June Part 2

       Violet clung to Snape as he ran, her head banging against his shoulder. He rounded the last corner to the corridor leading to the entryway and Great Hall and then leapt back, pressing himself flat against the wall, holding Violet tightly against him.
       The Great Hall was filled with Death Eaters and dementors.
       Snape put Violet down but kept her close as he caught his breath. "How did they get in?" the child whispered fearfully. Snape clamped a hand over her mouth and glared at her to be quiet. Then he peeked cautiously around the corner. Violet moved with him, peeking out from behind his robe.
       The tables were gone and the Death Eaters and dementors had formed a huge ring around the citizens of Hogwarts. They'd placed the staff in a tight clump in the center of the room with the students in several circles around them. Wands were drawn but the staff could not risk firing through the students to attack the intruders.
       Violet noted with pride that the Slytherins had formed the outermost circle closest to the Death Eaters and dementors, no doubt because their iron wills made them least susceptible to the dementors' influence. Snape noticed it, too.
       Just don't do anything stupid, he prayed silently of his students.
       Two Death Eaters stood in the doorway to the Great Hall with their backs to the entryway, their legs spread wide to block as much of the entrance as possible. Directly opposite them on the far side of the hall, Montague Sr. stepped onto the foot-high platform that normally held the head table and turned to face the entrance to the Great Hall, watching for anyone who might approach the doorway as he addressed the gathering. Snape and Violet quickly drew back around the corner. Montague's voice carried easily across the terrified silence that gripped the room.
       "There doesn't have to be any unpleasantness, Dumbledore," he insisted. "That's not why we're here. Just hand him over and we'll go." After a moment, he added reproachfully, "You know you never should have given him sanctuary in the first place."
       Violet clutched Snape and shook her head at him.
       "Don't be stupid," he hissed of her fear that he would give himself up. "That would only get Dumbledore killed."
       Sure enough, Dumbledore's calm voice carried clearly across the hall and down the entryway. "Over my dead body," he promised the Death Eater.
       "Not initially," countered Montague Sr. "We'll start smaller. Shall we say, one student per minute until you produce your potions master?"
       Several students whimpered. Then a Death Eater called out, "Perhaps we should check Snape's office," and Violet recognized the voice of Mcnair's father whom she'd met at the flying exhibition in October. Bastard! she snarled to herself.
       Snape whirled on her and clutched her by the arms. "Listen to me," he hissed. "If they come, they'll come this way. If they start killing students, our people can't fight back properly surrounded in that room. We have to break them out of there now."
       Violet nodded. Snape took one last look around the corner and then crouched before the tiny Slytherin.
       "You have to help me," he told her plainly.
       Violet just nodded again; Snape found himself wondering what she'd do if he said, "And then I'd like you to walk through fire and eat glass for me." Never mind, he ordered himself. She was small and that was all that mattered right now. He pulled her close and whispered his plan in her ear. Then he released her and she immediately dropped to all fours and crawled around the corner.
       She made her way quickly and quietly across the entryway on her hands and knees, keeping as close to the floor as possible. Crouched low, she was too small to be seen coming up behind the doorway Death Eaters, even from Montague's elevated vantage point at the far end of the hall. As Snape peeked around the corner, wand at the ready, she crawled right up behind one of the two Death Eaters and then right under his robe between his feet. Snape saw her give a little wiggle of preparation; she sprang to her feet right in front of the Death Eater and Snape lunged into the corridor.
       Violet raised her fist high above her head and snapped her fingers once. Then she dropped to the floor, face down, sprawled on her belly. The Slytherins immediately followed her example and the rest of the students followed theirs as Snape's cry thundered across the entryway in rapid succession:
       "Avada Kedavra! Avada Kedavra!"
       The Death Eaters in the doorway dropped dead. The staff dispersed and fired at will as the students crawled and then raced out the doorway behind Violet.
       "To your houses!" Snape shouted as he fired over their heads, providing cover as they exited. The staff backed out of the chamber after the students, firing furiously, and Snape could not tell how many they had killed through all the smoke from their curses.
       He tore after the Slytherins and rounded the corner where he'd hidden with Violet. As he turned, he heard one killing curse escape the Great Hall. Something crashed to the floor. Several Gryffindors cried out and Snape stopped short. But after a moment he forced himself to run after his Slytherins again.
       He caught up and passed them, barking at Malfoy to hold the common room door for him as he rushed past to his quarters. He retrieved a small metal box from a cupboard before hurring back to Slytherin, where he found his students crowded together just inside the door. There was no sign of the Death Eaters yet.
       "Hold out your hands!" Snape ordered Malfoy. He opened the small box and poured half its contents of floo powder into Malfoy's palms. "Use it sparingly," he warned, "and for God's sake, don't go popping into a room without knowing it's safe first."
       As he fastened the box shut and tucked it inside his robe, Violet couldn't help whimpering. "Aren't. . . aren't you staying with us, sir?"
       "Shut up, Violet!" Malfoy snarled. But Snape, recalling the child's bravery just a few minutes earlier, put a hand on her shoulder.
       "How can they be driven out from behind a locked common room door?"
       He turned to Malfoy and the older students. "Hold this common room!" he commanded. Then he rushed away down the corridor and Malfoy slammed the door shut.
       "Go to your cells and retrieve everything you'll need and bring it to the common room," he ordered the Slytherins. "Then lock the doors from the corridor, only don't forget to cast an eavesdropping charm so we can hear if anybody tries to come in through the windows."
       "They can't do that, Malfoy," Pansy began, "The windows are enchanted. They'd be. . ."
       "Just do it!" Malfoy shouted, and the Slytherins hurried away to transform their common room into a fortress.


       Snape raced along the corridors to Gryffindor Tower, pausing at each intersection to check for intruders. When he arrived, he found the Weasley twins outside their house trying frantically to charm their portrait hole cover into something more protective than a painting.
       "Get in!" he shouted at the twins, who dove through the hole into their common room. "Get out!" he shouted at the fat lady, who fled to the next portrait. Then he charmed the painting into a stone door like the one that protected Slytherin House and hurried inside. The door slid shut behind him. "Your password will still protect you, but guard it anyway," he ordered the twins waiting just inside.
       He rushed to a clutch of Gryffindors who were surrounding Professor McGonagall, whom they'd laid on a sofa. Hermione was placing a pillow under her head. "One of their curses broke a torch holder off the wall," she explained to Snape. McGonagall was unconscious and bleeding heavily from a gash above her ear.
       Snape took out some floo powder and headed for the fireplace. Suddenly, he stopped. He looked quickly around the room, then demanded of Hermione,
       "Are you all here?"
       Hermione nodded.
       Snape tossed the powder into the fireplace and called Madam Pomfrey. The moment her head appeared, he shouted.
       "Where's Potter?!"
       The nurse looked confused. "He... he just left," she stammered. "He said he wasn't hungry anymore and was going to return to his common room." It was plain she couldn't understand why Snape was quizzing her from that very location.
       Snape grabbed Hermione by the arm and pulled her to the fireplace. "Explain!" he ordered. Then he told Madam Pomfrey, "Bring your floo powder!" and raced out of the common room.
       He ran in the direction of the hospital wing as the lightning and thunder crashed outside. He rounded a corner and there was Potter, walking calmly down the hallway by the library on his way back to Gryffindor. Snape breathed the tiniest sight of relief.
       The moment was short-lived; footsteps echoed behind him. He grabbed Harry and pulled him quickly into the library, clamping a hand over the teenager's mouth. The two of them watched silently from behind the door as a group of Death Eaters and dementors crept by, tensed for action. Harry's eyes widened in horror at the sight of them. So did Snape's; one of the people in the party was Montague, Jr. They could only see him in profile as he passed, but he was carrying something they both recognized.
       "Godric Gryffindor's sword!" Harry whispered.
       Snape nodded, once. "They've been in Dumbledore's office," he murmured grimly.
       They waited until several seconds after the Death Eater party rounded the next corner. There was no time, Snape realized, to deal with the questions in Potter's eyes. He pulled him to the library fireplace and handed him some floo powder. "Back to your common room!" he hissed. "The Gryffindors are there. They'll explain." Then he rushed out of the library.
       Harry stood with the powder in his hand, watching Snape hurry away. He hesitated. A bolt of lightning flashed in the nearest window followed by a crash of thunder that boomed in his ears. It seemed to be mocking his indecision. Harry shoved the powder in his pocket and took off after Snape.
       The potions master hurried towards Dumbledore's office as quickly as he could. There were only two possible explanations. Either Dumbledore was seriously hurt, or he'd lured the intruders into his office to facilitate some sort of escape. Snape passed a corridor on his left and stopped short when he spied movement out of the corner of his eye. The headmaster was halfway down the left corridor, ushering several teachers into the staff room.
       Thank God! Snape thought. He was just about to head down the corridor to join them when Mcnair and Nott juniors came around the corner ahead of him and stopped in their tracks at the sight of him.
       For a moment, the three could only stare at each other. Then the boys raised their wands. But they fell back a step as they did and Snape knew it was a defensive gesture. He palmed his own wand but kept it at his side.
       "Put them down," he ordered them firmly.
       Nott gulped. But Mcnair shouted, "Expelliarmus!" and Snape flew backwards, landing hard on the stone floor, slamming his head with a sickening crunch as his wand ricocheted off the stone wall of the corridor and skidded back across the floor to him.
       Why, he wondered miserably as he sat up, his head throbbing, must they always overdo it?
       He grabbed his wand and pointed it furiously at the two boys. "I taught you that!" he roared, and for a moment, his former students looked stricken. Then Mcnair pulled himself together, slapping Nott backhanded against the chest as he lowered his wand directly at Snape's heart.
       Snape stared at the child. "Don't," he whispered, his voice deadly serious. "I'm faster. I'm stronger."
       Mcnair opened his mouth, but when the words came, they came from behind Snape. "Petrificus totalus!" shouted Harry Potter, and the invisibly bound Death Eater children stiffened and tipped over.
       Snape was so shocked to see Harry that for a moment, he couldn't move. Then he scrambled to his feet and the Gryffindor, who knew better than to expect any gratitude, braced himself. But footsteps sounded behind them, running, accompanied by worried voices, and Harry was spared the potions master's wrath as Snape cast one longing look down the corridor to the staff room. They couldn't reach it without being seen. He grabbed Harry by the arm and took off in the direction from which Mcnair and Nott had come.
       Harry raced alongside Snape. They were heading for the Great Hall. When they reached it, Snape grabbed him and shoved him against the wall before peeking through the doors to be sure the room was empty. Then he hauled Harry inside, pulled the doors shut, and pushed Harry roughly against them, snarling, "Stand guard!" But as Snape hurried across the room to the side doors the champions had used to exit the hall last year, Harry's eyes were drawn to the horrors before him. Some kind of battle had taken place here.
       The floor was littered with corpses.
       Snape cast an eavesdropping charm on the side doors and then hurried to the fireplace to call the staff room with floo powder. Harry cast his own eavesdropping charm in the direction of the fireplace before opening the doors a crack to watch the entryway.
       "Severus!" came Dumbledore's voice through the floo system. He sounded very relieved to see Snape. The potions master got straight to business.
       "How many were there, Headmaster?"
       "Thirty," Dumbledore told him. "And thirty dementors. How many are dead?"
       Snape counted the bodies on the floor. "Ten," he reported. "But I don't think they all came into the Great Hall. I've run across. . ." He stopped. He glanced at Potter and then began again. "I've run across some of my students. I don't recall. . ."
       "No," Dumbledore confirmed. "There were no children in the Hall."
       Snape thought for a moment. Then he told Dumbledore, "They've split into small groups."
       "We'll have to do the same," Dumbledore murmured. He sounded very uncertain of that plan, and Harry couldn't help glancing at the fireplace as he whispered to himself,
       "I"d sell my soul for the marauder's map right now."
       Snape jumped. I must have made the eavesdropping charm two-way! Harry realized with chagrin. Snape glared at him from across the room and Harry quickly returned his attention to guarding the doors.
       "Is Flitwick with you?" asked Snape, turning back to Dumbledore. When the headmaster shook his head, Snape continued firmly, "Then I think it's time to consider. . ."
       "Severus!" The sterness in Dumbledore's drew Harry's gaze back to the fireplace. "Don't you dare!"
       "McGonagall is injured, too!" Snape argued. "Without her and Flitwick..."
       He broke off at the troubled look on Dumbledore's face. Glancing away, he spied Potter, stricken by the news about his head of house. The sight of the boy gave Snape an idea.
       "Headmaster," he began smoothly, jerking his head in Harry's direction, "you overestimate our adversaries. Surely if Potter could escape them after the Triwizard Tournament..."
       "Is Harry with you?"
       Dumbledore brightened considerably at this news. He called Harry to the fireplace, instructing him simply, "Stay with Professor Snape!" Then his disappeared, leaving Harry to face a potions master so angry and frustrated the boy had to grin.
       "He's terribly clever, isn't he?" he asked, nodding where Dumbledore's head had been.
       Snape grabbed him and pulled the boy nose to large hooked nose. "Mr. Potter," he snarled, "I'd sell my soul to have you in my house for FIVE MINUTES!"
       With that, he strode angrily to the nearest Death Eater and tore a handkerchief from the dead man's pocket. He sat down on the platform where Montague Sr. had stood and gingerly patted the wound on the back of his head. "Collect their wands," he commanded Harry. "The Ministry will want to see their last spells as evidence."
       Harry gazed briefly at the face of each Death Eater as he gathered their wands. He wondered why they hadn't bothered with robes and masks this time, and whether any of these dead men were the fathers of Slytherins. When he had all their wands, he walked over to Snape and stood quietly in front of him. Snape glared at him for several seconds. Finally he rose and bent nose to nose with Harry again to issue a seething warning:
       "Don't even think of disobeying me again."
       He strode angrily across the room. With a sigh, Harry trotted after him.


       Malfoy surveyed the damage with more than a little pride. In a matter of hours, the Slytherins had transformed their mammoth common room into a formidable fortress. The booby traps were particularly impressive. They were based on the portkey concept and looked like any collection of personal items one might find scattered untidily about a common room. But step on any of them or kick them out of the way and you'd experience injury or impairment that would horrify even the Weasley twins.
       Bletchley and Goyle were stationed at the high windows on opposite sides of the common room, watching the two rows of enchanted ground-level easement windows that led to the cells along the corridors. "You're wasting their time, Malfoy," Pansy insisted. "It's death to break in through an enchanted window. What's the point of breaking in if you're only going to get killed in the process?"
       Malfoy ignored her. The answer seemed pretty obvious to him, but he didn't want to cause a panic. He was more worried about what would happen if their enemies did get in. Under-aged wizards couldn't possibly defeat Death Eaters in open conflict. His real purpose for the booby traps was to buy them time if they had to flee. But where would they go?
       Violet snuggled into the high arm of a sofa, watching the older students finish their work. She waited for a proper lull and then called softly, "Malfoy?"
       "What?" he replied irritatedly, not bothering to look at her.
       "How did they get in?"
       Her question froze every Slytherin within earshot. Malfoy turned to Violet with a frown, but before he could respond, Millicent spoke up boldly.
       "Snape let them in," she announced.
       Her housemates turned to her in shock. With a scoff and a sneer, Malfoy quickly insisted,
       "That's ridiculous, Millicent. Snape's the one they're trying to kill!"
       "He didn't do it intentionally," Millicent admitted. "But they got in the same way we did last month. Only this time, Peter Pettigrew opened the hole in the wall."
       The Slytherins digested that possibility. Malfoy shook his head.
       "No," he insisted. "Snape would have told Dumbledore about that hole the second he was hired, or sooner. Or at least when he heard that Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban."
       "Then why does it still work, Malfoy?" Millicent took a defiant step closer to her classmate and several Slytherins followed suit, forming a circle around the cool-eyed blonde boy. Malfoy scowled.
       "All right," he admitted. "Maybe Snape didn't tell Dumbledore. But he certainly would have charmed it so it would only work for him!"
       He glanced around the ring of Slytherins, their doubtful faces making him angrier and angrier.
       "Snape would never endanger students just to have something on the marauders!" he shouted.
       The Slytherins just shook their heads and went quietly back to work.


       The thunder and lightning had stopped, allowing Snape and Harry to hear better when the wind wasn't gusting. Of course, it allowed the Death Eaters to hear better, too.
       They'd done something with the dementors; the hooded creatures weren't prowling the corridors with their human allies. Harry supposed they didn't want the Hogwarts personnel to feel them coming. He wondered how the Death Eaters had built up such a resistance to that sickening cold despair. He longed to ask Snape about it, but Snape didn't look good and Harry hesitated to burden him any more than necessary.
       The boy wondered if he was serving any purpose other than preventing Snape from surrendering. He fought each battle bravely, relying mostly on binding, stunning and disarming spells, providing cover for Snape. But during the last skirmish a flipendo spell had slammed Snape into a wall with such force that Harry wondered if he might have suffered internal injury. He was pale to the point of grayness and perspiring a great deal.
       Maybe it was the killing that was taking its toll. "If they'd stayed together," Snape had explained to Harry, "it might not be necessary. But in small groups. . ." His voice had trailed off as he'd search his mind one last time for any alternative. "They know this castle, too," he'd reminded Harry. "If we just bind them, there's no place we could hide them that their associates couldn't find, even if we could risk taking them there, and there's no charm they couldn't counteract upon finding them."
       Now they waited, tensed, for the footsteps that were approaching from the next corridor. They stood just inside the partially-opened door to the library, their heads stuck through the crack. When the footsteps were close enough, Snape whispered loudly,
       The footsteps stopped.
       "Do you think you can make it to the owlery?"
       "Yes, Professor," Harry responded bravely. If the situation hadn't been so desperate, he might have laughed at Snape's superb acting. He wondered if the wizard had ever seen any muggle cinema or telly.
       "Go as fast as you can," Snape hissed, "and send word to the Ministry that we need help!"
       They listened as the footsteps faded back in the direction they'd come. Then they hurried to the library fireplace and floo'd to Trelawney's classroom, the nearest fireplace to the owlery. They were safely in position to cut off the attackers when the Death Eaters came tearing up the corridor. If only they knew how many there would be!
       On Snape's nod they sprang into the corridor and Harry was horrified to see six Death Eaters racing towards them. The element of surprise let Snape kill two of them and Harry stun two more as they backed swiftly up the corridor and through the entrance to the owlery. The two Death Eaters charged in after them. Harry stunned the first one through the door but the second one managed to fire off an incendio charm that struck a row of straw nests above Snape's head before Snape killed him. Some of the flaming straw fell on top of him, burning his neck badly before Harry cast a charm to extinguish the flames. The young wizard then raced around the owlery, extinguishing all the fires started by the spell, grateful for something to do that spared him from having to watch or listen as Snape killed the three stunned wizards.


       Violet woke up from a nap and sat up on the sofa. She looked around in confusion for a moment before she remembered where she was and what was going on. Half her housemates were napping while the others kept watch.
       Violet climbed off the couch and walked over to her favorite booby trap, a Slytherin tie that seemed to be lying harmlessly on the floor. But the neck noose had been pulled as wide as possible and an invisible beam was projecting straight up from it, six feet into the air, as wide as the circumference of the noose. Pierce the beam with any part of your body, and it would immediately turn green and flame you with a burst of heat that would make your exposed body part burn and itch unbearably. Violet poked a finger back and forth at the beam, coming as close as she could without actually piercing it. Every time her finger came close, the beam flickered light green and pulsed with a wavering hum. Malfoy, sitting on the floor nearby, suddenly reached out and stung her backside with a solid swat. Violet whirled on him furiously.
       "Malfoy, you jerk! I got caned last night!"
       "Then mind your distance," the older Slytherin replied coldly, and Violet backed away from the trap. She flopped on the floor next to Malfoy and after a few moments, whispered,
       "I wish Snape would check on us."
       "He has to conserve floo powder, Violet," Malfoy reminded her. He glanced at the two seventh years who were keeping watch at the windows and rose to go relieve one of them. "Want to come watch with me?" he invited the tiny first year, who sprang eagerly to her feet.
       Just then, a loud knock on the common room door made them both jump.
       "Wake up!" shouted Malfoy. The Slytherins quickly roused each other and gathered together a safe distance from the door.
       Everyone recognized the voice that called from the corridor.
       "Montague?" whispered Malfoy cautiously.
       "Montague!" A delighted Violet sprang for the door. Malfoy had to grab her to keep her from running to it and flinging it open.
       "Let me in, Violet," urged Montague from the corridor. "Hurry!"
       Malfoy handed Violet off to Crabbe and spoke firmly in the direction of the closed door. "You're not coming in, Montague," he said simply.
       "Malfoy, there's something I have to show you!" Montague insisted.
       "You're not coming in," repeated Malfoy.
       There was silence for a few moments. Then Montague spoke again.
       "You're making a mistake, Malfoy," he said earnestly. "All of you. Have you even thought about that? Have you thought about what you're doing?"
       "Go away, Montague," Malfoy ordered. But Montague kept talking.
       "Do you remember the night McGonagall tortured us?" he asked. "Do you remember what she said about being true to your inner animal?"
       No one answered him.
       "Why are you siding with a man who hates Slytherins? Who hates what you truly are?"
       "Snape?" Violet asked Malfoy, horrified.
       "Dumbledore!" Malfoy hissed back. Montague heard him.
       "See!" he cried. "You know! You know I'm right!"
       "Dumbledore didn't kill my parents, Montague," Malfoy replied calmly.
       Montague was quiet for a moment. Then he called softly, "Are you sure?"
       He let Malfoy think about that for a few seconds before he added, "Have you really thought about why they had to die?" Malfoy made no response and Montague continued. "People don't understand," he insisted. "That's what I want to show you. They think our master does such horrible things, and they don't see that they are just steps on the path to glory."
       The Slytherins stood in silence. Then Malfoy said again,
       "Go away, Montague."
       "I could be killed out here!" Montague pleaded, his voice rising. "I came back for you! I care more about you than Dumbledore ever will!"
       "Very clever, Montague," Malfoy answered softly. "But we're all cunning around here."
       "I don't think so." The hiss in Montague's voice suddenly dripped with contempt. "It's too late, you know. You don't have a choice anymore. Most of you started down the master's path years ago, and you can't turn back!"
       On the other side of the door, Malfoy just smiled. He didn't even have to wait for the right words to come.
       "Snape did," he said quietly.
       The Slytherins breathed a collective sigh of relief. But no sooner had the air escaped their lungs then Montague let out a shriek so terrifying it shook their spines. Violet clutched Crabbe tightly around the waist.
       "SNAPE!" Montague screamed like a banshee. "You have no idea! YOU HAVE NO IDEA!"
       His breathing grew ragged as he panted furiously from behind the door. "You can't imagine what Snape has planned for you," he warned the Slytherins. "Why do you think he's so devoted to you? Ask yourselves that right now!"
       The Slytherins looked to Malfoy, who shook his head. "Back away," he whispered, turning from the door. "Don't listen to him anymore."
       "MALFOY!" Montague screamed. "Tell them, Malfoy! Tell them what you know about Snape!"
       The Slytherins watched as Malfoy turned back towards the door. "Go away, Montague," he commanded firmly.
       There was silence for a few moments. Then an awful crash resounded throughout the common room as something struck the outside of their door with tremendous force. After a moment, the crash came again, and the door actually shook. Several Slytherins cried out in terror. Violet tugged frantically at Crabbe's sleeve.
       "Isn't it death to break into an enchanted door, too?" she whimpered.
       The older boy couldn't answer her. Crash after crash shook the door to their fortress.
       "What is it?" Bletchley asked Malfoy desperately. The blonde fifth year could only shake his head. He had no idea what Montague could possibly be using that would allow him to break into Salazar Slytherin's house.
       With the next crash, a small hole appeared in the door and Millicent screamed. Malfoy whirled on her furiously. "Shut up!" he commanded. He waited for the pause between crashes and rushed up to the door, peeking out the hole. Then he hurried back to the Slytherins.
       "I could barely see," he told them. "I couldn't see Montague, or whether or not he's really alone, but he's using some kind of sword."
       The Slytherins watched helplessly as Montague forged hole after hole in their common room door. Malfoy's mind raced. Hold this common room! commanded Snape in his mind. Suddenly, he thought of a plan.
       He gathered several Slytherins close and whispered his idea. A dozen of them converged on the door, wands at the ready.
       It was excruciatingly hard to do, but they waited, allowing Montague to forge hole after hole. Malfoy prayed the holes wouldn't grow too close together and break the stone apart before there were enough.
       Violet counted them off. "Nine," she whispered between destructive blows from Montague's weapon. "Ten. Eleven. TWELVE!"
       The Slytherins rushed to the door and thrust the tips of their wands through the holes. "Serpensortia!" they screamed in unison, and a dozen huge deadly snakes flew out of their wands to attack Montague. He screamed, threw the sword at them with both hands in a desperate attempt to knock back as many as possible, and fled. The Slytherins heard his feet race away down the corridor and Malfoy peeked carefully out one of the holes just in time to see several snakes slithering away. He turned back to the Slytherins with a sigh of relief.
       "Cover the door with a blanket," he ordered a couple of 4th years. "We don't want any Death Eaters peeking in and taking pot shots."
       "What are we going to do about the snakes we just set loose in the castle?" Violet wondered nervously.
       Malfoy ignored her. Least of our worries, he thought.
       He was suddenly exhausted beyond words. More than anything, he wanted a nap. But he knew better than to go to sleep now and leave the Slytherins alone with their thoughts. Montague, you bastard, he fumed. The last thing we need right now is a dark night of the soul. But they were Slytherins; if they were going to have one, they'd have it together. He sat down on the nearest sofa and the others crowded near, reminding him of Christmas Eve. That seemed like a million years ago.
       "Montague's cracked," he insisted. "He doesn't know what he's talking about."
       "Do you?" asked Goyle quietly. "Do you know what he's talking about?"
       Malfoy glared at his friend. "If you mean Snape, no, I don't." The Slytherins stared; Malfoy felt his face flush. "Look," he added earnestly, "I've heard rumors, but who hasn't? I've never heard anything straight from my dad. Or yours!" he added vehemently to Goyle. "Or yours..." He pointed at Crabbe. "...or from Snape."
       "What kind of rumors?" whispered Violet.
       Malfoy shrugged. "Stuff about when they were at school," he admitted. "Stuff they did. . . to teach people a little respect for Slytherin."
       "What kind of stuff?" Violet whispered again, making Malfoy wearier than ever.
       "I don't know!" he snapped. "It doesn't matter!" He looked at the rest of the Slytherins. "It doesn't matter!" he insisted. "What's happening right now matters."
       "Forget Snape."
       All eyes turned to Millicent, who'd made this startling declaration. "It's Dumbledore that Montague's right about."
       Several students nodded.
       "He hates Slytherins," Millicent went on. "He always has and he always will. Sometimes I feel like we should pick up our whole house and leave. Go start our own school."
       Bletchley suddenly pointed at Violet. "Why is she here?" he cried. His question rang out like an accusation. "That's Dumbledore's doing. What good has it done her to learn that her father is the world's pre-eminent terrorist? To say nothing of nights like this!" He shook his head. "She'd have done better to spend her whole childhood in that orphanage."
       "She's here," Malfoy drawled, "because she has magical ability. Everybody with magical ability gets a letter from some school so they can learn to manage it."
       "No, they don't." Bletchley put a defiant foot on top of the nearest coffee table. "Baddock told me the world is full of people with magical ability who never get letters. They spend their whole lives thinking they're muggles and calling their abilities by other names, and they manage just fine. She's here because Dumbledore has his own purpose for her. And that's probably true for all of us."
       Malfoy climbed angrily to his feet. "Look," he reminded his housemates, "I'm no fan of the headmaster. Do you want to hear my strongest memory of Dumbledore?"
       "Yes!" cried Violet, apparently not recognizing a rhetorical question when she heard one. Malfoy smiled to himself at her passion for Slytherin mythology.
       "It was the end of our first year," he reminded Crabbe and Goyle, "and we'd won the house cup. I'll never forget the dismissive tone in his voice when he said, 'Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin.'"
       "And then he went and gave it to Gryffindor!" Crabbe added.
       "What?!" shrieked Violet. Malfoy nodded at her.
       "For saving the philosopher's stone," he explained.
       "That's nice," Violet sneered. "What do we get for saving Severus Snape?"
       "Well, Dumbledore doesn't know about that, does he?" Malfoy reminded her. Violet scowled doubtfully but said nothing. Malfoy returned his attention to the others.
       "The point is," he concluded, "I don't trust any adult at Hogwarts except Snape."
       "But what if Montague's right?" whispered Goyle. "What if the way Snape takes care of us is just an act, setting us up for something?" He forged ahead despite Malfoy's glare. "Snape's an adult at Hogwarts," he pointed out. "How do you know you can trust him?"
       "Because he hates it here," Malfoy cried, "and he only stays because of us!"
       "Maybe he stays because it's safe here," suggested Millicent quietly.
       "Oh, right!" Malfoy's drawl practically dripped acid. "This place has been a real haven for Snape!" He whirled on Violet, hands on his hips. "Would you like to hear all the stuff that happened to Snape during our first year here? Or should I start with last year and work backwards?"
       He dropped back onto the sofa, clearly disgusted. "Snape would be safer outside on his own. He's smart, and he's powerful, and he's gaining on Voldemort fast. And he'd gain faster if he weren't stuck here babysitting us." He took a deep breath. "And Snape. . . " He stopped, grimacing, then forced himself to say it. "Snape stands with Dumbledore. So I'm staying, and I'm fighting with Dumbledore. But yeah..."
       He sat up suddenly. "If Snape dies tonight, then yes, bugger Dumbledore, I'm gone first thing in the morning. I don't know where I'd go, but I'd go."
       He leaned back again and waited for the fallout. To his surprise, Violet spoke first and said something that caught him completely unprepared.
       "What about Gryffindor?" she asked. "What about Harry Potter?"
       Malfoy didn't know what to say. The Slytherins thought it over. Then they began to nod.
       "What about Granger?" Millicent asked.
       "And Fred and George," added Crabbe.
       "And Lavender." That was Bletchey.
       "All the Gryffindors," Millicent nodded. "They crossed Dumbledore for us."
       The Slytherins thought it over. Then, to Malfoy's relief, they moved dutifully about the common room, half of them taking up positions to stand guard and keep watch while the others settled down to rest before their shifts.


       Neville's toad. Hermione's teeth. Veritaserum.
       Neville's toad. Hermione's teeth. Veritaserum
       Harry repeated the damning litany over and over in his head, to keep himself from feeling too much pity for the brave warrior beside him. He would not cry in front of Severus Snape, and certainly not for Severus Snape.
       They sat on the floor of a classroom not far from the hospital wing. The wind was dying down as the sun rose and the increasing light sharpened Harry's sense of exhaustion. He was tearing into strips one of two slings he'd produced with ferula charms so he could splint Snape's arm before putting the second sling in place.
       Neville's toad. Hermione's teeth. Veritaserum.
       The break was a compound fracture halfway between Snape's wrist and elbow. Harry could see the jagged end of bone trying to break through Snape's skin. The only good thing about it was that it wasn't his wand arm. Harry tried not to fumble too much as he braced the injury with the wands they'd collected from dead Death Eaters. Snape's breathing was ragged with pain.
       Neville's toad. Hermione's teeth. Veritaserum.
       "Oral potions quiz," added Snape.
       Harry jumped. Apparently, he'd muttered the last repetition out loud. He froze for a moment and then returned to his bandaging, his eyes glued to his work. He would not look at Snape's face, not even to see a brave little smile on those pale gray lips. He preferred to be impudent at a time like this.
       "We should go to Gryffindor," he suggested boldly, daring to tell Snape what to do. "Madam Pomfrey could take a look at you." He finished the splint and put the sling in place. "Let the others fight for a while," he suggested as he dropped into a sitting position next to Snape, his back against the wall, his head turned firmly away from the potions master.
       Snape drew a shuddery deep breath that sounded like a series of gasps. "We have to conserve floo powder," he whispered, surprising Harry by responding to his suggestion instead of merely berating him. They sat quietly for a while and Harry sneaked a quick peek at his teacher. Snape's hair was stringy and matted with the blood from his head wound, and his neck was an angry scarlet color where the flaming straw had burned him. But the rest of his exposed skin was deathly pale and Harry wondered again if there might be something wrong with Snape internally. The suggestion to seek medical attention must have been extremely tempting.
       Snape noticed his glance and turned to look at Harry, who turned resolutely away. Neville's toad. Hermione's teeth. Veritaserum.
       "Potter," said Snape softly. He waited for Harry to turn and look at him. When he did, Snape told the boy,
       "There are no others."
       Harry frowned.
       "There are only four warriors among the staff," Snape explained. "McGonagall and Flitwick are out of commission, and Dumbledore has a responsibility to protect his staff as well as his students."
       Harry looked away.
       "Well, what did you imagine? That Trelawney and Sprout were a force to be reckoned with?"
       Harry made no response and Snape shook his head.
       "Don't misunderstand me, Potter. People have different gifts, and fighting is a very small part of wizarding. Why should everyone be good at it?"
       Harry remained silent. Snape frowned at the boy.
       "Are all Weasleys created equal?" he asked sharply. "Would you expect young Ginny to be capable in a few months of what you've accomplished tonight?" He waited a few moments, then added meaningfully, "Or Ron?"
       At that, Harry turned to him. Eventually, he gave the teacher the smallest nod of understanding.
       They sat a while longer, staring out the door to the corridor. Eventually, a cluster of snakes slithered by. The two wizards turned to each other in wonder.
       "Do you suppose. . ." Harry began.
       "Of course," Snape nodded, smiling just a bit. His Slytherins were all right. For now.
       "I'm going to the hospital wing," he announced, climbing painfully to his feet. Turning to Harry, he added firmly, "You're not coming. The chances are too good that the Death Eaters are in force there, and it would be foolish to attack a room full of people by coming through the door at them."
       Harry nodded. He'd learned a lot about close quarter combat strategy that night.
       "If they are in the infirmary," Snape added, "I'll try to retreat without attracting notice. But be ready, just in case I do have to lead them back here."
       He crept quietly to the door, listened for movement in the corridor, and then slipped silently from the room.
       When he was gone, Harry thought to himself, Go ahead. It's your only chance. So he released a few of the stinging, held-back tears of pity that had been tormenting him. Poor Snape. Beaten, bloodied, broken... and nothing to do but carry on. Don't let anything else happen to him, the boy prayed silently. Please, just let us get through this without anything else bad happening to him.
       The few moments of release made Harry feel much better. He wiped his face clean, rejuvenated, and reached for his wand to ready himself for whatever might happen next. As he fumbled in his pocket, his heart skipped a beat.
       It was gone. His wand was gone.
       Harry frisked himself frantically, then began to crawl around the floor, feeling about the hard surface desperately. Where could it be? How could it not be here? He hunted as though his life depended on it, his arms flailing wildly in front of him as he searched every inch of the stone floor. Then it hit him.
       The splint.
       He must have mixed his wand in with the others when he splinted Snape's arm.
       Without thinking, Harry shouted, "Professor Sn. . ."
       He cut himself off with a fresh jolt of terror. How could he have shouted like that? What had he been thinking? What if. . .?
       The thought was too terrifying to complete. He'd been wandless in the presence of enemies before. He never wanted to go through that again. But even as his heart raced, he heard the comforting sound of a single pair of feet approaching. He sighed with relief.
       Then he realized the feet were coming from the wrong direction.
       He had just enough time to scramble to the nearest wall and curl up against it, trying to become invisible, before the Death Eater walked in.
       "Hello, Potter," said a friendly voice just inside the door.
       It was Montague.
       From his crouched position, Harry stared in horror, unable to take his eyes off the departed Slytherin's face. He no longer carried Godric Gryffindor's sword, but that wasn't what shocked Harry.
       Montague was missing an eye.
       The former quidditch captain smiled at him, even as he raised his wand. Harry's mind raced. Could he do it? Could Montague cast the AK curse? If not, it might be worth lunging at him to try and tackle him. He was always one of Snape's strongest, brightest students, and he'd been with Voldemort and the Death Eaters for a little over two months. Could they have taught him to do it in that little time?
       "I'd bring you in alive, Potter," said Montague casually, unwittingly answering Harry's question, "but you wear glasses. I'd rather have one of Malfoy's eyes."
       As the boy in the doorway rolled up his sleeves, Harry tensed himself to spring. Dodging just before Montague cast was his only hope.
       "Avada. . ."
       "Kedavra!" shouted a much stronger voice from the corridor.
       There was a blast of green light, a rush of wind, and the thud of a body falling to the floor. When the smoke cleared, Harry saw Severus Snape framed in the doorway, a Slytherin dead at his feet.

The Smallest Slytherin