[Where: The grounds, near the Whomping Willow]
[When: Sunday evening after hours]
A safe enough distance from the Whomping Willow to keep from getting...well, whomped, Severus Snape worked on what he figured was the most important skill a wizard could have, the mastery of subtlety.
The colder and colder days caused the leaves of the willow to dry up and fall to the ground. Not all of them, but enough for Severus to play with. Standing at a safe distance, Severus lifted his wand, and a swirl of leaves flowed to the right. Then, swishing to and fro with his wand like a conductor before an orchestra, Severus controlled the flow of the leaves.
The secret to the exercise was simple: don't break any leaves. Too much magic, and the leaf would snap in half. Too little, and it would fall to the ground. The subtle wizard, the one who knew how to meld power with grace with perfection, could do it easily. That is what Snape wanted to attain, and for this, he needed to close his mind and suppress everything.
So his thoughts came to him quickly, and as he recognised each one they were swallowed into the abyss. The thoughts of the wretched and pointless summer holidays without the use of magic, alone in that house with that man. The thoughts of working at the shoppe with his mother, the only time during the summer when he could contemplate and at least have the semblance of a person with a life. The thoughts of the duel that nearly became a riot when those Slytherins jumped in. Of Vance losing and getting injured and of his mother helping her. The thought of him standing over the girl as she grimaced in pain. The feelings of shame and anger and for some reason of pride over his mother's actions. The thoughts about returning to school, the only home he recognises, even though it is the home of his hated enemies. The thoughts of each of them, their smug faces, their adoring fans. Each of these thoughts hit him like a punch to the chest before becoming swallowed into nothingness.
Severus swept his hand to the right. Twenty leaves flowed obediently, though three, four, five, six of then snapped in half and disintegrated. Snape winced. He wasn't there, yet. He wasn't there.
What would it take?