Practice makes perfect.

       "I'll take Guilty Gryffindors for 200 hundred, Jack."
       On Monday morning, April 7, the Slytherins were milling about their common room in robes and pajamas, awaiting Snape's inspection on this first day of the final term of the year. Most of them hadn't seen their housemaster since his lecture; Malfoy and Warrington had spent the Easter hols riding herd over the Slytherins so Snape could take uninterrupted solace in the company of his friend, Elizabeth. She, it turned out, was on furlough from a vanguard already engaging in skirmishes with the Dark Lord and was as much in need of comfort as Snape.
       She's not the only one, Malfoy thought, his eyes falling on Marybeth who was drowsing in a chair beside Violet and Goyle. Marybeth's night terrors had increased after Elizabeth's arrival; she now required two older housemates sleeping in the corridor outside her door each night to prevent her from screaming the house down. Malfoy rubbed his stiff neck as he watched her; half a dozen wool blankets had not been sufficient to protect him from the corridor's draft. He wondered if he could get away with borrowing Snape's cane to administer a therapeutic stroke or two. It might not help Marybeth but it would sure make him feel better.
       "Ahem!" Violet cleared her throat loudly, and Malfoy jerked his attention back to the matter at hand.
       "Right!" he called with a smarmy grin as he pretended to read from an imaginary card he'd whipped through the air and was holding pretentiously in front of his nose. "This notoriously bad-tempered Slytherin Shoulda-been did the time after Peter Pettigrew did the crime."
       They were playing 'Name that Inference,' a game Malfoy had invented shortly after Snape's lecture. Violet gave an excited bounce and slammed her hand down on a service bell floating in front of her only to discover that Goyle had muted it with a silencing charm. "Who is Sirius Black?" he announced with a superior smile after tapping his own bell.
       "Right you are!" Malfoy proclaimed as Violet stomped her foot and folded her arms furiously across her chest. "Next category?"
       "Free-wheeling faculty for 100," Goyle suggested. Malfoy whipped out another invisible card while Violet gave the wand she had tucked beneath her folded arm a subtle jerk in Goyle's direction.
       "This 'king of the castle' boasts a 'king of beasts' door knocker outside his office, clearly demonstrating an invalid favoritism that ought to be abandoned."
       "Erodel bmudsub lasiohw!" Goyle shouted after giving his bell an authoritative slap.
       "What?" Malfoy laughed as the Slytherins around him burst into snorts and guffaws. Violet leaned over and slapped Goyle's bell.
       "I believe he said, 'Who is Albus Dumbledore?'" she called sweetly. "Backwards."
       "Teloiv!" Goyle shouted, grabbing his 2nd year opponent from behind as his housemates applauded enthusiastically. Violet shrieked the charm to end the backwards-speaking spell but Goyle hauled her out into an open section of common room anyway.
       "100 points to the bad-tempered little Slytherin who's about to get pounded!" Malfoy announced as Goyle grasped Violet firmly under the armpits and began to twirl her in nauseatingly rapid circles. She was just about to scream for mercy when Pansy shuffled into the room, glancing this way and that as she yawned and stretched. Suddenly she stiffened, then cried out, "Where's Millicent?"
       The Slytherins froze. Goyle set Violet back on her feet and held onto her as she wobbled, whipping his head frantically to the right and left as he searched for Millicent. No one saw her anywhere and Pansy bolted for the common room door only to spring back as it banged open and Snape stalked into the room. Already fully dressed, he swooped down on his students with renewed energy as his robes billowed vigorously behind him. He stopped briefly to raise a perilous eyebrow at Pansy, who gulped, turned tail, and scurried away to join her housemates in line. "Uh oh!" she mouthed to Malfoy as Snape marched to the head of his students' two queues.
       He'd just begun to count their noses when the common room door banged open again and Millicent rushed in, racing to a spot in line between Pansy and Tracey. She was still wearing the holiday togs she'd been dressed in the day before but they were now thoroughly wrinkled. Technically, she'd made it just in time, but Snape glowered at her anyway.
       "Where have you been?" he demanded icily.
       "I'm sorry, sir," Millicent assured him. "I fell asleep studying in the Ravenclaw common room with Padma Patil."
       Malfoy and Warrington exchanged looks. They should have noticed her absence, Malfoy realized, and he felt a dash of annoyance with Millicent for not telling him she was going. Then he saw her flinch and realized with a smirk that he wasn't the only one with a sore neck this morning.
       "You will not repeat this behavior, Miss Bulstrode," Snape warned her.
       "No, sir," Millicent promised.
       Snape made a quick count and swept from the room, leaving the Slytherins feeling a bit bereft. They gathered together, not quite ready to get dressed and head for the Great Hall.
       "He looks well," Crabbe observed of their departed housemaster.
       "Why shouldn't he?" Malfoy muttered. The spring of irritation inside him coiled tighter as he thought of his sore neck, Marybeth's distress, and the amount of time their housemaster had invested last term in a potion the Slytherins found admirable but not nearly as heart-warming as the rest of the school.
       And then there was that lecture.
       Snape should have said something to us this morning, Malfoy thought, something encouraging, something unifying, something...
       That reminded him.
       "What'd they say?" he asked suddenly, whirling on Millicent. "The Ravenclaws... did they say anything about Snape's lecture?"
       Millicent shook her head. "I don't know if it's because it was over a week ago or because I was there, but it didn't come up at all."
       Malfoy nodded slightly as the Slytherins exchanged looks. Millicent's trip to Ravenclaw was the first contact any Slytherin had had with the other houses during the break, outside of seeing them at meals. An unusual pattern of early April snowstorms had kept the students sequestered in the warmth of their common rooms. Malfoy glanced briefly at the snow flying outside the window and nodded again. "Let's get on with it, then," he suggested, and the Slytherins headed off to get ready for breakfast.
       "It is clearly a misnomer," Snape lectured the second year Slytherins and Gryffindors in potions class later that day. "Hair-raising solution can indeed be used to give people the..." He rolled his eyes, then spat out the colloquial term as if he found it literally distasteful. "...willies..." Several students tittered and Snape whirled on them with a threatening glare. "I wouldn't, if I were you," he snarled, and the students gulped obligingly as he continued. "Its proper use is medicinal; it is the equivalent of muggle adrenalin without the inconvenient stab to the heart."
       He jabbed his fist in the direction of Violet's chest and she flinched.
       "We will begin," Snape explained as he moved among their desks distributing what looked like pale worms, "by splitting rat tails."
       The stumps of the tails were freshly bloody, making Marybeth shudder. "What happened to the rats?" she whispered. Violet could only shrug.
       "Whole tails are acceptable in this potion," Snape explained, "but split tails will disintegrate more quickly, allowing the potion to set sooner. This is useful both medicinally..." He cast a sour glance at them over his shoulder, "and instructionally, since every last one of you will no doubt botch the recipe on your first attempt..."
       The Slytherins stared pointedly at the Gryffindors as if Snape had not included them all in the insult.
       "...and thus require sufficient time for a second."
       Splitting rat tails turned out to be trickier than Violet imagined. They were like steel rods wrapped in fabric, hard to hold onto and nearly impossible to cut. "Why can't we use diffindo charms?" Violet whispered to Marybeth as she sawed away at the appendage between her fingertips. "There ought to be a magic way to do this." She pressed down hard on her knife and neatly slit her finger open to the bone.
       Her gasp of pain and horror brought Snape to her side almost immediately, snatching her hand and holding up her finger to repair with the tip of his wand. The slit disappeared instantly, leaving Violet pain-free but wobbly nevertheless. "Thank you, sir," she whispered between pale lips as Snape nodded brusquely and moved away to monitor the other students' efforts.
       There was something sinister about the way he circulated among them, waiting for flesh to tear beneath the chopping knives so he could swoop down, wand drawn, and repair the damage. After nearly every student in the room had required mending at least once, an indignant Gryffindor whispered a little too loudly, "Couldn't he just teach us how to avoid the cuts instead?"
       Snape whirled on the student with a frosty glare. "I am teaching you how to avoid them, Mr. Abercrombie," he assured the youngster. "I'm letting you practice. Practice is the only way to avoid them." With a flick of his wand, he deposited a hundred more rat tails on the unfortunate Gryffindor's desk. "Practice makes perfect," he smiled coolly.
       The Slytherins giggled and Violet turned to smile at Marybeth. She found her roommate staring blindly at her cauldron, quaking where she stood.
       "Marybeth?" Violet whispered nervously. She gave her friend a little poke.
       "Practice," Marybeth stammered, her head jerking as she twitched. "Practice makes perfect."
       "Marybeth, what's the matter?" Violet demanded, grabbing her roommate by the arm and giving her a shake. "Marybeth? Marybeth! PROFESSOR SNAPE!"
       Their housemaster hurried over to them, then squatted down in front of Marybeth, who didn't seem to notice him. She stared at the contents of her cauldron as if seeing a nightmare within, shivering and twitching as she whispered, "Don't. Don't let them!"
       Snape took the girl by both arms and squeezed hard. "Miss Montague!" he hissed. "Miss Montague, look at me this instant!"
       Marybeth shook harder. Snape grabbed her chin and forced her gaze away from the cauldron. "Look at me!" he commanded. "What is the matter with you?"
       Marybeth peered at Snape in confusion, squinting at him as if trying to see him through a cloud of smoke. Then she suddenly flung her arms around his neck and clung to him for dear life, her voice rising to a scream as she cried, "Don't let them! DON'T LET THEM!"
       The class watched in embarrassed silence as Marybeth sobbed on her teacher's shoulder. Snape glared back at them, then placed a reassuring hand on the back of Marybeth's head. He stood up, picking the child up with him, and pressed her face into his shoulder, muffling her sobs.
       "Miss Guilford, find Professor Dumbledore and ask him to come to the hospital wing immediately. Miss Rosich, find Malfoy and tell him to take over potions classes until I return." With that he carried Marybeth quickly out of the room.
       When Violet and the headmaster arrived at the infirmary, they found Snape sitting on a cot with Marybeth in his lap while Madam Pomfrey fed her the Draught of Peace drop by drop. Snape seemed to be supervising the dosing closely, to Madam Pomfrey's extreme irritation. Her temper did not improve when Dumbledore thanked her and asked her to excuse them.
       "She needs a full dose, not just a few drops," the nursed huffed.
       "Shortly, Poppy," Dumbledore promised, and Madam Pomfrey retreated, muttering indignantly beneath her breath. Dumbledore turned his mild gaze upon Violet.
       "Now, Miss Guilford, a brief summary for Professor Snape's benefit, if you don't mind."
       Violet nodded, glancing nervously at Marybeth as she spoke. "She wasn't crazy about rats having their tails cut off, and of course fingers were being sliced open right and left, but it was the 'Practice makes perfect' comment that seemed to set her off." She looked to Snape to see if he understood why, but he looked as puzzled as she did. Marybeth sobbed on his shoulder, her fingers clenching the fabric of his robe, oblivious to them all.
       "Then what happened?" Dumbledore prompted.
       "She was shaking," Violet remembered, wishing Marybeth would make eye contact with her, "and muttering, 'Practice. Practice makes perfect.' That's when I shouted for Professor Snape."
       "Thank you, Miss Guilford," Dumbledore nodded. "You may return to class."
       With one last worried glance at Marybeth, Violet slipped quietly out of the hospital wing and hurried back to potions class. Malfoy, short on time and apparently not as adept at finger repair as Snape, had chosen to let the students watch him brew the hair-raising solution instead of making it themselves. When he saw Violet re-enter the room, he barked, "Everybody take two steps back!" The students backed away from his desk and Malfoy added with a snarl, "Stay right where you are and don't move a muscle! Miss Guilford, corridor! Immediately!"
       God, I love him, Violet thought as she slipped eagerly into the hallway with Malfoy right behind her. She told him the entire story, then waited patiently while he mulled it over. "What do you think it means?" she finally asked.
       Malfoy shook his head. "'Practice makes perfect,'" he muttered to himself, then shook his head again. "I never heard my dad say anything like that," he admitted. "Of course..."
       "Well, I was just thinking about the timing," Malfoy mused. "Voldemort returned in June, my dad died in November, Marybeth went home in April. Maybe 'practice' took place last summer." They thought about that for a second, then Malfoy snapped his fingers. "Pansy!" he exclaimed.
       "I'll go get her!" Violet volunteered eagerly, and Malfoy had to grab her by the arm to keep her from darting away down the hall.
       "We'll ask her later," the temporary teacher corrected, taking Violet by the scruff of her neck to haul her back into potions class.
       Snape soon grew weary of Dumbledore's mollycoddling. The stakes were too high for such indulgence, he thought; he could not get Elizabeth's tales of battlefield woe out of his mind. He picked Marybeth up and set her down firmly on her feet in front of him.
       "Miss Montague," he scolded, giving her a little shake, "stop this nonsense immediately!"
       Dumbledore flinched but Marybeth took a deep breath and shuddered, trying hard to pull herself together.
       "There is a secret inside of you, young lady," Snape continued. "We would be most obliged if you could tell us what it is."
       Marybeth's sobs quieted to sniffles as she stared blankly beyond Snape's shoulder, trying to remember. Finally she shook her head. "I don't know what it is, sir," she whispered miserably to Snape.
       "What is the last thing..." Snape began tersely, but Dumbledore silenced him with a raised hand. He nodded to Madam Pomfrey who took Marybeth aside to administer a full dose of medicine and tuck her into bed. Dumbledore led Snape to the corridor outside the hospital wing.
       "Extra security measures, I think," the elderly wizard murmured, "and perhaps an additional conversation with Miss Guilford?" Snape nodded, then checked on Marybeth once more before returning to potions class. He thanked Malfoy curtly for his services, disposed of the potion brewing on his desk, and dismissed the second years early so he could have a little chat with Violet.
       "Miss Montague's dreams," he began delicately. "Does she cry out or say anything in her sleep?"
       "Sometimes, Violet nodded, "though I've generally stopped listening."
       Snape stared intently at the child. "Start again," he ordered, "and write down anything she says. Make her sit up and write down everything she can remember as well. Is that clear?"
       Violet nodded, her eyes wide.
       She was waiting with Malfoy outside the Great Hall that evening to catch Pansy coming out of dinner when the rest of the Slytherin quidditch team suddenly appeared and surrounded them.
       "Let's wait on practice this term until the weather improves, shall we?" Warrington suggested. The other players nodded emphatically and Malfoy was just about to acquiesce when Pansy exited the hall. He grabbed her arm and pulled her into the group, taking a quick glance around to be sure they were alone.
       "Pansy," he asked the girl softly, "does the phrase, 'Practice makes perfect' mean anything to you?"
       "Jennifer was babbling about that at dinner!" Goyle spoke up. "What's it about, anyway?"
       Violet brought him up to speed while Pansy pondered the question. "Just fashing," she finally told Malfoy with a shake of her head.
       "What's fashing?" Violet wondered. Pansy smiled at her.
       "Fashers are drinkers with a flying problem," she winked.
       It took the older Slytherins a few seconds to burst out laughing. Violet didn't get the joke at all.
       "You should never drink and fly," said Malfoy helpfully, but Violet just shook her head. The Slytherins set off for their common room while Pansy explained.
       "It's this stupid game played by former quidditch players gone to seed," she told the others. "They combine flying with drinking too much mead. As I understand it, each race usually ends with a huge sick-fest."
       "Ew!" Violet grimaced. Pansy nodded.
       "Mum would always look put out when Dad went fashing on Thursday nights," she remembered, "but he would insist, 'Practice makes perfect!'"
       "How did he look when he got home?" Malfoy asked more thoughtfully than the others noticed.
       "Flushed," Pansy admitted. "Feverish... like he'd been up to something pretty gross."
       They let themselves in the door to their house only to stop short at the sight of Marybeth sitting on a nearby sofa reading her spellbook. Pansy and the quidditch team members exchanged guarded looks, then sauntered amiably over to the little basketcase.
       "How are you feeling?" Malfoy asked the youngster cheerfully.
       "Stupid!" Marybeth snapped. Malfoy grinned.
       "Well, that's as it should be," he assured her, and was rewarded with the first smile he'd seen from her in days. The Slytherins took seats on either side of her or leaned over the sofa as Malfoy crouched down in front of her and gave her knee a comforting squeeze.
       "Listen, Marybeth," he began gently, "this 'Practice makes perfect' thing..."
       Marybeth blanched and Malfoy gave her knee a few pats.
       "It didn't take place on Thursday nights, by any chance?" he asked with an encouraging little smile. The grin froze on his face as Marybeth slid off the sofa and fell to the floor in a dead faint.
       "Oh, shit," Malfoy groaned.
       "What on earth did you think you were doing?" Snape roared as he stormed angrily back and forth before Malfoy, Millicent, Crabbe, Goyle, Warrington, Tracey, Violet and Pansy. I hate our quidditch team, Pansy thought.
       "Give me one good reason not to flog the lot of you!" Snape demanded.
       Malfoy couldn't help but snort. "You've forgotten how?" he quipped, then paled like the full moon when he realized he'd said that out loud. His housemates stared at him in abject horror before simultaneously taking one large step away from him.
       Snape stared darkly at the boy who now stood quite by himself. He might have found his students' resentment of his absent firm hand laughable if he weren't feeling so guilty about Marybeth. He strolled slowly across the room to stop in front of Draco, then whispered coolly, "I'm rather surprised that came out of your mouth, Malfoy."
       Draco twitched with guilt but Violet piped up immediately on behalf of her hero. "Please, sir," she called fervently. "Please excuse Malfoy." She narrowed her eyes just a fraction and continued as pointedly as she dared, "He's had a lot to take care of lately, after all. You understand."
       The other six Slytherins whimpered with suppressed anxiety or mirth. Snape folded his arms carefully across his chest and gazed down the queue, pausing to study each child's face as he frowned ominously. Then he suddenly flung his arms down in disgust and snapped, "Oh, stop this nonsense!" before storming over to his desk. The Slytherins spun around to watch him as Snape dropped into his chair, kicking his feet up on the desktop. He gazed sourly at his students, then jerked his head in the direction of their common room.
       "I was right down the hall the entire week," he reminded them. "The entire term, for that matter!"
       The Slytherins exchanged sheepish looks. "We were just trying to help, sir," Malfoy insisted.
       Snape rubbed his throbbing temples at the memory of Madam Pomfrey's reaction when he'd carried Marybeth back into the hospital wing. I trust you're grateful, little girl, he thought, for the hands-on care of Slytherin House. He lifted a stern face to his students.
       "I have no higher priority than the well-being of my house," he lectured them firmly. "But you need to remember that the demands placed on my time and attention by the challenges we face will doubtless increase before they improve." He waited for a response and the Slytherins nodded obediently. "I would appreciate it, therefore, if you would refrain from inflicting idiocy upon each other and instead give each other your very best." He rose and swept across the room to open the door for them. "Otherwise," he promised sternly as they filed out before him, "I will give you six of my very best."
       He shut the door behind them with an authoritative bang, making them jump. They shook their heads defeatedly at one another, then set off silently down the corridor back to their house. They had nearly reached the door to their common room when Violet suddenly giggled.
       "What?" Malfoy demanded as the Slytherins bunched up around her.
       Violet shook her head, putting a guilty hand over her mouth to keep from laughing any more. The effort to restrain herself was too much and she blushed bright red, causing Goyle to chuckle, too.
       "Did you see her hit the floor?" he asked his housemates, and Violet burst out laughing.
       "Boom!" the little second year cried, smacking her hands together to illustrate. "Just like a hundredweight!"
       The Slytherins roared except for Malfoy, who pressed his lips together hard and scolded, "It's not funny, Violet!" before giving in to his own snickers. They laughed uproariously as they smacked their hands together and cried "Boom!" over and over until their bellies ached. Finally, with much gasping and wiping of eyes, they sobered and stood quietly exchanging sheepish looks.
       "Let's go visit her!" Violet suggested. The others nodded and they hurried past the door to their house only to stop short at the sound of someone approaching from the opposite direction. It was several people, in fact, making an angry hum as they grumbled to each other in low voices. While the Slytherins watched in surprise, the students of Gryffindor swarmed around the nearest corner, a grumpy Harry Potter leading the way. He marched right up to Malfoy and demanded, "Fancy a visit?"
       "To what do we owe the honor?" Malfoy inquired a few minutes later when the two houses were comfortably settled in the common room. The Gryffindors exchanged ominous looks, letting anticipation build to an appropriate level before breaking their wretched news.
       "Sybil Trelawney has moved into Gryffindor Tower," Neville announced.
       Eyebrows sprang up all over Slytherin, none higher than Malfoy's. With a shake of his head, he quickly rearranged his expression to conceal his full reaction.
       "Whatever for?" he asked casually.
       "We have no idea," Ron moaned, falling back against his sofa with a thud.
       Tracey giggled with delight at the Gryffindors' lack of hospitality. "Did you leave her all alone?" she gasped, and Malfoy suddenly scanned the faces throughout the room.
       Where's Granger? he wondered.
       "We left her in the enraptured company of her fan club," Ron assured them. "Parvati and Lavender just adore her."
       Malfoy's mind raced. Your very best, he heard Snape whisper ominously in his head. He forced himself to stretch lazily before inquiring, "Does Granger?"
       Ron and Harry looked up sharply. "Adore her?" Malfoy added with a drawl, as if he were simply cataloging another aspect of Hermione's inadequacy. "I thought she quit divination."
       "She stayed behind to study," Harry replied.
       Malfoy waited until Ron had turned away to set up a game of wizard chess with Warrington before climbing slowly to his feet. "Think I'll do some studying myself," he announced and headed for his cell, pausing long enough to catch Harry's eye and jerk his head almost imperceptibly in the direction of his room.
       It took Harry a few minutes to slip away unnoticed. "Cast an imperturbable charm," Malfoy advised him when Harry finally joined the Slytherin in his private quarters. Harry put the spell in place and sat down opposite Malfoy on his bunk.
       "What do you know?" Malfoy asked him point blank.
       Harry blinked. Then he folded his arms across his chest and shot back, "What do you know?"
       The dance begins, Malfoy thought. "Do you know about second year potions class today?" he asked cautiously.
       Harry shrugged. "Marybeth pitched a fit," he said lightly. "I wasn't going to mention it."
       It occurred to Malfoy that he owed Potter an apology for thinking so poorly of him first term. Fortunately, this wasn't the time for it. "And now," he muttered instead, "Trelawney has moved into your tower."
       He climbed off his bed and crossed the room to look out his enchanted window, aware that Harry was watching him through narrowed eyes. "Did Granger stay behind to question Trelawney?" he asked over his shoulder. "Or maybe to help McGonagall keep an eye on her?"
       Harry didn't answer. Instead, he climbed off the bed, too, and walked slowly across the room to stand directly behind Draco. "What do you know, Malfoy?" he asked quietly.
       The Slytherin turned slowly away from the window. "I know a child was born," he confessed.
       Harry jumped as if stung. "How do you know that?" he demanded, then glanced quickly over his shoulder as if to verify the spell on Malfoy's door.
       "I found something the night I played Floo Tag with Ron," Malfoy explained quickly. "I found my dad's diary in Snape's parlor." No need to add that the information about the prophecy had come from Snape's memory, he decided. He watched some sort of understanding fill Harry's face.
       "You were reading!" the Gryffindor murmured. "That's why you weren't moving!"
       The marauder's map comes through for Slytherin! Malfoy thought, taking care not to smirk. "Now I'll tell you something you don't know," he said, resuming his seat on his bed. Harry sat down across from him and listened intently as Malfoy told him about Pansy's father and Marybeth's second fainting spell. "Was Trelawney the seer?" he asked when he'd finished.
       Harry nodded.
       "I think 'Practice makes perfect' must have something to do with getting information from Trelawney," Malfoy surmised, "and so must Snape and Dumbledore. That's why they moved her to Gryffindor Tower... for safer keeping."
       Harry could see the logic in that, but surely there were a million things the Death Eaters could be practicing. "What makes you so sure it's about Trelawney?" he asked.
       "It has to do with a woman," Malfoy insisted. "That's why Marybeth's night terrors increased after Elizabeth arrived." Harry looked puzzled and Malfoy grinned. "Snape had a visitor last week," he explained coyly. He thought the Gryffindor might be embarrassed, but instead, Harry grinned back.
       "Did you know he kissed McGonagall?" he asked Malfoy. "Easter Sunday? Right on the mouth!"
       Both boys laughed out loud. "I wish Mum and Dad wouldn't do those things in front of us kids," Malfoy drawled, and Harry laughed even harder. After they'd sobered up again, their thoughts crept back to the matter at hand.
       "Should we go talk to Marybeth?" Harry wondered.
       "She's not here," Malfoy shook his head. "She's back in the hospital wing. And Snape promised a righteous flogging to anybody who traumatizes her again."
       Harry thought it over. "It might be worth it," he mused, making Malfoy scowl.
       "To you, I suppose," the Slytherin sneered.
       Harry's mouth popped open in protest. "I meant the beating," he berated, "not traumatizing Marybeth!" He glared at Malfoy until the blonde boy finally conceded with a nod.
       They sat in silence for a while. Then Harry spoke up tentatively. "Malfoy," he whispered, "do you suppose..." It was difficult to say out loud. "Whatever they're practicing, do you suppose they're trying it on... the missing girls?"
       A wave of horror washed over Malfoy.
       "They might even have done it to..."
       "No!" Malfoy cried, springing to his feet. "No! They wouldn't have!" He paced to his window and back again, searching his brain for a reason not to believe it. It wasn't that they were daughters. He wouldn't put much past a Death Eater. "Marybeth's too young," he insisted when he was standing in front of Harry again. "There's no point in practicing on a child the techniques you're developing to get information from a woman."
       Harry didn't argue. Instead, he asked gently, "What about the others? The teenagers?"
       Malfoy stood silently before him. He thought of how much Goyle had fancied Queenie Greinglass... and of how angry he'd been with the defectors.
       "Never mind," Harry interrupted his reverie. "Listen, I've got an idea. It's about Marybeth."

An Obedient House