Marybeth sat up with a
jolt, having opened one eye Christmas morning to find a dozen Slytherins
crowded around her bed, peering intently into her face. Malfoy was
standing nearby, gazing out the enchanted window onto the grounds where a
night of savage winds had whipped the snow into steep drifts.
Marybeth!" called Violet from her warm perch atop her cot, her woolen
blankets drawn snugly around her. Marybeth ignored the greeting and
scowled instead at the housemates who'd given her such a start.
"I've been through an
ordeal, you know!"
She was looking much better now, thanks
to Madam Pomfrey's nourishment
potion and a good long sleep. The rest of Hogwarts' students had awakened
frequently throughout the night, roused by the winds howling outside the
castle. Whenever a particularly loud gust had awakened them
simultaneously, they had exchanged smiles in the candlelight and shivered
beneath their bedclothes, scarcely able to contain their joy at being
reunited under one roof. Now, as Christmas Day dawned clear and bright,
they couldn't wait to get outside. But first the Slytherins had work to
"Yes, yes, yes," Malfoy
placated Marybeth, abandoning the window to hand her the Pepperup Potion
Madam Pomfrey had left. "Drink up. We've got a job for you."
Two hours later, the
Slytherins were standing in their common room admiring their handiwork.
They'd just finished coloring a mural Marybeth had sketched on the very
same wall that had once depicted their quidditch victory over Gryffindor.
Now the wall showed the Slytherins in all their misery at the Squire's...
Malfoy beleaguered by rampaging youngsters, Crabbe and Goyle picking lice
off each other, Pansy laboring petulantly over a washtub, and everywhere,
like streaming ants, little Slytherins hauling wood to various fireplaces.
Above it all, in huge silver and green letters, ran the title:
'Life without Professor Snape.'
Malfoy nodded to himself. Just the right combination of flattery
Beside him, Violet gave
a belligerent snort. "What's your problem?" Malfoy asked the urchin who
was frowning at one of his favorites parts of the mural... Violet pouting
as she rubbed an apparently aching backside. The third year scowled.
"I'm willing to admit
that I could have been more cooperative at the Squire's. But let's face
it." She pointed at her bum-rubbing doppelganger. "That's my life
with Snape as well."
Malfoy clapped his
hands together and rubbed them briskly. "Let's get ready!" he ordered.
"Crabbe, go get Snape."
The Slytherins hurried
into their queues as Crabbe made his way to the common room door. He
thrust his head into the corridor to be sure the way was clear only to
"He's coming!" the
seventh year cried, racing back across the room to join his housemates in
line. The common room door slammed opened and there stood Snape, fully
dressed and wearing his cloak. With one hand he held open the stone door;
the other he planted angrily on his hip as he searched the room for
someone to thunder at. His eyes fell upon the already queued-up students
and, frowning, he glanced this way and that as he searched the tops of the
common room tables. Clearly, the Slytherins realized, he'd come looking
for his cards. Malfoy raised a single arm to point at the mural and when
Snape saw it, he fell back a step.
He glanced briefly at
the Slytherins, who stared straight ahead, and then crossed slowly to the
mural, leaving the door open behind him. He examined the painting
thoroughly, moving from one suffering figure to the next, his eyes
narrowing in the process. Occasionally he tossed a suspicious glance over
his shoulder. When he was finished examining the masterpiece, he whirled
around and fixed the Slytherins with a piercing stare, holding them
motionless for several seconds. Then he strolled slowly over to them.
"Guilt!" He summed up
their gift with a single word and a sly nod. "Wise choice."
The Slytherins cackled
with glee and Malfoy grinned. "Off to spend Christmas Day in Hogsmeade?"
he drawled, nodding at his housemaster's cloak. Snape reached up to
fasten the top clasp.
"For your information, I've
been invited to Christmas lunch at the convent."
"The convent!" Millicent and
Tracey exchanged smirks. "Hold out your hands, please!"
Snape made to whirl on them,
but before he could, Crabbe added his two sickles. "Bugger his
fingernails. What about his hair?" He waved frantically at his
housemaster. "Could you please tell the nuns and forest orphans, sir,
that your hair isn't our fault? We don't need anybody else mad at us."
The Slytherins chuckled again
and Snape seemed on the verge of smiling himself when a strident voice
called from the corridor,
"Did you buy them geese,
All heads whirled in the
direction of the still-open common room door where Hermione Granger stood
flanked by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Snape narrowed his eyes at the
"The convent is not short
food," he reminded her. "I sent crackers."
Harry took a few steps into the
room. "Will the forest orphans be coming to Hogwarts at the start of
"There's room in our house!"
Malfoy added as the Slytherins turned curious faces towards Snape. Their
teacher shook his head.
"Hogwarts is short
food," he pointed out. But Harry persisted.
"We'll share. We owe them,
after all. They helped us fight."
His face, and all the faces
surrounding the potions master, were so open and sincere! It had been
immensely gratifying for Snape, the two months he'd lived beyond these
walls, to discover how many people held Hogwarts in a contempt to rival
his own... including the forest orphans. But these children, he decided
as he took in their straightforward expressions, did not deserve
contempt. So he told Harry quietly,
"I do not believe they will be
interested. But I will share your sentiments with them."
Ron stepped into the
room and walked around Harry to get to Snape. "We didn't know you'd be
here," he explained as he held out a piece of parchment, "so the
Slytherins haven't had a chance to sign it."
Snape opened the document to
discover a card from the school's non-orphan population thanking him for
the Christmas Eve hidings; his punishment, it turned out, had diffused
their own parents' anger over their misadventures in London. All three
Gryffindors, in fact, were wearing new Weasley jumpers. Snape noticed the
Slytherins eyeing them enviously.
will send a team of house elves to the Squire's to retrieve your
possessions," he told his students, not bothering to add that they would
also be preparing one of the several geese he'd sent there for the
Slytherins. The bounty of birds would feed the squire through the winter
but what his students really needed, he realized, was clothes.
The 'orphans' had been spending
most of their time in uniform, having long since outgrown the last of
their casual clothing after parting ways with their parents a year ago
last April. Between the poverty and the shortfalls brought on by the war,
the rest of Hogwarts' students weren't looking too spiffy, either. Snape
didn't know what he could do about it. He'd spent the lion's share of his
Remedy revenue on two months' general service to humanity.
"Thank you for the geese, sir!"
his students called after him as he glowered tattletale Hermione out of
the way and swept out the door. The Slytherins broke ranks and gathered
around the Gryffindors who'd made their way across the common room to
admire the new mural.
"Do you think Snape will stay?"
Ron asked, scratching his head as he studied the depictions of Crabbe and
"I think he's off." Harry
muttered in a tone Malfoy couldn't quite read. "He'll be gone as soon as
It was a distinct possibility,
Malfoy had to admit. But...
"I don't think he'll leave
again without telling us where he's going." Draco wondered, as he said
it, if that would be enough. Would he and his classmates be content,
after they left school, to know where Snape was? Or would they need for
the potions master to be at Hogwarts to feel...
Marybeth was frowning beside
him. Harry reached out and gave her braid a tug.
"Maybe Professor Lupin can
convince Professor Snape to stay," he suggested, which brought a hopeful
smile to the faces of the younger students. "Professor Dumbledore says
the portrait will be ready in 10 days."
Malfoy put an arm around
Marybeth's shoulders and grinned that ferrety little smile that fit his
features so well. "Today," he drawled with a bounce of his eyebrows,
"let's make the most of Snape's absence. Fetch your cauldrons."
He repeated the command in the
Great Hall, where it was passed from one student to the next over cheery
bowls of porridge ("The Boots sent wheat and preserves for Christmas,"
Dumbledore announced from the head table. "We'll have toast and jam for
Boxing Day!"). Soon the students were spilling outside onto a sea of
snowy slopes sparkling in the cold air and sunshine.
Malfoy's idea, something he
wouldn't have dared to suggest if Snape had been around, was to enlarge
their cauldrons and slide down the slopes inside of them. It proved
brilliant fun; the cauldrons never tipped but often spun and absolutely
could not be steered, making each trip a thrill ride. The students slid
far out onto the surface of the frozen lake before scrambling out of their
cauldrons to shrink them, snatch them up, and leap back to shore and up
another slope in two or three bounds. The staff members who paused to
watch them out the windows found it a most comical sight.
Shortly before noon the house
elves returned with the Slytherins' possessions, and then it was time to
gather in the Great Hall for a Christmas Feast featuring all the succulent
roast goose they could eat. After that, the students returned to the
lawn. All afternoon they slid, keeping a sharp eye on the front gate for
any sign of Snape.
They were still at it when
darkness came, bringing increasing winds and plummeting temperatures.
"I'm going in," Millicent announced, snatching up her cauldron. "It's
time for a bath."
The rest of the students
followed her example, save for Violet and Marybeth, who plopped down the
latter's cauldron on a particularly icy patch of snow at the foot of the
castle's stoop. Millicent frowned at the two girls.
"Aren't you coming?"
Violet shook her head. "I want
to wait until I'm so cold I can't stand it."
After their wretched stay at
the Squire's, there was nothing the Slytherins enjoyed more than a hot
soak. Millicent grinned and called a last warning from the front door as
Violet aimed another engorging charm at Marybeth's cauldron.
"Don't get caught!"
When everyone had gone inside,
Marybeth climbed into her cauldron. Violet grabbed it by the rim and spun
it as hard as she could. It whirled in dizzying circles on the icy patch,
making Marybeth shriek with laughter.
"Do you think we'll be in love
with baths for the rest of our lives?" Violet asked her roommate when the
cauldron finally stopped spinning. Marybeth, who was clinging to the rim
and swaying slightly back and forth, nodded woozily. "Again!" she
"Then it's my turn," Violet
agreed as she spun the cauldron with all her might.
When they were chilled to the
bone and thoroughly nauseous, they gathered up their pots and headed
inside. They chattered all the way down to the dungeon and into the
common room where they drew up short at an odd sight.
More than a dozen strange owls were warming themselves on the fireplace
hearth. One flew over to Marybeth and held out its leg. The others had
already been relieved of their messages.
"Where did they come from?" Violet wondered as she held open the door for
the birds and then closed it behind them. The house seemed oddly quiet.
Only the crackling of the fire and the distant sound of water filling tubs
in the lavatories broke the silence.
Marybeth stood quietly reading her letter. It seemed to take her a long
time, Violet thought, but finally she looked up. She whispered one
... before turning and walking silently to their cell.
Violet hurried after her, her cauldron banging against her thigh. She
found Marybeth putting away her cauldron and gathering up her bath things,
a robe and towel, scrub-brush and bar of soap. She headed for the
lavatory without a word to her roommate, the letter still in her hand.
Violet watched her go.
Should I tell Malfoy? she wondered as she stared after Marybeth.
Or Millicent? No, that probably wasn't necessary. The owls had
most likely been waiting outside the door to the common room when the
Slytherins had returned from sliding. The older students probably knew
all about it.
Violet put her cauldron away, changed into her robe and hurried off to the
lavatory. As she pushed open the door and stepped inside, she found
Marybeth standing a few feet away, gazing at an odd tableau of Slytherin
The room was warm and steamy from so
many baths being drawn at once. Pansy, her bathrobe cinched snugly around
her waist, her freshly-washed hair clinging to her cheeks, was perched on
a large stone ledge set into the wall. She hugged her knees, lost in
thought; a letter dangled from her fingertips.
The rest of the girls were submerged in
tubs, their heads protruding above layers of bubbles. Several had letters
which they were either reading or had let fall to the tile floor. Those
with no letters were studying the faces of their housemates or staring
thoughtfully into space. None of them, Violet noticed, had bothered to
draw the privacy curtains that hung around each tub.
Marybeth took a step towards the
nearest empty bath and Violet grabbed her by the wrist. "What do they
say?" she demanded, her eyes darting around the room. Her housemates
looked silently in her direction and Millicent held out a letter.
Marybeth, taking her cue from the older girl, offered Violet hers as well.
The third year took them and scanned them quickly.
My darling Marybeth [the letter
I want nothing more this Christmas
than to hold you in my arms.
You are all I have left in the
Your devoted mother.
Millicent's father was more forthcoming.
Put yourself in our shoes, Millicent.
We're facing 20 years or more in Azkaban for conspiracy to commit murder.
What is there for us but to try and reconnect with our daughter?
When Violet handed the letters back,
Millicent accepted hers without a word, her face a twist of conflicting
emotions. Violet frowned, surveying the doleful expressions throughout
the room. Then she spun around on her heel.
Fine time for Professor Snape to be
away, she fumed as she marched out of the lavatory and down the
corridor, pausing long enough in her cell to retrieve a quill and
parchment before proceeding out of the house and down the hall to Snape's
She arrived to find someone had beaten
her to the punch; a piece of parchment was tacked to Snape's door with two
dark, jagged words scrawled on it:
Violet jumped. She spun around and
there stood Snape, a rucksack slung over his shoulder. "What do you mean
appearing in a public passageway in that state of undress?"
Violet felt her anger melt away. Snape
had brought back his things! This was hardly unexpected, but it soothed
her temper nevertheless. She pulled her robe more tightly around her and
pointed to Malfoy's note, which Snape snatched from the door.
"I agree with Mr. Bulstrode," he
announced after reading the letters. The Slytherins, clustered about him
as he lounged in the most comfortable chair before their fire, set off a
storm of protest. Snape held up a hand to silence them.
"It has no bearing on how you should
respond," he assured them, "or if you should respond. I simply
cannot blame them for trying."
"Speaking of trying..." Tracey
made no effort to hide the contempt in her tone. "Don't you think that
might be their real motivation?"
"They want us to beg for leniency at
their trials," Goyle agreed. When Snape pointed out that none of the
letters had requested any such thing, he insisted, "Later, then. They're
hoping we'll intercede later, to get their sentences reduced or
The children turned expectantly to
Snape, who hesitated. His reticence reminded Malfoy of that Christmas
morning two years ago when Violet had quipped innocently about Snape's
family. He wondered if she'd ever observed in that book of hers that her
housemaster never discussed his family. Ever.
"What you must remember about your
parents," he finally replied, "is that few, if any of them, wanted
Voldemort back." The Slytherins stiffened. "They never went looking for
him," Snape reminded them. "They never lifted a finger to return him to
power. Instead, they denounced him."
He tented his fingers and pressed them
to his lips. "I can count on one hand the number of Death Eaters who were
truly loyal to Voldemort. The others were delighted when he disappeared,
and why not? Who wishes to serve a leader who tortures and kills his own
The Slytherins made no response but
several of them sneaked furtive peeks at Malfoy, Marybeth, Michael and
"Ask yourselves this." Snape's voice
grew stern and the Slytherins sat up a bit straighter. "Once Voldemort
returned, what choice did your parents have?"
"Death." Malfoy didn't miss a beat.
Snape's eyes narrowed to slits. "I'll
tell you something about defiance," he hissed so icily that his students
drew back. "It comes easier to those who have the support of Albus
Violet thought of Harry Potter,
sneering at Snape for 'hiding behind Dumbledore's robes.' Even though
he'd turned spy for the old man, he'd been distrusted at Hogwarts for
years. What support could other former Death Eaters have hoped for in the
face of Tom Riddle's return?
"Are you saying we should just forget
everything they've done wrong?" Millicent was indignant. Snape shook his
"There is no need to grant the shallow
or morally weak any substantial part in your lives," he assured his
listeners. "They are nothing but destructive. But you might toss family
members the occasional crumb of attention... from a safe distance, if you
wish... in case they prove to be among the very few who are capable of
admitting guilt and improving their characters. The time may come..."
He climbed to his feet and extricated
himself from the crowd of children. "... when you'd like to have a parent
in your lives."
He waited for them to drop their heads
in contemplation so he could spin around and sweep from the room.
Instead, every eye held his gaze and every face broadcast the same
You're the parent we want in our
"What were they thinking?" Minerva
criticized the Azkaban officials after Snape had filled her in. "A
Christmas treat?" The potions master paced back and forth before her
parlor fireplace. "This is why you can't leave, Severus," she insisted as
she poured him a cup of tea from her seat at a tidy round table. "Face
facts. The easy part is over... straightforward battle against a
"Who came with specific instructions
for his defeat," Snape observed wryly.
"Now comes the hard part," Minerva
insisted. "We've managed to produce the first generation to rise above
the shallowness that has infected humanity for decades. They might
actually make a difference in the world! But they're stunted by all
they've endured. They need..."
She stopped. Snape had turned his back
and was staring into the flames. She wasn't sure if he was still
listening to her.
He whispered something. It sounded
like, "I want my turn."
"I beg your pardon?"
Snape turned to face her, his
countenance a mix of determination and desperation. "Two years ago," he
recounted, "I told your students I could accept that my turn was over."
He shook his head. "When I said that, I thought I had very little time to
live. But I was wrong! I lived!" He took a step closer to her. "I
lived, and now I want my turn!"
Staring into Snape's dark eyes, Minerva
wondered for the hundredth time what he'd been up to while he was away.
But she refused to ask. Thinking of those two months made her heart ache.
Instead, she observed tartly,
"Some wizards consider teaching at
Hogwarts to be the pinnacle of achievement."
Snape smiled slyly. "I used to
perpetuate that myth."
McGonagall's eyes snapped and
Snape took a precautionary step backwards. "Ah, ah, ah!" he scolded with
a grin. "You promised! No more boxing my ears!" He gave his robes a
well-practiced swish and took a seat across from her, picking up the cup
of tea as he did. "How is Potter?" he asked as he brought the cup to his
Minerva shook her head. "No one
knows," she lamented. "He's too excited about the prospect of seeing
Lupin again. But Albus and I will be debriefing the students about their
time in London at breakfast tomorrow. Maybe he'll let something slip."
Snape set down his cup. An
awkward silence filled the space between the soon-to-be headmistress and
her reluctant lieutenant. Minerva busied herself with the sugar bowl.
"You don't need me," Snape assured his
colleague. The dignified witch looked unconvinced. "You'll manage
magnificently," Snape insisted. "Just eliminate the house cup
competition, that's all."
Minerva put down the sugar spoon,
nodding. "Let teachers assign detentions if they wish," Snape continued,
"but beyond that, leave discipline to the heads of house." He gave a
bitter shake of his head. "I always thought pitting students against each
other was asinine."
Minerva smiled but said nothing.
"And no more Sorting Hat!" Snape
added, giving the delicate little table an emphatic thump with his fist.
Minerva started, then grinned.
"No more Sorting Hat," she
agreed. "Would you like some more..."
The heads of house jumped. Per
Slytherin custom, Snape had left the door to the living quarters of a
member of the opposite sex open a crack. Now he and Minerva twisted their
heads to discover Dumbledore standing in the doorway, quietly observing
"Professor Dumbledore!" Minerva
hurried to her feet. "Professor Snape has been telling me that several
Slytherins just received letters from their parents in Azkaban."
Dumbledore made no reply. Instead, he
looked somberly back and forth between the two teachers. Then he said
"I was going to ask you to step into my
office while I fetched Professor Snape, Minerva. But as he is already
here, may I borrow him for a few minutes?"
The two men made their way swiftly to
Dumbledore's office, the headmaster neglecting to inform Snape of the
purpose for their trip. When they arrived, the housemaster saw at once
why the old man had wanted McGonagall standing by. Violet was seated on
the right side of Dumbledore's desk looking frightened to death. Directly
across from her sat a goblin.
"The staff at Gringotts have been
extremely busy," Dumbledore began, assuming his seat but failing to invite
Snape to sit, too. "Apparently, violence and sudden death make for
difficult accounting. Mr. Griphook tells me they've been working evenings
and weekends for months, trying to sort it all out."
The look on Griphook's face suggested
he found it all burdensome busywork brought on by irresponsible humans.
"The holiday afforded him his first
chance to make a trip to Hogwarts on rather important business."
He nodded at the goblin who rose and walked around the desk to Violet.
The child whimpered but, thanks to a stern look from Snape, managed not to
"The estate of Tom Riddle," Griphook
announced, placing an envelope in Violet's lap. "Vault #216." The child
looked curiously at Snape and Dumbledore before opening the envelope.
Inside was a small gold key.
"I don't understand," she insisted,
giving Griphook a glance that clearly indicated she wished he would return
to his side of the desk. "How could my father have money? He didn't
Snape smiled in spite of himself.
Griphook grinned, too, but his smirk was decidedly nasty. "We don't
concern ourselves with where the money came from before it reaches us," he
informed Violet. The child gulped.
"I can assure you, Miss Guilford,"
Dumbledore spoke up, "that every attempt was made to return ill-gotten
gains to the appropriate..." He broke off, then continued very gently.
"...widows and orphans, as it were. But in those cases where Voldemort
destroyed entire families..."
Violet paled and Dumbledore fell
tactfully silent. Snape took a step forward. "Stand up," he snapped, and
Violet sprang to her feet. The key fell to the floor and she scrambled
after it, refusing to meet Griphook's disgusted gaze as she snatched it up
and returned to her spot before Snape.
"I trust we can rely on you," her
housemaster hissed, "to remember the origins of your fortune when deciding
how to spend it."
"Oh, yes, sir!" Violet nodded
emphatically. Dumbledore smiled.
"As Miss Guilford is legally a ward of
the muggle state rather than the wizarding community," he began, "the
staff at Gringotts have decided to leave it to my discretion to oversee
her expenditures until she is of age, a situation made almost unnecessary
by the on-going shortfalls."
"Can I have a broom?" Violet turned
eagerly to the headmaster. Snape curled his lip.
"Certainly not!" he barked before
Dumbledore could reply. "They are in short supply and exorbitantly
overpriced. I can't think of anything more vulgar. However..."
He turned to the headmaster himself.
"If we could prevail upon Miss Guilford to pay her back tuition, it could
be combined with contributions from yourself and the four heads of house
to purchase new uniforms for the students. I'm sure we're all quite weary
of gangly ankles and bony wrists sticking out of too-short jumpers and
Violet took a quick peek at her robe
sleeve Flitwick had repaired with potato sacking last summer. She looked
up at her head of house with wide-eyed innocence and observed, "I thought
robe fabric was in short supply and exorbitantly overpriced."
Griphook uttered a guttural chuckle and
Dumbledore lowered his head to hide a smile. But Snape merely nodded
politely to the two of them, excused himself, and took Violet by the arm
to lead her from the office.
In the foyer outside the headmaster's
door, he spun her around and gave her such a spank that Fawkes jumped on
his perch. A moment later, he returned, still leading Violet by the arm.
"I was thinking," he continued
smoothly, "along the lines of a secondary uniform, something the children
can wear beneath their robes and in place of their leisure clothing."
Dumbledore twinkled at Violet who,
rubbing her rear end, added petulantly, "Nice and thick, please."
So on Boxing Day morning, as the
children devoured toast and jam in the Great Hall, Madam Pomfrey took
their measurements and called out the figures to her mediquill. Each
student was to receive two black sweatshirts and two solid-colored
button-down shirts in red, green, yellow or blue as befitted their house
assignment. The boys were to receive flannel-lined black trousers and the
girls black pleated skirts with warm acrylic tights to match their house
shirts. Madam Malkin, suffering from slow robe sales, had gratefully
agreed to produce the outfits, and at reasonable prices, too. There would
be enough left over, if Flitwick and Sprout matched the contributions of
Snape and McGonagall, for one pair of sturdy black lace-up shoes apiece
"Do we have to wear our tacky old robes
over the new clothes?" Pansy wondered as the nurse measured her from waist
"In class on weekdays," McGonagall replied. "But you may go without them
at school functions on evenings and weekends. Mr. Longbottom, you've
stuck your elbow in my marmalade."
With most of the staff still on holiday, the head table and its platform
had been removed after the Christmas feast and two house tables, all that
were necessary to accommodate the current occupants of the castle, had
been pushed close to the fireplace. Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore,
Hagrid, and Filch ate their breakfast sitting among their charges.
"Let's see." McGonagall perused a set of parchment notes beside her
plate. "Who's next?"
The debriefing process was well underway and while McGonagall and Snape
grew ever more vexed at the mounting evidence of the 'hard part' still to
come, the students, bolstered by their recent reunion, were enjoying each
other's anecdotes enormously.
"We didn't do so badly," Ron crowed after Michael and Eloise finished
their story, "considering how much we don't know!"
His exclamation reminded Harry of something. Since the charms instructor
was still on holiday, he turned to the man sitting across from him and
"Professor Snape, do you remember how we lost our wands during the siege?"
Snape glowered at the boy.
"I was wondering," Harry went on, "if there's a charm to summon your
Dumbledore leaned forward but no one noticed because at that moment,
Malfoy snorted pumpkin juice out his nose.
"I know you can summon silently," he smirked as he wiped his chin on his
handkerchief. "And I know you can summon without sticking your wand in the
air." In his mind's eyes, he saw the potions master snatching his cane
out of thin air on his way to Gryffindor Tower one Christmas Eve. "But
don't you have to
have your wand on your person?"
"What about dissolving rope?" Ron put in eagerly. "Is there a way to
dissolve rope if your hands are tied?"
"Maybe we could develop a way," Tracey suggested, "as we did with
Snape scowled at the 'we.' All around him, students broke into excited
discussion. Neville suggested they'd be better off learning to apparate.
"You don't need to dissolve rope," he pointed out, "if you know how to
"Can you apparate without a wand?" Harry wondered, and Hermione added,
"Are there places besides Hogwarts where you can't apparate?"
Malfoy turned eagerly to Snape. If he could learn to apparate, he could
visit his family home! "Could you teach us, sir?" he begged. "Please?
We're of age and our parents... those of us who have them... are hardly in
a position to teach us themselves."
Snape curled his lip. "Apparation has never been taught at
Hogwarts..." he began.
"...because you can't apparate here, yes, sir." Malfoy cut him
off with an impatient nod. "Couldn't you take us to Hogsmeade?"
"Where Harry Potter was just kidnapped?" That was Violet, doing a
rather annoying imitation of Hermione Granger.
"He wasn't kidnapped in Hogsmeade," Malfoy scowled. "He was way outside
of town." The teenager turned back to Snape. "Some of us are leaving
school in six months. We need to learn how to cope with life beyond..."
The words died on his lips as Snape focused the iciest of glares upon him.
Probably shouldn't have interrupted him, the boy realized with a
gulp. He bowed his head and fell deferentially silent.
"As I was saying," Snape hissed when
the room was appropriately quiet. "Apparation has never been taught at
Hogwarts because it is extremely dangerous. Very few parents teach their
children at seventeen and lessons are prohibitively expensive so that few
wizards can afford them until they've worked for several years...
acquiring, thereby, a bit more judgment."
Malfoy thought of Queenie, rounding up carts at a muggle shopping center.
"Apparation," Snap went on, "is the leading cause of death to wizards by
malfeasance. Can anyone tell me why?"
"Because people go popping into places without knowing they're safe!"
Violet shouted, remembering the lesson Snape had taught them during the
siege. "And that's why Floo Powder is so expensive, right? So kids won't
have easy access to it?" Her head of house nodded and Violet beamed...
until the glares from several seventh years withered her to a slouch.
"The wisest of wizards," Snape finished, "use apparation sparingly,
traveling only to secure locations or destinations where diverse forms of
travel must be employed to avoid detection by muggles."
Malfoy thought again of his childhood home. His parents had not been in
the habit of using apparation to traverse the immense property.
"You could get shot," Justin spoke up, referencing his own harrowing
London adventure. "Muggles don't like being startled at
"Muggles don't like a lot of things," Ron added with a quick glance at
Harry. "Muggle defense. That's the class we need now."
"Silence, please!" McGonagall rapped her goblet with her knife. "Let's
remain focused on the task at hand. Now who's next?" She consulted her
parchment list. "Ah, yes. Davis and Warrington."
All faces turned expectantly to the two Slytherins.
"Where have you been?"
Marybeth looked up from her
seat by the fire as Violet let herself into the common room that evening.
All the sofas and chairs near the hearth were crammed full of Slytherins
basking in the pleasure of a clean, warm sitting room. Violet picked her
way through the crowd and plopped down on Crabbe's well-padded lap.
"Looking for Tracey and
Warrington," she explained as she stretched her legs on top of Crabbe's
and crossed them at the ankles. The missing seventh years had disappeared
right after breakfast, having endured ferocious glowering from Snape in
response to their description of their exploits in London. Swept up by a
crowd of spoiled, wealthy young thrill-seekers, they'd enjoyed two days of
illicit reveling on the theory that Harry Potter may have chosen to flee
Hogwarts and sew a few postwar wild oats. When Boxing Day lunch had come
and gone with no sign of the reprobates, their head of house had put a
bounty of 20 sickles on their heads.
"Any luck?" Crabbe nudged
Violet in the rump with one knee.
"No," the little tracker
confessed, "but I did overhear a fascinating conversation while I was
hiding from Madam Bigshot behind a tapestry."
At the end of the breakfast
debriefings, Dumbledore, having decided not to refill the Head Boy spot,
had announced the promotion of Hermione Granger to Head Student. While
Violet couldn't be sure the newly empowered Gryffindor would interfere
with Snape's orders, she didn't want to lose tracking time explaining why
she was using magic in the corridors. Twenty sickles would make a nice
supplement to the first of the modest weekly allowances Dumledore would be
doling out to her.
"Granger was telling Potter and Weasley
how she'd gone to tell Dumbledore that he should write all the students
and tell them they won't be allowed back without parental permission;
otherwise they might run away like Marybeth."
The Slytherins nodded.
According to the Baron, the headmaster had been receiving letters all day
from parents informing him that, in light of the melee at King's Cross,
they would not be returning their children to Hogwarts until safe
transport could be arranged.
"It's more dangerous to travel
now than it was for Marybeth," Millicent defended Hermione's behavior.
"Why can't they just floo
here?" wondered Violet.
"A lot of people disconnected
from the floo system after Voldemort returned," Malfoy told her. "Now
they're poor and it's expensive to reconnect, to say nothing of the cost
of powder and the trouble to get it."
Pansy gave a snotty little
sniff. "I think it's an excuse," the pretty girl insisted. "Too
dangerous to go to Diagon Alley, too expensive to maintain floo service,
too risky to be on the system, too hazardous to travel..."
"Or..." Malfoy grew
thoughtful. "It could be they're too poor to pay for Hogwarts anymore and
don't want to admit it."
"Anyway..." Violet was anxious
to get back to her story. "Hermione said that when she walked into the
office, she saw Dumbledore talking to Viktor Krum through the floo
"Krum!" Malfoy sat up a little
"He was saying, 'You can count
on us. I vill make sure of it.'"
"Who's 'us'?" Pansy wondered.
"Is Krum married?"
Malfoy shook his head. "He's
still playing quidditch for Bulgaria."
This gave Violet an idea that
made her clap her hands with delight. "Maybe they're sending us brooms!"
she speculated, and for the next hour, the Slytherins debated the
strengths and weaknesses of various styles of foreign flying devices.
The mystery was solved at
breakfast Saturday morning when Dumbledore stood up and addressed the two
tables. "In an attempt to ease the strained relations between British
wizards and their counterparts throughout the world," he announced, "I
have arranged for the formation of an interscholastic quidditch league!"
Hermione answered Neville a bit
loudly in case anyone else needed to hear.
"Schools compete with each other."
"Muggles do it all the time!"
Dumbledore beamed as the predictable chatter broke out among the students.
"Durmstrang has accepted our invitation to compete, thanks in large part
to the support of Viktor Krum, who has agreed to act as their coach."
At that, Ron went nearly
apoplectic. "Good thing you showed him such a nice time during the
tri-wizard, Granger," Malfoy whispered to the girl beside him, who punched
him in the arm hard enough to make his eyes water.
"We will travel to their school
for a Saturday afternoon match next month," Dumbledore finished, "and I am
pleased to announce that I have secured the services of the Knight Bus for
the designated weekend. With the beds removed, we should be able to
transport almost the entire student body in our 'fan bus.'"
Dumbledore resumed his seat amid
thunderous applause. As she watched him smile and nod, Violet wondered if
the elderly wizard was aware that in some countries, fans fought and
killed each other. She turned to Snape to ask him about it and found him
exchanging looks with McGonagall reminiscent of that dinner when
Dumbledore had decided on the spur of the moment to allow the students to
stay for the summer. News to them, the girl deduced.
She decided not to raise the subject of
That evening, as she peeked through the
open door to the deputy headmistress' office, Violet couldn't help but
giggle. Leaning forward in their chairs on opposite sides of the desk,
their elbows propped on the desktop, their fingertips pressed tightly to
their throbbing temples, Snape and McGonagall looked like a pair of morose
bookends. On a blackboard beside the desk, the very one upon which Violet
had once asserted that 'Bastards do not bear their father's names,' was a
list of current challenges facing the Hogwarts community. It
Forest children, street wizards, orphans and other
Ramifications of King's Cross fiasco
Ministry inquiries into London misadventures
Potter's state of mind
Course planning (Muggle Defense? OWLS/NEWTS?)
Death Eater trials...
...and so on. It occurred to Violet as she read
through the list that items 2 and 6 ought to cancel each other out. But
she had no chance to ponder the idea further, for the school's most
formidable teachers looked up at the sound of her giggle and Violet
hurried to explain her presence.
"Michael found Warrington and
Tracey, sir," she reported to Snape. "They're waiting in your office."
Snape dismissed her with a curt, "Thank
you, Miss Guilford," and rose to leave. He had just reached the door when
McGonagall called him back.
"Why on earth didn't Albus mention the
quidditch program?" she wondered.
Snape frowned and shook his head.
A few minutes later, he was sweeping
into his office where he was greeted by a storm of protest from his two
hedonistic seventh years.
"It's not fair!" Tracey
insisted as she shoved aside the non-orphans' thank you card to bend over
Snape's desk beside Warrington. "Why should we receive more punishment
than the others?"
"Let's see." Snape's voice was
infuriatingly silky. "Perhaps because of the gambling..."
He drew back his switch and
gave them each a stinging stroke.
"...the public nudity..."
After the fourth stroke, Snape
hesitated, wondering, "What shall we call using your leaping technique to
impress spoiled muggles by jumping in front of speeding cars?"
Tracey and Warrington exchanged
looks. "Derring-do?" the boy suggested.
"Excellent! And worthy of
Snape lashed his students twice
more, soundly enough to leave no doubt as to his opinion of their two days
of indulgence. Then he returned Whomping Willy to the corner as his
seventh years departed, Warrington pausing in the door to inform him,
"By the way. Tessie at the
Thump and Bump sends her love."
On his way out, he nearly
banged into Hermione Granger, who marched right past him into the office.
She stormed up to the desk where Snape had just taken a seat and slammed a
piece of parchment down in front of him. Snape, regretting enormously
that he no longer had switch in hand, raised an eyebrow at the girl, who
merely folded her arms across her chest and began to tap her foot in a
hostile and rapid rhythm. Intrigued, Snape dropped his gaze to the
parchment, which turned out to be a letter written in a hand he found
Dear Hermione, (the letter read)
I've analyzed the hair you sent me.
The curse placed upon it is original, not standard, which means no known
counter-curse exists. One would have to be developed. I can work on it
in my spare time, if you wish, but I have to tell you, it's not the kind
of curse I specialize in. The ones I break are more protective than
vengeful. You'd do better to contact a charm mitigater... if you can find
Hermione, I have to ask. Is this
Snape's hair? If it is, I can tell you a little about the hex that might
One Christmas while Charlie was home
from school, I was sitting at the kitchen table with him, joking about
Snape's hair. Mum suddenly snapped at me, "Professor Snape, Bill,
and if I ever hear you mocking his hair again, you won't live long enough
to stop regretting it!"
I can't tell you how surprised I was to
find out she knew. Maybe James mentioned it when they were in the Order
together the first time.
Some people... well... You're a clever
girl, Hermione, and I'm sure you're aware that sometimes children from
certain... difficult... situations have hygiene problems.
From the day he arrived at Hogwarts,
Snape had greasy hair. Why no one ever took him aside about it I'll never
know. Maybe someone did. Maybe kids like Snape are so mortified to
discover their... solecisms... that they cling to their old ways as if to
prove them intentional, not the result of some... deficiency.
Am I making any sense at all?
Snape's hair became a sort of symbol,
of how he was different from the marauders, of how he was proud to
be different from the marauders, of how no one should be like the
It infuriated James and Sirius.
They had to take control of that
So one day, as I was leaving the Great
Hall after dinner, James Potter put a hex on Snape in the entryway.
"Greasy hair," he decreed, "so long as you reside at Hogwarts, so everyone
will know what a slimy character you are."
It didn't seem so bad at the
time, I swear.
Write again when you have the
chance, will you? I'm anxious to hear what you'll be doing next year!
The room was quiet when Snape
finished the letter. The tapping, he realized. Miss Granger had
stopped tapping her foot. He sneaked a peek at her from behind the
curtain of his greasy hair, then returned his attention to the letter.
His potions homework was always intriguing, too, he thought as he
reread the central paragraphs of the missive. When he was done, he held
out it out to the head student and asked,
"What are your plans for
next year, Miss Granger?
Hermione stomped her foot and
Snape drew back in his chair. Why is this impossible child mad at me?
"You have to let me cure you,"
the Gryffindor announced as she snatched the letter back. Snape studied
her a moment. Then he nodded at the document in her hand.
"Have you shown that to
Potter?" he murmured. He took great pleasure in the way Hermione
immediately dropped her eyes. But her answer took him by surprise.
"He's facing enough
Snape stiffened. "You think
Lupin won't come?"
"I think it won't matter," the
girl sighed before raising her head to stare beseechingly into his face.
"Please, Professor Snape. Let
Snape rose and took a few steps
away from his desk. "No," he insisted. "I don't want a cure for my
"Of course not," Hermione spat.
"You'd rather display it forever as a tribute to the bastardy of James
Snape whirled on the girl but
Hermione was too quick for him. "Please, Professor," she begged again,
taking a step closer to him. "For Harry's sake."
Snape winced. He replied
faster than he should have; his words came out peevish and wheedling.
"It's part of me," he insisted. "I don't need normal hair."
"Then don't wash it,
Professor!" Hermione roared so loudly Snape fell back a step. The girl
gasped, horrified by her conduct, and as the color returned to Snape's
cheeks, she turned and raced for the door. But before fleeing, she paused
and turned back.
"I don't really need your
permission, sir," she announced. She forced herself to march regally
through the door and into the corridor. Only the sounds of her footfalls
racing away the moment she was out of sight kept Snape from hurrying after
her. Instead, he walked slowly over to the desk where he'd just spanked
two of his seventh years and leaned against it.
He reached up to toy with the strands
of hair Hermione had snipped on Christmas Eve. Images of the girl paraded
through his brain... Hermione confessing sheepishly to setting him on
fire, Hermione smiling at his praise of her convalescious potion, Hermione
scolding her classmates in potions class, Hermione patiently helping him
convert rats to tumblers...
Snape nodded at the empty doorway.
He would miss her.
"I will not!" Violet argued
hotly in the common room before lunch the next day. "It's pointless! I
can't beat Potter, and besides, I want to form a cheerleading squad!"
Crabbe and Goyle groaned as did
several other Slytherins. Malfoy took a menacing step closer to his third
"You will too try out!" he seethed as
he grabbed her by the jumper and pulled her close. "They're going to
spread the membership around all four houses. You can count on it. Every
Slytherin rejected gives ME a better chance of making the team!"
Try-outs for the school quidditch team,
to be coached by Madam Hooch, were that afternoon and would be followed by
a week of intensive training before classes resumed January 5. Violet
jerked free from Malfoy's grasp and tugged at her worn-out jumper.
"Ginny's a better chaser than Ron is keeper," she reminded the older boy.
"But I see your point."
So she tried out, and when the
results were announced Sunday night, she found to her surprise that she
did make the team... the reserve team. So did Crabbe, who hooted with
"We'll automatically get to go to the
game!" he gloated, grabbing Violet around the waist to spin her
triumphantly through the air. "We'll get to have all the fun without any
of the work!"
To the Slytherins' joy, three
of their number made the school team. The entire house turned out Monday
morning, along with most of the rest of the school, to watch Madam Hooch
put Malfoy, Goyle, Warrington and the others through their paces. Potter
was seeker, of course, and Ginny made chaser. The other two team members
came from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. At the end of the first practice, the
observers returned to the castle, but the team members gathered at one end
of the pitch to choose a captain per Madam Hooch's instructions.
"It should be Harry," Ginny
insisted as they settled into a circle on the hard-packed snow. "He's the
Harry wouldn't hear of it. "Make
Malfoy do it," he suggested instead. "Keepers stay in one small area. It
makes a good command post."
"No!" Malfoy snarled, and
Warrington, who really should have been more help at the Squire's,
snickered. The others turned to look at him. He, too, had been playing
since second year. But Warrington had no desire to assume a position of
leadership after what he'd seen Malfoy go through in December.
"Sod off!" he barked.
Ginny sighed. "Maybe we don't need a
captain," she murmured. "We have a coach, after all."
"That's right!" Harry jumped to
his feet. "If there's no captain, we can all go ask Snape together!"
The Slytherins exchanged looks.
"Ask Snape what?" Malfoy wondered. Harry flushed and began to stammer.
"I thought... I just thought...
maybe we'd like to ask Snape to be our.. a sort of..."
The potions master slammed the
door to the cabinet he'd been inventorying.
"Lots of athletics teams have
them, sir," Harry insisted as his teammates bobbed their heads like a
chorus of marionettes. "They have a coach and a trainer."
Snape took a seat at his desk.
"Certainly not," he snapped. "Consider Madam Hooch's feelings."
"We asked her. She thinks it's
Snape scowled at the green-eyed
"But sir." Malfoy stepped up
beside Harry. "Playing other schools could be a lot harder than playing
Harry nodded. "You've come up with
"He's off," Goyle muttered when
the team gathered in the Great Hall after lunch a few days later to
analyze Snape's refusal again. "I just know it."
Ginny lifted the ginger head
she'd been resting on her arms. "Maybe we could throw him a party or
something," she suggested. "That might convince him to stay."
"Too bad his birthday isn't in
January," muttered Malfoy.
They were still moping when Dumbledore
wandered by a while later. He strolled casually over to the group and
"This is hardly the spirit we're
looking for in our new quidditch team. Is something troubling you?"
Harry, who'd dropped his head to his
arms shortly after Ginny had lifted hers, didn't bother to raise it as he
replied, "Professor Snape turned down our request to be quidditch team
"Oh." Dumbledore looked taken aback.
"Surely you don't need a trainer?"
Harry made no reply. But Malfoy took
great pleasure in explaining to the old man, "Potter wanted to get him
involved in quidditch at Hogwarts again."
He expected the elderly wizard to
frown. Instead, Dumbledore took a seat beside Ginny. "Do you know," he
murmured as he smoothed his robes over his knees, "progress is sometimes
made one small step at a time. Durmstrang may be the only institution to
respond favorably to our interscholastic initiative, but I am still
pleased we made the offer."
He placed a
gentle hand on Ginny's arm. "You cannot force others to accept your
kindness, but you can still be pleased you made the offer."
The athletes nodded politely. Then,
following Harry's lead, they rose and excused themselves for their
"I've got warm socks. I've got
warm shoes. I've got new clothes, who could ask for anything more?" sang
Violet as she pulled on her Slytherin green acrylic tights. Marybeth,
combing her hair in the mirror, snorted.
"Harry Potter," she suggested,
giving her head a little shake to see her new hairstyle bounce. Pansy had
cut it for her on New Year's Day and Marybeth thought she looked cute
indeed. "I hate to think what will happen if Lupin's not there."
School would not start again
until tomorrow but the students were wearing their new clothes for the
first time this Sunday evening in honor of the unveiling of Dumbledore's
portrait of Lupin. Violet, who had no response for her roommate, crowded
close beside her and admired her reflection in the mirror as she pulled
the collar of her new shirt through the neck of her sweatshirt. "Have you
ever seen a richer shade of green?" she sighed.
Millicent stuck her head into
the cell. "Let's go!" she commanded, and soon the younger girls were
scooting up out of the dungeon and into the entryway where students and
staff were gathering. Most of the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors were
standing on the steps of the huge marble staircase, leaning over the
railing. Filch, the girls noticed, stood rigidly beside the front doors.
"You don't think Ministry officials are
going to swoop down on the unveiling, do you?" Violet whispered as the two
girls pushed their way to the front of a crowd of taller kids. Marybeth
"What's poor Mr. Filch supposed to do
about it if they do?"
They found nice spots for themselves
alongside Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and the Weasley siblings near an
easel covered with an elegant purple cloth. Violet stared at it,
fascinated. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but it seemed to her
that the shimmery fabric swayed, as if Lupin were breathing beneath it.
The crowd parted and Dumbledore made
his way forward, followed closely by Snape and McGonagall who took up
positions on either side of the easel. Dumbledore made no speech.
Instead, he grabbed the purple cloth between the tips of his long, slender
fingers and yanked it eloquently off the easel.
Everyone gasped. The painting was
nothing less than beautiful. Dumbledore had superimposed the figure from
Marybeth's sketch onto the grounds on a lovely summer day, placing Lupin
beneath the very tree where he now rested beneath the earth. He was
leaning against it, his eyes closed, while the lake rippled behind him and
a breeze stirred the leaves.
The students held their breath. Ginny
Weasley leaned forward, peering into Lupin's face, and that's when he
opened one eye and observed,
"Don't you all look nice!"
There were shrieks of delight and then
the crowd burst into applause. Filch backed quickly against the front
doors as if to hold them shut. Snape, on the other hand, seemed to relax,
almost slumping with relief. Ginny burst forward and threw her arms
around the painting, hugging it tightly.
"We missed you so much!" she cried as
the applause died down. When the entryway was quiet, Ginny released the
portrait and stepped back, allowing Lupin to turn to Harry and ask,
"All right, Harry?"
Harry Potter was grinning to split his
silly face. He nodded, stammering, "Fine! Fine. Great! Good.
Several people laughed. But Hermione,
Violet noticed, did not. She was studying the painting very seriously and
when Lupin looked at her, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and plastered
a brave, sympathetic smile on her face.
Lupin nodded ever so slightly.
The laughter died away and an awkward
silence descended over the hall. It dragged on until Filch cleared his
throat, making everyone but Dumbledore jump. Violet thrust her hand into
"Will he still turn into a werewolf
each month?" she asked Snape. But it was Dumbledore who took a step
forward to reply.
"Oh, no. He was captured in the best
of health and that is how he shall remain."
The students turned back to the
portrait. Lupin pulled a leaf off one of the branches of his tree and
frowned at it. "Lovely," he murmured, turning the leaf over to admire its
back. "Really amazing work."
He said nothing else and the silence
returned. It went on longer this time, until Violet found herself looking
around for someone who might have something to say. When Dumbledore
clapped his hands, the sound rang out sharply.
"Well!" he cried, as if the throng
before him were still engaged in excited murmuring. "We face a monumental
decision. Where shall we hang the portrait?"
Lupin looked up. He hurried across his
canvas to hear Snape's reply. But the head of Slytherin was staring into
"Potter," he called, and all eyes
turned to the Gryffindor. "You may hang it in your dormitory if you
Lupin tossed his leaf aside. It
fluttered to the grass along the bottom of his portrait. "Severus!" the
former defense teacher protested. "I'm your portrait! I should hang in
Snape winced and Lupin smiled a rather
nasty smile. Dumbledore raised a hand as if to intercede.
"How about some place a bit more
public?" he suggested. "Perhaps the Defense classoom?"
He nodded at the front doors, calling,
"Thank you, Mr. Filch," and as the caretaker took his leave, the crowd,
sensing the festivities were over, began to disperse. Dumbledore drew his
wand and carefully levitated the portrait off the easel. He set off down
the hall, inviting Harry to join him.
Violet made her way towards the steps
to the dungeon but stopped when she noticed Hermione Granger doing
something odd. The girl was looking self-consciously about as she made
her way not up the marble steps but over to the doors of the Great Hall.
When it seemed no one was looking, she slipped inside. Violet grabbed a
spot in the shadow of the great staircase and watched as Hermione peeked
repeatedly into the entryway. Once it was deserted, the head student set
off down the path Dumbledore and Harry had taken with the portrait.
Violet wasted no time in following her.
She watched from the nearest corner as
Hermione pressed herself flat against the wall outside the open door to
the defense classroom. Rumblings could be heard inside. Hermione
frowned, listening with all her might. The voices stopped and Hermione
hurried to hide as Dumbledore emerged from the classroom and set off for
his office. When he'd gone, Hermione returned to her original spot.
For nearly 10 minutes Violet watched
Hermione eavesdrop on Harry and Lupin. Not once did the Head Student
smile. Finally Harry emerged from the classroom and Violet noticed he
wasn't smiling either. He stopped short at the sight of Hermione and
Violet held her breath, expecting him to lash out. Instead, he nodded, as
if glad to see her, and together they set off back the way they'd come.
Violet spun around and took off running, anxious to get as far ahead of
them as possible.
She was skittering into the entryway
and was just about to turn and race for the steps to the dungeon when a
loud knock sounded on the front door. The third year stopped. She waited
for several seconds but no one appeared. The knock came again and, not
knowing what else to do, Violet walked over to the large doors and pulled
"Good evening," said one of two very
proper-looking wizards. "We'd like to see Professor McGonagall."
Violet gulped. These two have to be
from the Ministry, she thought. They were stiff as boards and
completely without humor. Did they apparate and walk up the carriage
path? she wondered, because they carried no brooms. She couldn't
imagine why they hadn't floo'd to McGonagall's office. Then, as she
studied their pristine robes, neatly-trimmed mustaches and perfectly
groomed hair, the answer came to her. Smudged wizards were far less
intimidating. The youngster took a deep breath and inquired as loftily as
"Have you an appointment?"
One of the wizards started forward,
perhaps intending to box her ears, but a hand fell upon Violet's shoulder
and then Harry Potter was pulling her away from the door so Hermione could
address the men instead.
"I'm Hermione Granger," she said
coolly. "I am Head Student. If you will follow me, I will take you to
Professor McGonagall." She spun smartly around and the two wizards
hurried after her. Harry turned to Violet long enough to mouth, 'Save the
portrait!' before trotting off to catch up to the visitors.
As soon as the four of them were out of
sight, Violet raced for the dungeon. In no time, the Slytherins were
thundering across the castle, their feet pounding the stone floors as they
raced to the Defense classroom to stand guard over Snape's portrait of
Lupin. They took up their positions and drew their wands, tensed for
"If the ministry destroys the
portrait," Violet hissed to Malfoy as the Slytherins waited for whomever
might come, "does Snape still have to stay until the end of the year?"
But no one came to destroy the
As the two Gryffindors and the visitors
approached the half-open door to McGonagall's office, they could see light
spilling into the corridor and hear voices deep in conversation.
Snape, Hermione realized, ...probably discussing the portrait.
She lifted her chin and announced very loudly and completely
unnecessarily, "Professor McGonagall's office is just up here."
Inside the office, there was a sudden
silence, followed by a quick rush of feet and a squeaking noise. By the
time the foursome arrived, the two teachers were sitting calmly on either
side of the desk and a blackboard next to Snape had been turned to the
"I see no value in debate," the first
official said when introductions had been made and the students dismissed,
"so we'll come straight to the point. We have a proposition for you." He
reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like some sort of list.
"The Ministry will overlook all recent breaches of protocol involving
experimental uses of new magic, Professor Snape's activities in November
and December, underaged magic at a certain country estate in Ely..." He
took a deep breath and continued his litany. "...your students'
misconduct at King's Cross and throughout London, the death of Peter
Pettigrew, and the portrait... if ..."
Snape and McGonagall, noticeably pale,
"... you will accept 200 additional
students beginning July 1."
The teachers exchanged looks. It
couldn't be that easy! McGonagall cleared her throat and invited the men
to sit down, which they did except for Snape, who took up a position
beside the deputy's chair.
"I appreciate your request," the deputy
assured the visiting ministry representatives. "Professor Snape and I
have already discussed the myriad magical children throughout Great
Britian who require assistance at this time. But we anticipate the return
of our own absent students next fall, assuming safe transit can be
Assistance. The word set off
warning bells in Snape's mind. Before either ministry official could
respond to McGonagall's mention of transportation, he leaned forward and
inquired suspiciously, "Paying students?"
The second ministry official cleared
his throat. "No," he admitted as he took the parchment list from the
first official and held it out to McGonagall. It contained row after row
of names. "Orphans," the visitor explained. "Eight to ten years of age."
Snape and McGonagall were struck
dumb by the very idea. The first official took advantage of their silence
to rise and bid them farewell. "You have until the end of June to
decide," he announced as he headed for the door, the second official
hurrying after him. "It will take us that long to try all the Death
Eaters. After that..." He gave them a nasty little smile. "The trial
dockets should be wide open." And with pretentious little bows, the
Ministry officials were gone.
Snape and McGonagall stared
after them. Then Snape turned to McGonagall, who was still staring in
horror at the open door, and insisted,
"You don't have to say yes."
Minerva buried her face in her
"Our initiatives for the war were
completely justifiable," Snape continued. "The children acted in
self-defense. And I..." He gathered his robes more tightly around him.
"I can take care of myself."
McGonagall folded her hands on top of
the desk and shook her head. "If we don't take them," she pointed out,
"what becomes of them?"
Snape scowled at the 'we.' But
instead of correcting Minerva's assumption, he reminded her, "You can't
afford to feed or clothe them."
"That's going to be true of
most of the children," she countered, "for years."
"You have no program for them."
McGonagall shrugged. "Perhaps
the ghosts could look after them during school hours," she mused,
shuddering as she did at the thought of dozens of children running amok
through the castle. Snape shook his head.
"They need things," he warned
McGonagall looked up with a frown.
Fancying himself well out of
it, Snape smiled and whispered, "Cuddling."
"Hugging. Paddling. Answers to
Mineva was turning
green. She pressed her fingers to her temples and asked weakly, "Do you
think we could persuade Pomona to take them all?"
The potions master grinned. "Maybe you
could get Crabbe to stay for an extra year," he suggested as he headed for
the door. "He's fairly tolerant of his younger housemates." He paused
before leaving to ask,
"Are you going to tell Albus?"
Minerva shook her head. "It's my
decision," she reminded him quietly. After he left, she put her head down
wearily on her desk.
"Four on a cauldron," Snape told the
seventh years as they filed into potions class the next day. "And pay
Despite the additional class time that
had been added to both ends of the school day and Hermione Granger's
willingness to teach the younger students on Saturdays, the staff at
Hogwarts were going to be hard-pressed to impart all the information they
hoped to put across by the end of the year. But their students were eager
and that helped, especially in coping with the on-going shortages in
"One student from each house on each
cauldron," Snape instructed as they sorted themselves into groups of four.
"The Gryffindors will prep, the Hufflepuffs will chop, the Ravenclaws will
brew and the Slytherins will test. We'll rotate each day in alphabetical
order and you will take extensive notes on the tasks you are not
performing to hand in at the end of class." He placed a list of cheap,
readily-available items similar in texture to the ingredients being used
in class on the corner of his desk and informed them that, at the end of
the lesson, they could pick up copies if they wished to practice chopping
after hours. It pleased him more than a little to see every student pick
up a copy on the way out the door.
"Would you like us to wait, sir?" Potter asked as he walked up to the desk
to hand in his notes. Snape shook his head. It was bad enough being made
Defense instructor only after Voldemort had been defeated. He
didn't need a passel of over-enthusiastic seventh years bombarding him
with questions all the way to the Defense classroom.
Dumbledore had forbade any use of the phrase 'muggle defense,' but that
didn't stop Hogwarts' oldest students from bringing up the subject the
moment Snape put his books down on the teacher's desk.
"Why do we care what others think of us?" Ron Weasley wanted to know, and
Snape wasn't sure whether his surliness reflected his experience in London
or the fact that he hadn't made the school quidditch team. "Why don't we
forget about everybody else and just look out for ourselves?"
Justin agreed. "We can take on anybody, after all."
Lupin, who'd been dozing beneath his tree, opened his eyes at that, and
Snape glanced at him before pointing out, "But we can't take on everybody,
His students looked confused. Hermione Granger thrust her hand in the
air, then turned to Justin when Snape nodded at her.
"If they all got together, they could defeat us," she explained. "We can
take on any one group or maybe two or three. But if the whole world were
to unite against us, we could be defeated, which is why we treat them far
better than they treat us."
Ron shook his head. "What would defeating us get them? We're more
productive than all of them put together. My dad's told me about
everything we do for the rest of the world. They'd get far more out of
keeping us going than shutting us down."
"Our strategist is correct," Snape nodded at the boy. "The petty never
accomplish anything significant and would fare poorly left to their own
devices. But their failure to discipline themselves extends to their
thinking, so we cannot count on them to make wise or ethical choices.
Therefore..." He fired up his wand and took up a position beside the
blackboard. "Let us document our strengths."
One by one the students raised their hands to call out items for Snape to
list on the board, including:
Outstanding wand technique from cup game exercises
...and so on. "Now," said
Snape, when not even Lupin could think of any more items for the
'strenths' column. "Weaknesses?"
"We can't apparate," Malfoy
noted immediately. Snape ignored him and nodded at Hermione instead.
"I've been wondering about
electricity," the Head Student mused. "As we become more powerful, are we
going to interfere with muggle devices and give our identities away?"
Every muggle-born in the room
turned to gape at her and Snape took a seat on the corner of his desk,
fascinated by the question.
"The hearse didn't stop until
we got to Hogwarts," Ron remembered. He turned to Harry. "Could you use
eckeltricity at the Dursleys'?"
Harry struggled to remember.
He'd never been allowed to turn on Dudley's computers or choose the
channels on the telly. "I could work the lights in Dudley's second
bedroom," he remembered, "and I could use the lawn mower."
"That was when you were
younger," Hermione argued. "I've always been able to use the appliances
at home, but I haven't been there in quite a while." She turned to Snape.
"Did you use muggle devices, Professor, while you were away?"
Snape pressed his lips together
and tried not to blush. He had no intention of sharing with these
students his surreptitious experiments with electrical appliances.
"Lupin!" he snarled to the portrait hanging opposite the desk. "Go find
Professor Dumbledore and ask him to drop by. We'll soon find out whether
or not power impacts muggle appliances."
"It might be easier for mud...
for muggle-borns," Malfoy speculated after Lupin had departed. "But why
would we want to use them, anyway?"
"They're convenient!" Justin
"They're expensive!" Draco
countered. "You have to put in lines and pay for service and the devices
all break in the end. None of that happens with magic."
"But there are things muggles
can do with their devices that wizards can't, things that would be useful
in self-defense," Hermione insisted, leading Malfoy to reply hotly,
"Excellent!" Snape climbed off
his desk and resumed his place at the board. For the next hour, he and
his students engaged in a rousing discussion of what magic could or
couldn't do and how it applied to self-defense. Some of the skills they
coveted he could teach them; others could be gleaned from Dumbledore and
"Professor Lupin," Harry called
to the man in the portrait who had returned a few minutes earlier with a
promise that the headmaster would join them shortly. "Can you show us how
to make writing disappear and reappear with a charm?" His classmates
ooh'd and aah'd at the possibility. Lupin, who'd been staring out over
the water in his portrait, turned absently to Harry and mumbled, "What?
Oh, yes. I suppose so."
"Good!" Snape put down his
wand. "We'll start on that tomorrow. Tonight, the Slytherins and
Hufflepuffs may begin interviewing staff members about the skills we've
discussed, and the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws may conduct research in the
library. Focus on historical texts that might indirectly reveal the use
of some of the skills we're seeking, and take any questions to Professor
And so life settled into a
comfortable pattern of classes, quidditch practice and homework.
Occasionally a parent or other supporter would send the means for a
particularly delicious supper. Violet's favorite was the roasted pork
soaked in kraut and brown sugar and served with a huge side of mash.
On Friday nights they gathered
in Slytherin or Gryffindor and told stories of their past together.
Violet hung on every word. If Snape, who no longer needed to visit
Hogsmeade on Friday nights given his other opportunities to absent himself
from the school, joined them, they pleaded for a tale from his time away
from Hogwarts. Often McGonagall sat in, too, whereupon the seventh years
would outdo themselves with dramatic accounts of their heads' rigid
discipline during their early years at school. Snape and McGonagall
swelled with pride at the descriptions of their tyranny.
Hermione spent much of her
limited free time working on a cure for Snape's hair. She showed Bill's
letter to Harry and whenever he wasn't busy with quidditch or homework, he
carried books back and forth to the library for her. One evening she
startled the potions master by marching into his office, giving her wand a
swish and a flick, and announcing, "I love you, Professor Snape."
At first Snape could only
stare. Then he threw back his head and roared.
"It's not that I thought no
one's ever said it," Hermione blushed as Snape hooted with laughter. "I
just thought perhaps it had to be a Gryffindor."
Snape took out a handkerchief
and wiped his eyes, resisting the urge to point out that Loreli and
Bedelia had both been Gryffindors. Instead, he assured her, "It was a
lovely theory, Miss Granger. But if you send Harry Potter in here to try
that, I will flog you pink."
"Time for our sleeping potion!"
On Tuesday, January 27th, four
days before Hogwarts' match with Durmstrang, Violet pulled Marybeth off
her cot and set off with her for the Great Hall. While chocolate remained
in short supply, Justin Finch Fletchley's parents had sent a small herd of
cows to the school, resulting in a tidy supply of milk. Each night the
students could stop by the Great Hall before bedtime for a steaming cup of
hot milk with carmelized sugar, a brew which satisfied the sweet tooth and
made the drinker delightfully drowsy.
Violet finished her cup while Marybeth
was still drinking and, not wanting to waste the satisfied, sleepy
feeling, hurried back to her cell alone to get ready for bed. She had
just slipped into her nightgown and was drawing back the covers on her cot
when Snape swept into the cell.
"Let me see some of your writing," he demanded without preamble. Violet
"I... I didn't... it's not..."
"Immediately!" Snape thundered. Violet hurried over to her desk and began
rummaging in a drawer crammed with sheets of parchment.
"What sort of... I mean, what did you want to... this year, or last month,
or..." She fumbled with various pages, trying to guess what Snape might
be looking for.
"Anything!" he snarled, storming over to the desk to shove her aside and
snatch up the topmost piece of parchment. Violet gulped and backed
against the cell wall as he read.
...never looked at Dumbledore once until the headmaster asked where he
should be hung. Potter was clenching and unclenching his fists. I think
he wanted to hug the painting, too, but was forcing himself not to...
That was all that was written
on that particular piece of parchment. Snape tossed it aside and picked
up a few more pieces.
Snape spanked Alice and
Mansfield tonight. They were practicing freefalling on their backs
It must be hard to be a fourth year.
They're not little kids anymore but they're not big kids, either. I
remember when I first arrived, Malfoy seemed so big and smart, so
confident and powerful, always swaggering and drawling and sauntering over
to the most comfortable chair. But when I compare what I wrote about him
last summer to what I wrote last fall, I see how he grew from one year to
the next. Was that because of the siege and spending the summer with
No. I think it's because of
Professor Snape. He treats Slytherins in ways that make them grow. He
treats everybody the same, he doesn't talk down to anyone, he's demanding
and has high expectations, he doesn't care if YOU like HIM at all, which
is just SOOOOO grown-up...
Snape cleared his throat and
shuffled the piece of parchment to the bottom of the stack. The next page
contained a sort of poem or song; he couldn't tell if Violet had written
it herself or transcribed it second-hand.
Violet studied Snape's face,
trying to guess what he might be perusing. He stared at the piece of
parchment in his hands long after he should have finished reading it.
When he looked up, Violet saw some sort of agony in his jet black eyes.
But he shook it off and shoved the papers back at her. Before she could
sneak a glimpse at what he'd been reading, he was snarling again.
"Tomorrow night. My office. 7pm. Bring ink and parchment and quills and
your cloak. Dress as warmly as possible. Borrow an extra layer of long
underwear from Miss Montague."
So the next night, with her cloak over her arm and her bookbag over her
shoulder, Violet made her way to Snape's office. She raised her fist to
knock on the door only to squeak with surprise when Snape yanked it open
and pulled her inside.
"Quiet!" he hissed, dragging her over to the fire. He was wearing his
cloak and carrying the broom he'd used to bring Marybeth back to Hogwarts
in his free hand. At the fireplace, he let go of Violet and reached for a
tin box on the mantle. He gave her a handful of floo powder and took one
for himself before tucking the box into his pocket.
"Chateau Karkaroff," he ordered, shoving Violet into the fireplace. "Once
you get there, don't move a muscle or make a sound." Violet nodded, then
threw down her powder and spat out the designation.
After a brief but terribly cold, dark trip, she found herself on her hands
and knees in an unlit, empty room. Terrified, she scrambled to her feet
and fired up her lumos light. She squinted to make out a long, low
chamber, cold and dingy and forlorn, as if no one had been living there
for months. Near the fireplace were fresh footprints in the dust; she
didn't need a tracking shade to tell her they were Snape's. He must
have visited to be sure the place was vacant, she nodded to herself.
He slid into the room a moment later and Violet was so relieved to see
him, she didn't even mind when he criticized her for lighting her wand.
She noxed the light and pulled on her cloak, reveling in the three seconds
of warmth. Snape grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to the door.
Outside, the starry sky and bitter cold took her breath away. Snape
wasted no time mounting his broom. He picked her up and plopped her down
in front of him. Then he kicked the ground mightily and they were off,
soaring straight at the stars through air so cold it made her sneeze.
Violet's eyes stung with tears but she held them open as wide as she
could, determined to see as much as possible. The house they'd floo'd to
disappeared and soon there was nothing left in the world but dark forest
below, starry black sky above, and the broom she sat on. When Violet
looked down, the woods below made her shiver with terror. But Snape kept
one arm firmly around her as she clung to the twitchy broom with both
hands, helping to hold it steady as he steered.
Soon the forest cleared and out of the darkness rose a castle, small, but
with grounds so enormous, it looked like a country unto itself. There
were lakes, and fields covered with snow, and groves of towering trees,
"A pitch!" Violet squeaked, and Snape hissed a furious, "Ssh!" in her ear.
But Violet shivered with joy and clapped her feet together beneath the
broom, even as Snape dove steeply for a grove of trees, for she had
finally figured out where they were and what they were doing.
They were scouting the Durmstrang quidditch team.
She kept her eyes glued to the pitch, which was awash in some sort of
magical illumination that reminded her of nighttime lights at football
matches she'd seen on television. Snape maneuvered the broom to the edge
of the grove, hovering high in the air in the dark space between two tree
"Any second now," he whispered, and sure enough, a few moments later, over
the edge of the pitch and into their stadium flew the Durmstrang quidditch
team and their coach. Violet yanked her bookbag off her back and pawed
through it for her writing supplies.
"Is this legal, sir?" she whispered with a grin as she pulled out
parchment, a quill and ink. Snape pressed his mouth close to her ear and
"Muggles do it all the time."
Violet grinned even harder, then sobered and squinted at the pitch,
focusing on the practice session before her.
"Look at their chasers!" she marveled, awed by their speed and dexterity.
The seeker wasn't much to write home about, which surprised her, but the
chasers were better than any she'd ever seen at Hogwarts. She dipped her
quill into her ink bottle, started to scratch some adjectives to describe
the Durmstrang flying patterns, and stopped, her brow puckered.
"The ink's frozen."
So Snape transferred his floo powder to his pocket and lit a bluebell
flame in the tin box, holding it patiently beneath the ink pot while
Violet scratched and scratched.
She was quiet on the trip back to Karkaroff's abandoned house. But as
they dismounted and walked up to the door, she asked, "Professor Snape?"
"If I could buy a broom, what would you say is the very best one in the
whole wide world?"
Snape thought it over as he let her inside. He closed the door and leaned
against it, as if to hold it shut against intruders. Then he nodded at
Violet to step closer before whispering,
"The Americans make the very best brooms."
"Really?" Violet was surprised. It seemed like an old area of expertise
for such a young country.
"It's their infrastructure," Snape explained. "They built direct paths
across expansive landscapes to maximize the profit potential of their
resources. These roads afford muggles great pleasure while driving... and
wizards great pleasure while flying."
He nodded at the door behind him and the great dark night that lay beyond.
"For the British or European wizard, traveling by broom is a chore because
the most direct path never matches the map provided by roadways. You must
know the route, or travel with a guide, or be extremely good at
disillusionment charms as you fumble along seeking landmarks. But
He broke off for a moment and Violet
could hear the envy in his tone. "American wizards have magnificent
concrete roadmaps to guide their flights, and they build equally
magnificent brooms to enjoy them."
He stared into space for a moment and Violet wondered if he saw himself
zooming across an American prairie on such a broom. Then he shook off his
fantasy and leaned down to whisper in her ear,
"Don't tell Potter."
With that, he jerked his head at the fireplace and Violet stepped
obediently over to the hearth. "Some day," she told Snape as he handed
her a measure of floo powder, "I'm going to buy one."
She stepped into the fireplace, turned neatly around to face him, and
added, "... for you." Then she raised her fist high, threw down her floo
powder, and spoke loudly and clearly the words that would send her back
Snape read her report the next morning
before breakfast. "It's quite good," he praised. "You could be a
Violet wrinkled her nose. "I don't want to be a hanger-on," she sniffed.
"They're not all hangers-on," Snape smiled. "But I take your
"What was that?"
Violet sat bolt upright on her cot in
the early hours of Friday morning, terrified.
"What time is it?" Marybeth replied,
wiping the sleep out of her eyes as she reached for her wand. The sound
that had awakened them came again, a sort of roaring from the Forbidden
Forest. Violet leapt out of her bed and raced for the door with Marybeth
They ran for Millicent's and Pansy's room where they found the older girls
peering out their enchanted window. The younger girls shoved their way in
between their older housemates and craned their necks to see what was
prowling the forest.
"Can you see anything?" Violet asked.
"Lights," Millicent told her. "Flashes of light. Nothing else." The
roar came again as Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle burst into the room, making
the girls shriek.
"What the bloody hell is that?" Malfoy demanded, but the girls
could only shrug. The Slytherins crowded around the window, jockeying for
position as they stared out at the dark expanse of the Forbidden Forest.
There was a flash of light and the roaring stopped. The night grew still.
BANG BANG BANG!
The Slytherins jumped and Pansy shrieked again. But this time, the sound
wasn't coming from the forest. Someone was pounding on their common room
door. Crabbe and Goyle hurried away to answer it and soon returned with
Potter and Weasley.
"Does that thing work on Mrs. Norris?" Malfoy wondered, noting the
invisibility cloak in Potter's hand.
"No sign of her," the Gryffindor explained as he and Ron joined
the Slytherins at the window. The nine children peered intently into the
darkness. Suddenly, with several jerky flashes of light, the roaring
started up again and grew steadily louder as it came crashing through the
forest, heading straight for the grounds. The wizards at the window
gripped their wands tightly and then gasped in amazement as a great
hulking monstrosity with head beams for eyes broke through the trees and
blazed across the grounds on its way to the frozen lake.
"It's the Knight Bus!" Ron cried.
It was indeed the Knight Bus, and as the students watched, the
triple-decker vehicle bounded onto the lake. The Slytherins and
Gryffindors abandoned their window and flew out of the room, down the
hall, across the common room and down the boys' corridor to Crabbe and
Goyle's room for a better view of the lake. They watched, flabbergasted,
as someone expertly maneuvered the unwieldy bus from one ice flow to the
"Who could be driving?" Harry wondered.
Millicent nodded. "And why are they practicing on a frozen lake?"
"I am pleased to inform you,"
Dumbledore announced at dinner, "that the number of students serving
detention this weekend has eliminated the need for a lottery to determine
who will receive seats on the Knight Bus to tomorrow's match against
The sorting hat gave a little
sigh as Professor McGonagall removed the slips of parchment from its
depths and folded it into her lap.
"I am also pleased to note,"
Dumbledore went on, "that our driver, who is familiar with the area to
which you will be traveling, has been training hard and is now fully
prepared to transport you safely to Durmstrang."
With a wave of his arm, he signaled
their chauffeur to take a bow. A spattering of polite applause turned to
swiftly concealed dismay as a staff member stepped forwarded and bowed
It was Mr. Filch.
The students changed their tune when
the quidditch team led them out the front doors of the castle Saturday
morning. Filch, immaculately dressed in a tailcoat the house elves had
cleaned and pressed to look like new, stood proudly beside the
triple-decker bus he'd painted red, green, blue and yellow to match the
quidditch team uniforms.
"Professor Dumbledore says he'll put it
back to rights before we return it," the caretaker explained as the
students ooh'd and aah'd over the shiny new paint job.
He ushered the team into the vehicle and when the teenagers saw how clean
the floors were, and how highly polished the seats that had replaced the
usual beds, they smiled. Mr. Filch was clearly very proud to be
transporting the Hogwarts quidditch team to its match.
One by one the students climbed on board, praising the condition of the
bus and nodding politely to Mrs. Norris, who sat perched on a bar behind
the driver's seat. Last of all came the chaperone, Snape. He sat down
stiffly on the front seat. The rest of the staff would be apparating to
the match except for Hagrid, who was traveling by flying motorcycle.
The bus roared to life, accompanied by a shout of excitement from the
students. Filch stepped on the accelerator and steered gracefully down
the carriage path and out the front gate. Then, to the students'
surprise, he turned north.
"Where are we going, do you reckon?" Ron asked Hermione. "Isn't
Durmstrang in Bulgaria?"
"Just because Viktor plays for Bulgaria doesn't mean that's where the
school is," Hermione chided. "It's someplace cold, remember? So cold
they wear fur as part of their uniforms? So cold that Hogwarts in winter
seems warm enough for swimming?"
They traveled north to an isolated tip of Scotland where Filch expertly
jumped the bus onto a chunk of ice near the shore. They jumped from ice
flow to ice flow across the ocean, the children screaming or groaning with
delight as their stomachs heaved with each leap. Snape, on the other
hand, turned a distinctly non-Slytherin shade of green and clutched the
edge of his seat.
Eventually the flows gave way to ice fields and Filch was able to drive
the bus as smoothly and quickly "as if we were on an American highway,"
Violet giggled to Marybeth. It became difficult to tell whether they were
on water or land, especially after the sun set so early in the afternoon.
"Where ARE we?" Ron wondered again as the students took out their sack
lunches. Filch smiled at him in the rearview mirror but said nothing.
Snape's only reply was,
He'd been saying that every half hour since they'd left Hogwarts. The
students dutifully thrust both hands in the air to verify that their
grubby little paws were exactly where they were supposed to be. Now that
it was dark, Snape increased the frequency to every 15 minutes. He
counted extremities on the bottom floor of the bus, then rose and ascended
the spiral stairs to check the other two levels.
Eventually the frozen white fields gave way to forest and Filch plunged
the bus fearlessly inside, steering expertly through the trees. The
inhabitants of the bus began to shiver, whether from the increased cold or
pre-match jitters, they couldn't be sure.
"There it is!" Ron shouted when the bus broke through the last stand of
trees before the Durmstrang school rose before them. It looked
considerably darker than Hogwarts, squatter and more formidable. But when
the students had been ushered into the modest gathering hall, they were
relieved to discover the 'no fires except for magical purposes' policy had
been abandoned for the duration of their stay.
"Allow me to remind you why we're
here," Snape lectured as they piled their belongings against the far wall.
"This is a diplomatic mission. Be as tidy and polite as possible."
The Hogwarts staff arrived a short while later and Professor Dumbledore,
after shaking hands with the Durmstrang headmaster, led them down to the
pitch, pointing out the changing facilities to the team before leading the
spectators to their seats. A few Durmstrang staff were there to greet
them but beyond that, interaction between the two schools would be
postponed until after the match.
Ron shook his head at the sparsely-filled stands. "What a waste," he
complained. But Hermione insisted that Professor Dumbledore had been
"If things go well today, next time they can sell tickets to
"Nobody's going to come to Durmstrang in January to watch a quidditch
match," Violet insisted, pulling her cloak more tightly around her as she
huddled behind the taller students for protection from the wind. She may
have been right. Shortly after the whistle sounded, a squall blew in,
blinding spectators and athletes with fast-flying snow.
The Hogwarts players had prepared as best they could for the Durmstrang
chasers, but nothing could help them cope with the spontaneous blizzard.
The wind drove he temperatures frighteningly low, and though a little
flying defense might have warmed their gloves and broom handles, they
couldn't break the rules and cast spells during a diplomatic mission.
"Stupid homefield advantage," Ron muttered, accidentally banging Violet in
the head when he reached up to tighten his hood.
The Durmstrang chasers held the opposing team scoreless and racked up one
goal after another until finally Malfoy screamed above the wind,
"Forget the goals! Help me!"
After that, the game grew more interesting. Malfoy and the three Hogwarts
chasers put up a magnificent fight guarding their hoops from the
Durmstrang chasers. Harry Potter flew circles around the opposing seeker,
searching desperately for the snitch. He spotted it during a 5-second
lull in the white-out and snatched it up to end the game 150 to 150. The
crowd went wild, perhaps because the end of the match meant they would
soon be back inside the castle.
The citizens of the two schools mixed together as they hurried through the
storm and were chatting politely in the gathering hall when the doors
banged open and the opposing teams marched in, freshly bathed and dressed.
The crowd applauded heartily and then everyone found seats at the tables,
Hogwarts students mixing with Durmstrang students, Hogwarts staff mixing
with Durmstrang staff.
They feasted on delicious little pastries stuffed with meat and dipped in
bowls of strong mustard beside each plate. The squall ended while they
were eating and shortly after dinner, the Hogwarts staff took their leave.
The Durmstrang staff retired as well, an elderly history professor
offering to show Filch around the castle. That left just Snape, Krum, the
students, and Durmstrang's headmaster, a steely wizard named Bozuku, in
"May I interest you in a brandy, Professor Snape?" Bozuku inquired, and
after shooting a fierce, "You're in charge!" look at Hermione, Snape
followed him out of the hall.
Krum offered to take Harry flying around the grounds, an opportunity the
Gryffindor teenager couldn't pass up. He grabbed his firebolt and
followed Viktor out of the hall. The moment the door slammed behind them,
the students of Durmstrang turned to the students of Hogwarts and
"Show us the skills you used to defeat the Death Eaters!"
So the Hogwartians showed off their leaping, tracking and patroni. Malfoy
levitated a dinner table high in the air with Marybeth on top for a
demonstration of the freefall stop-technique. The room was too small for
flying defense and they knew better than to demonstrate stoning or
deflection, but the Durmstrang students were impressed nevertheless. The
children broke into small groups as the evening wore on and several
Durmstrang students crowded around Malfoy, leading him away from his
schoolmates to a far corner of the hall.
"It's impressive, vot you can do," they nodded. They traded shrewd
glances, then asked, "Vould you like to see vot ve can do?"
Malfoy felt his face flame. He was glad the corner was too dark for the
Durmstrang students to see his consternation. He nodded and was treated
to a fifteen-minute presentation of tricks no one learned at Hogwarts, a
display that was spoiled only by the need to keep a sharp eye on Granger.
"You could teach here next year," the students told him when they were
finished. "You could teach us vot you know... and ve could teach you vot
Malfoy made no reply. The oldest Durmstrangian in the group, a boy of
about 14, glanced briefly at the Hogwarts students scattered throughout
the hall, then took a step closer to Draco.
"Don't you ever regret," he whispered, "not coming to Durmstrang?"
Snape placed his long, thin fingers
above his snifter to prevent Bozuku from filling it again. "Will you be
remaining at Hogwarts, Professor Snape?" the Durmstrang head inquired as
he returned the brandy bottle to its spot on a shelf in his sitting room.
Snape found the question
extremely impertinent and made no reply.
"I should think," Bozuku
continued smoothly, "that with the Dark Lord vanquished, you might wish to
pursue other interests." He took a seat opposite Snape and fixed the
younger man with a piercing stare.
Snape remained silent. The
only movement from the Hogwarts chaperone was the steady rising and
falling of his chest.
Bozuku smiled and leaned
forward in his chair. "We're not Voldemort," he reminded Snape softly.
"There would be nothing wrong with someone like you and someone like me
pursuing immortality through the study of potions."
He waited for a reply and,
receiving none, reached out to place a careful hand on the arm of Snape's
chair. "Together," he whispered, "we could do great things."
Harry and Viktor returned
shortly before midnight, just as Snape was sweeping into the gathering
hall to inform the Durmstrang students it was time for the Hogwartians to
retire. "Push the tables against the wall," he snapped at his charges,
"and lay your bedrolls in proper queues." A couch had been provided for
Filch, who slept on it before the fire. The children climbed into their
sleeping bags and Snape dimmed the torches before beginning a ceaseless
patrol of the rows.
The students lay quietly on
their bedrolls. No one dared whisper with Snape pacing back and forth.
The castle grew still and soon the only sounds in the gathering hall were
the crackling of the fire and Snape's steady footfalls, until...
Several students started, then
giggled. The weird sound came again, longer this time...
It was followed by a strange croaking
noise. There were more giggles, and
Ron sat up in his sleeping bag to demand,
"What the heck was that?"
"Forest creatures," Snape
informed him. "Go to sleep."
The sounds came again, more
varied and amazingly near.
"I've never heard creatures
like that!" Ron protested as he lay back down. The students of Hogwarts
listened, fascinated, to the night sounds from the immense woods
surrounding Durmstrang. Occasionally a nervous giggle was heard in
response to a particularly loud call. But eventually, the students
drifted off to sleep, all except...
... Violet. The third year
Slytherin trembled with fear. For some reason, the night sounds from the
forest terrified her. She pushed up against Crabbe, waking him from the
early stages of sleep.
"What?" he mumbled, scooting
over to get away from her. Violet pushed right back up against him and
sniffed. Crabbe rolled over with a small groan and frowned to discover
tears streaming silently down Violet's face.
"Why are you afraid?" he
whispered as loudly as he dared. Violet shook her head.
"I don't know!" she sobbed.
Another howl sounded from the woods and Violet trembled all over.
"Snape's here," Crabbe reminded
her. "We're perfectly safe. Go to sleep." He rolled over and pulled his
sleeping bag flap over his head.
Violet lay alone in the dark,
sobbing in silent terror.
A few minutes later, a hand
grabbed her by the back of her sweatshirt and hauled her right out of her
sleeping bag. Without a word Snape carried her across the room and
dropped her onto the couch where Filch was sleeping in front of the fire.
The caretaker jumped awake.
"Fix this!" Snape snarled before
sweeping away to return to his rounds.
Violet and Filch blinked at each other
in the firelight.
"What's wrong, then?" Filch
finally asked. Violet wiped her eyes on her sleeve.
"I don't know," the Slytherin
confessed. "I'm scared of the noises. I don't know why." She wrapped
her arms around her knees and shivered. "No one else is."
Filch thought it over. "It's
probably from when you were born," he decided before turning aside to toss
another log on the fire. His casual observation jolted Violet right out
of her terror.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, you were alone out there for
quite a while." Filch nodded in the general direction of the forest.
"The sounds probably put you off."
Violet's mouth fell open. She glanced
quickly at Snape, who was pacing the rows paying no attention to her
whatsoever, then turned back to Filch.
"How do you know that?" she whispered.
Filch shrugged. "I came to get you."
Violet almost fell off the sofa. Her
heart began to pound as she recalled Dumbledore's words: "Our driver,
who is familiar with the area to which you will be traveling... "
Filch grinned at the gaping child.
"You didn't think Voldemort was gong to hang about Hogsmeade waiting for
you to be born, did you? Had to get your mum someplace a bit more
private. A bit more.... to his liking."
Violet scooted closer to Hogwarts' caretaker. "Tell me," she begged, and
listened raptly as Filch gave her an account of the adventure, dwelling
far too briefly on the dangerous parts. "Why didn't Professor Dumbledore
come?" Violet asked after the caretaker had described delivering her
mother to St. Mungo's. Filch scoffed at the very idea.
"He was after Voldemort, wasn't he? Woulda been useful, if he could have
obtained proof the dark lord was up to something back then."
Violet glanced at Snape, who was peering suspiciously at Ron Weasley's
sleeping bag. "Mr. Filch," she whispered with a shiver, "how did
Professor Dumbledore know about me? Was it... was it Professor Snape?"
Filch gave a derisive hoot. "Don't be foolish. Snape was at Hogwarts
with the rest of us."
It suddenly occurred to Violet what an idiot she'd been for never asking
Filch about Slytherin. The man had lived in the dungeon for ages! "You
and Professor Snape have been friends a long time, haven't you?" she
whispered, glancing over her shoulder again to be sure the potions master
was still safely out of earshot. "Were you there when Professor Snape
became our housemaster?"
Filch smiled and Violet got the impression he'd been waiting a long time
to be asked such a question. "Trying times," he nodded, his head cocked,
one eye squinting shrewdly at her. He pushed the end of his blanket at
Violet, who snuggled gratefully beneath it. When she seemed good and
settled, Filch began.
"The night Severus Snape came back to Hogwarts, the house of Slytherin was
He held her spellbound for an hour, telling her stories she'd
never heard before, until a steely voice behind her murmured,
"I trust you are prepared to return to your bed. Mr. Filch has a
long drive tomorrow."
Violet jumped. She nodded quickly at her head of house,
whispering, "Thank you, Mr. Filch," before climbing off the couch and
falling into step beside Snape, who walked her back to her sleeping bag.
When they reached her resting space, Violet took hold of Snape's sleeve.
"Please, sir," she whispered quickly, knowing Snape would have little
patience for conversation at this time of night. "May I ask you one
Snape's eyes narrowed.
"How did Harry Potter get to the Dursleys'?"
Snape frowned at the youngster. "I'm told," he whispered, "that
Hagrid brought him. He delivered the boy to Professor Dumbledore, who was
waiting to place him on the doorstep with a letter of explanation. I
believe Professor McGonagall was there as well."
"Thank you, sir," Violet nodded before slipping into her sleeping
bag. As Snape walked away, she propped herself on one elbow to gaze at
the dozing figure of Filch, silhouetted against the fire. She thought of
Hagrid, an imposing, magical half-giant, delivering an infant into the
arms of the most powerful wizard in the world on the fairly innocuous
streets of an English suburb. Then she thought of another baby, rescued
from a dark and distant forest by a powerless squib whose only companion
was a furry friend with lamp-like eyes. She thought about that for a long
time before settling comfortably down to sleep.
It was a much quieter group
that boarded the bus Sunday morning for the return trip to Hogwarts. Ron
seemed cross with Harry Potter for not taking him along on the flying tour
of Durmstrang. Malfoy was lost in thought and Snape just wanted to sleep.
Violet decided to save her story for another time.
When they pulled up in front of
the castle, Malfoy dumped his things on Crabbe and headed straight for the
Defense classroom, determined to beat Potter, who would surely be coming
to tell Lupin about the match. He found the professor lounging on the far
side of his painting, staring at the space beneath his tree as if someone
were sitting there.
The werewolf turned to face him
and Malfoy thought he saw the man shake off a bit of irritation before
smiling politely at him. He came straight to the point.
"Do you think Potter could have
defeated Voldemort without Professor Snape?"
The question took Lupin by
surprise. "I don't know," the former defense teacher confessed. "Not
likely, I suppose. Why do you ask?"
Malfoy hesitated. Then he told
Lupin, "I saved his life once. Professor Snape's. It was May of my fifth
year and I..."
The boy stopped. The details weren't important, he decided. The point
"I couldn't have done that if I hadn't
come to Hogwarts."
He shoved his hands in his pockets and
nodded, bidding a bewildered Lupin a good night before turning on his heel
to head back to Slytherin. Deeply satisfied with himself, he failed to
notice that Harry Potter was not waiting outside the classroom to talk to
Lupin, or that Lupin hadn't asked him about the match.
"Wasn't that splendid?"
Professor Dumbledore, who had just
spent a satisfying hour in the Great Hall drinking carmelized hot milk and
listening to students' stories of their trip to Durmstrang, failed to
knock before sticking his hoary head into the deputy headmistress's
office. Poor Minerva jumped half a foot.
"I think there should be flying lessons
three times a week next year," the old man continued, "to improve the
students' abilities for interscholastic quidditch. What do you say?"
The suggestion horrified Professor
McGonagall. "They're so far behind!" she protested as Dumbledore let
himself into the office. "And their classmates at home, if they're able
to return next fall, will have so much catching up to do..."
Dumbledore shook his head slightly.
"Really, Minerva," he murmured in a gentle but nevertheless disapproving
tone, "that's the sort of challenge you'll need to be able to deal with
if you're going to be headmistress."
"He actually said 'if'?"
"And he emphasized it."
McGonagall dropped wearily into a chair
opposite Snape's desk. "Have you noticed all the intimate conversations
he's been having with Filius? What could he be playing at?"
Snape smiled and nodded to himself.
"That might not be so bad," he soothed his simpatico colleague. "Think
what you could get away with if Filius were in charge."
Minerva scowled. "I'm deputy
headmistress," she reminded the younger teacher. "If Albus doesn't
recommend me for head, Severus, I'll have to leave."
"Speaking of leaving..." Minerva's
eyes flashed and Snape quickly altered what he'd planned to say.
"Shouldn't he be searching for your replacement right about now?
A new head for Gryffindor, I mean?"
"Precisely!" Minerva leaned forward,
bright-eyed. "He should have started right after the beginning of the
term, but he won't so much as discuss it with me! He must realize what
that implies." She sat back with a deeply troubled frown. "Why," she
continued more softly, "can't he give his staff the courtesy of
"He certainly is the champion of style
over substance," Snape agreed. "I hope you've been saving your money."
"Of course I have! But lately..." She
looked aside, coloring slightly, and Snape chuckled.
"I know," he commiserated.
"They never complain!" Minerva
complained. "They just go steadfastly about their business, and then one
day you look down and notice...
"A hole in a shoe."
Minerva nodded. "Drawers that need
constant hitching up."
"Parchment in pieces because they're
sharing it among themselves."
"Repeated spitting into the ink pots
"I hate that one!" Snape cried.
"Don't they realize we have to mark that homework?"
Minerva laughed her high tinkling laugh
as Snape shook his head. He picked up a quill and toyed with it for a
moment. "Maybe you should talk to Lupin," he murmured. "Lupin might be
willing to speak to Albus." He thought the idea a brilliant one, but
McGonagall shook her head at the mention of the man in the portrait.
"Severus," she began
tentatively. Then she thought better of it. "Never mind," she said
rather sadly, taking her leave before Snape could press her on the topic.
With quidditch behind them, the
seventh years immersed themselves in NEWT preparations. Violet found this
extremely vexing as every request she made for assistance or attention was
"Millicent, will you check my
"I have to study, Violet."
"Goyle, will you come to the
Defense classroom and help me persuade Professor Lupin to give me patronus
"I have to study, Violet."
To the Slytherin third year, it
felt like her housemates were robbing her of what little time she had left
Malfoy, in the meantime, was
trying to work up the nerve to mention Durmstrang's dark magic in Defense
class. It was mid February before he finally spoke up.
"Most of what they showed me was
silly," he told his classmates, "but one thing..." He turned uncertainly
to Snape. "They can make people bleed. I'm sure of it. They only did it
to each other, but..."
"Describe it," Snape said
Malfoy began to stammer.
"That's just it!" he protested. "I can't! They've mastered a silent
incantation!" He tried not to sound as panicky as he felt. "They could
make anyone anywhere bleed as much as they wanted and no one would ever
Snape held up a hand. "Are you
certain?" He narrowed his eyes at Draco. "Think, Malfoy. What did you
Draco thought back to that cold
Saturday night. He remembered the giddy, almost manic looks on the faces
of the Durmstrang students as they'd made each other's arms bleed.
"Wasn't there contact?" Snape prompted. "Didn't they press the tip of a
wand to the victim's flesh?"
"Oh!" Malfoy dropped back into
his seat with as sigh of relief. "I thought they were just pointing to
the spot they'd chosen to make bleed."
Hermione gave an indignant sniff. "I
think it's horrible," she insisted. "But I suppose we could wear little
vials of bloodstop potion around our necks..."
"And what else?" Ron wanted to know.
"Are we supposed to carry a vial for everything that might happen to us?
We wouldn't be able to stand up straight!"
"Mr. Weasley is right," Snape agreed.
"It's ridiculous to think you need potions or counter-curses..." He gave
Hermione a sidelong look. "... to survive whatever life might throw at
you. Good health and attentiveness will serve you far better."
"Not to mention solid strategy," Ron
muttered, "like accioing a portkey if you're hopelessly outnumbered."
"Also known as critical thinking, or problem-solving skills," Snape
nodded. "Mr. Weasley, step up to the desk, please. Malfoy, Miss Granger,
leave the room and wait in the corridor." When Draco and Hermione had
left the room, Snape unbuttoned the top button of Ron's robe and pulled
the left lapel of his red shirt out of his sweatshirt. "You may return,"
he called to the students in the hall, who glanced briefly at Snape and
Ron on their way back to their desk. "Now, what..."
"You unbuttoned his robe and messed up his collar," Hermione replied
without waiting for the rest of the question. Malfoy gaped at her, then
turned to Snape, who was pursing his lips in annoyance.
"Excellent," he observed sourly,
glowering at Hermione even as her classmates burst into applause. They
played the game for another 45 minutes after which Snape assigned the most
"I want you to devise three dangerous
or difficult scenarios. Do NOT share them with each other. At your next
class, you will take turns reading them aloud and we will see how long it
takes the rest of you to provide a solution... or point out a solution's
"Why didn't you tell us?" Violet
demanded furiously of Malfoy in the common room that evening after gossip
about Durmstrang dark magic made the rounds at dinner. Malfoy, sitting
cross-legged on the floor, glanced up from the Slytherin seventh year NEWT
study group to assure her that if she didn't leave them alone, he'd paddle
her all the way back to her cell. She responded by kicking him solidly in
the small of the back, which earned her a stinging six strokes from Snape,
who'd slipped unobserved into the common room to post a notice from
The notice listed the dates various Slytherins would be called before the
wizangamot to testify against their parents. "Strictly voluntary," Snape
assured them, which led to several teary conversations in his office about
whether to testify or not. When Violet was caught eavesdropping on the
session between Snape and Millicent, she found herself bent over the
housemaster's desk again.
"What on earth is the matter with you, child?" Snape demanded, handing a
handkerchief to the youngster who began crying piteously after climbing
off his desk. He wondered what the house elves would make of all the
wipes in his laundry.
"Everybody's going to leave me," Violet sobbed. "I don't want to be all
Curious thing to regret, Snape mused. He pointed to a basket
where she could deposit the handkerchief and demanded, "Are you
mathematically impaired? After the seventh years leave, you'll still
boast nearly three dozen housemates, not to mention next fall's
Violet gave him a sour scowl, which Snape found rather endearing.
"They are a remarkable year," he admitted of Malfoy and his classmates,
"but only..." He raised a long, slender finger in front of her nose.
"...because they were subjected to remarkable circumstances."
"But it won't be the same after they go!" Violet protested.
"There's nothing important left to do!"
"Nothing left to do!?" If he hadn't just spanked her, Snape would
have cuffed her. "Have you completely lost your senses? The hard part
has just begun, Miss Guilford. Why do you think Professor McGonagall
pales at the very thought of my departure?"
"That's grown-up stuff, sir," Violet retorted. "What am I
supposed to do now?"
Snape nodded. "I see," he said not unkindly. "You need a new purpose."
He put a hand on her shoulder and ushered her to the door. "I'm sure,
Miss Guilford, if you give it some thought, you'll discover an endeavor
worthy of your attention."
He closed the door behind her and Violet stood for a moment,
thinking. Then, instead of returning to the house, she set off for the
Owlery where she retrieved Spellwad and headed for the straw bale room for
a good sulk. She found Harry Potter already occupying the storage room;
he was sitting on the nearest bale of straw with Hedwig on his knee,
stroking her snowy feathers... and sulking.
The duo exchanged startled
looks. Then Violet grinned.
"Pathetic," she announced.
"You, too," Harry grinned
back. He moved aside to make room for her on the bale and, after tucking
the meanest owl at Hogwarts securely beneath her arm, Violet plopped down
companionably beside him.
"Well?" Harry asked when she
"Professor Snape spanked me
for pestering the seventh years. You?"
"Professor Lupin wouldn't help
me with my homework."
Violet turned to the seventh
year in surprise. "Me, too!" she cried, squeezing Spellwad so hard he
squawked and flew off. "I asked him to review my patronus technique and
he flat-out refused. Said it wasn't pressing like before. Like rock
throwing is so important!"
"Rock throwing?" Harry
frowned. "You mean skipping stones across the lake?"
Violet shook her head. "He
throws them in the air, as high as he can."
Harry seemed to find that
interesting. He thought it over for several seconds, then cleared his
throat and asked, "Violet, have you ever... overheard... any conversations
between Professor Snape and Professor Lupin after class?"
The third years had Defense after the
seventh years, right before lunch. Violet chose to overlook Harry's
characterization of her as an eavesdropper. "Professor Snape's always the
first one out the door," she informed him. "If you have a question, you
have to catch him in the corridor. It's like he's afraid to be in the
room alone with Professor Lupin."
She watched Harry mull that over for a while. Then she asked him,
"Potter, what are you going to do next year?"
"I'm not sure," Harry admitted. "Professor Dumbledore..." He
broke off, scowling. "That's something else I wanted to talk to Professor
Lupin about, but he .." He left the sentence unfinished and Violet
clucked her tongue.
"He's awfully distracted, isn't he?"
Harry didn't seem to want to talk about Lupin anymore. He turned
back to Violet and asked, "Why did you want to know?"
"I was just thinking." The younger student gave Hedwig a gentle
stroke with her finger. "You and Malfoy and I have something in common.
We're all orphans with money."
"So what's Malfoy going to do?" Harry wondered, making Violet
"All he can think about is seeing his place. If he nags Snape one
more time about apparating, he's gonna get thrashed, I just know it."
That made Harry smile. "What does Snape say about you?" he
Violet sighed. "He says I need a purpose." She hopped off the straw
bale, brushing stray stalks off her skirt preparatory to departing. "I
suppose I should listen to him. He usually gives us good advice."
She tossed a quick, "G'night, Harry," over her shoulder and
skipped off, never noticing the distinctly jealous look on the Gryfindor's
face as he watched her go.
Violet treasured every snowy winter evening in front of the common room
fire and every windy spring night spent snuggled beneath her covers,
gazing dreamily at the rich green glow of the Slytherin corridor
torchlight flickering beneath her cell door. As April gave way to May,
she spent hours quizzing the fourth and fifth years about their life away
from school, making Marybeth wonder if she was trying to find alternate
summer accommodations for herself.
Dumbledore had held a meeting in March for the school's underaged orphans,
explaining how the staff were attemtping to securing lodgings for them so
Hogwarts would not have to remain open year round. For some reason,
McGonagall had winced, making Snape snicker. "If you have any suggestions
of your own," Dumbledore had added, "we would be happy to consider them."
That night, as
they'd prepared for bed, Marybeth had asked Violet about returning to the
orphanage. "Is there room for me?" she'd joked, but Violet had been
hard-pressed to smile.
"It feels like
a million years since I've been there," she'd fretted. "I can't imagine
what we'll have to talk about. But maybe it's time I..."
what?" Marybeth had wondered when Violet had let the sentence die away.
But her roommate had shaken her head and changed the subject.
In Defense class,
towards the end of May, Malfoy again raised the subject of apparating.
"Will you teach us," he begged Snape, "if our NEWTS go well?"
like a reasonable request," commented Lupin without being asked. Snape
whirled on him, eyes blazing, then checked himself.
"Very well," he
smiled coolly. He turned back to the students. "Potter, after the NEWTS,
you and your classmates may take this portrait to Hogsmeade where
Professor Lupin will deliver a practical lecture on the fundamentals of
who'd been lounging insolently beneath his tree, sprang forward, barking
so furiously that spittle flew from his lips. "It's your job, not mine!"
he snarled. "Would it kill you to do your job?"
The bell rang
but no one moved. Snape glared at the figure in the portrait. Lupin
glowered right back, as if daring Snape to speak. As it turned out, he
didn't have to.
talking," demanded a surly voice from the back of the room. All eyes
turned in surprise to Harry Potter.
took a deep breath, struggling to control his temper. "I'm sorry you feel
that way. I have always held you in the highest regard." His voice rose
and he turned to Snape for a final, accusatory declaration. "My final
words were about you."
turned curiously to Snape as Violet and several third years arrived for
their Defense lesson. Snape ignored them.
aren't I?" he seethed, stalking towards the portrait. "I didn't have to
come back to this god-forsaken pile of stones. But I agreed to six more
months in Purgatory, just so Potter could have..."
By now Lupin was
flushed with anger. "I hope your hair stays greasy forever!" he roared.
Snape fell back a step, then whirled in horror to Hermione Granger.
"I didn't tell him!"
the head student cried, shaking her head as she backed away. "I swear I
didn't tell him!"
"I told him."
Harry again, and
suddenly Snape regretted baiting Granger into sharing Bill Weasley's
letter with her friend. The Gryffindor's voice was bitter with
"I told him,"
the teenager repeated, staring belligerently at the portrait. "Fat lot of
good it did me."
and turned away. Snape decided it was time to retake control of the
situation. "What are you gaping at?" he roared as he whirled on the
collection of students. "Go! Sit!"
years walked solemnly out of the room and the third years scrambled for
their seats. Violet grabbed a spot near Lupin and was positive she heard
the werewolf mutter, "Six months... sixteen years.... How about a
lifetime, Severus? Try a lifetime in Purgatory!"
"A friend for
life," she asserted later as the Slytherins gathered in the common room
before dinner. "That must be what Snape wanted Potter to have. But what
did Professor Lupin mean by a lifetime in Purgatory?"
"And what job
does he think Professor Snape isn't doing?" added Malfoy.
looked up from her Transfigurations textbook. "Could it have something to
do with what we talked about on Christmas Eve? Maybe Professor Lupin
didn't want to be called away from Heaven."
"It should have been
Dumbledore who died," snorted Malfoy. "The old man has outlived his
usefulness. He'd have been better off perishing in the war."
Slytherins gasped, by Violet was intrigued by the statement. "Sometimes,"
she told her housemates, "a writer kills off a character to keep the
reader from discovering how worthless he really is."
turned to stare at her. They studied her for so long that Violet grew
flustered and demanded,
Dumbledore summoned Snape to his office.
"I need your
decision, Severus," the headmaster said brusquely after Snape had taken a
seat. There was no twinkle in his eye tonight. "Will you be remaining
with us or not?"
his long fingers and peered over them. "I assumed," came his silky reply,
"that my decision would not be expected until after a new head had been
secured for Gryffindor. I believe it is customary to extend such
courtesies to more senior staff."
in no mood to be lectured about administrative protocol. "I've offered
the headship to Bill Weasley," he told Snape testily.
raised an eyebrow. "Odd. Minerva hasn't mentioned it."
eyes flashed. "Your decision, please, Severus. Immediately."
"If you need a
decision immediately, then my decision is to leave."
didn't miss a beat. "If your decision is to leave..." He rose from his
chair and stood towering behind his desk. "...then I believe I will
destroy the portrait of Professor Lupin."
Dumbledore smiled, but with none of his usual warmth.
retrospect," the elderly wizard observed as he strolled to the nearest
window, "it doesn't seem to have been a very effective idea. Clearly,
Severus, you are not happy here and never will be. My gesture seems to
have done little to repair the difficulty between us; it appears we will
never be more than colleagues. Perhaps the time has come to let both of
Potter!" Snape stammered. "Potter needs the portrait!"
Dumbledore whirled on him. Snape was surprised to see the old man
red-faced with fury.
does not need a portrait to fulfill a role that has always been... and
will always be ... mine!"
He slammed a
hand down on his desk and Snape flinched. The old man's anger astounded
him. It hung in the air between them and the office grew awkwardly
One by one, the figures in the portraits on the wall, embarrassed by
Dumbledore's temper, slipped quietly out of the office. When they were
gone, the headmaster sank back into his chair. He buried his hoary head
in his hands. Snape sat quietly, watching him.
Whatever is the matter? the younger wizard wondered. Why is
he withholding information from Minerva? Why is he lashing out at me?
He studied the headmaster for several more seconds before summoning
the courage to ask,
"Why are you threatened by me?"
Dumbledore looked up.
"Our values are so different," Snape continued, "and you have never been
anything but dismissive of my point of view. Why now, when all your hopes
have been realized, are you so desperate to denigrate mine?"
The old man smiled wearily at Snape from behind his half-moon glasses.
"Because you would undo me, Severus," he said. "You and Minerva would
undo a great deal of what I have accomplished at this school. So before
you make any more plans to counteract all my misguided efforts, let me
remind you of something." He leaned forward and glared at Snape across
the desk. "You did not always think it 'asinine' to 'pit the students
against each other!'"
The old man had eavesdropped! Snape felt a thrill crawl up his spine.
Albus Dumbledore, the most powerful wizard of his age, defeater of
Grindewald, mastermind behind the destruction of Lord Voldemort... was
jealous. Well, why shouldn't he be? Snape smiled to himself.
He and Minerva were better at things that mattered more.
It must be vexing, the younger wizard thought, to sit in the headmaster's
office and watch a life's work fade into insignificance while those
younger and less powerful accomplished the only thing that really
mattered, the one thing that might truly make a difference... the
production of the first generation of genuinely noble witches and wizards
Hogwarts had ever sent into the world.
Dumbledore could not tolerate the smug look on Snape's face. "How dare
you?" he demanded, rising to his feet again. "How dare you behave as if
everything I did was wrong?"
"How dare you behave," Snape replied coolly, "as if everything you
did was right?"
Dumbledore contemplated the young man for a moment. Then he sat back
down. "If you're so certain you're right, Severus," he murmured archly,
"are you not obligated to remain?"
It was Snape's turn to shake his head. "I taught Minerva everything I
know," he replied. "I'm entitled to leave." The old man frowned, as if
reproving a shirker. "I'm running out of time!" Snape insisted, a sense
of urgency creeping into his tone."
"Time for what?"
"There's so much to be done!" Snape leaned forward in his chair. "Big
things. Hard things. Things that take skill... and strength." He shook
his head again. "I'm not like you, Headmaster. I'm not going to defeat
Grindewald at 100. I'm like Minerva. A good knock at 70 will land me in
Dumbledore smiled as Snape finished earnestly, "If I'm going, I have to go
now. My salad days are waning."
He stood up, as did Dumbledore. "Will you make me a promise, Severus?"
the older man asked. "Come back to Hogwarts in 10 years?"
Snape hesitated. Dumbledore nodded shrewdly. "You won't," he murmured.
"That would defeat your other purpose in leaving."
Snape saw no point in being
coy. "If I go," he insisted, "I teach
everyone who hears my story that you cannot abuse idealism with impunity."
"And if you stay?"
Snape shrugged. "I empower shallowness, the root of all wrong-doing."
Dumbledore sighed. "Nevertheless..." He walked around his desk to escort
Snape to the door. "I revoke my insistence on a decision tonight and
consider your future to be unresolved."
"And the portrait?" Snape wondered if one concession might yield another.
"The portrait will remain. But Severus..."
The old man hesitated, offering a quick prayer that for once, Severus
Snape might listen.
"I may not be the only one misjudging its effectiveness."
On a Thursday
night in June, Malfoy shut his charms textbook with a satisfying slam.
NEWTS were over! Draco was quite certain he'd passed Potions and Defense;
he wasn't so sure about the others. The Ministry testers, sympathetic to
all his year had endured, had reminded the students they could always take
the exams again. But McGonagall had flinched at the idea of any seventh
years staying on.
more needy constituencies than resources," Snape had explained when Crabbe
had asked him about the deputy's attitude during the next common room
gathering. "Surely you hadn't thought of staying?"
years had exchanged looks. Most of them had no idea what they were going
to do after leaving; they suspected they weren't really ready to leave at
all. So they'd kept right on studying after the NEWTS, even Malfoy. But
not this weekend!
This weekend he was
going to take a trip. He was going to sneak away from school and fly home
to check the condition of the Malfoy property. Snape would no doubt find
out and cane him soundly, but that didn't worry him. "I just hope the
weather improves," he muttered to himself as he reached for his cloak. It
was unseasonably cold for so late in the spring.
He had nothing left
but Astronomy homework, which he could finish in an hour's time if the
crowd on the roof wasn't too noisy. He shoved parchment, quills, ink and
his wand into his pockets before departing his cell and heading for the
common room door where he met a red-faced Millicent letting herself back
into the house.
freezing!" she announced as she shivered out of her cloak. "Its really
windy up there!"
He hurried out of the dungeon and headed not for the Astronomy Tower but
the west tower where he could make his observations leaning out the
windows of the Owlery. Upon arriving, he discovered that Ron Weasley and
Harry Potter had had the same idea.
They worked in
silence for several minutes, speaking only when it was necessary to swap
windows. Then a sudden gust of wind blew the stench of rotten fish up
Malfoy's nostrils. "Good grief, Weasley!" he protested, leaning back
inside. "What did your mother put in your last care package?"
Ron turned to
glower at Malfoy and as he did, a large bird flew right through his window
into the Owlery. It soared around and around the tower; the boys craned
their necks to watch it, thunderstruck.
"What is it?"
Malfoy demanded. "It looks like a pterodactyl!"
pelican," Harry told him. "They live near water and eat fish."
The bird flew
in for a slow, graceful landing whereupon Malfoy spied the note tied to
its leg. "Grab him," he ordered the two Gryffindors, and while Ron and
Harry secured the smelly bird and held it still, Malfoy removed the note
from its leg, wincing at the bird's stench.
The note was
written on a scrap of cloth in dark brown ink. "Help me," it read.
"Imprisoned. Near water. Broken floor. Queenie."
know what to make of the terse missive. "Get Granger," he suggested, and
in no time, Ron was back with the head student, who made short work of the
she pronounced of the rust-colored ink, "written on a scrap of clothing."
up his lumos light and adjusted the color to confirm that Queenie had
indeed written the message in blood, presumably her own. "Where could she
Hermione replied. "It's in San Francisco Bay."
Malfoy wrinkled his nose. He gave Hermione an insolent grin, wondering
if she was feeding them false information to prevent a rescue attempt.
"Is that made up? It sounds like Azkaban."
like Azkaban," Hermione nodded. "I studied it when Sirius escaped. It
was an escape-proof island prison rumored to drive prisoners insane."
took the scrap of cloth from Hermione and studied it more closely.
abandoned," Hermione told him. "The island's a park now. It happens to
be the #1 tourist attraction in San Francisco."
"Then how..." he began, holding up the note.
"It's also a
bird sanctuary," Hermione went on. "It's closed half the year for
nesting, during the spring and summer... making it the perfect place for
criminals to hide-out."
She took the note back
and pointed to the phrase, 'Broken floors.' "In 1946, there was a
break-out attempt that resulted in a three-day siege. Marines were
brought in and tossed explosive devices at the entrance to a utility
corridor where three convicts were holding out. That's how the floor got
Ron let out a
low whistle. "San Francisco," he muttered, shaking his head. "How far is
that, too. "About 5,000 miles," she announced with a satisfied toss of
her bushy brown hair. She headed for the door but Malfoy called her back.
awfully far, Granger," he pointed out, nodding at the exotic bird. The
creature had regurgitated the contents of its beak and was now enjoying a
nice snack on the floor of the owlery. "Are you sure it's the right
smiled loftily and pointed at the bird. "'Alcatraz,'" she told the boys,
"means 'Island of the Pelicans.'" She left without another word and Ron
scowled after her.
she tell us not to go?" he wondered. "Why didn't she ask us what we're
going to do?"
down on a bale of straw. "She knows there's nothing we can do,"
he frowned. "We can't apparate and it's too far to fly."
Harry was already doing the math. "We're good flyers. We could easily
get 250 miles per hour out of a Firebolt and a couple of Nimbus 2001s."
"What about the ocean?" he demanded. "Wizards don't fly brooms across the
ocean, Potter." The very thought made him shudder.
flyers," Harry insisted again. "You've got 4 Slytherin team brooms left,
right? If you loaned one to Ron..."
"And if we
left right after class tomorrow," Ron interjected, "we could be in San
Francisco by Saturday night."
up. "Then what?" he demanded. "Do you think you're going to do 250 miles
per hour on your Firebolt carrying an additional passenger?"
shrugged. "So we bring another Slytherin broom for Queenie. We have
until class time Monday morning. And maybe she won't want to come all the
way to Hogwarts. The thing is..."
He couched his
words carefully, not wanting to remind Malfoy of the last time they'd
fought about rescuing Queenie. "There's no point telling Snape or the
other adults because they've got too much to deal with now. They'd only
use the information to prevent us going."
knew, was true. There were any number of wizarding children in distress
throughout the country; Queenie had no more claim on Hogwarts resources
than the rest of them. No one would know that better than Snape.
Granger?" he asked, his eyes narrowing as he studied the two Gryffindors.
The pelican, finished with its snack, hopped onto the nearest windowsill
and took off. Harry shrugged.
can't go," he said carefully. "She teaches the younger years on
Saturdays and she..."
He stopped and
Ron finished his thought. "She's not a great flyer. Besides, she has her
career to think about." Hermione was one of the few people who knew
exactly what she wanted to do after school. "As far as she's concerned,"
Ron sniffed, "this is not the time to be getting in trouble."
at the sound of the blast. That surprised him; he would have guessed he
hadn't the energy. Never in his entire life had he been this tired. Not
after the speral root adventure during the siege. Not after levitating
Aunt Bellatrix to the lake. Never.
The three boys
were sitting in the dark among piles of ruins, having landed on a large,
paved open space on one end of the island known as Alcatraz. The moon was shining brightly and high
above them, on the edge of a cliff, they could just make out a burned-out
stone structure in the shape of a house. Behind it, in the elevated
center of the island, sat the prison.
Malfoy knew they
shouldn't be sitting out in the open like this but he had to rest and he
would be damned if they were going to go poking into any of the spooky,
shadowy spots of this creepy place. Just looking around made him
uncomfortable. Damn Potter! he cursed as he slumped against a
pile of rubble. Why did I listen to him? He didn't even consider the
need to eat or sleep!
He had just
closed his eyes when the blast sounded again. The Slytherin turned
furiously to his comrades.
"What the hell
Harry shook his
head. Ron, sandwiched between the two rivals, turned a sympathetic face
"Why does an
abandoned prison seem so much scarier than an inhabited one?" he wondered.
When Malfoy didn't respond, Ron added hopefully, "It's silly, when you
think about it. Isn't it?"
had been studying the paths that led around either side of the cliff. Now
he glanced briefly at Ron and Malfoy over his shoulder and reminded them,
"Abandoned places can have people lurking who are much more dangerous
"We take your
point," Malfoy cut him off. He did not need Harry Potter pointing out the
intimidating aspects of this place... the huge, crumbling outbuildings and
piles of rubble, the rickety water tower, the cryptic Indian graffiti
scrawled near the boat landing, the waves crashing against the rocky
shore... and that infernal blasting noise! Over and over! "Now what?"
to his feet. "This way. No lumos lights."
He led them across the open area to the right of the cliff and up a
zig-zagging path that climbed steeply to the prison. The front doors of
the long structure faced the same end of the island where they had landed.
To their surprise, the doors were standing opening. "Wands up," Harry
hissed, and armed and ready, the boys crept inside.
offices they passed through were dark but ahead they could see light.
They followed it and found themselves standing at the end of a long
corridor, a sort of walkway between two rows of cells three stories high.
At the far end of the walkway was a clock above a door leading to some
other part of the prison. The cells were dark but soft overhead lights
illuminated the walkway. It seemed the obvious path to take, but...
"Forget it!" Malfoy
hissed, gazing up at the cells on the second and third floors. "Look at
all those dark hiding places! It's a walkway to death."
Harry agreed. "We
shouldn't walk down a lit corridor when all the cells are dark. Let's go
He headed to his right
with Ron and Malfoy close behind, looking constantly over their shoulders.
They came to a corner and peeked carefully around it. There they found
another row of cells, different from the cells that lined either side of
the illuminated corridor. These cells had flat bars on the doors and...
"Look!" Malfoy hissed,
illuminating his wand to point at one of the cells. "They don't even
"Queenie's not going to
be here," Harry agreed. "Let's try..."
He broke off at the
sound of voices, too far away to make out clearly. The boys whirled
around and listened hard.
"That way!" Ron said,
pointing back the way they'd come.
"No, that way!" Malfoy
pointed down the row of flat-barred cells. "That way and over!"
They crept back the way
they'd come, unconsciously hunching over until they reached the lit
corridor. Then they straightened up, exchanged looks, and nodded. "You
take the right cells," Harry told Ron. "Malfoy, the left. I'll do fore
So, with all three
wands lit, they set off down the corridor, Ron shining his lumos light
into each cell on the right, Malfoy the left, Harry whipping his head back
and forth to watch for anyone who might sneak up on them. They'd
proceeded about halfway down the hall and were just coming to a cross
corridor when Malfoy stopped.
"Here!" he hissed,
shining his light into the last cell on the left before the intersection.
Ron and Harry turned,
adding their lights to Malfoy's, and discovered two men, bound and gagged,
huddling in the corner. Their eyes widened with terror at the sight of
the wizards and their wands. Ron shook his head.
"Muggles," he muttered,
lowering his wand. "Do you think they're the people we're looking for?"
"Could be," Harry
nodded, "but how did they get all tied up?"
Malfoy thought he knew.
"Excuse me," he drawled to the frightened men, who flinched at being
addressed. "Have you seen a girl about so high..." He held his hand
roughly ear-level. "... with lots of bushy brown hair?"
The question was barely
out of his mouth when the sound of voices came again, further down the
corridor and to the left. One of them had a distinctly strident tone.
"We haven't tried
mumble mumble mumble!"
The trio grinned and
set off again. The cross-corridor, they discovered, was a sort of cut-off
so that people could get from one row of cells to the next without having
to walk the entire length of a corridor. They headed left and had not
gone far when Malfoy stopped again.
He held his lumos light
close to the floor. The cement was damaged in several places. "'Broken
floor!'" he remembered. He looked up and sure enough, to his right at
eye-level was an oval shaped opening, barely wide enough and tall enough
for a man to step through. It served as the entrance to a utility corridor
between the backs of two rows of cells on the second floor. Malfoy
couldn't resist peeking inside.
"Look at all the pipes
and wires!" he marveled. "A person could barely move! Imagine dying in
The mumbling voices
stopped. Harry continued along the cut-off and peeked around the next
corner. Apparently, there was no one down that corridor, for he turned
back to Ron and Malfoy and signaled them to join him. With one last look
down the empty corridor, they streaked across it and into a large, dark
empty room. There was an open door along the wall to the left; a light
from whatever lay beyond was shining through it. They hurried over to the
wall, crept along it, put their heads around the door frame, and...
There were Hermione,
Justin Finch-Fletchley and Queenie, staring back at them from the far end
of yet another row of cells. Hermione had her arms folded across the
handle of a broom she was hugging to her chest. She gave the trio a lofty
little smile and called, "Welcome to Alcatraz!" But Justin didn't look
amused and Queenie seemed more than a little relieved to see Malfoy's
The trio set off down
the hall to join their friends. Only one side of this corridor had cells,
Malfoy noticed. The opposite wall was external with several high windows,
one of them almost completely broken out. The first cells reminded Malfoy
of Slytherin dorm rooms; they had normal walls and real doors. After that
came the barred cells, but these were larger than the ones along the
corridor where Hermione and Justin had imprisoned the muggles.
As soon as Malfoy
reached Queenie, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on
the cheek. Behind her he could see the cell she'd occupied; its narrow
cot was covered with a single woolen blanket. He grinned at her and
drawled, "Nice of them to put you in the spacious wing with a view."
"It most certainly was
not!" Hermione huffed. "This is the punishment wing! The only reason the
cells are so big is because the prisoners hardly ever got out of them!
She shifted the broom
beneath her right arm and used the left one to point down the hall at the
cells with normal walls and doors. "Those are the 'holes,' the isolation
cells. When the doors are shut, it's almost completely dark in there."
"And it's cold,"
Queenie nodded. "The wind comes roaring in right through the windows,
especially the broken one. It made Angela sicker than ever." As she
spoke, a pelican swooped up to the broken window and peeked inside.
Seeing a crowd, it flew off again.
"Who's Angela?" Harry
wondered. "Did you tame one of the pelicans?"
"Angela's a little girl
from my neighborhood who came to live with me," Queenie explained. "Her
parents got stoned at Hogwarts, too." The current students exchanged
looks but Queenie didn't seem to notice. "I didn't know she was on her
own until after she got sick. But I don't think she was any better off at
my place." She shook her head again, remembering. "She just got sicker
and sicker, and when those two men broke in..."
Queenie's eyes filled
with tears. "I tried to convince them to leave her behind. I explained
how she hadn't been to school yet, she couldn't do magic. But they
brought her, and she got sicker and sicker, and eventually..." The girl
shrugged, defeated. "They took her away. Hospital wing, they said. Like
they'd brought a nurse along!"
"Is that what they
wanted?" Malfoy wondered. "To make you do magic for them?"
"Or to make me teach
them how," Queenie nodded.
Hermione turned to
Harry. "Did you see any sign of the little girl? What direction did you
come from?" When Harry told her, she nodded. "That's the opposite side
of the island where I landed, so we've covered nearly the whole place.
But we can check the outbuildings before we leave."
Justin gave a snort and
Ron eyed him darkly.
"How did you get here
before us?" he wanted to know.
"Yeah!" Harry took a step closer to the
Head Student. "I thought you had
stuff to do today."
"I did!" Hermione
replied airily. "We haven't been here very long."
Harry seemed to be
trying not to sound defensive as he asked, "How did you fly so far so fast
on one broom?"
Hermione let him stew a
few more seconds and then smiled. "We didn't fly," she admitted. "We
floo'd. To Ghirardelli Square. At least, I did."
"The chocolate place?"
Ron was still eyeing Justin darkly. "I didn't know they had a floo stop."
"Dozens of them,
actually. Why do you think there's so much red brick?" She turned back
to Harry with a smile. "They even have a spot where you can tap the
bricks and a dispensing machine appears. You can buy more floo powder!"
At this, Justin gave a
derisive hoot. Hermione winced but Ron didn't seem to notice. "How did
YOU get here?" he asked the Hufflepuff rather snidely. Hermione spoke up
"I walked down to the
Maritime Museum on Fisherman's Wharf," she recounted, "and waited for
dark. Then I flew to the island. I landed on the northwest tip and
followed the route to the cellhouse that the Anglin brothers used to
escape in 1962."
"I thought nobody ever
escaped," Malfoy spoke up. Hermione raised an eyebrow at him in a very
"Their bodies were
never found," she admitted. "The authorities liked to say they must have
died because no one could swim to shore..."
Queenie nodded. "That's
what the muggles told me."
"The truth is,"
Hermione went on, "people do it every year, even little kids. It's part
of the 'Escape from Alcatraz' Triathlon."
Malfoy let out a low
"Anyway," Hermione gave
her hair an impatient toss. "I stopped at the power plant long enough to
make a bluebell flame for Justin to floo here..."
Harry groaned. That was how Snape had sent him back to Gryffindor during
the siege! Flooing would have been so much easier than flying 5,000
"I don't see what you
needed Justin for," Ron muttered. "Wasn't he gentleman enough to loan you
a broom unless he could come, too?"
"Now see here!" Justin advanced on Ron but Hermione grabbed him by the
arm, letting the broom in her other hand slip.
"Justin was my back-up, Ron!" she protested. "If anything had gone wrong,
he'd have known where I was and what I was doing."
"That was a good plan," Harry had to admit. He could see how much better
things would have been with Hermione's help. But Justin shook his head.
"Unfortunately," he announced, grabbing his broom back from Hermione,
"nothing went wrong until AFTER I arrived." He held out the flying device
to reveal a large seam across the middle of the handle. Harry traced the
crack with his finger, a pained look on his face.
"What happened?" he whispered hoarsely.
"I fell in the water near the power plant smokestack," Hermione confessed.
"The waves slammed me against the rocks. Our floo powder tin was smashed
and Justin's broom broke."
Justin and Harry winced.
"I reparo'd it!" the head girl
insisted, "but it
Harry gave Justin a sympathetic look but Ron grinned.
"So you were stuck here until we arrived!" he crowed.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes," she admitted, "and now that you're here,
we can fly back to San Francisco and return to Hogwarts as soon as
possible. Floo powder's on me."
Malfoy gave Queenie a little squeeze. "You can fly with me," he told her,
"beneath the bewitching light of the..." He glanced out the nearest
window to locate the moon and froze. "What's that?" he gasped. The light
of the moon was completely obliterated by a mist that seemed to have
enshrouded the island.
"Fog," Hermione told him simply. "Didn't you hear the horn?"
Malfoy blushed as his schoolmates grinned at this latest display of
nerves. Stupid muggles and their stupid vulgar devices, the sooner we
got off this God-forsaken rock...
"Did you bring enough money for all of us?" he demanded of Hermione with a
sneer, hoping against hope she'd say yes as he'd forgotten to bring any.
"Wizard and muggle," she assured him. "I'll call the police from
a pay phone when we get back to San Francisco. But first let's divide up
to search for Angela and then..."
"Quiet!" Malfoy grabbed her by the arm as beside him, Harry froze. "Did
you hear something?"
"I thought I heard a pop," Harry whispered back. Malfoy shook his head.
"It sounded more like..."
They held their breath. The noise came again and this time they all heard
"Footsteps," Ron muttered. Someone was nearby, climbing an outside
at this end of the cellhouse.
"This way!" cried Harry.
He led the group back down the
corridor into the large dark room beyond the 'holes.' There he signaled
Malfoy, Justin and Queenie to keep watch at the door while he, Ron and
Hermione hurried across the room to peek down the other corridor. Tense
and silent, the group waited and watched. The footsteps stopped. They
heard rumbling from a low voice and a door opened. The footsteps started
again, slower, quieter, creeping, hunting...
Queenie grabbed Malfoy's hand and squeezed it hard. As they watched, a
head peeked slowly around the last cell on the opposite end of the
"I don't believe it!" Malfoy shouted, flinging away Queenie's hand in
disgust. The girl flew down the corridor, crying, "Goyle!" over and over
as that Slytherin seventh year stepped into full view carrying the last
remaining house team broom. Crabbe was one step behind and in his arms he
"Angela!" Queenie shrieked for joy. She threw herself into Goyle's arms
and hugged him tight as his relieved schoolmates paraded down the hall to
"No way," Malfoy insisted as he approached. "No WAY you two flew here as
fast as we did on ONE broom!"
Crabbe seemed to find the very idea of traveling long distance by broom
moronic. "We flew to Edinburgh," he informed Malfoy, "to the airport.
Then we followed two blokes with tickets to Toronto into the lavatory,
thumped them, tied them up and left them."
"They'll never even know it was wizards," Goyle boasted. "We did it again
in Toronto to get to San Francisco." He seemed quite proud of their
accomplishment but Hermione was horrified.
"What if the men from Edinburgh had come around or been discovered before
you landed in Toronto? You could have been arrested!"
"Oh." Goyle's face darkened. "That wouldn't have been very good."
Crabbe shrugged it off. "We flew from one of the piers to the top of the
water tower, then used our stop technique to jump to the ground and our
leaping technique to get into the exercise yard."
Harry liked parts of their plan, too, especially landing on the water
tower for a good view of the grounds.
"How did you know where to come?" Malfoy wondered. Crabbe grinned.
"We were on the Astronomy Tower roof Friday night, showing Violet all the
rude words in the advanced potion-making book while we waited for it to
get dark," he reported. "This strange bird landed near us, and it smelled
so bad, we thought it must be sick."
"We sent Violet to the library for a book on bird diseases," Goyle put in,
"to keep her out of our hair while we tried to figure out where Queenie
was." He gave the girl in his arms a smile before finishing, "She came
back with a book on bird diseases by Robert Stroud."
Even Hermione looked blank. "Who's Robert Stroud?"
The voice that answered came from the darkness of the very last 'hole.'
"The Birdman of Alcatraz."
They screamed as they whirled around at the sound of the menacing, silky
voice. A man in black trousers, a white shirt and a dashing cape stepped
through the door of the last cell. In an instant, Malfoy knew why Potter
had heard a pop a while ago.
"Dammit, Queenie!" the blonde teenager snarled. "How many damn penguins
did you send?"
"Pelicans," Hermione corrected through wobbly lips as the potions master
proceeded down the hall. In one hand, he carried a brightly-colored
picture book. His students stood helplessly, watching him come, except
for Queenie, who pulled loose from Goyle's grasp and stepped over to
Crabbe to check on the child he held on his hip. She pushed a lock of
hair back from Angela's face and...
The potions master had come to a stop in front of Hermione but now he
turned to Queenie instead. His former student was frowning at the still
face of the little girl in Crabbe's arms. Snape stepped over to the child
and felt her cheek, bending his head to examine her lips. Then he raised
a somewhat bewildered face and told Vincent,
"Crabbe, this child is dead."
Crabbe looked helplessly at Goyle "I couldn't..." he stammered.
Goyle finished for him. "We couldn't just leave her there, staked to the
bottom of the water tower."
Hermione gasped and Queenie's eyes filled with tears. Snape took the
child from Crabbe's arms. "Where are these muggles you were going to
mention to the police?" he asked Hogwarts' head student. "We'll leave
this child nearby as evidence."
"I know where to put her." Malfoy took the girl from Snape and hurried
down the corridor and through the darkened room. He placed her gently on
the broken floor in the cut-off next to the cell that contained the bound
muggles. By the time he got back, Snape had taken Queenie aside and was
busy igniting a bluebell flame on the floor. The teacher gave Queenie a
handful of floo powder and ordered her to his office. Then, with a lift
of one eyebrow, he assured his students, "See you shortly," and
disappeared in a burst of green flames. The remaining citizens of
Hogwarts, bereft of floo powder, stared morosely at the little puddle of
blue flame he left behind.
"He left us!" Hermione sulked. "I can't believe he left us."
"Why do I think," Ron
theorized, "that the number of strokes we'll get will depend on how long
it takes us to get back?"
They flew back to
Fischerman's Wharf where they discovered a street dance in full swing.
The air was rich with the aroma of freshly caught, succulently fried fish
and people milled happily about the dancing throng, feasting on savory
seafood. Malfoy felt his stomach rumble and beside him, Crabbe whimpered.
A young woman sashayed up to them, undulating back and forth until a boy
gave a tug on her arm and she whirled away. Unable to stand it any
longer, Malfoy jerked his sweatshirt off over his head.
"Let's dance," he suggested as he tossed the sweatshirt aside and rolled
up his brightly-colored sleeves.
Hermione was horrified by the very idea. "We can't!" she gasped. "We
have to go home. That awful place, and that poor little girl..."
"Granger." Malfoy turned to her with both hands on his hips. "This may
be the last time we take a chance knowing Snape is waiting home."
They thought about that for a moment. Their adventure was almost over,
and they next time duty called, they might be alone in the world. It
hadn't crossed their minds, before leaving Hogwarts, that rescuing Queenie
was made easier by the knowledge that, if anything went wrong, eventually
Snape or McGonagall would come looking for them. But the knowledge had
been there, lurking, reassuring. Even now it warmed them in the chilly
bay breeze, filling them with a sense of freedom and well-being.
"If he spanks us, he spanks us," Malfoy reckoned. "Let's dance."
So they tossed aside their sweatshirts, rolled up the sleeves of their
brightly colored shirts, and hurried into the throng of happy people. As
the music blared and colored lights dappled the streets with warm dots of
red and pink and orange, they threw their lanky limbs about and danced
like teenagers. Occasionally they paused to gorge themselves on seafood
and lemonade, only to return as soon as possible to the lively crowd
jumping and whirling and swaying in the tangy ocean air.
She's so mean but I don't care
I love her eyes and her wild wild hair
Dance to the beat that we love best
Heading for the nineties
Living in the wild wild west
They floo'd to
Slytherin so they could tidy up in the lavatories before reporting to
Snape's office. As Hermione combed her hair and scrubbed her face, she
was pestered mercilessly by a sleepy-eyed Violet and her questions.
"Violet, please go
back to bed!" the head student begged. "I need to think what I'm going to
say to Professor Snape!"
still in his office, a miserable, teary-eyed contrast to the row of
bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked revelers. Sniffing curiously at the odor of
fried seafood and salt air that hung about them, Snape paraded up and down
the queue of miscreants, eventually inquiring,
like to claim chief culpability?"
a step forward. "We talked it over," she lied, "and we've decided it's
his backside twitch. Spoken like someone who's never received more
than two, he thought. But the head student's strategy depended on a
united front, so he held his tongue.
"You know more
than we do about these things," Hermione was telling Snape. "You know us
and you know what we're capable of. You have should coordinated this
back as Snape's mouth dropped open. Everyone in line leaned forward to
gape at Hermione, staggered by her brilliance. Of course! Of course
that's how it should have been, and how it should be! As they left school
to scatter to the four winds, they should be held together by Snape, who
could coordinate their efforts whenever one of them discovered some sort
of problem that required...
some sort of cover," Goyle mused to Crabbe, "like Professor Snape has
his mouth shut and whirled on the boy. "How dare you..." he began, but
Hermione cut him off.
mine. I'll be working with the Ministry, and so will Justin."
great!" Harry nodded. "You'd be able to find out all sorts of things plus
arrange portkeys and floo connections..."
Hermione scolded her friend. "I'm not starting out as Minister!"
snapped back to attention. The housemaster glowered at them, stalking
menacingly towards Crabbe and Goyle to seethe,
"How dare you
characterize my efforts at this school as nothing more than..."
Something had just occurred to him. He thought for several seconds,
turning away to pace back and forth. The children exchanged looks.
Suddenly Snape whirled back to Crabbe and Goyle and blurted out,
"How about an
orphanage," Snape repeated. "An orphanage at the Squire's for two hundred
8-to-10-year olds. You'd need to run it for about three years, until
they're all at Hogwarts. The nuns would help you."
up from her seat beside Snape's desk and rushed forward. "So would I!"
and Tracey," Goyle nodded, "and..."
Guilford could pay for it!" Snape was clearly thrilled with his
brainstorm. Crabbe grinned and whispered to Goyle,
exactly what to call it!"
All eyes turned to
Hermione, who was regarding Snape shrewdly. "What will your contribution
be? Besides managing any...
curiously to Harry. "What shall we call it, working together to..."
"Problem-solve?" suggested Snape coyly.
Hermione nodded. She
turned to Crabbe and asked, "Do you have a name for problem-solving?"
Crabbe thought it
over. "Chubb fuddling," he finally suggested. Snape laughed, and so did
Hermione. The Slytherin shrugged. "That's what Violet called it when
we... when we..." He paused, searching his brain for a properly veiled
reference to past Slytherin exploits. "... when we improved the
appearances of the Gryffindors and Bill Weasley last year."
his fingertips to his temples and Hermione took advantage of the moment to
press her cause. "Will you continue to teach us?" she asked the potions
master. "We could arrange a time to gather each week at the orphanage..."
"... or here
at Hogwarts," Malfoy suggested. Snape ignored him.
he nodded to Hermione, "that the challenges you face..."
Hermione interjected. Snape ignored that, too.
make ongoing education beneficial indeed."
shouted, and with an exaggerated roll of his eyes, Snape dismissed them.
"I have to see the
headmaster," he made excuse for not punishing them. "Miss Greinglass, you
may move in with Miss Davis."
filed into the corridor except Harry, who closed the door behind them and
turned to face Snape.
"What do you
hesitated. Then he took a few steps further into the office. "I've
decided to ask Professor Dumbledore to destroy the portrait of Professor
Lupin, if that's all right with you." He hurried to explain himself
before Snape could object. "He's not happy here," the boy insisted, "and
things aren't...it's not... it's not like I thought it would be, having
Snape did not
look pleased. But there was no argument he could make. "As you wish," he
muttered, turning his back to cross to his desk. When he turned round,
the boy was still standing there, staring at him. "What do you want,
Potter?" he asked again.
Harry marched boldly
up to the desk. "I want you to keep your promise," he announced and rather
enjoyed the way Snape reddened at the words. For his part, Snape suddenly
wished he could destroy the portrait himself. How DARE that manipulative
werewolf tell this boy his dying words?
"I never made
Harry insisted. "You belong in our lives!" When Snape made no response,
he lowered his voice and asked, "Why won't you admit it?"
said nothing. So Harry sat down in the seat Queenie had recently vacated
and stared defiantly up at the potions master.
he began, as if daring Snape to find anything wrong with what he was about
to say, "I pretend that Voldemort's death brought my parents back."
speechless. He'd have bet a hundred galleons neither Granger nor Weasley
had heard this.
Harry gripped the arms
of the chair tightly. "Always," he continued urgently, his eyes growing
bright, "always, the first thing my father does is come here...
to apologize to you."
Snape closed his eyes.
The boy's words sent a painful stab shooting through his heart. He sank
into his chair and concentrated on taking deep, soothing breaths.
When he could
think again, he reminded himself that transgressors usually apologized
only to get away with their crimes or to create the opportunity to repeat
them. But that wasn't the point. It wasn't the idea of James Potter
mouthing penitence that pierced his heart.
"What do you
want from me, Potter?" he asked again. Harry leaned forward on the desk.
someone to talk to for the rest of my life."
shoved away some pieces of parchment in front of him. "Not Lupin! I'm
not talking about a friend, or a girl, or someone like Professor
Dumbledore. I want someone..."
Snape suggested. Harry shook his head.
"No. Sirius was like
a brother. I don't want a brother. I want a... I want someone will be
straightforward with me, who will worry about more than how I feel. I
want someone who will care how I turn out and what I make of myself." He
looked up at Snape, his eyes blazing. "I want someone who will treat me
the way you treat the Slytherins.... and the Hufflepuffs... and almost
everyone here except me! Why won't you do that for me?!"
If the boy was
embarrassed, he didn't show it. His green eyes burned with righteous
anger. Snape formulated his response very carefully.
"If I care
about anybody, Potter, it's the needy and the troubled. I've never meted
out the same treatment to you because, from the day you arrived, I thought
you were the healthiest student here... save perhaps for Granger." He
shook his head. "You don't need what I give the others, Potter."
"But I want
it!" Harry refused to back down. He banged the top of Snape's desk with
his fist. "I want it more than any of them! Why can't I have it?"
the question over for such a long time that Harry lost his temper.
shouted, leaping to his feet.
thinking about Violet Guilford, the other orphan, the one sorted into
his house. Desperate for a family, she had entered Slytherin
fully prepared to embrace the lot of them. Would things have been better,
he wondered, if Harry Potter had sorted into Slytherin? Perhaps not.
Perhaps the boy would have longed for Gryffindor every waking moment.
That would have only made things worse.
every corner of his heart, twice. There wasn't a shred of hatred left for
this boy. A few spots even held glimmers of esteem.
he finally conceded. "I suppose I could try."
to split his silly face. He stepped back, as if to turn to go, then
stepped forward again, bringing his hand up as if he were about to hold it
out for a shake. He thought better of it and shoved it into his pocket
with a bashful duck of his head. When he looked up, he was still smiling,
and Snape was just about to send him off to bed with a surly dismissal
leapt to his feet and whirled around, wand drawn. Harry's eyes had gone
wide while looking at him, but the potions master found nothing menacing
lurking behind his desk. He turned back to find the teenager grinning
repeated, and Harry immediately dropped his eyes to the tops of his shoes.
"Nothing, sir!" he
insisted. He sneaked another peek at Snape and started to laugh. "I'm
just... um..." He had to look away before he could finish. "I'm just
Snape rolled his eyes.
"Pull yourself together, Potter," he snapped, resuming his seat. "Sit
down and give me an account of yourself. What do you plan to do next
dimmed. "Professor Dumbledore wants to me stay on," he confessed as he
sat down. "He wants me to help with Defense and interscholastic
quidditch. But I don't think I want to do that. And I don't want to work
for the Ministry or set up an orphanage, either. I think I want to be..."
to say it, as if he feared hurting someone's feelings. It suddenly
occurred to Snape that Harry Potter might be the only person who needed to
get away from Hogwarts more than he.
potions master finished the boy's sentence. "Alone?"
"At least for a while."
Snape stood up
and strolled to the nearest window. "Dumbledore is alone," he reminded
Harry. "Professor McGonagall is alone. Solitary individuals frequently
impact far more lives than those who insulate themselves with a family."
over his shoulder to see what the boy would make of this. He found Harry
nodding to himself.
to his desk. "I think you should play quidditch," he announced as he sat
down. "Play for England for a year or two. Play for any team you want.
Just don't let it go to your head." He narrowed his eyes as he warned the
young hotshot, "I've had more than a little experience dealing with
arrogant young wizards."
"Can I still come to those lessons you're going to give at the orphanage?"
he asked. "And will you come to my matches? When will I see you?"
his eyes again. "Any time you want!" he scolded. He offered to teach the
boy how to send the silvery, ghostly little messengers the Order used to
communicate. Harry nodded gratefully.
"But will you be
here?" he pressed. When Snape made no reply, he shrugged, climbing to his
feet to add, "It would be easier for us to go out into the world if we
knew you'd still be here."
He made his
way to the door where he paused for one last look at Snape; the backwards
glance put that silly smile right back on his face.
he's not going to do that all the time, the potions master thought
after the boy had departed. He reached for a stack of potions homework.
It was really too late to see the headmaster, he decided; he would brief
the old man and McGonagall on the Alcatraz affair in the morning. Perhaps
they should spend these final few days teaching the seventh years how to
papers for a while; at that late hour, no one came to see him.
So it wasn't
until he retired to his quarters and was preparing for bed that he
discovered his hair was no longer greasy.
The final days of the year
Lupin vacated his portrait for good
after persuading Marybeth to carry her sketch of Snape into the potions
master's office so he could fly into the drawing, hug the image of the
former death eater tightly around the neck, and give him a smacking
goodbye kiss on the cheek. Poor Snape couldn't stop wiping his cheek for
Dumbledore announced that the staff had been unable to secure sufficient
summer lodgings for all the orphans currently attending Hogwarts and
therefore anyone who needed could remain for the summer. Violet signed a
document in his office relinquishing one half of her fortune for the
running of an institution 'to be known hereafter as Salazar's Orphans.
Snape and McGonagall took the seventh years on several field trips to
Hogsmeade to learn apparation.
"The key is visualization," Snape explained. "You have to be able to see
the destination clearly in your mind."
"Oh!" Malfoy nudged Potter and Granger. "That's why he had that picture
book of Alcatraz!"
"A handy trick," Snape confirmed as a witch stepped out of a nearby shop.
"If you can't visualize your destination, apparate to an easily-visualized
location nearby and conduct a little research."
Malfoy made his first solo long
distance trip to the family estate where he was devastated to find his
property in ruins. The rambling home structure had been gutted by fire
quite some time ago; plants and new underbrush were already taking root
throughout the blackened, crumbling walkways.
He wandered aimlessly from room to
room, kicking the occasional pile of rubble in his search for mementos.
Finding nothing salvagable, he made his way outside and dropped dejectedly
onto a stone bench in the decimated garden.
"Actions and consequences," observed a silky voice nearby. Malfoy looked
up to see Snape walking towards him. The older wizard stopped when he
reached the bench and looked about a bit. "Aren't we foolish," he
surmised, "when we assume we'll suffer no ill effects from our
Malfoy scowled up at his teacher. "My father may have offended some
people..." He looked around, then finished angrily, "...but this punishes
Snape nodded and sat down. "You could rebuild," he suggested. "The land
is what counts." He studied the boy's bent head for a moment. "Did you
really want to move back here, Draco?"
The teenager thought it over; eventually, a naughty smile tugged at his
lips. "It seemed like a good idea," he insisted with a glint in his eye.
"Handsome, powerful young wizard living in the lap of luxury, coming and
going as he pleases, Dobby looking after me..."
Snape rolled his eyes and Malfoy chuckled. "Maybe I will rebuild," he
decided, leaning back to prop his elbows on the backrest of the bench.
"I'll turn it into a pleasure palace, a respite..." He grinned at Snape.
"...for weary chubb fuddlers."
"If there's any chance Harry Potter will show up," Snape replied, "Dobby
will be happy to help you."
To his surprise, the boy grew quiet at that, dropping his head again.
After a bit, he lifted it just enough to ask Snape, "Do you prefer him
"I beg your pardon?"
"Potter," Malfoy elaborated. "He's kinder, after all."
Snape eyed the boy shrewdly. In the common room, shortly after Violet had
signed away the funds for the orphanage, Malfoy had reminded her that he
intended to have nothing to do with the institution.
"That's fine," Violet had assured him as she'd climbed onto a sofa between
him and Snape. "It's better, in fact."
"Why?" Malfoy had demanded, only to have the girl smile sweetly at him and
"You're mean, Malfoy."
Snape thought of all the qualities this boy possessed that he valued so
highly. But he didn't mention them. Instead, he gazed at the patch of
woods where he'd rested against a log one April night eighteen years ago
"I have never in my life considered it a coincidence that you were
born moments after Voldemort stole my fertility."
He closed his eyes and braced himself for the hug which surely
would have come had not Dobby suddenly popped onto the scene.
"It is high time Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy got themselves
back home," the elf suggested tartly.
So the magical brethren took their leave and the Malfoy estate was left
silent save for the occasional rustling of wind along a deserted hall.
On the last day of classes,
the seventh years spent their potions lesson reminiscing, or as Snape
called it oh so sternly, "Reviewing." His favorite moment came when
Neville protested the lack of any reference to Lupin's Remedy on the
"It's too new," Hermione
suggested, inspiring Neville to deliver a rare speech.
"Why should that matter? It's
far more important than stoning or deflecting. Those have limited
applications, but Lupin's Remedy will help people forever!"
After class, Snape called him
to the teacher's desk. "Have you given any thought to a career in
potions, Longbottom?" he asked smoothly. "You may have a knack for it,
with your skill in herbology."
Neville looked doubtful but
Snape persisted. "I'm speaking of research, say in the area of remedies
for..." Snape chose his words carefully. "...chronic, war-related
Neville looked at Snape with a
light growing in his eyes, very similar to the one Harry Potter had
exhibited when Dumbledore had first mentioned the portrait of Lupin. "I
could use an assistant," Snape said casually, and for the first time in
his life, Neville beamed at the potions master.
"Here at Hogwarts?" he
Snape shrugged. "Perhaps. I
Neville held out his hand,
which Snape obligingly shook. "Together," he told the Gryffindor, "we
could do great things."
That evening, after the
closing feast, Violet was ordered to the headmaster's office where she
found Snape and Dumbledore waiting for her.
"We've received a most
interesting letter from a muggle agency concerning your status at
Hogwarts," Dumbledore began. "A representative from Children's Services
visited your orphanage last summer and was most distressed to find you
absent. She considered the administrator's explanation that you had
decided on short notice to remain over the summer at a distant, uncharted
school less than satisfactory. Apparently, she has a responsibility to
verify at regular intervals the well-being of children in licensed
"Oh!" Violet nodded. "A
crackdown." The two wizards frowned so she explained. "Every few years
some kid dies in placement. The public gets outraged so the caseworkers
scramble to fill all the cracks in the system."
"Yes. I see." Dumbledore
cleared his throat. "Well. We will not presume to judge the
conscientiousness or motives of muggle civil servants. Suffice to say,
Miss Wick of Children's Services is unwilling to give the staff at St.
Charles a second chance to keep her informed of your whereabouts. She
requires you to return to the orphanage immediately and reside there until
you are of age or to agree to a complete cessation of the government's
responsibility for you. The latter would entail shifting responsibility
to a legal guardian here at Hogwarts. I believe your head of house would
be the most appropriate person."
Violet turned to Snape, wide-eyed.
"You want to adopt me?"
"I most certainly do not!" Snape
couldn't tell the child fast enough.
Dumbledore smiled. "Professor
Snape... or whoever will be serving as the head of Slytherin... would no
more be your parent than the orphanage was, Miss Guilford. He or she
would merely assume the legal responsibilities that formerly rested with
the administrators of St. Charles."
"So..." Violet did the math in her head. "I'd be subject to the same
legal system as the rest of you. The ministry, the wizangamot..."
"That is correct," Dumbledore nodded.
Violet nodded back. Then she startled the men completely with, "How long
do I have to think it over?"
Dumbledore blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"May I have overnight, at least? I don't see why I should have to
decide until it's time to leave for the train."
"Miss Guilford..." Dumbledore seemed at a loss for words. "Do
you understand the implications of this situation? Unless you agree to
these terms, you will have to leave Hogwarts immediately, presumably never
"I wouldn't be the first, sir."
The old man gave her the closest thing to a scowl she'd ever seen
on his kindly face. Then he turned expectantly to Snape. After several
seconds, the head of Slytherin exclaimed, "Oh!" and gave Violet the
obligatory cuff upside the head.
Dumbledore shook his head. "Speak to her!" he demanded before marching
out of the office, leaving Snape to talk some sense into his young
Slytherin. He turned to Violet, raised a single eyebrow, and demanded,
Violet hopped up on the headmaster's desk. "If you're not
staying, sir, I don't see why I should," she began.
"Miss Guilford, your decision should not be based solely..."
"Oh, I've been giving this place a lot of thought!" Violet assured
him. "You know what I've figured out, sir? The wizarding world stinks."
The portraits on the wall gasped but
Violet ignored them. "Never mind the power struggles or all the psychoses
associated with this institution." She waved away the history of Hogwarts
with a flick of her hand. "Just think about this. You spend your entire
formal education learning to compensate for skills any muggle can perform
by the age of five, thanks to electricity and technology!"
She smiled triumphantly at Snape, who stared at her for several seconds.
Then he took a deep breath.
"Miss Guilford," he began evenly, "you were born with a specific talent.
That talent requires a certain education to maximize its potential. The
fact that a magical education replicates muggle technology is of no
significance. Do muggles tell a child born with musical ability not to
bother developing his talent because they already have a wealth of music
on contract discs?"
Violet frowned. Then she grinned from ear to ear. "Compact discs!" she
"My point stands," Snape insisted. "That which must precede innovation or
advancement should hardly be dismissed as mere redundancy and any human
being born with a specific ability... Miss Guilford! Will you kindly
cease that infernal giggling!"
Violet was clutching her sides and rocking back and forth over Snape's
malapropism. She wiped her mirth-dampened eyes on her sleeve as she
struggled to pull herself together. "Face it, sir," she confided with a
rueful smile. "The only thing you people have going for you is flying,
and I can do that all I want when I'm seventeen. I'll just drop by Diagon
Alley and buy a broom. Maybe I'll pick up a few spellbooks and sign up
for some apparation lessons while I'm at it."
She hopped off the desk and bowed politely to Snape and Phineas Nigellus.
"I'll give you my decision tomorrow morning," she promised her housemaster
before marching out the door.
She was surprisingly stoic at the
good-bye queue until Crabbe grabbed her from behind and spun her around,
just like on her first day at Hogwarts. Violet shrieked with laughter.
"Will you be coming to see us this
summer?" Crabbe asked as he set her down. Violet shrugged noncommittally.
"Just like Snape," Crabbe shook his
head. "I wish somebody would do something about him."
He said nothing else on the topic as
he made his way down the row. But when he'd shaken the last hand, he
glanced back at Violet over his shoulder... and winked.
After breakfast on the final
day of the year, Snape made his way to the dungeon to hurry along the
departing Slytherins who had not yet gathered outside the front door for
the trip to Hogsmeade Station. He found Violet just down the corridor
from Filch's office, pointing her wand at the stone floor.
"Scourgify," the child commanded again, and one of the rocks turned bright
and shiny, as if it had just been laid. Violet took a small step forward
and pointed her wand at the next stone.
The child looked up to see
Snape raising an eyebrow at her.
"Mr. Filch said I could, sir,"
Violet assured him before he could criticize her for using magic in the
"Could what, Miss Guilford?"
"Polish the stones," she
replied. "I'm going to polish every stone in the castle until it looks
like a whole different place. Scourgify."
Down the hall, the door to
Filch's office opened a crack and he and the Baron peeked into the
corridor. Snape didn't notice. He took a step backwards as Violet moved
forward. "That could take every spare moment for years," he pointed out.
"Does this mean you've decided to stay?"
Violet nodded. "Professor
McGonagall is moving everybody who's here for the summer into Hufflepuff
or Slytherin. She says Mr. Filch can look after us for a while if you
"And the stones?"
"Just a second." She finished
with the patch she was currently cleaning, then looked up curiously at
Snape. "Aren't you Catholic, sir?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Violet shrugged. "I was just
wondering why you think you have a right to be happy."
She studied him earnestly as she
recalled the words of an older housemate. "Malfoy says every step you
take in this castle makes you unhappy. But we're not put here to be
happy, are we? We're put here to serve." She shook her head as she
scolded gently, "I'm C of E and even I know that."
Filch and the Baron popped
briefly back into the caretaker's office to hide their snorts of laughter.
Snape, staring coolly at Violet, pursed his lips. "The stones, Miss
Guilford," he hissed. Violet nodded.
"Do you remember making me
polish all the stones in your office after I lost the obstacle course
race? Well, now I'm going to polish every stone in this castle in case you
decide to stay or maybe come back one day to give a lecture or something.
You may never be happy here, sir..." She pointed her wand at the ground
and cleaned another piece of the floor. "...but if I polish all the
stones, maybe every step you take will remind you how much you're loved."
With a satisfied nod, she
tucked her wand into her pocket and clapped the dust off her hands. "I
better go tell the head of the school I've decided to stay," she realized.
"Is Professor Dumbledore still in charge or is it Professor McGonagall
"Professor McGonagall takes
over tomorrow," Snape told the child.
Violet nodded politely and Snape
stepped aside to make room for her to proceed down the corridor. After a
few steps, she looked back at him over her shoulder. She raised an
eyebrow at her housemaster as she'd seen him do so many times and asked,
"Care to join me?"
In the caretaker's office,
Filch and the Baron held their breath. The potions master, surrounded by
a sea of highly-polished stones, studied the child in front of him for a
long time. Then he nodded curtly, once, and set off up the corridor.
"Let's get on with it," he