After the Siege

       Snape hesitated just inside the front door to the castle. He knew he should report to the headmaster immediately and then get himself to the hospital wing. But the need to check on the Slytherins was overpowering, so he sent Harry Potter to find Dumbledore instead.
       This violation of protocol turned out to be a brutal mistake; upon finding the Slytherin common room empty, Snape rushed frantically inside and was immediately caught up in one punishing booby trap after another. Sprout and Vector eventually found him crawling to the hospital wing as they completed their portion of a sweep of the castle, searching carefully for any lurking Death Eaters or dementors as they disposed of the bodies.
       The sweep failed to turn up any sign of the Slytherins and it was Harry Potter who guessed where they must be hiding. His suspicions were confirmed when he and Hermione entered Moaning Myrtle's bathroom only to discover the odor of roasting game wafting up from the Chamber of Secrets entrance sink. As Harry commanded the entrance to open, a cloud of smoke burst from the pipe and consumed the two Gryffindors, making them cough violently. The smoke cleared and they listened in astonishment to the cheerful voices of the Slytherins echoing through the chamber below as they sang:

"I don't believe it," Harry muttered to Hermione.

"That's enough," Harry murmured just before he prepared to sonorize himself.

       "Malfoy!" Harry shouted down the pipe.
       There was an immediate silence. Then a voice called back from far away.
       "Potter? It's about bloody time!"
       Loud crunching noises were heard as dozens of feet raced across small animal carcasses to return to the bottom of the pipe.
       "Care to join us?" Malfoy called to the Gryffindors.
       "What are you eating? wondered Harry.
       "Roasted rat."
       "How appropriate," sniffed Hermione.
       "I heard that, Granger," Malfoy called up the pipe. "How soon they forget!"
       Harry turned curiously to Hermione who explained, "They saved Professor McGonagall."
       Harry shook his head. "We'll never hear the end of it," he groaned.
       Malfoy shouted again.
       "How's Professor Snape?"
       "He'll be all right," Harry called back.
       "How's Professor McGonagall?"
       "She'll be all right."
       "How are we supposed to get out of here?"
       Harry hesitated. Then, with a shrug at Hermione, he hollered back,
       "You'll be all right."
       "I don't believe it!"
       Harry and Hermione strained to hear Malfoy grousing to the Slytherins.
       "He didn't bring anything to get us out of here!"
       None of them could produce rope yet, so the Slytherins made their human ladder and Harry and Hermione helped haul them out of the chamber one by one. When they were all safely out, the Slytherins hurried to the hospital wing.
       They stopped just inside the door and surveyed the dimly-lit rows of occupied cots. A large portion of the beds were filled by Hufflepuffs who were sedated and sleeping off the trauma of stumbling upon eight dead students in a heap outside a classroom corridor near their house. Learning that they were in fact traitors in Hogwarts clothing had done little to relieve the Hufflepuffs' distress.
       From the nearest window, a soft, warm breeze carressed Malfoy's cheek. Odd, after what they'd been through, and at this late hour, to realize it was just another mild, peaceful summer night.
       Flitwick and McGonagall were asleep on either side of Snape who was still awake despite Madame Pomfrey's protests that he need not suffer through his treatment in a conscious state. He relaxed visibly at the sight of the Slytherins clumped together in the doorway. Then he spied Malfoy's stained shirt. In response to his impatient gesture, his students crowded eagerly around his cot and Malfoy pointed at his neck in delight.
       "I have a burn, too!"
       "What are you wearing?" Snape asked the out-of-uniform youngster.
       "Long story," the boy shrugged.
       Snape stayed awake long enough to see Malfoy treated and released for his injury. Then he slipped into unconsciousness, murmuring orders that any snake attempting to disturb his sleep should be skinned alive.

       "In my day," Dumbledore told them a short while later, "midnight feast had a very different meaning!" He managed a twinkle and a warm smile for the students and staff who sat cross-legged on the floor of the Great Hall, plates full of food in their laps. It had not been easy to return to this room; Dumbledore noticed that many of the students held hands as they entered. But it had been more than 30 hours since most of them had eaten last and the opportunity to see so many of the school's citizens alive and well was welcome indeed.
       "The school year will be extended by one week," the headmaster explained. "I know that many of you are anxious to return home as soon as possible, but the Ministry must conduct an inquiry and we are all witnesses."
       Violet gazed about her at the still, silent faces of the staff, the Gryffindors, the Ravenclaws and most of the Hufflepuffs. Only the Slytherins were tucking in contentedly and after a moment, Violet began to eat, too.
       "You must have many questions," Dumbledore continued gently. "So I think the most effective thing to do is. . . talk about Professor Snape behind his back."
       He smiled at the area where the Gryffindors were sitting. "Harry?"
       Harry put down his plate and climbed obligingly onto the head table platform next to Dumbledore. He thought for a moment and then cleared his throat.
       "I was walking back to Gryffindor from the hospital wing..." he began.

       Snape awoke the next morning to find his wand on his pillow and his bed surrounded by smiling Slytherins eager to share their story and praise his. McGonagall and Flitwick listened closely as did the Hufflepuffs until Madame Pomfrey declared the well-rested students healthy again and shooed them out of the room.
       "So, Miss Guilford," Snape observed when his students had completed their report. "The parseltongue proved useful after all."
       "Have you ever been in the chamber, sir?" Violet asked eagerly. "Can we show it to you when you're ready to get up?"
       "No," Snape replied, "because the first thing I'm going to do when I get up is flog all of you for those vile traps you scattered so moronically around your common room!"
       The Slytherins, who knew perfectly well when they'd committed a spankable offense or not, only grinned harder.
       "Which one did you like best, sir?" wondered Pansy.
       "I'm sure they were all quite brilliant," their housemaster conceded with a sigh.
       They sat quietly together for a while. The children's smiles faded as painful thoughts filled their minds. Crabbe cleared his throat, making some of them jump.
       "Professor Snape?" He nodded at Goyle. "Why do you think our dads weren't here?"
       Snape considered the question for a moment. "I have no idea," he admitted.
       "Do you think it means they're dead?" asked Goyle. Snape shook his head.
       "I don't know, Goyle."
       They sat quietly for a while longer and Snape watched Violet pull on her fingers. Then she looked up and asked, "Was Mr. Montague one of the four who escaped?"
       Snape shook his head again. "I couldn't tell."
       Violet leaned dejectedly against Millicent. "I miss Marybeth so much," she whispered.
       "It's only girls now," added Malfoy. The Slytherins frowned at him and he explained. "The seventeen who left. There were 9 boys and 8 girls. Only the girls are left now."
       At that, Madame Pomfrey, who'd been eavesdropping from her desk, decided their conversation was too morose to be doing Snape any good and ordered the Slytherins out of the hospital wing.

       She kept the heads of house in bed for three days, which allowed Dumbledore to handle the Ministry's inquiry himself and spare Snape all but the most necessary questioning. He met frequently with his youngest instructor to discuss summer accommodations for Malfoy and the seventeen Slytherins who had chosen to remain at Hogwarts against their parents' wishes in April.
       The potions master enjoyed his convalescence, particularly when Dumbledore was forced to ask him to speak to the Slytherins about the guided tours they were giving of the Chamber of Secrets. With three heads of house laid up, discipline was growing a bit lax.
       The Slytherins showered him with gifts, goodies and visits, throughout which, Snape noticed, Millicent and Violet were rather subdued. But when students from the other houses began paying visits to express their appreciation for his heroism, Snape put an end to all callers. So Malfoy had to wait until an exhausted Madame Pomfrey collapsed onto an empty cot around 11pm to sneak in and visit Snape his third night in the infirmary.
       Snape, sitting up against the uncomfortable headboard of his iron cot with an address ledger in his hands, gave the boy a raised eyebrow and a less than welcoming look. But Malfoy crawled onto the bed anyway, sitting against the footboard with his legs stretched in front of him, facing Snape. He removed a pint from the pocket of his robe, which Dumbledore was insisting the students continue to wear in a feeble attempt to maintain order, and sloshed its contents temptingly. "A gift from Madame Rosmerta," he announced, handing over the bottle.
       I'm going to marry that saucy wench some day, Snape thought, putting aside the ledger and accepting the bottle. He flipped open the cap and just before taking a sip, checked the level of the contents. "It better be full," he warned the youngster sitting across from him.
       "I was hoping you'd offer me a nip," Malfoy responded. Snape shook his head.
       "Christmas Eve, when you're a seventh year," he promised, and helped himself to a long draw. He swallowed and relaxed visibly, leaning back against the headboard. Then he stared at Malfoy through narrowed eyes.
       "Tell me the parts you left out two days ago," he commanded.
       Malfoy frowned and Snape took another drink. "What's the matter with Miss Bulstrode?" he pressed.
       "Oh!" Malfoy nodded and told Snape about the Slytherins' midnight discussion of the marauders' hole in the wall. "She can't even make a clean breast of it to you," the teenager explained, "because she knows that confessing will hurt you more than her."
       Snape snorted. He imagined administering a flogging to Miss Bulstrode during which he assured her between strokes, "This hurts me more than it hurts you." "I'll take care of Miss Bulstrode," he promised Malfoy. "What about our little parselmouth?"
       "Stays in her cell most of the time," Malfoy admitted.
       Violet was wretched beyond words at the thought of leaving Hogwarts for the summer after all, especially since she would be alone at her miserable orphanage while so many other Slytherins would be together or free to visit one another. But she knew better than to pout in public; a play for sympathy in the Slytherin common room would yield merciless persecution.
       "I'll take care of it," Malfoy suggested, and Snape hid his smile at the boy's paternalism behind another sip from the flask.
       When the youngster had gone, Flitwick and McGonagall, who'd been playing possum, each stuck out the hand closest to Snape's bunk and simultaneously snapped their fingers at him. Snape frowned.
       "Why should I buy you slackers a drink?"
       His colleagues chuckled.
       "Sorry, Severus," Minerva murmued.
       "So sorry, Severus," Flitwick concurred.
       Snape handed the bottle to Minerva, who took a drink and handed it back. He passed it to Flitwick and Minerva asked, "Do you think there's enough for us to get really blotto?"
       "I can't be hungover tomorrow," Snape growled, picking up the ledger again. "I have to find summer accommodations for seventeen Slytherins."
       "Accio," Minerva murmured, and the pint floated back to her. "Severus?" she whispered after taking another sip. She waited for the potions master to make eye contact before beseeching, "Let's have the best summer of our lives."
       Snape rolled his eyes. "It is NOT going to be the last summer of our lives."
       "No," Minerva agreed. "But it might be the last good time we have for a long time."

       On the last night of school, Malfoy sat surrounded by Crabbe, Goyle and Warrington in the common room, waiting for the seventh years to return from Snape's office. "Go get Violet," Goyle prodded him. "The whole quidditch team should be here!"
       "No." Malfoy shook his head. "She'd ruin it with her sniveling."
       The stone door finally opened and the seventh years watched with satisfaction as their younger housemates sprang into the two rows they normally formed only to honor their head of house. Then, with Bletchley and fellow quidditch team member Adrian Pucey leading the way, the small group of faithful Slytherin seventh years paraded slowly up and down the ranks, shaking hands with each student as they said their good-byes.
       "Let me see it!" Malfoy cried eagerly when Bletchley reached him. His teammate stuck his hand into his pocket and withdrew an item Snape had just presented him. Each departing seventh year received a small pewter vial containing a useful potion, the identity of which was revealed only to the recipient. Bletchley handed the vial to Malfoy who unscrewed the lid to read the inscription he knew he would find on the stopper inside. Tiny letters engraved in Snape's handwriting read: 'To Miles Bletchley, a fine athlete and brave Slytherin. Let me always be proud of your valor. Severus Snape, Hogwarts School, 1996.'
       Malfoy screwed the lid back on and returned the vial to Bletchley, biting back a painful surge of envy. What if Snape died before he could present Malfoy with such a keepsake?
       When the farewells were complete, Malfoy made a quick trip to his cell to retrieve something and headed to Violet's room.
       "Go away!" she stormed in response to his knock, but Malfoy just smiled and entered the cell anyway. She was lying face down on her bunk, her head buried in her arms. Malfoy leaned against the wall with one hand and kept the other behind his back.
       "You missed saying good-bye to the seventh years," he scolded. Sure enough, Violet whimpered at the very thought, and Malfoy congratulated himself on a good call.
       "I brought you something," he teased the young girl, but Violet would not be intrigued.
       "I don't want anything! Go away!"
       "All right," Malfoy conceded with an exaggerated sigh. "I'll just take it back." But he stayed right where he was and gave the cage behind his back a little jiggle. Something hooted indignantly and Violet sat up with a gasp.
       "An owl?"
       Malfoy swept the cage from behind his back and held it proudly in front of her.
       "You got me an owl!" the young Slytherin shrieked. She flew off the cot and threw her arms around his waist, hugging him tight. "Oh, Malfoy!"
       Malfoy set the bird cage down on the bunk and Violet plopped down next to it, captivated. "What kind is it?" she asked as she smiled in delight at the feisty brown creature.
       "Well, it's no nancy pansy snow owl, I can assure you," Malfoy snorted. "It's a scrappy little barn owl, as befits a little Slytherin."
       Violet stuck her finger in the cage and the owl promptly clamped its beak around the stubby digit. Violet giggled and pulled and the owl rocked forward on its perch, clinging to the finger. Violet pushed and pulled, pushed and pulled, and the owl rocked stubbornly back and forth. Finally Violet stuck another finger into the cage and when the owl released the first one to snap at the second one, she yanked them both out of reach.
       "He's perfect!" she told Malfoy.
       "What are you going to call him?"
       Violet thought it over for a second and grinned. "Spellwad!"
       Malfoy could only shake his head. "It's your backside," he declared of the cheeky choice.
       Violet admired the bird a while longer and then turned hopefully to the older Slytherin. "Can I write to you?" she asked him. "Will you write back to me?"
       Malfoy sat down next to her. "You know I'm spending the summer with Potter, right?"
       Violet nodded.
       "I hear his cousin's a real git," Malfoy continued. "What do you say we spend the summer seeing how much mischief we can get into and writing each other about it?"
       Violet threw her arms around his neck and Malfoy tolerated the hug for a few seconds before he pulled her off and waved a finger sternly under her nose.
       "Don't tell Snape!" he commanded, and then jumped when Spellwad made a violent lunge for the waggling digit.

       The next morning, shortly before the carriages were scheduled to depart, Violet retrieved her new pet from the Owlery, dropped him off in the common room, and hurried to Snape's office. The teacher gave her permission to enter and then raised an eyebrow at her as Violet took a seat across from his desk for the last time that year.
       "Spellwad?" he asked darkly.
       Violet just grinned from ear to ear. "The meanest owl at Hogwarts!" she bragged. "Professor Dumbledore is seriously considering banning him from the Owlery."
       "I heard," Snape sighed. "I'm sure he'll be a big hit at the orphanage."
       Violet's face clouded a bit. "Speaking of which," she began, and she rose and walked around the desk to stand before Snape. She reached into her robe and withdrew her wand, which she held out to him. "Since we can't use them anyway, I was wondering if you would mind keeping this for me over the summer."
       Snape looked puzzled and the child continued a bit sheepishly. "The kids at the orphanage," she explained. "They're good kids, really, but they're institutionalized kids, and sometimes kids in institutions can be thugs, you know?"
       "Yes," Snape replied. "Yes I do."
       He took the wand and laid it on his desk. Then he took her hand and gently pinched her thumb and two fingers together. He picked up her wand again and placed the handle of it between the pinched digits so that she was holding the wand upright before him.
       He took out his own wand and gave it a little flick. The tip glowed a rich Slytherin green. He traced the length of her wand from tip to handle as Violet watched, wide-eyed. Then he put his wand away. Violet looked up at him and frowned.
       "Can you see it?" he asked her.
       Violet glanced at her wand and nodded at Snape, disappointed. But he just leaned a little closer to her and smiled.
       "I can't."
       Violet gasped. Then she let out a little squeal of delight, hugged Snape quickly around the neck, and raced out of his office, so eager to hit someone with her invisible wand that she forgot to thank him.
       Snape didn't mind.

An Obedient House