The Problem with Pansy
"I wish they wouldn't do
that," Minerva whispered as she sat bundled up on the last Friday evening
in January watching the Gryffindors and Slytherins practice quidditch.
Actually, they were practicing swinging one-handed around their broom
handles like trapeze artists while they fired flipendo charms that knocked
the quaffle back and forth in a spirited game of Slythedor dodge ball.
The stunt made Professor McGonagall extremely nervous even though she'd
forbidden the students to practice it from a height of more than 12 feet.
"They're fine," Snape muttered
just before Malfoy executed a triple spin that broke his grip and sent him
flying on his arse in the snow. His broom made a bee-line for the stands
and Violet, who was running back and forth several feet behind Snape and
McGonagall, ducked just in time.
"Malfoy!" she protested.
"Accio broom," he drawled lazily
as Snape glanced briefly at Violet over his shoulder.
"Miss Guilford, stay where I can
What am I, five years old?
Violet wondered to herself.
"Acquiescing immediately, sir,"
she called out and skipped quickly down to sit several rows in front of
him. He'd been awfully nice to let her watch practice while she was off
the team, especially since he and McGonagall were woefully vexed that
Dumbledore had refused to allow them to supervise combined practices
Minerva sneaked a quick glance at
Severus who stared dully at the pitch. She couldn't imagine why he looked
so tired. By her reckoning, they had roughly the same workload these
days. They both taught, took care of their houses, and performed guard
duty. Granted, he had the added burden of restructuring his potions
lessons which took more time than being a deputy headmistress. But he'd
never had trouble with a large workload before. Perhaps there's
something going around, she mused. Miss Granger had looked mighty
weary herself for a while, worse than during her third year, in fact, but
she had recovered nicely and was now back to normal.
"Severus?" Minerva said gently.
He turned to regard her listlessly and she dropped her voice to a whisper.
"I could wake you if I needed you."
When Violet glanced over her
shoulder to see if Snape was noticing her good behavior, she found him
sound asleep on McGonagall's shoulder.
The next morning at breakfast,
Snape handed Pansy a letter from her parents that reduced her to sobs
moments after she opened it. The little drama queen refused to share the
contents with those around her, preferring to cast several teary-eyed,
wobbly-lipped glances at her housemaster between ravenous bites of
scrambled eggs and toast. When Snape finished his breakfast and departed
the hall, Pansy followed him.
A short while later, someone
pounded on Malfoy's cell door so loudly he nearly jumped off his cot.
"Pansy's parents have sent for her," Millicent announced,
bursting in without waiting to be invited. "Dead grandfather. Dumbledore
has arranged for the Hogwarts Express to take her home tomorrow morning."
Malfoy raised his eyebrows only
slightly. "Imagine riding the Hogwarts Express all by yourself!" he
"Don't you think... you don't
She broke off at the sight of
Malfoy's sour expression and then plopped down onto his desk chair,
straddling it in a most unladylike fashion.
"You saw her follow Snape out of
the hall," Malfoy reminded her. "He knows our theory, and he's not an
idiot, even if Dumbledore is." The Slytherins were furious with their
headmaster for working Snape so hard these days; it made their head of
house extremely unapproachable and left him with very little time for
Millicent folded her arms across
the back of the chair and leaned over them, staring pointedly at Malfoy.
"Dumbledore's in charge," she
That gave him pause.
"What if he's decided," the girl
continued, "that it's in everybody's best interests to just let Pansy go
without a fight?"
That's right, Malfoy
thought. In the end, Snape has to yield to Dumbledore. The boy
shook his head vigorously as if to clear it.
"We're leaping to conclusions," he
insisted. "Maybe Pansy's grandfather died!"
"I think we should talk to her."
Malfoy flinched. "If we say a
single thing to Pansy about her precious parents," he insisted, "she'll
pitch a fit and run straight to Snape. I don't fancy six of the best from
a cranky potions master."
Millicent dropped her chin onto
her arms, thinking hard. After a few moments she sat up straight as an
idea lit up her face. "How about this?" she suggested. "I'll talk to
Pansy, but I won't tell her anything. Instead, I'll try to pump her for
information. If she reveals anything that sounds like new evidence, we
can use that as an excuse to approach Snape!"
Pansy had nothing suspicious to
say and by breakfast time in the Great Hall the following morning,
Millicent had pretty much given up on her plan. She promised to help
Pansy pack and then lingered briefly to sneak a few more glances at Snape,
who looked perfectly at ease over his toast and tea.
She returned to her cell a short
while later to discover that Pansy had laid out all the clothes she'd
received for Christmas and several other items as well.
"Pansy," Millicent protested, "how
long are you going to be gone?"
Pansy shook a jumper to fluff it
before packing it. "Oh, just a few days, I'm sure," she replied absently.
"But mum said I should bring home all my favorites for our house elf to
launder. She does the most amazing thing with fragrances and the elves
here make Slytherin clothes smell just like Gryffindor or Hufflepuff,
don't you think?"
But Millicent had fled. In the
common room, Crabbe and Goyle glanced up from their game of exploding snap
to watch her streak across the room and fly down the boys' corridor to
Malfoy's cell. Almost immediately, she re-emerged with Malfoy at her
heels and they raced to the door and out into the corridor.
"Interesting," Goyle murmured.
"Quite," Crabbe agreed.
They rose and sauntered to the
common room door, opening it just wide enough to stick their heads into
the corridor and listen. From down the hall they could hear Malfoy and
Millicent pounding on the doors to Snape's office and quarters crying,
"Professor Snape, Professor Snape!" Then they watched as their housemates
tore past them on their way out of the dungeon.
"Excuse me," said a prissy voice
from behind them, and they stood aside to let Pansy depart, watching her
march down the corridor and disappear from sight. Then Goyle turned
casually to Crabbe and inquired,
"Fancy a walk?"
"Yes, that would be lovely."
Millicent and Malfoy tried every
place they could think of, beginning with the Great Hall and the staff
room. They screamed "Professor Snape!" over and over as they raced
through the castle but they could not find their housemaster anywhere.
They hurried back to check the Great Hall once more and as they burst
inside, Millicent grabbed Malfoy's arm so hard she dug her fingernails
into his flesh. He followed her gaze to the nearest window and saw Pansy
climbing into a carriage that waited by the castle's front doors.
Malfoy gazed desperately around
the hall. It was full of students finishing a late breakfast or playing
games at the long tables. Finally he spotted someone who could help them
and cried out, "Potter!"
A short while later, he and
Millicent were running to Hogsmeade as fast as they could, side by side
beneath Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.
"I wish we'd had more time to
think this through," Millicent huffed.
"I wish this cloak were bigger,"
Malfoy puffed, thinking how nice it would have been to bring Crabbe and
The carriage was still at the
station when they arrived and Malfoy put a finger to his lips, then jerked
his head towards the station house. They slipped quickly inside, keeping
an eye on Pansy as she watched for the train on the platform next the
"We have to wait until the
carriage leaves," Malfoy whispered. "Otherwise, Pansy might go back to
school to tell Snape."
"So?" Millicent hissed back.
"Snape won't punish us when he hears about the clothes."
"I want her to go!" Malfoy
insisted. "She can do a little spying!" Millicent glared at him and
Malfoy shrugged. "I want my owl back," he admitted. Millicent turned
away with a sniff and they panted quietly for a few moments, catching
their breath. The heat and heavy breathing reminded her of something and
she turned back to Malfoy with a grin.
"Remember the last time we were
this close and steamy?"
Malfoy grinned back. "I remember
we wound up even warmer," he nodded.
The words had barely left his lips
when two powerful arms closed around them from behind, squeezing them
tightly together and pinning their arms to their sides. Someone they
couldn't see clamped his hands solidly over their mouths. They squirmed
and struggled as they were lifted off their feet and hustled inside the
nearest lavatory. Then their abductor put them firmly back down and there
was a snapping sound just before the cloak was yanked from their heads.
They spun around to find themselves standing before a furiously
tight-lipped Severus Snape.
Their housemaster let them tremble
before him for a few moments as their minds raced to catch up. Of
course! Malfoy realized. Mr. Invisible can go with her! But
that would be awfully dangerous, he knew, and he wondered if it had been
Dumbledore's idea. It took a great deal of energy to remain invisible;
most wizards required short breaks at regular intervals. What if Snape
got caught resting up in a linen closet or something?
"We tried to find you, sir,"
Millicent blurted out and went on to explain about Pansy's packing.
Snape's anger abated and he nodded briefly as Millicent asked, "Are you
going with her, sir? Secretly? That's a great idea!"
Nice to know Miss Guilford can
keep things to herself, Snape thought. "Back to Hogwarts," he ordered
his students. "Immediately!"
He handed Malfoy the cloak as
Millicent asked, "How long will you be gone, sir?"
"I'm not sure," Snape admitted.
"Behave yourselves, and help the Baron keep order."
Malfoy flipped the cloak around
his and Millicent's shoulders. Before covering his head, he asked Snape,
"Can we ride back in the carriage, sir? It will be quicker... and safer!"
Snape frowned. He slipped the
lavatory door open a crack and peeked outside, confirming that the
carriage was still waiting.
"Why hasn't it returned to
school?" he wondered.
"Perhaps Professor Dumbledore told
the thestrals to wait until you and Pansy were safely aboard the train,
sir," said an invisible Millicent beside him. Snape continued to frown,
but then the train whistle blew in the distance. "Hurry up!" he snapped
at his indiscernible students, quickly disappearing himself. He groped
about until he found Millicent's arm and then led the two teenagers to the
carriage, keeping them behind him until he could open the door and check
to see that it was empty. He hissed a quick, "All right!" in their
general direction and then hurried away towards Pansy.
Millicent and Malfoy climbed
awkwardly into the carriage, moving slowly and carefully to be sure they
didn't reveal any limbs or jiggle the coach lest Pansy discover she wasn't
alone at the station. But she was looking in the opposite direction,
watching the Hogwarts Express pull into view. The duo plopped down
simultaneously onto the seat and Millicent let out a scream loud enough to
curdle the blood.
Somebody was already sitting
Pansy whirled around at the sound
of the scream and then jumped as Snape suddenly appeared beside her.
"Stay here!" he commanded, and she watched him race back to the carriage
as the train pulled into the station. Out of the corner of her eye, she
glimpsed two more people running and squinted to make out Crabbe and
Goyle, streaking towards the carriage from the trees nearby.
Inside the carriage, Malfoy and
Millicent felt a layer of cloth descend over their heads as they twisted
their necks to look behind them. Through the filmy layers of two
invisibility cloaks they saw they were sitting on the laps of Mr. Montague
and his wife. The couple grasped them tightly, pinning their arms to their
sides just as Snape had while Mrs. Montague glanced frantically out the
carriage window. "Snape's coming back!" she cried, and Mr. Montague
pushed both children to the floor, flung open the door, leaned back on his
seat, and kicked the two youngsters out of the carriage with a mighty
shove from the soles of his shoes.
They fell to the ground, tangled
in the cloaks, and scrambled madly to free themselves. But they had no
time to pull out their wands before the man's voice called, "Avada..."
"EXPELLIARMUS!" cried two younger
voices in stereo. Crabbe and Goyle had arrived just in time, but their
choice of spells left something to be desired. The Montagues' wands flew
from their hands, then bounced off the carriage walls right back onto the
seat beside them where they were quickly retrieved. By then, however,
Snape had arrived and Millicent and Malfoy had scrambled to their feet. A
deafening triple "STUPEFY!" rendered the Montagues temporarily harmless.
Pansy watched all of this with her
mouth open, glued to the spot where Snape had ordered her to stay. Then a
squeal behind her signaled the opening of a train door and she spun around
just in time to see her parents climb down to the platform. "Mum!" she
cried, and as they gazed beyond her to the figures near the carriage, she
rushed to the safety of their arms.
"Pansy, NO!" Snape shouted. But
it was too late. The Parkinsons snatched their daughter and held her
firmly between them, putting both wands to her throat.
"Release them!" was all they said
Snape hesitated. He knew he didn't
have much time. He kept his wand trained on the Montagues and stared
intensely at Pansy's face. What was it he saw there, he wondered. Was
it despair? Shock? Anger? Please, God, he thought desperately,
let it be anger. Keeping eye contact with the girl, he raised his
empty hand and snapped his fingers as loudly as he could. His students
jumped... all of them except Pansy.
"Miss Bulstrode," Snape began
quietly, never taking his eyes off Pansy's face, "Malfoy, train your wands
on the Parkinsons." His students shifted their aim immediately. "Crabbe,
Goyle, ready on the Montagues." Crabbe and Goyle moved closer to the
carriage. Snape rubbed the fingers of his empty hand together, staring at
Pansy as hard as he could. "Finite..." he began, not even looking at the
Pansy flung herself to the ground
as Millicent, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle screamed, "Stupefy!" The
Parkinsons froze but Crabbe's and Goyle's spells merely bounced around an
empty carriage burning holes in the upholstery. The Montagues had
disapparated the moment Snape released them.
Dumbledore dismissed him to check
on Pansy in the infirmary after completing an interrogation of the
Parkinsons under veritaserum. Neither wizard believed their story that
the Montagues simply wanted to coerce Marybeth into coming back home with
the imperius curse. But they couldn't decide whether the Parkinsons had
developed a resistance to veritaserum or simply didn't know Voldemort's
"Why did they need my
parents?" Pansy pouted as she sat up against the pillows on her cot
waiting for Madam Pomfrey to return.
"Your parents were going
to bring them all the way to the front door of the castle," Snape
explained, "by bringing you back to Hogwarts to pay a courtesy call on
Professor Dumbledore. They were going to tell him they needed you to stay
home for several weeks to keep your grandmother company until she adjusted
to the loss of her husband."
"Is my grandfather
Madam Pomfrey returned to
bandage Pansy's pretty nose, the only part of her body that had been
injured during the skirmish.
"There you are, my dear," she
smiled, giving Pansy a comforting pat. "You'll look as good as new by
"Then I'm staying here until
morning," the prissy-butt insisted, and Snape smiled in spite of himself.
Madam Pomfrey rolled her eyes and marched away to give them some privacy.
"Millicent was here," Pansy told
"Did she say how Crabbe and Goyle
got to Hogsmeade?"
"They told Mr. Filch that
Professor McGonagall wanted them to clean the guard duty hut for
detention. Then they body-bound him and used the devices in the hut to
scout out a safe path to town."
It'll cost me a bottle of
firewhiskey to get out of flogging them, Snape thought.
"She also said," Pansy went on,
"that Marybeth is frightened to death her parents are going to try it
Snape frowned at that, then
noticed Pansy was staring expectantly at him. "I'll speak to Miss
Montague," he promised.
"And what will you tell her, sir?"
Pansy asked sharply. "That they could care less about their daughter?
That they probably had far more sinister intentions?"
Snape stared at the child, unsure
how to respond. Pansy stared right back, then suddenly looked away,
"I've been trying to tell myself,"
she began softly, "that maybe they're not so far gone. Maybe they
wouldn't have killed me." She nodded to herself as she continued. "They
were just an easy target for the Montagues because they adore their
daughter. Don't you think?"
She raised hopeful eyes to her
housemaster and he nodded at her. "That seems reasonable," he agreed,
greatly relieved by the shift in her thinking. But suddenly her eyes
"Then why did you let the
Montagues go?" she demanded in a whisper.
Snape froze, caught in her trap.
He considered proffering an excuse but decided against it. Instead, he
leaned back against the footboard of Pansy's cot and folded his arms
across his chest.
"It occurs to me," he murmured
silkily, "that you've made remarkably few trips across my desk for a child
so spoiled." Pansy bounced her eyebrows at him in a dead-on imitation of
Malfoy and Snape nearly laughed out loud. "Miss Parkinson," he declared,
rising to his feet, "I think your housemates and I have underestimated
"Well, I certainly don't intend to
come out of this situation empty-handed," Pansy snorted, reaching behind
her to fluff her pillows.
"What did you have in mind?" Snape
Pansy tilted her head to smile at
him. "A Slytherin-green cloak that hugs me for three seconds every time I
put it on," she replied."
That's right, Snape
thought. Twenty-one. "Done," he promised before whirling around to
march out of the infirmary and track down Argus Filch.
An Obedient House