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Chapter One: The Blessing of Education

Severus had not begun to feel uncomfortable about Harry's transformation until later the night following it when he realized that the duo of Draco and Harry was far worse at stirring up trouble than was the usual Gryffindor trio of troublemakers.

"Hello, Luscious," Harry said, rolling up off of the carpet onto which she had apparated at Draco's feet, across the floor, and to a kneeling stance between Lucius Malfoy's thighs.

"If it isn't Cleopatra," Lucius responded dryly.

Draco flared his nostrils in amusement. "Happy birthday, Father. Surprised?"

"Indeed, we are all surprised," Snape said from his position by the fire.

The elder Crabbe and Goyle snickered and put down their drinks, wanting to be ready for whatever came next. Snape put down his book and stood up, also making ready.

"Explain yourself, boy," Lucius commanded, while glaring at Harry.

Harry, registering the elder Malfoy's distrust, slowly drew her hands back over his thighs and settled them on her own, bowing her head.

"You didn't think I'd actually defy you without reason, did you, Father? I've been planning this present for such a long time."

"Our lord wanted Harry Potter dead, Draco. You will need to answer to him for your insolence."

"But Harry Potter is dead, isn't he? This," Draco said, as he crossed the room to grab Harry by her hair and pull her up for display, "isn't Harry Potter, is it?" He let the girl fall to the floor. "Stay down," Draco ordered as Harry attempted to kneel again.

Snape allowed his features to form the appearance of approbation, and Crabbe and Goyle issued snorts of approval. For his part, Lucius was beginning to think he might not have to kill his son.

And wouldn't it be tremendously satisfying to have the use of the girl savior as my pet?

Draco hazarded a step closer to his father. "I apologize for not telling you what I intended to do, Father. It's just that I wanted . . . I wanted you to be . . . proud of me. And when you made to kill Potter, I saw that I might never have a chance to show you what I was capable of. I'll submit to whatever punishment you think appropriate, but please . . . don't send me away."

Draco's voice cracked almost into sob on "away," and Snape became even more alarmed than he already was. He had been hoping that the boy was playing some game here, a stalling game at the end of which several Aurors might appear to arrest Lucius and the others, but it really did seem as if the boy was in earnest.

Why else would he leave the safety of the school after betraying Lucius?

Without taking his eyes off his son, Lucius said, "Well, Severus, it seems that we may have been premature in condemning my son."

"It would seem so."

"But how do you suppose he knew where to find me?"

"That's easy--"

"Silence!" Lucius commanded, standing up and stepping over Harry's prone form. "I was not addressing you, boy."

"Perhaps the young Crabbe or Goyle?" Severus suggested.

"I didn't tell my boy where you were hiding," Goyle said indignantly.

Crabbe said nothing.

"Well?" Lucius asked, looking at the silent man.

"Vincent knew I'd be seeing you tonight, but he doesn't know which safe house--"

"Crucio!" roared Lucius, and then, in a low, conversational tone--his voice just audible over Crabbe's choking screams--he said, "I'm rather disappointed in your lack of discretion, old friend. What will Lord Voldemort feel about it, do you think?"

"Lucius, do not kill him. Despite his carelessness, he serves a purpose."

"Always the pragmatist, eh, Severus?"

Snape inclined his head. Lucius retracted the curse.

"Goyle, would you be good enough to get our useful friend home?"

Goyle, who had gone quite pale, quickly helped Crabbe up from the floor and apparated out of the room.

"Bullies are so biddable, aren't they? And how biddable, I wonder, are little would-be heroines?" Lucius asked, turning to look down at Harry.

"Another pragmatic suggestion, if I may?"

"Oh, Severus, you're about to spoil my fun, aren't you?"

"This doesn't concern you!" Draco said, only to find himself sprawled on the floor from the impact of his father's fist.

"You will remain silent. . . . What were you saying, Severus?"

"Albus won't be content to wait for the Ministry's attack orders if you harm his favorite, and that would force our Lord's hand prematurely. The . . . gift notwithstanding, perhaps there are other uses more appropriate for the girl--at least, for now."

"You really think she can be made to work for us?"

"Lucius, your son seems to have done an excellent job beginning her training. I would be happy to complete it. I do supervise some of my detentions, you know."

Lucius laughed. "And you were concerned with that mudblood-lover's lack of trust in you, weren't you? But his favorite, well, what might his favorite be in a position to learn that you could not?"

"Exactly," Snape said, allowing himself to feel a frisson of relief. We may yet survive this.

"But what shall we do about my boy," Lucius asked, reaching down to pull his son into a standing position.


Lucius caressed Draco's reddened left cheek with a checked gentleness. "Yes, what will we do with my boy?"

Severus successfully fought the urge not to be physically sick or to rip the other man's arm off his torso. "I should get these two back to the school before someone notices them missing, Lucius. I need to know how it is that Draco has accomplished that," he said, indicating Harry, "before I can continue her . . . education."


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