Snape drove the Slytherins until they
dropped and they worshipped him for it, because exhaustion was the only
thing that allowed them to sleep at night. Upon entering their common
room each day, he kept them standing at attention for over an hour as he
drilled them on their studies, his wand floating perilously above them as
he strolled up and down the rows. An incorrect response brought a sharp
rap on the head.
After that, they ran. Snape made them
race around and around the periphery of their mammoth common room until
they dropped. Quitting was not permitted. They were required
to run until they collapsed, at which point Snape would grab the exhausted
Slytherin by the collar and drop him or her on a sofa out of the way.
sweat than tears, thought Malfoy as he pounded his feet along the hard
To the rest of the castle, they were
ghosts. They sat pale and still in class, never speaking until spoken
to. Their answers to questions from professors were accurate but
painfully brief while their responses to other students were
monosyllabic. They were rumpled and generally untidy and Professor
McGonagall wondered if they were sleeping in their clothes.
They skipped Gryffindor's quidditch
match against Ravenclaw. They were never in the Great Hall at mealtimes
or in any other house's common room at night. Neither was Snape, who
appeared in public only to teach potions classes that were rigorous,
demanding, and completely devoid of intimidation. Even Neville Longbottom
found his unwillingness to harass the Gryffindors offensive.
"Are you learning?" Professor
McGonagall asked them when they voiced their indignation in their common
room one night.
"Yes," Hermione admitted.
"And does he take points for poor
"Oh, yes," the twins nodded.
"Then what is the problem?"
The Gryffindors hesitated. Finally
Neville spoke up. "When he doesn't single us out, it makes us seem less
After a moment, the Gryffindors burst
"There's no pleasing some students," their head of house scolded.
"Speaking of which..." Fred jumped on
the chance to discuss what was really on their minds. "What's up with
George nodded. "You'd think the
Slytherins would be glad of a clean house!"
Harry frowned at this but nobody
McGonagall didn't know what to say to
her students. She
heartily disapproved of the way Snape was handling the emotional crisis in
Slytherin. "Are you stockpiling hours, Severus?" she'd asked about
the extensive amount of time he was spending in his common room. She'd
gotten no response.
She could only imagine what he was
going through and realized the bitterness emanating from Slytherin
more than the loss of one fourth of their students. But to completely
withdraw from the rest of Hogwarts seemed pointless, and she had
told Dumbledore so. The headmaster had responded by laying down the law.
"Withdrawal does not seem pointless to
those who were alone to begin with. Severus will decide
what is best for the Slytherins."
Now Hermione added to the twins'
questions. "Are they mad at us? They seem mad at us. Why would they be
mad at us?"
"Sometimes..." McGonagall chose her
words carefully. "When people are under duress, resentments they might
otherwise overlook become unbearable."
The twins exchanged
looks. "Professor," insisted Fred, "I can think of a hundred
reasons to resent Slytherin. I can't think of one reason for Slytherin to
resent the rest of us."
Harry Potter gave a little grunt.
McGonagall said nothing.
"What do they do in there all
night?" Ron wondered.
"Why won't they talk to us?" Hermione
"And what the heck..." Fred gave
voice to the most important question of all. "... are they
"Pass the curry," demanded
Crabbe. Snape waved his wand and a book sailed across the room and
knocked Crabbe in the back of the head. "Please," the fifth year added
"Maybe that's the
problem," Malfoy drawled. "Maybe it's our manners."
"The problem is not your
manners," Snape insisted even as he rapped Millicent on the knuckles for
licking her fingers, "although I've seen better in a barn."
The Slytherins were eating supper
picnic style on the floor of their common room, wrapped up in bedclothes
they had pulled from their cots. Snape had received permission from
Dumbledore to order anything they wanted at every meal and was growing
woefully weary of chips, curry and kabobs.
"Lavender thought I was quite
the gentleman," Bletchley insisted, setting off a series of hoots and
catcalls. Snape rolled his eyes.
"Bletchley. We're eating."
But Goyle thought his
housemate might be onto something. "That must be it," he
nodded. "They're jealous of how desirable we are."
Snape snorted into his glass
and Malfoy turned to him.
"What's so funny, sir?" he
demanded. "You never come back from Hogsmeade alone."
Snape gave Malfoy a dangerous
look for the impudent remark. But then he remembered something, a bit
of humor from his
school days. Raising a glass, he quoted a cheer:
up and cheer for Slytherin House. We'll shoot your dog and seduce your
The Slytherins roared. Several
of them snorted pumpkin juice out their noses, making Snape grimace.
"Who wrote that?" a delighted
Violet wanted to know. "Salazar?"
Snape looked horrified. "Good God,
child, how old do you think I am?"
"Salazar Slytherin lived centuries ago,
Violet," Malfoy instructed her.
"I know that!" Violet gave the older
boy an indignant shove. "I
just thought maybe it had been passed down from generation to generation."
"Power and the
delights of the flesh are more recent obsessions, Miss Guilford," Snape
assured her. "Salazar had a different agenda. And not everybody remembers
The Slytherins stopped eating. Violet
and several others crept closer to Snape, pulling their blankets with
them as they went.
"This is a powerful house," Snape
lectured. "Power breeds resentment, and resentment breeds
dishonesty. That is your problem. Just as nobody tells the whole
truth about you, nobody seems to remember the whole truth about Salazar
Slytherin." He took a drink before finishing firmly, "Slytherin was right
to be concerned about terrorism
The students sat in
Violet whispered, "But he put a monster in the school, sir."
Snape nodded. "Yes," he admitted.
"Yes he did. Miss Guilford, do you know what a failsafe is?"
Violet shook her head."
"A failsafe," Snape explained, "is a
means of compensating for the possibility of failure. Salazar helped
create a school populated by hundreds of children and was then driven from
it by conflict over their safety. So he provided a failsafe for
Hogwarts. Should the remaining founders be proven wrong for trusting
those who burned and stoned, a mechanism would be in place to rescue the
The Slytherins remained silent. Then
Malfoy spoke up cautiously.
"That's a bit of a stretch, isn't it,
Snape turned to regard him with a
"How many times did Salazar release the
"None," Malfoy admitted.
"How many times was the monster
released in total?"
"Twice," Malfoy responded.
"How many different people released
"Just one," Malfoy nodded.
Snape let them chew on that for a
while. Then Goyle jumped in.
"Of course," he began tentatively,
"that person was a Slytherin."
"A Slytherin like our dads," Crabbe
"And my folks," Pansy nodded.
"And like my dad was," Malfoy
confessed. "So what's the difference between. . . I mean..." He shook
his head. "I'm ambitious,
too," he admitted. "Why does the
sorting hat say it like it's a dirty word?"
charge thee, fling away ambition,'" quoted Snape. "'By that sin fell the
The statement made Violet
is necessary to achievement,'" she quoted one of her own favorite
authors. "'Without an ambition to surpass one's self there would be no
Snape was impressed. "That is
absolutely correct," he praised. "'Ambition is a
good servant but a bad master.'"
"So. . . " Malfoy did the math in his
head. "Death Eaters are weak Slytherins? Slaves instead of masters?"
"Or petty whingers," Snape
agreed, "blaming the wrong people for their suffering."
"Oh, Dad," muttered Violet with a shake of her head. "You git."
The Slytherins roared again. When
they sobered, Millicent steered the conversation back to Snape's point.
"We know how to deal with our
enemies," she told her housemaster. "What do you do when people who are
supposed to be your friends treat you unfairly? When they. . ." she
thought back for Snape's words. "When they refuse to tell the whole truth
"Miss Bulstrode," warned Snape
sternly, "if you cry at what I'm about to say I will thrash you. I am
sorry that being a Slytherin means you have to suffer injustice from
allies more often than attack from enemies."
Sure enough, Millicent's face
crumpled at the eloquent summation of their situation;
she clamped her hands over her eyes to hide her tears. Malfoy put an arm
around her shoulders.
"We're always going to be
alone, aren't we, sir?" he asked Snape bitterly.
Snape rose to his feet, shaking
his head with disgust.
"Do you realize," he asked Malfoy
"that you said 'we' twice in that sentence?"
At that, Millicent uncovered
her face and the rest of the Slytherins raised their chins.
"The others may not always be with
you," Snape insisted,
"but you will never be alone. Now if you'll excuse me, I have potions
homework to mark. I will return in an hour."
He brushed the crumbs from his robe
and swept out of the common room.
The Slytherins broke up into
small groups, talking over what Snape had said. Millicent turned to
Malfoy with a cryptic smile on her face.
"Do you want to hear a secret about
Snape?" she asked him. "It's really good!"
"Half the first years who wind up in Snape's office for the first time
don't get caned," Millicent reported.
"He just rules them."
Malfoy was shocked. "How do you know
that?" he demanded.
"It happened to me," Millicent
smiled. "Half a dozen whacks on the palm for staying too late in the
library. Any time you see a first year run straight to his room after his
first trip to Snape's office, he's hiding his hand."
Malfoy shook his head, a bemused grin
on his face. "I don't believe it," he insisted.
"I asked him about it third
year," Millicent continued. "He said if students are scared to death, it
makes no sense to cane them. They'll just grow resentful. If you show
them just a little mercy, they'll start being honest with themselves about
whether or not you were right in the first place, and they'll start trying
to live up to your expectations. And they'll never fear just punishment
"Does he say that?" Malfoy asked. "That he's showing mercy?"
"Oh, no!" Millicent shook her head
emphatically. "He acts like spanking a palm with a ruler is just as bad
Malfoy looked around the common room
and then smiled conspiratorially at her. "Who are they?" he whispered.
"Come on, Millicent! Tell me!"
"Forget it, Malfoy!" she scolded,
and he smiled at her.
"Good for you," he drawled.
They sat quietly for a while. Then,
with forced casualness, Malfoy asked,
"Have you heard from your parents?"
Millicent shrugged. "I haven't got
parents," she replied.
She sounded fairly comfortable with
A week later, Professor Dumbledore
tried to flush the Slytherins out by posting O.W.L. results for the first
time in Hogwarts history. He mounted a piece of parchment in the
the Great Hall indicating who had received the top score on each
exam, which to no one's surprise was
Hermione, and which house had achieved the highest overall average in each
subject, which to everyone's surprise was Slytherin.
The Gryffindors immediately set up a
hidden command post nearby to spy on the parchment. They watched the
entryway in two-hour shifts for three straight days to see if the Slytherins would come look at
They never did.
Fred Weasley was hard-pressed to
hide his disappointment. "Snape must have told them the results,
that's all," he sniffed.
"Yeah, Fred," muttered Harry. "That
must be it."
The sarcasm was lost on Hermione, who
wanted to know,
"How would Snape have known?"
"Dumbledore would have told him!" the
redhead insisted. But Hermione just raised an eyebrow at him.
"The results?" she wondered coyly. "Or
just that the parchment had been posted?"
"Hmph," snorted a defeated
One night soon after that, Crabbe and
Goyle came running into the common room from their cell.
"Sir, watch this!!" Crabbe
cried excitedly to Snape.
"It is so cool!" added Goyle.
As the Slytherins
gathered around, Crabbe put the handle of his
wand in his mouth and spun it around a couple of times with his
tongue. Then he pursed his lips tightly and puffed out his cheeks,
blowing against the base of the wand. A small ball of fire shot out the
end and struck Malfoy in the neck, leaving a short-lived red mark.
"Ow!" he snarled.
"Neat!" cried Violet.
"Spellwads," said Snape with a
shake of his head.
Crabbe was crestfallen. "I thought I'd
Snape shook his head. "I did
it to Professor
McGonagall once when I was a student," he admitted, adding ruefully to
himself, And only once. "She did it to Professor Dumbledore, and
the Weasley twins..." His face grew delightfully dark. "... have done it
to me," he finished with a snarl.
"Do it again!" shouted Violet,
rising cross-legged from the floor to jump up and down.
"Do NOT do it again!" countered
Snape. Crabbe nodded obediently, then turned his back and winked at
Violet. As the Slytherins settled to the floor, he took a seat beside
her; whenever Snape wasn't looking, he sneaked her a spellwad lesson.
"Whose turn is it?" Snape
asked when they were all comfortably seated.
"Pansy's!" called Millicent.
"I don't know yet," Pansy
admitted, "but I'm leaning towards hit wizard."
"Me, too!" cried Bletchley.
"Then you two can work with
me," announced Millicent, "because I'm going to be an auror."
Snape shook his
head. "Peaceful lot, aren't you?" he observed wryly. "Doesn't anybody
want to be a potions master?"
A long, uncomfortable silence followed;
Snape nearly laughed at his students' embarrassment.
"I want to be head of
Slytherin some day," offered Malfoy.
"Really?" Snape gave the boy a
particularly sharp lift of his eyebrows. "Are you sure you have what it
takes, Malfoy? It's not easy
teaching obedience to strong-willed little snakes."
He nodded slightly to
Malfoy's left and Draco twisted around just in time to see Violet jerk
the wand she'd been pointing at him out of her mouth. She smiled sweetly.
"Or an auror," muttered Malfoy,
turning back to Snape. "Auror is good."
"Do the staff have to live in
the castle, sir?" wondered Goyle.
"Only the heads of
house," Snape explained. "But most unmarried instructors do, too."
"So if you got married and had
kids. . . "
Malfoy saw where Millicent was
going. "Can you imagine?" he drawled. "Half a dozen little Snapes
tearing around the castle?"
The children laughed at the
"The Slytherins would
dress them up in miniature green robes for quidditch matches," Millicent
"And give them broom
rides!" added Pansy gleefully.
"And feed them garbage from
Honeydukes until they puked," Crabbe confessed.
"And Professor Snape would
always be shouting, 'Stop spoiling my children!'"
Malfoy delivered the line with
such a spot-on imitation of his head of house that the Slytherins roared. Snape shook
"I wouldn't hold your breath,"
he recommended. "Miss Guilford, put that wand in
your mouth again and I'll flog you!"
"See, sir?" Malfoy cried
as Violet yanked her wand from her mouth. "You're a natural!"
Snape left soon after that,
admonishing them firmly not to stay up too late. The Slytherins gathered
the bedclothes that were scattered around the common room and laid them
out in a large circle, pillows toward the center. Before Malfoy
could climb between his covers, Violet asked to see his photo album.
"What for?" the older Slytherin
"Do you have a picture of Miss
Malfoy fetched the album from his cell,
setting it down before Violet with his finger stuck between the
appropriate pages. Several Slytherins peeked over Violet's shoulder as
she stared at a kindly-looking witch who was winking at the
photographer while Snape opened the door to his quarters. They watched
her in silence for several seconds.
"I think she would have liked
us, don't you?" Violet asked no one in particular.
Malfoy grabbed the
album and slammed it shut so hard Violet half expected Snape and Bedelia
to cry out. He carried the album back to his cell, then returned to the
common room and climbed beneath his covers.
The Slytherins lay on their
bellies with their chins on their arms, watching each other and thinking. Several of them began practicing spellwads, shooting over each
other's heads toward the common room stone walls. Crabbe opened his mouth
to speak and they all turned to look at him, but then he shut it again.
"Who would name a baby
Severus?" Violet asked suddenly. The question took the Slytherins by
surprise. Malfoy spoke up immediately, insisting,
"Severus is a
"For Professor Snape," Violet
conceded. "But can you imagine the minister at his christening? 'You're
calling him what?'"
The Slytherins laughed.
"I wonder what his parents were like,"
"Permissive?" Malfoy suggested.
added. The Slytherins laughed again. Then Violet slapped the stone floor
in front of her and cried,
"I've got one!"
Her housemates all
"What," she asked the group, " is the
angriest Snape has ever been at
Several Slytherins burst out laughing
and Violet knew she'd hit
"Malfoy tried to curse Potter
in the back once," snitched Goyle.
"I was much younger
then," Malfoy defended himself.
"It was last year!"
Violet gasped and Malfoy winked at her.
"Oh, what a
difference a quidditch match makes," he grinned, and told Violet the
unpleasant story of Barty Crouch and the bouncing ferret. Violet was
"A Death Eater did that?" she
asked in disbelief. "To Lucius Malfoy's son?"
"I guess Father didn't impress
him," Malfoy shrugged. "Crouch was a Death Eater's Death Eater."
"But that wasn't the
problem," Goyle pointed out. "Nobody knew he wasn't Moody when it
Malfoy nodded. "If you're
gonna get caught, try not to do it in front of another staff member," he
advised Violet. "Especially a high-ranking staff member. The higher
the standing, the angrier our head of house gets."
"Weren't you on the quidditch
team then?" Violet asked. "I heard quidditch players sometimes get special treatment."
Bletchley fired a spellwad into
the common room door and snorted. "What about Rachel Dockman?"
"Rachel Dockman!" Malfoy's face
"She was great!" panted Crabbe.
"Rachel Dockman was a seventh
year during our first year," Malfoy told Violet. "Very smart, VERY
strong-willed, even for a Slytherin. Snape flogged her for charming a
hole in the quidditch team's locker room wall to spy on Marcus
Several Slytherins laughed at the
"When Flint found out
about it," Malfoy continued, "he made plans to meet her under the stands
after practice. So there they were, less than a foot apart. He hadn't
touched her yet, he'd barely moved a hand, but I guess she lost her
nerve. She dove between his legs, kicked him from behind and
sent him sprawling face first in the mud."
The Slytherins roared. Malfoy shook
"Snape not only caned him, he made him
pay to replace his
practice robe when the house elves couldn't get the mud out." He shook
his head again. "I think they left the mud in on purpose."
"Snape was there?" Violet
shuddered at the thought.
"Saw the whole thing," Malfoy
confirmed. Millicent winked at Violet.
"Snape sees all," she warned.
"And excuses none," added Goyle
"Did they ever get
together?" Violet wondered, and Millicent nodded.
"Oh, sure. They just waited
until Friday night after Snape left for Hogsmeade."
Several Slytherins chuckled,
but then they all remembered Miss Worthington and sobered. After
a while, Malfoy murmured, "Buckbeak."
"Buckbeak," Goyle echoed.
Beside him, Crabbe shivered. "That was the angriest."
"Definitely," Crabbe confirmed.
"Who's Buckbeak?" whispered
"Not who," Malfoy corrected
her. "What." And he told her about the time he tried to destroy a
magnificent animal and get Hagrid fired just to torment the
"To make it worse," Malfoy finished,
"the Ministry contacted him right after I'd milked my injury in class to
get him to abuse them some more."
Violet noticed several fifth years
staring at the floor in
front of them.
"My God, Snape was mad," Malfoy
backfire of my life."
A hush descended over the
room. For a moment, Violet thought she heard the echo of
Snape's cane slashing furiously through the air. She extended a sympathic
hand towards Malfoy.
"Did you cry?"
"From the beating?"
Before Malfoy could reply further,
"Snape never makes anybody
cry," he insisted.
Malfoy held up his thumb and forefinger
a half inch apart. "This close," he admitted. "And then it had
to be a Slytherin parent who was supposed to execute the beast."
"Who?" Violet wondered.
"Mcnair's dad," Millicent told
"The whole thing sort of got
out of hand," Malfoy muttered, tugging at an imaginary loose thread on
his sheet. Violet shook her head.
"Couldn't somebody have just
said something?" she demanded indignantly. "Couldn't Mcnair have refused
to kill the animal?"
"I'll bet Snape tried
something," said Millicent unexpectedly. "For you as much as for
Hagrid," she added disdainfully to Malfoy.
Draco scowled at her. "I'm
sorry I brought it up!" he snarled, adding harshly to Violet, "Once
the ministry makes up its mind, that's it."
Goyle shot an angry spellwad into a
"The ministry sounds..."
Violet wrinkled her nose as she hunted for the right word. "Starts with
T," she told Millicent.
cried. Malfoy shrugged.
"We'll ask Snape about it tomorrow,"
he decided, crawling beneath his covers. With a stern look at
Violet, he added, "Don't mention Buckbeak!"
The seventh years extinguished most of
the candles in the common room and the Slytherins snuggled beneath their
covers. When everything was quiet, Violet called out,
Violet," Millicent replied. "Good night, Goyle," she said to the
Slytherin lying next to her.
"Good night, Millicent," Goyle
replied. "Good night, Pansy."
"Good night, Goyle. Good..."
"Do we have to do this?" barked Malfoy
from across the circle. "It's so. . . Hufflepuff!"
Almost instantly, he
was bombarded with so many spellwads that his bedclothes caught fire.
"Son of a bitch!"
He leapt to his feet and, unable to
find his wand fast enough in the dark,
snatched up the sheets and blankets.
"Slytherin enough for ya?" Violet
wondered as his housemates watched him slam the bedclothes repeatedly
against the floor
to extinguish the flames.
The following Thursday,
Professor McGonagall asked Professor Dumbledore to join the Gryffindors in
their common room after classes. Fred spoke on their behalf.
"With all due respect,
Professor, truly," he assured the headmaster as he inquired about the
Slytherins, "why are you indulging them? You never did anything like this
for the Hufflepuffs when Cedric died."
"Do you think it's the same
thing, Mr. Weasley?" the headmaster replied politely. He hadn't asked Harry, so the
fifth year kept his mouth shut, but given the choice between a noble death
or betrayal by one quarter of his house, the boy who lived had no doubt which he'd rather
see happen in Gryffindor.
"I'm not so sure they are indulged," suggested Hermione.
She'd never told anyone about the conversation she had overheard outside the library in March, but if
ever there was a time...
She turned hesitantly to Dumbledore.
"Does Professor Snape really... hit them?"
Professor McGonagall, who had never
approved of Snape's techniques, turned triumphantly to the headmaster. But the kindly wizard just
"Ever since the dark lord first
came to power," he told them, "I've been asked repeatedly how I sleep at
night in castle full of iron-willed snakes. I must say..."
He paused, and though his eyes twinkled behind his
half-moon glasses, his voice was deadly serious.
"I sleep very well knowing the
strong hand of Severus Snape guides the Slytherins."
"Five card draw, jacks or
better," Snape decided.
He sat at the table nearest the common room
door and dealt so rapidly to the Slytherins around him that Violet,
standing next to him, gasped.
"Don't set them on fire, sir," she
cautioned. "That's my only deck."
Malfoy regarded her
suspiciously as he arranged his hand. "Why aren't you playing
anymore?" He turned to Snape. "Sir, are you two
Snape just smiled and handed Violet a biscuit he'd won in the last
pot. "I'm sure you can
beat me," he assured his students, "if you all work... together."
Goyle, Crabbe, Millicent and Pansy all tossed in their hands, their
backsides twitching involuntarily at the mention of Christmas Eve. Violet raked in
their antes for
Snape as Malfoy threw down his cards in disgust.
"Toady," he called Violet.
Just then, the Bloody Baron
floated through the common room door and over to Snape.
"Why aren't you
at your post?" demanded Snape.
The Baron had been standing guard
outside the Slytherin common room door for nearly two weeks.
McGonagall craves an audience," he now informed the Slytherin housemaster.
Indeed, the deputy headmistress
was positively fuming as she paced the corridor outside of
Slytherin. Dissatisfied with the results of Dumbledore's visit to
Gryffindor a half hour earlier, she had decided to take matters into her
own hands and was furious to discover that Snape had locked the common
room door against the other heads of house, a gross violation of protocol.
"I believe you know the
policy," Snape told the Baron.
It was posted on two signs the Slytherins
had made and pinned up on their common room door. "Go away," read the
first one. "When we're bloody well good and ready," insisted the second.
The Baron floated back out to
the hallway. "Professor Snape bids you good day," he informed Professor
The Transfigurations teacher turned pink with fury. She drew
in a deep breath and when she spoke, her voice resounded throughout the
mammoth Slytherin common room without the benefit of a sonorous charm.
"SEVERUS SNAPE! OPEN THIS DOOR
The command reverberated throughout the room, bouncing off
the stone pillars and echoing down the dormitory corridors. Snape's students turned to him,
wide-eyed, but their head of house merely smiled.
I just love her, he
thought to himself as he sent an obliging alohomora towards the door.
McGonagall stormed into the
room and stopped short, horrified by what she saw.
The Slytherins seemed to be
living in their common room. There were puddles of bedclothes everywhere
and robes hanging from the furniture or heaped in piles on the
floor. The students were running around in their stocking feet and their
shoes were so scattered, McGonagall wondered how they'd ever pair them up
again. Half-eaten kabobs and cold piles of chips littered the floor while
partially-burnt tumblers and small piles of ashes adorned the
tabletops. The sofas and chairs were covered with books, parchment,
quills, and everything else a student might keep in his room. On one
wall, someone had painted a huge green mural depicting Slytherin's
quidditch victory over Gryffindor.
Several of the students were
dancing in the far corner of the room to a song about it being more fun to
laugh with the Slytherins than cry with the saints that was blaring from a
contraption she'd once described in a Muggle Studies essay. In another
corner, Bletchley was giving a merry-go-round ride to several first years
floating in the air on a round table. They ducked quaffles being thrown
over their heads by seventh years as they spun.
The Slytherins seemed healthy
enough; their cheeks were pink and their eyes calm and clear, but their
clothes were a rumpled mess. Miss Guilford appeared to have biscuit crumbs
down her front.
But the most shocking
sight of all... was Snape. He was leaning comfortably in his straight-backed chair,
his legs stretched out before him, wearing dark trousers and a white
button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His robe hung neatly
folded over the back of his chair. Never taking his eyes off Minerva, he
snapped his fingers and a Slytherin scurried to stop the music. Bletchley
put down the table and all the students stood quiet and still, watching
Professor McGonagall. Snape smiled indulgently at her.
"Welcome to Camp Slytherin."
The speech McGonagall had
prepared flew right out of her head. She glared at Snape, then at his
students, then back at their head of house, and cried, "ENOUGH!"
she marched right back out of their common room.
The Slytherins turned to their
housemaster, who was still smiling that indulgent little smile as he gazed
at the door through which McGonagll had exited. "You heard the
deputy," he murmured silkily as he rose, rolled down his sleeves, and put on
his robe. Then, fully dressed, he whirled decisively on the Slytherins.
"Cleaned, pressed and in the Great Hall for supper in 30
minutes. AND CLEAN UP THIS MESS!"
The Slytherins jumped.
Snape departed. Thirty minutes later, he and the entire
staff and student body
watched as two straight rows of Slytherins marched back into the Great
The next night was Friday and
Professor McGonagall paused just outside the Great Hall, puzzled by an odd sound. A moment later,
Snape strolled around the
nearest corner on his way to the front door.
"Did I actually hear you
whistling?" Minerva asked him, a smile playing on her lips. Snape ignored
her and brushed past, but Minerva grabbed the door handle
first. "Severus, do you really think it's a
good idea to leave the castle?"
Snape turned to her with a
glint of danger in his eyes. "Minerva," he began calmly... but his voice
rose throughout his speech. "I have nursed those children from four in the
afternoon until eleven at night for the past two WEEKS! Kindly get out of
She moved aside but continued
to frown. Snape tossed her a bone. "They're not completely without
supervision," he assured her, completely misinterpreting her concern, and before she could set him
straight, he slipped out the front door, slammed it behind him, and set
off eagerly for Hogsmeade.
"You don't have to stay,
Baron," Malfoy told the imposing silver house ghost as the Slytherins
entertained themselves in their common room. "We don't really need a
I'd be happy to disobey Professor Snape, Mr. Malfoy," the spectre
countered. "Right after you do."
Malfoy grinned. "I take
your point," he nodded as he sorted through the hand Crabbe had just dealt him.
"What could Snape do to a
ghost?" Violet wondered just before she accidentally spilled her cards all over the
"Snape would think of
something," Crabbe assured her.
insistently on their door and the Slytherins jumped. Goyle opened it to reveal Harry Potter
standing resolutely in the corridor, wand in hand, a determined look on
his face. He gave his wand an impressive triple spin. "We're getting a
bit out of practice, don't you think?" he asked Malfoy pointedly.
Malfoy hesitated, unwilling to
admit the outsider and bring to an end the final element of Slytherin's
recovery. But Potter was almost glaring at him and Malfoy realized he
wasn't going to take no for an answer. He nodded at the Gryffindor.
"Where's Professor Snape?" Harry asked
as Crabbe and Goyle cleared their largest table for dueling. The
"He's got the night off,"
said Malfoy with a cryptic smile.
decided not to press for details.
Snape's friend Elizabeth and
several other witches and wizards surrounded him in the Three Broomsticks
as he faced all comers who wanted to compete for drinks over
lightning-quick rounds of the cup game. It took him only thirty seconds
to defeat a grizzled wizard named Packard who observed, "You've got
amazing hands for a potions master, Snape."
Elizabeth giggled and Snape
pointed a finger at her. "Hold your tongue," he warned as
Rosmerta set down the latest drink he'd won. He drank half the glass of
mead as the next wizard sat down across from him. The new competitor
rubbed his hands together eagerly and the crowd pressed close.
No one noticed the red eyes that watched them from the
"You wouldn't have killed him,
anyway," Malfoy was saying as the Slytherins surrounded him and Potter
break in the dueling action. Harry was holding forth on the night he had
almost killed his own godfather in the Shrieking Shack before discovering
that Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black, sold his parents to
"Why not?" Harry wondered.
Violet giggled. "Because," the child
"Avada Kedavra curses don't just pop out like toast!"
The muggle appliance metaphor
flew right over most heads but Malfoy shook off the confusion and
continued explaining to Harry. "A killing curse takes great strength and
power. I doubt any student at Hogwarts could perform
one." He smiled wickedly as he added, "It's not something you can
Harry shook his head. "I don't
EVEN want to know how you know all this," he told the Slytherins as he
climbed back up on the nearest table to resume dueling. Crabbe climbed up
opposite him and had just taken his stance when Harry fell to the floor,
doubled over with pain, clutching his forehead.
"What did you do?" screamed
Violet as Malfoy rushed to Harry's aide.
"Nothing!" Crabbe insisted. "I
just got up here!"
"It's not him." Harry
struggled to his hands and knees, one hand still gripping his forehead.
"I have to go. I have to find Dumbledore!"
"Why?" asked Malfoy, unnerved
by Harry's urgency. "What is it?" But as he climbed to his feet, Harry
just kept insisting,
"I have to go. I have to go!"
He started for the door, but the Bloody
Baron flew across the room and blocked his path.
"Tell them!" the imposing
silver ghost ordered.
Harry couldn't imagine how the
apparition knew, but arguing, he realized, would waste more time than
telling. "My scar hurts," he
Slytherins. "When my scar hurts, that means Voldemort is threatening."
The Slytherins fell back,
stunned. "Are you serious?" Malfoy asked, his voice barely a
whisper. Violet, terrified, grabbed his hand.
"He's here?" she squeaked as she clutched the older Slytherin. "On the grounds?"
"No, no." Harry bent down to
place a reassuring hand on her
shoulder. "Voldemort can't get on the grounds. But he might be
The statement turned Violet pale.
"What is it?" Harry demanded.
grabbed Violet and pulled her behind him before she could answer. "You
better hurry, Potter."
Harry straightened up and
that's when he noticed that all the Slytherins looked paler than a moment
ago. But the
Bloody Baron had slammed the common room door open and, after hesitating
moment, Harry turned and bolted from their house.
The Slytherins waited until the
sound of Potter's running footsteps faded around a corner before racing
for the door.
"Stop!" Malfoy cried, blocking the door
arms. "Only the four oldest years!" Violet rushed him but
he just grabbed her and threw her to the floor. There was no time to
argue. "Baron!" he commanded.
The Baron threw up his arms and
instantly the younger children were engulfed in a ring of fire.
The older students raced out of the room as the younger children shrieked
with fear. But as soon as they were gone, the Baron doused the flames as quickly as he'd
"Run!" he commanded the remaining
Slytherins, who wasted no time in tearing after their older
Snape had won so many drinks
he'd treated nearly the entire pub to a round and was in the process of
whipping Elizabeth for the third time when he suddenly dropped his cup and
clutched his forearm in agony.
"Severus?" cried Elizabeth.
Before he could even look up, a frantic
young witch burst into the tavern,
breathing hard and looking wildly around the room. All eyes turned to
her; Snape recognized the former Slytherin immediately.
"Professor Snape!" she cried,
racing to him and throwing herself at his feet. "The Dark Lord has
Rachel! Rachel Dockman! He says he'll kill her if you don't come to him
in five minutes. I ran as fast as I could but there's not much time
Snape leapt from his chair and
pulled the girl to her feet. "Where?"
"He's not there!" the girl
cried. "We were coming here on the trail by the stand of trees, near the
path to Hogwarts, but they disappeared with a portkey. He said you'd know
how to find him."
Snape moved immediately for the
door and several of the pub's occupants rose to join him. He whirled on
them, determined to limit the number of deaths on his
"Stay here!" he thundered. "If the
Death Eaters are waiting, they'll pick you off one by one! Wait until
He flew out the door and
apparated instantly to Voldemort's side.
The dark lord was ready for him. He
held Rachel's hands pinned in front of her, his wand at her throat. He
spun around the instant Snape appeared, placing the girl between them.
They were outside, several
dozen yards from the Riddle House. The structure was ablaze with light
and from inside Snape could hear the raucous carrying-on of several Death
Eaters who sounded as if they'd had too much to drink. In the distance,
he saw the lights of Little Hangleton, the nearest village. On the ground
near Voldemort were Rachel's broken wand and the old sock that had served
as Voldemort's portkey.
"So glad you could join my
party," came Voldemort's sinister welcome.
Snape looked at Rachel who stared back
at him with complete faith. "Let her go," he pleaded, stalling
for time to develop a plan. "She's harmless without her wand."
"Speaking of wands..." Voldemort
smiled through his thin slit lips. But Snape glanced at the house
instead. Voldemort followed his
"We have much to celebrate these days,
as I'm sure you know from the Daily Prophet," he taunted. "And
tonight I will reward the faithful with a special surprise. . . a
celebration dance around your corpse!"
Snape forced himself to speak
calmly. "Perhaps you're working alone because
you can't afford to fail in front of them again?"
Voldemort checked his temper and kept
focus. "Your wand, Severus," he commanded. "Very slowly. Or she dies
As slowly as he could, Snape
inverted his wand in front of him so that the tip pointed to the
earth. "You'll kill her anyway," he told Voldemort. "A shame,
really." He stared straight into Rachel's eyes. "She's a flinty little
Voldemort removed his wand from
Rachel's neck for the briefest second to summon Snape's wand and the
moment he did, Rachel dove between his legs and kicked him from behind as
hard as she could. The dark lord flew forward as he caught Snape's wand
and Snape lunged for him, grabbing him around the waist with his left arm
as he snatched the portkey with his right hand. The last thing he saw
before the portkey yanked them back was Rachel running towards the village
as fast as she could go.
As usual, Dumbeldore reacted
calmly and with clear purpose. "I'll notify the staff," he
told the dark-haired Gryffindor. "Harry, do you need to see Madam
Harry shook his head. "I'm
"Then I'd like you to
return to your dormitory," the headmaster suggested, "and stay there for
the remainder of the evening." He raised a hand to cut short Harry's
protest. "You don't have to go to bed," the kindly wizard assured
him. "But it would be best if you spent your evening some place more
restful than the Gryffindor common room. And if you should
encounter Professor McGonagall on your way, would you please send her to my office immediately?"
The staff gathered in short
order except for Professors Snape and McGonagall. The headmaster sent
Professor Sprout to hunt down the Transfigurations teacher and headed for
the dungeon himself, leaving the rest of the staff to wait for him in
He checked Snape's quarters and
then his office before proceeding quickly to the Slytherin common room
door, where he was met in the corridor by the Bloody
"I'm looking for Professor
Snape," the headmaster explained quickly. "It is imperative that I find
him as soon as possible."
"He's jogging, sir," the Baron
lied. "Through the corridors, with the Slytherins."
"It's a program they began a couple of
weeks ago," the Baron explained. "Would you like me to search for them?"
nodded. "Send Professor Snape to my office as soon as you find
"Why don't you run,
Voldemort was clearly delighted with
the way things had worked
out. Snape was leaning against a tree, bleeding from a gash on his
forehead he'd received when the two wizards had crashed to the ground upon
landing. The small stand of hardwoods along the trail was halfway between
Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Snape knew it would do no good to shout, but if
he tried to run, he might get a killing curse to the back that would end
the pain Voldemort kept inflicting at regular intervals.
But Snape would
not flee. Keep breathing, he thought. That's all you have to
do. Just keep breathing.
"Why do you cling to
hope?" Voldemort baited him. "Why do those black eyes search
desperately for a way out of this?"
He stepped just a bit closer, wand
raised, ready to crucio Snape again at any moment. What he said next hurt
more than any curse.
"It's because you know where I'll go
first after you're dead, isn't it?" he hissed with a twisted little smile.
Voldemort pointed his wand at
Snape with his right hand; with his left he twirled between his fingers
the wand Snape had traded for Rachel Dockman's life. "I'll wager I can do
more with yours than you could do with mine," he said lightly.
"I'll take that bet," Snape
Cruciatus. 5 seconds. The pain drove
Snape to his knees and when it stopped, he collapsed against the tree.
Keep breathing. Keep
"That would be
entertaining," Voldemort sneered, "but that's not why I summoned you. I
must tell you, Severus, that I am extremely disappointed in the education
my daughter is receiving at your hand." He smiled his tight-lipped smile
again. "I think
a little parent-teacher conference is in order."
He stiffened his legs and
straightened the arm that held a wand on Snape. "Did you really initiate
an end to the enmity between the houses?" he asked with a shake of his
Snape made no response.
"Did you try to remove my daughter from
Cruciatus. 20 seconds.
"Did you encourage the children of my
associates to defy their PARENTS!?"
Cruciatus. One minute.
When the pain ended, Snape found
himself wondering if Rachel Dockman would amount to anything and realized
horror that he was losing control of his mind.
"You don't mind my raising
these issues, do you?" Voldemort asked as he clung to the bark
of the tree and struggled to keep breathing. "Parental
involvement is so important."
Professor McGonagall arrived at
Dumbledore's office in a plain black robe thrown over her dressing gown,
fuming that Severus Snape could escape the castle for an entire evening
while she couldn't even enjoy a bubble bath uninterrupted. She refused to
respond to Dumbledore's light-hearted comment about the soothing power of
a nice soak, so he quickly sobered and got down to business.
"Mr. Potter has had another attack
signaling a threat from the dark lord," the headmaster announced.
"I'd like the heads of houses to spend the night in their common
rooms with their students and the rest of the staff to guard the front
door, grounds and entrance in shifts. But first..."
He broke off with just the slightest
bit of a sigh. "I'd like you to help me find Professor Snape, who the
Bloody Baron tells me is jogging through the corridors of the castle."
He turned to share an exasperated smile
with Professor McGonagall and that's when he noticed that, for someone
who'd just had a hot bath, she was looking remarkably pale.
"I want you to tell me why,
Severus," the dark lord whispered. "I really do."
Snape, now reduced to
all fours, refused to answer, and Voldemort waved his wand slightly,
reminding, coaxing. "Come now, educator," he encouraged gently. "Educate
He gave Snape another minute of pain to
formulate an answer. Then he shot a flipendo charm at him that knocked
Snape off his hands and knees and slammed him against the tree. Snape
slumped to the ground and sat there for several seconds before raising his
head to stare at his adversary.
"I found your mistake, Riddle," he
whispered. "And now I teach others."
He watched Voldemort
struggle to control his fury. Ambition triumphed and Snape received
another minute of pain instead of death. He curled tightly against it and
fell over. When it stopped, he found himself lying on his side, his face
pressed against the earth.
"Enlighten me," Voldemort
suggested. He waited but Snape refused to answer and the next cruciatus
curse brought him to the edge of death.
Still Snape would not
"Then pray you taught them well,
hero," Voldemort hissed,
"because I will teach them next."
With the last of his strength, Snape
raised his head and the wizards locked eyes. "The world has had enough
of you, Severus Snape," Voldemort declared, and he aimed the killing
curse. To his surprise, his victim's courage seemed to fail him. The
dark lord allowed himself just a moment to drink in Snape's horrified
Then he realized Snape was gazing
He whirled just in time to see every
wand in Slytherin drawn
It took Voldemort less than a second to
aim his left hand. He held them all frozen in place, a pointed wand in
"That's Snape's wand!" Violet whispered
to Malfoy of the implement pointed at them, and Malfoy, who knew perfectly
well which wand
was which, shoved her behind him. Violet peeked around him, pointing her
wand squarely at her father.
"Don't move," the dark lord warned the
Slytherins. "Don't even breathe. I can kill him and you can't kill me."
"Are you sure?"
Snape's question was
quiet but full of conviction. Voldemort checked the determination in the
eyes of Snape's students and considered his next step very carefully. So
long as Snape lived, he knew, the Slytherins would hold their fire for
fear of the wand he had trained on their housemaster. But to kill Snape
successfully, he would need a shield.
"Violet," he said gently. "Come here."
"Don't move!" shouted Snape and the
Slytherins with one voice. From her safe spot behind Malfoy, Violet
called flippantly, "Sorry, Dad."
Snape struggled to rise but fell to the
ground again and Voldemort, regarding him almost tenderly, spoke again in
that same gentle voice.
"Violet," he said kindly, "did you know
that, if you torture someone painfully enough, he will actually sweat
He straightened the arm pointed at
Snape as the tenderness disappeared from his face. "Don't move, Violet!"
Suddenly, Malfoy spun around, turning
his back on the horrific scene. The gesture amused Voldemort, who held
his spell and smiled.
"Why, Draco!" he murmured. "No
stomach for torture? You're no chip off the old block!"
He returned his attention to Snape,
and as he did, the best levitator in the house suddenly screamed,
"Wingardium leviosa!" and the smallest Slytherin shot into the air.
She twisted more nimbly riding Malfoy's
spell than on any broom, spinning rapidly to avoid Voldemort's curses as
she arched towards his head. As she came down on top of him, she thrust
her wand several inches into his left eye and grabbed Snape's wand from
his left hand. With a bloodcurdling scream, Voldemort disapparated and
Violet fell right through the space where he'd stood to crash to the
ground, a wand in each hand.
The Slytherins raced to help
Snape to his feet and then cleared a path for Violet to bring him his
wand. She held it up before him and as they waited for his strength to
return, they watched the conflicting emotions that battled on his face,
anxious to see which would prevail.
They didn't have long to wait. Snape
snatched his wand and turned to roar at Malfoy. "HOW COULD YOU BRING THE
"We didn't!" Malfoy shouted
right back. "We're going to cane them right after you cane us!"
Snape stared. Then he shut his
eyes in a desperate attempt to keep from laughing and Millicent
and Pansy threw their arms around him. "No, get off!" he shouted
again. "I'm in pain!"
The girls let go and Violet
took Snape's hand very gently. "Do you feel like you might be sick?" she
asked softly from somber experience. Again, Snape almost laughed.
later," he told the child. Then he looked around and his gaze took them
"I am immensely grateful," he
"That's funny," Malfoy observed with a meaningful lift of one
eyebrow. "So are we."
They all looked at each other
for several seconds, drinking in each other's faces. Snape
over his shoulder in the direction of Hogsmeade. There was nothing he needed to tell the patrons of the Three Broomsticks, he
decided, that couldn't wait until morning. So he nodded gently at his Slytherins.
They set off slowly, the
Slytherins forming a protective phalanx around their housemaster. Several minutes passed before Violet spoke
"Are you going to punish us,
sir?" she inquired timidly.
"I can't," came Snape's bitter reply.
"Because it's my fault," Snape
admitted. "I should have listened to Professor McGonagall when she told
me to stay in." He sighed. "I despise it when she's right." After a moment, he added with as much vigor as
he could muster, "Wait until I get my hands on that bloody specter!"
Violet shuddered. "What are
you going to do to him?" she breathed, feeling sorry for the Baron already.
"I'll think of
something," Snape assured her.
"But sir..." Violet just couldn't let it go. "Why
are you mad at him and not us?"
"Violet!" A disgusted Malfoy shoved her from behind. "Could you
shut up for one minute? Would that just kill you?"
Snape allowed himself a chuckle this time before speaking sternly to
his Slytherins. "If you hadn't just lost one quarter of
your housemates," he assured them, "I probably would have punished
He thought for a moment and then continued. "I'm going to ask you
a question, and I want you to tell me the truth. Why did you
come after me on your own?"
The Slytherins thought it over. For the first time, they realized
the full implication of their actions. But after considering it some more, Malfoy gave a derisive snort.
"I don't care," he insisted. "I don't care if they'd be
insulted that it never occurred to us they'd help us. They can bloody
well live with it."
The rest of Slytherin nodded in
agreement. Snape sighed.
how alone you feel," he said carefully. "But I cannot let it stand. You have to
give others the chance to stand with you."
The Slytherins slowed their pace, hanging
on Snape's every word.
"No matter how many times they've been unfair, no
matter how often they've indulged in convenient inaccuracy or even
abandoned you, you must show grace to your allies. They
are far more likely to come through in the end if you keep faith than if
you hold grudges."
A bell went off in Malfoy's head but he
kept his mouth firmly shut.
"Grace is hard," Violet pouted, kicking
a stone out of her way.
"You're a powerful house," Snape replied casually, "you'll manage." He stopped suddenly, his hands
on his hips. The Slytherins stopped with him.
"Because if you EVER," he began, "pull a stunt like this again..."
"I'll flog you!" the Slytherins
chorused, and Snape had to smile.
"You do make a housemaster
They walked in peaceful silence for
several minutes. Snape reveled in the feel of his strength slowly returning. His
mind grew clearer and suddenly he stopped short. Millicent
and Crabbe banged into him.
"Wait a minute!" he demanded, whirling to face his students. "How did you know?"
"Know what, sir?" asked Millicent.
"About Voldemort! Why did you come for me?"
"Oh, that!" Malfoy nodded. "Potter had a
scar attack in our common room."
Snape just stared. Eventually, he demanded, "Again."
"Potter's scar goes off when Voldemort
is threatening," Malfoy explained. "Pains him, I mean. He came over
tonight and it happened while he was with us."
Snape was dumbfounded. "Amazing," he
admitted as he started the group walking again. "I'm surprised he didn't tag along."
"He didn't know we were coming," Malfoy
clarified. "He didn't even know you were out of the castle. He just went
to tell Dumbledore."
Snape stopped once more, a horrified look
on his face. "Potter told Professor Dumbledore about a threat from
Voldemort?" he demanded.
The Slytherins nodded.
"And you still came
after me on your own?" he added, his voice rising.
The Slytherins nodded
"YOU IDIOTS!" their housemaster shouted. "Dumbledore will grind you into
Still too weak to carry her himself, Snape picked up
Violet and shoved the short-legged Slytherin into Goyle's arms, all the
while berating his students.
"It's one thing to feel that nobody stands
with you," he admonished. "It's quite another to thumb your nose at
the headmaster for it! Now run!"
He sprinted for Hogwarts with the
Slytherins at his heels.
Fully dressed, Professor McGonagall
entered the Gryffindor common room and called the students who were
present together, commanding their silence and explaining the situation
"Several of the staff are patrolling the grounds and guarding
the entrance and front door. Professor Dumbledore and I will go to
Hogsmeade to retrieve Professor Snape," she told the white-faced
Gryffindors. "Professor Flitwick is fetching the Slytherins, who will
stay in Ravenclaw until we return. I would like you to gather any
students who are in the dormitories and go immediately to Hufflepuff. You will stay with Professor Sprout and her students until I return."
She left without another word and
Seamus raced to fetch Ron and Harry from the fifth years' dormitory. When
Fred had filled them in, Harry looked horrified.
"Snape is in town?"
He shook his head as if to banish a possibility that
was forming in his mind.
"I told them," he admitted to the Gryffindors with
growing horror. "I told the Slytherins about Voldemort."
They pondered the implications for all of two seconds. Then Harry tore
across the room and out the portrait hole with all of Gryffindor chasing madly behind him.
Snape and the Slytherins gazed
miserably at Hogwarts from behind some trees a short distance from the front gate. Professors Sinistra and Vector were guarding the entrance
patrolled the grounds. The front doors opened and Snape squinted to make
out Dumbledore and McGonagall emerging, armed with torches.
"We're licked," groaned Malfoy wearily.
"Not yet!" hissed his head of house.
He took off running along
the wall around the grounds, his students following close behind. He
stopped about fifty yards from the entrance and drew his wand, touching
four bricks several feet apart as he muttered, "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot
and Prongs." To the Slytherins' astonishment, a six-foot wide hole
appeared in the stone wall. Snape grimaced at their amazement.
right," he admitted. "We owe the marauders one. Now MOVE!"
The Slytherins sprinted through the
opening. Snape followed them and charmed it shut behind them. Then he did
something only his devotion to his students could compel him to
"Loudly!" he hissed before setting off at a healthy trot.
"Stand up and cheer for Slytherin
House," Snape called as he set the pace for what appeared to be a vigorous evening constitutional. The Slytherins immediately fell in
behind, hollering the appropriate response.
"WE'LL SHOOT YOUR DOG AND SEDUCE YOUR
"Stand up and cheer for Slytherin
"WE'LL SHOOT YOUR DOG AND SEDUCE YOUR
"Stand up and cheer for Slytherin
"WE'LL SHOOT YOUR DOG AND SEDUCE YOUR
Up at the castle, Dumbledore and
McGonagall turned in amazement to watch Snape and two rows of
Slytherins jogging towards them across the grounds. Just then, the front
doors to the castle burst open and the Gryffindors charged out, Harry
Potter leading the way. They stopped short when they saw their head of
house and headmaster, following their gaze to behold Snape and the shouting Slytherins.
"What do you think you're
doing?" demanded McGonagall demanded of her students. Harry, extremely puzzled by the sight of the trotting
Slytherins, opened and shut his mouth several times before muttering
"We... came to tell you... the Slytherins might not be in the castle."
A moment later, Snape and the Slytherins arrived, panting cheerfully.
"Good evening, Headmaster," puffed Snape innocently.
him skeptically. "Where have you been, Severus?" he
inquired firmly, and the Slytherins thought 'Professor Snape' might have been
more appropriate in mixed company, even if the headmaster did suspect
misconduct on Snape's part.
"We've been getting a little exercise,
sir," Snape replied evenly.
Dumbledore stared at him for several
seconds. Then he pointed with his wand at the gash on Snape's forehead
and raised his eyebrows.
"Hazards of running in the dark," Snape explained.
Everyone stood without speaking for a
while; the only sound was the panting of the Slytherins. Then
Dumbledore spoke again, very quietly.
"Severus, did you go to Hogsmeade tonight?"
"Yes," was all Snape replied.
Dumbledore waited. When Snape remained silent, he pressed,
"Don't you think that was a rather foolish thing to do?"
Snape nodded deferentially. "That's
why I came right back and spent the evening with my students instead," he
lied, and saw the first flicker of pain in Dumbledore's eyes. Dumbledore
turned to the Slytherins.
"Did you go into Hogsmeade tonight to
rescue your housemaster from Lord Voldemort?" he demanded sternly. The
Slytherins regarded him silently and Snape spoke on their behalf.
"Why would you suspect that,
Headmaster?" he murmured silkily. "Why would they act on
their own instead of turning to the rest of you?"
The triumphant condemnation in his eyes made McGonagall's jaw twitch with fury. The pain in Dumbledore's
eyes increased tenfold. Snape stared them down.
First and foremost,
he was a housemaster.
It took Violet a long time to
understand what happened next.
Harry Potter stepped around McGonagall
and crossed Dumbledore to stand with the Slytherins. "I'll vouch
for them, Headmaster," he announced.
McGonagall's mouth dropped open. She
snapped it shut and took a step forward to
stand side by side with Dumbledore as Harry continued.
"I know you told me to go straight to
my dormitory. But I felt just fine so I went back to
Slytherin instead for more dueling. Professor Snape was there to take
them jogging, so I went back to my dorm instead."
At first, nobody knew what to say. Then
McGonagall stammered, "If that were the case, you'd have to be punished."
Harry just shrugged. "I guess so."
Snape and the Slytherins stared at
Potter as if he'd lost his mind. But Harry just looked calmly at his
headmaster and head of house, and something passed between the three of
them that neither Snape nor the Slytherins understood. Whatever it was,
Violet noticed, it erased the pain in Dumbledore's eyes and removed the
anger from McGonagall's face.
The next thing they knew, Hermione
stepped around McGonagall and Dumbledore to join Harry. So did the
Weasley twins, dragging Ron along with them. Then, one by one, every
single Gryffindor crossed Albus Dumbledore to stand with the Slytherins.
Violet turned her head this way and
that, searching the faces around her for answers. The Slytherins looked
completely confused, the Gryffindors looked extremely satisfied, Professor
Dumbledore looked proud enough to cry, and Professor McGonagall looked
triumphant enough to crow. As for Professor Snape, he looked nauseous
enough to . . .
"Oh, dear," Violet murmured, as the
head of Slytherin ran to the nearest tree and threw up.
Dumbledore and McGonagall sat
up late in his office playing the cup game. On the corner of Dumbledore's
desk were two stacks of galleons, one his, one hers. Minerva checked the
time; it was 11:30pm.
"I believe midnight was the deadline?" she taunted
"This is correct,
Minerva," Dumbledore told her, completely unruffled. Professor McGonagall scowled
"Albus, you didn't cheat, did
you? You didn't send for him?"
"I did not," the headmaster assured
her. "But he will come."
"Well," said Minerva doubtfully, picking up her tumbler for another round, "if he does, it will be
best five galleons I ever spent."
Almost immediately, there was a knock on the door. Dumbledore smiled and pocketed all the coins. Minerva
hid her relief
behind pursed lips as she rose to admit Snape and let herself out.
The potions master came to stand before the headmaster's desk and waited dutifully to be addressed.
"Well, Severus Snape," his employer inquired mildly, "What do you
have to say for yourself?"
"I couldn't let you punish my
Slytherins for being right," Snape replied.
It wasn't quite what
Dumbledore had been hoping for.
"Then why are you here?" the
headmaster asked archly, raising his eyebrows high above his half-moon
glasses. Snape bristled.
"To apologize for lying," he
insisted, "and to assure you that I am NOT the reason the
Slytherins feel the way they do. I am the reason they will do what's
right regardless of the way they are treated. And frankly,
Headmaster..." He made no attempt to hide his contempt. "I find your coyness more than a little
The flash of pain
in the old man's eyes made Snape wince. What's next, he wondered of himself, kicking house elves? He reached inside his robe
and withdrew a folded piece of parchment which he laid on Dumbledore's
desk on top of another piece of parchment lying face down. Dumbledore's
"That better not be what I
think it is," he warned the youngest member of his staff. Snape
just shook his head.
"Tonight was the third incident
this year, Headmaster," Snape reminded him. "Don't you think it's time to
revisit the math?"
Dumbledore sprang furiously to his feet; Snape couldn't help but fall back a step.
"What math is
that, Severus?" the headmaster demanded. "Seventy-five percent of Slytherin still
here? Harry Potter's life saved on multiple occasions?"
He pointed an
angry finger at the instructor. "I knew the dark lord's priorities when I
hired you, Professor Snape, and I am growing very weary of how
frequently you think you know better than I do!"
Snape blanched, chagrined. "I would never think that, Headmaster," he assured the
"Then pick that letter up and
burn it in my fireplace immediately!" Dumbledore commanded, and Snape did
as he was told. He returned to his place before the desk to inquire,
"Will that be all, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore sat back down and
regarded Snape calmly. "I'd like you to tell me," he murmured, lacing his fingers across his belly, "why I'm
going to let you walk out that door without any reprimand."
Snape stared at him in
disbelief. Then he frowned and looked away. When he sneaked a peek at the headmaster, he found him smiling and waiting
So Snape took a deep breath and said it.
"Because Harry Potter solved a
problem I couldn't," he admitted.
Dumbledore nodded. "Again," he
"Because Harry Potter solved a
problem I couldn't," Snape repeated, a little louder.
"You know, Headmaster, the
Death Eaters would probably take me back if I brought them a
big enough sacrifice."
countered, "whatever happened to that chalkboard Miss Guilford wrote on
" Because Harry Potter solved a
problem I couldn't, because Harry Potter solved a problem I couldn't,
because Harry Potter solved a problem I couldn't!" Snape recited loudly.
"Thank you, Severus. You may
Snape stormed towawards the door. Before he could escape, Dumbledore called him back.
"Tell me, Severus," he inquired gently. "Could I possibly compel you to feel about the other students the
way you do about the Slytherins?"
"There are precious few saints at Hogwarts, sir," Snape seethed in reply. "I'm certainly not one of
He left without another
word. Smiling, Dumbledore shook his head. Then he picked up the
piece of parchment that had been lying face down on his desk and read again the testimonial from Rachel Dockman that had been waiting
for him when he returned to his office.
And now, the Slytherin Chorus presents, "Let Me Be There"
(Made popular by the Muggle singer Olilvia Newton-John)
Wherever you go
Wherever you may wander Friday night
Surely you know, the Slytherins'll be there.
Holding your wand
And levitating first years who are small.
Seeing you through, what Voldemort can do
Let me be there in your torment
Let me be there in your fright
Let me change your miserable odds to win this fight (win this fight)
Let me save you from that killing curse that Voldemort must bear.
All I ask you (ooh ooh ooh ooh), is let me be there.
Watching us grow
And going through the skin sheds in our lives
We always know our head of house will be there
Whenever you need a Slytherin to lean on, here I am
Whenever you call, a snake will be there
Let me be there in your torment
Let me be there in your fright
Let me change your miserable odds to win this fight (win this fight)
Let me save you from that killing curse that Voldemort must bear.
All I ask you (ooh ooh ooh ooh), is let me be there.
All we ask you (Severus Snape), is let us be there.
The Smallest Slytherin