Lake Slytherin

       The weather turned so unbearably hot and sultry during the first week of classes that even the dungeon grew steamy. To the students' dismay, the headmaster declared the lake off-limits after Hagrid discovered that the giant squid was suffering from a miserable summer cold and needed peace and quiet. But when Professor Dumbledore came downstairs late one afternoon to see Snape, he found a dozen wet-haired, grim-faced Slytherins lined up outside their housemaster's office.
       Marybeth leaned against the wall on the right side of the door, taking care not to let her backside make contact with the rough stones. The children waiting on the left side appeared to be first or second years as well. Emanating from Snape's office was a repetitive cycle of swish, thud, and whimper. Dumbledore looked the children over and then politely stepped to the back of the queue.
       The first year at the end of the line looked up uncomfortably to see the elderly wizard smiling gently but curiously at him. The boy shrugged.
       "Swimming," he admitted, "in that dark little harbor beneath the castle where the first year boats come."
       Dumbledore frowned and the child continued.
       "Well, sir, it seemed like a foolish rule to us, especially on such a hot day. The giant squid obviously can't fit through that hole in the cliff."
       The boy turned petulantly to the Slytherin next to him.
       "How were we supposed to know that merpeople have such an attitude problem?"
       They both looked grumpily at Dumbledore who pointed out,
       "Rules can be powerful protection against inexperience."
       The door to Snape's office opened and he and a freshly-punished Violet emerged. They were both quite surprised to see their fearless leader standing at the end of the queue. Violet turned to Snape, wide-eyed.
       "What did the headmaster do?"
       Snape cuffed her upside the head. "For heaven's sake, sir," he chided his superior, and as Violet scurried over to Marybeth, Dumbledore cut to the front of the line.
       Before entering Snape's office, he glanced at the guilty students lining the corridor.
       "It seems rather cruel to make them wait," he murmured. So Snape promised the remaining Slytherins,
       "One stroke off for waiting."
       He gave Dumbledore a look that asked, 'Satisfied?' and ushered him into the office. The first years cheered as the door slammed shut but the second years remained uniformly silent. As Violet and Marybeth walked away, Marybeth shook her head at the youngest students.
       "He'll just hit them harder," she speculated.
       "Dunderheads," Violet agreed.

       They were sitting on the ledge of a huge common room window when Snape entered that evening. Several other Slytherins were perched on the opposite ledge, waiting for a cross breeze, and it was with great reluctance and much lethargy that they dragged themselves down from their perch and queued up. Snape, they noticed, was wearing one of those expressions only Dumbledore could put on his face.
       "The headmaster has asked me to inform you," he announced, "that beginning immediately, there will be an inspection every morning at 7am."
       The Slytherins knew better than to groan but several whimpered involuntarily. Snape seemed sympathetic.
       "You needn't dress or tidy up," he assured them. "It's just a headcount. However..."
       The Slytherins stiffened at the cooling of his tone.
       "As this is the Headmaster's policy, anyone found missing will answer to him. . . after I've had a go at you. Similarly, anyone found guilty of attempting to cover for or in any way facilitate the absence of another student at inspection will answer directly to the Headmaster. . . after I've had a go at you. Any questions?"
       Malfoy raised his hand. Snape raised his eyebrow. Malfoy spoke anyway.
       "This is just on instruction days, right, sir?"
       Snape actually sighed. "Every day, Mr. Malfoy," he noted regretfully. He looked them over carefully and changed his tone again.
       "A word of advice," he counseled almost tenderly. "This is not the year to try the patience of those who are responsible for your well-being. Keep that in mind and you will save yourselves a great deal of distress."
       The Slytherins exchanged curious glances. It was an interesting pronouncement, albeit one that did not really fit their lifestyle.
       Snape dismissed them and as the students headed back to the windows, Malfoy invited the housemaster to join them. "We get a breeze sometimes," he pointed out. Snape thanked him and shook his head.
       He paused at the door to watch Violet climb onto the window ledge. Despite her two-inch growth spurt, she was still far too small to hop up and had to climb from one piece of furniture to the next to reach the window. Her efforts reminded Snape of the previous fall when she'd levitated the common room furniture into the air to form an indoor flying obstacle course.
       That gave him an idea.

       He entered the common room at 2pm the next afternoon to find it inhabited only by the first years, who had no class at that hour. Since he'd flogged a number of them the day before, they were only too happy to flee before him as he ordered them out of the house before getting down to business. An hour later, he stood back to survey his handiwork with immense satisfaction.
       "Severus Snape," he murmured to himself, "you are a powerful wizard."
       The Slytherins returned at 4pm. Even before they opened the door, they noticed the cool, fresh smell emanating from inside. They glanced curiously at one another, shrugged, and entered.
       After that, they could only stand inside the door to their common room and gaze about them in awe.
       A gigantic cylinder of lake water stood before them. It was fifteen feet high and more than 60 feet in diameter, filling the center of their mammoth common room. Several of their stone pillars rose from its depths. No barrier enclosed the water or held it in place; it just stood there, rippling gently in the breeze from their open windows.
       On either side of this monumental cylinder, their furniture floated in the air, climbing upward piece by piece as if supported by the banister of a gigantic curved staircase. The water, which was cooling the air of their common room most refreshingly, looked surprisingly clean, and it didn't take the the Slytherins long to figure out why. It was circulating, flowing out of the cylinder in the form of a small brook that trickled across their common room floor as it coursed under the wall and disappeared into the lake beneath the castle. Another stream flowed in from an opening just a few feet away. It rose in cascading steps that climbed to the very ceiling of their common room before tumbling down into the cylinder as a frothy, bubbly waterfall between two stone pillars.
       Malfoy walked up to the water and slowly, carefully stuck his hand in it. He couldn't help but smile with delight. Then he peered into the slight murkiness and squinted to make out the final element of Snape's ingenuity. Several snails, about three times the size of a golden snitch, were scattered about the bottom of the cylinder, sucking eagerly at the stone floor of the Slytherin common room. Malfoy turned back to his housemates with a grin.
       "I guess Snape found a way to get rid of the odor!" he smirked.
       Violet was already jumping up and down.
       "I love this house, I love this house, I LOVE THIS HOUSE!" she cried. Then she raced to her cell and quickly re-emerged dressed only in her vest and knickers. She hopped on the bottom piece of furniture, skipped nimbly from one chair to the next, and cannon-balled into the water with a satisfying splash. Before long, most of Slytherin had joined her.
       The cool water was joyously refreshing and the students swam happily for several minutes. Then one of the first years paddled over to the edge of the water and began splashing frantically, terrified; there was no rigid surface that would allow him to climb out.
       "We're trapped!" he screamed. "He didn't mean us to get in! We're going to drown!"
       Violet rolled her eyes.
       "Was I that scared of Snape when I was a first year?" she asked the older students.
       "Everybody's that scared of Snape the first year," Malfoy insisted.
       "I'm still that scared of Snape," added Crabbe.
       Malfoy swam over to the first year and shoved his head under the water. He held him down for so long that Millicent felt compelled to ask,
       "What are you doing?"
       "Trying to drown him," came Malfoy's casual reply.
       After a few more seconds, the first year flew into the air, hanging there for a moment before floating smoothly beyond the cylinder's edge and settling gently to the common room floor. He stood there, dripping, a little traumatized, and properly embarrassed to have doubted their head of house's foresight in providing for his safety.
       As the Slytherins jeered at the youngster's foolishness, Malfoy suddenly rose into the air, too.
       "Wait!" he cried in horror, reaching desperately for a hand from Crabbe or Goyle, who knew better than to try and help him. "I was just proving a point!"
       The Slytherins watched in delight as Malfoy rose six feet above the surface of the water and straightened out rigidly against his will. "Noooooooooooo!" he begged, throwing his hands over his face. But despite his pleading, he plummeted savagely back into the water in a stinging belly-flop that flamed his abdomen bright red.
       "Son of a bitch!" he sputtered after flailing his way back to the surface.
       The Slytherins roared. Violet, bobbing contentedly alongside Marybeth, raised her wrinkled fingers and called sweetly,
       "Malfoy, could you drown me next? I'm starting to pucker."
       Malfoy shoved her out of his way as he swam over to Pansy, who was reclining on a sofa near the top of the cylinder because she didn't want to get her hair wet.
       "Pansy!" he barked. "Try to push a piece of furniture closer to the water."
       Pansy pulled and tugged at a table next to the sofa with no success. Apparently, Snape had permanently positioned the furniture close enough to jump off of but not close enough to get splashed. Pansy pulled out her wand.
       "I'll try charming," she suggested.
       "No!" Malfoy shrieked. "Don't charm! You'll break something and flood the place."
       He looked around, hoping to get another idea, and spied Violet still grinning at his pink belly.
       "Violet, I swear, if you don't wipe that smile off your face..."
       This threat only made Violet smirk harder so she dove beneath the surface of the water to hide her happy face from Malfoy. Suddenly the blonde sixth year grinned.
       "Got it!" he declared.
       He took a deep breath and swam quickly to the bottom of the cylinder. Then he pulled himself along the floor until he could crawl right out of the water. He stood up on dry ground and threw his arms triumphantly into the air.
       "Ta da!" he cried.
       Then he walked back into the cylinder and kicked his feet to propel himself to the surface.
       "So," Millicent asked when he reappeared beside her, "are we going to invite the other houses over?"
       "Don't look at me," Malfoy insisted. "I've done enough good deeds for Potter to last a lifetime."
       "I bet it's hot in Gryffindor Tower," Violet mused with a little smile.
       This thought only increased their joy, and when Snape passed the entrance to the common room on his way to dinner thirty minutes later, he was stopped in his tracks by the sound of Slytherin voices lifted in song.

       Snape burst through the door with a murderous fury in his eyes.
       "Do you have ANY IDEA," he roared at his startled students, "what a cane feels like on a WET BACKSIDE?"
       The Slytherins could only bob and blink. Then Violet began to sing again.
       "We love Professor Snape," she articulated conscientiously, and the rest of the Slytherins joined in immediately, building to a rousing finish of "Professor Snape, we love you," as their housemaster departed with a groan, rubbing his temples as he went.

       They paraded into the Great Hall cool and refreshed, a supremely irritating sight to the rest of Hogwarts' nauseous, miserable citizens. While the rest of the students picked listlessly at their food, the Slytherins devoured the meal with gusto except for Violet, who stared at the wall, lost in thought. Eventually, Crabbe gave her a nudge.
       "You gonna eat that?" he asked, pointing to her casserole.
       "What else can it do?" she responded.
       Her housemates stared curiously at her plate to see what the casserole had been doing and Violet shook her head.
       "Not the food!" she chided. "Lake Slytherin!"
       "Lake Slytherin?" Malfoy grinned at the moniker.
       "It can prevent drowning and punish horseplay. What else do you suppose it can do?"
       "What do you want it to do?" Pansy asked.
       "I want to slide down the waterfall," Violet chirped. "But I can't figure out how to get up."
       "Well, you can't go up the stairs," Crabbe told her, "because we tried."
       Goyle nodded.
       Just then, Seamus Finnegan stepped up behind Violet. He'd stopped short on his way down the aisle upon overhearing their conversation. Now he demanded to know what they were talking about.
       "You have a lake in your house?" he gaped.
       The Slytherins fell silent, smiling surreptitiously at one another.
       "Don't be ridiculous, Finnegan," Malfoy drawled. "Slytherin is the name of the lake outside the castle, didn't you know that?"
       His housemates laughed as Seamus returned to the Gryffindor table and sat down with a thump.
       "The Slytherins have a lake in their common room," he announced.
       Several mouths dropped open. Then Ron punched Harry in the arm.
       "Get us in," he commanded.
       Harry frowned and Ron added,
       "You must have something on Malfoy from this summer that you can use. Some deep dark secret he told you?"
       Harry grinned.
       "I have a better idea," he promised the Gryffindors.

       "Dammit, Violet, you're stepping on my ear!"
       Crabbe shouted with pain as the rest of the Slytherins bobbed around him and Goyle in a semi-circle, watching their efforts. The boys were trying to boost Violet up the pillar on one side of the waterfall. Violet kept slapping her palms against the pillar, hoping they would stick enough to allow her to scurry up like a spider. Instead, they slipped and slid, and she danced on the boys' heads and shoulders as she struggled to keep her balance.
       An agonized Crabbe jerked his head out from under her foot and Violet rocked backwards. Crabbe quickly put his hand against the small of her back and shoved her forward to keep her from tumbling backwards into the semi-circle of bobbing Slytherins. This sent Violet crashing into the stone pillar. She jerked her upper body backwards to keep her head from bashing against the hard surface. With just her stomach pressed against the pillar, she suddenly began to rise rapidly in a wriggling motion until she was hanging in midair against the pillar, right next to the top of the waterfall. Apparently the ascension process tickled a bit; she'd giggled all the way up.
       "Of course!" Malfoy exclaimed, nodding at her success. "You have to slither up on your belly."
       Violet stepped tentatively onto the top of the waterfall and found that it supported her weight. She sat down, pushed off, and plunged twenty feet down to the surface of the water, screaming all the way. The Slytherins immediately swam over to the pillars to queue up and take turns pressing their bellies against the stone columns.
       At eight o'clock, the door to the common room opened and Snape appeared, followed by a majority of the teaching staff. They were dressed in an array of bathing costumes that could only be described as laughable. One quick glare from Snape prevented any snickering.
       "Out!" was all he had to say.
       The Slytherins fled to their cells. For the duration of the heatwave, 8 to 9pm was Adult Swim in the Slytherin common room.

       The snakes steeled themselves for a long hot day of classes with an early swim the next morning. When Malfoy, Millicent, Tracey and Warrington reported to Snape's 6th year N.E.W.T. class, which they shared with four students from each of the other houses, the Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were already wilting from the heat.
       The students pulled out their parchments containing the recipe for strintia, a cleansing potion for unclogging the tips of wands which the Slytherins had barely had time to look up the night before due to their lengthy swimming sessions.
       As the hour wore on, the Gryffindors worked frantically in spite of the heat. Their flushed faces matched the scarlet in their ties and they wiped perspiration from their brows constantly to keep it from dripping into their cauldrons. Snape watched them with a puzzled air from atop his stool behind his desk. An hour was plenty of time to prepare the potion; there was no need for the harried efforts of McGonagall's cubs. But it was too bloody hot to torment them, so Snape sat quietly on his stool until class was nearly over.
       "Time," he called when only five minutes were left. The Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs proceeded neatly to his desk, sample flasks in hand. Each flask contained a few ounces of clear magenta strintia. But the Gryffindors just stood by their cauldrons with their hands behind their backs and small, polite smiles on their faces.
       Snape rose ominously and made his way slowly to Harry's station. He gazed into the boy's cauldron and raised one eyebrow, his lip curling into something the Slytherins couldn't decipher as a sneer or a smile. Harry's cauldron, like that of every Gryffindor, contained a brew with three distinct sections: a magenta pool of strintia (for unclogging), a cyan pool of focula (for spell sharpening and beam straightening), and a yellow pool of gridget (for increased handle traction).
       Harry's red face dripped with sweat and he pushed the spiky hair that was plastered all over his head out of his eyes as he waited hopefully for Snape's reaction. A stone-faced Snape checked Hermione's cauldron, then Ron's and finally Neville's before returning to the front of the room to announce, "The Slytherins would be most pleased if the Gryffindors would join them at the old Slythering hole tonight at 7pm." Harry and his housemates whooped for joy as Snape sent a withering glare towards his own students. "As for you," he spat acidly, "ten points from Slytherin. . . for subjecting me to an end run!"

       Violet let the Gryffindors in and they gawked most satisfactorily at Snape's creation but found the Slytherins themselves to be an odd sight. They were bobbing in the water in one continuous line, each student holding onto the shoulders of the student next to him. The first snake in line was hanging onto a beater club that was held at the other end by Pansy as she lounged on a couch near the surface of the water.
       "What are you doing?" Ron asked as the Gryffindors climbed up the furniture and prepared to jump in. "Cooling off," Malfoy replied peevishly. Then he shrugged and confessed, "We can't swim. That's why we didn't invite anybody over. We were going to wait until next week, after Snape gives us lessons this weekend."
       The Gryffindors roared. They dove happily into the water and began splashing the Slytherins mercilessly, rejoicing in the snakes' inability to swim away or let go and splash back. "Stop!" Malfoy demanded. "Stop or we'll tell Snape!"
       "Tell Snape?" Ron repeated. The Gryffindors exchanged delighted looks. Then they swam en masse over to the Slytherins and grabbed a snake apiece, shoving the rival's head under water. Some doubled up due to the reduced number of Slytherins.
       "How long should we keep them down?" Harry asked Ron with a grin. The redhead was just about to reply when the Slytherins suddenly flew out of the water, hovered briefly over their lake, then floated off to the side and settled gently to the floor of their common room. The Gryffindors were still gaping at this spectacle when they rose abruptly into the air, several of them shouting in surprise.
       "Have a nice fall, point suckers!" Malfoy called as the belly flops commenced. The Slytherins roared appreciatively and were still laughing and clapping when the last of the pink-bellied Gryffindors resurfaced after splashdown. Then they walked back into the water and swam quickly to the surface.
       "Anything else we should know?" Harry asked Malfoy sourly.
       "I'm not sure," the blonde snake admitted. "After that, we started behaving ourselves."

An Obedient House