thought about his next course of action.

Children sobbed in terror. The stench of fear was strong in his nostrils. By the time Snape had been through every name on his list there were few dry eyes, or trousers, amongst those he suspected. But he had a confession, a month's worth of detentions as an early birthday gift for Filch, some very interesting information, and a new path of investigation to follow. He had a great deal to think about, and perhaps a cigarillo in the crisp air would allow him time to do so more clearly.

The box carried in front of him with great care, Hagrid took slow measured steps towards the castle. Towards his doom. He held the box extended from his body, almost as in formal pose, like a pall bearer at a funeral. He'd made his decision. He couldn't destroy it; he wasn't going to wait, cowardly, for his fate to find him. He'd go forward and confess and hope the Professor was merciful and took pity on Hagrid for the misunderstanding. That would be fair, perhaps. Although, despite his many fine qualities, the Professor was not exactly renowned for his fairness. Hagrid just hoped that mutual embarrassment would save him from too brutal a confrontation. Perhaps the Professor would prefer the entire thing to be swept under the rug. Less said the better. It was a forlorn hope, but Hagrid clung to it in desperation.

On a whim, on an attempt to procrastinate, Hagrid took a few detours, carrying his box to a few places he could possibly find the professor on the off chance without actually going down to the dungeons. Certain places along the edge of the forest where thickets of interesting plants grew, where he'd often found the Professor collecting things and accosted him for an afternoon chat, a possible visit, a glass of wine, an exchange of potions recipes. The places where the other children would gather to explore their differences and similarities in ways they shouldn't till they were older, as he knew the Professor would haunt those areas, blasting the bushes and saving the children from getting themselves in trouble.

Hagrid continued to hunt around Snape's favourite haunts while slowly making his way towards the castle. He was so focussed on wasting as much time as possible he came to an abrupt and unprepared halt as he ran into the Professor in the flesh just outside the small hidden nook where smokers believed no one could see them.

He stared mutely at the slight man who glared up at him, squinting slightly in the sunlight.

"Hagrid," Snape said shortly.

"Er, hello, Professor," said Hagrid, wondering if he still had time to hide the doll behind his back.

"You have the doll," Snape stated. Straight to the point.

Hagrid felt all the blood drain from his face. Too late, Snape had already worked it out. He stared down at the Professor, the blood cooling in his body, the terror building. He waited for the soft spoken attack, the verbal violence for which Snape was renowned, the tongue lashing that would leave him blubbering and heart-broken, humiliated and destroyed, and the threats for the loss of his job and standing at Hogwarts.

Snape threw a small black smoking butt onto the grass and ground it out under one shiny black shoe, glaring up at Hagrid, soulless black eyes glittering through his lashes. "As long as it's in good hands," he said, then turned, cape billowing, and swooped back into the castle.

No Snapes were harmed in the making of this story. Hagrid's injuries were well within acceptable norms.