"Hurry up, Violet," Millicent teased, giving the first year in front of her a little shove as the Slytherins ambled into the Great Hall for dinner. All snakes within earshot chuckled at the inside joke.
       Violet, lost in thought, had indeed been walking slower than usual. Now, in response to Millicent's jest, she added the final quidditch match to the wealth of happy memories she'd been replaying in her mind on this balmy second to the last evening in June.
       It had been the best month of her life, Violet thought as she sat down at the Slytherin table, and judging from the happy faces around her, others felt the same way. Summer was upon them, with its warm, sunny days and fragrant, peaceful nights. Exams were over and the students were looking forward to planning their summer activities during the last day of classes and then devouring the evening's wonderful feast and finally discovering who would win the fiercely-contested house cup, a race way too close to call. Violet had also overheard several whispered conversations about plans for inter-house mischief which suggested July and August would be lively indeed.
       But the best thing about June was that Hogwarts and the Daily Prophet had both been Voldemort-free since the night of Snape's fateful trip to Hogsmeade. As a result, even the teachers were light-hearted, chatting and laughing happily at the head table. . . with one glowering exception.
       "Have some wine, Severus," Dumbledore urged as the claret flowed freely among the rest of the staff. But the potions master refused.
       Snape's face was twisted into the perpetual frown he'd worn ever since Dumbledore had posted Rachel Dockman's glowing account of his heroism on the corridor wall outside the Great Hall. It didn't help that the eyes of his own bloody Slytherins adored him everywhere he went, subjecting him to merciless snickers from the other teachers. The happier the rest of Hogwarts became, the crabbier Snape got, Violet thought, watching him from her seat as she waited for her meal to appear. He'll probably make us spend our last potions class developing a plan to train as marathon runners all summer, she grimaced to herself.
       Violet pushed that unhappy thought away and let her mind wander as she surveyed the joyous students seated throughout the hall. Ron, Harry, and several of the Gryffindors were using their wands to sweep napkins back and forth across their table as they waited for the meal to materialize. Violet's stomach rumbled. Without thinking, she put the handle of her wand in her mouth and chewed on it while she watched the Gryffindors. Millicent gave her a sharp nudge and nodded toward the head table; Snape was glowering at Violet. The girl quickly jerked the wand out of her mouth and began on the roast beef that appeared before her. She chewed absently, eventually turning back to watch the Gryffindors sweep their napkins around their plates and goblets. She couldn't help smilng as she remembered...

       Dumbledore's punishment for Harry's insubordination in defense of Slytherin was to sentence him and his quidditch teammates to sweep the entire dungeon the first Saturday in June. The irony of the task was not lost on the Gryffindors who were extremely frustrated by how long it was taking; they'd made other, very important plans for their Saturday. They were not amused when the Slytherin team showed up with their hands behind their backs and smiles on their faces.
       "Come to lend a hand?" Fred drawled. To his surprise, the Slytherins nodded, pulling out the racing brooms they'd been hiding.
       "Forget it," Harry sighed. "We already tried that. You can't ride a broom vertically."
       Several attempts had left the Gryffindors bruised and bloodied when the brooms they'd been riding had flipped horizontal and flung them to the stone floor.
       The Slytherins just smiled. Violet pushed the Gryffindors out of the way as Bletchley took a position in the middle of the corridor alongside Malfoy, who'd rejoined the team after Montague's departure. They stood side by side, two arm lengths apart, Malfoy on the right, Bletchley on the left. Malfoy held his racing broom vertically in front of him with his right hand. Bletchely held his with his left hand.
       Stretching their free arms towards each other, they took hold of their free hands. Then Malfoy counted out loud, "One, two, three!" and they hopped onto their brooms at the same moment.
       The brooms bucked but the boys held tight to each other's hands and used their outer legs to hold the brooms firmly in a vertical position. They kicked off hard with their inside legs and then held on tight as the brooms sped off furiously down the corridor, sweeping frantically.
       "YEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAAA!" yelled the two Slytherins as they streaked along, reining in with a mighty effort the brooms that lunged and bucked as they flew. In a matter of seconds they had swept fifty feet of corridor. Upon reaching a corner, they released each other's hands, swiveled into flying position, and zoomed back to the others.
       "Brilliant!" shouted Fred.
       The quidditch players paired off and mounted up. In a mere ten minutes, they had swept the entire dungeon.
       When they'd finished, they gathered near the door to the Slytherin common room and shook hands. "Thanks awfully," said George with a smirk.
       "Now we can spend the day coaching Ravenclaw after all!" added Fred.
       The final match between Slytherin and the blue team would determine whether snakes or lions would win the quidditch cup that year. As the green team watched open-mouthed, the Gryffindors shouldered their brooms and took off happily down the corridor, eventually rounding a corner and disappearing from sight. Violet folded her arms indignantly across her chest.
       "Well, that was pretty damn Slytherin of them!" she observed.
       "Wannabes," Bletchley agreed.
       The team returned to their common room and used half a dozen quaffles to take their frustrations out on Malfoy, who had replaced Bletchley as keeper after Bletchley had usurped Montague's chaser spot. Malfoy was stepping up magnificently in his new position. While he had never mastered the long-distance speed necessary for a good chaser or seeker, he was stupendously fleet-of-broom at the short sprints it took to zoom between the goals. Better still, he was fearless of the punishing blows from the quaffle, sparing no body part in his efforts to block all shots. Each night after practice, he returned to the common room and let the Slytherins blast him with red orbs as he dodged tirelessly back and forth, batting the quaffles away from the stone pillars.
       He would have his work cut out for him against Ravenclaw, the team with the best chasers in the school. They were furious that the Slytherin fifth years had outperformed them overall on the OWLs and were determined to win the final match by the twenty points necessary to hand Gryffindor the quidditch cup. "Hurry up and catch that snitch, Violet," Bletchley had instructed her sternly at every practice.
       On the day of the final match, Professor Flitwick brazenly took a seat next to Snape in the stands, compelling Dumbledore to grab the spot on the other side of the Slytherin housemaster.
       The Gryffindor quidditch team members crowded around Hermione, Ron and Harry. "This is going to be brilliant!" crowed Fred happily.
       In the locker room, Bletchley had only three words for his team.
       "Hurry up, Violet!"
       As the teams rose into the air, Violet thought she had never heard the crowds scream more loudly. She tried to convince herself it was mere joyous exuberance until she deciphered the specific chant rising heartily from the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws.
       "Blood makes the grass grow! Blood makes the grass grow!"
       Oh dear God, Violet thought. Cho smirked at her and streaked off to join her teammates as the pummeling of Malfoy commenced.
       Pow! Smack! Bang! The Ravenclaw chasers were merciless, firing shot after brutal shot at Malfoy as they racked up the goals. Bletchley, by far the fastest Slytherin, did his best to retrieve and retain, but Slytherin managed only one goal attempt for every 10 of Ravenclaw's. Only Malfoy's Herculean efforts at keeper prevented the game from becoming a rout. The crowd gasped and "ooh"ed and flinched happily with every vicious smack of the quaffle against Malfoy's flesh.
       Cho didn't even bother to seek the snitch. Harry Potter had obviously helped her perfect a feint; she spent most of the match diving below the quaffle and spinning around to kick it nimbly to her chasers. It seemed like no time at all before Ravenclaw had racked up a 140 point lead. The crowd screamed with excitement.
       "Hurry up, Violet!" yelled Bletchley.
       The next shot from Ravenclaw slammed Malfoy's nose with a sickening crunch so loud it carried all the way to the stands. "Ohmygosh!" cried Hermione as blood spurted out of Malfoy's nose in a foot-long stream.
       Snape was livid. "Your students can choke on their own bile before I brew another convalescious potion for them!" he hissed to Flitwick.
       "Steady, Severus," soothed Dumbledire, laying a restraining hand on Snape's arm.
       "Hurry up, Violet!" screamed her teammates in unison.
       Violet streaked frantically around the stadium, trying not to hear the thud of the quaffle against Malfoy's battered body. Ravenclaw's lead rose to 160 points. One more goal would give Gryffindor the cup even if Slytherin did catch the tiny golden orb.
       Find the snitch, though Violet desperately. Find the snitch! Find the snitch! Son of a bitch, find the snitch!
       "Oh, no!" She clamped her hand over her mouth. "Did I say those last words out loud?"
       The whistle blew and Violet looked up to find Madam Hooch and the Slytherin team glaring at her. Sure enough, Madame Hooch was calling a profanity foul on her.
       Ravenclaw would get a penalty shot.
       Violet flew over to Bletchley as Malfoy took a deep breath and prepared to defend the goals. "Kill me now," she suggested.
       "We're thinking draw and quarter in the common room," Bletchley replied on behalf of the team. "I get your head."
       They watched in silence as the Ravenclaw chaser fired off his shot. Malfoy sprinted up to deflect it and took the quaffle right in the forehead with a mighty thwack.
       "Oh!" gasped every player and spectator in the stadium.
       The Slytherins watched in horror as Malfoy and his broom began to sink towards the ground in large swooping motions, not unlike the graceful settling of a feather. When he was close enough to the earth, Malfoy slipped from his broom and flopped on his back, his head cocked to one side, his eyes closed.
       "Time!" screamed Bletchley, and as Madam Hooch signaled the time out, the Slytherins raced down to their keeper. They surrounded his prone body and peered down at him from their huddle.
       "All right, Malfoy?" whispered Bletchley. The Slytherins held their breath.
       Malfoy opened one eye and croaked, "I think they painted a bludger red."
       The Slytherins sighed with relief. "Let's do that next year!" Violet cried, giggling happily at Malfoy's joke. The sound infuriated the blonde fifth year who suddenly grabbed her by the throat.
       "Violet!" he shrieked so loudly that everyone in the stands heard him plainly. "I you don't catch that snitch in the next sixty seconds, you're never going to see another year!"
       In the stands, Dumbledore and Flitwich turned to Snape, agahst.
       "Mentoring," the Slytherin housemaster murmured, never taking his eyes off the field.
       Madam Hooch blew her whistle to signal the end of the time out and the Slytherins rose into the air.
       Bletchley grabbed the quaffle and drove furiously for the goal, scoring quickly. Ravenclaw retrieved the red ball and streaked to the other end of the field where Malfoy lunged sideways to deflect their shot. He took the quaffle in the stomach so hard another spurt of blood shot out of his nose. He tossed the quaffle to Bletchely and suddenly Cho decided that catching the snitch might not be a bad idea after all. Violet spotted it near the ground and the two girls gave chase.
       "Hurry up, Violet!" screamed every Slytherin in the stands.
       Violet reached the snitch first and, using her small size to her advantage, she flew around and around it in a tight circle as Cho reached desperately for it.
       "I don't think so, stag hag," Violet hissed at the Ravenclaw, beating Cho back with her elbow. As soon as Bletchley scored again, she grabbed the snitch, giving Slytherin a 270 to 260 victory.
       She turned triumphantly to Cho only to find the Ravenclaw seeker laughing so hard at the petulant reference to coach Harry Potter's patronus that she could barely stay on her broom.
       Cho wasn't the only one laughing. As the Slytherins crowded onto the field, the students in the stands laughed and clapped enthusiastically for the victory the green team had surely earned.
       "Worth it," the Gryffindor quidditch team beamed as Malfoy flew to the ground and practically fell off his broom.
       "WORTH IT!" several Ravenclaw fans shouted in agreement.
       "Wasn't that wonderful?" Dumbledore asked Snape, beaming.
       Snape curled his lip at the headmaster. "I can feel their characters growing from here," he snarled in reply. Then he hurried down to the field to lift Violet into the air so she could help the team carry a black-eyed, bloody-nosed Malfoy triumphantly around the field...

       A crack of thunder startled Violet from her reverie and she gazed up at the enchanted ceiling, delighted. "Perfect!" she cried, watching the sky darken as one of those violent, all-night summer storms approached. How she loved listening to the wind howl outside Slytherin House as she snuggled beneath her covers at night.
       Laughter from her housemates brought her back to earth and she lowered her gaze to discover that, while she had been wool-gathering, Crabbe and Goyle had eaten her custard.
       As the Slytherins chuckled, Violet checked the head table to be sure Snape's attention was focused elsewhere, then quickly fired a spellwad at Crabbe.
       "Ow!" cried the startled fifth year, slapping his neck as if bitten by a bug. Snape glanced their way and Crabbe immediately pretended to be scratching an itch. The Slytherins pasted innocent expressions on their faces. When Snape had returned to a private conversation with Flitwick, Malfoy chided Violet.
       "What do you think you're doing, little snake?"
       With a wink, he checked the head table, then fired a spellwad at Cho Chang that stung her squarely on the ear. It would have been a perfect shot had not the Weasley twins and Harry Potter seen him do it. Malfoy, Bletchley and Violet took return fire as Cho searched the room for her attacker. Spying the Gryffindor shots, she assumed Harry Potter had been flirting with her and immediately fired off a shot of her own. It hit Hermione on the cheek, making Professor McGonagall snort a generous sip of wine out her nose.
       The teachers had seen every shot, of course. Snape fumed while the others, feeling cheerfully indulgent on such a jolly evening, struggled to conceal their amusement. "They're so cute when they think they're getting away with something!" suggested Professor Sprout, and only the fact that his own student had started it prevented Snape from telling the head of Hufflepuff precisely what he thought of that observation.
       Gryffindor took fire from both Ravenclaw and Slytherin until Malfoy grew bored and pulled Crabbe and Goyle close to whisper a new strategy. Fred spotted the consultation and nudged George; the two of them watched in delight as the three Slytherins fired a carefully orchestrated triple volly into the nose of Stewart Ackerly. They couldn't resist giving the Slytherins a brief round of applause before yielding to the anxious shushing of their housemates.
       The Hufflepuffs tried to stay out of it until the ardent return fire from Ackerly's Ravenclaw buddies caught them in the crossfire. "Studybugs one, teddybears nothing," whispered Minerva.
       "Is that so?" countered an indignant Sprout as Finch-Fletchley and MacMillan shot Terry Boot right between the eyes. Except for Snape, the staff were blushing with suppressed mirth.
       At that moment, Bletchley fired a shot at Ron Weasley that bounced off his wand and straight into the eyeball of Harry Potter. The Gryffindor tore off his glasses and clamped a hand over his eye in agony as several housemates around him gasped
       "Bugger!" hissed Malfoy with an unconscious flinch. "Why couldn't it have hit his glasses?"
       At the head table, the staff, who had of course seen the accident, sobered immediately. Snape rose furiously to his feet.
       All firing ceased. Madam Pomfrey hurried over to Harry Potter and led him away to the hospital wing while the rest of the Great Hall watched in trepidation as Snape stormed down from the head table. He strode quickly over to the Slytherins, grabbed Violet by the collar and yanked her from the bench.
       The little Slytherin squeaked in protest. She knew perfectly well she had started it but hoped to glean some mercy from the fact that everyone else had been doing it, too. "I suppose it would be useless to point out. . ."
       "Yes it would!" her housemaster snapped.
       He threw a withering glare at the head table and marched Violet out of the room. The rest of the teachers, thoroughly chagrined by where their indulgence had led, could have done without the disdain of their youngest colleague, and they frowned at his back as he hauled Violet away. Then Dumbledore, watching him go, murmured,
       "That young man certainly is an asset."
       His staff roared.
       As the Slytherins watched Snape haul Violet away, Bletchley breathed a sigh of relief. Millicent scolded him with mock sternness.
       "Aren't you ashamed?"
       But Bletchley just grinned and raised a glass. "To Violet's backside," he toasted. "Better hers than mine."
       "Better hers than mine!" echoed an enthusiastic Slytherin chorus as the green and silver students hoisted their goblets.
       Beyond the Great Hall, Snape hauled Violet so rapidly down the corridors that her toes barely skimmed the stone floor as she scurried to keep up with him. In retrospect, she decided, the spellwad fight had probably been a bad idea. Snape had been jumpy and out of sorts all day. He kept looking out windows and commanding silence from anyone nearby no matter where he was. Finally, the older Slytherins had paid a visit to Gryffindor Tower for a scar check. But Harry Potter had assured them he was feeling just fine, so they'd shrugged off Snape's foul mood and gotten on with their own joy. If he wanted to miss out on the happiest day of the year, that was his business. Now, as Snape hustled her through the dungeon, Violet found herself wishing she'd been a little less cavalier... or a little more discreet.
       When they reached Snape's office, he yanked Violet completely off her feet, rushed her through the door, dropped her quickly next to his desk, and then hurried over to his window to look out over the grounds. His actions surprised the little Slytherin. This isn't the protocol, she thought indignantly.
       Normally, Snape would open his door and then follow behind as the guilty student marched straight to his desk. The wrongdoer would then turn to face him and Snape would deliver some bitingly insightful remark that proved just how foolish the Slytherin's behavior had been. The young snake would ponder that for a few moments while Snape picked up his cane and commanded simply, "Turn," and then "Bend."
       But now he left Violet standing there, anxiously waiting as he stared outside, surveying the surrounding area. She watched him for a few moments before turning her attention to the rest of the office. The candles were lit; they always were in the dungeon but they were particularly necessary tonight because of the overcast skies. Violet took in Snape's books, Snape's furniture, Snape's teaching materials. He kept his office intentionally creepy and like all the Slytherins, she loved it here. Except for their common room, this stone chamber, which inspired dread among the rest of the student body, was their favorite spot in all of Hogwarts.
       She thought about the other Slytherins, happily finishing their meal in the Great Hall. Soon they would depart and come down to the dungeon, and she wouldn't put it past them to lurk nearby and wait for the moment she would emerge from Snape's office, freshly disgraced and ripe for the taunting.
       She took hold of the green and silver tie that hung around her neck, running the silk between her fingers. Then she held her hands out in front of her with the fingers splayed and studied her grubby fingernails. Finally she looked below the spaces between her fingers to her stubby little legs below. I haven't grown an inch, she thought, and without realizing it, she murmured aloud, "I'm gonna be the smallest Slytherin forever."
       Snape jumped.
       Well, pardon me! Violet though as she turned away from his angry glare. If this is inconvenient for you, I'd be happy to leave. She knew better than to say such a thing out loud and instead, she lowered her gaze humbly to the floor in front of her and said as deferentially as possible, "Perhaps this isn't the best time for you, sir."
       Snape hurried over from the window, snatched up his cane and grabbed a startled Violet by the back of her collar. He hoisted her over his desk and delivered all six strokes in rapid order.
       Ow, ow, OW, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? shouted Violet in her head. She was tempted to bellow in protest at this onslaught which hurt far more than Snape's usual, reasonably-paced delivery. But he was already finished with her and had left her bent over his desk to return to his view of the grounds.
       Violet climbed off the desk and folded her arms indignantly across her chest. Again with the bloody window? she fumed. It was all she could do not to tap her foot.
       She waited for Snape to ask her if she had anything to say, which usually came next. Since Snape was quite fair with his Slytherins, punishing them only when they deserved it, this was generally the point at which a student would apologize for his or her misconduct. But if one had something else to say, one could say it, so long as one was polite, and Violet seriously considered telling him what she thought of his haste.
       But Snape just stared out the window.
       Fine, Violet thought. Don't do the thing properly, see if I care. She waited impatiently for him to dismiss her so she could get the heck out of there before the Slytherins got back. But Snape didn't make a sound. Violet waited some more and was just about to clear her throat when he finally turned to look at her. She looked back expectantly, waiting to hear the usual dismissal. But Snape didn't say,
       "You may go."
       Instead, he said,
       "Stay here."
       Suddenly, Violet was afraid.
       Snape put the cane down, took out his wand, and extinguished the candles with a discreet wave, plunging the office into darkness. In the gloomy light from outside, Violet saw him wave the wand again to change the perspective of the window from a tower view to the actual ground-level perspective of the high dungeon windows. He stared intently across the lawn and Violet was so frightened she wanted to cry. Instead, she walked to Snape's left side and clutched his free hand with both of hers.
       "Be still," he whispered.
       They waited and watched. Outside, the air was heavy with the approaching storm. Nothing moved. Not a breath stirred; the birds were silent.
       A minute passed, and then another. As she stood quietly beside Snape, staring out the window at the still, silent grounds, Violet wondered why she didn't hear noise from inside the castle carrying through the corridors. Where was the chaotic chorus of voices from the Great Hall? Where was the noisy chatter of Slytherins returning to their common room? Surely some sound should reverberate through the halls to break through this lasting silence.
       A dementor floated by the window and Violet nearly screamed.
       Snape clamped a hand over her mouth. Then he snatched up the child and tore out of his office, racing as fast as he could back to the Great Hall.

The Smallest Slytherin