The List

       "Professor Snape, Professor Snape!"
       Violet froze at the sound of Marybeth's voice shouting for their housemaster as she pounded her fists on his office door. It was the second Saturday morning in October and Violet was out of bounds again, hiding in a nook on the opposite side of the corridor from the alcove where Snape had found her last time. It was just too difficult to work on her book in Slytherin, where housemates were forever approaching her in the common room or sticking their heads into her cell to inquire, "What are you writing, Violet? Violet, what are you writing?"
       She listened closely as the door to Snape's office opened and his icy voice inquired, "Problem, Miss Montague?"
       "We need your help," Marybeth replied eagerly, and Violet heard the door shut as Snape pulled it closed behind him and hurried away down the corridor with Marybeth. When it seemed safe, Violet crept to the edge of her hiding place and prepared to slip into the corridor and follow them down to the common room, hoping to sneak in without Snape's notice. She peeked both ways to be sure the coast was clear, and as she glanced in the opposite direction, she saw the oddest thing. The back of Ron Weasley's head was protruding from the next corridor down; a red and gold Gryffindor scarf dangled from his hand.

       The dung bombs had legs. Violet had never seen anything like them. They were impervious to immobilizing or scourgifying, as the Slytherins were discovering to their dismay as they chased the noxious intruders frantically around their house.
       The bombs ran faster than scurrying mice, seeking out dark places in which to explode. Eventually the desperate Slytherins banged shut the doors to their cells and then flung themselves in front of the spaces beneath their common room chairs and sofas, trying to block entry to all unlit spots. The stench was positively infernal.
       "Impedementia odiferous!" Snape cried upon sizing up the situation, and the Slytherins experienced an immediate and blessed termination of their sense of smell. Then their housemaster threw open the door to their common room and commanded, "Summon your owls!"
       "Accio Spellwad!" Violet cried with no luck. Malfoy summoned the barn owl for her as well as his own eagle owl. Soon the common room was full of fierce hunters chasing down the scampering dung bombs. Snape lit a fire in their cold, dark fireplace and they tossed each captured bomb into the flames where it disintegrated harmlessly in the light.
       When all the little stinkers were eliminated, Snape showed them how to "scourgify odiferous" their furniture and eventually it was safe to reinstate their sense of smell. They collapsed with exhaustion onto their restored furniture and several of them chuckled openly while Snape struggled to keep a straight face.
       "How did they get in?" he asked the Slytherins.
       "Fireplace," Goyle told him.
       "They got them from the Weasleys' joke shop," Malfoy announced. "That's cheating." Snape chortled and Malfoy reminded him, "It's only funny when we do it, sir."
       "You're absolutely right, Malfoy," Snape agreed with as much sternness as he could muster. "I'll speak to Professor McGonagall immediately."
       When he did, the Gryffindor head of house was so delighted by the news, she actually kissed him on the cheek.

       The general relief at the Gryffindors' return to playfulness was cut short by an event that was surprising only perhaps in that it happened to a Slytherin first. Malfoy appeared during Violet's Transfigurations class Tuesday morning to ask that Jennifer Rosich, another Slytherin second year girl, be excused; Snape wished to see her in his office immediately. A grim-faced Professor McGonagall quickly gave consent and Malfoy escorted Jennifer from the room, giving Violet the impression that he intended to walk her all the way to Snape's office.
       When the girl did not return by the end of class, Violet gathered up her things. "Do you suppose she'll be in Potions?" she asked Marybeth. "I don't want to haul this stuff around all day."
       "Ask Snape if you can put it in her cell," Marybeth suggested.
       But Snape was not in Potions, either. Malfoy was teaching instead. After a startled moment, Violet approached the teacher's desk where he sat.
       "Malfoy, may I take Jennifer's things to her cell?" she asked tentatively.
       "You'd better hurry back," he snarled, and Violet slipped quickly out of the room and down the dungeon passage.
       She piled Jennifer's things neatly on her bunk and hurried back down the girls' corridor and out of the common room. But as she turned to retrace her steps to the Potions classroom, she was startled by the sound of sobbing coming from Snape's office. Her curiosity outweighed her fear of Malfoy's wrath and she tiptoed to the open door and peeked inside.
       Snape sat behind his desk with his arms around Jennifer who huddled in his lap, sobbing into the front of his robes. It was the first time Violet had ever seen her housemaster completely undisturbed by affectionate contact with a student. He sat grim and silent and after a while he rested his cheek on the top of Jennifer's head, a look of resignation in his eyes.
       Suddenly a hand closed over Violet's mouth. Another grabbed her ear and the next thing she knew, a furious Malfoy was pulling her down the corridor towards the Potions classroom.
       She trotted obediently beside him until they were out of earshot of Snape's office. Then she shoved his hand away from her mouth and whispered, "Malfoy, is it her parents? Is it both of them?"
       Malfoy released her ear and took her by the arm instead. "And her little brother and sister," he seethed.
       Violet was horrified. "What will happen to her?" she asked breathlessly.
       "Snape will send her to the infirmary or to her cell, depending on how she takes the news," Malfoy explained. "If it's her cell, he'll have prefects and Madam Pomfrey check on her at regular intervals. She'll be excused from meals and sent trays for the rest of the day if she prefers. But tomorrow she'll be required to return to her usual activities."
       "How do you know all that?" Violet demanded, impressed by the detailed answer.
       "Dumbledore developed the protocol over the summer," Malfoy told her. "The prefects were informed the first day of school."
       Half an hour later, when the cauldrons were simmering nicely, Snape returned to class, thanked Malfoy and dismissed him, then spent the remainder of the lesson pacing tensely from station to station. But there was no sign of Jennifer for the rest of the day. That evening, Violet and Marybeth knocked timidly on the door to her cell.
       "Come in," called an older voice, and they found Millicent sitting beside Jennifer on her bunk with an arm around the younger girl's shoulders. Jennifer's face was tear-stained. Her school things were still piled where Violet had left them.
       Violet and Marybeth sat awkwardly on the unoccupied bunk against the opposite wall; Jennifer was one of the Slytherins who'd lost her roommate in last April's defection. Then a horrifying thought occurred to Violet. Millicent had rebelled against the order to leave Hogwarts. That meant one of Millicent's parents could have helped murder Jennifer's family. Violet swallowed hard and tried to think of something to say.
       "What did your folks do, Jen?" she asked quietly.
       Jennifer sniffed and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "Mum didn't have a job," she replied in a shuddery voice. "Dad worked for Magical Transportation, with portkeys mostly. But he also guarded the Hogwarts Express and sometimes he even drove it!"
       "Wow!" Violet exclaimed, and Millicent nodded approvingly at her.
       "Every once in a while," Jennifer continued, "he'd bring the whole family to work and let us pretend to drive it." She beamed at the memory, but then her face crumpled, and Marybeth cast around desperately for a new topic of conversation.
       "Do you like having your own cell?" she asked, glancing around the room at Jennifer's spacious quarters.
       "Sometimes," the girl sniffed, apparently on the verge of tears again, so Marybeth added quickly, "Would you like to sleep in our cell tonight? You can share my bed."
       Jennifer actually smiled a bit through her tears at this offer as she shook her head. Violet didn't blame her. Marybeth's screams were becoming ear-splitting.
       Just then, Pansy stuck her head in the door. "Common room," she announced. "Now." The second years hurried out of the cell and raced to join the lines forming before Snape near the common room door. Millicent helped Pansy clear the rest of the cells on the girls' corridor and within moments, all the Slytherins were assembled. Snape got right to the point.
       "There are Death Eaters in Hogsmeade," he told them, "possibly dozens. Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and I are leaving immediately to help the resistance. You are to stay here and keep watch." He handed Malfoy his tin of floo powder. "If you see any sign of infiltrators on the grounds, notify Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and then proceed immediately to Ravenclaw. Is that clear?"
       The Slytherins nodded and Snape swept from the room without another word. Several first year lips began to tremble so Malfoy started barking orders. "Crabbe, Goyle, Warrington, Parkinson, first watch," he commanded. "The rest of you, fetch your bedclothes. We'll all stay together in the common room until Snape gets back."
       When they had reassembled, they stood awkwardly for a moment, their bedclothes draped over their arms, unsure of what to do. Then Malfoy sat down in his favorite chair, drawing his blanket around him, and the others followed suit. For a while they just stared at each other, wondering desperately what was happening beyond the walls of Hogwarts. Finally, Malfoy murmured, "How could that many Death Eaters just walk into Hogsmeade?"
       "They must have apparated," Millicent said, but Malfoy shook his head.
       "Together?" he argued. "Dozens and dozens of them? There's no place big enough. And they couldn't arrive individually, because they'd be too easy to pick off that way."
       "Maybe they arrived outside of town and marched in together," Violet suggested. Malfoy shook his head again. "Pretty stupid plan," he countered. "Easy to spot and fire on. They'd sacrifice a lot of members with that approach."
       Violet started to retort, then stopped when she saw Jennifer's face. The bereaved girl's mouth was working silently as she struggled to speak through her agony. Millicent saw her, too, and suddenly understood.
       "The train!" she cried. "They used the Hogwarts Express!"
       Jennifer found her voice and keened with anguish while Millicent explained what she and Jennifer had just figured out - the motive behind Jennifer's family's death. "They could fit hundreds of Death Eaters on the Hogwarts Express," she explained somberly.
       Malfoy nodded. "And it's protected by more charms than you can shake a wand at," he added. "If they got away clean, they could drive right into town and no one would know they were coming until they'd arrived."
       The Slytherins nearly jumped out of their skin when Harry Potter shouted from the fireplace.
       "Dammit, Potter, don't do that!" Malfoy snarled as he rose and strode across the common room to speak with the Gryffindor. Potter's head looked odd. It was twisted to the right as if his arm were thrust out behind him. Malfoy shared the Slytherins' theory about the train and Harry let out a long whistle.
       "Hundreds!" he gasped, and shook his head. "Could Voldemort have recruited hundreds already?"
       "Well, it's a theory," Malfoy replied. "Is anyone guarding the gate?"
       "Sprout and Vector," Harry told him.
       Malfoy heard dim shouts and whirled quickly to check the lookouts. But Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy and Warrington were all staring calmly out their windows. The shouting continued and Malfoy realized with surprise that it was coming from behind Potter. He turned curiously back to the fireplace and scrutinized the bespectacled teenager more closely.
       "Potter," he asked slowly, staring at the boy's slightly twisted head, "do you have a wand on somebody?"
       "Slight conflict between prefects," Harry admitted. "But most of the Gryffindors are on my side."
       Oh, no, thought Malfoy. "Potter," he seethed, "you can't possibly get off the grounds. Don't even think about it."
       Harry scowled and Malfoy wondered if he'd been hoping the Slytherins would come, too. His mind raced. How was Potter planning to get to Hogsmeade? Did he have another way off the grounds? Had he mentioned anything last summer? Malfoy thought of Harry's constant boasting about his father and Sirius Black. How had they slipped out during all their adventures?
       Forget it, he thought adamantly. You don't know the answer. Try another tact. "Potter," he hissed desperately, hating what he had to say, "what happens if they defeat the resistance and make it to Hogwarts and you're not here?"
       The plea didn't have quite the effect he expected. It seemed to confuse Harry, who looked away for a moment as if doing math in his head. Someone in the Gryffindor common room took advantage of his loss of focus, and with a yowl of pain, no doubt as his arm was grabbed, Harry disappeared. Malfoy let out a sigh of relief and went back to the Slytherins.
       A short while later, Snape returned, completely unharmed but absolutely furious. He excused the Slytherins from lining up and instead towered over them where they sat.
       "Did you tell the Gryffindors there were hundreds of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade?" he demanded angrily.
       The Slytherins exchanged confused looks. Then Malfoy rose tentatively to his feet. "We told them," he stammered, "that they might have used the Hogwarts Express, that they could slip hundreds of Death Eaters into town that way." He glanced at Jennifer and Snape, following his gaze, softened a bit. He took hold of Pansy by the collar, hoisted her out of her seat, plopped her on the floor and settled into her chair.
       "I would appreciate it," he told the Slytherins wearily, "if you would employ a bit more discretion in your interactions with the Gryffindors."
       The Slytherins nodded obediently. Then Malfoy risked a slight grin and asked, "Where were they?"
       "By the door near the harbor under the castle," Snape admitted grimly, "brooms in hand. I believe their plan was to swim the lake to escape the grounds unnoticed, then fly to our rescue. Fortunately, they were held at bay by our resourceful house ghosts. No pun intended." Secretly, Snape was more than a little relieved that Potter had chosen not to reveal any secret entrances on this particular occasion. Now if only McGonagall and Dumbledore could compel the young fool to...
       "What happened, sir?" Pansy, now sitting at his feet, interrupted his reverie.
       Snape took a deep breath and the Slytherins drew close. "Compared to the siege," he told them, "it was actually rather feeble. They were able to sneak almost all the way to Hogsmeade on the train, and that was the only brilliant thing they did all night. We'd had some idea they might be trying this..." He checked Jennifer, who was nestled under Millicent's arm, and continued. "The townfolk were aware they might turn up, but no one expected them to stop short of town and skirt the village. The citizens of Hogsmeade gave chase while the Death Eaters hurried through the woods towards Hogwarts.
       "When we arrived, the town was empty. So we disapparated back to Hogwarts and set out from the front gate to cut them off. We encountered them in the woods and began firing and they disapparated immediately." Here Snape paused, almost confused. "I was rather surprised they fled so quickly," he admitted, musing further, "Perhaps they didn't expect to encounter resistance from the school. Perhaps they thought we'd all stay behind to protect..."
       He hesitated, then looked up suddenly to find the Slytherins hanging on his every word. "To protect you lot!" he finished with a snort, and the Slytherins smiled and breathed a collective sigh of relief. "The headmaster," he added, almost as an afterthought, "has ordered the heads of house to spend the next few nights sleeping in their common rooms while aurors inspect the town and surrounding area. Therefore I would appreciate it if you would retire to your cells... immediately!"
       The Slytherins broke up and scurried off. Then Malfoy remembered something and turned back to ask Snape, "Sir, what's going to happen to the Gryffindors?"
       Snape smiled coldly. "I wish I knew," he admitted. He settled himself more comfortably in his chair and as the Slytherins headed to their corridors, Malfoy grabbed Millicent by the arm.
       "Tonight," he whispered, "make sure the door to Marybeth's room stays open."
       Half an hour later, when everyone seemed to be sleep, Millicent slipped down the girls' corridor and quietly opened the door to Violet's and Marybeth's room. Violet, who was still awake, shut her eyes immediately against the dim light spilling into the room from the candle-lit corridor. When the door stopped moving but no one entered, she sat up and stared into the hallway. Then, with a quick glance at Marybeth to be sure she was still asleep, she slipped out of her cot, grabbed her blankets, and crept softly to the common room.
       The house was dark and quiet. Snape sat still and watchful, his feet propped up before him, a silhouette against the flames of their fire. As Violet approached he jerked his head around to see who was there and then frowned at the child. But she just climbed on the sofa beside him and covered herself with her blanket. When she was settled, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around a small portion of the hem of Snape's robe. Clutching it tightly, she closed her eyes and went to sleep.
       He was dozing when the scream jolted him awake. On the sofa beside him, Violet muttered, "All right, Marybeth?" before rolling over and slipping deeper into sleep. Snape freed his robe from the child's clutches and proceeded to Marybeth's cell.
       He lit the candle next to her bed and scrutinized doubtfully her rigid form and tightly shut eyes. "The fresh tears are a dead giveaway, Miss Montague," he informed her. So Marybeth opened her eyes and gazed helplessly at him. Then she sat up and wiped her face with her sleeve as Snape sat down beside her. Marybeth leaned against him with a sigh.
       "Where's Violet?" she asked after a moment.
       "Sleeping on a sofa in the common room, the little coward," Snape told her. "One slaughtered family plus an attack nearby and the little ninny goes running straight to her housemaster." He bent his head closer to Marybeth's and added, "Night terrors are more common than you might think, Miss Montague."
       Marybeth gazed at the candle's flickering flame. "I don't understand it," she said softly. "The first day of school, the moment you walked into the headmaster's office, I felt safe. And every day that I'm a Slytherin and you're here, I feel safe." She gazed up at him miserably and shivered. "Why do I keep dreaming?"
       Snape wrapped his robe around the trembling child and she immediately wriggled closer to him. "Every day that Albus Dumbledore is here," he told her as she gazed up at him from beneath his arm, "I feel safe. But I keep dreaming."
       There was nothing else to say. They sat together until Marybeth fell back to sleep. Then Snape tucked her beneath her covers and crept quietly from the cell.
       In the corridor, he found Millicent waiting for him, leaning against the wall with her bathrobe wrapped tightly around her. Her concerned expression gave way to a small, knowing smile at the sight of him and Snape scowled.
       "Shouldn't you be in bed, Miss Bulstrode?"
       "Of course, sir," she agreed. But then she added, "I spent some time with Jennifer this evening after dinner."
       Snape nodded once, curtly, in approval. Millicent glanced beyond him into Marybeth's room and her smile grew.
       "I must say, sir, you certainly have an affinity for suffering children."
       Snape glowered at her, clearly desiring that Millicent's observations go no further. "I trust, Miss Bulstrode, that I can rely on your discretion."
       The sixth year reassured him with a smile. "I wasn't sorted yesterday, sir."

       The Slytherins felt the tension the moment they stepped into the Great Hall the following morning. Rumor had it the Gryffindors were grounded from quidditch practice for two weeks, which would leave them woefully little time in November to prepare for their match against Slytherin. In addition, they were to be confined to their dormitories right after dinner every night for a week.
       McGonagall's students were clearly incensed by this and Malfoy could not get over their complete lack of contrition. They banged their plates, clanked their goblets and silverware, spoke to one another in hissing, seething whispers, and hurled one filthy look after another in the general direction of the head table. "Morons!" Malfoy whispered to Crabbe and Goyle. "They could have gotten the whole quidditch season cancelled!"
       Unfortunately, the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws seemed sympathetic to their cause. Their hostility was less intense but unmistakable nevertheless. The staff responded with glowers of their own and only Snape seemed oblivious to it all as he sipped his tea and perused the Daily Prophet.
       The teachers were extremely harsh and short-tempered in class, scolding every wrong answer, pouncing on every wiggle or wandering gaze, taking points and assigning detentions mercilessly. The Slytherins, well accustomed to the firm hand of Severus Snape, didn't mind too much until the other students started fighting back. They passed notes, made rude noises, assumed sneering tones and lit small fires when their instructors' backs were turned. Their rebellion escalated the staff's fury and Thursday morning at breakfast Malfoy advised the Slytherins to sit together on the far side of every classroom and keep their hands in plain site at all times for their own protection. Their submissiveness drew scorn from their schoolmates but shielded them nicely from the wrath of their instructors.
       Even their own house offered no retreat from the tension as Malfoy chafed under the constant vigilance of Severus Snape. Their housemaster arrived immediately after dinner and stayed to walk the Slytherins to breakfast the following morning. Normally his students would have enjoyed this immensely, but Malfoy was eager to get on with the team's secret common room quidditch practices, sessions he did not want Snape to see.
       Violet prayed things would improve over the weekend. Her hopes were dashed Saturday morning when Snape stormed into the common room for inspection after being summoned to a crack-of-dawn meeting with the other heads of house in Dumbledore's office.
       "Hold out your hands," he snarled to the two lines of Slytherins wiping sleep out of their eyes. All stretching and yawning ceased immediately as the students exchanged confused looks and then held out their hands in front of them.
       "I thought we didn't have to tidy up!" Violet whispered to Marybeth, who could only shrug in response.
       Snape illuminated the tip of his wand and waved the glowing green light over the backs of Goyle's hands. Apparently satisfied, he snarled, "Turn them over," and proceeded to inspect the boy's palms. He repeated the procedure with each student and then stood before them with menacing scowl. From the pocket of his robe he withdrew a folded piece of parchment which he opened meticulously and held up before them.
       "Does anyone recognize this?" he demanded coolly.
       None of them did, but they understood immediately the reason for the hand check. The document contained writing made of perfect block letters, an effect achieved through the use of an ink potion intended to disguise one's handwriting. It worked well for long-distance correspondence but wasn't quite as effective with close quarter communication; the ink left a tell-tale residue on the hands of the user.
       The Slytherins closest to Snape leaned a little nearer to inspect the parchment and Pansy gasped. It contained a list of the seven departed Slytherin girls absent since last spring... their names, and their addresses.
       Snape waited. When he got no response, he said calmly, "You may spend the day in this common room. If you think of something useful to say, by all means, do come find me."
       He swept from the room without another word. The pajama-clad Slytherins dragged their chairs and sofas close together and settled in.
       "Addresses," Pansy murmured in disbelief. "Someone broke into the files in Snape's office!"
       Crabbe rubbed his stomach miserably. "I'm starving!" he complained. "Why is Snape punishing us? We passed inspection."
       "Wait," Malfoy replied, and he hurried quickly to his cell and returned with a catalog that he held out before them. It featured an ad for Pontius Paws Potion. "Wash your hands of the evidence of any crime!" the description boasted. The Slytherins gawked and Malfoy raised an eyebrow at them before turning a few pages to show them another ad. This one promoted scampering dung bombs, inspiring another gasp from Pansy. Then he showed them the cover of the publication; it was the latest issue of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes mail order catalog.
       "Busted!" Crabbe cried, sitting up joyfully. "We show the catalog to Snape and the Gryffindors are busted!"
       "How do you work that out?" Malfoy asked, and after a confused moment, Crabbe sank back in defeat.
       "There's no proof the Gryffindors bombed us," Malfoy reminded his housemates, "and even if there were, that doesn't prove they ordered anything else from the catalog."
       "Hey!" Tracey cried. "The twins would have a record of their orders... and I can't believe I just suggested something that stupid." She collapsed against Millicent as Malfoy nodded, agreeing, "Discretion is no doubt a top priority at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes."
       He turned a straight-backed chair around and straddled it, folding his arms across its back and resting his chin on his forearms.
       "The addresses are the problem," he insisted. "That's why Snape suspects us. No Gryffindor could break into his office."
       "Could it have been somebody else?" Crabbe wondered. "What about Dumbledore? He can get in."
       "Why would he disguise his hand-writing?" Goyle countered. "He could just order Snape to produce the list. Why would he want it to be a secret?"
       "Right, Goyle," Malfoy drawled, "Dumbledore never keeps secrets."
       Millicent gave him a shove. "Don't confuse the issue," she snapped. "Crabbe, if Dumbledore had done it, why would he ask the heads of house to look into it?"
       "Oh, come on," Tracey sneered, "we know it's the Gryffindors... the brave and loyal Gryffindors."
       Her words brought to mind the quarrel in Lake Slytherin and the assembled students replayed the exchange in their minds. Then Malfoy grimaced. "But how did they get into Snape's office?" he persisted. "How did they get past that door?"
       "Maybe they didn't," Millicent pointed out. "Maybe they used floo powder."
       Malfoy thought it over and shook his head. "Too risky," he insisted. "McGonagall's sleeping in their common room, probably right by the fire. Plus Snape's a night owl and a workaholic. The only times they could count on his office being empty would be meals and classes... and they'd be missed from those."
       Goyle nodded in agreement. "They'd have to create a big, long diversion," he admitted.
       It took a few moments to sink in. Then they all sprang to their feet as one body and Malfoy screamed, "Son of a bitch!"
       He stormed furiously around the common room, his bath robe flapping behind him, and Violet almost giggled at the resemblance to Snape's angry stride and billowing robes. Then he stopped short in front of Millicent and demanded, "How did they do it? They couldn't have sent a runner all the way from our dungeon to Gryffindor tower."
       Violet gasped as a memory popped into her head. "I saw Ron!" she cried. "Ron Weasley! Right after Marybeth and Snape left his office headed for the common room. He was in the first corridor after Snape's office with a scarf in his hand!"
       Malfoy stared at her. Then he turned his chair around again and collapsed back into it, nodding, as the other Slytherins sat down, too. "A signal," he realized. "He passed the signal from corridor to corridor until it reached the closest floo fireplace to Snape's office."
       "The kitchen," Goyle remembered from their hallway adventure during the siege. "Grand domain of Dobby the house elf."
       "Who would do anything for Harry Potter," Malfoy concluded.
       "Oh!" Millicent realized. "That's why we didn't have a fire that morning!"
       The Slytherins fell silent and Malfoy looked them over. "So what do we do now?" he finally asked.
       Violet spoke up tentatively. "I'd rather Snape not know I was by myself in an alcove that morning," she said softly.
       "It wouldn't matter, Violet," Malfoy pointed out, "it would just be your word against Weasley's."
       "What about Dobby?" Goyle suggested. Malfoy nodded. "Good point," he mused. "Dobby wants Harry safe. Potter must not have told him what he wanted from Snape's office." He thought it over and shook his head. "No, he concluded. "Dobby wouldn't back us up. He'd just go plead with Harry not to do anything foolish."
       They sat in silence a while longer until Malfoy chuckled. "Potter," he berated the traitorous Gryffindor ruefully with a shake of his head, "I taught you everything you know about counterintelligence!"
       "Good move," Goyle murmured. Marybeth and Pansy laughed but Millicent folded her arms resolutely across her chest.
       "I do NOT want Snape thinking we had anything to do with the creation of that list," she insisted. The others nodded in agreement. Then Malfoy added, "But what else do we want? Do we want to get the Gryffindors in trouble?"
       "Tattle?" Violet squeaked. Malfoy scowled at her. "Violet," he scolded, "whenever you find yourself hesitating to tattle, ask yourself who or what you're really protecting with your silence."
       "We're not getting the Gryffindors in trouble," Millicent argued. "We're saving them from themselves."
       "But," Tracey added doubtfully, "it would be at the expense of Severus Snape."
       "Aye," said Malfoy, leaning back to lace his fingers behind his head as he stretched his legs, resting his feet on top of a coffee table. "There's the rub. To expose the Gryffindors, we have to tell Snape about their allegations of cowardice and disloyalty."
       The Slytherins fell silent. Violet waited as long as she could stand it and then whispered, "We're not disloyal or cowardly, are we?"
       "You mean, is Snape?" Malfoy accused. He sat up again, folding his arms across his chest.
       "Violet, Snape would love the glory of rescuing children from Death Eaters. Don't you think he's dying to go? You need to remember that there are 7 'Slytherins' out there and 52 here!" He poked her sharply in the knee to emphasize his point and Violet flinched as Malfoy added, "And don't forget the Gryffindors, the Hufflepuffs, and the Ravenclaws, and the teachers, not to mention the whole bloody wizarding world if anything should happen to prevent Severus Snape from fighting in the final..." He cut himself short, took a deep breath and pulled himself together. Then he added softly, "He's not the Good Shepherd, Violet," before turning to Marybeth to ask, "Do YOU think the seven want rescuing?"
       Marybeth shook her head. "My brother sure didn't," she admitted. "If Snape had come to our house..."
       "We know," Malfoy interrupted, "your brother came to ours."
       "And he wasn't the only one," Crabbe added.
       "But doesn't that just prove," Goyle began tentatively as he worked it out in his head, "that it will be our fault if the Gryffindors sneak away because we didn't warn anybody what they were planning?"
       "Oh!" Millicent cried. She threw both hands over her mouth in horror and nearly screamed from behind them. "Oh my gosh!"
       "What?" Malfoy demanded.
       Millicent took her hands away from her mouth and nodded somberly at them. "They already did," she whispered.
       The Slytherins stared at her, completely baffled, and Millicent gestured wildly as she explained. "Tuesday night!" she insisted. "They weren't going to Hogsmeade!"
       Several mouths fell open as Millicent continued. "Their head of house and headmaster were away. It was the perfect time to sneak out for a rescue. And then... and then!..." She rose to her feet in excitement. "You told them there were hundreds of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade!" she shouted, pointing at Malfoy. "And then someone pulled Potter away from the fire! That must have been what convinced them to go! They thought every Death Eater in existence was in Hogsmeade..."
       "..and only the innocent were at home," Malfoy concluded.
       The Slytherins were speechless. Then Malfoy stood up and announced, "I'll get dressed and tell Snape so we can go to breakfast." He turned disdainfully to Crabbe. "Or can you wait until lunch so we can practice in here this morning?"
       "I'll fall off my broom if I don't get something to eat," Crabbe promised him.
       "Fine," Malfoy snapped as he headed for his cell. "With any luck, Snape and the rest of the staff will spend the entire day beating hell out of the Gryffindors and we'll get to practice anyway!"

       When the Slytherins arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast, they found the Gryffindor table completely empty, as was Professor McGonagall's place at the head table. Snape and Dumbledore were present, and while the headmaster looked a bit woebegone, Snape seemed as oblivious as he had Wednesday morning, except this time he was reading a potions periodical as he sipped his tea. He had listened to Malfoy's report with the same carefully guarded expression he displayed now, telling Malfoy only that he was well-pleased with the Slytherins' conduct and most relieved they had not been up to anything foolish.
       Shortly before 9am, the Gryffindors entered the hall together, something they rarely did. As they marched to their table, their faces reflected an assortment of emotions... anger, defiance, fury, desolation. Professor McGonagall marched in behind them, her eyes bright, two spots of color high on her cheeks. She refused to meet Dumbledore's eyes as she sat down. Snape did not look up from his magazine.
       When everybody was seated, Malfoy glanced at his watch. "McGonagall must have raked them over the coals for a solid half hour," he whispered to Goyle.
       "Do you think they confessed?" Goyle whispered back. Malfoy shook his head. He was just about to speculate further when Violet piped up, "Where are the post owls?"
       Annoyed by the interruption, Malfoy glanced briefly at the empty high windows and reminded her, "Violet, you never get any mail," before returning to his conversation with Goyle.
       The question was answered shortly after they returned to their common room as Snape arrived with two announcements, one welcome, the other quite strange. First he told them that the security precaution initiated after the attack on Hogsmeade had been lifted and he would no longer be sleeping in their common room. Malfoy almost whimpered with delight.
       "Next I must inform you," he said evenly, "that beginning immediately, there will be no outgoing owl post or any other form of outgoing communication from students to their parents or anyone else beyond the walls of Hogwarts until further notice."
       Every pair of eyes upon him popped open wide. "This is not a punishment," he assured his students. "It is a security measure." He went on to explain that incoming owls would be directed to the headmaster's office where the mail would be collected and sorted for delivery by the staff. "Student and school owls," he informed the Slytherins, "have been removed from the Owlery by Hagrid, who will care for them as long as necessary."
       He dismissed them and departed, and Violet turned immediately to Malfoy. "Is this a punishment?" she demanded.
       Malfoy shook his head. "Snape is hardly one to spare the rod," he reminded her. "If it were a punishment, he'd say it was a punishment."
       Still, it was all very confusing, and Malfoy was tempted to retreat to his cell for a good long think. Instead, he ordered his quidditch team to fetch their brooms and drilled them mercilessly for the rest of the morning.
       At lunch time, the other three houses were abuzz about the owls. Everyone except the Slytherins seemed convinced it was an attempt to force a confession about the parchment, and they seethed over what they perceived to be a gross violation of their rights. Only Hermione Granger sat still and quiet, and Malfoy peered intently at her, wishing he could read her mind. Since he couldn't, he leaned over to Millicent and whispered, "Come to my cell after lunch."
       Millicent arrived with a delighted smile on her face. "I gave Pansy her quidditch instructions, she can't wait!" Lost in thought, Malfoy did not respond, so Millicent just propped his desk chair in front of the open door, which Snape required for co-ed visits, and then plopped down on the opposite end of his bunk. "What's up?" she wondered.
       "I don't know," Malfoy admitted, "but I bet together we can figure it out."

       That night after dinner, he and Millicent stood before Snape with sorrowful but determined expressions. "We want you to know," Malfoy insisted, "that we really enjoyed ratting out Gryffindor this morning, and we wish we could do the same thing now."
       "Or at least," Millicent added, "we wish this didn't have to be about Slytherin parents. But..."
       "We think it's the Parkinsons," Malfoy finished for her.
       They waited anxiously for Snape's response but he just stared at them as if expecting more. "I beg your pardon?" he finally replied.
       "We think the Parkinsons are the ones you're looking for, the ones who led Professor Dumbledore to restrict the use of owls."
       Snape said nothing but merely gestured for them to sit. When they were settled, he murmured, "Continue."
       Millicent held up two fingers. "We added two things together," she explained. "One, you said the attack on Hogsmeade was feeble."
       "Two," Malfoy interjected, "you told us about the owls shortly after I told you about the Gryffindors." Millicent nodded. "Cleary," he finished, "the staff believe the attack on Hogsmead was a diversion, a ruse to lure Harry Potter out of the castle. That's why the Death Eaters disappeared the moment they saw you with Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall. Knowing you were away, they were probably off to chase after Potter and the Gryffindors."
       "But how," Millicent speculated slyly," could Voldemort know that Harry Potter was looking for a chance to rescue seven former Slytherins?" She leaned forward, resting both arms on Snape's desk as she summed up. "Every student in school was in our house the night of the argument. Any one of them could have written home about it." She leaned back again and folded her arms across her chest. "Someone at this school has Death Eaters for parents and doesn't know it."
       Snape sat quietly for a moment, digesting all they'd said, and Malfoy thought he saw the tiniest gleam of pride in those deep black eyes. But all he said was, "Why the Parkinsons?"
       "It was something Pansy said on the train the first day of school," Malfoy explained. "She said her parents were very glad she was heading back to Hogwarts."
       Snape made no response and his students exchanged uncertain looks. Then Millicent tried to explain it to him. "They must have been glad because they were having a hard time concealing their true identities from her."
       Snape pressed his lips together, clearly concealing a smile. "Many parents," he told his students gently, "are pleased to see their children return to school each fall. Nevertheless..." He smiled at each of them in turn. "I am very impressed with your efforts and will most certainly mention your theory to Professor Dumbledore."
       Then it was his turn to lean forward on his desk. His tone grew somber and rather urgent. "You, on the other hand, must not mention this to anyone. Do you understand that?"
       The Slytherins nodded. "It would be a disaster if every kid at Hogwarts started worrying that his parents were Death Eaters," Millicent acknowledged.
       "Or..." Malfoy began, then hesitated. Snape nodded at him, so he continued. "I suppose it could be one of us."
       Snape nodded again. "Your classmates from the other houses are rather quick to suspect their fellow students," he reminded them, and the Slytherins murmured in agreement, remembering all the times in the past that students had turned on someone unfairly. There was just one more thing they didn't understand.
       "Sir," Malfoy asked hesitantly, "is Potter really that... important?"
       Snape stared at each of them for a long time. Then he said simply, "Yes."
       The three Slytherins sat there for a long time, considering how they felt about that. Then Malfoy looked up and asked, "Are you going to tell him?"
       Snape turned green with horror and Malfoy laughed out loud. "No, sir!" he assured his housemaster as he struggled to get his laughter under control, "not how great he is! Is anyone going to tell him that Voldemort used his concern about the dearly departed..." Millicent giggled at the phrase. " try and lure him into a confrontation?"
       Snape's face twitched with wrath and Malfoy was relieved to finally see a flash of anger towards the Gryffindors. He'd been starting to suspect that Snape might be consuming too much Draught of Peace lately.
       "Yes, that would be vital," Snape murmured acidly, "since the Dark Lord has never used deception to try and lure Potter into a confrontation before." Malfoy and Millicent beamed at Snape's growing fury. "I'm sure once the boy understands that," their housemaster continued with a snarl, "he will never assume he knows best and thereby put the lives of others at risk again!"
       Malfoy and Millicent beamed at this fierce display of sarcasm. As they rose to go, Draco added sympathetically, "Sucks to be you, sir."

An Obedient House