The Slytherins were truly dazzled by
the suck-uppery propagated by the other students as they wormed their way
into Snape's good graces and the cool waters of Lake Slytherin. The
Ravenclaw specialty was extra credit essays on substitute potion
ingredients while the Hufflepuffs preferred to shower Snape with yellow
gifts... cool banana slushies, bowls of sherbert lemons, and a stuffed
yellow Labrador which he passed off to Marybeth Montague the first chance
She and Violet were playing
with the plush toy in a cool, quiet corner of the common room one night
while the older Slytherins hosted their after-dinner guests. The lake
became a bit crowded with the entire student body present so Malfoy had
taken to banishing the younger Slytherins during the 7pm visiting
hour. Now Harry Potter watched Marybeth intently as he bobbed quietly
The aggressive attitude he had
developed during his week with the Weasleys had wilted beneath the
oppressive heat. But as the cool waters of Lake Slytherin restored the
energy level of Hogwarts' citizens, Malfoy saw again that eager, almost
desperate gleam in Potter's eyes. His agitation was apparently contagious
as Hermione Granger was already complaining about the contents of their
"I just can't believe we don't have a
Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this term," she fumed. "It's never
been more important! Why isn't Professor Dumbledore doing something about
Several Slytherins rolled their
eyes. The empty Defense position didn't surprise them at all. What
wizard in his right mind would want the job on the eve of Wizard War
II? But they would stick porcupine quills in their eyes before they would
defend Albus Dumbledore, so they just scoffed at Hermione as Malfoy
whispered to Warrington, "Maybe they'll lighten up when the weather
improves," and then asked Hermione, "Why don't you get your head of house
to give you lessons? That's what we're doing."
They were doing nothing of the kind,
in fact; it was too bloody hot to do anything extra these days. But
Malfoy made a mental note to ask Snape about it as soon as cooler weather
"What's her story?" Harry
suddenly whispered to Draco, nodding at Marybeth. Malfoy glanced briefly
at her. The Slytherins had not told a soul what Marybeth had shared with
them about life among the Death Eaters, and they had no intention of doing
so. Meanwhile, the child's nightmares were intensifying; Millicent
reported having to shut the door to her cell each night to keep her
screams from waking the entire house.
"It's not pleasant," Malfoy
answered the Gryffindor shortly, hoping Harry would drop the subject.
"What about the others?" Harry
"What do you mean?" Malfoy
demanded, a slight threat creeping into his tone.
"The others who left," Harry
expounded, ignoring the darkness that was filling Malfoy's face. "The ones
who weren't killed in the siege.
"What about them?" Malfoy
Harry shrugged. "Are they all
All around them, students
stopped splashing and bobbed quietly in the water, some drawing
closer. Malfoy gave the non-Slytherins in his vicinity a fierce look
before snarling at Harry, "What difference does it make?"
Harry's eyes flew open in
horror. "They're your housemates!" he protested.
"Not anymore," Malfoy insisted
Harry surveyed the faces
bobbing above the surface of the water to see if the other Slytherins
shared Malfoy's point of view. Their calm, even expressions assured him
they did. He glanced at Marybeth again and turned back to Malfoy,
disgusted. "Are you afraid?"
"What are you talking
about?" Malfoy snapped.
"Are you afraid to try and
help them?" Harry elaborated in the same contemptuous tone of voice.
It didn't matter, Malfoy
realized, how outrageous Potter's accusation was, because there was
nothing anyone could to do him in the water but try and make him look
stupid. So he sighed patiently and asked, "Is this about the belly
Several Slytherins laughed but
no one else did. Students from the other houses swam closer and folded
their arms across their chests, scissor-cutting with their legs to keep
themselves afloat. The Slytherins thought they looked rather ridiculous.
"Either you're afraid, or
you're disloyal," Harry insisted.
An angry flush crawled up
Malfoy's cheeks. "You know we're not afraid!" he spat. "You KNOW we
faced Death Eaters to save McGonagall. You KNOW we faced Voldemort to
The argument drew the younger
Slytherins back into the common room. Violet and Marybeth rose to their
feet and approached the water.
Harry nodded at Malfoy. "So
it's disloyalty, then," he announced.
"That's rich," Malfoy hissed,
"coming from a house where people turn on you if..." He stopped
suddenly. Harry was glaring at him, furious. Malfoy had no compunction
whatsoever about revealing sworn secrets in a situation like this, but he
decided to save Potter's revelation for another day. "You weren't
here," he reminded Harry and the others. "You don't know what
happened. We begged them to stay and they made their choice." He gazed
around the cylinder, shooting defiant looks at the students from other
houses. "Dumbledore let them choose and they chose."
"Marybeth," Harry called in a
honey-coated voice. "Did you choose to leave?"
"She was the youngest
one!" Malfoy protested. "And she had an older brother telling her what to
do!" Then a thought occurred to him that made his eyes gleam
triumphantly. "But she still managed to make it back here, didn't she?"
"What's your point?" Harry
retorted. "If she made it back here, anyone could have? No assistance
Malfoy gave Harry the smile
that matched his drawl so well. Harry stared firmly back at him for
several seconds and then responded with his final words.
"Are you sure?"
Malfoy's grin faded. "What
I'm sure of, Potter," he hissed, "is that if a rescue mission were in
order, Snape would have performed it already. He knows a lot more about
than you do!"
Harry grinned broadly at these
words and Malfoy could have kicked himself for accidentally referring to
Snape's Death Eater days. The Gryffindor looked once more at Marybeth,
who stood firmly at the edge of the cylinder, a defiant expression on her
face. Then he flipped resolutely under the water and swam for the
bottom. Ron and Hermione immediately followed him, as did Cho Chang and
"Oh, damn, are we leaving?" Ginny
Weasley moaned before drawing a deep breath and following her departing
schoolmates out of the water and out of the common room.
When the Slytherins were alone
again, Goyle swam over to Malfoy. "That's gratitude for you," he sniffed.
"He's just looking for an
opportunity to show off again," Violet called from below before walking
into the water and swimming to the surface.
"It's not that," Malfoy
corrected her, remembering again Harry's combativeness at summer's
end. "But I suspect it's something equally stupid."
"Let's ban them from Lake
Slytherin!" Crabbe suggested. Malfoy shook his head. "Only Snape can do
that," he drawled. "Besides," he added with a grin, "revenge is a dish
best served cold."
"How cold?" Goyle wondered.
"I'm thinking November," Malfoy
responded cryptically. He grabbed Violet by the arm and pulled her close
as his eyes brightened with an idea. "Listen, you," he commanded. "I
want you doing your level best in Transfigurations this term. I better
not hear you've lost any points or gotten any detentions or you'll answer
Violet scowled at him. "Who died and
made you Snape?" she demanded huffily.
"This is your quidditch captain
talking," he shot back, "so do as I say."
The weather finally broke later that
night as cool winds rushed down from the mountains and swept away the hot,
sticky air mass that had been suffocating the school. Snape inspected
them in their corridors Tuesday morning and then let them watch as he
demolished Lake Slytherin, after which Malfoy announced that quidditch
tryouts would take place that evening in the common room.
"Don't you want to use the
pitch?" Warrington asked in surprise.
"Nope!" Malfoy called, refusing to say
another word as he dashed off to his cell to dress for breakfast.
That afternoon in History of Magic
class, he scribbled madly on a piece of parchment before handing it to
Goyle, who placed it on the edge of his desk where Crabbe could see it,
too. They copied the contents rapidly onto their own sheets of parchment
as Malfoy began scratching feverishly on a new piece. Millicent and
Tracey leaned over and craned their necks to no avail... the three boys
would not let anyone see what they were writing.
Their frantic scribbling made so much
noise that Professor Binns actually looked up from his notes and stopped
lecturing. The boys froze as Binns and their housemates stared curiously
"Fascinating, sir," Malfoy assured the
teacher, pretending he had simply been taking copious notes, and Crabbe
and Goyle nodded in unison.
"Well," said Binns rather loftily,
"I'm pleased to see someone appreciates the importance of my subject at a
time like this." He shuffled his notes as if to tidy them and continued
in a somewhat wounded tone, "This morning some of your schoolmates had the
temerity to ask if I might not like to take a vacation right about now."
The Slytherins exchanged looks. On
Tuesday mornings, Binns taught the Gryffindors after Potions class and the
Ravenclaws before lunch. "Two sickles on the cubs," Malfoy whispered to
Millicent, who immediately called back, "No bet."
"I'm not fat, don't draw me
fat!" Goyle snarled at Marybeth that night as the second year sat at a
common room table drawing a thank you card for Snape. It showed all her
housemates holding hands in a ring around Lake Slytherin as if embracing
the body of water while a few choice Gryffindors were poised to belly-flop
above them. "Thanksssssss awfully!" read the caption inside, beneath
which every Slytherin had added a signature.
"This isn't fat!" Marybeth insisted of
her work. "This is solid!" When Goyle continued to scowl, she added,
"I'm not drawing you like Cedric Diggory!"
Violet wrapped her arms around Goyle's
waist and squeezed him tight. "Who'd want her to?" she asked him
stoutly. "You're a real man, not some Hufflepuff pretty boy."
"You've never even seen
Cedric," Malfoy reminded her, glancing over her roommate's shoulder at the
drawing. "Marybeth, I'm taller than that!"
Marybeth rose in a huff and took her
project back to her cell. Warrington and Crabbe joined Malfoy, Violet and
Goyle in hauling the table to the center of the common room, where
Slytherins aspiring to be chasers lined up on the other side. "Lose your
brooms and grab your quills," Malfoy instructed. "Then step up to any
current team member, receive an application, and complete it honestly,
because we'll be checking with Snape."
Millicent, who was applying at
Malfoy's request, took from Violet one of the parchment forms that had
been created in History of Magic class and examined it curiously. "List
your OWL results in Charms, Transfigurations, and Potions," read question
#1. A note instructed students below 6th year to skip to question
#2. "List your final exam scores for the last 3 years (last two years if
you've completed OWLS)," was the second question.
Millicent completed the application
and returned it to Warrington. "What's going on?" she demanded. But
Warrington just smiled cryptically and thanked her for applying.
Several Gryffindors approached them at
breakfast the following morning with a parchment of their own. "Sign
this," Harry commanded, handing Malfoy a petition. Angry dark letters
across the top proclaimed:
We the undersigned find the teaching of History of Magic to be
ludicrous at this time and demand that this class be replaced with dueling
lessons immediately. Surely no history is more important than that which
we are about to make; if we fail, there will be no future to remember the
The first signature on the form was
Harry's, followed closely by Ginny Weasley, then Ron and Hermione. Dozens
more followed representing every house except Slytherin. Malfoy smirked.
"Did you write this, Potter?" he asked
"He wouldn't let me help," Hermione
whispered, sounding appropriately embarrassed. Malfoy shook his head and
handed the parchment back. "It won't work," he told Harry simply. Harry
scowled as Malfoy explained, "Human beings are outstanding resources to
use in pursuit of your goals. But they have to be managed properly. What
good is a brilliant idea..." He gave the petition a flick with his
finger. "... if you can't bring it off?"
The Slytherins waited for Harry to ask
Malfoy for a better approach. But the Gryffindor just rolled up the
parchment and declared loudly, "Slytherin doesn't want to help," as if it
came as no surprise. Then he leaned over, taking care not to be overheard
by any Hufflepuffs, and added innocently, "What color is your house
again?" before turning his back and marching resolutely to the head
table. Crabbe rose to his feet as if to call after him but Malfoy held up
a hand and waved him back down. "We don't want to miss this," he
insisted, and the Slytherins twisted around to join the rest of the
students watching Harry Potter approach Albus Dumbledore.
Harry marched up to the head table as
superciliously as Percy Weasley and Violet could just imagine his green
eyes flashing as he slapped the parchment petition down in front of the
headmaster. From the gentle expression on Dumbledore's face, Malfoy
deduced the elderly wizard was being his usual polite self as he picked up
the parchment and began to read, blinking a few times behind his half moon
glasses. On either side of him, Snape and McGonagall peeked at the paper
with properly respectful stealth, their faces growing dark as they scanned
the list of signatures. Then Snape looked up with a little smile and gave
the slightest nod to his Slytherins while Minerva pressed her lips into a
thin, tight line. Dumbledore gave Harry a polite, dismissive smile and as
the Gryffindor returned to his seat, Violet turned desperately to Malfoy.
"Take me to Transfigurations with
you," she demanded. "I want to go with you. Take me with you!" Malfoy
chuckled and Millicent promised her, "We'll give you a blow by blow
"Oh, I shouldn't think it will come
to that," Malfoy drawled with a smirk.
The 6th year Slytherin N.E.W.T
Transfiguration students loitered outside the door to McGonagall's
classroom, letting the Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors enter
first. They wanted to get a peek at the Transfigurations teacher before
she put on her game face.
"Lavender Brown told me the
Gryffindors have been asking McGonagall about her battle experience in the
first Death Eater war," Millicent whispered to Malfoy. Tracey Davis
nodded, adding somberly, "They think she doesn't have any."
Malfoy scowled. "Potter was in the
Shrieking Shack last December," he reminded the girls. "He knows how well
she can fight. He'd be dead if she couldn't."
Professor McGonagall came marching up
the corridor, her face disappointingly calm and composed, and the
Slytherins shuffled inside to take their seats.
"I want you to know," McGonagall
announced smartly from her desk as the lesson began, "that the staff are
extremely pleased with your efforts in classes so far this term."
Malfoy smiled to himself. See,
Potter? he thought. Resource management. But to his shock,
Harry whispered a cutting response just loud enough to be heard by
everyone in the room.
"Wish we could say the same."
In the startled silence that
followed, the Slytherins turned their heads as much as they dared to take
in the determined expressions of their classmates from the other three
houses. McGonagall chose to ignore the situation. "Today," she informed
the class, "we will be transforming robe fabric into rope, most useful for
those who are unable to conjure rope at this point."
Harry stuck his hand in the
"Yes, Mr. Potter?"
The Gryffindor had the good
grace to rise before asking somewhat peevishly, "Why don't we just learn
how to conjure rope, Professor?"
Malfoy's eyebrows rose almost
to his hairline but McGonagall just smiled like someone about to trump an
ace and responded, "Rope conjuring is a skill you might acquire in
7th year N.E.W.T. charms class if you master fabric transfiguration
now, Mr. Potter. Transfigurations prepare you for the mastery of energy
required for conjuring."
Malfoy expected Harry to
settle down after that, but Potter had a follow-up question.
"And why are either of those
necessary to someone capable of a Petrificus Totalus charm?"
The Slytherins thrilled to the
possibility of seeing McGonagall take points from a Gryffindor in
class. But instead the teacher smiled rather tartly at Harry and asked
him to step to the front of the classroom. Then she handed him a piece of
chalk and invited him to write the reasons on the board where everyone
could benefit from them.
"One," McGonagall enumerated,
"binding and stupefication spells have limited durations, particularly
when cast by less experienced wizards. Two, rope will bind someone who
may have cast a shield charm against petrificus totalis or other
incantations. Three, as I believe I already mentioned, transfiguration
exercises prepare you for advanced conjuring." McGonagall waited until
Harry was finished writing, then asked him pleasantly, "Do you have any
more questions before we proceed, Potter?"
"I don't think so," Harry
replied evenly, "but it's hard to be sure. I'm having a little trouble
accepting the wisdom of people who think it makes sense to just sit around
conducting lessons as usual at a time like this."
Malfoy had to consciously shut
his mouth. Millicent left hers hanging open, as did Tracey and
Warrington. But McGonagall continued to smile.
"If you'd been paying
attention in History of Magic class, Potter," she assured him, "you would
have learned about the direct relationship between advanced preparation
and success in battle. . . not to mention the value of patience and faith
in qualified leadership."
Zing, zing, zing,
thought Malfoy, and it was all he could do to sit quietly while she
assigned Harry an extra foot of History of Magic homework on those very
The Slytherins were relaxing
in their common room after dinner and Malfoy, who'd been enjoying a
fireside chat with Crabbe and Goyle about Potter's homework assignment,
nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the small explosion. His
frantic first thought was that Voldemort had found a way to apparate into
the Slytherin common room and he leapt to his feet in terror. But then,
as several more pops followed in rapid succession, he realized the noise
was coming from a table where Violet had set up her cauldron and was
currently engaged in catching fluffy white kernels in her mouth as they
exploded into the air. The first and second years who surrounded her
applauded wildly and then began snapping at the kernels themselves as they
flew out of the cauldron.
"Violet," Malfoy snarled, "if
Snape catches you, he's going to whip you pink!"
"It's just popcorn,
Malfoy," she argued as she reached into her pocket and withdrew a mouse
that Spellwad had caught for her in the Forbidden Forest. She kissed the
tip of his furry little nose before letting him nibble on one of the
kernels. "He's a little shook up," she told the older boys, stroking the
small creature reassuringly, "but he should be ready by tomorrow
"As you add the first half of
your puffer fish eyes, notice the slight change in both color and
aroma," Snape lectured the second years the next morning as they made
their first batch of swelling solution. While the Slytherins and
Gryffindors bent studiously over their cauldrons, Violet glanced at
Marybeth's potion and then down at her own. Marybeth's was a nice hunter
green and boasted a pine fresh scent. Violet's was brown and smelled
rather rancid. The stench wafted through the room, eventually reaching
the hooked nose of the potions master who turned to regard Violet
darkly. The youngster shrugged.
"I don't think I'm brewing
glory here, sir," Violet admitted.
Snape examined the contents of
the cauldron and then the ingredients that lay scattered about her
desk. Finally he illuminated the tip of his wand and examined the inside
of her kettle more closely. When he rose to face her, his black eyes
glittered dangerously. "What have you put in this cauldron since
Tuesday?" he seethed.
Violet gulped. "Popcorn,
sir," she confessed, feeling incredibly stupid.
appalled. "Buttered popcorn?" he stammered, seeming pained by the
"No, sir," Violet shook her
head. "I made the popcorn..." She pointed to the inside of her
kettle. "... in the cauldron."
For a moment Snape could only
stare at her. He scrutinized her face as if wondering whether a
Hufflepuff could have polyjuiced her way into one of his Slytherins. Then
he drew himself menacingly to his full height and Violet felt her legs
break out in goose flesh. "Detention!" Snape snarled furiously before
obliterating the contents of her cauldron with a scathing "Evanesco!" and
storming away to check the other students' work.
Marybeth gave her a sympathetic smile
but the Gryffindors jeered openly the moment Snape's back was
turned. Infuriated, Violet waited until neither they nor Snape were
watching and, with a discrete wave of her wand, transfigured the nearest
Gryffindor's puffer fish eyes into black beetle eyes. When the oblivious
cub added the altered ingredient to his cauldron, the resulting explosion
covered the entire classroom in black soot. Every single swelling
solution was ruined.
I'm dead, Violet
thought. If he catches me, I'm dead.
A terrifyingly still and
silent Snape let the horrified students tremble for several seconds before
storming down from his desk to scourgify each work station. He checked
the unfortunate Gryffindor's cauldron and then carefully examined the
ingredients on his desk. When he spotted the transfigured beetle eyes,
his lip curled in fury and he jabbed one with the end of his wand and
waved it under the Gryffindor's nose. "Is your memory so short," he
hissed at the boy, "that you can't retain the visual characteristics of
puffer fish eyes for two minutes?" He wiped his wand clean on the boy's
robe before taking ten points from Gryffindor. Then he stormed to the
front of the room as Violet wondered desperately whether there was any way
that he could know what she'd done.
"Would anyone like to confess?" Snape
asked silkily as he leaned against his desk with his arms folded. His
black eyes burned down on them, searching their faces one by one as he
waited to see if anyone would speak up.
Violet didn't dare.
"Very well," Snape said,
drawing his wand from his robes. "Wands up."
Violet held her wand before
her like everybody else and watched curiously as Snape approached the
Gryffindor at the far end of the classroom. She'd never seen a Prior
Incantato before. Snape touched the tip of his ebony wand to the cub's
holly one and when a ghostly representation of the flame the Gryffindor
had used to ignite his cauldron fire slipped out in response to Snape's
incantation, Violet gasped.
Then she stuck her hand
miserably in the air.
"What part of 'Do not try the patience
of those responsible for your well-being' didn't you understand?" Malfoy
asked her in the common room late that night.
"The part where all I did was make
popcorn!" Violet snapped as she alternatively licked and blew on the burns
that covered her hands and arms. Snape had thrashed her soundly and then
detained her in his office, making her scrub out her cauldron while it
roasted over a scorching flame to open its pores. "How long shall I do
this, sir?" she'd asked through gritted teeth. "Until you are quite
certain your cauldron will not malfunction again," Snape had suggested,
the consequences of another failed potion implicit in his tone, so she'd
kept at it until her hands and arms were as inflamed as her backside.
"Hang in there, Violet," Goyle yawned
at the youngster. "Madame Pomfrey will patch you up in the morning."
Crabbe, who was peeking into the
corridor from the common room door, shook his head. "Snape's told you a
hundred times," he reminded Violet, "don't put anything in your cauldron
except potion ingredients!"
"It was only a swelling solution!"
"For want of a nail, Violet," Malfoy
lectured her. "Everything that goes on in class is life or death
now. Learn to get your fun at the expense of others instead."
Violet whirled on him,
furious. "That's what got me tushwhacked!" she protested.
"Not by ruining their potions, you
twit," Malfoy responded scornfully. "The Gryffindors were working
hard. You know perfectly well that's going to warm the cockles of Snape's
"What are cockles?" she asked, pulling
her mouse out of her pocket.
"A first year binding potion
ingredient," Goyle reminded her impatiently. "And don't get attached to
that thing, Violet, Mrs. Norris just might catch him."
"Here she comes!" Crabbe hissed from
the door, and the four of them hurried out of the common room and into the
Mrs. Norris stopped when she spotted
the Slytherins. Then she meowed softly and trotted over to them. Malfoy
scooped her up with a warm, "Nice, kitty kitty kitty," and began
scratching her behind the ears. She purred and stretched in his arms and
then curled up to leap back to the ground.
"Wait, Mrs. Norris," Malfoy whispered
temptingly, "we've got a treat for you!" Violet dangled the mouse by its
tail in front of Mrs. Norris' nose. The cat immediately made a swipe with
its paw and Violet yanked the mouse out of reach as the Slytherins set off
down the hall. "Wait for it," Malfoy drawled to the cat as he stroked her
in between the tantalizing peeks at the mouse. "You're going to have so
The Slytherins slipped into Moaning
Myrtle's bathroom, greeted her with as much false warmth as they could
muster, and hurried over to the appropriate sink. "We love you,
Salazar," Violet whispered in a hissy parseltongue that made Mrs. Norris'
fur stand on end. Malfoy stroked her reassuringly as the entrance to the
Chamber of Secrets slid open.
"Nice kitty kitty kitty," he whispered
while Violet dangled the mouse over the entrance. "Wanna watch,
Myrtle?" Draco called over his shoulder as Violet dropped the mouse down
the pipe. Mrs. Norris sprang from Malfoy's arms to give chase and Myrtle
flew down the pipe right behind them.
"All right," Malfoy said, dusting off
his hands as the Chamber entrance slid shut. "That takes care of the
night watch. Now let's go melt the Fat Lady."
"You're not Gryffindors!" the Fat Lady
declared, refusing to swing open despite the Slytherins' use of a password
easily obtained after a few hours of spying. "No, ma'am," Goyle replied
tragically. "We're not Gryffindors. We're in love with
Gryffindors." Beside him, Crabbe nodded and added moonily, "Have you ever
been in love, ma'am?" The Fat Lady turned to Malfoy and Violet, who shook
their heads. "Not us," Malfoy assured her. "We're the prompters." The
Fat Lady furrowed her brow and he added, "You know, like Cyrano?" He
held up some parchment crib sheets which in fact contained instructions
for applying slow-spreading coloration potion.
The Fat Lady, who had always rather
enjoyed the solidly-built Goyle and Crabbe, smiled sweetly at their
lovestruck faces before swinging open with a wistful little sigh. She
wished them the best of luck as the Slytherins scampered gleefully through
the hole into a tower full of sleeping Gryffindors.
"I couldn't keep up," Myrtle called
down from the window ledge when they returned to her bathroom an hour
later. Violet reopened the Chamber entrance and called, "Here,
Birdfood!" Within moments, the mouse scampered up the pipe and into her
waiting pocket. Mrs. Norris shot out of the entrance right on his heels,
nearly knocking Malfoy over as she collided with his chest.
"Aw, Mrs. Norris!" he clucked
sympathetically at the panting feline whose lamplike eyes were wild with
excitement. "No luck?" He held her out to Goyle who fed her some
consolation scraps he'd saved from dinner. The cat devoured them eagerly
and then sprang from Malfoy's arms. Crabbe opened the lavatory door for
her and, just before she strutted away, she threw the Slytherins a meow of
thanks for the entertaining evening.
At first Violet couldn't understand
why they'd gotten away with it. She had been sorely tempted to back out
of the whole thing Thursday night; with so many of her extremities on
fire, she had not relished the thought of another trip across Snape's
desk. Only the fact that she alone among Slytherins could open the
Chamber of Secrets had made her honor her commitment to her fellow
pranksters. But when the sixth year Gryffindor boys stormed into the
Great Hall Friday morning, even Professor McGonagall seemed hard-pressed
to hide her mirth. "What's the matter, Potter?" Malfoy called as he and
every other student turned to stare at the green and silver hair of Harry
and his furious dormmates. "Was it a rhetorical question?"
Now, as Violet sat devouring her
lunch, she asked the older boys to explain it to her again.
"The Fat Lady can't tell on us," Goyle
insisted. "She'll lose her job."
"That's not the point, Goyle," Malfoy
interrupted. He turned impatiently to Violet. "We didn't get in trouble
because we didn't do anything asinine," he insisted. "And McGonagall's
probably hoping we'll distract the Gryffindors from doing anything asinine
"I thought you were done doing Potter
favors," Millicent reminded him. Malfoy turned to her with narrowed eyes
and replied, "You're doing 100 push-ups at your first quidditch practice."
"I'm on the team? Wow!" Millicent
cried in delight. Malfoy scowled. "Two hundred," he amended.
Snape was strolling down the corridor
to his quarters that evening, wondering who might be available to floo in
from Hogsmeade for a visit, when he was distracted by an odd tapping
emanating from a secluded alcove nearby. He peered carefully into the dim
nook and found Violet sitting cross-legged on the floor, lost in thought,
absently tapping the tip of her quill against a hand-made parchment
notebook in her lap.
"What are you doing, Miss
Guilford?" he demanded.
Violet jumped. "Thinking,
sir," she responded quickly, rising to her feet as she added, "...about
difference between green hair and blackened swelling solution."
"I don't want you loitering in
the corridors by yourself," Snape admonished. Then he nodded at Violet's
book and added, "Did you manage to work it out?"
Violet nodded back. "I think
so," she told him, falling obediently in step beside him as he turned to
walk her back to the common room. They traveled in silence for a few
paces before she asked, "Professor Snape, why are the Slytherins different
from the Gryffindors?"
"You have more in common than
you might imagine," Snape responded. "But the differences to which you
are referring are generally the result of upbringing, choice and
"Well, did Potter experience a
drop on his head? Because he's being a real idiot these days."
Snape smiled inwardly before
replying, "While I wouldn't put it past James Potter to treat his infant
son like a golden snitch, I seem to recall you found the boy rather
brilliant last year."
Violet made no response and
after a while, Snape continued in a measured fashion, as if each word cost
him ten galleons.
"Potter's situation is
difficult," he explained, "and I'm not merely referring to the death of
his godfather. A bit of tolerance from his fellow students would not be
out of line. Beyond that, Miss Guilford, you needn't concern
yourself. His situation is not your problem." Snape grimaced a bit at
these last words and Violet smiled, supremely glad she was Snape's student
and not Snape himself.
"What would you do about
Potter if he were in your house, sir?"
"That's not a fair question,
Miss Guilford," Snape reproved gently. "He hasn't been in my house from
"All right," Violet
nodded. "But what if Professor McGonagall died in the night and Professor
Dumbledore assigned all the Gryffindors to you. Then what would you do
The question was so intriguing
that Snape actually mulled it over for a moment or two before remembering
that, even if he devised the perfect solution, Dumbledore and McGonagall
would doubtless disregard it. He looked down to find his young Slytherin
waiting eagerly for his answer.
"Miss Guilford," he scolded,
"kindly refrain from inflicting Gryffindors upon me hypothetically or in
any other manner."
Violet smiled and gave her
robes a little flounce. "Are you going to visit the common room as you did
last year, sir?" she asked earnestly. "We miss you."
Snape cut his eyes at her. "I
suppose next you'll tell me that accounts for your atrocious conduct so
far this term."
"It's a desperate plea for
attention," Violet agreed.
Snape shook his head with a
wry smile. "Heed the example of your older housemates, Miss Guilford," he
recommended. "You'll notice I haven't been putting many of them across my
desk this year."
"Wise counsel, sir."
They walked in silence for a
while until they reached the common room door. Violet turned to say
goodnight but Snape spoke first, his concern poorly masked as he inquired,
"How is Miss Montague faring?"
The question troubled
Violet. She looked away, glancing in the opposite direction they'd been
traveling, down the corridor that led out of the dungeon and to the rest
of the school. For a moment she thought she saw something move at the
nearest corner. Then she blinked and it was gone.
"Marybeth has bad dreams," she
told Snape sadly.
"Every night." Violet reached
out and took hold of Snape's hand. "Couldn't you give her something,
sir?" she beseeched him.
"Every night?" Snape asked
dubiously, and Violet nodded. "I take your point," she admitted,
releasing Snape's hand. She stepped up to the spot in the wall that
contained the common room door.
"Does it disturb your
rest?" Snape asked her.
Violet turned back to him,
thinking it over. "At first it did," she remembered, "because I'd ask her
what she'd dreamt about and we'd talk about it." Violet shuddered. "I
can't imagine living that way, sir," she said with a miserable shake of
her head. "I just can't imagine it!" Then she remembered who she was
talking to and froze. She looked up nervously but her housemaster didn't
seem angry. "Now," Violet finished quickly, "I just ask if she's all
right and then go back to sleep."
She glanced up the corridor
again while Snape considered what she'd said. When he spoke, his voice
was calm and even. "Don't concern yourself too much, Miss Guilford," he
reassured her. "Miss Montague is in the best possible situation for
someone of her experience."
Violet ached to ask him what
he meant. She so wanted to understand what Marybeth was going through,
and no one would know better than Snape. But the women of Hogsmeade were
probably waiting at the Three Broomsticks for a summons from their
favorite bachelor and besides, Snape forbade any discussion of his Death
Eater days. With this in mind, Violet turned towards the common room
door, murmuring over her shoulder,
"Good night, sir."
"Good night, Miss
Guilford," Snape replied, refusing to move until Violet was safely back
inside her house. So she stifled a giggle and announced clearly the
password Malfoy had just set after dinner.
The common room door slid open and
Violet slipped quickly inside, clamping a hand over her mouth to hold back
the laughter as Snape roared for Malfoy to come and change the password
Neither of them noticed Harry Potter
gazing somberly at them from the nearest corner before turning and heading
back to Gryffindor.
An Obedient House