It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time
"No, his are
"A pet snake?"
"We're his pet
Malfoy, Millicent, Crabbe and
Goyle lounged before the fire in the Slytherin common room, trying to
think of a Christmas gift for Snape. The snow had come early this year,
falling in a thick blanket the first day of November, and the Slytherins
rejoiced in it, reveling in the warmth of their common room as they gazed
happily out windows or gathered in cheerful groups near the fire. It was
a glorious thing to be snug and comfortable while the rest of the
students, especially the Gryffindors, were at odds with the staff and
generally living lives of quiet desperation.
Violet and Marybeth approached
the group carrying a catalog between them.
"We have what you're looking
for," Violet assured the older students smugly. She held out the catalog
with a flourish and they all looked at the page she was showing them.
"Wow!" Malfoy said in spite of
"It's expensive," Crabbe
"It's gorgeous!" Millicent
"It's expensive," Crabbe
"It's perfect," Goyle
"It's expensive," Crabbe
"If all the 'orphans' go in
together, we can manage it just fine," Malfoy assured him, and Violet
jumped on the statement.
"That brings me to the second
item on the agenda of this visit," she smiled sweetly. "Some of us have
money..." She glanced pointedly at Malfoy. "...and some of us have
nothing but willing hearts."
Malfoy thought it over, then
grinned. "I'm sure we can work something out," he drawled as he got to
his feet, and Violet gave a resigned sigh as he put an arm around each
So it was that the night
before the first quidditch match found the two second years sitting
cross-legged on the common room floor, polishing the team brooms to
Malfoy's exacting specifications. "Circular motions, Marybeth, not back
and forth," he insisted. Then he snapped his fingers and commanded,
"Come, Violet." Violet rolled her eyes at Marybeth, climbed to her feet,
and trotted obediently over to Malfoy. He handed her the latest in a
series of parchment notes he'd been sending the Gryffindors, taunting them
about the upcoming match. "Be sure to ask about a reply," he drawled as
Violet set out wearily to climb the tower for the 4th time since dinner.
Malfoy watched her go with a
smile. He had never been so enthusiastic about an upcoming quidditch
match, though his feelings about this one were distinctly different from
his feelings about previous engagements with the Gryffindors. He had a
new point of view this year, and he couldn't wait to flaunt it, especially
after the self-aggrandizing lion cubs had dared to break into Snape's
Snape's reaction to the
incident continued to puzzle him. He appreciated how relieved his
housemaster must have been to learn that the Slytherins had played no part
in the creation of the list. But surely there was room left over in his
heart for a good dose of cub-hating fury. Yet Snape continued to treat
the Gryffindors the same way he had treated them all term... with the
severe, unsympathetic sternness he inflicted upon all his pupils. Because
his harshness had not escalated, he came across as the only instructor
not caught up in the battle of wills that was raging between
students and staff, and the office-breaking Gryffindors, though never
convicted, were appropriately sheepish in his presence.
Malfoy was not appeased.
As for Violet, she couldn't
understand why the Gryffindors kept answering her knock on their portrait
hole, much less accepting the notes. "What, no tip again?" she cried as
Ginny Weasley snatched the parchment scrap from her hand and slammed the
portrait cover in her face. She called a cheery "Ta!" to the Fat Lady and
skipped back to Slytherin, scheming how she might cajole Marybeth into
taking her turn at polishing Malfoy's shoes.
On Saturday afternoon, Pansy
pulled off the first part of her assignment quite nicely and had Snape
sitting beside her among the crowd of Slytherins waiting eagerly for the
match to begin. In the changing room, Violet and Malfoy held the beater
clubs while Goyle and Crabbe painted the ends with a gooey potion. Tracey
and Warrington rushed in, already wearing their green robes, to announce
that the gray clouds that had been threatening all morning had finally
begun dumping new snow on the pitch, which brought loud cheers.
"All right," Malfoy warned his
team. "They're angry, they've got two Weasleys who are far better than
the twins were, and their new beaters are probably better, too."
thoughtful, non-showoffs, so that follows," Goyle agreed.
"Remember," Malfoy concluded
as he narrowed his eyes to slits, "whoever has the best time... wins!"
The Slytherins let out a
mighty whoop and raced out to the field.
Chasers Millicent, Tracey and
Warrington got things started with a simple triple bogie curse. Ginny
Weasley flew straight for keeper Malfoy, drew back the quaffle to hurl it
at the goal with all her might, and then began to shake her arm violently
as the bogie-covered quaffle stuck to her hand. She examined it more
closely to see what the trouble was, and the instant she recognized the
revolting sticky substance covering the entire surface of the ball, she
screamed "Ew!" and flung her hand so hard the quaffle went soaring right
into Tracey's grasp. A quickly whispered "finite incantatem" allowed her
to fly down to the Slytherin end of the stadium and score.
The Gryffindor team saw the
Slytherins laughing heartily but there was no time for Ginny to tell them
what was happening. She and her fellow chasers flew hard, retrieved the
quaffle, and streaked for their own goal.
Safely hidden by the flying
snow, Millicent cast a quick engorgio charm and the quaffle grew and grew
until it popped right out from under Ginny's arm.
The spectators blinked and
squinted through the snow, trying to see if they really saw what they
thought they saw.
hissed. The quaffle shrank and Tracey snatched it and flew for the
Meanwhile, Crabbe and Goyle
clubbed the bludgers mercilessly. They weren't just beating them away
from their chasers... they were pursuing them through the air as if they
were quaffles. Each boy followed a bludger around the stadium, hitting it
over and over until he'd covered every inch of its surface with blows.
Then they flew off together
and perched a safe distance away to watch the results.
The bludgers streaked across
the field. One headed straight for Harry and a Gryffindor beater zoomed
up to it, slammed it away mightily, and then hollered with surprise as the
end of his club exploded. He was left holding a stub that was heavily
splintered on one end.
The Slytherins roared with
laughter. Madam Hooch put her whistle to her mouth but couldn't bring
herself to blow as she had no idea what sort of foul she would
call. "Reparo!" Harry shouted as he flew close and pointed his wand at
the beater's club. But he missed his aim and was forced to cry "Do it
yourself!" before streaking away to dodge the returning bludger. For the
rest of the game, every whack of a Gryffindor beater's club against a
bludger required a follow-up "reparo" charm. Professor McGonagall shot
Snape a furious look from the teachers' stands but he couldn't see it from
where he sat.
Both teams racked up the
points. While the rest of the Slytherins watched their chasers drive in a
score, Pansy kept her eyes glued to Malfoy on the opposite end of the
field. As soon as Slytherin scored, Malfoy gave her the signal, and Pansy
jumped to her feet.
"Stand up and cheer for
Slytherin House!" she screamed. But before her housemates could respond
with the second line of the cheer, Snape turned to her aghast and
thundered, "Miss Parkinson!"
"Sorry, sir!" Pansy cried with
false sheepishness as she resumed her seat.
While their housemaster was
distracted, the Slytherin chasers drew their wands, aimed them squarely at
the hands of the Gryffindor chasers, and cried, "Locomotor
mortis!" locking their hands to their brooms. Then they cast three quick
rictusempras and watched with delight as the red team chasers rolled
uncontrollably through the air.
Unaware that their hands were
locked safely to their brooms, the spectators gasped when the tickling
victims flipped upside down, their startled yelps calling Snape's
attention back to the pitch. "What did I miss?" he demanded.
Madam Hooch, who was trying to
get close enough to a bludger to inspect it, missed the charms, too. The
Slytherin chasers scored as often as their giggling would allow while the
three Gryffindors spun helplessly. Finally, Ron had to abandon the goals
to help Harry aim one finite incantatem after another at the revolving
chasers until all three had been successfully hit with the terminating
At this point, the Gryffindors
decided to fight fire with fire. But unlike the Slytherins, they had not
been practicing casting charms at moving targets while flying rapidly
themselves. All their spells missed their marks.
Then, to his great relief,
Harry saw the snitch. Slytherin was only ahead by twenty points and could
still be soundly defeated.
With a triumphant smile at
Violet, he streaked off after the snitch, the young Slytherin tearing
along behind him in hot pursuit. He edged closer and closer to the flying
golden sphere, his hand outstretched, his fingers reaching, almost there,
now closing around it... And with a shout, he flung it away again and
shook his hand in pain. The moment his fingers had closed around the
snitch, Violet had transfigured it into a loaded pin cushion, needle
points out. The wingless orb dropped through the air, nearly reaching the
ground before Violet returned it to its original state, after which it
disappeared from sight. As Harry glared furiously at her, Violet laughed
with joy, clapping her feet together beneath her broom.
The game went on and on. The
Gryffindors racked up the points only to be caught up again and again by
the Slytherins who, thanks to the snow, were able to use even more magic
than they'd originally planned. Millicent retrieved the quaffle after a
Gryffindor score, gave Malfoy a wink, and flew for the goals. To the rest
of the red team's surprise, Malfoy abandoned his post to follow her. He
didn't want to miss this.
Millicent tossed the quaffle
right into Ron's arms for an easy save. Ron smirked, looked down at the
ball to get a good two-handed grip on it, and screamed at the top of his
The quaffle was covered with
Ron dropped the ball in terror
and Tracey, who was waiting below, caught it easily. She tossed the
quaffle back to Millicent, who fired it mercilessly at a keeper too
terrified to catch it. Malfoy nearly sobbed with laughter.
Slytherin scored repeatedly,
catching up to Gryffindor again before Harry managed to hit the quaffle
with a finite incantatem. He snatched the ball himself and then turned to
Ron, who was red-faced with fury and humiliation. He bit his lips to hold
back the question that was tearing him apart.
"Ron, I didn't," Harry
protested. "I swear! I didn't!"
"Then who did?" Ron
bellowed. "Who told him if not you?"
By now all the players had
gathered to watch the scene, and Ron scanned their faces furiously, as if
daring anyone else to laugh. Then his eyes fell on Ginny.
She was pale with guilt.
"Ginny!" Ron cried. She
looked up at him helplessly as Malfoy called to her salaciously, "All
right there, sugar lips?"
The Slytherins roared and a
delighted Malfoy flew in a happy loop before settling back down to smirk
at his summer fling. But when he saw the fury in the Weasley girl's eyes,
the smile faded from his face.
"Oops," he gulped.
Ginny fired the hex so quickly
Malfoy barely had a chance to duck. This time, Madam Hooch saw the
infraction and blew her whistle.
The Gryffindors merely drew
"Scatter!" Malfoy screamed,
and the Slytherins fled. They took off in pairs and Malfoy flew up to
each of them as they streaked away from the furious Gryffindors.
"Don't shoot back!" Malfoy
hollered. "Whatever happens, don't shoot back!"
Madam Hooch blew louder and
louder but the Gryffindors just kept on firing. The Slytherins dodged for
their lives as hex after angry hex zinged past their heads. A desperate
Malfoy flew as close to Harry as he dared.
"It's just a game,
Potter! It's just a game!"
He dropped down quickly to
avoid a hex and then flew up again. "We'll stop, I swear it!" he
begged. "We'll let you win! By a lot! THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE
But the Gryffindors continued
to attack. Down below, Malfoy spotted Professors Snape and McGonagall
climbing frantically down from the stands, Snape hauling Pansy Parkinson
by her collar. But Goyle had already taken a flipendo to the shoulder and
the Slytherin team captain grew desperate.
"The stands!" he screamed to
his teammates. "Fly into the stands!"
The Slytherins immediately
headed for the spectators, but their proximity to innocent bystanders did
not deter the Gryffindors. Soon howls of pain were heard as every hex
that missed a player struck a fan instead.
I'm dead, Malfoy
thought as the cries of his unintended victims filled his ears. I
might as well fly into a wall at top speed and be done with
Below them, Professor
McGonagall, standing beside Snape, sonorized herself. "STOP
THIS NONSENSE IMMEDIATELY!" she boomed. With a jerk of his head, Malfoy
led his team
down to the ground where they scrambled off their brooms and raced to the
heads of Slytherin and Gryffindor, taking shelter behind their
backs. Malfoy suspected it was the most cowardly he had looked since the
night he'd fled the Forbidden Forest with Fang, leaving Harry Potter to
fend for himself.
The Gryffindors came in for a
landing and stood silently before the two strictest professors at
Hogwarts. Snape decided to let Minerva do the talking.
"I have never," she began in a
whisper more terrifying than any shout, "seen such repulsive conduct on a
Hogwarts quidditch pitch in my life!"
For some perverse reason,
Malfoy felt a momentary surge of pride in himself and Harry Potter.
continued. "Every one of you," she added, glancing over her shoulder at
the cringing Slytherins. "100 points from your houses. Every one of
you. And..." She focused her steely gaze squarely upon Harry. "This
game is cancelled, and both teams will forfeit all points they would have
carried forward towards the cup."
That was a lot of points, and
Harry's green eyes flashed. He took a menacing step towards McGonagall and
snarled, "You can't do that!"
The silence that followed was
the most uncomfortable Malfoy had ever experienced. It went on and on as
McGonagall and the Gryffindors stared each other down. Then Snape turned
quietly to the Slytherins and said, "Change up and report to my office
immediately," and Malfoy was so grateful for the opportunity to flee he
could have kissed Snape's shoes.
I'm too pretty to be a part
of this, Pansy thought indignantly as she stood in line with the
quidditch team in Snape's office.
"For the record," Snape
lectured as he strolled back and forth before them, "I agree with you, and
I admire your scheme and the skill you displayed on the field." He
stopped at the far end of the row so he could see all their faces at
once. "But you didn't bring it off, did you? You didn't get through to
the Gryffindors... you turned them violent!" He folded his arms
meticulously across his chest and added, "That's because you didn't care
to get through to them. You just wanted to show off how much you
He began to stroll again, his
arms still crossed. "On the other hand," he acknowledged, "you held your
fire when the hexes began to fly, a decision that was clearly intended to
limit my wrath." Malfoy gave his teammates a quick lift of his
eyebrows. "But," Snape added, spinning around to face the team captain,
"you flew into a crowd of innocent bystanders in an attempt to shield
yourselves, which is hardly good form. So I'm going to give you a
choice." He stood solidly in front of Malfoy but turned to face the rest
of the students. "Three apiece... or six for Malfoy."
Malfoy's eyebrows flew up
involuntarily this time. He turned quickly to his teammates only to behold
Millicent, Tracey, Crabbe and Goyle already assuming the position across
Snape's desk. But Violet put her hands indignantly on her hips and
protested, "Couldn't you have made him squirm for a few seconds first?"
"Sir," Malfoy called
pleasantly, "Violet would like to volunteer to take my strokes for me."
"Stand aside," their
housemaster commanded dryly.
Snape spanked his
Slytherins and sent them on their way, then sat for half an hour pondering
whether or not to check on Minerva. In the end, he decided against it.
Reaction to the match was
mixed. The Gryffindors remained furious for days though Violet sensed
their anger was directed primarily at McGonagall. The Hufflepuffs and
Ravenclaws were delighted with the green team's perspective and quite
willing to overlook the stray hexes they had endured, but that, Violet was
sure, reflected their joy at the possibility that one of them might win
the quidditch cup for the first time in about a dozen years. "Talk about
missing the point," she hissed to Marybeth.
Then a midweek copy of the
Daily Prophet brought news of more butchering beyond the walls of Hogwarts
and the quidditch match faded from conversation as they were once again
reminded of the menace without.
At lunchtime on the second
Saturday in November, Snape handed Violet a forward from the Owl Post
Office in Hogsmeade. "Who's it from?" Marybeth asked as Snape moved away,
handing out the rest of the Slytherin mail. Violet shook her head and
broke open the seal. Marybeth peeked over her shoulder as she
Please come. I am very sick, and I am afraid. I always feel safe when
you are here. Please hurry.
Your friend, Katie.
Violet's face fell. Katie had
cried despondently at her departure on September 1 and the young Slytherin
had been dreading a letter like this ever since.
She knocked on the
door to Snape's office after lunch and found him inventorying his teaching
supplies. "Someone has removed far more powdered bicorn horn than
necessary for the assignments I've given so far," he told her menacingly,
and normally Violet would have enjoyed observing the cat and mouse game he
would play for the rest of the day as he hunted down the guilty student
and uncovered his or her nefarious scheme. But today, Snape noticed, the
young Slytherin looked troubled and distracted. He closed the door to the
cupboard and gave her his full, glowering attention.
Violet brought him the letter
and Snape read it silently. Then he gazed at her with the sternest
expression he could muster.
"Could you take me,
sir?" Violet asked. "Please?"
Snape gave the letter
back and took a seat at his desk. "Sit," he commanded, not unkindly, and
Violet sat down across from him.
"There are two
children in this situation," Snape explained as Violet listened
closely. "Each is equally important. Each lives with the possibility
of death. It just happens that the one I am responsible for is
you." Violet bit her lip. "I cannot allow you to go," Snape said. He
checked her face carefully. "Do you understand?" he asked.
Violet nodded. "Yes,
sir," she whispered. Her eyes filled with tears and she didn't care if
"Miss Guilford," Snape
assured her, "Dark times don't last forever. They may come more than once
in a lifetime, but eventually, they do pass." Violet's face crumpled and
Snape added quickly, "You may go."
Violet hurried out of the
office. She raced to the nearest alcove and sank to the floor of the
dark, private corner to cry. After a few minutes of that, she pulled
herself together and thought long and hard. Finally, about an hour later,
she rose and marched resolutely to Gryffindor Tower, glad for the first
time that Hermione Granger had once bullied her into sneaking off to
Professor McGonagall's office
was easier to break into than Snape's, and the time turner was exactly
where Hermione had found it last January. Violet smiled at McGonagall's
faith in her students and then helped herself to the magic little
Katie died unafraid in
her arms, and Violet was deeply grateful for that. But as she eased the
little girl out of her embrace and tucked the bedclothes around her, a
grubby urchin burst into the room and snatched the time
turner. Horrified, Violet sped after him, but the worthless brat dropped
the precious device before she could reach him. Violet snatched it up and
inspected the tiny hourglass closely. It seemed unharmed and she thanked
her lucky stars both then and again that night when she was tucked safely
in bed in Slytherin House.
Two days later,
Dumbledore and McGonagall called the other three heads of house into the
headmaster's office. Snape's heart sank when he saw Minerva clutching the
time turner furiously in her white fist.
The crack was so small
as to be unnoticeable to the naked eye. But the contents had leaked
slowly to the floor until they'd formed an unmistakable pile on Professor
The distress that
filled the room was palpable and Snape spoke very softly. "I believe you
can dismiss Professors Sprout and Flitwick," he told the headmaster and
deputy headmistress calmly. "I just need a few minutes."
They nodded and he
headed back to the dungeon where he found Malfoy in the corridor returning
to the common room from the library. "Send Miss Guilford to my office
immediately," he ordered the blonde sixth year.
Violet bounced in
cheerfully but sobered the moment she saw her housemaster's face. Snape
did not invite her to sit down.
"Did someone drop
it?" he asked quietly. As Violet's eyes widened, he continued gently,
"The crack is too small to notice, but the contents eventually began to
hard. "Is it expensive?" she whispered back.
Snape rose to his feet. "That,
Miss Guilford," he said sadly, "is the least of your worries." To
Violet's surprise and complete horror, he took hold of her hand before
leading her to the door. The thought of being in so much trouble that
even Snape felt sorry for her made Violet tremble.
He held her hand all the way
to Dumbledore's office where he opened the door and waited for her to
enter ahead of him. For just a moment, Violet thought Dumbledore and
McGonagall looked disappointed that Snape had actually found a
culprit. But they recovered quickly and stared at her with formidable
sternness. She stood quietly, assuming she should wait to be addressed,
but when they all just watched her silently, she gave a little nod and
began to speak.
"I took the time
turner to visit a little girl at the orphanage who was dying," she
explained. "She was afraid and wanted me to be there when she died. I
had asked Professor Snape to take me to see her and he explained very
clearly why I couldn't go. I chose to disobey him, and I understand that,
by making that choice, I put not only myself but anyone who might have
needed to rescue me in danger."
The three adults stood
quietly for a moment, then Dumbledore said softly, "Thank you, Miss
Guilford. You may return to your common room." After she'd gone, he
turned to Snape and said gently, "Severus, would you please wait in the
corridor?" Snape's dark eyes flashed and Dumbledore assured him, "We
will not make any decisions without consulting you."
When they were alone,
Minerva spoke first. "We're in a very difficult position, Albus," she
said regretfully. "I cannot tell you how many hours I've spent lately,
pondering the events of 15 years ago, wondering if there was
anything..." She broke off abruptly and forced herself to return to the
matter at hand. "Deference has become a matter of life and death," she
insisted. "We have to get through to them." She drew herself up to her
full height and added, "We owe that to their dead parents."
surprising," Dumbledore mused, "that it was a Slytherin." He gave her a
gentle smile but Minerva did not return it.
"I do not want the next one to
be a Gryffindor," she replied coldly. "I do not want the next one to be
anyone at all!"
"But how does one
persuade children?" Dumbledore wondered softly as he walked across the
office to stroke his phoenix. "Children have always believed they are
Minerva watched him caress the
flaming red bird for several seconds before suggesting firmly, "By
removing those who fail to comply."
Dumbledore turned away from
Fawkes and took a seat at his desk.
argued, "is the equivalent of a death sentence. If the child had committed
a capital crime, she would be on her way to Azkaban. How can we impose a
death sentence on a child who has not committed such a crime?"
everything else," Minerva reminded him. "How can we maintain control at a
time when lives depend on it if expulsion is not an option?"
It's a terrible
thing to be afraid to go home, Violet thought as she let herself back
into Slytherin. She'd wondered all the way back from Dumbledore's office
whether there was any way to keep her transgression a secret. No,
she decided, a clean breast is probably the safest bet. She didn't
even have to announce her desire to speak to them; the proud possessor of
the world's worst poker face needed only to stand quietly in the center of
the room to gather a silent, expectant crowd.
By the end of her
confession, Malfoy was predictably furious. "Don't touch her!" he snapped
when Marybeth reached out to put an arm around her roommate. "And I
better not find out you knew a damn thing about this!"
began, just before he slapped her sharply across the face. Several
Slytherins gasped but Malfoy's fury raged unabated.
"We need him," he
snarled. "Without him, we could all be killed. To say nothing of what
he's worth compared to you!"
Violet looked at the
housemates who surrounded her and nodded calmly. "He's right," she
admitted. "You're right," she told Malfoy. "I put a small child ahead of
Snape and every student at this school, and I did it on purpose. But
Malfoy. . ." He'd grown disgusted with her and turned away so she took
him by the sleeve and tugged earnestly. "What if it had been me?"
The teenager snorted and
Violet continued desperately. "What if I'd been the one to get sick, and
I'd written to YOU and said I was afraid and begged you to come?"
The rest of the
Slytherins turned expectantly to Malfoy. He just scowled at them. Then
he jerked a thumb in Violet's direction and ordered Goyle, "Punish her!"
"Me?" Goyle sputtered. He
turned speechless to Violet and then back to Malfoy, who strode to the
nearest chair and dropped into it, folding his arms across his chest to
observe. Goyle turned back to Violet and shrugged.
"You're off the quidditch team
until after the next match," he said with a shake of his head.
"Oh!" Violet gasped as
several Slytherins covered their mouths in horror. "Oh, ow! Ow!" The
exclamations slipped from her mouth like involuntary whimpers of
pain. She clutched the arm of the nearest chair and sank into
it. "Ow. Ow."
Marybeth drew close
and peered into her roommate's face. "Are you okay?" she asked
nervously. Violet nodded. "Yeah," she insisted. "I'm
fine. Ow. Ow."
"Please come in,
Severus," Dumbledore invited him back into the office. McGonagall refused
to meet his eyes, so Snape turned to Dumbledore instead. "We have
decided," the headmaster told him, "that it would be best if you handled
this situation in your usual manner. . . tomorrow night. . . at
7:30. . . in the Great Hall. . . before the assembled student body."
The potions master lashed out
so quickly he startled even himself. "I will NOT!" he snapped
furiously. His superiors both raised eyebrows at him and he turned away
in embarrassment, wondering if he should apologize or just glare. He
turned back to them full of righteous indignation.
"Headmaster," he began more
civilly, "I am anything but lenient with my students." Dumbledore held up
a hand and nodded reassuringly but Snape pressed on. "The child is
neither thoughtless nor cruel," he insisted. "She was dealing with an
extraordinary situation. . ."
"So are we," McGonagall
interjected. Snape considered her a moment and then turned back to
"I don't punish my students in
front of each other unless I'm punishing all of them," he lectured. "I
don't think it's appropriate!"
"Then think again,
Severus," Dumbledore said gently. He turned away and walked over to his
desk. Minerva came and stood beside him and the two of them stared calmly
He broke the news to
the Slytherins as gently as possible, keeping his tone carefully
neutral. Everyone except Violet was horrified. "It's because of the
Gryffindors!" Malfoy stormed angrily from his spot in line. "They want to
humiliate a Slytherin to save the Gryffindors!" His fury delighted
Violet. Flip, she thought happily. He loves me again!
ridiculous!" their housemaster snapped. "I've known Professor Dumbledore
and Professor McGonagall longer than you've been alive and I've never met
more admirable people." Snape permitted no further discussion of the
matter but hurled one last piece of advice at them before departing. "If
you don't like being in hot water all the time," he hissed, "TRY BEHAVING
The other heads of house
informed their students Tuesday morning during inspection. All day long,
the outraged Slytherins prowled the school like wounded animals and
everyone took care to keep a safe distance.
Throughout the morning, Violet
caught the non-Slytherin students gazing constantly in her direction,
their faces filled with concern or sympathy. She encouraged their support
by assuming the most woebegone expression she could muster until Snape
snatched her from the bench at lunchtime and threatened to send her to
Madam Pomfrey for a dose of extremely distasteful pick-me-up tonic if she
didn't improve her demeanor immediately.
She really couldn't understand
what all the drama was about. As far as she could tell, she was getting
off fairly lightly; the usual six from Snape didn't seem like much of a
punishment for a crime of this magnitude. Without the interference of
Dumbledore and McGonagall, she suspected she would have had her first
taste of 12.
When Snape came for them that
evening, he made one last statement before leading the Slytherins from
their common room. "Look around," he suggested. "You won't see one face
jeering at you."
He was right, as usual. When
the Slytherins entered the Great Hall, they found the Gryffindors,
Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs already in place, standing in neat lines
facing the head table. They looked back over their shoulders to watch the
Slytherins march in and Violet thought every last one of them looked ill.
The Slytherins stopped when
they reached their spots and Snape stopped with them. Then he placed a
hand on Violet's shoulder and steered her up the aisle to the platform
that held the head table. Dumbledore was standing just to the right of
his usual spot in the center with McGonagall next to him. To the left of
center stood Sprout and Flitwick. The silence in the hall made Violet's
face flame. She wished Snape would remove his hand and just let her walk
When they reached the
platform, Snape lifted her up and turned her around, setting her down
facing the students. Then, even though the platform was only a foot high,
he left her there and walked around behind the head table to climb the
Violet gazed out at the sea of
miserable faces staring up at her and suddenly understood. This was just
awful. The regimentation, the forced solemnity, the spectacle. . . It
was nothing less than brutal. The young Slytherin nearly teared up at the
sense of violation. She wished Snape would hurry up and reach her.
When he did, he paused to give
Dumbledore and McGonagall a look Violet would have guessed would be
reserved for Voldemort alone, and even from behind the students could see
the fury in his stance. Professor Sprout flinched but the headmaster and
deputy headmistress stared stonily back at him and Snape finally lowered
his gaze to Violet. To her relief, he didn't say "turn" or "bend." He
just nodded at her and Violet turned gratefully away from the wretched
faces of her classmates.
Then, just before she bent
over, the most delightfully perverse idea popped into the young
Slytherin's head. She bit down solidly on the inside of her lip to keep
from smiling and then raised her chin to give Dumbledore and McGonagall
the most forlorn, beseeching expression she could muster. The dignified
administrators twitched with guilt at the sight of her tragic little face,
and Violet almost snorted with laughter. Ahhhh, she thought as the
violated feeling evaporated. Much better. And she bent over
quickly to hide her smile in the tablecloth.
Malfoy watched the crowd
carefully. It was just as Snape had said. Not a single student jeered at
the Slytherins, or grinned or chuckled or pointed or nudged, not even
Weasley or Finnegan. They all stared solidly ahead at McGonagall and
Dumbledore, a cold fury in their eyes. As Snape drew back the cane to
deliver the first stroke, Malfoy's gaze settled on Hermione's face. The
stinging thud brought tears to her eyes. Good grief, Granger,
Malfoy thought disdainfully. Pull yourself together.
He glanced at the other
Slytherins and found them looking around the hall, too. Goyle caught his
eye and nodded in the direction of Harry Potter. Harry was staring
furiously at Dumbledore and McGonagall, refusing to watch the
beating. But he couldn't help hearing and Malfoy noticed that every
stroke made him flinch. He would steel himself after each one as if
determined not to react again, and his flashing green eyes grew angrier
and angrier. Interesting, Malfoy thought.
The Ravenclaws were exhibiting
much the same attitude while the Hufflepuffs were staring stubbornly at
the floor. Malfoy wished he could see Snape's face, but his housemaster
kept his eyes firmly on Violet.
There were only two strokes to
go and Violet clutched the edge of the table desperately, determined not
to whimper. She was certain Dumbledore and McGonagall would suffer more
if she didn't whimper. The little snake searched her mind frantically for
anything else she could do to compound their distress. But then it was
over and Snape was commanding her to stand up. As she righted herself,
she was suddenly overcome by a horrifying wave of stage fright. Oh,
no! she thought. He isn't going to ask me. . .
"Is there anything you'd like
to say?" came the standard query, and Violet could have kicked herself for
not thinking to compose something in advance. Snape stared quietly at
her, his expectations clear, so Violet did her best.
"I don't know where to begin
to apologize for what I've done," she said to the students before her. "I
swear to you, it does not reflect how I feel about you. I would not
endanger you or take one of your teachers from you for the world." She
took a deep breath. "The only explanation I can offer is that there are
others I care about just as I care about all of you, and I did what I had
to do. Please don't be angry with me."
She turned to face Snape,
Sprout and Flitwick. "I am ashamed to even stand before you," she told
the teachers, "as you are the ones I put at risk. Please forgive
me." Finally she turned to Dumbledore and McGonagall, and she almost
bounced with pleasure at the words that filled her head. "My deepest
shame," she told them firmly, "is for the distress I've caused my
housemaster. But I want to apologize for putting the two of you in this
position. I wouldn't be in your shoes for anything, and I am truly sorry
I made the jobs of such brave, selfless, dedicated people harder."
Malfoy stifled a snort.
Violet was just about to turn
back towards the students when she remembered something else. "Oh!" she
cried, giving McGonagall the tiniest smile. "I haven't got a knut to my
name, Professor, but I'd be happy to work off the price of a new time
turner." She turned to face the hall again with a satisfied little smile
on her face and Snape murmured silkily, "You may go." Violet hopped down
from the platform and marched out of the room.
Snape turned to Dumbledore and
McGonagall as if waiting for them to address the assembly. This was not
in the script and the two administrators glared uncomfortably at him,
color rising in McGonagall's cheeks. Snape let them stand that way for as
long as he dared before turning to nod at the Slytherins. Several of his
students gave Dumbledore and McGonagall unpleasant little smiles before
they turned around with their hands in their pockets and sauntered
casually out of the Great Hall, missing completely the last furious looks
the Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Gryffindors cast at their headmaster and
heads of house as they were dismissed.
The Slytherins found
Violet lying on her belly on a common room couch, an open book between her
elbows, her feet swaying in the air behind her. They settled silently
into sofas and chairs around her, lost in thought. Pansy ran out of
introspective fodder first and cleared her throat loudly. "Somebody say
something!" she demanded impatiently of her housemates.
"You should have seen
their faces, Violet," Goyle told the younger snake. "They were really
"Why was that, do you
think?" Pansy wondered.
"Because they knew who
was really being punished," Malfoy told her.
Millicent shook her
head. "That doesn't make sense," she insisted. "I mean, no offense,
Violet, but watching you get a well-deserved six didn't fuss me at all."
Malfoy tossed her a
loaded question. "So you're not mad at Dumbledore or McGonagall?" he
snarled, "those gits aren't my problem. Snape didn't want to do it."
"That's what I'm on
about, Millicent," Malfoy said emphatically. "The others are angry
because of what Dumbledore and McGonagall were trying to do to them."
"I wouldn't have
gone," Crabbe spoke up suddenly, and Goyle nodded in agreement. "Me,
neither," he insisted. "If I were a Gryffindor, I'd have found a way out
of it. I'd have broken every foot in the house if I'd had to."
"No, Mr. Goyle, you
would not," said Snape suddenly from the doorway. "Not if you were a
Gryffindor." He held up a hand to excuse them from lining up as he walked
across the common room to join them.
sir?" several students asked him at once.
Slytherins," Snape told them smoothly, "Ours is a long, proud history of
battling openly. Theirs is not."
He nodded at
Violet. "Commendably handled, Miss Guilford," he praised her. "Thank
you, sir," Violet replied, beaming into the pages of her book as Snape
swept from the room. When he'd gone, Malfoy turned thoughtfully to
"Last summer," he told
her, "I asked Potter how he got caught helping that moron, Hagrid, get rid
of his dragon despite McGonagall not believing me when I told her what
they were up to." Several Slytherins leaned closer and Malfoy
smiled. "It turns out they were so excited about my getting in trouble,
they forget Potter's invisibility cloak."
"Ha!" Violet cried in
"The interesting part
of the story," Malfoy continued carefully, "is how angry their housemates
got over the points the three of them lost trying to help a friend."
The Slytherins thought
about that for a while and Millicent shook her head. "That sounds more
like us," she joked, and several Slytherins chuckled. But Malfoy remained
"No," he insisted
quietly. "That's just it. There's a world of difference between what
turns us against each other and what turns them against each other. They
turn at the first sign of trouble, and they always have."
Violet closed her
book, trying to figure out what he meant by that. Then she remembered the
story Potter had told them last spring about the night he'd almost killed
Sirius Black. Even Lupin and Dumbledore had suspected him of mass murder.
Longbottom, how little it takes to upset him in class," Malfoy reminded
them. "Think how easily the Weasleys lose their tempers." He shook his
head. "Snape's right. They can't handle conflict." He rose resolutely
and headed for his cell, pausing long enough to tell Violet, "You were
wrong. Point-taking isn't for sissies. Point-taking makes
retiring that night, Violet knocked on the door to Snape's office and was
startled, upon entering, to see him smile at her. "I was just thinking
about you," he confessed.
"Why is that,
sir?" she asked, gingerly taking her usual seat.
Snape placed an elbow
on his desk and rested his cheek on his palm. "What did they do to
you?" he asked her, anticipating the answer with mild amusement.
It took Violet a moment to
figure out who he meant. Then she nodded and said simply, "I'm off the
quidditch team until after the next match."
disappeared. "Oh!" he sputtered, straightening up again. "Oh, my." He
thought it over and added earnestly, "Would you like to appeal to your
head of house?"
Violet giggled. "No,
thank you, sir," she assured him. "I have to live with them, after
all." She sobered and added, "The only thing that's bothering me..." She
stared into her lap, pulling on her fingers. Finally she looked up at him
with tears in her eyes. "Are you mad at me for going when you said no?"
Snape stared at the
child. His cheek muscles tightened as he assumed a stern
expression. Then he opened a drawer and removed a book which he placed in
front of Violet. "I wonder, Miss Guilford," he said curtly, "if you would
do me a favor and return this book to Professor McGonagall."
Violet glanced at the
cover, wondering if the answer to her question was on it. The jacket
featured a picture of a proud witch displaying a magnificently set dinner
table beneath the title, Every Day Objects, Elegant
Transfigurations. "Why did you borrow a book about teapots,
sir?" Violet asked in confusion.
"Because," Snape said
simply, "I needed an excuse for being in her office after deciding not to
warn her to hide her time turner after all."
Violet looked up with
a jolt and her mouth dropped open. But as her mind raced from the
discovery that he'd known she would go, to the realization that he had let
her, her shock transformed rapidly into indignation.
"I could have been
killed!" she protested.
"I don't think
so," Snape replied. And he reached inside his robe and withdrew a tiny
green time turner which he set down on top of his desk.
At first Violet could
only stare at the Slytherin-colored object. Then she lifted tear-filled
eyes to Snape who shrugged and confessed, "Invisibility requires
He bore with fortitude a
fierce hug from the child who catapulted from her seat to fling her arms
around his neck. I am the most tolerant person in the world, he
thought to himself as he gave her an obligatory pat or two. Then he
pulled her loose and shook a finger under her nose. "The book!" he
reminded her sternly. "And I would be most grateful if you would keep
this between us, young lady. I don't want anyone making a spectacle of
me in the Great Hall."
An Obedient House