Chapter Thirteen: Tenuto
It took very little time for Scully to relate the short version of the evening's activities to Snape, which allowed all three to enjoy their excellent entrees with relatively few verbal skirmishes. She doubted Percy and Severus would have made it through the meal had both men not been subdued by their own embarrassment at their chemically-altered states. Snape, though taciturn, was not his normal vitriolic self, mostly because it would appear suspicious for two Weasley brothers to break into fisticuffs over dinner. Scully had to cover a laugh by coughing in her napkin the first time Severus' signature sneer appeared on the frank countenance of Percy's younger brother. For his own part, Percy learned to ignore Snape's regular insults after spewing forth a particularly colorful limerick that left him blushing and Snape snorting with laughter. Fortunately, "You kiss our mother with that mouth?" was Snape's only response.
By the time dessert menus were passed around, Scully had negotiated a fragile détente between Percy and Severus. She hadn't played "good cop" to Mulder's "bad cop" for all those years for nothing. Her master stroke, if she did say so herself, was to ask Snape when Fred and George had first come to him for help with their joke business. As with most people, Snape enjoyed talking about his successes. He also enjoyed shocking Percy.
Severus took a sip from his glass of port and sighed with relish. "I remember the first night those two came to me for help. It was over Christmas holidays and they'd entertained us all by enchanting your Head Boy badge to read 'Bighead Boy.' They propositioned me to look at their recipe for sweets that made one's tongue grow to the size of a Burmese python. I was tempted to refuse, but thought better of it. They would have suffocated their test subjects if they'd used the formula they presented me. From then on, all of their recipes went through me for approval. Once their potions skills caught up with their imaginations, they consulted me for more subtle touches, like making their trick sweets look and taste like normal sweets. The fact that they tested them on members of their own house and family was an added bonus."
Percy smiled in spite of himself. My mum would kill you if she knew you were encouraging them. She's still angry they didn't go into research.
Snape shifted in his seat. "I have no desire to be on the receiving end of your mother's wrath. Even though she had graduated before my years at Hogwarts, I was regaled with Molly MacDermott stories until my final year. To this day, they say she's the only person of whom Dumbledore is afraid. I'm frankly amazed that you and your siblings survived infancy."
I wish I'd known you were afraid of mum while I was still in school. Perhaps I would have written home more often.
"I suppose in order to assure your discretion on the matter I must be civil to your sister once school begins?"
To Scully's satisfaction, Percy did not press his advantage. She's a big girl. She doesn't need me looking out for her.
Severus regarded Percy for a moment, then shrugged. "Forgive our rudeness for monopolizing the conversation, Miss De Winter. On to pleasanter topics. May I see your new wand?"
"Of course." She handed Severus the box, which he opened. He examined the wand against its bed of cotton, but did not touch it.
"That is satisfactory. I'm sure Olivander was so pleased to be a wandmaking ambassador to an American that he didn't ask too many questions."
Scully smiled. "It turns out that the most famous American wandmaker was also a Muggle Revolutionary War hero."
"Revere's cauldrons are not unknown in European potions circles, but they are frightfully expensive to import. Of course, there are ways around everything."
Percy was scribbling furiously. Unscrupulous wizards who try to get around import tariffs often end up losing their potions when the bottoms melt out of their counterfeit Revere cauldrons.
Snape's ears were tinged with pink. "When did you get to be an expert on cauldron bottoms, Weasley?"
Percy shrugged. All I did my first year at the Ministry was file reports made against shoddy cauldrons. My recommendations for regulating cauldron bottom thickness for domestic and imported cauldrons even made it into the bill Mr. Crouch submitted.
"That sounds frightfully dull."
It was, but I am certain I'll never mistake a brand name for good craftsmanship.
Severus cleared his throat. He turned to Scully and gestured to her wand, which was still in the box in front of him. "May I?"
He lifted the wand with his index finger and thumb and held it close to his face for examination. Having looked at it from all angles, he rested the handle against his palm and started to flick it, but he stayed his hand suddenly. A blank look shut over his features, and he quickly returned it to the box and shoved it across the table to Scully. "If Olivander sold you this wand, I'm sure it will serve you well."
Percy gave the briefest of questioning glances at Severus, which Severus avoided by pulling a bright orange pill from his pocket and swallowing with a large swig from his water glass.
"Did dinner disagree with you, Severus?"
He dabbed his lips with his napkin, a graceful action that looked odd with his gangly, adolescent body. "No. It is merely to make sure that my current state of Weasley does not begin to fade anytime soon."
There are polyjuice pills now?
"Of my own design. They greatly improve the experience of taking the hourly dosage. Many rely on other means of impersonating others simply because they lack the stomach to ingest the potion every hour. Naturally, I've not made them available to the Magical community at large."
Index Infusia listed polyjuice potion and boomslang skin, its primary active ingredient, as heavily controlled substances partially for their confusion-causing capability and partially because misbrewed or misused polyjuice had particularly nasty and lingering side effects. As impressive as the results were, Scully preferred Muggle methods of disguise. She noticed that Snape was scowling across the room at a man who was blithely chatting up his waitress, who appeared none to pleased about it.
"Someone you know?"
"It's that idiot McKendrick. He hangs around the Du Bonnay Club on weekends, and I'm never quite sure who dislikes him more, the men he tries to impress with his exaggerated exploits or their wives."
At the mention of the man's name, Percy went pale.
Snape glanced at Percy, then stared at McKendrick who appeared to notice them for the first time. Snape groaned. "Weasley, you don't mean--"
"Percy old thing, delighted to see you, just delighted!" McKendrick slapped him boisterously on the back, causing Percy to knock over his water glass. "What did you think of the Club, eh lad?" McKendrick continued, oblivious to the water that was now dripping into Percy's lap. "Did I fix you up, or did I fix you up?" He laughed heartily at his own turn of phrase, and stared at Scully's chest. "Well well well, what have we here? Is this the American cousin you wanted to impress so much? Well I can see why. You're not -- er -- very related to her, are you? Well, if so, then I suppose she's fair game, eh?" He shook Percy's shoulder.
Scully held out a hand with a mild expression of distaste. "Daphne De Winter, Mr.--?"
"McKendrick, Alphonse McKendrick at your service." He took Scully's hand and kissed it with entirely too much saliva and suction. "Are you in London long?" He didn't wait for a response. "Because I can show you all the nicest places and intimate settings far better than Perce here. Besides, Perce is all work and no play. I can't remember the last time he asked for a Friday afternoon off before now. Me, on the other hand--" He finally noticed Percy's silence. "Say, what's the matter with him? Most times he'd be lecturing me on the virtues of hard work by now."
Scully extricated her hand none-too delicately from McKendrick's damp grip. "My cousin is unwell and has lost his voice, Mr. McKendrick."
"That's too bad. I'd be happy to give you a ride home and maybe come up for some coffee and tell you more about England if Perce would rather go home."
"That's okay, Mr. McKendrick, I'm taking care of Daph and Perce tonight."
McKendrick jumped. He probably hadn't even noticed the third person seated at the table. Scully and Percy were better composed, but disbelief was plainly written on their faces. Severus sounded so-- cordial. McKendrick cleared his throat. "Oh, hi there, son. Say, aren't you the big Chudley fan?"
"Yes sir, though Auror training doesn't leave many open weekends to go to games." Severus managed to look crestfallen, but brightened. "But I managed to get the weekend of the championships off, just in case. I think they really could go all the way this year."
McKendrick smiled patronizingly and patted him on the head. "Well you're the kind of fan I'll bet the Cannons wish they had more of."
"Just wait 'til the championships! They'll show all those fair-weather fans. I reckon you'll be seeing a lot more black and orange-clad quidditch fans in the future, sir. Who do you favor this year?"
While Snape and McKendrick rattled on about sport, Percy desperately tried to catch the waiter's eye. Finally, the check appeared on a dry spot near Percy's elbow.
Scully jumped in on the quidditch discussion. "Well, Mr. McKendrick, it's been quite an experience meeting you."
He didn't notice the dismissal. "So Perce, how many months have you been saving to pay for this night out? I know what it's like trying to make ends meet on an immigration officer's salary. Or perhaps I should say," he winked roguishly at Scully, "I know how it would have been if I didn't have my family's fortune to sustain me before I got promoted. Speaking of which, have you had any problem with that UUW you've been tailing?"
It took Scully a moment to realize that McKendrick was referring to her. Percy shook his head in the negative.
"Such a shame. When I was out pounding the cobblestones I got all sorts of exciting work. It's just your rotten luck that you got stuck with a nice, oblivious, even-tempered UUW. Back in the eighties when all that USSR nonsense was happening, that's when all the real exciting things were happening. Fiery Russian tempers, gallons of vodka, unstable economy, it was loads of fun for us. Not a week would go by when there wasn't some kind of incident in the Russian neighborhoods. A UUW accidentally turning her Muggle husband into a squirrel, that kind of thing. Those were the days, I tell you!"
"Gee, that's really great, Mr. McKendrick," Severus piped up. "I hope when I'm an Auror we have a great socio-political upheaval. Being an Auror during peacetime would be dead boring."
Severus's tone was lost on McKendrick, who patted him on the head again. "Good lad. Well, Percy, please bring your delightful cousin in to the Ministry some time. If you like, you can show her my office so she can see how well the Ministry treats its upper echelons." He looked across the room and noticed his waitress trying to clear his table before he returned. He wiped his hands on his trousers and licked his lips. "Well, duty calls, eh Perce?" He nudged Percy with his elbow. Fortunately there were no more things around Percy to spill. "I look forward to reading more of your reports on Monday. Oh Griselda, my little chickadee!" he sang out. "I wasn't finished with my white zinfandel!"
Percy slumped dramatically in his chair when it became clear that McKendrick was otherwise entertained. Scully shot the waitress a sympathetic look, and turned to Severus.
"'Gee?' 'Dead boring?' Severus, really!"
"As you have not had the misfortune to meet Ronald Weasley, I ask you to suspend judgment on the verisimilitude of my performance, Miss De Winter."
Percy was scribbling again. The novelty of writing his end of the conversation was clearly wearing off. S, how R U getting out of here w/out seeing F&G? U will be Ron for 45 more mins.
"I thought that would be clear, even to you. You're going to distract them while I escort Miss De Winter home."
Percy's face was red. Scully sensed the cease-fire was over. Y U not distract?
Scully cut in before Severus could comment on either Percy's logic or his shorthand. "I'll be all right, both of you. I just need to pick up my robe at Madame Malkin's, and I'll catch a cab from Charing Cross Road. Besides, Severus is right, Percy. You'll have to make sure your brothers don't see him like this."
Both men regarded her in astonishment.
"You can't think we would be so base as to let you go home unescorted."
NOT by yourself.
Scully felt her own cheeks flush. "I appreciate your concern, but I'll be fine. Really."
Mulder would have backed off at that tone. Percy looked uncertain. Severus seemed even more annoyed than she was.
"Miss De Winter, I of all people know that you are not to be trifled with. Weasley and I are objecting because we are concerned for your personal safety; but you need an escort for appearance's sake. You can put on an expensive frock and do your hair beautifully, but if you go unescorted through Diagon Alley in the evening, you appear no better than one of the ladies of the evening who loiter outside the Du Bonnay Club."
Percy gave Severus a reproachful look, but nodded in agreement.
"But that's ridiculous."
"Correct. But that's the game, Miss De Winter. Will you be playing this evening or throwing in the towel?"
Game, set. Severus fifteen, Scully love.
She gritted her teeth. "Point conceded, Severus. Percy, I had a marvelous time this evening, in spite of everything that didn't go as planned. I couldn't have asked for a better liaison. Thank you for everything."
Percy nodded, and began rummaging through his money pouch to settle the bill. Severus put out a hand.
"Allow me, Weasley. I did join you uninvited, after all."
Percy shook his head.
"At least allow me to pay for my meal and Miss De Winter's, even if you insist on paying for your own."
Percy shook his head.
Color was beginning to rise in Severus's freckled cheeks. "Don't be an ass, Weasley. I'm not offering to buy you a summer home. I'm paying for dinner at a reasonably priced restaurant. I'm afraid I must insist."
Percy dropped his eyes and began counting out galleons and sickles. Snape's hand shot out and caught his wrist.
"I will not be refused." His voice was low. Dangerous.
Percy yanked his arm out of Severus's grasp.
"Of all the stubborn--" Severus whipped out his own money purse and was about to thrust a handful of galleons at Percy, when the bill disappeared with a pop. Both men spun to look where it had been and saw Scully calmly closing up her makeshift purse.
"Really, gentlemen, if you wanted me to pay for dinner, you might have just said so," she said dryly. "Of course, that wouldn't be the game, now would it?"
She claimed her jacket at the coat check and sighed, waiting for Severus and Percy to finish their argument over who was the greater cad. Percy was really very sweet, and showed a great deal of ambition and resourcefulness, but he was so, well, young. And he really did need to stop taking himself so seriously. Time and experience would temper those flaws. She hoped that he his experiences would change him for the better rather than close him off, like Severus- and like herself. However, she figured that the can of worms that was Percy Weasley was best opened by someone else.
The two men finally appeared, each appearing chagrined in his own way. Percy looked a bit glum at the prospect of facing his brothers while still under the influence of their sweet, and Scully could not resist giving him a chaste embrace and kiss on the cheek.
"I will await your owl, cousin, though I shall likely be so engrossed in reading that Hermes may have to peck me on the head to get my attention."
He gave a short smile, returned her kiss and swept out the door.
Severus clucked his tongue disapprovingly as he swathed himself in a textured velvet cape. It was rather striking against his bright orange hair. Scully noticed for the first time that Percy's younger brother was approximately the same height and approximate build as Severus: undoubtedly another reason for choosing to impersonate him with polyjuice potion.
"What time did the old hen say your robe would be finished?"
"Eleven. It's already half past."
He gave a noncommittal grunt and escorted her out the door. Scully was pleased to note that he automatically scanned the street for potential trouble before stepping out of the shadows. She had forgotten that aside from being an exemplar of chivalry (she almost snorted out loud at that thought), Severus Snape was an accomplished double agent. A man after my own heart, she thought as he swept open the door of Madame Malkin's and ushered her in.
Severus loitered near the door while Madame Malkin's assistant wrapped up her robe. Fortunately, she had enough left over from her impromptu assertion of independence at the restaurant to tip the assistant well for the delicate golden caduceus she had requested embroidered on the shoulder. Apparently, it was an unfamiliar symbol in the Wizarding world, so she'd had to draw it for Madame Malkin earlier.
She soon found herself being whisked down Diagon Alley in the opposite direction she was expecting. Rather than risk Severus's ridicule, she thought for a moment. Ahah. Severus didn't want to risk the Du Bonnay Club again, so they would be exiting through the disreputable pub Percy had mentioned. The Something Cauldron.
When the weatherworn wooden sign came into view, Scully had to downplay a smile. She wondered if the pub had been named by someone who had purchased a knockoff Revere cauldron. The pink that tinged Severus's ears led her to believe that he was thinking something along those lines, as well.
She barely caught a glance of the insomniac proprietor that Percy had mentioned before she found herself standing next to Severus on Charing Cross Road, several blocks away from the National Portrait Gallery, where she had entered with Percy. Severus expertly flagged down a cab and opened the door for her.
"London Elizabeth Hotel," he barked at the cab driver. The driver looked none too pleased to be taking orders from a kid less than half his age, and turned up the volume of his Best of Ravi Shankar tape in protest.
That suited Scully fine. She wondered if she and Severus would have anything to say to one another, but the droning sitar music had successfully alleviated any awkwardness. She kicked off her high-heeled shoes and sighed in relief. She wanted to do nothing but sit and digest everything she had seen and experienced that evening.
Severus had other ideas. He drew his wand and motioned for her to do the same. He murmured a few words and briefly touched their wand tips together. Scully felt a warm wave of energy roll up her arm and into her skull. Immediately, she heard Severus's voice in her head.
"--in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a maid whom you may know-"
She jumped. "God, Severus, you startled me!"
He winced. "You needn't shout, for heaven's sake." Scully noticed that his lips were barely moving.
"Sorry, is this better?" She was barely whispering.
"You can speak more or less normally."
She recited the first few sentences of the Miranda rights, and watched a tiny smile grace his lips.
"This is wonderful, Severus."
"Tosh, any sixteen-year old with half a brain could do this spell." But his ears were pink again.
They sat listening to the music for a few minutes.
"What is it?"
"I'm sorry about what happened when we first met. You know, when I kneed you in the--"
"Yes, yes," he interrupted with an impatient wave of the hand. "It's forgotten." He pursed his lips at her. "Well, perhaps 'forgotten' is the wrong word. We shall say I received much-needed refresher course in assessing one's opponent, as well as a lesson on the temper of redheads."
"Really? I couldn't tell if you'd learned that lesson from the way you treated Percy this evening."
"Dr. Scully, I don't tell you how to conduct postmortems. I would appreciate the same courtesy directed toward me and my own affairs. Besides, I've always found Weasley to be so insufferably--"
"Young?" Scully supplied tactfully.
"Something along those lines, yes."
"But surely as a man of experience and an educator you recognize his potential."
"Perhaps he contains a modicum of above-average intelligence and an odium of ambition, but he lacks a certain panache, a degree of subtlety that is so often lacking in members of his house."
"I'm quite amazed that Weasley hasn't regaled you with stories of what a partial and awful professor I was to him and all the other Gryffindors."
"Oh. School dormitories."
"School dormitories?" Severus let out a harsh laugh. "It's only the decision that brands you for the rest of your life. As head of Slytherin house, it was my duty and privilege to instill the virtue of intolerance toward the Gryffindor house to countless young people."
"Funny, Percy didn't really tell me much about school. All he said to me was that you knew how to push his buttons as effectively as any member of his family."
"Though I'm sure he told you all about being Head Boy."
"Never even mentioned it."
Severus lapsed into silent thought, which lasted until the hotel's marquee was visible. As the cab pulled up to the curb, Severus murmured a word and Scully felt their aural connection sever. When Scully reached for her bag, Severus stayed her hand, though more gently than he had Percy's.
"Since you were kind enough to pay for dinner, allow me to-"
She allowed him to open the cab door for her. He gave her a dark look, but then she realized that it wasn't a dark look, but his face and hair were getting darker, the freckles fading. The polyjuice potion must be wearing off! Taking in the crowds of people still milling about the front of the hotel, she reacted with reflexes honed by years in the FBI and tae-kwon-do. She grabbed the hood of his cape, yanked it down over his head, and threw herself against him, effectively shielding his entire body from view. He stiffened, but placed his arms around her, almost as an afterthought. The seconds passed, and Scully felt Severus's body change shape, his muscles reform, and at last, his long hair brush her cheek. His chin was resting comfortably on the top of her head, and his neck smelled faintly of fresh wood shavings.
"Are you feeling more like yourself again?"
"Yes." His voice sounded odd.
"Are you all right?"
He sounded like he was in shock. What if the transformation had been painful? At the very least, she needed to have a look at him. She took a step back. "Would you be so kind as to escort me to my room?"
"Of course." That sounded a little more like the Severus she knew, a touch of impatience coloring his civilities. He drew back his hood and glanced down at her with hawk like imperiousness. "Would the good doctor accept my arm?"
"She would, and she will."
Once in the elevator, Severus turned to her. "I must say, that this has been a most entertaining evening."
His skin was warm, but not feverish. Pale, but not sickly. Pupils focused, breathing regular. Definitely not in shock. "Entertaining, indeed."
He walked her down the hall and halted in front of her room. "I will look for Albus's owl. I should hope you have the discretion not to acknowledge me in the unlikely event that you spot me at the Brisbin Institute. However, should we meet in a social setting, it is my great wish that you should speak with me."
Scully wasn't sure whether to respond to the insult or the compliment. Severus took advantage of her silence by grasping her hands in his.
"For your quick thinking and peace brokering skills, I thank you."
"On your poise and aplomb, I compliment you."
"Thank you." Scully knew the rule of threes as well as the next girl and braced herself for what was to come.
"I hope our paths cross again soon, Dr. Scully. Good night." He released her hands and disapparated with a pop.
Apparently Severus didn't know the rule of threes. Or, more likely, he ignored it. She entered her room with a little more vehemence than she wanted to think about at the moment. She dropped her bag on the desk and started unbuttoning the back of her robe. Dratted tiny buttons. The door to Mulder's room was open and the light was on. Good. She grabbed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and stuck her head in.
He didn't answer. He was sprawled out on the bed with his head on 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi. His pillow was on the other side of the room near an enormous pile of beer bottles. Had he drunk all of them by himself? She shook her head and covered her unconscious partner with the sheet that had managed to knot itself around his feet. He didn't even stir. Leaving the book on the nightstand for him, she turned out the lights and closed the door with an impatient sigh. Couldn't she leave him alone for one evening? Honestly!
She managed to undo all the tiny buttons on the back of her robe herself. All in all, it was much easier to take off than to put on. She hung it in the closet next to her new robe.
After scrubbing her face clean, removing all the bobby pins from her hair (she'd wash the shellac out tomorrow) and brushing her teeth, she put on her pyjamas and got into bed. Once there, she realized she wasn't at all tired. Besides, her new pile of books was calling to her. The shyly smiling young man on the cover of My Friend Harry caught her attention. She opened the book and began reading.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Publisher's Note: Soon after The Battle of Hoffen Field officially ended the recent conflict, this diary, written by sixth-year student Neville Longbottom was found in a pile of abandoned student belongings left over from the Siege of Hogwarts. The diary begins on Neville's fifteenth birthday, November 11, 1996, two weeks before the students went into hiding. Due to the phenomenal community support and mounting interest in Neville's all-too-short life, we at the Longbottom Memorial Society are currently working on a research project to compile eyewitness accounts and verify the dates (since Longbottom did not include these in his diary entries) for a definitive edition of My Friend Harry, due out in 2003. Neville's extraordinary courage, humor and hope for the future will live on, while the rhetoric of fear and intolerance will perish with those who spread it. We are pleased to bring you this special uncut edition of "My Friend Harry." Special afterword by Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.
Today was my fifteenth birthday. Gran got me a Goldenseal plant for me to keep in my room. The pot came with a cover so he won't bark at night when we're trying to sleep. I think I'll keep it by the window so the dorm doesn't start smelling of fish. I've named him Frank. I got loads of other presents from my friends, mostly Honedukes sweets (I'm not touching the ones from Fred and George) but Harry gave me this diary. He says he has one like it for writing down his dreams and that it's fun to go back and read things later. He says maybe it will help me organize my thoughts. I've never had a diary before, so I hope I'm doing this all right. I'll try to write in this every day, unless I forget. Speaking of which, my remembrall is flashing. I'm going to find Hermione and figure out what I've forgotten to do. Talk to you soon.
PS I forgot to brush my teeth. Sometimes a remembrall is more trouble than it's worth.
This was the worst day ever. I woke up late and it was raining. Herbology was cancelled because greenhouse four was flooded (we were supposed to be repotting our beer barrel cacti, but some of them may have been diluted beyond salvaging), so I didn't even have Professor Sprout to remind me I'm not a complete idiot after potions. And potions! I added too much of something and my potion exploded all over me. Really, it's a good thing I messed it up, because if I'd exploded a properly made Digestion Drought I might have burned my skin off. As it was, it just made me really confused and angry. Professor Snape said something nasty to me and since I didn't know who he was I started yelling at him; who was he and who did he think he was and what right did he have to speak to me that way. His face sort of puffed up and he blustered for a moment before taking thirty points from Gryffindor. Since I didn't know what Gryffindor was, I started laughing. He took another twenty points off, but had no idea what to do with me. He told me to sit down and keep quiet until my ruined potion wore off. I answered that if he was the instructor he was a very poor one if he couldn't brew an antidote for a simple potions mistake. Then he put a full body bind on me and continued with class perfectly normally, as if one of his students wasn't lying on the floor unable to move or remember anything. When the lesson was over, Snape chased all my friends out of the room and took his time examining my cauldron before taking the petrificus off me. By then I had remembered everything and was shaking horribly in anticipation of whatever he was going to do. He ended up taking another twenty points from Gryffindor and giving me detention for tonight. In Divination, Professor Trelawney predicted that I'd fall down the ladder after class. Since I was concentrating so much on getting down the ladder without falling, I accidentally stepped on Ron's fingers, panicked, and (you guessed it) fell. Transfiguration was hopeless. Dinner was meatloaf and green beans (I hate meatloaf and green beans), and for detention Professor Snape made me mouth- pipette exactly 15 mLs of liquefied mooncalf stool into ninety-six different flasks. He told me that if I threw up and ruined his stores of stool I'd have another detention less pleasant than this. On top of it all, he kept making snide remarks about mum and dad while I was pipetting (I swear he did it just so I'd break concentration and get poo in my mouth). I didn't dare answer back, but I think some of my tears got into the dung. I hope they make something foul explode on him. Sometimes I think I'd be the happiest boy in the world if Snape would just go away. Right now, I'd settle for being able to do something right. Thanks for listening.
I can't believe it! Professor Snape is gone! This was the best potions class ever. Professor Aurelius, the substitute, asked me a question and I knew the answer. She reminds me of Gran, except she's not as strict and doesn't wear hats. Hermione gave me a hug for brewing my own Melting Mixture without even melting the cauldron. I can't believe how much better potions is when Snape isn't there. I hope Dumbledore finally wised up and sacked him. Perhaps it's horrible for me to say (write?) that. I'm sure he's very good at potions, but he's a horrible teacher. Must go. Frank is barking and Seamus is threatening to hex me if I don't shush him.
Still no sign of Snape, which is good. Classes are fine. Frank's flowers are fading, but he does brilliant tricks with his own seedpods. He's taken a fancy to Dean, who brings him leftovers from dinner sometimes. Seamus wants to get him a tiny rack of bicycle horns to play like in the Muggles circuses. Life is okay. A second-year in Gryffindor got a black envelope in the post today. She didn't even bother opening it before she burst in to tears. Ron says her mum was an auror. More on that later. Transfiguration study group in ten minutes. It's all the way over in Ravenclaw. Blech!
I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I hope Professor Snape is all right. Some of the Slytherins were bugging Professor Aurelius about Snape's return and she let slip that he was supposed to be back a week ago. She was so mad at them that she took 20 points from Slytherin each. Three more black envelopes today; one for a student every house except Slytherin. Is anyone surprised? Here's the strange thing: nobody received their Daily Prophets today either. Classes are good. I've stopped trying to study in the common room altogether because if I'm down there Fred and George always try to make me eat their newest trick sweets. They won't let me alone until I've let them turn me into a canary or some rubbish like that. Everyone thinks it's really funny. I try to laugh along with them, but I'm getting tired of it. Why can't they pick on someone else for a change? I hope you don't think I'm a baby for complaining about them when so many other horrible things are going on in the world. I guess I don't need to worry about getting a black envelope, what with Gran living in Italy, but I know everyone else, especially the Muggle-borns, are worried. Thanks for listening.
It's been two weeks since I last wrote to you because you somehow got wadded up in a pair of pants and shoved under the bed. I hope you won't be offended once I explain to you everything that's happened. Well, I haven't time to tell you everything. All of us students are supposed to go into hiding. Twelve black envelopes this morning. Twelve! But I'm rambling. Dumbledore just announced to the whole school that Voldemort (the headmaster doesn't want us to call him "he-who-must-not-be-named" anymore) has taken over the Ministry of Magic. Minister Fudge is dead. So are all the department heads. So are most of the Ministry's researchers. Ron says it's the only time he's ever been glad Fudge never promoted his dad. Harry reckons that Lucius Malfoy's being promoted to Fudge's second was what made it possible for the coup to work, but who's to say at this point? Dean is bugging me to stop because they're all waiting for me in the common room. He's got Frank. Good. More later.
No post this morning, but you won't believe where we're staying. We're all in some kind of gigantic cave under Hogwarts. It's the biggest room I've ever seen, which is good, since all of us have to live in it. Who had any idea that the entrance to a place like this massive was in the haunted girls' restroom? Ron said Fred and George found a room full of chamber pots off one of the boy's rooms, but this room beats it, hands down. Still, I don't think I'd want to come down here by myself. The statues at the entrance look like they could slither off their pedestals at any time and eat you. I'll bet the Slytherins feel right at home here. It was really hard to sleep last night because it was our first night in a new place, plus everyone's snores reverberated off the stone walls. I know Harry couldn't sleep either because he always snores, but I didn't hear him last night. This morning the Profs put up partitions and started up classes as normally as possible. Transfiguration, Defense, History of Magic and Charms are pretty much the same, but there's not enough room to do practical Potions or Herbology work down here, which means more memorization (yuck). The good part is that it's hard to melt a cauldron in theory. The bad part is that nobody is taking care of the plants in the greenhouses. Professor Sprout is really unhappy about that, but she cheered up some when I introduced her to Frank. We rigged up a light so he won't wither without the sun. Trelawney is teaching us meditation rather than alectryomancy. I'm so glad! For meditation we have to empty our minds, which, unsurprisingly, isn't too hard for me. Well, it's easier when I'm not in class. She makes me kind of nervous. I've been practicing before bed this week. Ron thinks that before bed is the best time to do it, since it makes him fall asleep in class. Now that we have a semblance of walls (and a bit more privacy), it's easier to pretend we're back in Gryffindor tower in our beds and not on pallets on the floor of a cave. I don't know if the partitions will make everyone's snoring less loud, but I transfigured two of Frank's seed pods into earplugs. They still rattle if I move my head too much, but at least they fit in my ears.
Still no post today. Why do I even bother reporting that? Let's just say there's no post until otherwise noted. When we first came down here I didn't understand why. I mean, I understood why they have to hide Harry and the Muggle-borns, but at first I was upset that they had to guard us like we were all first years. But I think the point is to keep us all in rather than keep others out. Today, a seventh-year Hufflepuff girl whose name I don't know attacked Professor Sinistra and tried to escape during a toilet break. The Ravenclaw seeker managed to stun her before she fired off any more unforgivables. McGonagall took the girl to Dumbledore (wherever he is, he doesn't stay long during his visits) and Madame Pomfrey is taking care of Sinistra. The prognosis, as of around two o'clock, was not good. We weren't supposed to hear this, but I heard that the girl who attacked her had a dark mark on her arm. She's only two years older than me! Ron says her family has been anti-muggle for generations. I got really mad when he said it like it was no big deal. What kind of family raises a child to believe that violence is a legitimate political technique? What kind of person swears allegiance to an insane leader? We all think about the war that's going on a few thousand yards above our heads in abstract terms, and we are all appalled by the atrocities (how could we not be?), but so many don't understand why it's happening. Voldemort would have us believe that everything that's gone wrong in our society is the fault of Muggles. I personally don't believe that, but plenty of people (including Gran) still feel that to some extent, pure blood is superior to mixed. I fear that we, as a society, will be susceptible to fanaticism until we understand tolerance. Why is that such a difficult thing? Dean just told me, Professor Sinistra is dead. I feel sick.
I had a long talk with Harry today, mostly about the Grindelwald Conflict. He says that Muggles were having a war at the same time and that over fifty million Muggles died in it. Fifty million! I doubt that there are that many Magical people in the world! Gran told me a little bit about having to leave London when she was a girl because of all the bombing, but most Witches and Wizards didn't live in cities at that point. It all sounded much more interesting than the Grindewald Conflict, and to be honest, I've forgotten lots of it already. But the way Harry described it, it sounded depressingly familiar: homicidal maniac spreads the word that everything wrong with the world can be blamed on a defenseless group of people. In order to make society great, the tainted blood must be purged from the population. I wanted to know more about it, but Harry says he hasn't studied it since he was nine. I think when I was nine I was still trying to learn my colors. I wonder how many times this has happened in the course of human events. Then again, maybe I'd be happier not knowing. Dumbledore ate lunch with us today and announced that the entire school would be listening to WNN reports tonight. Luckily, Voldemort hasn't managed to shut them down yet. Well, got to go eat dinner. It's much grottier now than it was before we went into hiding. I'm not quite sure why, since the house elves still make our beds and things.
So little has happened recently, it almost seems a shame to waste a page of you writing about it, but I'm bored. Saturdays are the worst because there's no quidditch and no classes to keep us from our growing ennui. Do you like the word "ennui?" It means listless or bored. I found the word in a book I borrowed from Dean. I've been trying to borrow non-academic books from people I know, but people are guarding their personal items like Gringotts goblins. Sadly, I don't have much to barter with. Frank would get homesick and I'm not about to let anyone read you, Diary. It's amazing the things that people brought with them down here. Some brought ordinary things like stashes of Honeydukes sweets or their favorite books (of course Ron brought Flying With the Cannons) but others have the oddest accoutrements. An "accoutrement" is an object or accessory with which one defines oneself. Examples of odd accoutrements: Sam Gobtottle brought an umbrella. Nigel Popkins brought a wooden frog that croaks when you rub your wand against the ridges on its back. And so speculating on accoutrements keeps me from ennui. I'm off to return Dean's book and borrow another, if he has one that I haven't read.
Classes are fine. I'm reading Catch-22, a right funny book that I borrowed from Blaise Zaibini in exchange for a pair of earplugs. WNN reports that the "interim Ministry" are making dozens of new anti- Muggle/Muggleborn laws every day. Muggle-borns must register their wands with the Ministry. Muggle-borns are not allowed to apparate. Muggle-Wizard unions are now illegal. Muggle-borns are not allowed to be outside past nine o' clock. I'm beginning to think we have more freedom holed up in a cave than the Muggle-borns have now! On a more personal front I must confess, I think there's something odd going on in our hideout. At first I thought I was imagining things, but some of the students are disappearing. The funny (and good) thing is that they don't disappear for good, they just go away for a few days at a time. It hasn't happened to any of my roommates (I'd know for sure then!), but I think everyone who's disappeared is a seventh year. I'll keep an eye out and let you know more about it later.
Another rainy day. Well, I don't know that it's raining, but I don't know that it's not raining, either. I fancy it is, since ennui has struck the student body in force. I just finished a lovely book of poems that I borrowed from Hermione. "Wisdom is a butterfly and not a gloomy bird of prey." I thought of Professors Flitwick and Snape respectively upon reading that line. It's very sad to come to the end of a book. I daresay (Pride and Prejudice word) I've read more books for recreation in the last three weeks than I have in all my years at Hogwarts. WNN reports record amounts of vandalism and violence against Muggle-borns. Lucius Malfoy has introduced the Muggle-born Protection Act, which involves moving all Muggle-borns to safer, secure locations to keep them from being victimized. Why does this not strike me as a good thing? Classes are fine. Friends are a bit stir-crazy (interesting phrase from Catch-22) from being in here for so long. Ron claims to hate reading, so he's been trying to start a chess club (his chess set being his other favored accoutrement). He bugged us all to sign up, but I don't even know how to play chess (nor do I have any desire to be trounced at something else). Well, I've got a big Transfiguration exam coming up, so I'd best get to study group. One good thing about being in hiding is not having to go up so many stairs to study with Ravenclaws.
Fred and George are gone. I noticed that they weren't at breakfast since Thursdays are the days they normally try to trick me into eating their latest invention. Lee (one of their roommates) shooed me off when I asked him where they were. I asked McGonagall if she's seen them, and she said they were with Madame Pomfrey, but I couldn't find her anywhere. There is something fishy going on. Am I the only person who's noticed this? Then again, maybe everyone else has better things to think about. Being in such close quarters has started to take its toll. I never thought I'd wish for a return to ennui, but it's better than everyone fighting all the time. A few people's wands were confiscated after a big fight between some Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Hermione is going crazy without the library at her disposal. She yelled at me when I asked for help with Charms. Hermione never yells. She must be really upset. Even Frank seems a bit off-color lately. We've only been in hiding a month now, and yet so many seem to have lost hope. Not hearing from families has been difficult for many. I guess that's why Harry and I don't seem to be as affected as the rest. Harry and I were up late talking last night and I told him about my parents. I think he already knew, but I don't mind, really. We talked about foster families (his sounds even meaner than Gran during spring cleaning!). He was really sad at the way so many take their families for granted. I'm pretty sure he meant Ron. Incidentally, I don't think Ron has even noticed that Fred and George are gone. Ron's a nice guy and all, but I don't think he really understands what it's like to be without parents. I hope he never has to. Well, I fell asleep in Charms today from being up so late last night, so I'd better stop writing now and get some rest.
Wonderful news! Fred and George are back! They don't seem very happy about being back, though. They haven't tried a single trick sweet on me since the second week. I asked them about being gone, and they said that they were minding their own business, insinuating that I should follow their example. That's gratitude for you. I took the hint and didn't say anything else. I told Harry about Fred and George's disappearance and reappearance, and he was intrigued. He figures we should keep a lookout for missing people in our own house and try to figure out where they go. That seems reasonable to me. Oh yeah, classes are fine. I don't know if it's me or not, but they seem much easier. Maybe the teachers have too much on their minds to challenge us properly. I'm not sure if that's a bad or good thing. WNN reports that Azkaban has been destroyed and that the Dementors have allied themselves with Voldemort. The terrifying thing is that it happened over a month ago when Fudge was still in power! I was sitting next to Harry when they announced it, and he looked angrier than I've ever seen him. You don't suppose he suspected, do you?
Everything is in an uproar. Hermione Granger is gone. Ron is beside himself. Fred and George tried to calm him down, but he was bellowing at the top of his lungs during breakfast so much that people in Australia are wondering over their dinners who Hermione is. McGonagall took Ron away, and he wasn't in classes today. After classes, I found Harry and Ron discussing the best way to get Hermione back. Ron was all set to go looking for her, but Harry pointed out that they didn't know how to get out of the cave. Ron let slip that Harry had been here before, but Harry shushed him before he could tell me under what circumstances. When I asked, Harry rather curtly told me that it was an ancient hiding place, but nothing else. Ron scowled and said that the only reason I was worried about Hermione was because I didn't have anyone to do my homework for me anymore. I must confess, dear Diary, that I was very angry at that. I felt my eyes tear up and ran away before I started crying in front of them. I managed to find a relatively secluded place behind one of the Charms partitions (there's no real privacy in this place!) and sobbed. I'm not quite sure why I cried so hard and for so long, but I think it's because I feel so useless holed up here with no way to help anyone. I didn't even notice Harry rubbing circles on my back at first. He had a painful-looking knot on his cheek and was crying, too. I buried my head in his shoulder, and he started crying harder. I don't know how long we stayed there weeping, but when we both calmed down enough for me to heal the bruise on his cheek we knew we'd missed dinner. When we returned to our makeshift dormitory, Ron refused to look at us. Remembering the intensity and duration of their last big fight and not wishing to repeat the days of prickly silence, I went over to Ron and asked him if McGonagall had told him anything about Hermione's whereabouts. He looked surprised for a minute and said that Hermione is fine, but won't be back for a few days. That wasn't the answer I was expecting, and I unthinkingly asked why he was so upset if she was okay. He scowled again (I braced myself for a nasty insult or a blow to the face) and said he wasn't surprised that I didn't understand what it was like to have close friends. This was so absurd to me I couldn't hold in a laugh. I told him he could stand to learn a thing or two about his own friends if he thought Hermione couldn't take care of herself or that Harry didn't care about her. I was sure he was going to hit me, but I didn't move, even when he drew back his fist. But he didn't hit me. He just sat back down on his bed and ignored me. After lights out, I heard someone sniffling, but I know it wasn't Harry.
Here's much ado about nothing: Hermione was back this morning. I think she was as closed-mouthed about her absence as Fred and George were, because Harry and Ron were both sulking. At least they seem to have made up. She was so relieved when I asked her for help with Charms instead of asking where she'd been. She seemed exhausted, but not at all unhappy. On the contrary, she seemed very much like pre-hiding Hermione, down to her impatient sigh when she knew my mind was elsewhere. As grateful as I am for Hermione's help, she doesn't seem to understand what I'm asking all the time. She automatically assumes I didn't understand something she said, even if I'm asking her for a clarification on her previous answer. I hope she doesn't want to be a teacher, because if helping me frustrates her, I think she might explode with even dimmer students. Not that there can be too many students dimmer than me, of course. I was just thinking about something Harry said the other day about writing in diaries. Supposedly diaries are for recording your deepest secret feelings. So far I have put almost nothing in my diary that sprang forth spontaneously from the deep parts of me. I suppose that's all right. There's really not much to me. I don't think, dear Diary, that you'd be interested in my deep, secret thoughts anyway. Most of them are about girls. And kissing. Is it horrible to think about kissing when there's a war going on? Probably. I appreciate your listening, Diary. I want to ask Harry something tonight when we're the only ones awake. I had a thought about why the people who've disappeared have disappeared, and I want to see what he thinks.
There is so much to tell but I have to go! Quick version: I figured everyone who's disappeared is really clever at something useful, like Hermione at charms, Fred and George at potions, Isaac Withington at healing, that kind of thing. I'll bet (and Harry agrees!) that the school is being used as a base for fighters on our side. That would certainly explain the meals recently. The disappearing students are probably helping out with the war effort in some regard. Tonight Harry and I will start staking out the entrances to see which one we can use to sneak out. I told Harry that he'd probably get to go anyway, him being the Boy that Lived and all (Defense Against the Dark Arts, anyone?), but he's really looking forward to the stakeout. I wish there was a less sneaky way to aid the war effort. Oh well, he's the one experienced with sneaking around. Time to put your money where your mouth is, Longbottom.
I'm falling asleep as I write this but don't want to forget. Secret passage, base of creepy wizard statue, password "forktongue."
Sweet dreams, Neville
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
(Chapter Notes) | Back to Top | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page