Do me a favor.

       Negotiations between the Slytherin and Gryffindor quidditch teams were growing a bit tense. It was a tricky question, who should get the quidditch cup this year. The two houses clustered around their teams in the Slytherin common room, watching the proceedings with great interest.
       "Hufflepuff," Harry insisted. "It should go to Hufflepuff. They're nice, they were the first house outside of Slytherin to embrace Snape, and it would be good for them after what happened to Cedric."
       All eyes shifted to Malfoy, who stretched his legs before the fire and smirked. "Cedric was two years ago," he reminded Harry. "They're over it." He knew perfectly well why Potter wanted the cup to go to Hufflepuff; he was still furious with Ravenclaw and the unstoppable Miss Cho Chang.
       As a security measure, Dumbledore had shifted the last two matches of the year to the first part of the term. Slytherin would play Hufflepuff for the final on Saturday, April 19; Gryffindor had already defeated Ravenclaw on April 12. But it had really been a victory for the eagle house, or more specifically, for Cho. She had thwarted Gryffindor's plan to drag out the match by pursuing the snitch so ferociously, Harry had been forced to catch it long before Ginny and her fellow chasers could rack up enough points to put Gryffindor back in the running for the cup.
       Cho's intensity on the field had been nothing less than intimidating. "Who put a snitch up her arse?" Violet had asked Marybeth as they'd watched the game in awe. Secretly, Violet was rather glad she hadn't had to face the Ravenclaw 'witch on the pitch,' as everyone was calling her, during Slytherin's match against Ravenclaw winter term.
       Hufflepuff needed 300 points to pass Ravenclaw, who'd taken full advantage of Slytherin's substitute seeker last winter to pile up the points and put the Snake house firmly in 4th place. Nevertheless, Malfoy felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the blue house. "We've always been closer to Ravenclaw than Hufflepuff," he pointed out. "Besides, why should Gryffindor get third instead of Slytherin?"
       Ginny burst forward, no doubt intending to remind the Slytherins that it was their fault both houses were out of the running for the cup in the first place. But Harry caught her and clamped a hand over her mouth, then smiled loftily at Malfoy and said, "Because I'm a better seeker than Violet and Ginny's a better chaser than Warrington, Millicent or Tracey."
       There were several "Ooh!"s at that, of course. But Malfoy merely stood up and held out his hand. "We'll give the cup to Hufflepuff," he announced, "as a personal favor... to poor Harry Potter." He smiled with satisfaction as Harry's face darkened, then added with his usual drawl, "...because he's been an orphan longer than anybody in the room."
       Harry climbed disgustedly to his feet and gave Malfoy's hand a grudging shake before departing with the rest of his house. After the door swing shut behind them, Malfoy turned to his teammates and added, "You'll notice I didn't say anything about giving Gryffindor third place."
       He might as well have. The Hufflepuffs played a stupendous game. Their chasers racked up the points so quickly Malfoy threw up twice from zooming back and forth between the hoops.
       Snape and McGonagall sat together, watching the match a short distance from where Dumbledore had planted himself firmly between Sprout and Flitwick. "So childish," Minerva reproved the intensity on the faces of the badger and eagle heads of house. "Indeed," Snape agreed.
       "Time!" Malfoy screamed, and his teammates flew down the pitch to surround him. "Let's change plans," he suggested, his face as green as his robes. "Never mind 'letting' them score as much as we do." So far, the Hufflepuffs had held the Slytherins pointless, completely ruining the Slytherins' plan to pile up the points and then let Hufflepuff catch the snitch. "The second they reach 150 points, Violet," Malfoy ordered, "you find that snitch and pull your little job before we become the most outscored team in Hogwarts history."
       Violet's job was to 'miss' the snitch by faking a faulty Severus Twist that would hurl her away from the tiny golden orb. She spotted the snitch when Hufflepuff reached 130 points and chased it eagerly alongside the badger house seeker, who pushed her away from it with the gentlest elbowing ever seen on a quidditch pitch while Hufflepuff scored again. Violet was so amused by her fellow seeker's good sportsmanship that she had to hide her face in the sleeve of her robes, which worked quite well for her little stunt. From a distance, she seemed to be shielding herself from blows before spinning rapidly out of control as the announcer cried, "Hufflepuff scores again!" Only a few feet above the ground when she pulled the faulty twist, she quickly slammed onto the slushy pitch, grunting as Hufflepuff's seeker snatched the snitch.
       Violet climbed to her hands and knees as the crowd went wild. Something poked her in the side but she ignored it as the Hufflepuff seeker extended a hand to help her up. The Gryffindor quidditch team led the stream of students flowing onto the field to congratulate the Hufflepuffs. They soon surrounded the players from both teams who were dutifully shaking hands with one another. Violet had just completed her sportsmanship obligations when something poked her side again. "Ow!" she muttered, reaching into her pocket to see what it was. She withdrew a splintered shaft of wood and froze at the sight of it.
       The impact of her crash had snapped her wand in two.
       Violet stared at the broken wand and those closest to her grew hushed at the sight of her face. As the heads of house approached the cluster of students surrounding the quidditch players, the little Slytherin raised her chin despite the tears filling her eyes and marched resolutely through the crowd, heading not for the changing room but the castle.
       "Violet?" Marybeth called as her roommate broke free of the crowd and hurried towards the castle. At the sound of Marybeth's worried voice, Violet began to run.
       "What's the matter with her?" Marybeth asked Malfoy as Snape pushed his way to the center of the crowd. "She knows she'll get..." She stopped suddenly, acutely aware of the number of people eavesdropping on this discussion of Slytherin poverty. "...everything she needs," she finished lamely.
       To Snape's surprise, Ron Weasley put a hand on Marybeth's shoulder. "It's different with a wand," he said quietly.
       Snape hurried through the common room, ignoring the Baron, the room's only occupant, who was settling himself on a sofa with a book. He wanted to reach Miss Guilford's cell before the Slytherins returned from the match. But the child's space was empty. Snape strolled thoughtfully back up the girls' corridor and paused just inside the common room where the Baron, never looking up from his book, announced, "The Owlery. Straw bale room."
       "Couldn't manage without you, Baron," Snape assured him as he hurried off.
       He found the child sniveling into her hands atop a stack of two straw bales; Spellwad was perched precariously on the shoulder of her slippery green quidditch robe. The owl took flight at the sight of Snape, hooting worriedly as he fluttered around the potions master's head. "I know, I know!" Snape snarled, waving him away, and the owl, convinced his mistress was in good hands, returned to his perch in the next room. Snape strolled slowly across the room to stand silently before Violet, his arms folded across his chest.
       "I should whip you pink for making me climb all the way up here," he scolded the sobbing child.
       Violet lifted her teary little face and hiccuped through wobbling lips. "It's not... it's not like outgrowing a pair of shoes, sir," she sniffed. "I felt like... like..." Her face crumpled as she struggled to hold back a new wave of sobs. "Like my whole world broke!" She threw her arms around Snape's waist and sobbed into the front of his robes.
       Snape rolled his eyes but patted her on the head nevertheless. "I know," he said gently. "I know it's hard to be poor, and I'm sure it's harder still to be poor when you're alone." He took her by the shoulders and pulled her loose so he could look her firmly in the eye. "But you would do well to remember, Miss Guilford, that you are not really alone..." He narrowed his eyes and bent his forehead down to hers. " matter how much adolescents like to think they are."
       That brought a small smile to her face. Snape let go of the youngster and took a step back. He withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket with a flourish and held it out to her. "Blow," he commanded. "Then stop crying and count your blessings. We'll get you another wand tomorrow." He took a quick look over his shoulder. "Now let's get out of here before the Hufflepuffs arrive to tell the whole world of their triumph."
       On Sunday afternoon they floo'd straight to Ollivander's from Professor Dumbledore's office, Violet dressed neatly in her green jumper and Slytherin robe, the headmaster admonishing Snape firmly, "Hold her hand, Severus!" as they took off. When they arrived, they discovered, much to Snape's annoyance, that several adults were queued up ahead of them waiting for service.
       "This will take forever," he muttered.
       Violet nodded. "When Professor Sprout brought me before first year, there were two students ahead of us and it took thirty minutes."
       "Adults take even longer," Snape assured her. He glanced around the shop as if looking for someone, then mulled it over. I'd rather be a moving target than a still one, he decided. He leaned down to Violet and whispered, "Shall we take a stroll?" and almost smiled when her eyes lit up with delight.
       The streets were slushy with melting snow but the air was finally warming as spring struggled to arrive and Violet could not have been happier, clutching her housemaster's hand as she turned her head this way and that to take in the wonders of Diagon Alley. Her fascination intrigued Snape. "Have you never done this?" he asked, and Violet shook her head.
       "Professor Sprout only took me to Ollivander's," she explained. "My robes and books and things were hand-me-downs other people had left behind at Hogwarts." She thought for a moment, then gave Snape a naughty smile. "I've been to Knockturn Alley," she reminded him. "Would you like me to show you around?"
       Snape released her hand long enough to give her backside a stinging swat. Then, taking her hand again, he pulled her close and leaned down to whisper, "I didn't spend much time here as a student, either." Several people were watching them as they walked, Violet noticed. Some smiled at the sight of Severus Snape walking down the street hand in hand with a child. But others frowned darkly and Violet squeezed Snape's hand tighter, afraid they might be Death Eaters. Then she noticed something odd.
       "They have children," she murmured.
       "I beg your pardon?" said Snape.
       "Those people frowning at us," she explained. "They have children with them. They look to be my age or even older."
       "Yes," Snape nodded.
       Violet shook her head, puzzled. "Shouldn't they be in school, sir?" she asked. Then she thought of something and tiptoed so only Snape could hear her whisper delicately, "Are they all squibs?" That might explain their resentment of a Hogwarts master and his student.
       "Some, perhaps," Snape admitted.
       "Well, why aren't the others at Hogwarts, sir?" Violet wondered.
       "There are only so many openings per year, Miss Guilford," Snape reminded her. "Were you under the impression that the witches and wizards of Great Britain limit their offspring to precisely that number? And of course, there's no predicting how many muggle-born children will demonstrate magical ability."
       Violet remembered Bletchley telling the Slytherins last June that many witches and wizards spent their entire lives thinking they were muggles. She walked in silence for a while, lost in thought. Then she asked, "Professor Snape, what determines who gets a letter and who doesn't?"
       Snape shrugged. "Ability," he said first. Then he added, "Family connections. Money."
       Violet frowned. "I haven't got any money," she protested.
       Snape gave her a sidelong glance. "Don't fish with me, child," he scolded. "We'd have been fools to leave you to your father's devices, would we not?"
       "Professor Snape!" A pleasant voice rang out from behind and Snape whirled around, nearly jerking Violet off her feet as he spun her around with him. A plump, pleasant-looking woman approached them, beaming as she came.
       "Molly," Snape nodded curtly. The sight of this motherly-looking redhead made him glance quickly around the street and Violet noticed a couple of people he seemed to recognize - a punky-looking young witch with pink hair and a man with a strange eye that reminded her of Malfoy's story of Barty Crouch and the bouncing ferret. "Miss Guilford," Snape murmured as his eyes darted this way and that, "have you met Mrs. Weasley?"
       "It's nice to meet you," Violet smiled, extending the hand not attached to Snape's. "Draco Malfoy speaks very highly of your hospitality."
       Mrs. Weasley blinked a time or two before smiling uncertainly and reaching out to pat Violet's head. "Hold her hand, Professor Snape," she lectured the potions master before hurrying away. As Violet watched Mrs. Weasley disappear down the street, she thought she heard Snape mutter something to the effect of, "I am holding her bloody hand and I don't need any baby-minders!" But she was more interested in the somewhat tattered state of Mrs. Weasley's robes, which reminded her of the earlier topic of conversation.
       "Professor Snape," she asked, giving his hand an irritating little tug, "who pays for my tuition?"
       "It's waived," Snape told her as they set off down the street again.
       "What about Malfoy's?"
       Snape chuckled. "Malfoy has plenty of money," he reminded the child.
       That reminded Violet of something else. "What about our things?" she asked. "Private things, soap, toothpaste... stuff you can't find in the Lost and Found?"
       Snape nodded. "I paid for yours last year," he told her. "After April..." Violet winced. "Professor Dumbledore began chipping in," Snape finished.
       Violet gave his hand a swing. "Who's paying for my wand?" she asked as Snape looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed the gesture.
       "I am," he admitted.
       Violet smiled warmly at the shop window beside her. "Thank you, sir," she said.
       "You're welcome."
       They crossed the street before heading back to Ollivander's so they could gaze into a new set of store windows. Violet grew wide-eyed again, smiling in delight at the contents of the shops. She walked quietly beside Snape, never asking for anything or trying to lure him into a store, and Snape was suddenly overwhelmed by a fierce desire to buy this well-behaved child everything in sight. He was saved from the embarrassment of suggesting a stop at a sweet shop by the sudden appearance of a former pupil.
       "Bletchley!" Violet cried, releasing Snape's hand to leap into the arms of her former housemate. Bletchley caught her up with a grin and gave her a smacking kiss on the cheek.
       "You skipped my good-bye queue, you worthless snake!" he berated even as he gave her a fierce hug.
       "What are you doing here?" Violet cried. Bletchley shifted her to his hip so he could shake Snape's hand, explaining, "I'm an apprentice at Ollivander's."
       "How are you getting on?" Snape inquired, and Bletchley beamed at him.
       "Fine, sir. It's fascinating work!"
       "Bletchley," Violet told him soberly, "I broke my wand."
       "Oh, no!" he protested with a sympathetic smile. "Well, let's see what we can do about that." He put her down and she walked between the two men all the way back to the wand shop, holding their hands and swinging them happily until Snape snapped, "Stop that!"
       Inside the smoky shop, Bletchley took Violet's measurements, then assumed a business-like stance before the rows of wand boxes.
       "All right, young lady," he began, "what do you fancy?"
       Violet stole a quick glance at Snape, then bounced on her toes with excitement. "Ebony!" she cried, and Mr. Ollivander, supervising in the background, frowned.
       "I don't know, Violet," Bletchley cautioned. "Ebony's not very flexible. It requires a strong hand, so to speak."
       Snape smiled just a bit. "It won't hurt to let her try," he murmured. "It's not her first wand, after all."
       "Right, then!" Bletchley nodded with a grin, turning around to scan the rows of narrow boxes until he found a section of ebony wands. "Unicorn hair," he muttered, reciting the magical cores of the many choices before him as he ran his fingertips along the ends of the boxes, "unicorn hair, phoenix feather, unicorn hair..." He paused before a certain box, his index finger tapping softly against it as he thought the contents over. Then he grinned and, with a little nod to himself, carefully removed the ancient-looking box. He turned around to present it to Violet on the palms of both hands.
       "Here you are, Miss Violet," he announced. "Ebony..." He glanced briefly at Snape. "...with the heartstring of a thousand-year-old dragon."
       Violet took the box and opened it slowly, carefully withdrawing the shiny black wand inside. She held it before her and gazed in wonder for several seconds before Bletchley prompted, "Go on, then!"
       Violet took a deep breath and gave the wand a swish and a flick. A shot of green light burst forth, blasting Violet several inches into the air. She dropped back to the ground with a shriek of delight and turned joyously to Snape. "Can I have it?" she begged. "Please, sir? I'll work so hard with it, please?"
       Mr. Ollivander looked doubtful indeed but Snape nodded at Bletchley. "I'm sure she'll grow into it," he said, and Violet hugged the wand tightly before tucking it securely into the pocket of her robe.
       After they'd floo'd back to Hogwarts and Violet had thanked Dumbledore for the use of his fireplace, Snape walked her back to Slytherin House. They paused at the door to the common room and Violet raised unspeakably grateful eyes to her housemaster. "I love my new wand so much, sir!" she told him.
       "Yes, yes, don't mention it," Snape muttered. "It's not a broom, after all." He whirled around and swept quickly in the direction of his quarters. Violet watched him go, then let herself into her house where she found Malfoy and several other Slytherins lounging in the common room.
       "What did you get, then?" Draco asked, not bothering to look up from his game of wizard chess.
       Violet pulled out her new wand and held it up proudly. "Ebony," she smiled at him, "with a dragon heartstring."
       Malfoy tossed her a brief grin. "Just like Salazar, eh?" the sixth year called before returning his attention to his game.
       Violet froze to the spot where she was standing. She stared open-mouthed at Malfoy and for a few seconds, she couldn't even breathe. Then she turned wondrous eyes to the wand before her as Bletchley's voice echoed in her head.
       'Ebony... with the heartstring of a thousand-year-old dragon.'
       "Oh!" Violet murmured. Could her new wand have a heartstring from the same dragon as Salazar Slytherin's wand? She squealed with delight, making several of her housemates jump, then hugged the wand to her chest and spun around and around and around.

An Obedient House