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Chapter Twelve: Endgame

Ron hadn't set his alarm, but he awoke fairly early anyway. Last night's events felt like a dream. But Snape's bag and bottles were still in the bathroom, and the Potions Master himself snoring behind a closed door so loudly Ron had heard him in the next room.

He dressed as quietly as he could. Then he noticed a letter on the table next to his clock. He opened it, and it said, If I am not back by the time you read this, go to the emir's room and ask him if he will help you speak to Dumbledore. Do not take any time to pack. Give the rest of this note to the emir. He will be able to read the rest of it. After that came a few lines of snaky-type writing that must be Arabic.

But Snape had come back. Then Ron figured it out. The professor must have forgotten to take the note away last night. He was afraid to think how close Snape came to dying. A good thing that Rafi had found the right stuff! Ron folded the paper up and left it by Snape's door.

He finished getting ready and went to al-Hadoud's room. Rafi was there. "It worked and he's sleeping now," Ron said quietly, in case the emir was awake. "Thanks a lot!"

"That is good," said the servant. "I would offer you breakfast, but the master is still resting. His last games are late in the day, just before the ceremony, and he will rise at noon. I will be glad when he is back in his favorite palace again."

Ron could take a hint. "I'll be here then," he said, and left. He wondered what would make a good present for a genie. Just saying thank you didn't seem like enough.

He had breakfast down in the restaurant, signed for it, and looked around. The tourney floor was full this morning as the adults finished out their schedule. He checked the board, and sighed with relief. Snape didn't have a game till after noon, either. He'd stop by and remind the professor about it before he went to al-Hadoud's room.

Ron was undecided about what to do when the serving boy he'd talked to before beckoned to him and offered to split tips again. He did fairly well and had made several Sickles worth in change, when a too-familiar voice spoke to him.

"It's sad to see a pure-blooded family reduced to this," said Lucius Malfoy, who was playing Gerrit of Germany.

Ron bit back several words he was certain Mum would smack him for.

"Didn't I tell you to go away already?" Gerrit said, looking at him.

"Now, why is that?" Malfoy purred.

"The kid's a bad-luck charm! I've lost two games when he was hanging around, one to the Arab and one to that damn big black raven. And both times this red-headed boy was watching every move."

"Sounds like I should offer him a chair."

Ron began backing away. He didn't want any part of this.

"Please don't go, Mr. Weasley," Malfoy said in a gentler tone of voice. "Trust me, I can make it worth your while." He put a single Galleon on the table.

Ron knew he should get out of here. But he couldn't help realizing that the coin could help him get a proper present for the emir, and not just the cheapest thing on the souvenir table. He nodded, and pulled up a chair. It couldn't hurt to watch, could it?


Molly Weasley had just finished the morning dishes when she heard the family clock tick loudly. She scurried over to it and bit her lip. Ron's hand had just moved from Away to Danger.


Snape finally woke up. His left arm hurt like fury, but only on the shoulder. At least he had feeling there now, and he could move it a little. He picked up the note that the boy had left. I hope he went to the emir's room, he thought. He still wanted to leave for Hogwarts as soon as possible. He felt a momentary pang of regret at the games he would miss, but that wasn't as important as the Weasley boy's safety. The hotel seemed all right, but so had the area for the All-Wizards' Tournament last year before the storm had broken loose. Of course, Malfoy would certainly object to any Death-Eater activity interfering with his personal glory, but Voldemort would have no compunction about staking out anyone as bait, even someone as high in the inner circle as Lucius was.

He changed the bandage, shaved and dressed, and cleaned up the mess in the bathroom. It was just as well that the Weasley boy had not tried, as some of the other items should be handled carefully. Then he picked up the box and the bottle that belonged to Rafi. They were obviously ancient, and likely valuable in themselves. Snape left, then knocked softly on the nearby door.

Rafi opened it. "Greetings," the servant said. "The emir is still resting and cannot see anyone. I fear he could not see you even if he were up."

"I know," Snape said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I only wish to return these, and to inquire after young Mr. Weasley." Naturally they both spoke in Arabic.

Rafi's face changed. "I wondered if he was asking for help for you," he said. "The boy mentioned no names, but it wasn't hard to guess."

"Yes. I commend you on the speed with which you found such rare potions."

"I had to go to a palace the emir no longer uses. Time is different there, you see. I could spend hours looking there if I had to without taking long in the real world. I am amazed you lived long enough for these cures to be of help, though. Only a real alchemist could endure such poison."

"If my students cannot kill me, then I doubt others can manage it," Snape said dryly. "I have one who can make his cauldron explode just by looking at it. But I must thank you. I apologize for not observing the formalities, but is Mr. Weasley here?"

"No. I believe he went downstairs to eat. I wish I could have had him stay, but the emir was not well last night, and is still resting. I will be glad when he has returned to his favorite palace."

Snape knew how some older wizards gained power from a specific place, and understood. "Then I need to find the boy. I must warn you, this hotel may not be as safe as one would wish. Take precautions in case one must depart rapidly." He was saying far too much, but he owed Rafi his life.

"Ah. I shall do so. And there is one minor matter. The emir was concerned about Mr. Weasley at the reception. One does not expect much at his age, but he did not dress perhaps as well as he could have. Could you offer the boy some guidance?"

"He wore the best he had," Snape said, trying to suppress his temper. "The family is poor but very proud. There are seven children to provide for, and a Ministry salary is not always enough."

"His father is a government official and they are poor? He must be an honest man indeed!"

"Yes," Snape said with grudging admiration. "There has never been any question of that." A pity the same couldn't be said of others. Fudge, for instance? "But if Mr. Weasley is not here, then I need to go find him."

"Of course. Was it he who put that charm on you? I can feel its presence."

"Yes. When he used it, I believed it only a child's playground chant, but it worked much better than it should have. If you will forgive my haste, Rafi, I really need to find him." He wanted to chat with the genie as much as it appeared Rafi wanted to see him, but his time was not his own just now.

"I am sorry. I wish I did not have to keep you out in the hall like this," Rafi said. "Perhaps we shall meet again."

"I hope so as well." Snape half-bowed, then walked away. Now that he thought about it, he shouldn't have been able to sleep so well or feel this strong after last night. Mr. Weasley was going to have more sessions with Madam Pomfrey if he had anything to say about it. Then he remembered the boy had done the charm wandless. No wonder the Ministry had never detected it.

He sighed as he headed down the stairs. He certainly didn't approve of how the Weasley boy scrambled for every coin, but under the circumstances he couldn't blame him. He'd felt obliged to tell the boy about the need to get al-Hadoud some kind of gift without thinking how difficult that might be. Well, I hope he picked up enough this morning to manage something, Snape thought. If not, I hope the emir doesn't mind one of Molly Weasley's famous sweaters. Someone his age probably feels the cold even on a warm day anyway.


Ron still didn't know how it had happened. But now he was in the middle of a game that could cost him twenty Galleons if he lost it. Lucius Malfoy was on the other side of the table. I did it to myself, Ron thought. When he offered three to one odds I let my greed get the best of me. What am I going to do if I lose?

Malfoy kept talking at him, which made it hard to concentrate. "I can see how worried you are, boy," he said. "If nothing else, you can always tutor Draco. It's no shame to take a little while to pay off a debt of honor."

Ron sweated with fear and stared at the pieces. How had Malfoy gotten one of his pawns so far up the file already? It was a pretty set, and remarkably well-disciplined. Malfoy was playing white, and those pieces were old-fashioned French ones. The king wore a funny wig, while the queen had wide skirts and poofy hair with lots of ribbons in it. One bishop was a genial-looking man with a walking stick, and the other a stiff-necked looking fellow with a nose almost as big as Snape's. The knights were men on horseback carrying swords, and the rooks were massive towers. The pawns were little soldiers in fancy uniforms.

The black pieces were different, though. The king was a short man whose chin stuck out and whose hand was forever tucked into his coat. The queen was a tall, beautiful lady with flat hair and a long, straight gown, who held roses in her hands. The strange thing was that one of the bishops was the same man with the walking stick that was on the white side, while the second bishop was sour looking, like Snape on a bad day in Potions class. The knights were also men on horseback, but with different hats and uniforms, and the rooks were tall, deadly guillotines. The pawns were little cannons, and there weren't nearly as many of them on the board by now as there should be.

"Why is the one bishop the same on both sides?" he asked. He might as well find out.

"Because that one represents Talleyrand, who managed to convince the King of France, the revolutionaries, the Directory, Napoleon, and the king who came after him that he was loyal only to them."

"Wow. How did he do that?" Ron scanned the board. There had to be a way out of the mess he was in.

"Very carefully," Malfoy said smoothly. "He managed it only because he was loyal to France, which he separated from whoever happened to be its ruler at the time."

Ron couldn't see what to do. He was doomed. I'll be getting Howlers from Mum and Dad till the end of the year.

Malfoy smirked. It was easy to tell where Draco had gotten the expression. Then he moved his lead pawn forward again.

It was so frustrating to have that piece there! He had to pay all his attention to it and none to his regular game.

"Mr. Weasley, would you care to explain what is going on here?"

Ron never thought he'd be glad to hear Snape's voice, but he was now. "Umm...a private game, sir."

Malfoy glanced up at the tall, dark figure standing nearby. Am I imagining it, or is he surprised to see the professor? I wonder how much knows about how Snape got hurt.

Then Malfoy looked at the chessboard again. "This doesn't concern you, Severus. You have a game of your own not too long from now."

"Mr. Weasley is one of my students, Lucius. It annoys me when one of them ignores what he was taught. Speaking of which, boy, how many times have you been told to play the pieces, not the player?"

The acid tongue stung, but Ron didn't mind. For a moment, he ignored Snape and Malfoy flicking snot at each other. He ignored the wrath that poured out of the Potions Master like heat from a fireplace. He ignored everything but the pieces on the board. If I came to this fresh, the way I did to Gerrit's pieces after he was done playing the emir, what would I do? And what if I didn't care so much about winning as making sure Malfoy didn't?

Once he asked those questions, things became clearer. He tried to reach the state of mind he had yesterday against Smerdlov, but couldn't. Well, he'd won at Hogwarts and reached his first draw with Konstantin without it.

You know, Ron thought, I really doubt someone like Lord Malfoy has ever played Filch. He moved a piece forward. Let the slaughter begin.

Malfoy raised one perfect eyebrow not long after. "I thought you were a better player than that. Really, this kind of thing belongs with your schoolmates, not at a tournament like this."

Ron didn't say anything back. He didn't care about looking good right now, as long as some of his enemy's pieces went to the side. Some of the exchanges were not always to his advantage, but several of them were. Then Malfoy decided to copy him, and his queen began hauling off pieces with her shepherdess crook. During one confrontation, Ron used his king to attack when too closely pressed. The piece pulled his hand out of his coat and used the tiny pistol it held to finish off Malfoy's bishop, the big-nosed one.

Then Ron got rid of that horrible pawn in front, even though it cost him a knight. He ran his one remaining bishop (the one with the walking-stick, of course, it was a survivor) up the line till it threatened Malfoy's back row. That made Malfoy drag his queen back. Ron retreated the other direction and knocked off another pawn. Malfoy moved his knight back towards his own side to threaten the bishop. Ron moved up a pawn to support the bishop, then Malfoy thought better of forcing the exchange and moved his queen back out.

By that time one of Ron's rooks was able to join in. Since Malfoy had castled, one of his rooks had been out and around already, but the white king was less mobile because of it. Ron, on the lookout for evil pawn exchanges since he'd met Brentwood from Ravenclaw, ignored the main line of play for a moment and took another white pawn.

Now that really upset his opponent, judging by the way his pale eyebrows went up. In a few short moves white was threatening Ron's back row again. Ron was glad his king could move, since this was beginning to look like his game with Snape back at Hogwarts. In fact, soon he was shuttling the piece back and forth between two different squares, praying for a miracle, when one of the officials wandered by and watched for a moment.

"Looks like a stalemate to me," Snape said in a neutral voice.

The official nodded. Malfoy sighed unhappily and agreed. Ron looked for a moment. No, this was different from the game he'd played with the Potions Master. The moment that Malfoy stopped putting him in check, he would be able to move his bishop and put Malfoy's king into check. And if that happened, Malfoy would have to move his queen in harm's way to block it. Ron had plans for when and if that happened. It was obvious that Malfoy had a good idea where that might lead, too, or he wouldn't have agreed with the official.

Snape glared down at him. "It seems that way to me, too, sir," Ron said.

"Then it's settled," said the Potions Master.

"Here, sir," Ron said, bringing out the gold coin that Malfoy had let him take after agreeing to the game. "You must have dropped this earlier." There were worse things than being poor.

Malfoy grimaced. "Thank you," he said curtly, and stood up.

Snape smiled unpleasantly. "Ready to face a grownup in a bit?"

Ron hastily got out of his chair. Snape looked pale, but his dark eyes glittered.

Malfoy smiled back, just as nastily, and sat down again. "I don't need any rest to play you, Severus. Are you sure you're feeling well enough?"

"Why shouldn't I?" Snape sat down. "I didn't stay out as late as some people I know."

"He wasn't pleased by your absence."

"He won't be pleased to learn that private grudges are interfering with his plans. I may have a few words to say about that the next time."

Ron was terribly afraid he could guess what, and who, they were talking about. Then Snape jerked his chin in his direction and said, "But we have a game to play right now. Other matters can wait."

Malfoy grimaced and picked up two pawns to draw for color. Snape ended up with black.

At first white and black mirrored each other. As Ron watched, he checked the time. Snape is going to miss his second game with Morris, he realized. He might as well get credit for this one, however it turns out. He quickly walked over to the registration table and wrote down Malfoy and Snape in one of the blank brackets reserved for grudge matches.

In just a few moves, Ron saw that both Malfoy and Snape were trying to clear the way for their stronger pieces. Snape quickly got both knights out, the kind of move he preferred himself, while Malfoy had a knight and a bishop, and a diagonal cleared for his queen. It didn't take Snape long to bring his queen out, either. Ron hastily got his tattered notebook out and kept track, though his pencil was only a stub by now.

Tension filled the air. Ron remembered what al-Hadoud had said about some games being played for blood or revenge. The Potions Master leaned forward intently, with a look on his face that would send Longbottom hiding under his desk. Malfoy leaned back with a smile.

Ron was vaguely aware of some other people gathering around the board, but firmly kept his place. It felt as if the two players were communicating with their pieces, the way he and Konstantin had. Judging by the occasional comment, Malfoy and his teacher had played before. But Ron had never felt such fury in Snape before, not even in the Shrieking Shack.

Snape stared at the board for a moment, then slid his bishop down left-handed. Malfoy's eyes widened just a bit. Ron thought that Snape had found out just what he'd wanted to, given the quick glint of satisfaction that showed in his eyes.

Then Malfoy's knight took a black pawn too deep in white's territory. Snape's response was to bring his queen back to safety. Malfoy had a smug look on his face, while the Potions Master grimaced. Ron wasn't so sure that Snape really felt he was in trouble. He probably wants Malfoy to think he is, though.

Malfoy gleefully took Snape's knight, but just as quickly lost his bishop. Ron couldn't think what the point of that exchange had been. Then one of Malfoy's pawns snuck up and threatened Snape's bishop.

Snape quickly took the piece back. Malfoy curled his lip contemptuously, but Ron thought it was the only sensible thing to do. Ron remembered how Abercrombie had taught him what a pair of bishops could do. Maybe Snape remembered him sending Vinnie and Greg out to play back at Hogwarts.

But Ron didn't like the way Malfoy kept moving up his pawns. He recalled their little march from the game he'd just played.

Then both players castled. Ron didn't quite see why, till he noticed how the rooks on either side were now able to reach the center. Ron's heart sank, though. His teacher's pieces seemed cramped, while Malfoy's controlled over half the board, especially in the center. This was looking very familiar.

Malfoy smiled again, obviously pleased with the situation. Snape's face was oddly still, as if he were thinking so hard he couldn't be bothered with a facial expression. Ron took heart from that. Some of his own best play had come from those blank spaces.

Both players continued to move their pieces towards the center, though white still held control. Snape's eyes suddenly took fire, as if he knew what he had to do. Malfoy continued to look pleased with himself.

Snape continued fighting for a better position as he brought his knight forward. Then Malfoy took his own knight back. Of course, Ron thought, my favorite strategy leans on my knights. It's just weird to see other people who don't realize how important they are.

Then he saw how moving the knight left Malfoy more room to bring in other pieces. Maybe it hadn't been such a bad idea after all.

Then Snape slid out his bishop after moving his queen over and back. Suddenly the board looked quite different. In just a few moves the game looked a lot more equal. This time Malfoy was the one who took his time studying the board.

Malfoy got a calculating look in his eyes and moved his rook over. Ron couldn't figure out why, though. Snape could have captured a white pawn with his bishop, but he would have lost it immediately after. Looking further ahead, Ron vaguely guessed there were some other combinations involved, but since Snape raised his eyebrows and moved his queen again, it must not have been worth the risk.

Then again, taking the alternate path would have given Snape a way to sneak his knight further on. But that wasn't the way the pieces had actually been played, so Ron decided he'd think about it later. He had a funny feeling the Potions Master had plans for that queen that he was maneuvering so casually right now.

Malfoy brought up a pawn to threaten the black knight. Snape retaliated by swinging it over to fork both of Malfoy's rooks, even though the white queen was obviously sitting there to take it, which it did. Snape then moved his own queen again in a patient march towards an unknown goal. I don't know about Malfoy, but the way he's moving that queen would make me nervous. It reminded him of the way Konstantin played.

But Draco's father still appeared confident, and he should, since the board appeared to show white in the lead. The next few moves seemed to confirm it. Malfoy's pawns were still asserting control. Ron wondered why Snape hadn't used his normally aggressive strategy in the beginning of the game. Maybe he'd played Malfoy before and knew it didn't work.

Then Snape stretched a little, only to grimace for a moment as his left arm obviously hurt him. Malfoy had a nasty look in his eyes.

Ron could have kicked himself for forgetting last night. Snape almost died, and Malfoy knows it, he realized. It's amazing that Snape can play decently at all.

And Malfoy kept moving his pawns on up. Things didn't look good at all. Then Snape finally moved one of his pawns, obviously setting up an exchange. Draco's father naturally took the one that brought a piece closer to the center. But now there was room for Snape to send his bishop to threaten white's rook if he wanted to, once he'd passed the surviving pawn up.

Instead, he took white's pawn with one of his own. Then Malfoy advanced his knight to a better position, as least as far as Ron was concerned, by taking that black pawn. White's layout was looking all too familiar. I wonder how Snape is going to get out of this, he thought.

Then Malfoy's knight moved to fork both the black king and the bishop. Snape instantly responded by taking the knight with his bishop, though it was an obvious sacrifice to that nasty little white pawn.

Now Malfoy had a pawn too close to the end, just as he had the game before. But Snape just let it sit there, instead of taking it with his queen, and sent his rook down to threaten Malfoy's king. Ron wasn't sure he understood that move. Of course the white rook took the black one to keep the king out of check.

Then Snape faced off one of the white bishops with his last remaining one, both of them the walking-stick ones. Ron really didn't understand that move, till he spotted how the black bishop was protected by Snape's other rook. Then Malfoy did something Ron didn't understand either, and moved his rook closer to the king. Then Snape moved his queen, and both moves suddenly made sense. Malfoy had been watching how his teacher maneuvered his queen, and it was worrying him. I wonder why Malfoy isn't using his queen very much, Ron thought. He had thought of several things to do with the piece, and Malfoy hadn't done any of them. Then again, considering how badly he'd played against Draco's father, he wasn't the one to ask.

Although if he had been Snape, he would have moved the black queen all the way over to the left and made white sweat about what he was going to do next. Instead he moved it over just one square.

Malfoy brought his rook up a couple of squares, probably thinking about threatening the black queen. Snape advanced a pawn one space. Why isn't Malfoy's queen taking that pawn? Ron wondered. Instead, Malfoy advanced the white pawn over on the right one square.

And put it right where the black bishop could take it without any threat from Malfoy's queen. Ron couldn't figure out that move, unless Malfoy was setting up some kind of trap.

But Snape neatly blocked the pawn with one of his own. He probably had plans for that bishop and Ron wanted to see what they were.

Malfoy drew his bishop in closer to his king. Draco's father was playing a lot more defensively now.

Ron's pencil broke as he rapidly recorded all the moves. An ancient hand gave him a new one. Al-Hadoud was standing by him now, staring at the game as avidly as all the rest. There was a pretty good crowd watching by this time, but neither Snape nor Malfoy appeared to notice anything but the game.

Ron nodded his thanks to the emir, then turned to watch the game himself. Snape captured the other bishop with his own, though he had to know what the king's response would be. Ron watched the plump white piece pull out his sword and execute the bishop with a wild look of joy in his eyes, echoed on Malfoy's face.

Then Snape put the white king in check with his queen. Everyone's mood sobered. Malfoy slid his king to safety, and Snape moved two squares over. Why isn't Malfoy using his own queen? That piece could cause a lot of trouble just by taking the black pawn and hunting down that last rook. It just didn't make any sense.

Of course, Malfoy had other things to think about now. He moved his rook to threaten black's queen, although Ron still thought he ought to use his own instead.

Snape moved his queen over to the right. Malfoy moved his rook up again. Then Snape moved his king up and over to the far left. Ron tried to figure out why the emir was nodding his head and smiling. Well, Snape had kept Malfoy's rook from being a threat, and that was always good. And if Malfoy decided to move his queen down to the first black row, or move it at all, then Snape was safer this way.

Malfoy finally did move his queen to take the black pawn all the way over to the right, though Ron thought he should have done it long ago.

Then Snape moved the pawn furthest up one more space. Ron wanted to jump up and down and shout. If Malfoy's queen took it, then she was gone, and the white king nearly unprotected if white's last rook didn't move fast enough. And after that spot, there was nothing left to guard the king! Malfoy had one pawn pretty close to promotion, but it was blocked.

Malfoy moved his queen down instead. And for some reason Ron couldn't figure out, Snape moved his king back to its original spot. Several in the crowd, including al-Hadoud, looked as if they knew what was going on. Ron wished he did.

Draco's father moved his queen over to threaten the pawns around the black king. Snape replied by moving his own queen to threaten the white rook, whether it stayed in place or attacked his own king.

Then the white queen threatened the black rook, and Snape maneuvered his queen to protect it. Now the black queen was now also in position to take the pawn protecting the white king! This was a pretty move!

Malfoy moved his rook over to give it a chance at the black king, and to get it out of the way of the black queen at the same time. Snape put the white king in check again by taking one of the pawns guarding it.

The white king fled over to safety. Snape put the white king in check once more by settling his queen on white's back row. Ron saw how neat a move that was, too. The forward black pawn was within only two square of promotion, and now had the black queen to guard it.

By now Malfoy was looking angry. Snape was smiling, the same smile Ron had seen when the Potions Master had played Professor McGonagall.

Malfoy moved his king to safety again. Not that it did him any good, as Snape cheerfully slid his queen over to put the king in check again. Malfoy moved his king back to its old spot. Maybe he was hoping for a stalemate?

But Snape must have guessed it, because he did something different this time. He moved his rook over to protect his king and get it out of the way of the white queen, and the white rook.

Now that Malfoy was finally using his queen, it looked like he couldn't think of anything that he could do with the other pieces. He slid it over to threaten the forward black pawn, or maybe to get the black queen to do something besides check the king.

No, Snape was not distracted by it. He put the white king in check again. This time the white king drew his sword and waved it around, saying things in French that Ron would bet his Mum would clout him for if he said them in English. Snape's queen smiled, and lifted the roses she carried to her face to sniff them.

Once more Malfoy took his king out of danger. He wasn't quite so calm any more, while Snape looked gleeful as he threatened the white rook while still protected from Malfoy's queen-and continued protecting the forward pawn. But Ron could see where white could still cause trouble. The game wasn't over yet.

Malfoy moved his king to give it more maneuvering room. Snape almost mirrored that move by tucking his own king out of the way of a marauding rook or queen. That made sense. If Draco's father moved down his rook, forcing Snape to take it, then Malfoy could use his queen to trap the black king.

The white queen threatened the forward black pawn instead. Snape responded by putting the white king in check. Once more, the white king ducked for cover. Snape moved a little closer this time, though not in check. Malfoy moved his rook in closer, trying to protect his king and threaten the forward pawn. Snape moved his queen to threaten the rook.

Malfoy took the temporary breathing space to move his king back to a more open area. Snape suddenly pounced backwards and took Malfoy's forward pawn. How long has he been planning that move? Ron wondered.

Malfoy was now enraged. He leaned forward and stared at the board. Then after a few moments, he moved his only free pawn ahead. I bet he really wanted to take the black pawn, but knew he couldn't, Ron thought.

The emir looked disturbed. "White's got it in the bag now," someone behind Ron said.

How can they think that? Snape's pawn is a lot closer. Yeah, the white queen is after it, but if Snape keeps putting the king in check, Malfoy is going to have other things to think about.

Snape brought his last rook out towards the center. Good idea, thought Ron. Even if that pawn got smashed, a queen-rook combination could run white's king into checkmate anyway.

Malfoy stubbornly kept moving his pawn ahead. Snape responded by putting his queen down to white's back row, and threatening the white rook at the same time.

Malfoy moved his queen over to protect his king-and away from the traveling black pawn. Snape brought his rook down, not to the back row, but to protect that pawn.

Of course the white rook took the black one-and then the pawn took the rook! Beautiful set-up! Ron thought.

Malfoy grimaced at the inevitable, and moved his own free pawn forward.

Snape slid his own to the last row. Everyone was quiet as the small pawn transformed into a duplicate of the slim, beautiful woman who had given the white king so much grief.

And then Malfoy's pawn did the very same thing in the next move.

Four queens stood on the board. Ron was reminded of one of 'Mione's Muggle sayings, "Too many drugs or not enough". He'd never seen a game where this happened before.

But Snape was in a lot better position. His king was carefully guarded by a pawn diagonal, while white's was in deep trouble.

Especially when the first black queen moved right next to the white king. Malfoy moved his king out of danger, but by now everyone knew it was hopeless.

Then the second queen moved right next to the first, checking the king on the diagonal.

There was no way out now, even if Malfoy moved his queen to block the second black queen.

Lucius Malfoy slowly tipped his king over, and the royal head rolled an inch or so away. "Good game, Severus," he said as if the words had been forced from him at knife-point.

Snape merely nodded. Many stood around to congratulate him as Malfoy put away his pieces.

The crowd finally cleared. Snape took Ron by the arm. "We need to leave now," he said in a voice dripping with menace. "I will speak to you about your own game later."

Ron felt he was in no position to argue, though he would have liked to stay for the closing ceremonies. Then again, he was in enough trouble. They went up to the room, got packed, and headed down to the lobby. Snape paid for the rooms while Ron watched the luggage. People kept trying to talk to the Potions Master about the game, but it wasn't hard for Snape to snarl them away.

They went through the hotel Floo. But they didn't end up in Dumbledore's office. Instead, they stood outside the tall gates of some closed-off estate.

Snape sighed. "I see Lucius wasted no time exercising his sense of humor. In case you don't recognize the place, Mr. Weasley, we are just outside the gates of Malfoy Manor."


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