"Goodbye, cruel world!"
Violet cried, and Malfoy had just enough time to roll his eyes before she
grabbed his left hand and jumped. The two of them, along with Crabbe,
Goyle, Marybeth, Harry, Ron and Neville, were leaping from the railing of
the 7th floor Gryffindor Tower staircase, hands clasped, to plummet to the
stone floor below.
Snape's second reward lesson had
been even better than the first. Dobby had shown him how to halt in
mid-freefall, then descend slowly and harmlessly to the ground. By the
end of classes on Friday, half the students at Hogwarts could jump safely
off a tower of tables stacked to the ceiling of the Great Hall.
They spent the evening meal
discussing all the possibilities this new trick offered. From what
heights would the technique work? Could you descend on your back, firing
shots at your opponent as you fell? How close could you come to the
ground before halting? Was it possible to increase the hang-time? Snape
had taken care to forbid any unsupervised practice of these options but
had completely overlooked the idea of group activity.
"You'll just pull your arms out of
the sockets," Hermione had protested as her schoolmates had gathered on
the Fat Lady's corridor to experiment. She had refused to participate,
calling their plan a useless aberration that would land them in trouble.
But Malfoy couldn't see anything wrong with what they were doing... until
Professor Trelawney stepped into view right after they jumped and let out
a scream so loud it nearly shook the castle off its foundation. The sight
of the plunging children frightened her so badly she fainted, knocking her
silly head soundly on the stone floor.
Snape and McGonagall convulsed
with mirth every time they thought of Suggestible Sybil's reaction to the
stunt, so they were forced to turn their little heart-stoppers over to
Filch for punishment. Filch, who'd always thought highly of the
Slytherins because Snape had the good sense to cane them, bestowed upon
Malfoy the honor of cleaning out Mrs. Norris' litter box, a task the
caretaker took very seriously now that animals as well as students had
limited access to the grounds. Malfoy ignored the smirks of his fellow
deviants; while Filch was supervising their punishments elsewhere in the
castle, he would have the run of the caretaker's office.
Mrs. Norris gazed appreciatively
at him with her lamp-like eyes as he squatted beside the box, scooping and
raking and generally making a very pretentious show of doing a
conscientious job. "There you are, pretty kitty," he flattered her, and
the foolish animal lapped it up. "Now where does Mr. Filch keep the extra
Mrs. Norris hopped onto a large
metal box that stood between Filch's desk and her litter tray. Malfoy
praised, "Good kitty!" before lifting her gently off the box and opening
the lid. Then he gasped out loud at largest stash of floo powder he'd
He rocked back on his heels, arms
around his knees, and pondered his discovery for a moment. "Can squibs
use floo powder?" he wondered aloud. He turned curious eyes upon Mrs.
Norris, who meowed and swished her tail calmly. It made sense, he
supposed, that anyone capable of speech and grip could use the stuff, so
long as he knew which fireplaces were on the system and what to call them.
On the inside of the box's lid was
a small pocket with a folded piece of parchment protruding from it.
Malfoy carefully removed the paper and opened it. It contained a list of
numbers next to descriptions of various rooms, beginning with:
H1        Headmaster's Office
H2        Gryffindor Head's
H3        Hufflepuff Head's
H4        Ravenclaw Head's
H5        Slytherin Head's
H6        Gryffindor Head's
H7        Hufflepuff Head's
H8        Ravenclaw Head's
H9        Slytherin Head's
It went on for several columns,
concluding with 'H250, Groundskeeper's Hut.'
Malfoy's mind raced. Was
this what he thought it was? It would certainly explain how Filch was
able to get around so quickly and why he always looked so grimy.
The teenager hesitated
only a moment. Then he sat down at Filch's desk and began copying the
list as quickly as he could. When he finished, he returned the original
to its pocket and closed the lid on the mammoth floo tin.
He gazed about Filch's office,
fists clenched, desperate to flee and test his theory. Instead, he went
on searching for the kitty clay. When Filch finally arrived to dismiss
him, he found Malfoy sitting quietly in a chair, holding Mrs. Norris in
his lap while he scratched her behind the ears.
"Floo tag?" Harry repeated
incredulously. He sat surrounded by Ron, Neville and Ginny in the
Slytherin common room. Ginny was peering over his shoulder at a parchment
list in his hands.
"You don't have to know a room's
name!" Malfoy explained eagerly. "Take the Defense classroom. You don't
have to say 'Quirrel's classroom' one year, then Lockhart's the next, then
Lupin's, then Moody's. You can just say 'H-39.' It's always H-39
regardless of who's using it or what's being taught there!"
"Look how many there are!" Ginny
breathed. The students were aware that Hogwarts had hundreds of
fireplaces, but until now, they'd never had any idea which ones were on
the floo system. All they'd known for sure was that, unlike the common
rooms, the dormitory fireplaces were not connected.
"Each game lasts one hour," Malfoy
explained. "There's one predator and four prey. You can floo up to10
times per game, but you can't stay in a room more than 5 minutes and you
can't tag in the floo system... only in rooms or corridors."
"How are we supposed to memorize
all these locations?" Ron demanded.
"You don't have to!" replied Goyle. "All you have to do is memorize the handful you'd never want to
"Not always knowing where you'll
wind up is part of the fun," Malfoy added. "If you get caught by a staff
person, you're automatically out and you'll probably get punished. So
never say H2 through H9! And since Dumbledore's office has the only
fireplace connected to the outside these days, it's definitely off
Harry thought for a
moment, then shook his head. "Floo powder's expensive," he reminded them.
Malfoy rolled his eyes.
"So?" he drawled.
"So, it sounds like a rich
man's sport to me!"
"So is quidditch, Potter,"
Malfoy told him coolly. "You'd know that... if you'd ever paid for a
The game was a huge hit.
At first the students stuck to parts of the castle they knew well and only
played when the staff were likely to be holed up in their offices or
quarters. But soon they branched out, exploring the far reaches of the
castle during games scheduled at more daring times of the day... and
Hogwarts' owl population
made up for weeks of inactivity by delivering regular supplies of floo
powder from Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley and Harry soon became the possessor
of the world's shiniest Firebolt as he generously allowed students to earn
handfuls of the stuff by polishing his broom. Malfoy, on the other hand,
kept his resources to himself, refusing to help others acquire the added
expertise that came from playing the game as often as possible. Floo tag
was the one activity outside of potion-making where he surpassed Harry
Potter and he intended to keep it that way.
He prowled the castle for
hours, exploring obscure rooms on the system, and soon developed a
secondary reconnaissance game where he'd floo into a room after hours and
then sneak back to his common room from the remote destination. "Why
don't you just floo there and back?" Crabbe asked one night when he'd
sneaked triumphantly back into Slytherin at 2am. "Twice as expensive with
none of the fun!" Malfoy replied.
The Slytherin sixth year
was soon the undisputed champion of the school with Potter a consistent
second. "You could beat him if you'd study the list more," Ron pointed
out, and Harry shook his head with a grin. Malfoy had nearly all 250
fireplaces memorized, but Harry found it more fun to shout, "H-173!" with
no idea where he would turn up.
What vexed Ron the most
was that Malfoy was equally good at evading or chasing. The same insight
that made him so effective at insulting others also allowed him to guess
with amazing accuracy where his prey had fled when he pressed his ear to
the wall and listened to the whoosh of his opponent's flight through the
floo system. "The next time I'm predator," Ron swore, "I'm going to catch
him no matter what."
He got his chance after
Professor McGonagall marched up and down the rows between the house tables
in the Great Hall on the Friday morning before Holy Week, handing out
revised schedules for the last week of classes before the Easter hols.
"Look!" Hermione pointed
out as he and Harry finished their hot cereal. "We have Defense with the
5th and 7th years at the end of the day next Friday! I wonder why?"
Lupin found no reason to
be coy or secretive about it and by lunch time, every student at Hogwarts
knew that Severus Snape would be delivering a lecture on why people become
Death Eaters during the last period of instruction on Good Friday. The
Great Hall abounded with speculative conversations and furtive glances at
the head table.
"Maybe we shouldn't play
next week," Harry muttered to Ron as he toyed with his food. Their game
with Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy was scheduled for Thursday evening, the last
night Snape would have to work on his lecture. Ron said nothing.
"It's not that I'm afraid
of getting caught," Harry insisted. Neither he nor Ron would have to
answer to Snape anyway. It just seemed... inappropriate, somehow.
"I'll be predator for
you," Ron offered a bit too quickly. "Just make up some excuse!"
That evening, he sent
Ginny to the Slytherin common room to pass Crabbe and Goyle a note
instructing them to meet him in the corridor. Then she distracted Malfoy
("Payback for November!") so they could slip out of the house unnoticed.
"With Harry out," Ron told
them, "it's just the four of us. Here's the deal. If you help me catch
Malfoy, I'll help you catch Harry next time."
Any other pair of
Slytherins would have rejected this proposal out of hand; news of Snape's
lecture had the green house once again circling the wagons. But Crabbe
and Goyle didn't even hesitate. Ever since they'd mastered patronus
production, Malfoy had made a few too many remarks about "idiot savants."
"Deal!" Goyle agreed, offering his hand for Ron to shake while Crabbe
nodded in enthusiastic agreement.
prats!" Malfoy thought furiously to himself when he realized the others
were ganging up on him. They were good at it, too. Twice he evaded Ron
by mere seconds as Crabbe and Goyle helped him listen and pursue Malfoy
throughout the castle. Time to use the secret weapon, Malfoy
thought. He'd been saving this particular evasion for just such an
He floo'd to H-225, a
dark, unused classroom he'd scouted a few days before. All the desks were
pushed along the walls, leaving the center of the room completely bare.
His plan was to use the leaping technique Snape had taught them in his
first week of defense classes to jump from the fireplace to the back row
of desks, well-shrouded in shadows where he could hide. Anyone who
followed him to the room would discover a dust-covered floor devoid of
footprints and assume Malfoy had floo'd there only as a diversion. His
pursuer would beat a hasty retreat back through the floo system, listening
frantically for sounds of Malfoy's flight, while he would slip nimbly into
the corridor and hide nearby for a much-needed rest.
Malfoy rocked back and
forth in a crouch, listening carefully as he struggled to control his
breathing. Ron was closing in. He would have to be quick and absolutely
silent. He rocked backwards once more and then sprang into the air. His
toes had barely touched the surface of one of the desks when it collapsed
beneath him and crashed to the floor with an ear-splitting bang.
"Dammit!" Malfoy screamed
as dust and debris settled around him. It wasn't an abandoned classroom
at all, he realized. It was a storage space for furniture deemed unworthy
of repair; the desk he'd landed on had three broken legs. What are
they saving it for, he wondered furiously, Bonfire Night?
He scrambled to his feet
and raced out one of the classrooms' two doors as Ron shot out of the
fireplace. Then Draco streaked up the corridor to the other door, praying
Weasley would be stupid enough to follow his tracks. Sure enough, the
first door opened again as Ron came barreling through it into the corridor
and Malfoy jumped back into the room through the second door and raced
over to the fireplace.
It was time to take the
ultimate risk, he decided. He just couldn't bear to lose at Floo Tag.
Snape was probably in his office working on his lecture anyway. If not,
Malfoy would just have to explain; maybe his housemaster would understand.
"H9!" he whispered as Ron came streaking back into the room. The
Gryffindor raced to the fireplace and listened hard but the sound of
Malfoy's path was completely foreign to him. He had no idea where the
Slytherin had gone.
Malfoy shot into Snape's
parlor and straight into a writing desk his housemaster had apparently
moved closer to the fireplace since Malfoy's last visit to this room.
"Dammit!" he screamed again, in pain this time. There was no point in
being quiet; even if Snape had missed his entry, he surely would have
heard the crash of Malfoy's impact with the desk followed by the clatter
of desktop items falling to the floor. But Snape was nowhere to be seen.
"Finally, a break!" Malfoy
muttered as he massaged his sore leg. When the pain of his barked shin
began to subside, he climbed to his hands and knees and began crawling
around Snape's sitting room, retrieving the items he'd knocked off the
"Parchment," he muttered
to himself, absently cataloging the items as he returned them to the
desktop, "...quills, paperweight, Blot-be-gone..." He reached beneath a
and fished out the last item to be retrieved. It was a book, now covered
with dust that had been collecting beneath the chair. Some
house-elve's head should roll, Malfoy thought. He puffed out his
cheeks and blew the cover clean.
It was Lucius Malfoy's
The boy froze on two knees
and one hand, holding the diary beneath his disbelieving eyes. Snape must
have gone after the journal last winter, he realized. Why didn't he
tell me? Malfoy wondered. Why didn't he show it to me? Then
it occurred to him that he had no more right to it than Snape had.
Depending on the contents, Snape might be the perfect person to own it
now. But I sure as hell have every bit as much right to read it,
Draco thought defiantly as he climbed to his feet and sat down resolutely
at Snape's writing desk.
He turned immediately to
the back of the book, searching for the last page with any writing on it.
The page contained the final three entries of his father's life. The
first was from the day of that glorious quidditch match when Draco had sat
between Snape and his father to watch Violet and the Slytherins finally
beat Gryffindor using Draco's brilliant scheme.
He has stolen my son. Severus
Snape has stolen my son. After all I've done for him, after all our
friendship has endured...!
He will regret it.
The entry was flattering in a way
but lacking nevertheless. What about my strategy? Draco wondered
indignantly. What about beating Gryffindor, about triumphing over
Harry Potter? The next entry was dated on Halloween. That was the
last time I saw him alive! Maloy realized with a start.
My hand shakes as I write
this. That child! That infernal child with her cursed gaze!
thought with a smirk.
She stared at me as if she
believed in me, as if she had complete faith in me. Is this how she looks
Is this how Draco looks at
I helped her.
I am a doomed man.
Malfoy thought back for a
moment to that wretched Halloween. He saw Snape striding purposefully
towards him as he stood alone on the quidditch pitch, devastated by the
possibility of what he now knew for sure; his father had wanted to kill
his best friend. There was little comfort in the confirmation that Violet
had been right about his father's brief repentance.
The final entry was dated
just a few days later.
Is this how it feels, Severus? Is
this the fear you live with?
If something happens to me, what
will become of my son?
You wanted to help me,
I wanted to kill you.
If possible, I must make
It pleased Draco to
imagine that his father's final correspondence, a request sent to Snape
moments before his death, had been an act of restitution. He flipped to
the front of the diary and read the first entry. It was dated around
Christmastime late in his father's career at Hogwarts.
Severus. What a
splendid name. I would kill him and take it for myself if he hadn't given
me this diary.
But he did, so I suppose I
should start with him. A brilliant idea on his part, that I should
document our group's activities. But then, that's why we like him.
Little Severus is full of clever ideas... and useful abilities.
Of course, he made the
mistake so many clever, idealistic people do. He arrived at Hogwarts
assuming the majority of its inhabitants would be decent people. Imagine
his shock to discover how the lazy resent the industrious, how the shallow
resent the profound, how the self-absorbed resent sharing the attention of
There is a little gang of
Gryffindors who seem particularly eager to disparage him, reveling in his
poverty. We try to teach them manners when our busy schedules permit. I
can already see how eagerly they await the day when most of us will be
gone and Severus will be on his own.
In reality, Severus is
already on his own. He enjoys being our pet but in the end, I think he
finds even his fellow Slytherins somewhat lacking. He scrutinizes
constantly and suffers such pain every time a fellow human being chooses
to behave less idealistically than he. As a result, Severus is not a
Occasionally, this gives me pause.
thought, thumbing through the pages. Where's Voldemort? There he
was, a few months later.
Solum Uflayic. Nicknames
made from the letters of one's moniker are all the rage after this
weekend's trip to Hogsmeade. We met the most fascinating old Slytherin
there, known during his school days as Lord Voldemort. I've given up
trying to top that. He taught us how to sneak off the grounds and
promises to teach us far more fascinating tricks, so of course Severus
begs to come with. But he is too young, I think.
We don't need that little
swot showing us up.
I've set him to finding
out who Lord Voldemort was.
The next few entries
described the Slytherins' secret trips to Hogsmeade and the dazzling array
of skills demonstrated by Voldemort. Malfoy found one entry particularly
We asked Lord Voldemort if
his talents were unique or whether our instructors were holding out on us.
He assured us there is no Gryffindor as powerful as he. "Wait until
Severus hears that!" I murmured to Bellatrix.
"Who is Severus?" our benefactor
I thought for a moment and
replied, "Severus is to the first years what you are to us." I quickly
amended my statement, explaining that Severus possessed an impressive
array of useful skills but was by no means respected or esteemed as a
leader among his classmates.
Voldermot seemed quite
The rest of the page detailed an
on-going political discussion that dominated the next few entries.
As the muggle denouncing
continued, I was almost embarrassed by my housemates' eagerness to outdo
one another, currying favor with their escalating contributions. I
checked myself and waited for the perfect opportunity to shine.
"Every muggle-born student means
one or even two more muggle parents in the know."
"Increased consorting with muggles
can only lead to the exposure of our world."
"Some muggles still disfigure
people for conflicting with their religion!"
"Breeding half-bloods dilutes our
powers. How can it not?"
My opportunity had arrived.
"Numbers are more important," I murmured, my quiet tone instantly
commanding the attention of the banshees that surrounded me. Voldemort
turned almost imperceptibly to me and asked oh-so-casually, "What do you
I understand you better than you
think, old Slytherin.
"Wizarding abilities seldom
increase," I began sagely. "Innovation is rare and hardly world-changing.
The key to maintaining our significance is to limit the proliferation of
our strongest abilities while consolidating our power and extending our...
period of influence.
Omygod, Malfoy groaned to
himself, rubbing his temples just like Snape. My father invented the
Death Eaters. How pleased Voldemort must have been, not to have had
to make the suggestion himself. Draco flipped ahead several pages to the
end of his father's school career.
Farewell to Hogwarts, and none too
soon! But I fear I leave young Severus in near-mortal peril. Alas, there
is no time to think of that now. There is too much to organize, within
the Ministry... and without.
Where do I come in?
Malfoy wondered, and he began flipping pages again.
"Where did he go?" Goyle
demanded as he, Ron and Crabbe pressed their ears to a classroom
fireplace, listening desperately for any sign of Malfoy in the floo
Wish I could show this
to Potter! Malfoy thought as he chuckled at his father's description
of a particularly clever revenge taken against the marauders by the older
Slytherins during a surprise visit to town over a Hogsmeade weekend.
Of course, such correction
would not be necessary if McGonagall and Dumbledore would rein them in. I
am pleased to note that our little visit had precisely the impact I had
hoped; Severus was delighted by our presence and our assistance, which
brings me one step closer to my goal.
Still, I hesitate. If I
bring Severus into the fold as the dark lord wishes, it will certainly
reflect well upon me. But what if Severus proves to be less of an asset
than my master anticipates?
Malfoy began turning pages
rapidly, scanning for the word 'correction,' hoping to find another
example of marauder humiliation. Instead he discovered a new victim.
I have no sympathy for Severus. I
trust he expected no interference on my part. I will not allow that
self-righteous, ungrateful misfit to jeopardize my standing with my lord
wondered. What happened? The teenager checked the date and
realized with a start that the entry was recorded on the day of his birth.
But there was no mention of him anywhere. Too busy celebrating,
Dad? Malfoy wondered sourly. Snape would have been out of school at
that point, he realized. He jumped ahead again, searching for any mention
of his name, and stopped when he saw Dumbledore's.
And I thought I was
clever! Severus has surpassed me once again. I may be snug in the
Ministry claiming imperius, but Severus is sheltering beneath the wing of
none other than Albus Dumbledore (at no small cost to that man's
credibility). He remains as inscrutable as ever and it gives our brethren
great pause to hear of Dumbledore asserting, "He is now no more a Death
Eater than I am." Is he a traitor, they wonder, or simply the best at
Fools. They ask themselves the
wrong question. With Voldemort gone, the way is clear for another to rise
to power. The only question remaining is, who shall I take with me?
Severus has always been loyal to
"We're going to have to
tell Snape," Crabbe moaned. The three boys were standing next to a
secluded fireplace where they'd begun the game. Malfoy should have
appeared at the end of the hour to claim victory. But there was no
or sound... of him.
"Let's not panic," Ron
argued. "He might just be stuck somewhere." He told them briefly about
the time the Weasleys had tried to floo into 4 Privet Drive. "I suppose
some of the fireplaces in the castle could be boarded up, too."
"Well, if he's trapped,"
Goyle almost shouted, "how the bloody hell are we going to find him
without help? There's not enough floo powder in all of Slytherin to check
every fireplace in the castle!"
"I know how to find him,"
Ron assured them, and he led them quickly to Gryffindor Tower.
Crabbe and Goyle waited in
the common room while Harry obligingly checked the marauder's map. "He's
in Snape's parlor!" the startled Gryffindor told his roommate.
"Is Snape there?" Ron asked,
"No, Snape's in his office." Harry
Ron peered over his shoulder at
the dot representing Draco and nodded. "Malfoy's not moving," the
red-head observed glumly.
Maloy smiled as he finally came
across an incident he remembered, a dinner table conversation at his home.
Had Severus over for
dinner tonight. Asked him how he managed to sneak away from Dumbledore.
He assured me there was no sneaking about it. I suspect Severus enjoys
flaunting our on-going friendship.
Didn't Dad ever write about
me? Malfoy wondered. He started skimming again, searching for his
name. Finally he found it.
Draco leaves for Hogwarts
today. Would Durmstrang have been a better choice? There is whispering
among my friends who are concerned about exposing their children not to
Dumbledore but to Severus. Others refuse to meet the eyes of the critics
or speak calmly of "Snape's loyalty to Slytherin." We'll see what Draco
says at Christmas time.
Malfoy searched for that entry but
found none. He remembered the conversation well, though. How he'd raved
about the estimable Severus Snape, champion of the Slytherins, tormentor
of the Gryffindors! How he'd basked in his father's complete and
uninterrupted attention on that occasion.
Draco let the diary fall closed
for a moment and stared at the blank parchment on Snape's desk, lost in
thought. He'd idolized Snape at that age, just as he'd idolized his
father. But a time had come when his estimation of his pater had slipped
dramatically. It was the night Crouch had sent the dark mark into the
sky. It had sickened him to see his father so frightened, and in his
confusion he'd said something he probably shouldn't have. "Professor
Snape wouldn't be afraid," he'd insisted. His father had slapped him so
hard he'd fallen to the ground. They had stopped speaking to one another
until after Draco had returned to Hogwarts.
The year that followed had been
the worst of his life. Snape had had little time for his students,
distracted as he was by Harry Potter's participation in the Triwizard
Tournament. The only bright spot had been that first potions class after
Potter's name had come out of the Goblet of Fire. Snape, convinced that
only someone as clever as Hermione Granger could have found a way to slip
Potter's name into the competition, had punished her by insulting her
large teeth. She'd fled in tears and Malfoy had caught Snape's eye,
certain they shared the same thought. She wouldn't have cried if she'd
been guilty. Unfortunately, that realization had only given Snape
more to worry about.
Draco had stayed at school over
Christmas that year because of the Yule Ball and had heard very little
from his parents. But he had so looked forward to going home for the
summer hols, assuming Voldemort's return would finally make things at home
right again. Instead, his father had been tense and agitated, vicious and
remote. And Snape's visits had been private affairs, the two men
sequestering themselves in his father's study. Why? Malfoy thumbed
through the diary, looking for an entry from that summer.
My head aches as if it will split.
How the brain must race to keep pace with Severus!
There are no good choices. My
ambitions have been destroyed by the return of a madman. "Can we trust
him?" Severus asks. "Or will he destroy us?" Severus is fence-walking,
and rightly so. He does not know if he can trust the Dark Lord. He asks
if there is some way he can be of service, prove his usefulness. But the
Dark Lord does not know if he can trust Severus.
I ask him what else the two of us
can do and he never answers my question. He leaves it for me to say. He
stares so intensely with those cursed black eyes, as if watching my face
for a sign.
He said the oddest thing the last
time we met. "I would never hurt you, Lucius."
If only Draco weren't such a
little idiot, he might have perceived some definitive sign of Severus'
loyalty to Dumbledore. With proof of his disloyalty, I could hand him
over to Voldemort and secure my position at his right hand.
A wave of fury broke over Malfoy.
You were the idiot, Dad, he thought. Snape was using you to spy
on the Death Eaters. How nerve-wracking that summer must have been
for poor Snape, Draco realized. Any one of his visits could have landed
him in the middle of a group of his father's... friends.
But that was where his father's
true stupidity lay, Draco thought. "He stares so intensely with those
cursed black eyes, as if watching my face for a sign." Snape was there
for you as much as for Dumbledore, Dad, Malfoy now realized. He
would have helped you, if only...
The trio huddled together
in the dungeon, peering around the corner of an alcove at the door to
"Will one of you just GO!"
Ron hissed. But neither Crabbe nor Goyle moved. One of them had
to go knock on the door to Snape's office, gain entrance, and keep him
busy. Then the other could lead Ron to Slytherin, floo into Snape's
parlor, and retrieve Malfoy's presumably unconscious form. But neither
Slytherin could bring himself to approach Snape's door.
"Damn that Lupin!" Goyle
snarled. If it weren't for that blasted lecture, knocking on Snape's door
would be no problem. But to approach the potions master as he was
preparing to address a topic that had been forbidden for more than a dozen
Ron's patience gave out
and he put both hands to Crabbe's back and shoved him into the corridor.
At that precise moment, the door to Snape's office opened and the potions
master emerged. Ron and Goyle leapt back into hiding, leaving Draco's
chances of avoiding detection resting entirely upon the ability of Vincent
Crabbe to think on his feet.
Tough luck, Malfoy,
My birth! Malfoy
thought. Surely Dad wrote something about my birth eventually! He
flipped back in time and found an undated entry that, by its first line,
looked to be a likely candidate.
A banner night!
Severus risked expulsion by
fleeing Hogwarts to come here tonight and cry in front of me.
I've never seen Severus cry
Nope, not me, Draco
sighed to himself. Surrounding entries revealed that the page he was
reading was recorded during Snape's sixth year at Hogwarts.
Apparently that Gryffindor trash,
Sirius Black, tried to kill him. Turns out Remus Lupin is a werewolf (!)
being shielded by Dumbledore who hides him away in a Hogsmeade shack each
month. James Potter prevented Severus from walking into a death trap,
then Dumbledore withheld any punishment from Black so as to protect
Imagine if Lupin had killed
Severus! I suspect Severus almost wishes he had, just for the impact it
would have had on that bastard, Dumbledore. One can't help but wonder
what this will do to relations between Sirius and Remus. With friends
like that... But I digress.
Not only did Dumbledore spare
Black, he even required Severus to conspire in protecting his tormentors.
All this Severus told me with
quiet fury and dry eyes. Then he suddenly began to weep.
According to his story, he
departed the headmaster's office as commanded, leaving Dumbledore alone
with James, but then cast an eavesdropping charm at the top of the spiral
staircase to hear if the wondrous Mr. Potter would reap any consequences
for his part in the unending campaign against Severus.
He certainly did.
"I want to thank you, James,"
Dumbledore told him, "for doing the right thing tonight. But more than
that, I want to impress upon you something vital. I need your help. I
need your help in the fight against Lord Voldemort. And to be of
assistance to me, James, you must begin living up to your full potential
It must be recorded that at this I
nearly laughed out loud. But I restrained myself, and as Severus
continued with his story, I was glad I did.
"I think you know what I mean,"
Dumbledore continued. "I intend to appoint you head boy, with Lily Evans
as head girl. I need your leadership and your Gryffindor courage. There
is no more time to waste on childish pranks. If we are to triumph over
Lord Voldemort and people like Severus who would do his bidding, we must
I confess my mouth dropped open.
Even now, I can scarcely believe it.
"What did I do, Lucius?" Severus
sobbed in the silence that followed. "What did I EVER do to deserve
I watched him sob for a few
moments. It has always been thus, little Severus, I thought to
myself. Those who fancy themselves virtuous have always despised those
who can see their flaws. But I didn't tell him that.
"It will be different when
Voldemort rules, Severus," I promised him.
Severus agreed to join this
Thank you, Albus.
Malfoy stared at the last
three words. Then he let the diary fall shut and buried his face in his
Barely a moment later, the door
opened and Snape walked in.
Malfoy looked up and the two
wizards froze at the sight of each other, Snape wide-eyed with surprise,
Malfoy bright-eyed with pain. Snape scrutinized the smudge on his nose
and the state of his clothes, then traced the path of dust from Malfoy's
feet to the fireplace grate. He turned back to the boy, his mouth open as
if to speak, and that's when he noticed the book in Malfoy's lap. Their
eyes locked for a few moments. There was no room in Malfoy's heart for
fear. Then Snape snapped his mouth shut and strode purposefully past
Malfoy into his kitchen.
Malfoy listened to him rummaging
through his cupboards and wondered if his housemaster was retrieving some
domestic implement of correction. But Snape returned not with a large
wooden spoon but rather a jigger of firewhiskey which he set down firmly
in front of Malfoy. "Merry Christmas," he said, and after a
startled moment, Malfoy raised the drink with a small nod and toasted
dully, "Happy New Year."
He drank the entire shot slowly
and carefully, then took a deep breath and sat quietly, twirling the small
glass between the fingers of one hand while he clasped the diary with the
other. Snape watched him but Malfoy kept his eyes on the contents of
Snape's desktop. Eventually, the teacher drew up another chair and sat
"I always hoped," he began gently,
"that my friendship with your father would prove stronger than his
subservience to Voldemort, because..."
Malfoy waited, and when Snape
didn't finish, he suggested, "Because the marauders' didn't?"
Snape snorted. "That was part of
it," he admitted.
"What changed your mind?" Malfoy
asked. Snape looked confused and Malfoy clarified, "About
Snape shook his head. "I never
changed my mind about Voldemort."
Now Malfoy looked confused.
Then his eyes narrowed and he demanded to know, "So why did you join in
the first place?"
"To kill him," Snape replied
simply. Malfoy paled, blinking hard. Snape shrugged. "How else could
I prove to Dumbledore and the marauders what scum they were?" Malfoy
opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Snape added,
"Needless to say, I was hoping to die in the process."
Malfoy shut his
mouth and pressed his lips together hard. "Don't you dare laugh, young
man!" Snape threatened, but Malfoy chuckled anyway.
"I'm sorry, sir," he told Snape as
he set down the shot glass. "I've never understood martyrs." Snape
muttered something that might have been "Good!" as he turned to gaze out
the window but Malfoy thought he saw the slightest blush creep up the
potions master's cheeks.
"I guess you overestimated
yourself?" he asked gently after a brief silence.
"A common mistake in youth,"
Another silence followed.
Eventually Malfoy opened the diary and read aloud, "'Thank you, Albus.'"
He closed the book again and asked the obvious question. "Why are you
Snape didn't speak right away.
Instead, he stood up, took the journal from Malfoy's hands, and placed it
carefully on the desktop. "You won't find the answer in there," he
explained. He jerked his head towards the door and Malfoy rose and
followed him out of the room and into the corridor.
They made their way out of the
dungeon and through the castle to Dumbledore's office. Snape rode ahead of
Malfoy up the spiral staircase and knocked rather softly on the
"May I borrow your pensieve, sir?"
he asked after Dumbledore ushered them inside. The elderly wizard
looked calmly from one face to the other, then nodded and retrieved the
pensieve, setting it down on his desk.
"Would you like to use my office,
Severus?" he asked kindly.
"Thank you, Headmaster," Snape
replied, and Dumbledore gave Malfoy a small smile before departing.
The two Slytherins approached the
desk and Snape touched his wand to his temple, removing a silverly thought
which he placed in the pensieve. Then he turned hesitantly to his
"Draco," he began, and
Malfoy stiffened. The occasions on which Snape used his students'
Christian names were seldom pleasant. Pansy at the train station, Violet
last May, the death of his parents...
"It's one thing to hear Miss
Montague tell of it," Snape warned him. "It's quite another..."
Malfoy nodded. He stepped closer
to Snape so they could place their noses into the pensieve together. To
his surprise, Snape took hold of his arm. He wondered if perhaps Snape
thought he'd never used a pensieve before. Then they were leaning in,
Malfoy gained his feet only to
find himself assailed by screams so sickening his knees buckled. He fell
against Snape, who held him firmly by the arm.
"Don't be sick," Snape whispered
sternly. "You mustn't be sick."
They were torturing Dobby.
He was in the basement of his home
and Voldemort was there, along with the few Death Eaters he permitted to
meet together unmasked. Snape was present, standing next to his father
who stood beside Voldemort and Aunt Bellatrix. Beyond her was Marybeth
Montague's father. Malfoy concentrated on their faces, trying desperately
not to see what they were doing to Dobby for sport. But the house elve's
high-pitched, agonized screams became too much to bear and he clamped his
hands over his ears, screwing his eyes shut as he buried his face in
There was a shout and the room
grew quiet. Malfoy opened one eye cautiously and then the other, slowly
dropping his hands to his side; Snape still held him by the arm. Dobby
lay whimpering in a heap at his father's feet; everybody else was staring
at the pensieve Snape.
"I beg your pardon, Severus?" said Voldemort coldly, and Malfoy felt his housemaster's grip on
tighten. The boy glanced quickly up at him, but Snape's eyes were focused
squarely on the memory before him.
The pensieve Snape was clearly
frightened. He swallowed, and there was a slight tremble to his slender
frame as he stood before the semi-circle of sneering Death Eaters.
Apparently he had cried out and sprung forward; now he stood
half-surrounded by powerful, contemptuous wizards. But he composed
himself and actually managed a curl of his lip as he seethed, "This is a
waste of our time!" He strode purposefully over to Dobby and scooped him
up in his arms, apparently intending to carry him to the elf's bed, a pile
of straw in the corner of the room. But Voldemort stopped him after just
a few steps.
"What are you doing, Severus?"
The pensieve Snape stopped, then
turned to face them, the elf cradled in his arms.
"Are you going to spoil our fun?"
Voldemort glanced briefly at Lucius with eyes that were
beginning to flicker with anger before turning back to Snape. "You've
always been the sort to spoil the fun, haven't you, Severus?"
Lucius glared at Snape, who
murmured deferentially, "I confess it has never been my chief pursuit, my
lord. I prefer to serve you with more purposeful activity."
Voldemort took a step forward and
Malfoy was sorry to see the pensieve Snape flinch. But he stood his
ground as Voldemort asked him, "What if I prefer... carrying on?"
Snape held the dark wizard's gaze
for just a moment, then looked down and away, no doubt searching his mind for an answer he could live with, literally and figuratively.
Finally he lifted his head. "I'll leave," he suggested so humbly it
sounded like an acquiescence, as if he were volunteering to remove his
spoiling presence from a party.
Voldemort was not fooled.
"Lucius," he called lightly, "do
you think Severus should leave?"
All eyes turned to the pale blonde
man except those of the pensieve Snape who stole a quick glance at Dobby
before lifting his dark gaze to Voldemort's profile. Lucius hesitated
only a moment before replying, "I think Severus should learn not to take
himself so seriously."
Voldemort whirled quickly around
and the pensieve Snape flinched again. "Excellent suggestion!" the dark
lord cried, drawing his wand. Malfoy held his breath. Voldemort took a
slow and menacing step closer to Snape. "Severus," he whispered, hissing
as he came,
perspective." And with a flick of his wand, Snape was dangling upside down before them, his robe
falling over his head.
The Death Eaters howled with
laughter. But Malfoy shook his head. That was a mistake, he
Dobby's tiny feet peeked out from
below the hem of pensieve Snape's robe as the wizard dangled him at arms'
length. Malfoy felt the real Snape lean forward a bit and followed his
example, drawing just close enough to hear a frantic whisper emanate from
beneath the dark fabric. "I have to let you go!" the pensieve Snape
hissed, and Dobby fell to the floor and scrambled quickly out of the way.
They tormented him, of course,
though not as brutally as they'd tortured Dobby. There were burns and
blows, taunts and brief strangulations but no blood-letting, broken bones
or cruciatus. Voldemort pinned the dangling Snape's arms to his side and
his robe to his knees so the Death Eaters could see his face throughout
the ordeal. Though the Death Eaters whooped and laughed, the
brutalized young man kept rigidly silent, save for the occasionally
involuntary grunt or gasp. This displeased Voldemort, who brought the
festivities to a halt with a wave of his arm and then slowly approached
his dangling young servant, hands behind his back.
Malfoy wanted desperately to shut
his eyes again.
Voldemort circled the pensieve
Snape slowly, sometimes staring at his face, sometimes turning
thoughtfully away. He stopped when the inverted wizard was once again
facing him, then leapt back and lashed out at Snape with a vicious thrust
of his wand, hurling a black streak of light that slammed into Snape's
pelvis. Snape screamed as if electrocuted and flopped frantically,
groaning and gasping as he bucked in midair, helpless to stop the pain.
Eventually it subsided and he hung quietly again, ragged breaths heaving
in and out of his chest. Voldemort rejoined the semi-circle of Death
Eaters who had watched the display in quiet awe.
"Severus," he announced calmly,
"you will never have children."
It was at that moment that the
real Snape released Malfoy's arm. The teenager could not bring himself to
look at his housemaster. Instead, he lifted his eyes to his father's
Malfoy merely raised an eyebrow.
Voldemort dropped Snape to the
floor and watched with amusement as the wretched young man climbed slowly
to his feet. He stood before them, shaking, and Malfoy knew he was not
trembling with fear this time. Voldemort gave him a small smile and said,
"You will not leave us, Severus. You will stay and demonstrate unceasing
loyalty. If you serve me well enough, perhaps one day I will return
And as the Death Eaters roared
with laughter, the humiliated young Snape fled from the room.
Malfoy didn't wait for
instructions from the real Snape. He tore off after the pensieve Snape as
fast as he could go, following close at hand as the angry young man
stormed out of the house, tore across the grounds and ran into the woods
that surrounded the Malfoy home. Blinded by fury and the tears that
accompanied it, the dark wizard stumbled over a fallen log and
loudly to the forest floor, screaming with rage and frustration. He lay
there and continued to howl as if trying to vomit up all of his
humiliation until his voice grew ragged and he suddenly convulsed,
climbing to his hands and knees to be sick. Then he fell back
against the log he'd tripped over, sitting quietly for a moment before
wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robe. The real Snape
approached Malfoy from behind and stood just in back of him.
For a long time, there was no
sound but the fluttering of the forest, pensieve Snape's ragged breathing
and the occasional echo of laughter from the house. The night air was
cool and moist on Malfoy's cheek. Late spring, he thought. Then
the thin wail of an infant pierced the darkness and Malfoy realized with a
start that this must be the occasion of his birth. He had just begun to
spin around to ask the real Snape about it when an unexpected voice nearby
almost made him jump out of his skin.
"Good evening, Severus."
Pensieve Snape leapt to
his feet and spun around as well, drawing his wand. He found himself
facing a sedate, unarmed Albus Dumbledore. The elderly wizard glanced at
the wand in Snape's hand but refused to draw his own. Instead, he lifted
the hem of his robe and stepped carefully over the log pensieve Snape had
tripped over and sat down on it. He smiled pleasantly at his former
"Never in a thousand years
would I have guessed you would become a Death Eater, Severus," he began.
"I thought you would be the one to make a difference. I thought you would
be the salvation of Slytherin."
Malfoy's mouth popped open
with rage and the younger Snape grew livid; it was hard to say which
Slytherin was more angered by Dumbledore's remarks. Pensieve Snape's eyes
bulged with fury as he jabbed his wand viciously at the old man.
"Evil sorcerer!" he
hissed. "Lying hypocrite!" Spittle flew from his lips as he snarled,
"You're worse than Voldemort! You're worse, because you're supposed to be
Dumbledore knit his brows
in confusion. He scrutinized Snape's face closely but ignored the wand
Snape held on him.
"What are you talking
about, Severus?" he asked, genuinely concerned.
"YOU!..." Snape started
to shout, then forced himself to lower his voice, glancing in the
direction of the house before continuing in a softer but still enraged
tone, "You told James Potter I was an enemy to be defeated!"
At first Dumbledore could
only stare, completely perplexed. He searched his mind for the source of
this accusation... and finally it came to him. His face flooded
distress. "Severus..." he pleaded, one palm extended as he climbed to his
feet. "Severus, I..."
The pensieve Snape sneered
as he waited for Dumbledore to justify his behavior. Seeing this, the old
man's eyes began to snap, his pain yielding to anger.
The beseeching hand he was extending straightened, then rotated and
clenched to become
a pointing finger. "I will have my revenge for this moment, Severus
Snape!" he promised. "Some day, I will put you in charge of a large
group of children, and we'll see how you fare!"
After a startled moment, a guffaw
burst past Malfoy's lips
and his housemaster cuffed the back of his head. In Snape's memory,
Dumbledore sat solidly back down on the log and gazed calmly up at the
young wizard still pointing a wand at him.
"You will find it can be
remarkably difficult to get through to students, Severus," he lectured.
"For example, a child might eavesdrop on a group of peers and nearly get
killed for his trouble, then turn around and eavesdrop again that very
Malfoy bit back a chuckle;
the pensieve Snape lowered his wand.
"I know you understand
what I did, Severus," Dumbledore continued. "I admit I let the ends
justify the means. But I had to get through to James. I had to
turn a thoughtless boy into a committed adult, immediately. Time was
running out, you see. So I used his feelings about you and Sirius to
Pensieve Snape folded his
arms across his chest. "Did you ever set him straight?" he asked
pointedly. Dumbledore's mouth dropped open in protest and he began to
"But... but..." He
helplessly at the house in the distance. "You BECAME a Death Eater,
"I thought not," Snape
Dumbledore sighed and patted the
space beside him on the log. "Please sit down with me, Severus," he
implored. But Snape shook his head. When Dumbledore spoke again, he
sounded exceptionally weary.
"What you must remember about that
night," he lectured, "is that James Potter had just learned a terrible
thing about his best friend. He'd learned that his dearest companion had
more hate in him than love, that he would destroy a friend's life to harm
"To murder an enemy," Snape
Dumbledore took a deep breath.
"The point I am making, Severus," he continued firmly, "is that you were
never one to practice blind loyalty. You've always scrutinized the
conduct of others. But James blamed himself for Sirius' behavior.
He blamed himself for not making a difference. To this day, he strives
unceasingly to be the best possible friend to Sirius."
Pensieve Snape took a step closer
to Dumbledore. "I wonder how Lupin feels about that," he murmured
silkily. Dumbledore chose to ignore the remark.
"I used what I had at my disposal,
Severus," he finished simply.
Snape put his hands in his
pockets. He glanced nervously at the house, then down at Dumbledore. The
elderly wizard tried a warm smile. "You're wondering where that leaves
you," he told the young man. Snape scowled. "Let me take you back with
me," Dumbledore suggested. "Come back to Hogwarts, Severus. Let me prove
to you which statement was true."
Snape curled his lip. "You can't
do that," he sneered at the old man. "They'd never accept me." He
glanced at the house again. "On the other hand..." A small
smile crossed his lips. "Imagine if I marched back into that house and
announced that Albus Dumbledore was spying in the woods nearby."
For a moment,
the elderly wizard seemed to be politely considering the
scenario. Then, suddenly, he drew in a sharp
breath and leapt to his feet, grabbing pensieve Snape's arm in the
he cried. "You're brilliant!"
Snape stared at the old man,
and pulled away. But Dumbledore forged ahead. "I'll prove myself to you
right now, and give you a chance to prove yourself to others!" He took
Snape by both arms and spoke more earnestly to him than ever before. "A
child is to be born," he whispered urgently. "A child with the power to
vanquish the Dark Lord will be born at the end of July. It will be the
son of either Lily Potter or Alice Longbottom." Snape tried to pull away
again, horrified, but Dumbledore held him tightly. "I need you to find
out which, Severus. Find out which child Voldemort intends to kill and
Snape tore himself loose
from the old man's grasp with all of his might, flinging himself to the
ground in the process. He scrambled away backwards like a crab fleeing
some monstrous predator until he banged his head against a tree. "You
trapped me!" he cried, collapsing to a sitting position. "You tricked me!
You gave me no choice!"
Dumbledore smiled, then
shrugged slightly. "I suppose I could alter your memory," he suggested.
"Then do it!" Snape
screamed, no longer caring who heard. But Dumbledore shook his head.
"Never," the old wizard
insisted, gazing calmly at the young man sprawled on the ground in front
of him. Snape stared back at him, his horror giving way to anger. He
sprang furiously to his feet and viciously brushed the leaves from his
robe. Then he drew himself up to his full height and glared at
"I may have no choice," he
hissed, "but you have no guarantee! You will never know for sure if I am
on your side! Never!" Snape drew his wand again, illuminating its tip
for the trip back to the house. "Live in fear, old man," he finished with
a snarl as he turned to head back to the Death Eaters.
Dumbledore shook his head.
"I prefer to live in faith," he called after the young wizard. "And
Severus..." Pensieve Snape glared grudgingly back at him over his
"'Live in fear, Headmaster,'" Dumbledore corrected him with a
He disapparated almost
immediately as the real Snape took Malfoy by the elbow, pulling him back
into Dumbledore's office. The boy clung to the headmaster's desk for a
moment, steadying himself, then walked around it and dropped solemnly into
"You had to stay with them
a long time," he whispered as Dobby's screams rolled around in his mind,
occasionally banging into one of the images from Marybeth's stories.
Snape nodded and Malfoy's face darkened.
"Let's go," he said defiantly.
"Let's just go." Snape made no response and Malfoy's anger grew.
"Millicent was right," he snarled. 'You should just pick up your house
and go. Voldemort won't care about you, as long as you're not here." He
stood up abruptly. "This isn't our fight," he insisted.
Snape shook his head. "It's my
fight, Malfoy," he assured the boy. And he showed his student one last
Malfoy left the
headmaster's office shortly after Dumbledore returned. He hurried back to
Slytherin, determined to find Crabbe and Goyle and apologize for being
jealous of their patronuses. Dumbledore detained Snape briefly to ask a
"May I attend your lecture
Snape hid his reaction
behind his usual sneer. "You don't need my permission to supervise your
staff, Headmaster," he replied coolly.
"No," Dumbledore agreed.
"But I'd like it."
Snape gave him the curtest
of nods and departed.
The last person he saw
that night was Hermione Granger, who appeared in his office long after she
should have been in bed.
"You shouldn't be roaming
the halls this late," Snape scolded
"I couldn't sleep," the
Gryffindor explained. "May I speak with you, please, sir? Is this a good
Snape nodded and rose from
the stool he'd been sitting on by his work station to return to his desk.
Hermione glanced briefly at the potion he'd been brewing, then took a
chair across from him. She sat quietly, staring at her folded hands in
her lap, and for a moment Snape wondered if she was going to start pulling
on her fingers. Then she looked up suddenly and blurted out,
"I'm the one who set your
robe on fire during Harry's first quidditch match against Slytherin."
Snape couldn't have been
more surprised if she'd announced she was secretly engaged to Crabbe.
"We thought you were on
the wrong end of the curse!" Hermione explained before dropping her gaze
back to her lap. She felt Snape's eyes piercing the top of her head and
was startled when he spoke up as suddenly as she had.
"I thought you helped
Potter put his name in the Goblet of Fire," Snape confessed. "That's why
I mocked your teeth."
Hermione lifted her head
slowly, reaching back in her mind for the incident. At first she looked
hurt. Then she found herself grinning in spite of herself. "You
thought I got past the Goblet of Fire?" she asked shyly.
"It's nothing to be proud
of, Miss Granger!"
"No, no, of course not,
Hermione agreed quickly. She gave him a slightly
reproving look and added, "Really, Professor, you should have known I
would never use magic in any way that might harm a single living..."
"Triple volley in the
Shrieking Shack," Snape interrupted her. Hermione blanched.
The silence that followed
grew awkwardly long and Hermione found herself gazing again at Snape's
work station. "I wish..." she began falteringly. "I wish you would let
Hermione sighed. She
studied the grain of Snape's desk and the contents of his shelves.
Eventually she found her voice again. "I really
appreciate your asking
me... It was such an honor to..."
She looked up and
found Snape gazing as gently at her as he had the night she'd helped him
make convalescious potion. When he finally spoke, it was in a tone
equally as gentle but rich in conviction. "Do you know, Miss Granger...no
matter what anyone says about Albus Dumbledore or Tom Riddle
or Harry Potter..."
He rose and crossed the office to
his door. "...I suspect you will turn out to be the finest
student to ever pass through these halls."
With that, he open the
door for her departure.
An Obedient House