The following Friday, Violet found Malfoy and Montague lurking in a dark corner near Snape's dungeon quarters. Malfoy had a camera in his hands.
       "What are you doing?" she asked them.
       "Bugger off," they responded in unison.
       She turned around without a word and marched back to the common room to seek out Crabbe and Goyle. "What are Malfoy and Montague doing?" she demanded.
       "Waiting to see who Snape will bring back from Hogsmeade," Crabbe told her.
       "What do you mean?"
       The boys looked at each other and shrugged. "A bird," Goyle elaborated.
       Violet was aghast. "Snape brings women to his quarters?"
       "He lives here, Violet," Crabbe chided. "Don't muggles date?"
       Violet sat down weakly beside him. "I'm pretty sure teachers don't," she faltered.
       Goyle gave Crabbe a wink. "Sometimes," he whispered lewdly in the little girl's ear, "it's a former Slytherin!"
       Violet fell for it at first. "Oh, that's just wrong," she insisted. But as the boys began to chuckle, she scowled, insisting, "Maybe you guys should give him some privacy."
       "Forget it," Crabbe snorted. "This way, we know what kind of a mood he's going to be in on Monday."
       "But what's the camera for?" she pressed. The boys shook their heads at her naivete.
       "Violet," Goyle assured her, "you're an idiot."
       Violet rose with as much dignity as she could muster and marched toward her room. The boys were being ridiculous, she decided. How provocative were pictures of women going through the door to Snape's quarters? But then she remembered how grown-ups sometimes kissed goodbye in doorways... and how wizard pictures could move, showing every slobbery moment... and she had to run to the lavatory to be sick.

       At breakfast the next day the Slytherins invited the Gryffindors to their common room after supper. Hermione spent the morning in the library and at lunchtime informed Harry and Ron that never in the history of Hogwarts had an entire house visited another common room.
       "Bring your brooms," the invitation read, so the Gryffindors arrived with their quidditch team leading the way. Snape stood silent but civil beside the open stone door to the common room and inside, all the Slytherins were lined up in the formation they had previously used only to honor their head of house.
       The Gryffindors entered quickly and stared in confusion at the furniture floating in the air. Since the course was originally Violet's idea, the Slytherins let her speak first. She approached Harry with a broom in her hands, mounted beside him, and smiled, "Race ya!" Harry climbed on his broom and Violet took off, showing him the course. By the time they returned to the others, every Gryffindor mouth hung open.
       "Bloody brilliant!" the twins cried in unison.
       The two houses raced together for hours.

       The next day the Slytherins invited the Hufflepuffs, and after that the Ravenclaws. Soon each house contrived its own obstacle course and invited the others to visit. Each course presented a unique challenge. While speed was the goal in the mammoth Slytherin chamber, the snugness of Gryffindor tower made precision the skill to master in their common room.
       The inter-common room flying intramurals changed the nature of quidditch competition at Hogwarts. Gone was the fierce desire for a cup. Now it was all about improved flying, showing off new skills and then teaching them to others.
       Dumbledore was delighted with the students' progress but Professor McGonagall questioned the logic behind their obsession. "I hardly think the dark lord is going to stage an attack on the quidditch field," she observed tartly.
       But the students persisted, begging their heads of house for additional outdoor flying time in the lovely fall weather. Finally Dumbledore devised the concept of afternoon exhibitions which kept them soaring for hours. Snape convinced McGonagall to support the program, pointing out that the hours of flying and fresh air reduced the boisterous Gryffindors and Slytherins to quiet, docile students in the evening. McGonagall had to admit, it was a blessed relief.
       The mellow Slytherins were telling Violet what she could expect from Halloween one evening when Malfoy got an idea. "We should have a great big exhibition for Halloween!" he suggested. "A flying festival!"
       "Come on, kids," Violet murmured to herself, "let's put on a show!"
       "What?" Malfoy asked.
       "Nothing, Mickey," Violet grinned, waving the moment away with her hand. "Muggle lapse."
       Dumbledore loved the idea and invited the parents to watch.
       The weather on Halloween was crisp and clear, perfect flying weather, and delicious aromas from the feast being prepared wafted through the air from the castle. Slytherin held its own against the gifted Gryffindors and all in all, Malfoy thought, it was a perfect afternoon except that Snape and his father didn't sit together to watch the exhibition.
       When the flying was over, the students joined their parents in the stands and escorted them to the Great Hall where they would be guests of honor at the feast. Dumbledore sent Snape to make one last check of the quidditch field to be sure everybody was inside before the meal began.
       Snape found Malfoy standing alone on the field.
       Lucius was gone.
       So was Violet.

       "You have to be brave, Slytherin," Violet told herself. "Harry Potter is always brave in situations like this so you have to be even braver." She glanced up at Draco's tall, blonde father who held her by the arm. His flowing hair and pale skin made him look cool and remote. He wouldn't look at her. If only she could get him to look at her, surely he would take pity on her. He was a father!
       The shades were drawn in the cold room which was lit only by a fire. "To keep me from seeing where we are?" Violet wondered. There was a door in the corner and Violet had a pretty good idea who would be coming through it. The fear made her sick and she forced herself to think of something else.
       "Why am I here?" Violet wondered. "Do they want to recruit me? Have they heard I show promise so now they want me on their side?" The idea was comforting. She imagined all the stinging, rude things she would say in response. "You ruined my first trip by portkey, you bastard!" she heard herself tell Voldemort brazenly in her head. But that reminded her of Snape and how hard he was on students who were rude to other teachers, and thinking of Snape made her want to cry. Snape, and the Slytherins, and Malfoy, whose father wouldn't even look at her, and Hogwarts and flying and...
       ...and SNAPE!
       Violet gasped out loud, then threw her hand over her mouth. Lucius was still ignoring her, but she wondered if he could feel her pulse begin to race through his grip on her arm.
       This wasn't about her! This wasn't about her at all!
       They wanted Snape.
       It took all the willpower Violet had not to start crying. "If it is the last thing I do," she resolved, standing as straight as possible, "I will find a way to keep Snape from coming for me."
       When the door finally opened, Violet was so frightened she immediately dropped her eyes to her feet. A wave of shame broke over her at this act of cowardice. "Braver than Harry," she coached herself. "Braver than Harry, braver than Harry..." After several silent repetitions, she forced herself to look up.
       Red eyes! Voldemort has red eyes!
       Violet had been terrified of red eyes ever since she'd read a muggle book about a haunted house whose red-eyed apparition peered at the children from outside their bedroom windows late at night. She began to sob. Her fear pleased the dark lord very much, and he nodded to Lucius to bring the child forward.
       No one had yet told Violet about communicating through the flames in a fireplace. When she saw Snape's and Dumbledore's heads in the flames, she thought her heart would break.
       The conversation was extremely insulting, but there was no retort Violet's teachers could make to Voldermort's claim that if Snape came to see him alone, he and the child would be returned safely to Hogwarts in short order. To add affront to his malice, Voldemort paused to smile triumphantly as he reached to pat Violet's head. The moment his hand touched her, Violet whipped her fists across her cheeks to wipe the tears away and began shouting at the fire, her sobs ceasing instantly.
       "It's a trap, it's a trap, it's a trap, it's a trap..." she shrieked.
       Then her world went black with pain.

       She was in a dark place. Or was it a place? Was it some sort of void? There were only two things with her... darkness and pain. And the pain kept increasing. Violet hurt and hurt and wondered when she would mercifully die. How could pain keep growing? How long had she been in here? Was it minutes? Hours? Days?
       As the pain steadily increased, every selfless feeling she'd ever had disappeared. "Help me!" she begged. "Help me, help me, help me!" And then another thought came to her. "I wish I'd never come to Hogwarts. I wish I'd never come to Hogwarts." She thought it over and over, as if the litany would serve as some sort of penance that would free her from the pain. "I wish I'd never come to Hogwarts."
       Then a light appeared before her. Was it a light? It looked light, almost shiny. Had someone opened a door? Was it a person? It came closer and closer, and suddenly, the pain stopped. It just stopped. Violet breathed again.
       Then she began to feel the effects the curse had had on her body. She was sick. She'd been poisoned by the agony. She would die anyway.
       But at least it wouldn't be from pain.

       Violet woke up in the hospital wing at Hogwarts. It was late and Madame Pomfrey was not at her desk. No one else was there except Snape, who sat in a chair beside Violet's bed, reading. His forehead was lightly bandaged.
       Violet sat up slowly and looked around to be sure they were alone. Then she turned to Snape with tears in her eyes.
       "I shot my mouth off," she whispered.
       "I heard," he replied.
       Violet threw her arms around his neck and cried her heart out.

       She awoke the next morning at 5am. Madame Pomfrey was asleep at her desk, as was Snape in his chair. She crept silently from her bed and left the hospital wing headed for Snape's office. There was something she had to see.
       If it was in Dumbledore's office, she was out of luck. But she doubted it. It made more sense that the heads of the houses would have them. Two months at Hogwarts had taught her that the staff kept an amazing number of secrets about their students.
       Breaking into Snape's office was no problem; any Slytherin could do it. Sometimes he set booby traps for them and some poor Slytherin would spend the day sprouting flobberworms out his ears, living in fear of the moment Snape would find time to hand out a little justice. It was enough to keep most of them away the majority of the time. But Violet was desperate.
       "Lumos," she whispered to her wand and quickly drew the shades over Snape's enchanted windows, just in case they worked both ways. It was not a pleasant task, searching Snape's office alone when all of the castle was asleep. She put every foot down carefully.
       Finally, she found them - the files on his students. If she had any relatives in the world, they would be listed here. As long as she didn't have to go back to the orphanage, she would go anywhere and stay with anyone to get away from Hogwarts.
       She found her file and read the contents quickly. Then she fainted dead away.

       It was just his luck, Snape thought, that some bloody third years had thought of checking his office before he did. He couldn't even punish them because he'd sent every Slytherin to search the castle for Violet and warned them not to come back without her. "Guilford, you little twit," he murmured to himself, "you could have at least fallen on top of the file."
       He turned to face the wide-eyed, solemn Slytherins surrounding him in their common room and continued to explain.
       "You needn't be impressed," he insisted. "It wasn't even an original idea. I mean, it had been done before. But the woman the dark lord chose to... overshadow... and she wasn't a muggle, by the way... was not quite as... honored... as the Virgin Mary.
       "She lost her mind," Snape admitted. "Voldemort kept her alive, coaxing her along until she delivered. He needed flesh, and he needed blood. But they had to come from a male. When a daughter was born, he simply slinked away. The mother wandered off as well and eventually died in the facility where Longbottom's parents now reside. So the child was brought to a muggle orphange." His voice suddenly hardened. "Any questions?" he threatened them.
       Just one, Malfoy thought, but he kept his mouth shut. It was forbidden to ask Snape anything about his time as a death eater or how he'd come to be at Hogwarts. But it startled Malfoy when Crabbe whispered to him the very same question he'd been wondering.
       "Do you think Snape...brought Voldemort the wom...?"
       "No," Malfoy interrupted tersely. "No, I don't."

       Violet woke up in the hospital wing bitter and silent. She spoke to no one. She thought often of Harry Potter and the many painful secrets he had uncovered at Hogwarts, and she snorted to herself. You don't know from pain, boy, she thought.
       Snape was not impressed with her theatrics. When Madam Pomfrey assured him there was nothing physically wrong with the child, he ordered her to stop Violet's food trays. "If she's hungry, she can come to the Great Hall," he said loudly enough for Violet to hear.
       Dumbledore visited, as did Harry Potter, but she would not speak to them. When Malfoy came by late that night, however, she knew she had to break her silence. She was no Slytherin if she didn't tell him.
       "When I was with Voldemort, and he crucio'd me," she whispered in the dark, "someone helped me. Someone made the pain stop. And Malfoy.." She hesitated just a moment. "I think it was your dad."
       Malfoy turned away slightly, grateful the darkness hid most of his reaction. He wouldn't think about it now. He'd wait until he was alone. He took Violet's hand and actually gave it a little squeeze.
       "Listen, Violet," he appealed to her. "Snape and Dumbledore... they really went out on a limb for you."
       Violet nodded and Malfoy rose to leave.
       "Do you think if I sneaked down to the kitchen the house elves would give me something to eat?"
       Malfoy thought of Dobby and shook his head with a rueful smile. "House elves don't help Slytherins," he told her.

       She wouldn't give Snape the satisfaction of seeing her come to the Great Hall for breakfast so Violet went directly to Transfiguration class the next morning, her stomach growling all the way. The hunger increased her resentment and she scowled her way through the quiz that Professor McGonagall handed out. Then, when it was time to hand in their parchments, she signed her name in the corner with dark, angry script,

Violet Voldemort

       The students ahead of her squeaked when they saw the signature while passing her parchment forward, but Professor McGonagall ignored them. She didn't notice the signature until she had gathered all the quizzes and was putting them down on her desk. Then, as the jagged text all but leapt out at her, she exclaimed, "Violet!"
       The students jumped, even those who knew what she'd seen. Marybeth shook her head as if to clear her ears. Then she leaned over to a first year Slytherin boy to doublecheck. "Did she just use Violet's Christian name?"
       Professor McGonagall composed herself and turned sternly to Violet. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded.
       Violet shrugged sullenly. "It's my name," she sneered.
       As the words hissed past her lips, it struck her like a thunderbolt what she was doing. "I'm sorry!" she gasped, springing to her feet. "I'm sorry, Professor McGonagall. I didn't mean to speak to you that way. Please. Please don't tell Professor Snape."
       McGonagall was so relieved by the return to form that she had to purse her lips to hide it. "Detention," she snapped. Violet dropped back into her seat, thanking the teacher profusely.
       But the incident haunted her all morning, and at noon her guilty feet dragged her to the dungeon. Snape was in his office, of course. He always seemed to be there when his students misbehaved.
       Violet took a seat and came straight to the point. "I shot off my mouth to Professor McGonagall in Transfigurations."
       "I hadn't heard," Snape replied coolly. He held up Violet's Transfigurations quiz. "But I heard about this."
       Violet glanced at the dark signature and blushed. It had seemed so bitter and poignant just three hours ago, but now it made her feel ridiculous. "Fink," she called Professor McGonagall to herself.
       "Not a thing, sir."
       Snape regarded her for a moment or two. Then he told her, "You may go to the Great Hall."
       Violet rose, delighted.
       "But you will not eat lunch." Violet drooped visibly as Snape explained, "Your punishment is waiting for you there."
       When she entered the Great Hall, every student looked up. By now they had all heard what she'd done and they were eager to see what she was in for, because the Bloody Baron was waiting for her beside a huge chalkboard now floating in front of the head table. She walked up to him dutifully and he handed her a piece of chalk.
       "One thousand times," he commanded. "I'll be watching."
       "What am I supposed to write?" Violet asked. But even as she spoke, the words appeared magically across the top of the board in Snape's hand-writing.
       There was a shocked silence as everyone read Snape's assertion. Then, with a loud accompaniment of whoops and hollers, the hall erupted into laughter.
       Violet stared at the words. For some reason, they warmed her, filling her with a fierce desire to hug someone. But the Bloody Baron was hardly a suitable candidate so she took the chalk from him and began to write.
       It took hours and hours. Every time she filled the board the Baron would count and then she'd erase it and start over. She wasn't even half finished when the students returned for dinner.
       Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle sauntered up to her with smiles on their faces. "We have good news for you," Malfoy told her.
       "You may not be the only muggle-born in Slytherin anymore..." Goyle began.
       "But we did some checking around," Crabbe finished, "and you ARE the only bastard!"
       Violet threw the chalk at them so hard it drew blood when it hit Malfoy's ear. Then it bounced magically right back into her hand. "Brilliant!" she had to admit before getting back to work.
       As eight o'clock approached, Violet began to worry about missing detention with Professor McGonagall. But the Transfigurations teacher appeared to let her know there would be no further punishment for her behavior in class that morning. With a smile and a nod at the chalkboard, the dignified professor confessed, "I can't compete with this!"
       Time dragged on. Exhausted and punchy, Violet began singing new words to some of her favorite show tunes as she wrote. "I'm starving, I'm starving... I'd eat the whole night through, I'm starving, I'm starving, boo hoo."
       "Please don't sing," beseeched the Baron.
       It was midnight before she finished. She handed the chalk back to the Baron. "May I go to bed now?" she wondered.
       "After you see Professor Snape in his office."
       So Violet dragged herself to the dungeon. But when she entered Snape's office, her spirits rose. There on his desk was a plate with a sandwich on it and a glass of pumpkin juice. The potions master was reading a book. "Sit," he commanded without looking up.
       She sat down and waited. Snape ignored her for several seconds. Then he rolled his eyes at the page he was perusing and snapped, "Well, eat it!"
       "Oh, thank you, sir!" she cried, and devoured every morsel. As she chewed, she pondered the possibility of one day opening a shop to sell pumpkin juice to muggles.
       When she was finished she thanked him again and he put the book down. He opened a drawer and took out a sheet of parchment which he handed to her. On it, he'd written a list of names. It began, "Neville Longbottom, Cedric Diggory, Harry Potter." It went on and on, finally ending with, "Violet Guilford."
       "Do you know what that is?" Snape asked her.
       Violet looked it over and nodded. "It's a list of people who have been hurt by Voldemort," she responded. Snape leaned across his desk and stared at her harder than ever before.
       "I want you to promise me," he said so slowly it was clear to Violet he was measuring the impact of every word, "that every time you make a decision about how to handle your...situation... you will remember the people on that list... and what... they've... suffered."
       Violet could scarcely breath beneath the weight of such a dictum. "I promise, sir," she whispered.
       He excused her and she returned to the Slytherin common room. It was deserted and she stood before the fire for several minutes, drinking it all in. Could it really have been only three days? It felt like she'd been gone for months.
       Finally she headed to her room. But before she crawled into bed, she found a quill and added one more name to the list.
       "Severus Snape."

The Smallest Slytherin