"Professor Snape, Professor Snape!"
Violet froze at the sound of
Marybeth's voice shouting for their housemaster as she pounded her fists
on his office door. It was the second Saturday morning in October and
Violet was out of bounds again, hiding in a nook on the opposite side of
the corridor from the alcove where Snape had found her last time. It was
just too difficult to work on her book in Slytherin, where housemates were
forever approaching her in the common room or sticking their heads into
her cell to inquire, "What are you writing, Violet? Violet, what are you
She listened closely as the door to
Snape's office opened and his icy voice inquired, "Problem, Miss
"We need your help," Marybeth replied
eagerly, and Violet heard the door shut as Snape pulled it closed behind
him and hurried away down the corridor with Marybeth. When it seemed
safe, Violet crept to the edge of her hiding place and prepared to slip
into the corridor and follow them down to the common room, hoping to sneak
in without Snape's notice. She peeked both ways to be sure the coast was
clear, and as she glanced in the opposite direction, she saw the oddest
thing. The back of Ron Weasley's head was protruding from the next
corridor down; a red and gold Gryffindor scarf dangled from his
The dung bombs had legs. Violet had
never seen anything like them. They were impervious to immobilizing or
scourgifying, as the Slytherins were discovering to their dismay as they
chased the noxious intruders frantically around their house.
The bombs ran faster than scurrying
mice, seeking out dark places in which to explode. Eventually the
desperate Slytherins banged shut the doors to their cells and then flung
themselves in front of the spaces beneath their common room chairs and
sofas, trying to block entry to all unlit spots. The stench was
"Impedementia odiferous!" Snape cried
upon sizing up the situation, and the Slytherins experienced an immediate
and blessed termination of their sense of smell. Then their housemaster
threw open the door to their common room and commanded, "Summon your
"Accio Spellwad!" Violet cried with no
luck. Malfoy summoned the barn owl for her as well as his own eagle
owl. Soon the common room was full of fierce hunters chasing down the
scampering dung bombs. Snape lit a fire in their cold, dark fireplace and
they tossed each captured bomb into the flames where it disintegrated
harmlessly in the light.
When all the little stinkers were
eliminated, Snape showed them how to "scourgify odiferous" their furniture
and eventually it was safe to reinstate their sense of smell. They
collapsed with exhaustion onto their restored furniture and several of
them chuckled openly while Snape struggled to keep a straight face.
"How did they get in?" he asked the
"Fireplace," Goyle told him.
"They got them from the Weasleys' joke
shop," Malfoy announced. "That's cheating." Snape chortled and Malfoy
reminded him, "It's only funny when we do it, sir."
"You're absolutely right,
Malfoy," Snape agreed with as much sternness as he could muster. "I'll
speak to Professor McGonagall immediately."
When he did, the Gryffindor head of
house was so delighted by the news, she actually kissed him on the
The general relief at the
Gryffindors' return to playfulness was cut short by an event that was
surprising only perhaps in that it happened to a Slytherin first. Malfoy
appeared during Violet's Transfigurations class Tuesday morning to ask
that Jennifer Rosich, another Slytherin second year girl, be
excused; Snape wished to see her in his office immediately. A grim-faced
Professor McGonagall quickly gave consent and Malfoy escorted Jennifer
from the room, giving Violet the impression that he intended to walk her
all the way to Snape's office.
When the girl did not return
by the end of class, Violet gathered up her things. "Do you suppose
she'll be in Potions?" she asked Marybeth. "I don't want to haul this
stuff around all day."
"Ask Snape if you can put it
in her cell," Marybeth suggested.
But Snape was not in Potions,
either. Malfoy was teaching instead. After a startled moment, Violet
approached the teacher's desk where he sat.
"Malfoy, may I take Jennifer's
things to her cell?" she asked tentatively.
"You'd better hurry back," he
snarled, and Violet slipped quickly out of the room and down the dungeon
She piled Jennifer's things
neatly on her bunk and hurried back down the girls' corridor and out of
the common room. But as she turned to retrace her steps to the Potions
classroom, she was startled by the sound of sobbing coming from Snape's
office. Her curiosity outweighed her fear of Malfoy's wrath and she
tiptoed to the open door and peeked inside.
Snape sat behind his desk with
his arms around Jennifer who huddled in his lap, sobbing into the front of
his robes. It was the first time Violet had ever seen her housemaster
completely undisturbed by affectionate contact with a student. He sat
grim and silent and after a while he rested his cheek on the top of
Jennifer's head, a look of resignation in his eyes.
Suddenly a hand closed over
Violet's mouth. Another grabbed her ear and the next thing she knew, a
furious Malfoy was pulling her down the corridor towards the Potions
She trotted obediently beside
him until they were out of earshot of Snape's office. Then she shoved his
hand away from her mouth and whispered, "Malfoy, is it her parents? Is it
both of them?"
Malfoy released her ear and
took her by the arm instead. "And her little brother and sister," he
Violet was horrified. "What
will happen to her?" she asked breathlessly.
"Snape will send her to the
infirmary or to her cell, depending on how she takes the news," Malfoy
explained. "If it's her cell, he'll have prefects and Madam Pomfrey check
on her at regular intervals. She'll be excused from meals and sent trays
for the rest of the day if she prefers. But tomorrow she'll be required
to return to her usual activities."
"How do you know all
that?" Violet demanded, impressed by the detailed answer.
"Dumbledore developed the
protocol over the summer," Malfoy told her. "The prefects were informed
the first day of school."
Half an hour later, when the
cauldrons were simmering nicely, Snape returned to class, thanked Malfoy
and dismissed him, then spent the remainder of the lesson pacing tensely
from station to station. But there was no sign of Jennifer for the rest
of the day. That evening, Violet and Marybeth knocked timidly on the door
to her cell.
"Come in," called an older
voice, and they found Millicent sitting beside Jennifer on her bunk with
an arm around the younger girl's shoulders. Jennifer's face was
tear-stained. Her school things were still piled where Violet had left
Violet and Marybeth sat
awkwardly on the unoccupied bunk against the opposite wall; Jennifer was
one of the Slytherins who'd lost her roommate in last April's
defection. Then a horrifying thought occurred to Violet. Millicent had
rebelled against the order to leave Hogwarts. That meant one of
Millicent's parents could have helped murder Jennifer's family. Violet
swallowed hard and tried to think of something to say.
"What did your folks do,
Jen?" she asked quietly.
Jennifer sniffed and wiped her
eyes on her sleeve. "Mum didn't have a job," she replied in a shuddery
voice. "Dad worked for Magical Transportation, with portkeys mostly. But
he also guarded the Hogwarts Express and sometimes he even drove it!"
"Wow!" Violet exclaimed, and
Millicent nodded approvingly at her.
"Every once in a
while," Jennifer continued, "he'd bring the whole family to work and let
us pretend to drive it." She beamed at the memory, but then her face
crumpled, and Marybeth cast around desperately for a new topic of
"Do you like having your own
cell?" she asked, glancing around the room at Jennifer's spacious
"Sometimes," the girl sniffed,
apparently on the verge of tears again, so Marybeth added quickly, "Would
you like to sleep in our cell tonight? You can share my bed."
Jennifer actually smiled a bit
through her tears at this offer as she shook her head. Violet didn't
blame her. Marybeth's screams were becoming ear-splitting.
Just then, Pansy stuck her
head in the door. "Common room," she announced. "Now." The second years
hurried out of the cell and raced to join the lines forming before Snape
near the common room door. Millicent helped Pansy clear the rest of the
cells on the girls' corridor and within moments, all the Slytherins were
assembled. Snape got right to the point.
"There are Death Eaters in
Hogsmeade," he told them, "possibly dozens. Professors Dumbledore,
McGonagall and I are leaving immediately to help the resistance. You are
to stay here and keep watch." He handed Malfoy his tin of floo
powder. "If you see any sign of infiltrators on the grounds, notify
Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and then proceed immediately to Ravenclaw. Is
The Slytherins nodded and
Snape swept from the room without another word. Several first year lips
began to tremble so Malfoy started barking orders. "Crabbe, Goyle,
Warrington, Parkinson, first watch," he commanded. "The rest of you,
fetch your bedclothes. We'll all stay together in the common room until
Snape gets back."
When they had reassembled,
they stood awkwardly for a moment, their bedclothes draped over their
arms, unsure of what to do. Then Malfoy sat down in his favorite chair,
drawing his blanket around him, and the others followed suit. For a while
they just stared at each other, wondering desperately what was happening
beyond the walls of Hogwarts. Finally, Malfoy murmured, "How could that
many Death Eaters just walk into Hogsmeade?"
"They must have
apparated," Millicent said, but Malfoy shook his head.
"Together?" he argued. "Dozens
and dozens of them? There's no place big enough. And they couldn't
arrive individually, because they'd be too easy to pick off that way."
"Maybe they arrived outside of
town and marched in together," Violet suggested. Malfoy shook his head
again. "Pretty stupid plan," he countered. "Easy to spot and fire
on. They'd sacrifice a lot of members with that approach."
Violet started to retort, then
stopped when she saw Jennifer's face. The bereaved girl's mouth was
working silently as she struggled to speak through her agony. Millicent
saw her, too, and suddenly understood.
"The train!" she cried. "They
used the Hogwarts Express!"
Jennifer found her voice and
keened with anguish while Millicent explained what she and Jennifer had
just figured out - the motive behind Jennifer's family's death. "They
could fit hundreds of Death Eaters on the Hogwarts Express," she explained
Malfoy nodded. "And it's
protected by more charms than you can shake a wand at," he added. "If
they got away clean, they could drive right into town and no one would
know they were coming until they'd arrived."
The Slytherins nearly jumped
out of their skin when Harry Potter shouted from the fireplace.
"Dammit, Potter, don't do
that!" Malfoy snarled as he rose and strode across the common room to
speak with the Gryffindor. Potter's head looked odd. It was twisted to
the right as if his arm were thrust out behind him. Malfoy shared the
Slytherins' theory about the train and Harry let out a long whistle.
"Hundreds!" he gasped, and
shook his head. "Could Voldemort have recruited hundreds already?"
"Well, it's a theory," Malfoy
replied. "Is anyone guarding the gate?"
"Sprout and Vector," Harry
Malfoy heard dim shouts and
whirled quickly to check the lookouts. But Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy and
Warrington were all staring calmly out their windows. The shouting
continued and Malfoy realized with surprise that it was coming from behind
Potter. He turned curiously back to the fireplace and scrutinized the
bespectacled teenager more closely.
"Potter," he asked slowly,
staring at the boy's slightly twisted head, "do you have a wand on
"Slight conflict between
prefects," Harry admitted. "But most of the Gryffindors are on my side."
Oh, no, thought
Malfoy. "Potter," he seethed, "you can't possibly get off the
grounds. Don't even think about it."
Harry scowled and Malfoy
wondered if he'd been hoping the Slytherins would come, too. His mind
raced. How was Potter planning to get to Hogsmeade? Did he have another
way off the grounds? Had he mentioned anything last summer? Malfoy
thought of Harry's constant boasting about his father and Sirius
Black. How had they slipped out during all their adventures?
Forget it, he thought
adamantly. You don't know the answer. Try another
tact. "Potter," he hissed desperately, hating what he had to say,
"what happens if they defeat the resistance and make it to Hogwarts and
you're not here?"
The plea didn't have quite the
effect he expected. It seemed to confuse Harry, who looked away for a
moment as if doing math in his head. Someone in the Gryffindor common
room took advantage of his loss of focus, and with a yowl of pain, no
doubt as his arm was grabbed, Harry disappeared. Malfoy let out a sigh of
relief and went back to the Slytherins.
A short while later, Snape
returned, completely unharmed but absolutely furious. He excused the
Slytherins from lining up and instead towered over them where they sat.
"Did you tell the Gryffindors
there were hundreds of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade?" he demanded angrily.
The Slytherins exchanged
confused looks. Then Malfoy rose tentatively to his feet. "We told
them," he stammered, "that they might have used the Hogwarts Express, that
they could slip hundreds of Death Eaters into town that way." He glanced
at Jennifer and Snape, following his gaze, softened a bit. He took hold
of Pansy by the collar, hoisted her out of her seat, plopped her on the
floor and settled into her chair.
"I would appreciate it," he told the
Slytherins wearily, "if you would employ a bit more discretion in your
interactions with the Gryffindors."
The Slytherins nodded
obediently. Then Malfoy risked a slight grin and asked, "Where were
"By the door near the harbor
under the castle," Snape admitted grimly, "brooms in hand. I believe
their plan was to swim the lake to escape the grounds unnoticed, then fly
to our rescue. Fortunately, they were held at bay by our resourceful
house ghosts. No pun intended." Secretly, Snape was more than a little
relieved that Potter had chosen not to reveal any secret entrances on this
particular occasion. Now if only McGonagall and Dumbledore could compel
the young fool to...
"What happened, sir?" Pansy,
now sitting at his feet, interrupted his reverie.
Snape took a deep breath and
the Slytherins drew close. "Compared to the siege," he told them, "it was
actually rather feeble. They were able to sneak almost all the way to
Hogsmeade on the train, and that was the only brilliant thing they did all
night. We'd had some idea they might be trying this..." He checked
Jennifer, who was nestled under Millicent's arm, and continued. "The
townfolk were aware they might turn up, but no one expected them to stop
short of town and skirt the village. The citizens of Hogsmeade gave chase
while the Death Eaters hurried through the woods towards Hogwarts.
"When we arrived, the town was
empty. So we disapparated back to Hogwarts and set out from the front
gate to cut them off. We encountered them in the woods and began firing
and they disapparated immediately." Here Snape paused, almost
confused. "I was rather surprised they fled so quickly," he admitted,
musing further, "Perhaps they didn't expect to encounter resistance from
the school. Perhaps they thought we'd all stay behind to protect..."
He hesitated, then looked up
suddenly to find the Slytherins hanging on his every word. "To protect
you lot!" he finished with a snort, and the Slytherins smiled and breathed
a collective sigh of relief. "The headmaster," he added, almost as an
afterthought, "has ordered the heads of house to spend the next few nights
sleeping in their common rooms while aurors inspect the town and
surrounding area. Therefore I would appreciate it if you would retire to
your cells... immediately!"
The Slytherins broke up and
scurried off. Then Malfoy remembered something and turned back to ask
Snape, "Sir, what's going to happen to the Gryffindors?"
Snape smiled coldly. "I wish I
knew," he admitted. He settled himself more comfortably in his chair and
as the Slytherins headed to their corridors, Malfoy grabbed Millicent by
"Tonight," he whispered, "make sure
the door to Marybeth's room stays open."
Half an hour later, when everyone
seemed to be sleep, Millicent slipped down the girls' corridor and quietly
opened the door to Violet's and Marybeth's room. Violet, who was still
awake, shut her eyes immediately against the dim light spilling into the
room from the candle-lit corridor. When the door stopped moving but no
one entered, she sat up and stared into the hallway. Then, with a quick
glance at Marybeth to be sure she was still asleep, she slipped out of her
cot, grabbed her blankets, and crept softly to the common room.
The house was dark and quiet. Snape
sat still and watchful, his feet propped up before him, a silhouette
against the flames of their fire. As Violet approached he jerked his head
around to see who was there and then frowned at the child. But she just
climbed on the sofa beside him and covered herself with her blanket. When
she was settled, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around a small
portion of the hem of Snape's robe. Clutching it tightly, she closed her
eyes and went to sleep.
He was dozing when the scream jolted
him awake. On the sofa beside him, Violet muttered, "All right, Marybeth?" before rolling over and slipping deeper
into sleep. Snape freed his robe from the child's clutches and proceeded
to Marybeth's cell.
He lit the candle next to her bed and
scrutinized doubtfully her rigid form and tightly shut eyes. "The fresh
tears are a dead giveaway, Miss Montague," he informed her. So Marybeth
opened her eyes and gazed helplessly at him. Then she sat up and wiped
her face with her sleeve as Snape sat down beside her. Marybeth leaned
against him with a sigh.
"Where's Violet?" she asked after a
"Sleeping on a sofa in the common
room, the little coward," Snape told her. "One slaughtered family plus an
attack nearby and the little ninny goes running straight to her
housemaster." He bent his head closer to Marybeth's and added, "Night
terrors are more common than you might think, Miss Montague."
Marybeth gazed at the candle's
flickering flame. "I don't understand it," she said softly. "The first
day of school, the moment you walked into the headmaster's office, I felt
safe. And every day that I'm a Slytherin and you're here, I feel
safe." She gazed up at him miserably and shivered. "Why do I keep
Snape wrapped his robe around the
trembling child and she immediately wriggled closer to him. "Every day
that Albus Dumbledore is here," he told her as she gazed up at him from
beneath his arm, "I feel safe. But I keep dreaming."
There was nothing else to say. They
sat together until Marybeth fell back to sleep. Then Snape tucked her
beneath her covers and crept quietly from the cell.
In the corridor, he found Millicent
waiting for him, leaning against the wall with her bathrobe wrapped
tightly around her. Her concerned expression gave way to a small, knowing
smile at the sight of him and Snape scowled.
"Shouldn't you be in bed, Miss
"Of course, sir," she agreed. But
then she added, "I spent some time with Jennifer this evening after
Snape nodded once, curtly, in
approval. Millicent glanced beyond him into Marybeth's room and her smile
"I must say, sir, you certainly have
an affinity for suffering children."
Snape glowered at her, clearly desiring that Millicent's observations go no further. "I trust, Miss
Bulstrode, that I can rely on your discretion."
The sixth year reassured him with a smile. "I wasn't sorted yesterday, sir."
The Slytherins felt the tension the
moment they stepped into the Great Hall the following morning. Rumor had
it the Gryffindors were grounded from quidditch practice for two weeks,
which would leave them woefully little time in November to prepare for
their match against Slytherin. In addition, they were to be confined to
their dormitories right after dinner every night for a week.
McGonagall's students were clearly
incensed by this and Malfoy could not get over their complete lack of
contrition. They banged their plates, clanked their goblets and
silverware, spoke to one another in hissing, seething whispers, and hurled
one filthy look after another in the general direction of the head
table. "Morons!" Malfoy whispered to Crabbe and Goyle. "They could have
gotten the whole quidditch season cancelled!"
Unfortunately, the Hufflepuffs
and Ravenclaws seemed sympathetic to their cause. Their hostility was
less intense but unmistakable nevertheless. The staff responded with
glowers of their own and only Snape seemed oblivious to it all as he
sipped his tea and perused the Daily Prophet.
The teachers were extremely harsh and
short-tempered in class, scolding every wrong answer, pouncing on every
wiggle or wandering gaze, taking points and assigning detentions
mercilessly. The Slytherins, well accustomed to the firm hand of Severus
Snape, didn't mind too much until the other students started fighting
back. They passed notes, made rude noises, assumed sneering tones and lit
small fires when their instructors' backs were turned. Their rebellion
escalated the staff's fury and Thursday morning at breakfast Malfoy
advised the Slytherins to sit together on the far side of every classroom
and keep their hands in plain site at all times for their own
protection. Their submissiveness drew scorn from their schoolmates but
shielded them nicely from the wrath of their instructors.
Even their own house offered no
retreat from the tension as Malfoy chafed under the constant vigilance of
Severus Snape. Their housemaster arrived immediately after dinner and
stayed to walk the Slytherins to breakfast the following
morning. Normally his students would have enjoyed this immensely, but
Malfoy was eager to get on with the team's secret common room quidditch
practices, sessions he did not want Snape to see.
Violet prayed things would improve
over the weekend. Her hopes were dashed Saturday morning when Snape
stormed into the common room for inspection after being summoned to a
crack-of-dawn meeting with the other heads of house in Dumbledore's
"Hold out your hands," he
snarled to the two lines of Slytherins wiping sleep out of their
eyes. All stretching and yawning ceased immediately as the students
exchanged confused looks and then held out their hands in front of them.
"I thought we didn't have to
tidy up!" Violet whispered to Marybeth, who could only shrug in response.
Snape illuminated the tip of
his wand and waved the glowing green light over the backs of Goyle's
hands. Apparently satisfied, he snarled, "Turn them over," and proceeded
to inspect the boy's palms. He repeated the procedure with each student
and then stood before them with menacing scowl. From the pocket of his
robe he withdrew a folded piece of parchment which he opened meticulously
and held up before them.
"Does anyone recognize
this?" he demanded coolly.
None of them did, but they
understood immediately the reason for the hand check. The document
contained writing made of perfect block letters, an effect achieved
through the use of an ink potion intended to disguise one's
handwriting. It worked well for long-distance correspondence but wasn't
quite as effective with close quarter communication; the ink left a
tell-tale residue on the hands of the user.
The Slytherins closest to
Snape leaned a little nearer to inspect the parchment and Pansy
gasped. It contained a list of the seven departed Slytherin girls absent
since last spring... their names, and their addresses.
Snape waited. When he got no
response, he said calmly, "You may spend the day in this common room. If
you think of something useful to say, by all means, do come find me."
He swept from the room without
another word. The pajama-clad Slytherins dragged their chairs and sofas
close together and settled in.
"Addresses," Pansy murmured in
disbelief. "Someone broke into the files in Snape's office!"
Crabbe rubbed his stomach
miserably. "I'm starving!" he complained. "Why is Snape punishing us? We
"Wait," Malfoy replied, and he
hurried quickly to his cell and returned with a catalog that he held out
before them. It featured an ad for Pontius Paws Potion. "Wash your hands
of the evidence of any crime!" the description boasted. The Slytherins
gawked and Malfoy raised an eyebrow at them before turning a few pages to
show them another ad. This one promoted scampering dung bombs, inspiring
another gasp from Pansy. Then he showed them the cover of the
publication; it was the latest issue of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes mail
"Busted!" Crabbe cried,
sitting up joyfully. "We show the catalog to Snape and the Gryffindors
"How do you work that
out?" Malfoy asked, and after a confused moment, Crabbe sank back in
"There's no proof the
Gryffindors bombed us," Malfoy reminded his housemates, "and even if there
were, that doesn't prove they ordered anything else from the catalog."
"Hey!" Tracey cried. "The
twins would have a record of their orders... and I can't believe I just
suggested something that stupid." She collapsed against Millicent as
Malfoy nodded, agreeing, "Discretion is no doubt a top priority at
Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes."
He turned a straight-backed
chair around and straddled it, folding his arms across its back and
resting his chin on his forearms.
"The addresses are the
problem," he insisted. "That's why Snape suspects us. No Gryffindor
could break into his office."
"Could it have been somebody
else?" Crabbe wondered. "What about Dumbledore? He can get in."
"Why would he disguise his
hand-writing?" Goyle countered. "He could just order Snape to produce the
list. Why would he want it to be a secret?"
"Right, Goyle," Malfoy
drawled, "Dumbledore never keeps secrets."
Millicent gave him a
shove. "Don't confuse the issue," she snapped. "Crabbe, if Dumbledore
had done it, why would he ask the heads of house to look into it?"
"Oh, come on," Tracey sneered,
"we know it's the Gryffindors... the brave and loyal Gryffindors."
Her words brought to mind the
quarrel in Lake Slytherin and the assembled students replayed the exchange
in their minds. Then Malfoy grimaced. "But how did they get into Snape's
office?" he persisted. "How did they get past that door?"
"Maybe they didn't," Millicent
pointed out. "Maybe they used floo powder."
Malfoy thought it over and
shook his head. "Too risky," he insisted. "McGonagall's sleeping in
their common room, probably right by the fire. Plus Snape's a night owl
and a workaholic. The only times they could count on his office being
empty would be meals and classes... and they'd be missed from those."
Goyle nodded in
agreement. "They'd have to create a big, long diversion," he admitted.
It took a few moments to sink
in. Then they all sprang to their feet as one body and Malfoy screamed,
"Son of a bitch!"
He stormed furiously around
the common room, his bath robe flapping behind him, and Violet almost
giggled at the resemblance to Snape's angry stride and billowing
robes. Then he stopped short in front of Millicent and demanded, "How did
they do it? They couldn't have sent a runner all the way from our dungeon
to Gryffindor tower."
Violet gasped as a memory
popped into her head. "I saw Ron!" she cried. "Ron Weasley! Right after
Marybeth and Snape left his office headed for the common room. He was in
the first corridor after Snape's office with a scarf in his hand!"
Malfoy stared at her. Then he
turned his chair around again and collapsed back into it, nodding, as the
other Slytherins sat down, too. "A signal," he realized. "He passed the
signal from corridor to corridor until it reached the closest floo
fireplace to Snape's office."
"The kitchen," Goyle
remembered from their hallway adventure during the siege. "Grand domain
of Dobby the house elf."
"Who would do anything for
Harry Potter," Malfoy concluded.
realized. "That's why we didn't have a fire that morning!"
The Slytherins fell silent and
Malfoy looked them over. "So what do we do now?" he finally asked.
Violet spoke up
tentatively. "I'd rather Snape not know I was by myself in an alcove that
morning," she said softly.
"It wouldn't matter,
Violet," Malfoy pointed out, "it would just be your word against
"What about Dobby?" Goyle
suggested. Malfoy nodded. "Good point," he mused. "Dobby wants Harry
safe. Potter must not have told him what he wanted from Snape's
office." He thought it over and shook his head. "No, he
concluded. "Dobby wouldn't back us up. He'd just go plead with Harry not
to do anything foolish."
They sat in silence a while
longer until Malfoy chuckled. "Potter," he berated the traitorous
Gryffindor ruefully with a shake of his head, "I taught you everything you
know about counterintelligence!"
"Good move," Goyle
murmured. Marybeth and Pansy laughed but Millicent folded her arms
resolutely across her chest.
"I do NOT want Snape thinking
we had anything to do with the creation of that list," she insisted. The
others nodded in agreement. Then Malfoy added, "But what else do we
want? Do we want to get the Gryffindors in trouble?"
squeaked. Malfoy scowled at her. "Violet," he scolded, "whenever you
find yourself hesitating to tattle, ask yourself who or what you're really
protecting with your silence."
"We're not getting the
Gryffindors in trouble," Millicent argued. "We're saving them from
"But," Tracey added
doubtfully, "it would be at the expense of Severus Snape."
"Aye," said Malfoy, leaning
back to lace his fingers behind his head as he stretched his legs, resting
his feet on top of a coffee table. "There's the rub. To expose the
Gryffindors, we have to tell Snape about their allegations of cowardice
The Slytherins fell
silent. Violet waited as long as she could stand it and then whispered,
"We're not disloyal or cowardly, are we?"
"You mean, is Snape?" Malfoy
accused. He sat up again, folding his arms across his chest.
"Violet, Snape would love the
glory of rescuing children from Death Eaters. Don't you think he's dying
to go? You need to remember that there are 7 'Slytherins' out there and
52 here!" He poked her sharply in the knee to emphasize his point
and Violet flinched as Malfoy added, "And don't forget the Gryffindors,
the Hufflepuffs, and the Ravenclaws, and the teachers, not to mention the
whole bloody wizarding world if anything should happen to prevent Severus
Snape from fighting in the final..." He cut himself short, took a deep
breath and pulled himself together. Then he added softly, "He's not the
Good Shepherd, Violet," before turning to Marybeth to ask, "Do YOU think
the seven want rescuing?"
Marybeth shook her head. "My
brother sure didn't," she admitted. "If Snape had come to our house..."
"We know," Malfoy interrupted,
"your brother came to ours."
"And he wasn't the only
one," Crabbe added.
"But doesn't that just
prove," Goyle began tentatively as he worked it out in his head, "that it
will be our fault if the Gryffindors sneak away because we didn't warn
anybody what they were planning?"
"Oh!" Millicent cried. She
threw both hands over her mouth in horror and nearly screamed from behind
them. "Oh my gosh!"
"What?" Malfoy demanded.
Millicent took her hands away
from her mouth and nodded somberly at them. "They already did," she
The Slytherins stared at her,
completely baffled, and Millicent gestured wildly as she
explained. "Tuesday night!" she insisted. "They weren't going to
Several mouths fell open as
Millicent continued. "Their head of house and headmaster were away. It
was the perfect time to sneak out for a rescue. And then... and
then!..." She rose to her feet in excitement. "You told them there were
hundreds of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade!" she shouted, pointing at
Malfoy. "And then someone pulled Potter away from the fire! That must
have been what convinced them to go! They thought every Death Eater in
existence was in Hogsmeade..."
"..and only the innocent were
at home," Malfoy concluded.
The Slytherins were
speechless. Then Malfoy stood up and announced, "I'll get dressed and
tell Snape so we can go to breakfast." He turned disdainfully to
Crabbe. "Or can you wait until lunch so we can practice in here this
"I'll fall off my broom if I
don't get something to eat," Crabbe promised him.
"Fine," Malfoy snapped as he headed
for his cell. "With any luck, Snape and the rest of the staff will spend
the entire day beating hell out of the Gryffindors and we'll get to
When the Slytherins arrived in
the Great Hall for breakfast, they found the Gryffindor table completely
empty, as was Professor McGonagall's place at the head table. Snape and
Dumbledore were present, and while the headmaster looked a bit woebegone,
Snape seemed as oblivious as he had Wednesday morning, except this time he
was reading a potions periodical as he sipped his tea. He had listened to
Malfoy's report with the same carefully guarded expression he displayed
now, telling Malfoy only that he was well-pleased with the Slytherins'
conduct and most relieved they had not been up to anything foolish.
Shortly before 9am, the
Gryffindors entered the hall together, something they rarely did. As they
marched to their table, their faces reflected an assortment of
emotions... anger, defiance, fury, desolation. Professor McGonagall
marched in behind them, her eyes bright, two spots of color high on her
cheeks. She refused to meet Dumbledore's eyes as she sat down. Snape did
not look up from his magazine.
When everybody was seated,
Malfoy glanced at his watch. "McGonagall must have raked them over the
coals for a solid half hour," he whispered to Goyle.
"Do you think they
confessed?" Goyle whispered back. Malfoy shook his head. He was just
about to speculate further when Violet piped up, "Where are the post
Annoyed by the interruption,
Malfoy glanced briefly at the empty high windows and reminded her,
"Violet, you never get any mail," before returning to his conversation
The question was answered
shortly after they returned to their common room as Snape arrived with two
announcements, one welcome, the other quite strange. First he told them
that the security precaution initiated after the attack on Hogsmeade had
been lifted and he would no longer be sleeping in their common
room. Malfoy almost whimpered with delight.
"Next I must inform you," he
said evenly, "that beginning immediately, there will be no outgoing owl
post or any other form of outgoing communication from students to their
parents or anyone else beyond the walls of Hogwarts until further notice."
Every pair of eyes upon him
popped open wide. "This is not a punishment," he assured his
students. "It is a security measure." He went on to explain that
incoming owls would be directed to the headmaster's office where the mail
would be collected and sorted for delivery by the staff. "Student and
school owls," he informed the Slytherins, "have been removed from the
Owlery by Hagrid, who will care for them as long as necessary."
He dismissed them and
departed, and Violet turned immediately to Malfoy. "Is this a
punishment?" she demanded.
Malfoy shook his head. "Snape
is hardly one to spare the rod," he reminded her. "If it were a
punishment, he'd say it was a punishment."
Still, it was all very
confusing, and Malfoy was tempted to retreat to his cell for a good long
think. Instead, he ordered his quidditch team to fetch their brooms and
drilled them mercilessly for the rest of the morning.
At lunch time, the other three
houses were abuzz about the owls. Everyone except the Slytherins seemed
convinced it was an attempt to force a confession about the parchment, and
they seethed over what they perceived to be a gross violation of their
rights. Only Hermione Granger sat still and quiet, and Malfoy peered
intently at her, wishing he could read her mind. Since he couldn't, he
leaned over to Millicent and whispered, "Come to my cell after lunch."
Millicent arrived with a
delighted smile on her face. "I gave Pansy her quidditch instructions,
she can't wait!" Lost in thought, Malfoy did not respond, so Millicent
just propped his desk chair in front of the open door, which Snape
required for co-ed visits, and then plopped down on the opposite end of
his bunk. "What's up?" she wondered.
"I don't know," Malfoy
admitted, "but I bet together we can figure it out."
That night after dinner, he
and Millicent stood before Snape with sorrowful but determined
expressions. "We want you to know," Malfoy insisted, "that we really
enjoyed ratting out Gryffindor this morning, and we wish we could do the
same thing now."
"Or at least," Millicent
added, "we wish this didn't have to be about Slytherin parents. But..."
"We think it's the
Parkinsons," Malfoy finished for her.
They waited anxiously for
Snape's response but he just stared at them as if expecting more. "I beg
your pardon?" he finally replied.
"We think the Parkinsons are
the ones you're looking for, the ones who led Professor Dumbledore to
restrict the use of owls."
Snape said nothing but merely
gestured for them to sit. When they were settled, he murmured,
Millicent held up two
fingers. "We added two things together," she explained. "One, you said
the attack on Hogsmeade was feeble."
"Two," Malfoy interjected,
"you told us about the owls shortly after I told you about the
Gryffindors." Millicent nodded. "Cleary," he finished, "the staff
believe the attack on Hogsmead was a diversion, a ruse to lure Harry
Potter out of the castle. That's why the Death Eaters disappeared the
moment they saw you with Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall. Knowing
you were away, they were probably off to chase after Potter and the
"But how," Millicent
speculated slyly," could Voldemort know that Harry Potter was looking for
a chance to rescue seven former Slytherins?" She leaned forward, resting
both arms on Snape's desk as she summed up. "Every student in school was
in our house the night of the argument. Any one of them could have
written home about it." She leaned back again and folded her arms across
her chest. "Someone at this school has Death Eaters for parents and
doesn't know it."
Snape sat quietly for a
moment, digesting all they'd said, and Malfoy thought he saw the tiniest
gleam of pride in those deep black eyes. But all he said was, "Why the
"It was something Pansy said
on the train the first day of school," Malfoy explained. "She said her
parents were very glad she was heading back to Hogwarts."
Snape made no response and his
students exchanged uncertain looks. Then Millicent tried to explain it to
him. "They must have been glad because they were having a hard time
concealing their true identities from her."
Snape pressed his lips
together, clearly concealing a smile. "Many parents," he told his
students gently, "are pleased to see their children return to school each
fall. Nevertheless..." He smiled at each of them in turn. "I am very
impressed with your efforts and will most certainly mention your theory to
Then it was his turn to lean
forward on his desk. His tone grew somber and rather urgent. "You, on
the other hand, must not mention this to anyone. Do you understand that?"
The Slytherins nodded. "It
would be a disaster if every kid at Hogwarts started worrying that his
parents were Death Eaters," Millicent acknowledged.
"Or..." Malfoy began, then
hesitated. Snape nodded at him, so he continued. "I suppose it could be
one of us."
Snape nodded again. "Your
classmates from the other houses are rather quick to suspect their fellow
students," he reminded them, and the Slytherins murmured in agreement,
remembering all the times in the past that students had turned on someone
unfairly. There was just one more thing they didn't understand.
"Sir," Malfoy asked
hesitantly, "is Potter really that... important?"
Snape stared at each of them
for a long time. Then he said simply, "Yes."
The three Slytherins sat there
for a long time, considering how they felt about that. Then Malfoy looked
up and asked, "Are you going to tell him?"
Snape turned green with horror
and Malfoy laughed out loud. "No, sir!" he assured his housemaster as he
struggled to get his laughter under control, "not how great he is! Is
anyone going to tell him that Voldemort used his concern about the
dearly departed..." Millicent giggled at the phrase. "...to try
lure him into a confrontation?"
Snape's face twitched with
wrath and Malfoy was relieved to finally see a flash of anger towards the
Gryffindors. He'd been starting to suspect that Snape might be consuming
too much Draught of Peace lately.
"Yes, that would be
vital," Snape murmured acidly, "since the Dark Lord has never used
deception to try and lure Potter into a confrontation before." Malfoy and
Millicent beamed at Snape's growing fury. "I'm sure once the boy
understands that," their housemaster continued with a snarl, "he will
never assume he knows best and thereby put the lives of others at risk
Malfoy and Millicent beamed at this
fierce display of sarcasm. As they rose to go, Draco added
sympathetically, "Sucks to be you, sir."