Stone Cold Faces
It was a whole new world the
Slytherins entered when they emerged from their house Wednesday
morning. Gone were the whispered insinuations of cowardice, the corridor
conversations about violated rights, and the outbreaks of classroom
surliness. Their stone-faced schoolmates traversed the castle in silence,
compelling the Slytherins to refrain from hallway interaction as well; the
first few times they tried to talk amongst themselves, their voices
reverberated embarrassingly loudly through the quiet passageways.
Throughout their shared classes, the
non-Slytherins kept their eyes on their desks, their books, or the object
of study before them, never once raising a hand or making eye contact with
an instructor voluntarily. When called upon, they would lift their chins,
look the instructor right in the eye, and deliver the correct answer with
a terse "Professor" added to the end of every response.
That first day, Malfoy and the older
Slytherins were at a loss for how to conduct themselves and spent most of
the day in passive observation. As they left their first period
N.E.W.T. Transfigurations class, Malfoy whispered to Millicent, "I wish
the second years had Tuesday/Thursday Transfigurations instead of
But Violet and the rest of her
classmates were well-prepared for their lesson with the deputy
headmistress. They sat at their desks with their hands neatly folded
before them and sweet little smiles on their faces. When McGonagall
entered, the entire class chanted in unison, "Good morning, Professor
To her credit, the dignified professor
blinked only once. Then, a few minutes into her lecture on beetle button
reversal, she asked if they had any questions and every single hand shot
into the air. She looked their sober faces over thoughtfully before
settling on Marybeth. Every other student's hand stayed up as she asked
"Professor McGonagall, since Professor
Dumbledore has decided we'll all be staying for Christmas again this year,
would you be willing to give us lessons over the break on how to
transfigure a cane into a really long wet noodle?"
Down came every other hand
simultaneously as the students waited somberly for her answer. Professor
McGonagall kept herself in check for about 5 seconds. Then she burst out
laughing in that high tinkling giggle of hers and every Slytherin smiled
along with her.
The non-Slytherin sullenness continued
throughout lunch and dinner. In the common room that night, Malfoy
beckoned Violet to his side and ordered her to trek once again to
Gryffindor Tower. "Make up some excuse for being there and don't stay
long," he commanded. "Just come back and tell us what they're doing."
It was an hour before Violet
returned. "No one would answer my knock," she explained. "At first I was
afraid they'd finally managed to escape the grounds and were off on
another rescue attempt."
Malfoy shook his head. "I don't think
"Why not?" Violet wondered.
"The heartsick don't rise up
"What do they do?"
Malfoy thought it over. "Doubt," he
replied. "Submit," he added after a bit.
Violet frowned. Then she gave a
little shake of her head and continued with her story. "Hermione finally
came back from a trip to the library and I found out that nobody's in the
common room. That's why they didn't hear me knocking. Everybody's in
their dorms instead."
"Was McGonagall there?" Malfoy asked
"By herself?" Violet scoffed.
Malfoy smiled a bit. "No," he
murmured. "I guess not."
Things continued in much the same vein
until sixth year N.E.W.T Potions class Thursday morning after
breakfast. As soon as the cauldrons were simmering, Harry Potter stuck
his hand in the air.
"What is it, Potter?" Snape called
dismissively as he inspected Susan Bones' cauldron.
"Professor Snape, why doesn't the
Ministry fund more research into the use of potions in combating dark
Malfoy was so startled by this inquiry
he nearly knocked over his cauldron. He turned to exchange shocked looks
with Millicent, then spun back to gape at Harry only to find the
Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs all staring eagerly at Snape.
The potions master was equally
perplexed by their sudden interest in his opinion. But after a few
moments' hesitation, he folded his arms across his chest, tilted his head
slightly, and made his way slowly to the front of the room, musing as he
"If you're questioning the ministry's
commitment, Potter, I can hardly say I blame you," he began
thoughtfully. "I might even go so far as to say that, for some, Ministry
work is a more legal and covert way to pursue the same sort of power that
so captivates the Dark Lord." Snape leaned against the front of his desk
and crossed his legs. "That being said, there are three primary drawbacks
to the use of potions in crime-fighting. One, their behavioral effects
are usually temporary. Two, their physical effects can be permanently
damaging. And three, their forced use constitutes a violation of rights."
Hannah Abbott raised her hand. When
Snape nodded at her, she asked, "But, sir, couldn't veritaserum be offered
voluntarily so the innocent would have a chance to clear themselves?"
Several students actually rocked
forward on their toes to better hear his response. Snape gazed around the
room at their engrossed expressions. Then he commanded, "Sit," and they
grabbed their stools and pulled them as close as they could without
completely abandoning their stations.
Snape turned briefly to Draco. "Watch
the clock, Malfoy," he muttered, "and remind us when brewing time is
Hmph, Malfoy thought.
Snape turned back to the others. "Do
me the courtesy of being honest," he began smoothly. "How many of you
thought Potter was the Heir of Slytherin during your second year?"
After a startled moment, nearly all
the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff hands went up, including Hannah's.
"There are many reasons," Snape
continued, "that an innocent prisoner might refuse veritaserum. Impress
me and name a few."
Hermione's hand shot up. Malfoy
scowled and thrust his into the air even harder. "Miss Granger?" Snape
"Well, you just mentioned one,
sir. Maybe veritaserum causes permanent damage of some sort." Her eyes
grew wide as another possibility occurred to her. "We might not know the
full effects of any of the potions we use."
Snape nodded. "Now be even more
clever," he suggested. Malfoy's hand shot up again, more quickly than
before, and Snape nearly laughed at the obvious attempt to outstrip
Granger. "Yes, Malfoy?"
"If the investigation is corrupt, the
potion could be, too," the Slytherin pointed out. "It could be part of a
Snape nodded again and turned to
Hannah. "Now, Miss Abbott. Keeping in mind your confession of a moment
ago, if you read in the Daily Prophet that a prisoner had refused
veritaserum, what would you deduce?"
Hannah had the good grace to
blush. "That he's guilty," she admitted.
"You would not be alone," Snape told
her. He turned back towards the station Harry was sharing with Ron. "The
best use of potions in defense against the dark arts, Mr. Potter," Snape
concluded, "is to strengthen or to heal. Remember that any potion
developed specifically for battle will continue to exist long after the
fight is over."
The discussion continued until the
potions were done simmering but the Slytherins made no more contributions
to the conversation. After class, they gathered in the corridor outside
the classroom door.
"What the hell was that?" Malfoy
demanded. As far as the Slytherins were concerned, the wit and wisdom of
Severus Snape were the exclusive domain of their common room.
"The nerve of some people!" Millicent
huffed, and the Slytherins set off indignantly for their next
On Friday morning, they found
themselves once again sitting through a quiet meal in the Great Hall. The
clink of plates and silverware was almost laughable to any snake who took
the time to notice how much louder it sounded in a conversation-free
room. "It's contagious!" Violet whispered to Marybeth about the
silence. Even the staff were too uncomfortable to speak until Dumbledore
stood up and tapped his goblet for attention.
"If I may interrupt you for just a
moment," he began, and Malfoy chuckled in spite of himself. The students
from other houses were not amused. They stopped eating, setting their
silverware down beside their plates, but none of them turned to face the
"Your teachers and I have decided to
host a bit of a celebration for you this holiday season," Dumbledore
announced. "We would like to invite you to join us for a Christmas
dance." He glanced at Professor McGonagall who was watching the tables
full of students expectantly. "I am pleased to inform you that it will be
a casual affair," Dumbledore added. "You will not have to wear formal
robes but may instead treat us to a display of youthful wizarding fashion
at its finest."
The Slytherins watched their
schoolmates closely. There was absolutely no response to Dumbeldore's
announcement. Malfoy looked to Snape for a cue but found his
housemaster's attention focused squarely on the cup of tea he was silently
Violet sneaked a peek at McGonagall
who was scanning the four student tables with what Violet thought was a
rather hopeful expression. After surveying the hall, McGonagall pressed
her lips together, picked up her fork and returned her attention to her
plate. Watching her, Violet suddenly experienced the most uncomfortable
twinge near her heart. "Ow!" she whispered.
That night, she traipsed once more to
Gryffindor Tower, McGonagall's party-hosting book tucked under her
arm. She paused hopefully at the entrance to their common room only to be
told by a morose Fat Lady that the social area was once again empty. So
she continued on to the deputy-headmistress's office and was not surprised
to find the door open and the room flooded with warm
lamplight. McGonagall sat working at her desk.
"I brought back the book you loaned
Professor Snape," Violet called when McGonagall looked up eagerly in
response to her knock. "I thought you might need it to plan the
dance." She crossed the room to place the book on McGonagall's desk,
smiling at the elderly teacher as she added, "The Slytherins are really
looking forward to it. We like strutting our stuff in public."
"Thank you for returning the
book," McGonagall smiled back at her.
"I hope you don't mind that I kept it
for a couple of days," Violet continued. "I like looking at all the
different goblets. We never had anything but plastic tumblers at the
McGonagall smiled again and invited
her to sit down. "Your friend at the orphanage," she began gently. "I
hope, after your trip, you had a chance to... That is, I'm sure you and
Professor Snape... discussed..."
Violet stiffened a bit and looked
away, searching for a reply that would not reveal Snape's
secret. "Sometimes Professor Snape knows things without being told," she
"No, I meant..." Professor McGonagall
cleared her throat. "Well, it must have been hard for you, losing your
Violet thought back to the letters she
had exchanged with Snape over the summer. A small smile tugged at her
lips. "He always knows what to say, though, doesn't he?" she whispered
"On any occasion," McGonagall agreed
rather tartly, and Violet looked up from her reverie to find the
formidable teacher smiling archly at her. After a startled moment, she
shot back, "Live with the man!" and they both burst into giggles of mutual
"He watches us like a hawk," Violet
complained to her sympathetic listener. "He scolds us every time we turn
around, he spanks at the drop of a hat, he demands an explanation for
everything..." She sucked in a deep breath. "He insists on good manners
and hard work and watching out for each other and he never lets us..."
She broke off suddenly when she
realized McGonagall was no longer smiling at her but staring thoughtfully
at the top of her desk. Violet rose nervously to her feet.
"Well," she muttered sheepishly, "I
suppose all heads of house are like that." She added a quick goodnight
and hurried to the door but then remembered something and turned back.
"Your time turner!" she called from
Professor McGonagall looked up, still
frowning, and Violet told her, "I can start earning you another one right
after Christmas. Until then," she added with mock despair, "Marybeth and
I are toiling exclusively under the tyranny of Master Draco Malfoy to earn
our share of Professor Snape's Christmas present." She leaned back into
the room and gave McGonagall a wink. "Don't let him make us serve his
detention, all right?"
It was fairly late when Minerva
knocked on his office door, but Snape demanded the caller's identity
anyway, to be sure it wasn't a Slytherin. She'd wandered down to the
dungeon on the off chance, realizing he might be sequestered in his
quarters engaged in his usual Friday night activities. Instead, she found
him at his desk, thumbing through a clothing catalog.
"Isn't that a bit colorful for
you?" she teased, glancing quickly at the bright items. Snape shot her a
disgusted glare and she looked again, noting the 'Owl early for delivery
by Christmas' message in the corner of each page. It was a children's
clothing catalog from Agatha's Evergrowing Apparel.
"Oh!" she gasped tenderly. "That's
right! How many children are you raising single-handedly these days,
"Twenty, if you count Miss Rosich and
Miss Montague," he replied wearily. "May I hide these in your tower? The
Slytherins will find them if I try to hide this many gifts in the
Minerva smiled and nodded. "What are
you leaning towards?" she asked eagerly.
Snape slid the catalog under her nose
and pointed to a set of cloaks available in a variety of colors including
a rich Slytherin green. The boy's model had a particularly swashbuckling
cut to it and the girl's. . .
"Read this," Snape said, pointing to
the description under the more feminine garment. "When you first put it
on, it wraps around you and squeezes for three seconds while it warms
Minerva read the catalog and
then raised bright eyes to the potions master. "This is the most darling
thing I've ever seen," she insisted, and she didn't mean the
cloaks. Snape scowled.
"They're orphans, Minerva," he
reminded her as he snatched the catalog back. "Or as good as. If I buy
them a cloak that hugs them, I won't have to do it myself!"
Her smile in response to that
was feeble at best and faded quickly, which did not surprise Snape. After
a moment she said, "Professor Sprout does." Snape frowned at her and she
continued insistently. "She hugs her students. She touches them on the
shoulder, she pats the younger ones' heads..." She waited for Snape to
something and when he didn't, she took a seat across from him and asked
point blank, "Do you think I should do that?"
It was less than two months ago, Snape
realized, that he'd told himself McGonagall would never be interested in
his opinion about children. "Minerva," he sniped impatiently, "if you
want to hug your filthy little Gryffindors, be my guest."
"Do you?" she pressed him, and Snape
looked horrified. "The Slytherins, Severus," she clarified impatiently.
Snape shook his head. "I don't have
to hug them," he insisted. "They hug me. They cry on my neck, they cling
to my waist, they grab my hands. . . You'd think I was raising house
Minerva smiled but her eyes
dimmed and she turned away to gaze out the darkened window. How
sharper than a serpent's tooth, Snape thought as he watched
her. "They're brats, Minerva," he dismissed her concern, "brats going
through a sullen patch. I cannot believe you're letting this bother you."
"Do you know what the problem
is?" she asked lightly. "It's all that time Albus made us spend with them
in the common rooms last year." She smiled a bit sheepishly. "I've
suppose I've grown accustomed to their company."
Snape's insides twisted
uncomfortably at the pain in her voice. Then a memory distracted
him. "One night," he related, "mine were sitting around a table a dozen
feet away, comparing notes on teachers while I read a book. I suppose
they wanted to know if I was listening, and of course I was."
Minerva leaned closer as Snape
continued. "Malfoy sneaked up behind me, stood there for a while, and
then leaned over my shoulder to announce, 'I finished this page five
minutes ago, sir.'" Snape shook his head. "I swear it was just a reflex,
Minerva, but I slammed his head so hard with that book, I had to send for
Madam Pomfrey to enervate him." Minerva burst out laughing. "Do you
suppose Sprout does that?" Snape finished innocently.
They sat a while longer,
swapping stories from the trenches, and Minerva left feeling much cheerier
than when she'd arrived. But Snape knew he hadn't really helped her and
truth be told, he hadn't intended to.
He liked seeing the students
at odds with somebody besides him.
And he wasn't too worried about the
effects of a little Gryffindor hostility on McGonagall and Dumbledore,
After all... they'd never been
too worried about its effects on him.
The best part was, he'd had
nothing to do with the situation. He'd kept himself completely distanced
from the strife until the day they'd insisted he flog a Slytherin in
public, and who could blame him for his conduct after that? It was only a
sin of omission, after all.
He knew he should say
something. In class, while the cauldrons were bubbling and the students
were hanging on his every word, he should tell them that they were out of
line and that Dumbledore and McGonagall were right. But he couldn't. He
was experiencing something new at Hogwarts these days, and he didn't want
it to stop.
The Slytherins had always
adored him, of course, and the Hufflepuffs had become fans after he'd
restored their faith in their house. But now the Ravenclaws and
Gryffindors, who'd felt their intellectual or idealistic sensibilities
thoroughly violated by Violet's punishment, joined the crowd of admirers,
too. They'd been predisposed to admire the man who'd fought off hordes of
intruders while their heads of house lay helpless, who'd made them a lake
during the worst heat wave in Hogwarts history, who'd refrained from
fighting back while they'd protested their seemingly pointless
activities. Now they credited him with vigorously opposing the brutal
spectacle that Sprout and Flitwick had passively observed, and while their
perception of the incident wasn't entirely accurate, he chose not to
disabuse their point of view.
He liked being the most popular
teacher at Hogwarts.
He could remain as cold,
terse, and cutting as he pleased and still be greeted warmly with "Good
morning, Professor Snape," "Good afternoon, Professor Snape," and "Good
evening, Professor Snape," wherever he went. And he adored the rapt
attention the oldest, smartest students paid to his every utterance. He
would be damned if he would risk losing it by trying to explain
McGonagall's and Dumbledore's point of view.
Besides, he reasoned,
McGonagall was a brick. The same stoicism that let her turn a blind eye
all those years ago would see her through now. It better, he
thought to himself as he pondered the many generations of Gryffindors
currently inhabiting the castle. Remorse is not their strong suit.
"Dammit, Violet, you have to
let me lead!" Malfoy snarled for the third time, emphasizing his point
with a good swat this time. Violet blushed with embarrassment and threw
her hands over her face.
"I'm sorry, Malfoy!" she
giggled helplessly. "I'm just no good at this." But Crabbe came to her
rescue, tapping Malfoy on the shoulder with an affected, "Pardon
me," before taking Violet in his arms to whirl her gracefully around the
"Who would have
thought?" Snape smiled to himself from his comfortable repose before the
fire as he watched Vincent "Twinkle-toes" Crabbe spin Violet around the
tree Pansy and Millicent were decorating on this cozy Christmas
Eve. Snape had ventured out into a gentle snowfall to fetch the tree from
the Forbidden Forest after Pansy had insisted she would not spend another
holiday at Hogwarts without a tree in her house, just like she had at
home. Now she smiled adoringly at him as she draped the Slytherins' pet
snakes, charmed to glow in the dark as they crawled through the branches,
on strategic spots throughout the tree.
"Don't pout, Malfoy," Snape
scolded as the disgusted teenager plopped sourly on the floor beside him
to watch Crabbe flip a squealing Violet neatly over his shoulder.
"Yes, don't pout, or we'll
send you to Gryffindor!" Pansy teased.
Pouting wasn't quite the word Snape would have used to describe
the on-going harassment the Gryffindors were inflicting upon Minerva. For
weeks she had born the brunt of their contempt; Dumbledore could retreat
to the sanctity of his office. Besides, he didn't teach. But McGonagall
was a head of house and a deputy headmistress as well as an
instructor; even after classes ended, she endured a hundred cutting snubs
a day. Neither she nor Dumbledore seemed able to figure out what to do
about it. Snape agreed with Millicent when she insisted, "They're all
being so childish, it's hard to remember who are the adults and who are
Speaking of childish,
Snape thought to himself as he eyed the presents under the tree. There
were several for the students who were still on good terms with their
parents, including a dozen for Pansy; Snape suspected the opportunity to
flaunt her parents' adoration was the primary motive behind her desire for
a tree in the common room. But the gift with the biggest, floppiest green
ribbon had his name on it, and it was all he could do to keep his hands
off of it. That reminded him. He had offerings of his own to fetch from
He shoved his hands in his
pockets as he made his way jauntily through the deserted corridors,
whistling "Joy to the World" as he went. All of his students were making
merry in their common room. The rest were stubbornly refraining from all
holiday frolics and were no doubt holed up in their dormitories studying,
which suited him just fine and positively thrilled Filch.
As he passed the portrait of
the Fat Lady on his way to McGonagll's quarters, she called out shrilly,
"Excuse me, Professor Snape. She's not there." Snape stopped short, the
whistled tune dying on his lips, then spun smartly around to return to the
"How do you know I'm not just
out for a stroll?" he smiled, and then almost rolled his eyes at the
realization that he was flirting with a portrait. The Fat Lady sighed.
"She went the other way," the
reubenesque subject told him sadly. "I think she wanted to be alone...
someplace where it wouldn't seem so odd that she was alone."
Snape pondered that a
while. Then he suggested, "Her classroom?" The Fat Lady shrugged and
Snape turned back the way he'd come, whistling, "God Rest Ye Merry,
A few moments later, the
portrait swung open and Harry Potter emerged. "She's not there,
dear," the Fat Lady called as she swung shut, and Harry jumped.
"Who?" he demanded.
"Oh, excuse me, dear. I saw
that item in your hand and hoped it might be a gift for your head of
Harry looked down at the book
he was holding and shook his head. "It belongs to Professor Snape," he
explained. "I was just on my way to return it."
"Well, he's on his way to the
Transfigurations classroom, looking for Professor McGonagall, if that
helps," the Fat Lady told him.
Yeah, Harry thought
with a smile. Yeah, that helps. He would just love thanking
Professor Snape for a favor in front of Professor McGonagall.
Snape had finished with
tidings of comfort and joy and was strolling the deserted classroom
corridors quietly when he spied the half open door to McGonagall's
room. He slowed his pace and began tip-toeing along the wall, relishing
the knowledge that McGonagall was in there and doubtless convinced no one
else was nearby. Delighted by a mental image of how high she would jump,
he sprang silently into the doorway, prepared to shout, "Boo!" What he
saw rendered him speechless.
She was crying.
Snape watched her silently
through the half open door. She was sitting at her desk with one hand
pressed to her forehead. In the other, she clutched a balled up
handkerchief in her fist. Her sobs were shuddery, gasping, ... hopeless.
Her head drooped, as if she
were too weary to hold it up any longer, and that's when it hit Snape like
a ton of bricks.
She was old.
They were all old.
McGonagall, Sprout, Flitwick,
Dumbledore... All of them, charged with this staggering responsibility, to
safeguard these children in a time of war, were old.
Only he was young.
He stepped quietly into the
Minerva looked up, startled,
and fell silent, but the tears continued to course down her cheeks. He
cut her off before she could speak.
"If I promise to be more
helpful in future," he said earnestly, "will you please stop crying?"
The tears only flowed more freely at
that. He came to stand beside her, and when he reached her, she threw her
arms around his waist and buried her face in his abdomen, sobbing
hard. With one strong hand, he hugged her head to his belly. His other
hand he placed reassuringly on her thin, shaking shoulder.
"Oh, Severus!" she cried in
despair. She looked up desperately at him. "What if I fail them?" she
moaned, clutching his robes in her fists. "I can't fail again!" Her eyes
beseeched him for help, for understanding, for mercy. "What if I
fail!?" she cried, plunging her face back into the dark fabric of his
He prayed for something to say,
something about how it wasn't her fault, that they were shallow, callous,
A movement from the doorway caught his
eye. He tore loose from McGonagall's grasp and whirled around to discover
Harry Potter standing there, wide-eyed and silent.
Snape stared at the boy, but the
youngster's eyes were glued to McGonagall. The head of Gryffindor turned
her face quickly away, desperate to conceal her suffering. Snape took a
step between them, as if to shield his colleague, and that's when the
second epiphany struck.
She wasn't some dishonorable foe who
could be expected to look out for herself.
She was a vulnerable, struggling,
idealistic human being who'd been victimized by a pack of superficial,
But this time, he was the
This time, he was
strong. This time, he was respected.
Would he go on turning a blind eye?
Snape took one last look at McGonagall
and then turned to face Harry Potter.
"Not this time," he hissed.
Harry took one look at Snape's face
Snape stormed into the hallway after
the boy, striding powerfully through the corridors as the teenager raced
away ahead him. When he reached the first intersection, Snape stuck his
hand in the air and thundered, "Accio!"
"Professor Snape? We're finished
decorating the tree!" Malfoy called out as he knocked on the door to
Snape's office. When no one answered, he tried the knob and found it
unlocked. He pushed the door open and stuck his head inside, calling,
"You should see our snakes, Millicent's turned them pink, you have to make
Malfoy ducked just in time to avoid
Snape's cane, which flew across the room at him and soared right out the
door. He watched in confusion as it sailed up the corridor. Then, as it
rounded the first corner, he took off after it at a dead run.
He chased it up deserted hallways and
staircases until it suddenly stopped short at the intersection of two
corridors. Malfoy skidded to a halt, hesitated for just a moment, and
then leapt inside the nearest classroom doorway, peeking carefully into
the hall. Sure enough, here came Snape, storming down the cross corridor,
snatching the cane furiously out of thin air without breaking his stride
as he swept through the intersection. Malfoy waited until the robes
billowing behind him disappeared and then took off after him.
"Can I be this lucky?" he wondered
joyously to himself as he sneaked along behind his housemaster. When
Snape turned to mount the steps to Gryffindor Tower, Malfoy fell to his
knees in gratitude. "Yes!" he cried, thrusting his fists triumphantly
into the air. "Yes, YES! Merry Christmas!" Then he jumped to his feet
and scurried to catch up.
The Gryffindors were actually in their
common room when Harry burst through the portrait hole; Hermione had
gathered them together, insisting the prefects make some attempt at
inspiring a little holiday cheer. They looked up in surprise when Harry
crashed into the room and gawked desperately at them, gasping for breath,
his mind racing. "Out!" he shouted. "First, second and third years,
out! Run to your dorms! And hide under the beds!"
"Harry, what's the matter?" Hermione
cried as Harry began shoving the younger students towards the stairways to
their dormitories. He told them what he'd overheard in the
Transfigurations classroom and, after a horrified moment, Hermione began
shoving the younger students out of the room as well, shouting at Ron to
Neville tugged on Harry's sleeve and
pointed to the sixth-year dormitory staircase, where Finnegan was slipping
stealthily away. "Seamus, get back here!" Harry commanded.
"But Harry," his classmate
protested. "I really didn't do anything, and..."
"If there aren't enough of us," Harry
shouted, "Snape will send for the others!"
So Seamus returned just in time to see
Snape storm through the portrait hole. The Gryffindors froze, most of
them plainly terrified as Snape glowered at them with a fury that
surpassed any they'd ever seen. Then he roared.
He only hit each student once, but it
was more than enough. The whipped cubs trembled as Snape thundered, "If
you EVER turn a STONE COLD FACE to her again..."
"We won't!" Harry promised, and the
other Gryffindors echoed him adamantly. "WE WON'T, WE WON'T, WE WON'T!"
Snape gave them one last menacing
scowl before sweeping dramatically from the room. He slammed the portrait
cover shut just as Minerva came scurrying up, wide-eyed and gasping for
breath. "Severus!" she cried, noting with horror the switch in his
hand. "What did you do?"
Snape shed his fury instantly and
assumed an air of calm, bored disdain. "Minerva," he assured her, "I
wouldn't touch your students with a six foot cane."
And as she scrambled frantically
through the portrait hole into a common room full of penitent,
conciliatory Gryffindors, Snape shouldered his willow switch and strolled
When he rounded the first corner, he
found Malfoy leaning against the wall, a sly smile on his face.
"Five and a half?" Malfoy asked.
"Shorter lengths are more efficient
for flogging multiple students," Snape explained.
"Good to know," the boy replied, and
together they walked back to the dungeon.
An Obedient House