"I don't think the corridors
are that cold, Malfoy," Harry Potter mocked as he leaned against
the doorway of the cell where Draco was tying his dashing new cloak around
his neck. The blonde Slytherin gave Harry a sly glance over his shoulder.
"Git," he pronounced.
Harry plopped down on Malfoy's bunk,
looking appreciatively around the spacious cell. "Nice room!" he
"No date?" Malfoy asked him.
"No time," Harry
shrugged. "The Gryffindors only decided we were going last night. Like
most everybody else."
The Christmas dance was an all
or nothing affair. Because the staff were hosting and therefore
unavailable to stroll the corridors providing the extra security required
these days, each house had to choose between attending or remaining in its
common room all evening.
Malfoy dropped onto the
opposite end of the bed. "All better, then?" he smirked at his peer.
Harry shrugged again. "I can't
speak for the other houses," he admitted. "But the Gryffindors and
McGonagall... we had a nice talk."
Malfoy gazed at him through
narrowed eyes. "They love you, you know," he told Harry almost
accusingly. "Dumbledore and McGonagall." He watched for Harry's
reaction, then added, "The way I can tell is, they sure don't love us."
Harry folded his arms across
his chest. "Unlike Snape," he retorted, "who loves everybody the same."
"Snape's compensating," Malfoy
reminded Harry as he climbed off the bunk to comb his hair in the mirror.
"So are Dumbledore and
McGonagall," Harry shot back.
Malfoy turned to him with a
frown. "No, I meant for..." He broke off with a shake of his head and
returned to his grooming. "Never mind," he decided. "Pointless."
Harry watched him for a
while. Then he asked softly, "We're never going to be friends, are we?"
The question took Malfoy by
surprise. His stopped the downward sweep of his comb an inch above his
ear as he stared at himself in the mirror. Why would Potter ask him such
a thing? He had plenty of friends.
Malfoy put the comb down on top of his
bureau and plucked at its teeth as he contemplated a response. Was it
lonely, being a Gryffindor? Maybe it's just lonely being Harry
Potter, he mused. It occurred to him that even the best of Harry's
friends could be selfish and disloyal except for Granger, whom Potter
would never fully appreciate because she was a girl. Too bad,
Draco thought. If he wants an equal for a confidant, she's his best
bet. We'll never be more than colleagues because... Because
what? Because Slytherins were as comfortable alone as in a
group? Because they found more integrity in accuracy than
agreeableness? Malfoy nodded to himself. Because our values don't
match, he realized. He turned straightforwardly to Harry.
"No, Gryffindor," he
admitted. "We'll never be friends." Then he smiled. "But you can enter
the Great Hall in my company anyway."
"No date?" Harry smirked.
"Where's the fun in
that?" Malfoy drawled. And with one last check of his reflection, he
swept his new cloak dramatically over his shoulder and set off for the
dance alongside the sweet prince of Hogwarts.
Snape stared at the bottle on
the counter before him and contemplated climbing inside of it. A
bright-eyed, nauseatingly cheerful Minerva had brought the offering of
Ogden's Old Firewhisky, bedecked with a large scarlet ribbon, shortly
after he'd returned from opening gifts with the Slytherins that
morning. She'd banged it down on the counter, grabbed him by both ears,
kissed him loudly on the forehead, and warned him never to lay a finger on
a Gryffindor again.
The bottle from Dumbledore was
More impressive still was his
present from the orphans of Slytherin, which he wore now as he sat glumly
considering inebriation. He'd tortured them by untying the ribbon on
their gift as slowly and methodically as possible until poor little Violet
was positively bouncing on the tips of her toes in anticipation. Then the
first glimpse of rich green silk had slipped through the wrapping paper
and everyone had gasped.
They'd given him a
Slytherin-green insulated silk dressing gown. "For warm and stylish
inspections," the card had read. Plus there had been the usual compliment
of home-made, snake-themed cards from the rest of his students and the
pile of remembrances from the women of Hogsmeade, which he'd scooped
together for transport to his quarters; no amount of cajoling from the
older boys could persuade him to open them in public.
Yes, he sat literally surrounded by
tokens of affection. And he would be missed if he skipped a dance being
hosted by the staff; his tenacious and intrusive Slytherins would no doubt
come looking for him. It would do no good to have them find him sprawled
in his new robe, face down in a puddle of satin undergarments, chocolate
bonbons, and hand-drawn pictures of serpents.
You had a good run, he
comforted himself. No sense pining.
There were more important
things than being the most popular teacher at Hogwarts.
The atmosphere in the Great Hall was
awkward at best. Chairs lined the four walls and students sat in them by
houses, failing to mingle, much less dance. A house elf band led by Dobby
on the cornet played lethargically from atop the head table platform, and
a few of the staff were waltzing. Snape found a corner to stand in,
folded his arms and assumed a chaperone's glower.
Violet bounded over to him sporting
the green jumper he'd given her last Christmas. "Nobody will dance with
me!" she pouted.
"Neither will I," Snape assured her,
seeing through her ruse immediately.
"But, sir, you..."
"No!" Snape thundered, and Violet
narrowed her eyes to slits like the good snake she was and stomped away.
As the evening wore on, the discomfort
increased. Occasionally a pair of students from the same house would take
to the floor only to flee back to their chairs as soon as the song
ended. The Slytherins seemed to be having a good time, snickering and
jostling each other happily over the unease that filled the hall. They
refused to dance, foregoing the opportunity to show off their skill in
favor of perpetuating the self-consciousness of the other students.
Minerva wandered over to Snape with a
concerned expression. "I don't understand," Snape whispered to her. "Are
they angry with each other now?"
"I don't think so," McGonagall
whispered back. "I think it's embarrassment." She watched the students'
furtive glances at one another and the staff. "Reconciliation can happen
fairly quickly but I suppose fellowship takes more time," she concluded.
Snape glanced beyond her to the hall's
main entrance, then jerked his head in that direction. Two Ravenclaws
were trying to slink away early. Minerva hurried over to corral them and
Snape took advantage of her absence to sneak a peek at the Gryffindors.
They were looking at him. Not all of
them, but several. Then they put their heads together to whisper. They
did this repeatedly throughout the evening.
The dance was scheduled to end at
midnight, but by 10pm, Snape was wondering if Dumbledore shouldn't pack it
in. The same question occurred to Malfoy who wandered over to ask his
housemaster if the Slytherins had fulfilled their social obligations and
might be permitted to retire to the more festive atmosphere of their
common room. Snape's reply was cut short by the sudden approach of a pack
of Gryffindors led by Harry Potter.
"Good evening, Professor," said Harry
"Potter," Snape responded in a
carefully neutral tone.
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets
while the rest of the Gryffindors folded their arms across their chests
and regarded Snape with serious, purposeful expressions.
"A bunch of us have been
talking," Harry explained, "and we think the ability to cast defensive
charms from a speeding broom might come in very handy some day."
Snape raised an eyebrow and said
"I'm sure, as a teacher," Harry added
quickly, "you're worried that practicing such a thing would be terribly
Snape bit back a snide response to
that understatement and limited himself to an earnest, "Nice to see you
considering other points of view, Potter."
Harry forced himself not to roll his
eyes. Instead, he looked Snape straight in the eye and said, "We wanted
to ask if you would consider supervising some practice sessions during the
break. You see..." He glanced at the students on either side of him and
finished, "There's no one we trust more to keep a student safely on a
Snape's heart swelled so hard he felt
stupid. Responses rushed through his head. I'm sorry I didn't speak
up sooner. I promise to listen if you ever need someone to talk to. I
think you're becoming an admirable young man. "I'd be honored," he
told the Gryffindors. And he held out his hand. After a startled moment,
Harry shook it. Then, quick like little bunnies and with mischievous
smiles to boot, the other Gryffindors thrust their hands out so Snape
would have to shake those, too, which he did with a scowl they found
The Gryffindors headed back to their
seats just as McGonagall returned from another corridor round-up. Snape
glanced aside to avoid her eyes and found Malfoy still standing beside
him, a small smile on his face. But instead of asking again if the
Slytherins could leave, Draco slipped quickly away and hurried up to the
"Should we ask Albus to call it a
night?" Minerva wondered.
"Not just yet," Snape replied as he
watched Malfoy's movements. The teenager whispered something to Dobby
that made the house elf shake his head emphatically, his ears flopping
beneath his Father Christmas hat. Malfoy grabbed the elf by his Weasley
sweater, pulled him close, and drawled in his ear as he pointed to Harry
Potter, then Snape, then Dumbledore. Dobby gulped and nodded and Malfoy
hopped down from the platform and slipped quickly over to the Slytherins,
rocking on his heels expectantly.
The house elf drummer banged
out a plucky 4/4 tempo on his high-hat cymbal that made everybody
jump. They looked up curiously as the bass player laid down a repetitive
line of three half steps followed by three half steps and a jump.
"That's catchy," Minerva
murmured, unconsciously tapping her foot. "I wonder what it is?"
Snape smiled and said nothing.
The saxophone players put
their horns to their mouths and blew through the first snippet of verse
that teased the beginning of the song. The second time through, they
broke into thirds as the Slytherins climbed nonchalantly to their feet and
began casually swaying a bit to the music. Dobby leaned back and wailed on
a lick so high that mouths and eyes popped open wide except among the
Slytherins, who seemed to be expecting it. They watched with pleasure as
the elf blew himself scarlet, then nodded and clapped appropriately when
he finished. Then, as the band's singers stepped forward, the Slytherins
suddenly raced onto the floor, forming two lines just in time to begin
stepping and hopping, weaving and spinning as the crooners sang, "Down
them stairs, lose them cares, where? Down in Birdland!"
"Whoa!" Ron cried as all of
Hogwarts' citizens stared transfixed at the smooth, light-footed
Slytherins. Their lines moved forward and back and side to side as they
slid and sashayed in elegant, stylish unison.
"Where did they learn
that?" Minerva asked breathlessly, unable to take her eyes off the
captivating spectacle. When Snape made no response, she glanced at him
and found his face decidedly blank. A slow smile of realization crept
over her own countenance, causing Snape to shrug. "I always said you
should have spent more time at the Three Broomsticks," was all he had to
say for himself.
As Dobby broke into a long
solo, the Slytherins abandoned their lines to cut loose in pairs, whirling
and spinning about the floor. Minerva shook her head.
"My, that looks like fun," she
said with a sigh. Snape stared curiously at her for a moment or two, then
leaned close and whispered, "Care to cut a rug?"
Minerva gave a little
gasp. She shook her head emphatically, smiling and blushing. "I don't
know how!" she insisted.
"You don't have
to," Snape assured her. Then, as the band broke into the bridge, he took
her in his arms and swept her onto the floor.
The Slytherins immediately
retreated to the side lines and the citizens of Hogwarts formed a circle
to gawk. Snape spun Minerva this way and that, his strong hands twirling
and lifting and dipping her with such delightful skill that she found
herself thinking, This must be how the women of Hogsmeade feel. As
Dobby built the bridge to feverish climax with escalating high notes,
Snape grasped Minerva firmly by the waist and flipped her so high over his
shoulder she seemed to hang in mid-air before swooping back to the floor
in an arc that gave the on-lookers a brief glimpse of her tartan
bloomers. "Oh!" she cried in delight as the party-goers burst into
applause. Then the Slytherins spilled back onto the floor, lining up on
either side of the two heads of house, and as the band broke into the
final rousing repetitions of the chorus, Snape showed her how to step and
lean, shuffle and slide in a fluid, intoxicating jazz line dance.
The students watched them
enviously. There was something almost taunting about the fun the
Slytherins were having. The Gryffindors looked at each other, then at the
Hufflepuffs, who shook their heads and turned to the Ravenclaws. The band
played louder as the dancers stepped wider and spun harder. The
Ravenclaws turned to Dumbledore and the staff. Several students began to
bounce with eagerness and frustration. Then Neville Longbottom cried, "If
the Slytherins can do it, I can do it!" and charged onto the floor.
The rest of Hogwarts followed him en
masse, quickly forming lines that filled the Great Hall as they laughed
and giggled, spun and twirled and slid. The band played on and on, the
chorus of "Birdland" echoing throughout the corridors as the joyous
students and teachers danced.
Together, they fairly rocked the
An Obedient House