"How about a break?"
Dobby, who was sitting in a
chair beside Michael Bletchley's cot in the hospital wing Monday night,
looked up from his copy of Bathilda Bagshot's History of Magic to
give Snape the briefest of sullen glances before returning to his reading.
Snape rolled his eyes, then folded his arms across his chest.
"Dobby," he said impatiently,
"I am NOT going to say this again. I am sorry no one came to find you
after the treasure hunt was cancelled. Now do you want my peace offering
The elf clung to his injured
facade for a few more seconds, then bounded eagerly from the room.
Watching him go, Snape wondered just what the creature got up to in his
free time. "Thank God he's not a Slytherin," he muttered to himself as he
took a seat beside the sleeping Michael.
In truth, this gesture was
more for Snape than for Dobby. The hospital wing was the only place a
wizard could ponder uninterrupted these days, and Snape had a great deal
to think about.
So far, not a single family had sent
for its children. The Bletchley Effect, Snape called it. They're
afraid it's even more dangerous out there. Or maybe they just didn't
want the death of a child to be anybody's fault but Dumbledore's. As a
result, he'd had to face the full contingent of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws
in his potions classes all day, and truth be told, he'd been nervous.
Ridiculous, he know realized. He should have known the reasonable
Ravenclaws would have rapidly reach the same conclusion held by Dumbledore
and even Potter himself: that Snape had had no choice but to choose, that
the results would have been the same whether he'd acted in anger or
compassion, and that he'd atoned for his behavior a hundred times over and
continued to do so daily.
No. It was not Snape the
It was Potter.
During class, the boy had
bumped his hot cauldron during washing up, letting out a painful hiss that
prompted Terry Boot to sneer, "Careful, Potter! Mustn't burn! We don't
want the Chosen One developing an infection."
Even Malfoy had raised an
"I didn't know what to do!"
Snape told Michael. Gryffindors he could discipline with one whip hand
tied behind his back. Slytherins were a piece of cake and so, now, were
the Hufflepuffs. But Ravenclaws! "They've never been a problem before!"
Snape protested to the bed-ridden child. "Besides, how could anyone think
on his feet after that appalling incident with Longbottom?"
Neville had entered potions
class a changed young man. He'd stared sullenly at Snape throughout the
lesson and then... "He intentionally sabotaged his own potion!" Snape
confided to Michael. "No one has EVER done that in my class before!"
Neville had been deliberately
sloppy and heavy-handed the entire period but Snape had looked the other
way, having no desire to confront a child possessed of a near psychotic
level of righteous indignation. "He's not being fair, you know," Snape
told Michael peevishly. "It's not my fault so many people think the
Potters were stronger wizards than the Longbottoms. I've been entirely in
the right to demand more from him given the burden I saved him from."
Snape drew his robes more tightly around him despite the gentle spring air
that was slowly penetrating the castle. "Only a complete nutter
would resent not being in Potter's shoes!" he added in a rather disturbed
He sighed and rubbed his
temples. "I have no idea what to do," he confessed to the sleeping child.
He'd ignored Longbottom
successfully until the time had come to add bezoars to the simmering
brews. "Use extreme caution!" Snape had warned the students. "Even the
tiniest splash can cause irreparable blindness for three days."
The students had picked up
their stones... and Neville had grinned and raised his fist high in the
"Don't!" Snape had hissed as
menacingly as possible. "Don't you dare!"
But he had. Neville had
thrown the stone into his cauldron as hard as he could. Those nearby had
jumped clear and by some miracle, not even Neville had gotten any of the
stuff in his eyes. He'd just stood there, grinning maniacally as the
potent potion dripped from his robe. Snape had stormed furiously across
the room, scourgifying him with a blast of green light before turning away
to commit one of the wisest acts of his teaching career.
He'd removed the tin of floo
powder he'd been carrying faithfully since his dash to the Astronomy tower
and summoned Minerva, who'd hurried to the dungeon to hustle Neville out
of the room.
He'd watched her shepherd the
boy out the door, then had turned back to his students to find Harry
Potter smiling gratefully at his restraint, which had flustered him almost
as much as the incident itself. Then, he'd barked the order to clean up.
I should say something,
he thought. "But I can't scold them in front of Potter," he told an
unresponsive Michael, "and that's the only time I see them!" Besides,
Justin Finch-Fletchley had shaken his head at Terry Boot after the
Ravenclaw had made the snide remark; he doubted anyone from either house
would register indignation in his presence again, or in front of any
teacher, for that matter. This thought made him shudder as a flood of
bitter memories rushed back unbidden. The corridors of Hogwarts could be
an ominous place for an unpopular student.
He pushed the distasteful
thoughts away and tried to think of a plan. Could he appeal to the 7th
years, ask them to talk some sense into their classmates? No, he
concluded, I don't imagine I'd receive a great deal of assistance from
a group that includes Miss Cho Chang.
At that moment, the door to
the hospital wing burst open and the Slytherins trooped in. They were led
by Malfoy who carried a small vase filled with the last of the flowers
from the Hufflepuffs' bouquet. "Hello, sir," he greeted Snape with a
smile, then added, "Here you go, Bletch," as he set the flowers down on
'Bletch?' Snape smiled
to himself. I like it.
They left a short while later
and Snape watched them go through narrowed eyes. "I didn't teach them to
hate Potter," he told Michael after they'd gone. "Or at least, I didn't
teach them to want him dead." He could prove it, too. Sacrificing Potter
had been Guilford's idea, and she liked the boy. It wasn't as if
Malfoy had suggested it.
Snape slumped in his chair
with a sigh. "Maybe I should talk to Minerva," he whispered. But no,
that wouldn't help. She'd be no better at solving this one than he; they
were too much alike. What he needed was...
"Oh!" Snape sat up with a
start. "I know who to talk to!"
"Me?" asked Dumbledore from a
few feet away, and Snape nearly jumped out of his chair.
"Come, Severus, don't give me
that scowl," Dumbledore smiled. "It's not like I entered the room
invisibly." He walked over to Michael's cot and leaned over the boy,
resting his palm on the child's forehead. "He doesn't eat," he told
Snape. "Madam Pomfrey is quite concerned."
He straightened up and clasped
his hands behind his back. "The Ministry has granted my request for
additional security," he told Snape. "Kingsley Shacklebolt and some of
his colleagues will arrive tomorrow."
"No more guard duty,
Headmaster?" Snape asked hopefully.
"Yes, more guard duty,"
Dumbledore assured him. "They'll have to sleep some time!" He glanced
worriedly at Michael, then sat down on the boy's cot. "Severus," he said
quietly, "the child will die without help, so I've sent for someone who
might be able to free him from the curse that imprisons him."
He smiled gently at Snape.
"Bill Weasley will be joining us tomorrow as well."
The announcement made Snape
completely forget his idea to speak to Lupin about Harry Potter.
"Who's that?" Violet asked,
tugging on Malfoy's sleeve and pointing to a handsome redhead sitting next
to Professor McGonagall as they entered the Great Hall for breakfast
Tuesday morning. "Is that a Weasley?"
"That's Bill," Malfoy told her
as they sat down. "He's the oldest."
The Slytherins watched as
various staff members leaned in close or got up and walked over to Bill's
spot at the head table to converse with the pony-tailed guest. "Is he an
auror?" Millicent wondered. Snape had promised them at inspection that
morning that any Slytherin caught vexing an auror would most assuredly
spend the night on his or her belly.
Malfoy shook his head. "He
breaks curses for Gringotts," he told his housemates.
They watched as Harry, Ron and
Hermione entered the hall and hurried forward to join the crowd of
admirers surrounding Bill at the head table. The newcomer smiled easily
as he chatted with those around him.
"Do you suppose he's here for
Michael?" Millicent speculated.
Crabbe wrinkled his nose.
"Couldn't they find a Slytherin curse breaker?"
"Bletch isn't really a
Slytherin," Malfoy pointed out. "Not yet, anyway."
Their comments were
interrupted by a loud laugh from Bill, which immediately set those around
him to laughing as well.
"Popular bloke, isn't he?"
Goyle observed. Malfoy shrugged.
"He was head boy," he reminded
the group. "People remember head boys."
Violet tore her eyes away from
the staff table and turned to her older housemates. "Who do you think will
be head boy next year?" she asked. They all wanted Malfoy, of course.
The blonde teenager grinned and beckoned the Slytherins closer, then
drawled for only them to hear, "Neville Longbottom?"
The Slytherins burst out
laughing, then glanced at the head table again where they found Bill
Weasley glaring at them for their outburst.
"What?" Millicent huffed. "He
can laugh but we can't?"
Malfoy shook his head,
wondering why Snape was not at breakfast. This doesn't bode well,
he thought, and he stared at Bill for a long time before turning his
attention o his kippers.
The visiting curse-breaker was
perched on the teacher's desk that afternoon when Draco and his fellow
Slytherins returned to the hall for Defense class. Malfoy grabbed a seat
in the front row as the other three houses ambled in behind him, the
Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs giving a wide berth to Harry Potter. The
aurors were there, too, and Lupin, standing next to Bill, looked a bit
"Professor Snape will be
joining us shortly," he told the students once they were seated. "I've
asked him to provide a brief demonstration of his new tracking techniques
for our visiting aurors."
Bill Weasley snorted and
Lupin's discomfort seemed to increase a notch. Malfoy leaned over to
Millicent and whispered rather loudly, "Why is Weasley here? Shouldn't he
be helping Michael?"
"Oh, rest assured, Malfoy,"
Bill called from the front of the room, "I wouldn't miss this for the
Lupin cleared his throat. "I
was astounded when I first leaned about Professor Snape's
accomplishments," he told the aurors. "Very impressive, weren't they,
He turned rather desperately
to them and, after a startled moment, they nodded and murmured their
assent. Bill laughed out loud.
"Lupin," he grinned, clapping
Remus on the back, "Snape's a Slytherin!"
"So?" called Millicent
sharply, and Malfoy, glancing over his shoulder at her, found several
non-Slytherins frowning as well.
"So, Miss Bulstrode," Bill
said smoothly, "Defense has never been a Slytherin strong suit. It
requires real magic, you see. Slytherins are good at..." He
at Malfoy. "... potions."
Draco willed himself not to flush. He
searched his mind for a calm, cutting reply, but before he could think of
one, Neville Longbottom thrust his hand into the air and waved it eagerly
at the visiting aurors. "Are any of you Slytherins?" he asked innocently
when called upon, and Bill rewarded him with a wink. But then a voice
from the back of the room, where the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were
gathered, suggested, "Maybe they only let Gryffindors into the club," and
a second voice added "Good for you, eh, Potter?"
"Hey!" Ron Weasley spun
around with fire in his eyes, but Harry gave his arm a nudge and
whispered, "Never mind" just as Snape strode into the room. He stopped
short at the sight of Bill Weasley and his jaw twitched, but Bill just
smiled at him. Lupin spoke up quickly.
"Thank you so much for coming,
Professor Snape," he smiled as he stepped between Bill and the potions
master. "We'll try not to take up too much of your time, but as you can
imagine, our guests are most anxious for a demonstration of your new
"Are you going to write them
up, Snape?" asked Kingsley Shacklebolt not unpleasantly. "Get yourself
published again?" Wizards throughout the Ministry were aware that an
article on Lupin's Remedy was undergoing peer review at that very moment.
"Not just... yet," Snape said
carefully, and Shacklebolt nodded in agreement.
The substitute Defense teacher
provided a brief display, allowing the eager students to make tracks, spit
on the floor, and even tear open a scab or two to contribute droplets of
blood for the performance. The aurors applauded enthusiastically when he
finished but Bill just shook his head. "Congratulations, Severus!" he
announced when the ovations had ceased. "You've invented the wizarding
equivalent of muggle glowsticks."
A hush fell over the room as
all eyes turned to Snape. Before he could respond, a loud "Ha!" rang out
from the crowd of Gryffindors and everyone turned to see Neville
Longbottom grinning triumphantly. The troubled Gryffindor's manic visage
seemed to remind Snape of something. He thrust his hands into his pockets
where Malfoy was sure he was concealing balled fists and stepped closer to
Bill, whispering so quietly that Malfoy had to strain to hear him.
"You must be making progress
with young Bletchley," he murmured. "Surely you wouldn't waste time when
Michael has so little."
Bill paled, then flushed, and
the two men glared at each other for several seconds before Snape suddenly
turned and swept from the room. As Lupin bid a good-day to the guests and
ushered them out the door, Malfoy leaned over to the Slytherins and
whispered, "Snape didn't say anything about vexing curse-breakers, right?"
That evening, the blonde
teenager raised a fist to knock on Snape's office door only to see it
swing open at his touch. His housemaster stood with his back to the door,
facing his desk. "Professor Snape?" Malfoy called uncertainly, then froze
when Snape drew his wand and spun on him in a fury.
"Dobby!" the potions master shouted,
"I told you NEVER...!" He stopped when he saw Malfoy, then let his wand
drop. "It's you," he muttered as he turned back to his desk.
Malfoy approached cautiously
and drew up alongside Snape to discover that his desk was covered with an
odd assortment of items, including a stone leaf, a stone spider, a caged
mouse and a snake slithering in hungry circles around the cage. "Dobby
has been sneaking up on me," Snape told the boy, "popping in unannounced
to see what I'm up to."
"Why is that, sir?" Malfoy
asked, picking up the stone spider and turning it upside down to examine
"Because," the potions master grumbled
as he snatched the spider back and returned it carefully to the desktop,
"he doesn't mind teaching me, or working with me, but he hates being left
Malfoy nodded as if he understood,
then came to the point of his visit. "Could you tell us how Michael is
doing, sir?" he asked his housemaster. "We're not allowed to visit
"Who says you're not?" Snape growled,
whirling angrily on the boy.
"Mr. Weasley, sir," Malfoy replied,
dropping his eyes humbly to the floor. But he smiled to himself when
this news sent Snape storming from the room.
Malfoy followed him all the way to the
hospital wing, taking care to stay a safe distance behind. He stopped a
few feet from the door and waited for arguing to break out inside the
infirmary. Instead, there was only the low murmuring of one voice.
He crept cautiously to the open door
and peeked inside. There was Snape, hiding behind a screen, spying on
Bill. The curse-breaker was holding an open book in one hand and swishing
his wand over Michael's head with the other. He would read an incantation
from the book, then repeat it over and over, varying each word slightly as
he waved his wand doggedly over Michael's head. Occasionally he lifted a
foot to rest it for a few moments on the frame of Michael's cot.
Snape watched Bill's efforts for a
long time. Then he stepped from behind the screen and cleared his throat.
"Perhaps you're not allowing enough
time after each repetition," he suggested.
Bill whirled in Snape's direction,
then scowled and slammed his book shut.
"I don't need assistance from a
potions master, Snape," he assured the intruder.
"I'm merely pointing out," Snape went
on, stepping closer to the cot to check on Michael, "that you might do
better to focus on the child rather than the incantation."
At first Bill could only stare. Then
he shook his head with disgust. "I do not believe," he whispered coolly,
"that you are lecturing me on how to work with children."
Ron, you blabbermouth, Malfoy
"But then," Bill went on, "perhaps you
feel qualified to instruct me because I'm functioning in an atypical
environment. I'm not accustomed to working within the confines of a safe,
Safe? Malfoy thought furiously.
"Perhaps," Snape replied, his voice
sharpening, "you're not accustomed... to helping a child with a
surname you find distasteful."
Oops, Malfoy winced even as
Bill snorted with laughter. "Well, you'd know, Severus!" he jeered, and
Malfoy had to admit, Snape should have seen that one coming.
Snape glanced briefly at Michael, then
stepped closer to Bill. "I didn't send for you, Weasley," he hissed.
"Albus Dumbledore sent for you."
"And here I am," Bill smiled, shoving
his hands comfortably into his pockets, "back at Hogwarts, where I'm still
admired, still welcome, still remembered fondly..." He glanced about and
his smile grew nasty. "...still surrounded by pleasant memories," he
finished with a veiled viciousness that made Malfoy shiver.
The Slytherin teenager instantly
regretted provoking this private confrontation. Leave! he begged
Snape silently in his head. Just leave!
But Snape stood his ground though his
face paled and his jaw twitched. "Just help the child," he whispered
through lips that barely moved.
"I am helping the child, Severus!"
Bill snarled. "But it's a waste of my time and ability! There's a war
on, in case you didn't know! I should be out there..." He pointed out
of the windows. "...helping the innocent people who are being tortured
slaughtered every day instead of here, helping a..."
He broke off and Snape took a menacing
step closer to him. "Helping a what?" the head of Slytherin demanded.
Bill folded his arms across his chest.
"Helping one unschooled child," he
The two men glared at each other for
several seconds. Then Madam Pomfrey, standing unnoticed beside Malfoy,
muttered an indignant "Nonsense!" and the teenager nearly jumped out of
his robe. The stern matron marched angrily past him into her hospital
wing and Malfoy, his heart still racing, hurried to catch up with her.
Snape spun around at the sound of their entry, then drew himself up to his
"I want my students permitted to visit
this child," he announced, and Madam Pomfrey nodded.
"I think that's a good idea," she
Snape marched out of the wing without
another word. Malfoy hesitated just a moment, then hurried after him.
"Please, sir!" he called as he sprang into the corridor, and Snape
stopped, his shoulders tensed, before turning around to face his student.
Malfoy hurried to close the gap between them.
"Please, sir," he began again,
"couldn't you help Michael?" He watched as Snape looked away, then turned
defeatedly back to him.
"I'm not a curse-breaker, Malfoy," he
replied. "It's a difficult skill. It takes talent." He shook his head
as he finished. "Michael would die long before I could master it."
He turned and walked away without
another word. Malfoy stared after him, Bill's voice replaying in his head
as he watched the potions master grow smaller and smaller.
"Hogwarts...where I'm admired... remembered fondly... surrounded by
The boy turned cool gray eyes towards
the hospital wing where Bill Weasley's voice could once again be heard
repeating incantations over Michael's head. His mind churned as he
listened. "Focus on the child," he murmured softly as Bill tried spell
after spell. Then he smiled. "Good idea," he nodded to himself, a light
coming into his eyes. "There's got to be a Slytherin in there somewhere."
He thrust his hands into his pockets and began to whistle as he spun about
and strolled cheerfully back to his house.
And so it went. Day after day, while
the Slytherins took turns spelling him in the hospital wing, Bill held
court at meals, keeping a gaggle of aurors, staff and Gryffindors
spellbound as he related uproarious tales about the good old days when the
marauders held sway at Hogwarts. Hagrid was among those enjoying the
festivities but Dumbledore and the heads of house refused to participate
and Malfoy noticed that, more than once, McGonagall bypassed the clump of
admirers to take a seat near Snape instead.
Not all of the Gryffindors appreciated
Bill's charismatic entertainment and its effects on Snape. As the visit
wore on, Harry and his cronies became weary of the curse-breaker's jovial
behavior. His loud stories about James and Sirius often made Harry flinch
and occasionally Malfoy saw genuine pain in the eyes of Ron and Ginny.
But Neville Longbottom and the younger Gryffindors couldn't get enough.
He continued to insert himself into
Lupin's Defense classes, demonstrating his own prowess while assuring the
students that most of them were vastly superior in character to the
posers, wannabes, and Hogwarts-come-lately's in their midst. Lupin always
tried to send him from the room as quickly as politeness allowed but it
was never soon enough to suit the Slytherins.
They measured the effectiveness of his
campaign in the increasing paleness of Snape's skin which was second in
anemia only to Harry Potter's. "They're as white as new milk!" Millicent
breathed of the twosome's wretched, woebegone faces, and a day or two
later, "...as white as fresh snow!"
"No need to panic," Malfoy assured his
housemate the following Monday afternoon as they waited together in the
common room, "until they're as white as Goyle's butt." He didn't tell the
Slytherins, but on more than one occasion, he'd spotted the Ravenclaws and
Hufflepuffs listening surreptitiously to Bill at meal times. He shuddered
to think what behaviors they might be learning from the Gryffindor's
stories and marveled at how Harry Potter was looking far more miserable
these days than Malfoy had ever been able to make him look when they were
"You spent a week with them,"
Millicent reminded him now. "Why do the Weasleys hate Snape?"
Malfoy shook his head. "It's
not all of them," he insisted.
"That's right!" Violet agreed.
"I met Mrs. Weasley in Diagon Alley. She didn't seem to hate Snape."
"The parents..." Malfoy
for the right words. "It's like they wish nobody would be mean to Snape.
But the kids..."
He laced his fingers behind
his head and stretched his legs towards the common room fire. "What you
have to remember about Bill Weasley," he told his housemates, "is that he
probably knew Snape as both a student and a master. He would have
been, what, a first or second year?...an impressionable little Gryffindor
swot...right about the time the marauders were reaching their zenith,
painting Snape as the most contemptible student in school. Then..." He
hugged his legs to his chest and rested his chin on his knees. "He would
have been coming into his own glory, a Gryffindor prefect and Head Boy,
just as Snape was returning to Hogwarts and beginning to teach under the
blackest cloud of suspicion imaginable."
He gave Millicent a shrewd
lift of his eyebrows. "Bill Weasley must have the darkest opinion of
Snape it's possible to hold," he concluded, "and he's the oldest, most
"But Ron and Ginny don't seem
Millicent's response was cut short by
the opening of the common room door. Pansy slipped eagerly into the room,
clutching a bundle beneath her robe. "Got it!" she announced, and the
Slytherins hurried to gather around her, admiring her acquisitions before
they headed out the door to visit Michael.
"Isn't he rather... cute?...
Slytherin?" Violet asked a short while later as she and her housemates
crowded around Michael's cot. It was almost 5:30. Hermione Granger was
sitting on a bunk a few cots away, speaking earnestly to Bill, who would
soon depart for dinner in the Great Hall, leaving the Slytherins to watch
over Michael until Madam Pomfrey returned from her meal.
"What the devil are you
talking about?" Malfoy asked, his eyes on Hermione and Bill.
"Bletch!" Violet insisted,
gesturing at the sweet-faced, sleeping youngster. He was, indeed, quite
appealing to look at, but that was hardly surprising; his older brother
had been the handsomest Slytherin to grace the house in years. "He looks
like Mark Lester!" Violet pointed out.
"Who is Mark Lester?"
The question disgusted Violet.
"Oliver!" she cried to the peasants surrounding her. Her
housemates, even half-muggle Millicent, could only stare blankly and
Violet sighed with frustration. "It's a musical," she explained. "You
know... 'Consider yourself... at home!'" she began to sing. Malfoy rolled
his eyes and clamped a hand over her mouth.
"You and your muggle cinema,"
he snorted. But Millicent looked surprised.
"They showed you
Oliver! in a London orphanage?"
Violet gave her an impish
grin. "Please, sir," she implored in a squeaky little voice, "I want some
Several feet away, Hermione
Granger began to giggle. The Slytherins looked up suspiciously.
"Looks can be deceiving,"
Malfoy muttered as the Gryffindors rose to leave. The Slytherins watched
them go, listening hard to the sound of their retreating footsteps. They
were so focused on the empty doorway and the diminishing sounds of Bill's
and Hermione's progress down the corridor that they all jumped when a
voice beside them murmured, "Please, sir, I want some more!"
"Bletch!" Malfoy snapped,
giving Michael a light cuff upside the head as his housemates giggled over
the start he'd given them. "Never talk until we say it's safe!"
Michael just reached for the
food in Pansy's hands and began munching on it while Tracey attended to
"Don't forget the impedementia
odiferous charm," Malfoy reminded her.
"Have I ever forgotten the
impedementia odiferous charm?" Tracey demanded. "Do you have any reason
to think I'd forget the impedementia odiferous charm?"
The Slytherins considered it a sign
that God was on their side when hours of whispering "Don't let Bill see
you wake up!" had paid off and Michael had successfully hidden his return
to consciousness from Bill. The impedimentia odiferous charm was working
nicely, too; no smells emanated from Michael's bedpan whatsoever. How
Michael managed to hide his use of the device or keep its contents from
spilling, Malfoy didn't want to know. He decided to ignore Tracey's
sullen inquiries, too.
"Has Madam Pomfrey said
anything about your condition?" he asked Michael instead. The boy shook
his head and kept right on eating.
"I suppose you should be dead
by now," Malfoy admitted. They weren't feeding Michael much, but his
failure to shrink was obvious nevertheless.
"Not to mention," Millicent
added, "the possibility that Bill might catch on."
Malfoy shook his head. "We
need more milking time," he insisted. "Besides, the timing isn't quite
right." He took a piece of bread from Pansy and held it out for Michael.
"Bletch will be fine," he assured the Slytherins as Michael snatched the
bread from him with his teeth, giving the hand that was feeding him a good
nip in the process.
Violet was standing outside
Snape's office when he returned from a late dinner that evening. Hoping
he wouldn't scold her for waiting alone, she smiled sweetly and asked,
"May I please speak with you, sir?" He nodded so willingly that she
wondered if he was glad there was someone he could be of assistance to
When she was comfortably
seated in her usual chair, she folded her hands in her lap and asked, "Did
you teach my mother, sir?"
The question surprised Snape.
He furrowed his brow, but before he could respond, she added, "Malfoy said
you probably taught Bill Weasley. Isn't he about my mother's age?"
Snape hesitated, then nodded.
Then he informed Violet, "Your mother did not attend Hogwarts."
His answer did not please
Violet. She scowled and folded her arms across her chest, muttering
something to the effect that if families like the Weasleys wouldn't have
so many children, maybe there'd be more room at Hogwarts for...
"Miss Guilford," Snape
interrupted her, "your mother would not have attended Hogwarts no matter
how many children the Weasleys had. The Dark Lord had no body; he would
not have dared to attack a Hogwarts alumnae in his condition. Your mother
was destined to be..."
He stopped, reminding Violet
of their fight last year when he'd nearly said aloud that she had a great
deal in common with her father. "Be what, sir?" she demanded indignantly.
Snape frowned at her impertinence but finished tactfully,
Violet's temper was not appeased. She
cast about for some other venue for her frustration, then asked abruptly,
"You people don't have orphanages, do you?"
"'You people'?" Snape quoted
with a dubious lift of his eyebrows. Violet ignored the correction.
"The wizarding world," she
went on as if Snape had not understood. "Harry Potter was raised by the
Dursleys, my father grew up in a muggle orphanage and so did I... How
you people don't have orphanages?" She cocked her head to one side and
added, "You're going to need them, aren't you, sir?"
It suddenly occurred to Snape
that, if he recovered and got sorted into Slytherin, Michael Bletchley
would make 22.
"I've never given the matter
much thought," he confessed before dismissing Violet and ordering her back
to her common room.
That night he dreamed he was back at
the convent. But this time he was full-grown and helping Mother Superior
care for scores of troublesome, dark-eyed, iron-willed little boys.
On Wednesday, Bill dropped by Potions
class unannounced to borrow a few ingredients commonly used in Mandrake
restorative draft... and within moments of his departure, Neville's
boil cure potion (for treating infected or chronically oozing wounds)
suddenly erupted, flying magically across the room to douse Snape from
head to toe. Burning, blistering sores broke out across his face, hands
and neck. Enraged and humiliated, an agonized Snape ordered the students
out of the room, slamming the door behind them.
Neville laughed all the way to the
stairs but the Slytherins and Hermione Granger refused to leave the
dungeon. Instead, Malfoy reached out slowly to take hold of the knob to
the potions classroom door, warning Hermione in a whisper, "He'll cane us
if he catches us." Hermione nodded and Malfoy opened the door just a
crack. The others crowded around him to peek inside.
Moaning with pain as he grasped
bottles and measured out ingredients with blistered hands, Snape was
nevertheless quickly brewing his own cauldron full of boil cure potion.
As soon as it was ready he began dabbing it on his afflicted skin, wincing
as he applied the still-hot potion with a sponge.
Hermione took Malfoy's arm and pulled
him away from the door. The rest of the Slytherins followed them further
down the corridor. "I'm telling," she announced. "I'm telling Professor
McGonagall about Bill and Neville."
Malfoy shook his head. "I don't think
Snape would want you to," he insisted. "I think he wants..." He
"I think he would prefer that McGonagall focus on... other concerns."
Hermione frowned, then nodded.
"Harry," she murmured, and Malfoy wanted to ask her just how bad things
were for his Gryffindor peer, but his anger at Bill and Neville would not
permit it. Instead, he just nodded.
Hermione stamped her foot with
frustration. "Isn't it stupid..." she began, then broke off with a sigh.
Malfoy nodded again and together the sixth years turned and walked down
the hallway, climbing the stairs to head for their next class.
When they'd gone, Harry Potter slipped
out from under the stairs and walked quietly back to the potions
classroom. He hesitated at the door, peeking through the crack to watch
Snape fumbling with the sponge as he tried to apply his boil cure potion
to the back of his head and neck. After a few moments, Harry pushed the
door open and walked into the room.
Snape spun around and froze at the
sight of him. But Harry just walked up to the teacher, took the sponge
from his hand, and carefully applied the potion to the back of Snape's
head and neck. The potions master sagged with relief as the pain
subsided. When he was finished, Harry put the sponge down. Then he shook
his head at Snape and whispered, "I can't think what to say to Bill."
Snape stared at the boy for a long
time. Then he nodded and replied, "I can't think what to say to the
They stood side by side, Harry toying
with the sponge, Snape resisting the urge to tell him to stop. Then the
teacher walked to the nearest wall and slumped against it, sliding all the
way down to sit dejectedly on the cold stone floor. Just as he expected,
Harry soon joined him, and this time, Snape had no desire whatsoever to
box the boy's ears. Instead, he just sat quietly beside him until a
question crossed his mind. "Can you think what to say to Longbottom?" he
asked the teenager with faint hope.
Harry shook his head. Snape watched
him for a long time and Harry wondered if the man was considering putting
an arm around his shoulders. He was pretty sure he wouldn't mind if the
teacher did. But instead, Snape just gave him a nudge and murmured,
"You're too thin, Potter. Try to eat more."
It was enough.
At 5:30, Violet, Warrington,
Crabbe and Goyle entered the hospital wing to visit Michael, allowing Bill
to head to the Great Hall for dinner. "Would you ask Madam Pomfrey to
hurry, please?" Violet called after him. "We're starving."
Bill made no response and when
the Slytherins were sure he was safely gone, Warrington lifted the covers
on Michael's cot and hissed, "Let's go!" Crabbe and Goyle helped the
wobbly youngster out of bed and supported him on either side as the
Slytherins hustled him out of the room.
Marybeth was sitting on a
bench just outside the doors to the Great Hall when Bill approached but
they paid each other no mind. The curse-breaker entered the dining room
and strode purposefully to the head table, pausing at Madam Pomfrey's
place long enough to inform her, "The Slytherins are waiting on you,"
before sitting down at his own place of honor. Dumbledore smiled
graciously at him, then returned to his conversation with Professor
Madam Pomfrey finished her
dinner quickly and hurried from the hall, only to find Marybeth sitting
outside with her head between her knees, whimpering.
"Why, whatever is the matter,
"I'm feeling a little faint,
Madam Pomfrey," said Marybeth in her most fragile lisp. "Would you please
walk me back to my cell and sit with me for a while?"
From their seats on the
Slytherin bench, Malfoy, Millicent, and Tracey leaned back and craned
their necks just far enough to see Madam Pomfrey put a comforting arm
around Marybeth before steering her across the entryway towards the
staircase to the dungeon. Then they grinned at one another and returned
to picking carefully at their suppers, keeping pace with Bill Weasley as
he enjoyed his own meal.
In the dungeon, Pansy listened
carefully through Snape's open office door for the sound of Marybeth
returning to the common room. Once she heard the door close behind the
second year and the nurse, she glanced surreptitiously at Snape's office
clock and calculated approximately how much longer she would have to
detain him to ensure his presence in the Great Hall for the grand finale.
"I realize that Defense is the
most pressing subject these days, sir," she nodded, "but I don't think
you've considered all the benefits that an Iron Potions Chef club has to
Snape groaned and rubbed his
A few minutes later, Bill
finished his dinner and headed back to the hospital wing, never noticing
the three students from Salazar's house slithering along behind him. They
gave him just enough time to enter the room, find it deserted, and rush to
Michael's empty cot before sauntering in themselves. Then they froze in a
"WHERE'S BLETCH!?" Malfoy
shouted furiously as Bill spun around to face them. He opened his mouth
to reply but before he could speak Millicent snarled, "What have you DONE
with him?!" Tracey glared menacingly at her side.
They could see the wheels
turning in Bill's mind as he looked frantically around the hospital wing.
Careful not to give him too much time to think, Malfoy turned on his heel,
announcing, "I'm going to tell Professor Snape!"
"Wait!" Bill cried, taking a
few desperate steps towards them. He stopped as a thought occurred to
him, then began tentatively, "He must have come out of it. He must have
finally come out of it... and gone looking for help!"
Malfoy waited for the light of
triumph to fill Bill's face so he could quash it. "In his weakened
condition?" the boy jeered. "How could he possibly walk? Unless...
"Unless he's still under
someone else's control," Tracey finished neatly.
Bill paled and Millicent took
a furious step forward and shoved him in the stomach. "Why was he alone?"
she demanded. "Where's Madam Pomfrey?"
Before Bill could reprimand
Millicent, Tracey spoke again, her face as cold as her voice. "Maybe
they're together," she suggested. "Maybe he hurt her!"
Bill paled even more at the
thought and Malfoy nodded shrewdly. "You're responsible for him," he
reminded the curse-breaker.
The Slytherins kept their
faces carefully stony while they waited for Bill to reach the only
possible conclusion: If the boy had regained consciousness, Madam Pomfrey
would not have left him except perhaps to bring him to the Great Hall
where Bill and Dumbledore had just been eating dinner... and Bill had not
passed her on his way back to the hospital wing. That left only one
"Draw your wands!" Bill barked
at the Slytherins.
"You mean our glow sticks?"
Malfoy drawled as the Slytherins reached insolently into their pockets.
Bill flushed but recovered quickly.
"Impress me," he hissed at
Malfoy. "You two, be on guard," he added to the girls.
"Piece of cake," Malfoy
assured him as he illuminated his wand and tweaked it to orchid.
"Michael's the only barefoot human in the castle."
They clumped together, forcing
Bill behind them as they tracked Michael's footprints. They made their
way down to the second floor, then stopped short as if they'd just
realized something horrible.
"Oh, no!" Malfoy breathed.
"What?" Bill asked
"The trail," Tracey told him.
"It's leading right to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom."
Millicent nodded solemnly.
"The Chamber of Secrets," she whispered.
Bill didn't even hesitate. He
took off at a sprint and the three Slytherins exchanged brief grins before
hurrying after him. They burst into the lavatory just a few steps behind
the curse breaker, who was leaning over the open pipe to the Chamber of
Secrets. "Listen!" he hissed at them, and they drew near and strained
their ears to catch the faint sound of Michael crying from below, "Help!
Someone help me!"
"Go get help!" Bill snarled at
the Slytherins as he drew his own wand and jumped into the pipe. But
instead of rushing into the corridor, Malfoy sauntered into a nearby stall
and grabbed a spool of rope that was securely tied to one of the toilets
where Myrtle sat morosely taking it all in. He gave her a wink, then
began to uncoil the rope on his way back to the pipe. Tracey and
Millicent were giggling with delight at the sound of a loud splash from
"WHAT THE HELL?" came Bill's
angry roar, followed by some sloshing sounds and a confused "Violet? Is
that you? What do you think you're doing?" There was a scrunching noise,
then Violet's sweet voice called out the fur spell incantation right
before she shouted "Go, go, go!" up the pipe.
Malfoy threw down the rope and
Violet shouted again. Then the three Slytherins pulled her back into the
bathroom as quickly as they could while Bill hollered repeatedly, "Get
back here, you brat!" As soon as Violet's feet hit solid ground, she
raced for the lavatory door, only to stop short when Malfoy hissed, "The
"Oh, yeah!" Violet reached
into her pocket and withdrew a candle that held Michael's voice recorded
in the wax like an old muggle phonograph record. She thrust it into the
nearest torch holder and pointed her wand at it and the candle immediately
began to spin, playing back Michael's frantic cries for help. "No, no,
no!" Violet cried, shaking the wand violently as she scolded it. She
pointed again, hissing the appropriate incantation, and the candle burst
into flame, burning merrily as it began to melt the evidence.
From the bottom of the pipe,
the Slytherins could hear Bill shouting scourgify spells at himself.
Malfoy folded his arms and leaned against the top of the pipe, drawling
loudly, "Try it in three days!" Then he tossed the rope back down the
pipe and the Slytherins hurried out of the bathroom and raced for the
Great Hall as fast as they could go.
They found Warrington, Crabbe and
Goyle standing proudly beside Snape at the head table as all eyes watched
Professor McGonagall lower the Sorting Hat over Michael Bletchley's head.
She stopped when she saw the Slytherins in the doorway and smiled warmly
at them, waiting for them to take their seats at their house table before
proceeding. She had just started to lower the hat again when Bill Weasley
burst into the hall, gasping and breathing heavily. He was covered in
stinksap and a thick layer of fur. A wolf-like snout was jammed on his
A hush fell over the hall as
the citizens of Hogwarts stared at the bizarre creature in the doorway.
McGonagall's outstretched arm dangled the Sorting Hat in mid-air;
eventually she snapped her mouth shut (it had unconsciously dropped open)
and turned in confusion to the head table, noticing in the process that
young Michael Bletchely had an odd little smile on his face.
"Bill?" Dumbledore called
uncertainly. But the enraged curse-breaker made no response. He was
staring dumbfounded at the child on the sorting stool and Malfoy would
have given a thousand galleons to be able to read his mind at that moment.
Dumbledore leaned slightly closer to the nearest staff member and
whispered, "What is he supposed to be, exactly?"
"I believe," called Remus
Lupin mildly, "that he is a werewolf."
A shocked silence followed
this observation. Then Severus Snape burst out laughing. He laughed so
hard he choked and had to put his head down on the table, even as he
pounded his fist with mirth against its solid surface. The rest of
Hogwarts' citizens, even Ron and Ginny, soon joined him, pointing and
clapping and laughing heartily. Only Neville Longbottom and the
sweetly-smiling Michael remained silent.
"Of course," Lupin added
loudly, "I never smelled quite THAT gamey!" The crowd laughed even
Bill just stood there, saying
nothing. "Come, come," Dumbledore cried, waving him into the room. "Tell
us what you've been up to! We understand congratulations are in order!
But please, if you wouldn't mind, scourgify yourself first!"
"He can't, sir," said Michael,
climbing off the stool, and everybody quieted down immediately. "He did
it for me, you see." All eyes watched as the soft-spoken child walked
around the head table and right up to Albus Dumbledore. "Professor Snape
told Mr. Weasley to focus on the child," he explained as he gazed into the
kindly wizard's face, "so Mr. Weasley decided to try and scare me out of
the curse. And it worked!" he nodded happily. "But the only way he could
make his appearance fearsome enough..." Michael turned adoring eyes
Bill. "...was to strengthen the stinksap so it would hold more fur." He
turned back to Dumbledore. "Mr. Weasley says it won't be removable for
three days," he explained, "but he insists it was worth it in the end."
Dumbledore beamed and put an
arm around Michael, drawing him close. "And so it was!" he cried, and the
hall burst into applause again for the selfless curse-breaker. Even Snape
applauded, though his claps were somewhat slow, as if his thoughts were
elsewhere, and he gazed at the Slytherins beside him and those seated at
the house table through narrowed eyes. They just smiled and waved back.
"Well, I think we can keep you
comfortable for three days," Dumbledore promised Bill even as his eyes
began to water from the stench of the stinksap. "You don't mind if we put
you someplace a bit isolated, do you?"
"How about the Shrieking
Shack?" called Malfoy, and the crowd burst out laughing. Snape's eyes
narrowed even more... until he spotted Minerva McGonagall looking at him
with her own dawning suspicions. Quickly he wiped his own expression
"No, thank you, Headmaster,"
replied Bill in a voice that was oddly surly. "My work here is done. I'd
just as soon find my own accommodations for my... confinement."
He left to go pack his things
and Professor McGonagall summoned Michael back to the sorting stool. She
placed the hat on his head and stepped aside. The hat opened its rip and
had just begun to pronounce, "Rav..." when a volley of spellwads blasted
right off Michael's head and knocked it to the floor, burning several
small holes in its brim. "I'm hit!" the hat cried as Professor McGonagall
rushed to gather the ancient garment in her arms and bring it to
Dumbledore. No one saw where the volley had come from; they'd all been
watching the hat and Michael at the time.
"There, there," Dumbledore
soothed. "Quickly mended, I'm sure." He turned to Snape and suggested,
"Since your census is down a bit, Severus, why don't we just make the boy
"Certainly, Headmaster," Snape
agreed. And for a house so few in number, the Slytherins cheered more
loudly at this decision than any group of students had cheered for a
sorting in the history of Hogwarts.
The weather continued to
improve and soon Dumbledore was asking the heads of house to supervise
'play time,' as he cheerfully called it, in the afternoon sunshine. No
flying was permitted but the students reveled in the opportunity to soak
their bones in the sunshine that flooded the lawns outside the front door
to the castle.
Several Slytherins were
sitting on the front steps playing the cup game one warm afternoon when an
altercation broke out between a group of Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors
several feet away. The Slytherins couldn't make out what was being said,
but Ron Weasley looked ready to punch Justin Finch-Fletchley before Harry
Potter stepped between them. He stood there until Professor Flitwick
arrived, then turned to march angrily towards the castle. Ron and
Hermione promptly followed him but Harry whirled on them and shouted,
leaving the two Gryffindors standing helplessly as he hurried through the
crowd of Slytherins and into the castle.
Perfect, Violet thought
to herself, scrambling to her feet to follow the wounded sixth year
inside. Her recent visit to the Chamber of Secrets had given her an idea
and she'd been waiting for a moment like this ever since. She caught
Harry at the bottom of the staircase and pulled him to the corner where
she'd hidden with Snape last June.
"Listen," she whispered
urgently, "you and I are the only two people at Hogwarts who can open the
Chamber of Secrets, right?"
Harry nodded, struggling to be
patient with the youngster when what he really wanted was to be alone.
"Well, what if the two of us
went down there and just... stayed until we died? Wouldn't that kill
Harry stared at her, his green
eyes opening wide. His mouth opened, too, but no sound came out.
"He has to defeat you or die,
Harry screwed his eyes shut
and shook his head as if trying to shake water out of his ears. "Fawkes
got in," was all he could think to say.
"Because you sent for him,"
Violet reminded him, "by calling on Albus Dumbledore. I'd be down there
to make sure you didn't do that this time."
Harry just shook his head
again, more slowly than before. "Why?" he finally asked. "Why would you
be willing to do such a thing?"
Violet smiled indulgently at
him. "I have to go with you," she explained. "Otherwise Snape will
figure out where you are and make me open the entrance. Besides, you
should have company, don't you think?"
Reasons why it wouldn't work
flooded Harry's mind. If they disappeared together, everyone would know
where they'd gone, and there were no doubt parseltongues beyond the
grounds of Hogwarts who could be sent for. Besides, what if Voldemort
invaded the castle in an attempt to reach him? How would that save lives?
But he was spared having to argue with the child when Snape's head and
shoulders suddenly appeared around the corner.
"Professor Snape," he
corrected Violet icily just before he grabbed her by the collar and yanked
her off her feet. He paused long enough to ask Harry, "Do I need to bring
you along as well?"
Then he hauled Violet down to
the dungeon and into his office. She didn't bother scrambling with her
feet this time, and Snape didn't bother setting her down beside his desk.
He bent her over it and held her there, summoning his cane as he snarled,
"It was a stupid idea! Say it!"
"It was a stupid idea," Violet
sighed through gritted teeth, her cheek pressed tight against the desktop.
"Mean it," Snape advised, "or
I'll make you say it more than six more times." And he gave her a
stinging lick with the switch.
"Ow!" Violet gasped. "It was
a stupid idea!" Five strokes later, she was shouting so loudly that
Malfoy turned to Goyle on the front steps and asked, "What was a stupid
idea?" But she still had a belligerent little frown on her face when
Snape lifted her off the desk and set her down in front of him. He let
her stand there a moment, rubbing her sore backside and thinking it over,
before he leaned down and hissed, "Together, we can do better. Do you
Violet paused in mid-rub. She
furrowed her brow and thought hard. Then she smiled and folded her arms
triumphantly across her chest as she nodded. "It's like Malfoy said," she
told her housemaster. "'Nobody else dies.'"
Snape considered the response,
then nodded himself. "Close enough," he conceded. "You may go."
She rubbed her backside all
the way to the door and Snape, watching her go, couldn't help smiling to
himself as he imagined her shut away in the Chamber of Secrets with Harry
Potter, slowly driving the Gryffindor right back up the pipe with her
chatter. But when she opened the door to let herself out of the office,
there was Harry Potter, leaning against the frame, smiling rather
insolently at Snape. "Thanks for thinking it was a stupid idea!" he
called, and Snape stormed over to the door and slammed it shut,
accidentally banging Violet in the butt in the process.
"Ow!" she hissed, scowling at
"Sorry!" he smiled, and then,
Violet nodded and set off to
rejoin her housemates on the castle's front stoop. But Harry caught up to
her and grabbed her by the arm. "You're not upset?" he asked the young
The question confused Violet.
She looked Harry up and down, trying to discern from his face and body
language what he meant.
"No!" she said defensively.
"I'm twelve, Potter. It's not the end of the world to have a stupid idea
occasionally when you're 12. I don't expect myself to be as smart as
Sna..." She stopped, glancing nervously over her shoulder, then giggled
her cautiousness. "As Snape," she whispered with a smile.
Harry shook his head. "I
meant... aren't you upset that your head of house punished you when you
only trying to help?"
The question reminded Violet
of her conversation with Snape last fall about the difference between
Slytherins and Gryffindors. 'Difficult,' he had said of Potter's
situation, and he had recommended tolerance. But surely he hadn't meant
that she had to put up with this kind of nonsense. "That's not why he
spanked me and you know it," she chided, tilting her head to add, "You're
never going to get anywhere, Potter, if you keep refusing to
She broke off abruptly, her eyes
growing wide. Harry looked quickly behind him to see if something
frightening was coming down the corridor. There was nothing there. He
turned back to Violet to find she'd thrown a hand over her mouth and was
now exclaiming excitedly, "Oh! OH!"
"What's the matter with you?" Harry
demanded as the youngster began to jump up up and down. She made no
response but instead darted away down the corridor, pausing long enough at
the door to her common room to call back, "Sometimes, I am as smart
as Snape!" before whispering the password and hurrying inside.
A short while later, she came
barreling out the front door ("Hey!" Malfoy snarled as she crashed through
the Slytherin cup game), a piece of parchment clutched in her hand. She
ran straight for a group of Gryffindors, bursting into the center of them
to stand huffing and puffing. "Neville!" she cried between gasps for
breath. "Can I talk to you?"
Without waiting for an answer,
she took him by the sleeve and pulled him to an empty patch of lawn. Then
she turned to face him only to find him frowning menacingly at her. On
the steps to the front door, the Slytherins climbed to their feet and
watched the proceedings warily. But Violet just smiled.
"I have something for you,"
she told the older student. "Snape made it, and it's very important to
me, but I want you to have it."
She held out the piece of
parchment and, after a brief hesitation, Neville took it.
"He wrote it after Halloween
my first year, when I found out about my dad."
Neville nodded. "'Bastards do
not bear their father's names,'" he recalled her punishment in the Great
"After I finished writing the
lines," Violet explained, "the Baron sent me to Snape's office, and he
gave me that parchment. He wanted me to have a list of all the people
Voldemort has hurt so I would remember to be more considerate about how I
handled my own feelings."
Neville snorted but Violet
ignored him. She grabbed the parchment and unrolled it. "Look, Neville!"
she cried, forcing the ends into his hands so she could point out his
name. "You're at the top of the list! Ahead of Cedric Diggory... ahead
Harry Potter. You're the first person he thought of!"
Neville stared at the spidery
writing, an odd mix of emotions playing on his face. Violet watched him
for a while, then patted one of his hands. "Take care of it for me,
okay?" she asked. Then she turned smartly on her heel and marched across
the lawn, up the steps past the Slytherins, and back into the castle.
She was alone in her cell that
evening, lying on her belly reading, when Snape suddenly appeared in the
doorway with a torn piece of parchment in his hands. Violet sprang to her
feet, gazing curiously at her housemaster's inscrutable face. It wasn't
often that he visited the cells. "Good evening, sir," she greeted him
"Neville Longbottom sends his
thanks," Snape informed her. He held out the torn piece of parchment and
added, "He thought you might like this half back."
Violet took the ripped list
from Snape's hand and saw that Neville had returned the portion with her
name on it... and Snape's. "Miss Guilford," her housemaster professed,
nodding at the piece of parchment, "that... was a brilliant idea."
He swept from the room without
waiting for a response, which was just as well, because Violet was so
pleased she couldn't speak. It was a fine thing, she decided, to be a
part of the tradition of first steps.
With Bill gone and Neville prepared to
accept bygones, the Slytherins were free to focus on Michael, which they
did with such devotion that they barely noticed the escalating suffering
of Harry Potter. But Lupin noticed. On Sunday, May 18, the night before
Snape's week of Defense lessons, his concern for the boy drove him to the
dungeon; he was not going to retreat for a week without first putting his
substitute on guard. He found the potions master casting ineffective
spells on small animals caged on his desk.
"What are you working on?" he
asked politely as he stepped into the office.
"None of your business,
Lupin," Snape muttered over his shoulder. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to talk to you about
Snape lowered his wand and
turned to Lupin, a bemused expression on his face.
"What is it?" Remus asked.
Snape shook his head with a
little smile. "There was a time," he confessed, "when I'd thought to talk
you about Harry Potter, but..."
Snape scowled. "Something
Lupin crossed to Snape's desk
and hopped up to sit on it. The cat in the nearest cage stretched out its
arm between the bars and took a few useless swipes at his robe. Snape
raised an eyebrow and smiled unpleasantly at him.
"You have experience in this
area, Lupin," he reminded the former marauder. "What's your advice? From
an aggressor's point of view?"
Lupin scowled right back.
"It's not his fault he's in this position!" he insisted.
"It's not our fault," Snape
retorted, taking the students' point of view, "that Gryffindors provoke
Lupin gasped. "Is that what
"I'm not saying they're
right," Snape responded with a noncommittal shrug.
Lupin shook his head and tried
again. "It's foolish to bite the hand that will defend you," he
"His is the only life on the
line," Snape retorted.
"He's never done a thing to
"He's never done a thing for
Lupin's mouth dropped open,
and for a moment, Snape was reminded of Harry Potter, trying to think of
good things Sirius Black had done. "The... the basilisk!" Lupin
"For Ginny Weasley," Snape
"His battle with..."
"For Sirius," Snape
interrupted, enjoying immensely the annoyance this caused. "Or did you
mean the one to save me?"
Lupin sighed with disgust. "I
see you've given this some thought," he murmured, abandoning the exercise.
He picked up a stone grasshopper perched on Snape's desk and began to toy
with it, muttering, "Let's talk about something else." Snape nodded and
took the grasshopper back, tucking it into his pocket. Lupin smiled at
"Where did you get a stone
grasshopper?" he asked.
Snape hesitated before
replying, "I made it."
Lupin's mouth dropped open
again. "You turned a grasshopper to stone?" he gasped. "Can you turn it
back again?" Snape smiled archly and Lupin shook his head. "Show me," he
demanded, his disbelief apparent in his tone. He pointed to the cat in
the cage. "Show me," he said again.
Snape sneered and turned away.
"What's the matter?" Lupin asked, and Snape turned back to him with a sigh
and confessed, "I can't transform the cat. I can't transform anything
bigger than an insect or a spider. And I can't figure out why not!"
"Show me," said Lupin for the
third time as he climbed off the desk. "Maybe I can help."
Snape sneered again. "No,
thank you, Lupin," he hissed. "I'm sure I'll get it eventually."
"Severus," Lupin reminded his
colleague gently, "Voldemort has the prophecy."
That gave Snape pause. He
rolled his eyes but nodded nevertheless. "Last year," he told Lupin,
"during the siege, I had to... I was forced to...' He broke off and Lupin
waited patiently for him to continue. "If the battle takes place at
Hogwarts..." he began again. Then he took a deep breath and reached into
his pocket, withdrawing the stone grasshopper which he set down carefully
on his desktop. "If I can turn a man to stone," he whispered, stroking
the insect's wings, "he can't do magic, he can't escape, and he can't be
carried away by his accomplices. He'd be too heavy for anyone but
Dumbledore or Voldemort to levitate!"
"It's brilliant," Lupin
Snape took a step back and
suddenly swished his wand in front of him, crying, "Deliquescious!" as he
pointed the ebony tip at the grasshopper. There was a brief sucking sound
and the grasshopper returned to its original state, hopping happily around
the desk until the cat snatched it up and ate it. Snape reached absently
through the bars of the cage to scratch the cat behind the ears, lost in
thought. Lupin watched him for a while, then said quietly,
"Let's see the spell for
Snape nodded. He stepped back
from the desk, raised his wand, pointed it straight at the cat and cried,
The cat blinked and swished
its tail. Lupin climbed off the desk and came to stand beside Snape,
staring intently at the cat.
"What if you said it louder?"
he suggested, never taking his eyes off the feline. Snape rolled his eyes
again but repeated the incantation more loudly anyway. Nothing happened
and Snape lowered his wand. Lupin drew his own and held it out before
him. Then he rotated his wrist 180 degrees.
"What about underhanded?" he
"I've tried that," Snape
"Well, how about both hands on
"I've tried that!" Snape
shouted. "Don't you think I've tried that?!"
"Don't yell at me!" Lupin
shouted right back. He pointed his wand squarely at the cat and yelled,
"Adamantiate!" Nothing. Snape snorted. "Adamantiate! Adamantiate!"
Lupin hollered, making chopping motions with his wand.
"Oh, stop, you look
ridiculous," Snape chided.
"Don't tell me what to do!"
"Don't tell me how to cast a
spell!" Snape snarled right back.
"Adamantiate!" Lupin cried
"Adamantiate!" Snape shouted,
pointing his wand at the cat again.
"ADAMANTIATE!" both wizards
shouted in accidental unison, and at precisely that moment, Dobby popped
into the room in front of them... and turned to stone.
The wizards gasped. Lupin
clamped a hand over his mouth and Snape's eyes flew open wide. Slowly
they lowered their wands, then crept cautiously forward to examine the
stone elf. They peered into his face. Lupin laid a hand on his chest as
if to check for respiration while Snape knocked on his little round head.
Dobby made no response. Convinced that they had indeed turned the elf to
stone, the two wizards backed away and stood gazing at him in wonder.
Then Lupin turned to Snape and whispered,
Snape nodded. "It takes two,"
he whispered back.
They stared solemnly at one another.
Then Snape's lips began to twitch. "Centuries," he whispered. "The
single... most important... incredible... fantastic... stupendous...
Defense technique..." He threw his hands triumphantly over his head.
CENTURIES!" he shouted, and Lupin let out a mighty whoop. "YAHOO!" he
hollered. "YAHOO, YAHOO, YAHOO!" Snape began to cackle with laughter and
the two men threw their arms around each other and jumped up and down as
they whooped and hollered for joy. "We're BRILLIANT!" Lupin shouted.
"We're BRILLIANT, we're BRILLIANT, we're BRILLIANT!"
Then they remembered who they were and
pulled abruptly apart, Snape particularly abashed to have been carrying on
so. They cleared their throats and tugged vigorously at their robes to
straighten them until a voice from down the hall froze them as stiff as
Dobby the stone house elf.
It was Minerva, making her way down
the corridor to the potions master's office. "You left the door open!"
Snape hissed at Lupin, mortified to think she'd overheard their raucous
"Never mind THAT!" Lupin hissed back.
He pointed frantically at Dobby. "Tell me the counterspell again!"
The thought of what the deputy
headmistress would do to them if she found Dobby in this state made Snape
flinch. "Deliquescious!" he squeaked to Lupin, glancing frantically at
the still-empty doorway. "On three! One, two, three.."
"DELIQUESCIOUS!" the wizards
hissed together as loudly as they dared. Dobby returned to his normal
state and stood blinking in confusion as Minerva appeared in the doorway.
The two men whirled around to face her and Snape experienced a weird
moment of deja vu as he stood side by side with Lupin trying to look
"What have you two been
doing?" Minerva asked as Dobby wobbled silently past her out of the room.
"You look as if butter wouldn't melt!" She marched up to them with her
hands on her hips but was cheated of an explanation by the immediate
arrival of Albus Dumbledore.
"Oh, good!" he cried, sticking
his head into Snape's office. "You're all here!" He smiled warmly and
stepped inside. "Do something about Potter," he suggested pleasantly as
Minerva turned around to face him, "or I'll sack the lot of you." With
that, he strolled right back out of the office, hands clasped behind his
back, humming cheerfully to himself. Minerva stared at the empty doorway
for a few moments, then turned sternly to Lupin and Snape.
"Any ideas?" Snape asked her.
Minerva nodded. "Beat them,"
she said without a moment's hesitation. "All of them."
Snape couldn't help but grin.
"Is that what you came down here to tell me?" he wondered.
"Mercilessly," Minerva added,
ignoring the question. Snape shook his head at her.
"I can't do that, Minerva," he
She frowned and folded her
arms across her chest. "I'll hold Sprout and Flitwick back," she
insisted. Lupin chuckled, but Snape just shook his head.
"Spanking doesn't work," he
explained, "on those who have no shame."
By Friday afternoon, he was willing to
try it anyway, or at least to bang the students' heads together.
"Imbeciles!" he screamed at the sixth years. "What is the MATTER with
For the first time, he had
failed to achieve his goals during his week of Defense classes and the
pain was unbearable, to say nothing of what he'd suffered to bring them
the lessons in the first place.
Lupin had insisted on an
emergency meeting with Dumbledore Sunday night before agreeing to permit
Snape to teach stoning and the headmaster had given Snape a severe
talking-to. "I realize the incident with Dobby was an accident,"
Dumbledore had scolded, "but that does not excuse your efforts with the
cat, Severus. You are well aware of the Ministry's regulations on
Stupid vertebrate mammal
policy, Snape had thought. They could care less what you do to
snakes. He'd considered reminding Dumbledore that Voldemort had the
prophecy, but had thought better of it. In the end, the headmaster's
affection for Harry Potter had won out and Dumbledore had agreed to the
lessons, albeit only after Madam Pomfrey had conducted an extensive
examination of Dobby and pronounced him entirely healthy.
They had agreed that the
younger students were not ready for the technique; Snape had spent the
week polishing their tracking skills instead. They were advancing quite
nicely and for a while, it seemed that the older students would do equally
well with stoning.
By Wednesday afternoon, the 5th, 6th,
and 7th years could not only cast the tandem spells (cueing each other
with two snaps of their fingers), they could do so silently, thanks
to a visit from Professor Flitwick. Silent casting was vital for
preventing dark wizards from picking up the technique. "A fortunate
coincidence, this," Flitwick had praised Snape after class. "We're
woefully behind on silent charms. Not that Defense isn't a valid
priority," he'd added with a heartfelt nod.
All that was left was to master
randomization. Snape wanted every single stoning student to be able to
cast effectively with any other equally competent student. On Friday
afternoon, during double Defense, he'd divided the sixth years into two
groups and placed them behind two screens he'd borrowed from Madam
"I will count to three," he'd
explained loudly, "and one of you will jump forward from behind each
screen. Snap twice and cast your spells." He'd given what was supposed
to be an appreciative smile (it came across more like a grimace) to the
obliging staff members and house elves who'd volunteered to be stoned; the
process, while harmless, did cause a bit of a headache."
At first things had gone well. Malfoy
and Hannah Abbott had stoned Winky. Pansy and Terry Boot had stoned
Professor Vector. Then Ron Weasley and Justin Finch-Fletchley had jumped
from behind their screens at the same time to cast at Sybil
Trelawney...and nothing had happened. There had been an embarrassing silence which had
ended when Trelawney had called brightly, "I don't feel any different!"
The pattern had continued. So long as
two Gryffindors had come around the screens, or two students from any of
the other three houses, the spell had worked fine. But if a Gryffindor
and a non-Gryffindor jumped forward at the same time, the spell had failed
miserably and it didn't take a divination teacher to figure out why. They
were simply refusing to work together.
"What is the MATTER with you?"
Snape shouted again after curtly thanking the volunteer victims and
excusing them from the class. "How completely idiotic can you be? Are
you so mindless as to have no idea what an incredible opportunity you're
being given?" He advanced on them menacingly, a vein throbbing in his
temple as he snarled, "This is the greatest single advancement in Defense
in CENTURIES and it's being wasted on a passel of cretins!"
Hermione Granger flinched and
Snape suspected her failure to produce the spell when paired with Susan
Bones reflected the Hufflepuff's misconduct, not the Gryffindor's, but
what did it matter? "This technique is more vital than jumping, more
vital than leaping, more vital than tracking, and you're too stupid to
appreciate it!" he roared, making Hermione's eyes fill with tears. "You
are petty, pathetic, and worthless!"
He stormed furiously from the room,
unwilling to bestow further attention upon such undeserving pupils.
Hermione sniffed and wiped her
eyes on her sleeve as the students gathered silently in the middle of the
hall. Ron Weasley shoved his way to the center of the group until he was
toe to toe with Justin Finch-Fletchley. "The hell with you!" he growled
at the Hufflepuff and all the non-Gryffindors surrounding him. "We don't
need your help, at stoning or anything else! Gryffindors have always been
the best at Defense!"
His assertion brought to mind
Bill's remarks about the Slytherins and Malfoy looked eagerly at the
Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs to see what they would make of Ron's boast. He
didn't have long to wait.
"If that's so," Terry Boot began
coolly, "then why were you so desperate for our help to protect Potter?"
"What are you talking about?"
Dean Thomas demanded, and Hannah Abbott took a step forward.
"Dumbledore's Army?" she
reminded him. "That wasn't about defending ourselves or defeating
Voldemort. That was about creating an army of foot soldiers to protect
your precious Harry Potter."
Malfoy and Millicent exchanged
brief looks, as did the rest of the Slytherins. What the hell was
Hermione burst forward and
spoke up urgently. "That's not true!" she insisted. "Harry didn't even
know about the prophecy when he started teaching Defense!"
Susan Bones gave Hannah Abbott
a sly glance. "Said the Gryffindor," she sneered at Hermione.
Harry shook his head. "Let it
go," he murmured to his housemates. "Just let it go."
But Ron couldn't. "Fine!" he
shouted. "FINE! We don't want you anymore!"
"Ron!" Hermione pleaded, but
he ignored her. He stepped even closer to Justin until he was nose to
nose with the Hufflepuff and hissed,
"Who needs help from a house
that wouldn't even have a quidditch cup if we hadn't given it to them!"
"Oy," Malfoy muttered to
himself. Shocked gasps and angry profanity filled the hall, but he left
the chore of holding the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs apart to his
housemates and the Ravenclaws so he could use his own hands to rub his
It came as no surprise when
Justin and Hannah knocked on the Slytherin common room door after
breakfast the next morning.
"We think the school would
benefit enormously," Justin told Malfoy in his cell, "if the Gryffindors
were taken down a peg or two."
"And we think Potter is the
key to doing that," Hannah added.
It suddenly occurred to Malfoy
that he had forgotten to speak to Snape last fall about spending the
summer with Crabbe and Goyle. "I don't know..." he began, but Justin cut
"It was their idea, you know,"
he asserted. "The Gryffindors were the ones who wanted to leave the
Slytherins out of Dumbledore's Army."
That could be a lie, Malfoy
realized. And it didn't matter anyway. Last year had been the beginning
of better relations between the houses, not the perfection of them.
Besides, who wanted to take Defense lessons from Harry Potter?
"We'll pass," he decided. But
Justin shook his head.
"We need you, Malfoy," he
insisted. "We can't do it without you."
Malfoy opened his mouth to
refuse again, but before he could speak, Justin stuck his hand in his
pocket and pulled out a photograph he handed to the Slytherin. It showed
Crabbe and Malfoy up to no good in the greenhouse.
"Rather foolish of you,"
Justin suggested, "to think we wouldn't notice someone had been milking
the brand new Mimbulus Mimbletonia cuttings Longbottom gave to Professor
Oh, shit, Malfoy
"It's not good for them,"
Hannah added, "to be milked so young. Think how displeased she'll be."
Justin nodded. "To say
nothing of Professor Dumbledore's reaction," he reminded the Slytherin.
"He's rather fond of the Weasleys, isn't he?"
In his mind's eye, Malfoy saw
himself and Violet scheming together in the Great Hall antechamber last
October. I swear, the frustrated Slytherin thought, if one more
misdeed comes back to bite me on the arse...
It would be gut-wrenching to
forfeit his house's triumph over Bill. It had been so magnificent, how
they'd not only managed to make him look stupid, they'd made it look like
he himself had made him look stupid: the great curse-breaker couldn't
come up with anything better to save a child than self-humiliation. On
the other hand, Malfoy realized, Potter had not been the one to spill the
beans about the quidditch cup. There was something about that which truly
"What are you going to do to
him?" he asked the Hufflepuffs.
"Never mind," Justin sniffed.
"All we need from you is the potion."
They won't hurt him,
Malfoy told himself. Not really. It boiled down to a choice, he
realized, between Potter... and Snape. And he wasn't a head of house,
"I'll help," he decided.
The next month passed with dizzying
alacrity and soon the last days of the year were upon them. Violet came
within a hearbeat of earning herself another whipping from Snape by
beseeching him unceasingly to allow her to accompany Millicent, Tracey,
Pansy, Jennifer and Marybeth to the convent. Crabbe and Goyle spent long
hours making plans for their summer in the country. And Harry Potter
began to show signs of improvement. No one knew whether it was the time
outdoors or the sudden cessation of harassment from the Hufflepuffs and
Ravenclaws, but his return to good spirits was a great relief...except for
"Just tell me," he pleaded on
Wednesday, six days before the end of the term, when he handed the potion
over to Justin after Defense class. He was convinced that a combination
of anxiety and dread would soon begin to eat holes in his stomach.
"Don't worry about it,
Malfoy," the Hufflepuff responded. "It's going to be great!"
As he accompanied his
housemates to dinner that night, Malfoy wondered if he might be lucky
enough that the prank would not come to pass. Perhaps the Hufflepuffs
would run out of time; there was only one weekend left, after all. He sat
down beside Millicent and filled his plate with mashed potatoes. He had
just reached over to spear a few sausages when a loud squawk startled
everybody in the room.
It came from the direction of
the Gryffindor table and Malfoy's heart began to pound. He whipped his
head around just in time to see Harry Potter transform into a bird, his
face covered with green feathers, his glasses resting on a sharp beak,
bright red tail feathers protruding from beneath his robe. His lanky
trunk was still in place but wings had replaced his hands and arms and he
was hopping helplessly atop his house table on taloned feet that scrambled
for purchase against the flat surface. He squawked as he struggled and
every time he opened his beak, parrot-voiced words rang out loud and
"The chosen one is a pretty
bird!" he croaked for everyone to hear. "The chosen one is a pretty
At first Malfoy couldn't
believe it. Roars of laughter from the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws filled
his ears as he blinked hard and shook his head violently, trying to
convince himself he was not seeing what he was seeing. Not an
animal! he thought desperately. It's dangerous to use an animal!
Everyone knows that! Who doesn't know that?
At the head table, Dumbledore,
Lupin, Snape and McGonagall sprang to their feet. Harry clamped a wing
over his beak, trying to stop the squawking, but then a spellwad hit him
in the tail feathers and he instinctively squawked again. More words
popped out, even louder than before.
"The OLD MAN'S PET will save
the world!!" Harry cackled. "Nobody fear, the FAVORITE is here.
DUMBLEDORE'S PET will save the world!"
No, Malfoy thought.
Oh, no! At the head table, Dumbledore froze at the sound of these
words. Millicent turned to her housemate in horror and confusion.
"Malfoy," she began, but he snarled viciously, "Shut up! Shut up!" even as
the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs howled louder.
Malfoy buried his face in his
hands, afraid he might be sick. Not Dumbledore! he thought
miserably. Not about Dumbledore!
McGonagall, Lupin, Snape and
several Gryffindors rushed to Harry's aid, trying to help him down from
the table, but they were beaten back by the violent flapping of Harry's
wings as he flailed helplessly around the tabletop. "Nobody fear, the
FAVORITE is here. The OLD MAN'S PET will save the world!" he croaked over
and over as the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws shot one spellwad after another
into his feathers.
Malfoy clenched his fists, pounding
helplessly on the table. He would kill them, he decided. He would kill
every last Hufflepuff and every last Ravenclaw. Never mind that they
hadn't spent a summer with Harry Potter, that they didn't know how he felt
about Dumbledore, that they didn't know what it was like to lose a father.
Never mind that he, himself, hated the headmaster. Never mind his decree
no one else should die. "NOT ABOUT DUMBLEDORE!" he suddenly shrieked, and
the hall fell silent save for the clicking of Harry's talons on the
tabletop as all eyes turned in the direction of the screaming Slytherin.
He leapt to his feet and shouted at the top of his lungs. "NOT ABOUT
DUMBLEDORE, YOU MORONS! NOT ABOUT DUMBLEDORE!"
It ended as suddenly as it began.
There was a crackling sound and Harry's beak, feathers and talons
disappeared, leaving him standing atop the Gryffindor table with shaky
knees and clenched fists. His green eyes flashed in his pale face.
"What happened?" Crabbe whispered to
Goyle. "I thought it lasted an hour!"
"They must have diluted it," Goyle
whispered back, "so they could slip it into his pumpkin juice."
Malfoy stared at the Gryffindor table,
watching with dread as Harry Potter turned to face the only student at
Hogwarts besides Hermione Granger who could produce a polyjuice potion.
He slipped his hand slowly into his pocket and Malfoy shut his eyes,
bracing himself for the crucio he surely deserved.
But no curse came. He opened one eye
to see Harry staring dully at him, and if he'd looked a few feet to the
Gryffindor's right, he would have seen Snape watching the dark-haired
teenager closely. But he couldn't take his eyes off that still, lifeless
"Harry," he whispered helplessly.
Professor McGonagall extended a hand
to help Harry down but he pulled away from her. He climbed down from the
Gryffindor table without a word and walked silently out of the hall.
Malfoy watched him go, never noticing
the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw heads that were hanging throughout the hall.
"Potter!" he suddenly shouted, scrambling over the bench to rush from the
hall. He chased Harry into the entryway and grabbed him by the arm.
"I didn't know!" he insisted. "I
swear to God, Potter, I didn't know what they were going to do!"
Harry made no response. He stared at
Malfoy until the Slytherin released his arm, then headed silently for the
stairs. Malfoy could only watch him go.
Then he turned around and found
himself facing the only person at Hogwarts more disappointed in him than
"Let me understand," said Snape so
softly that Malfoy trembled. He stood beside Crabbe and Goyle, who'd
distracted Snape a month earlier so Malfoy could steal the necessary
ingredients, and Violet, who was shooting furious glances at Malfoy every
chance she got. He'd made her open the Chamber of Secrets for him so he
could brew the potion in private.
Beyond her were Justin and Hannah,
whom Malfoy had given up in a heartbeat. A search of their dorms had
immediately produced the offending parrot who was even now undergoing
rehabilitative therapy in the custody of Rubeus Hagrid.
"I want to be certain," Snape
continued. He was standing so close to Malfoy that the boy could feel
body heat emanating from beneath his robes. He placed one finger beneath
Malfoy's chin and lifted his head to look him straight in the eye.
"You tortured Harry Potter... for the
conduct of his housemates."
There it was, the bothersome thing
he'd been unable to put his finger on. Now Malfoy could stand it no
longer. He bolted for the rubbish bin beside Snape's desk and got sick
into it, Violet shooting him filthy looks all the while. When he was
done, he scourgified the mess and fell into Snape's chair, wiping his face
on his sleeve.
"Please, sir," he begged his
housemaster. "Violet didn't know. I told her I needed a private place to
practice my own defense innovations."
Snape turned briefly to the youngest
Slytherin in the room. "We will discuss your on-going relationship with
the Chamber of Secrets later," he told her. "You may go."
"Thank you, sir," Violet whispered,
hurrying to the door. But she tarried just inside. Snape did not notice.
"Come back here," he said quietly to
Malfoy. The boy returned to the queue, joining his classmates in their
concentrated contemplation of the tips of their shoes.
The potions master watched them for a
long time. How he missed the good old days when there were no dragons to
slay and the Slytherins' mistakes consisted of petty indulgences quickly
caned and forgotten. "Sick," he murmured, and Malfoy looked up to see
his face tense, jaw twitching. "You think you're sick?" he seethed
at the boy. Malfoy winced. "I don't know what to do about you," Snape
whispered in a tone Violet hadn't heard since the night he'd tried to
remove her from Slytherin. "I don't ...know ... what to do."
An unbearable silence followed during
which Malfoy felt like he'd been orphaned all over again. Then Violet
piped up from inside the door.
"I do," she called, and the Slytherins
and Hufflepuffs jumped. Snape whirled on her but before he could speak,
Malfoy hissed, "Shut up, Violet!"
"I do!" the child insisted.
"You do not!" her housemate snarled
"I do, too!"
"You do NOT!"
"I DO TOO!"
She did, too.
Harry entered the office a
short while later, unsure of what to expect... until he saw five students
lined up before the desk and Snape standing in front of them with a cane
in his hand.
"Oh, no, Professor," he said
immediately, backing away towards the door as he shook his head
vigorously. "I don't want to watch you beat them."
Snape gave him the tiniest of
"You're not going to
watch, Potter," he replied smoothly. Then he held out the cane for
Harry to take. "Six apiece," he instructed. "Not one stroke more. And
don't brutalize them, Potter. Just teach them a lesson."
Harry's ears began to burn and
he felt his face flame. There was no doubt in his mind that he could not,
should not do this. His palms grew sweaty and he opened his mouth to
protest... and that's when he saw Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle smirking at
What? he wondered.
What's so funny? Did they think he couldn't do it, that he didn't
have it in him? Did they think they were going to get off easy for what
they'd done because he wouldn't hit them as hard as Snape would? Or did
they think... did they think if would be worth it... if it bothered
him more than it hurt them?
"Give it!" he snarled,
snatching the cane from Snape as the housemaster ordered the five
miscreants to "Turn," and "Bend."
He'd moved the Slytherins to
the top of the queue and Crabbe was now bent over the far side of the
desk. Already imagining how much fun it was going to be to tell Ron and
Neville he'd spanked the Slytherins, Harry drew the cane back high above
"Whoa!" Snape cried, reaching
out quickly to grab the tip. He scowled at Harry and guided the cane down
to a much more reasonable distance. Harry grinned sheepishly at him,
pressing his lips together to hide his embarrassment. Then he gave
Crabbe a good swish across the rear end.
He waited a bit after the
stroke as if expecting some instant and awful repercussion for his
actions, but nothing happened, so Harry took a breath and hit the
Slytherin again. "DAMMIT!" Crabbe screamed, jerking upright to plaster
his hands protectively over his backside, and Harry jumped back several
inches. He turned horrified eyes to Snape who merely advised him,
"Try not to hit the same spot
Harry blushed with
embarrassment. "Sorry, Crabbe," he grinned at the burly classmate who
tossed him a disgusted scowl before bending back over the desk. Malfoy
and Goyle snickered helplessly into the desktop.
He pulled his punches a bit
with Hannah, which made Snape smirk. When he'd punished all five of his
oppressors, Harry handed the cane back to Snape with a grin.
"That was brilliant!" he
admitted, and Snape nodded.
"More than you know," he
murmured, but before Harry could even wonder what he meant, he commanded
the pranksters to rise and turn around again. "Have the good grace to
shake their hands, Potter," he ordered, and as Harry did, they each
apologized. "Sorry, Potter," "Sorry, Potter," "Sorry, Potter," "Sorry,
Potter," "Sorry, Potter," came the same words delivered with five
different inflections. By the last handshake, Harry was chuckling in
spite of himself. Snape just shook his head.
"You may go, you passel of
cretins," he said as he held the door for them. He sent them out of the
office together... and that was brilliant, too.
"Do you want to come in?"
Malfoy asked when the half dozen had reached the door to the Slytherin
common room. They hesitated, glancing at each other, then nodded.
"What did he mean?" Harry asked
Malfoy. "'More brilliant than you know.'"
Malfoy shrugged. "I don't know,
Potter," he murmured as he leaned close to the wall to whisper the
password. "Do you have a problem with handing out punishment?"
He ushered them inside where they
discovered the Slytherins, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, the
Weasley siblings, Terry Boot and several Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs
clustered around Violet in the common room. It was clear from the smirks
on their faces that she'd told everyone what was happening in Snape's
"Congratulations, Potter!" Warrington
called. "You can die a happy man."
"Turn," was all Harry said in
The miscreants and their punisher
settled in among the others and there was an awkward silence. Then Terry
Boot murmured, "Sorry, Potter," and the visiting Hufflepuffs and
Ravenclaws nodded and muttered similar sentiments.
"Us, too," said Ron on behalf of the
Malfoy looked up to find Millicent
frowning at him. He knew what she wanted to ask, but also that she would
not ask it in mixed company. So he told her anyway.
"They blackmailed me."
"Who?" Millicent wondered.
"Us," said Justin, sticking his hand
in the air, "to make him brew the polyjuice potion."
There was a pause, and then Violet
started to giggle. Malfoy nodded ruefully at her and she laughed so hard
she fell off her chair.
"What's so funny?" asked Eleanor
Branstone of all people.
"Never mind," Malfoy insisted. But
Harry just had to know.
"What did they have on you?"
Malfoy shook his head. "Bill," was all he said, but it was enough.
"I knew it!" Ginny shouted. Malfoy
smiled at her.
"Has he said anything?" he asked,
wisely refraining from calling her sugar lips. It was Ron who responded.
"He wrote to ask me if you're coming
to the house again this summer," he grinned, and Malfoy winced.
The group grew quiet again as the
subject of Bill hung uncomfortably between them. Eager to change the
subject, Violet turned to Harry and asked abruptly,
"Are you scared?"
Harry didn't even hesitate. "Of
course I'm scared!" he told her, hoping that fact might make them a bit
sorrier for the way they'd treated him. Then a brand new thought occurred
"Are you scared?" he asked the
classmates surrounding him. Millicent was the first to speak up.
"I'm not scared of the fight," she
confessed, "but I'm scared of what happens if you lose." Several students
began to nod. Others grew wide-eyed, as if considering this possibility
for the first time. Crabbe buried his face in his hands.
"What a mess," he groaned, and the
students nodded again.
"It was so strange," Malfoy said,
thinking about Bill again, "to see what they were like..." Nobody needed
be told who he was talking about. "... especially since..." He paused,
"Bill's not a bad guy!" Ginny spoke up
sharply. "He's a wonderful person. He'd..."
"I know," Malfoy cut her off
peevishly. "He'd give his life to help someone else. He'd die for what's
Ron folded his arms across his chest.
"I could talk the same way about Snape," he reminded Malfoy sourly, and
"It's just that they're older," he
pointed out, "and they act like... they've always acted like... while
He broke off helplessly and Millicent jumped in.
"What stinks about this," she pointed
out, "is that we have to clean up the mess they made."
Hermione nodded. "It's always been
like that," she reminded the group. "It's always the younger generations
that are willing to let hatreds go."
"Then let's not do this again," Malfoy
sat up suddenly. "We don't have to like each other, and we don't have to
get along. But let's not do this..." He reached out to tap Harry on the
Violet shook her head at him.
"Professor Snape says dark times come more than once in a lifetime," she
"Maybe so," Malfoy conceded. "But all
we have to do..." He paused to think it over. "We don't have to be
angels," he insisted. "We don't have to be..." He grinned to himself.
"...pleasant," he went on. "All we have to do... is rise above the
There was a long silence as they
thought it over.
"Hatemongering is an important part of
the Hogwarts experience," Millicent pointed out, and even Hermione
"It's just a slight tweak," Malfoy
insisted. "Tick tick soop."
They laughed again, shifting
themselves as they settled in to visit a while longer, and Malfoy watched
with fascination as Harry Potter hung on every syllable uttered, pleased
beyond words just to be accepted again. The Slytherin shook his head.
Inclusion wasn't much, he realized, but it was a step in the right
direction. Still, he couldn't help wondering if they would ever unite
behind Harry Potter.
"Attention!" Dumbledore barked at
dinner the next evening. The students flinched and even the staff
recoiled at his unusually harsh manner. Millicent leaned over to Malfoy
with a giggle.
"I guess he's still angry," she
"Watch how much sleep I lose," Malfoy
Dumbledore glared sternly around the
hall to be sure all eyes were upon him before speaking again. "Several of
your parents have written me," he announced, "to request that they be
permitted to meet you outside the gate at the end of the term so they
might bring you home themselves rather than have you travel by carriage to
Hogsmeade to ride home on the train. They are concerned, perhaps
justifiably, that you will be in danger traveling in the company of Harry
Here Dumbledore paused and
Malfoy wondered if the old fool could possibly be expecting the students
to apologize for their parents' attitudes. Instead, he merely went on,
"You may now write your parents and inform them that Harry Potter will
remain at Hogwarts this summer for further study, so no travel
rearrangements will be necessary for the rest of you."
'The rest of you?' Malfoy thought belligerently to himself. Then a
far more important realization dawned on him. Before he knew what he was
about, his hand shot up in the air and when Dumbledore acknowledged him,
he jumped to his feet.
"Please, sir," he said more
sincerely than he'd ever addressed Albus Dumbledore in his life. "May I
Dumbledore hesitated, but as
he peered at Malfoy, another hand shot up, and then another and another.
In a matter of moments, every student in the room had thrust his or her
hand high into the air. They all waved eagerly at the headmaster, some of
them stretching their hands so high they were whimpering with the effort.
Dumbledore's frown began to
fade. It righted itself, then spread into a smile that grew and grew
until he was positively beaming. If he'd glanced aside for a moment, he
would have seen Snape and McGonagall looking positively ill by contrast.
But instead he turned that radiant smile upon Harry Potter.
"What do you think, Harry?" he
asked the boy.
Harry climbed to his feet so
Dumbledore could see him above the ocean of raised hands that surrounded
him. He looked all around the hall, then he turned to Dumbledore with a
smile he just couldn't conceal and nodded. Dumbledore turned happily to
"Let's train them all!" he
cried and the students let out a mighty cheer.
Snape and McGonagall rose
immediately to attack the headmaster from both sides as a wave of excited
chatter broke out among the students. Malfoy watched through narrowed
eyes as Potter resumed his seat, still smiling that goofy smile. Finally
the Slytherin could stand it no longer. He climbed over the bench and
strode quickly to the Gryffindor table where he poked Harry sharply in the
"It's not about you, Potter,"
he insisted when Harry turned around. "I just want to learn the stuff,
"Sure, Malfoy," Harry nodded,
"It's true!" Malfoy cried.
"I believe you!" Harry assured
him before turning contentedly back to his meal.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and
returned to the Slytherin table. One thing was certain, he realized. He
could not put up with being smiled at by Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore
all summer. I guess I'll have to convince him, he thought with a
backwards glance at the Gryffindor. Then, as he sat back down on the
Slytherin bench, his eyes fell on Violet and he knew just what to do.
An Obedient House