phoenix ashes
life is something that rhymes with quidditch




This is the first of several stories that will chronicle the early
years, or rather, the *possible* early years of the generation that
Harry's parents were part of. This was written according to what was
revealed of their lives in up to book 4 of the series, and I will try to
adapt as we learn more. However, it is almost inevitable that Rowling
will create something contradictory to my imagined back-story, and
therefore these should be enjoyed as Alternate Universe fanfic insofar
as it diverges from canon.

The child is the father of the man...

Chapter 1. Potions

Severus Snape waited in Potions class, fingers fidgeting as he
watched the door for Potter and his friends. They sauntered in, as
usual, just before the bell rang.
"Hiya, Snarly" said Sirius Black, dropping into his chair across the
aisle from Snape.
"That's not my name," he snapped.
"If the shoe fits," muttered Lupin, bending low over his book so as not
to be heard.
Malfoy leaned forward. He was in the chair behind Snape. "Then
maybe Lupin's name should be Loser... if he misses any more classes,
he's sure to flunk this year." Snape felt immensely cheered by this.
Besides, he had set up a little surprise for Potter and Black. Once they
got to work on their potions, we'd see who was laughing.
Professor Proffitt was running a little late. So they continued
their conversation while starting their cauldron fires. Snape lit his
and Malfoy's off of one ignition spell. Lupin, who wasn't good with
fires, was still struggling with his. Potter asked, "Are you going to be
playing this week's Quidditch match, Snape?"
Severus glared at him. "Of course I am. Why? Are you worried?"
Potter just shrugged. Black grinned and said, "He sure was. We
were all worried you'd been kicked off your team after your humiliating
defeat last time. James might have had to face someone with talent."
Snape hoped he wasn't blushing. He looked down at his textbook.
There, at least, he had something to be proud of. He was a whole year
ahead of his class in Potions, a third year studying with the fourth
year students. There was a good likelihood he could move up an entire
year all around, if he proved he could handle this.
Malfoy sneered back at the Gryffindors. "Hope you aren't getting
too cocky, Potter. Severus has been practicing every day since the last
game." That was true. If he hadn't, Malfoy *would* have kicked him off
the team. He spent three hours a day in the air, and he didn't even like
Quidditch. He didn't like flying that much, either, but he wasn't old
enough to get an Apparating license. The thing about it, though, was
that Quidditch was all most of the kids lived for. Getting promoted in
Potions made you dull and studious. Winning a Quidditch match made you
Black gave a barking laugh. "All the practice in the world won't
do a thing for his eyesight! He was on the other end of the FIELD last
time James got the Snitch."
"I've said it before: the sun glinted off a girl's necklace. I saw
a flash of gold."
Pettigrew sniggered. "Maybe you should keep your mind on the game
instead of the girls."
"Maybe you should keep your mouth shut!" Snape replied.
"That's our Snarly," drawled Black loudly, "If you can't be witty,
be nasty." The whole room heard and laughed. Snape fumed to himself as
he prepped his ingredients for the lesson. The intense practices had
been costing him in all his classes. In Potions, he had slipped behind a
few students, although he remained above average. He'd been losing
ground rapidly, though, in Defense against the Dark Arts, where his
detail oriented, slowly meticulous approach worked against him rather
than for him. Lucius Malfoy had assured him that the class was going to
be obsolete by the time they graduated, and released the Bludgers on
him. Defense Against the Dark Arts... it wasn't that he didn't know what
he was doing. In fact, that pretty, green-eyed girl, Lily, had pointed
this out when the teacher had been going on at him about all the
horrible things that could happen to him if he wasn't prepared. "But
Professor," she'd reminded the woman, "Snape never gives the wrong
"Young lady," Professor Penny Dreadful objected, "It doesn't
matter. If it takes a person three minutes to think of all the
counter-charms they know before choosing what to use, they will be
*dead*, or worse."
Snape had answered back then. "Perhaps *I* would be more
intelligent than to get into a fight with a vampire lord *before*
deciding on a strategy." And had lost 5 points for being sardonic.

A noise brought Snape's attention back to the present. Professor
Proffitt had walked into the room and set a large mug of coffee down on
his desk. "Put away anything that isn't connected with the lesson. That
includes your chemistry set, Waylow. That is more appropriate for Muggle
Studies, don't you think? Why you send away for rubbish like that
instead of getting proper quills so I can read your homework, I don't
Snape laughed along with the rest of the Slytherins. Proffitt, who
was a Ravenclaw, favoured them all with furrowed brows. "He's not the
*only* one who could be more legible." *Great* Snape thought, *he had to
say it while glancing at me. I even heard Black snort. But my
handwriting's very neat.*
He noticed something else, "Looks like Waylow's not the only one
who doesn't have a fresh quill. Lose yours again, Pettigrew?" All eyes
now were drawn to Lupin and Pettigrew; Lupin had set the smaller boy's
notebook next to his so he could make notes for them both, and Pettigrew
was caught taking care of Lupin's fire.
An indrawn breath behind him testified to Lucius's satisfaction.
They waited for Proffitt to get angry.
Instead the Professor sounded mollified. "Ah. That's what I keep
hoping to see. Desk partners working in cooperation. Although,
Pettigrew, I must warn you that your tests this term suggest you should
be taking your own notes. Next class I expect to see your quill ready."
Snape sighed. Still, even if he hadn't gotten the Gryffindors in
trouble, the teacher was fair, and wouldn't now object to him helping
prep the ingredients for his partner. Cynthia DuNuit, a bored expression
on her face, poked at a frog's leg in the stack before her with
distaste. She was a tall, raven-haired beauty of an old wizard family.
Malfoy had made it clear he wanted DuNuit to do well in the class, and
he expected Malfoy to make sure she passed. Thereby securing her
gratitude to Malfoy. Lucius always knew how to work the angles, thought
Severus, as he wiped a smear of some old potion from the lip of
Cynthia's cauldron.
His cauldron fire began to crackle wildly, snapping off out of
control sparks. He jumped up on his chair as an ember landed on his robe
hem, then poured out his pitcher of water all over his robe, to douse
any possible flames. The fire under his cauldron still crackled and
spat. Cynthia screamed shrilly. Proffitt waved his wand and the fire was
instantly doused. "Snape, I thought you knew better than to use green
"I didn't, I..." Severus gasped. He'd never had this kind of trouble
before. Then, nearly lost under Cynthia's panicky breaths, came a
suppressed chortle. He caught James Potter's eye. The handsome
Gryffindor boy was pressing his lips together tightly to keep from
laughing. Black, face hidden behind a book, was having paroxysms of
silent laughter.
Proffitt caught on. "Potter, Black, if you would empty your
James Potter brought out one item only, an envelope of Pop Corns
from the joke shop in town. "This will be what youre looking for." He
handed it to the Professor, then waved his wand at Severus, instantly
repairing the scorch and removing the water. Potter gave the Professor a
wink. "No harm done."
The Professor frowned, but it was a frown with the hint of a
twinkle in it. "Ten points from Gryffindor. You've wasted class time."
"What about my fire!" protested Snape.
"Snape, move to the empty desk over there. Move quickly. You've
already done your prep work, so you'll be ready by the time we get to
the brewing."
It was true, but Severus fumed anyway. He had come in early to get
ready in advance. He wouldn't be able to help DuNuit now, so his friend
Lucius would surely be in a bad mood, and he wouldn't be able to see the
look on Potter's face when...

... the fourth ingredient, olives from Delphi, went into the cauldrons.
Potter and Black had roiling clouds of black smoke issue from their
cauldrons. Now it was Severus who had to suppress his mirth as the older
boys began to cough and sputter while trying to get their potions under
control. The smoke increased dramatically with each second. It covered
the entire ceiling and was getting lower very quickly. Proffitt doused
their fires, as he had done to Snape's, but still the smoke poured
forth. Severus stopped laughing. He had underestimated the effect.
Students were now bending down to stay out of the smoke. One girl, who
hadn't, dropped to the floor, her face turning a sickly green. Potter
ran to the window and broke the glass, then took a deep breath.
"Aeolus!" he cried, with a wave of his wand. A gust of wind scoured the
noxious gas out of the room. Wheezing and coughing, the class began to
recover. Proffitt marched forward to the Potter's desk and picked up one
of the olives. He squeezed it. Where the pit should have been, out
popped a Dragon-Fly... not the Muggle insect, but a predatory waspish
creature from the most magical section of India.
"This joke is in very bad taste, indeed. It won't only be ten points
this time, " Proffitt began.
Sirius Black, too out of breath to speak, pointed to the window
where Potter was still hanging out, trying to get enough air to ease his
lungs. Snape tended his potion. He was no longer gloating. There had
been nothing funny about his prank after all; one student had gone to
get Madame Poultice to see to the students made ill by the smoke. On the
other hand, Potter and his friends richly deserved the trouble. Proffitt
squeezed out the other olives at the desk; they were all the same.
"Black, I appreciate that Potter remedied the situation, but that does
not merit forgiveness for causing it."
Sirius frantically shook his head. Then he pointed a finger at
Snape froze. Proffitt came over to him. "Did you do anything to the
other students' supplies?"
"I don't know what you are talking about. They were just trying to
get attention again. They must have used more olives than they should
Proffitt frowned. "But why would they hide the Dragon-Flies inside
their olives? If they had meant to do this, they would have simply
dropped them in separately. Black seems to think--"
They were the last ones in class! Sirius is just guessing! It
could have been anybody." Then Severus realized this line could lead to
more problems once the other students were asked... "But I was the first
one in for our class. And I saw another student... I don't really know
him, I think he's from Hufflepuff, from the class before ours, over at
their table."
There was a very long silence from Proffitt. Then Proffitt,
normally very calm, turned purple with rage. "Do NOT lie to me! The
prank was bad enough-- you're right, if they had only used one olive, it
might not have been so bad, but to try to pass along the BLAME! There
was NO class this morning! It was cancelled. I unlocked the door only
fifteen minutes before this class began. Hufflepuff had a special field
trip today and your attempt to pass along the blame has only proved you
Severus turned ashen. "Minus fifty points from Slytherin for endangering
the health of your classmates. Two days detention. And because you
obviously do not have the maturity for this class, in spite of your
advanced knowledge, you will be rejoining the rest of the Third Years
for Potions."
Malfoy spoke up. "Sir, he can't serve detention tomorrow."
*Oh yes, I can,* thought Severus. That was the Quidditch match. An
excuse out of another public defeat.
Proffitt frowned. "Malfoy, stay out of this."
Then James Potter spoke in his reasonable, friendly tones. How
Snape hated that voice. All that fake niceness when the boy was all ego.
"Sir, please. Snape has been working very hard at his Quidditch game. It
would be unfair to his entire House to make him miss the game. I don't
know if they have a back-up Seeker, and even if they do, Snape's seen a
lot more practice. Besides, I'm sure he didn't mean to poison anyone.
Sirius and I were too liberal with the olives."
Proffitt was thinking about it. "Why are you arguing on behalf of
Slytherin, Potter?"
"Because I don't want to win an unfair game. It wouldn't feel
"Very well. The detentions will be done after the game."
Snape turned crimson with embarrassment and rage. How *could*
Potter do this to him?! It was a good as telling the world there was no
way Snape could get the Snitch. At least if he hadn't been able to play
the next day, Slytherin would have had a good excuse. Now, if he lost,
he'd be humiliated again, Malfoy would be furious with him, and the
whole school would know that James thought nothing of him as a
competitor. But the very worst thing was losing his advanced place in
Potions; that would cost him any chance of moving up a year and
graduating early. With a tear, he dropped the last ingredient into his
cauldron and watched it turn as red as his face.  Proffitt looked at it,
nodded, and wrote a 9 down on his grade sheet. Madame Poultice came and
began administering squirts from an atomizer into the student's faces.
Proffitt accepted his squirts, then announced, "Thirty points for
Gryffindor. 10 for Potter's presence of mind for dealing with the smoke.
20 for his magnanimity and good sportsmanship."
Snape could take no more. Grabbing up his books, he ran from the
room, heart pounding too hard to tell if the other students were
laughing at him or not. But, aloud or in secret, Severus was sure Potter
was laughing, just as he'd laughed when Severus had gone to the wrong
end of the field for the Snitch.

Chapter 2-- High Jinks

Sirius lay back on his bed in the Gryffindor dormitory, tossing his
wand, letting it spin and fall back into his hand. He felt restless.
"James, are you still working on that essay for History of Magic?"
"Almost done."
"Footnote king."
Ten minutes passed. Sirius reviewed *his* source material for the essay,
which was a comic book. In little blocks of colour, the
Goblins overran the barricades, stepping on each others fingers in the
process. "Done." James voice drew him from the battle.
Sirius met James' eyes and drew a box from under his pillow with
a grin. "Now, do you want this?"
"Hey! That's the cookies my mum sent."
"Yum-yum!" Sirius jumped up and ran for the door, James pounding
along behind him.
Sirius was taller and faster on his feet than his friend, so the
time he lost in opening doors was easy to make up in the stairwells and
corridors. He reached the broom cupboard, gave it the password, and
pulled out his Cleansweep, first of its line.
"So that's it!" laughed James, coming around the corner. Pulling
out his wand, he summoned his Nimbus 600. "Those chocolate chips will
soon be mine again!"
James was aloft only shortly after Sirius, but Black wasn't
taking it to the open air. "Wrong way, James!" he called as Potter
headed for the balcony. Leaning forward, he urged the Cleansweep into
the heart of the castle.
Whooping with excitement, yelling out passwords, Sirius swerved
and dodged, cookie box still tucked under his arm. James was a much
better flyer than him. Clearly James enjoyed the game, for he was not
pushing to close the gap. They whipped their way up the East Tower
stairs and plummeted down through the secret passage in its center. From
there, they burst into the kitchen, house elves vanishing out of their
path. James grabbed a custard tart from a tray as neatly as capturing a
Snitch, then threw it with a splat against Sirius's head.
Laughing, Black took out one of the cookies and tossed it back
like a frisbee. James twisted, tilted, and caught it in his mouth.
Sirius looped back so they were face-to-face for an instant.
"You are *so* good, James! Score for Gryffindor." Then he headed
straight for the ceiling. "Batten the hatches!" he cried. At the sound
of the password, the stone above him vanished. With an outraged howl, a
cat dropped from the Great Hall above and (feet first, of course) on to
a huge, whipped cream frosted cake created in celebration of
Dumbledore's birthday.
James didn't follow up immediately. Sirius, a bit worried,
circled the Great Hall. He pulled out one of the cookies, nibbling it as
he warily eyed the flagstone and the doors. After a few minutes, Potter
did fly up through the vanishing floor. "What took you?"
"I sent the cat off with a house elf to find who it belongs--
did I SAY you could eat that cookie?" James lunged his broom toward
Sirius, who laughed again and flew out of the Great Hall, up the stairs
and down the corridor outside. They sped past Moaning Myrtle's lavatory,
Black bent forward to reduce the wind drag. With a great effort, he
hauled his broomstick into a sharp turn, flying though an empty
classroom, zipping out the opposite door and into a crowded hallway.
Students were passing to and from classes, and he'd burst in on the
thick of it. Thankfully, the ceilings were high in the castle, and a
quick nudge raised his broom above the heads and hats of the throng. He
glided smoothly forward, inches away from the ceiling, but inside he was
hesitant. Should he stop the chase here? But, just once, he'd like to
outfly James. Besides, the worst that could happen was he'd knock off
someone's hat, and if they got uptight about it, they had no sense of
James came through the doorway. His dumbfounded look was worth
every risk to Sirius, and he shook the cookie box. "Your mum's a great
baker, James!"
"Give it up, you crook!" James was grinning ear to ear. He
always loved a challenge in flight.
The hallway was straight and they built up speed, weaving side
to side to dodge the occasional staff or open door. A door opened behind
Sirius; the students' racket of cheers or protests dropped to silence.
Black looked over his shoulder just in time to see Professor McGonagall
level her wand at him. "Arretus!" The broom underneath him halted
instantly. His momentum, unchecked, forced him forward, and he barely
managed to tighten his grip enough not to be flung completely off.
Behind him, James' broom reared up as he pulled up to avoid collision.
The maneuver forced his bristles down, slamming against the hat of a
skinny student, who was pointing and laughing at Black's awkward
position. Whack! The hat flew off the student, whizzing by Sirius's
nose. He found himself looking into the purpling, spluttering face of
none other
than... "Snarly?"
The greasy-haired boy turned from apoplectic to nastily smug.
"You're in for it, Black." Snape ducked underneath him to retrieve his
hat; Sirius was tempted to tweak his ear, but Professor McGonagall was
coming up. He dismounted his immobilized broom and turned to face her,
smoothing down his hair.
"The two of you!" The tall, elegant professor gave a snort of
temper that Sirius would have actually found appealing if not directed
against him. "Into my office, *on foot* mind you!"
James warily followed Sirius to McGonagall's office. "Think she'll buy
an insanity defense?"
"I'll take the rap," Sirius offered.
James shook his head. "It took both of us to have a chase."
Professor McGonagall came in and gave them her most frostbite-inducing
stare. "Well?"
Sirius gave her a hang-dog expression in return. James held out the box.
"Would you care for a cookie, Professor?"
That unleashed the words McGonagall had been restraining. "Of all the
knuckle-headed, reckless, ridiculous stunts you could have pulled! Do
you have *any* idea how angry I am at you?! You endangered yourselves
and others--"
James cut in, "No, madam."
She glared, "No?"
"We didn't endanger anyone. We would never have done that. We know our
limits as flyers and do not exceed them in horseplay."
"You don't seem concerned about breaking school rules, however."
"Actually--" Sirius winced as she frowned at him, but continued. "There
is not, in fact a rule against flying in the halls. Our first year here,
Filch made us copy the entire rule book by hand after our third time in
his office with forbidden items. Nothing about flying in the castle."
There was just a hint of a twitch at McGonagall's lip. She was trying
very hard to maintain her ferocity in the face of their calm arguments.
"You can be quite assured that after today there will be. There is no
doubt that this falls under the category of reckless behavior, and twice
over-- because if it had been any professor except me who had stopped
you, detention would have kept you out of tomorrow's game! I am
deducting ten points of from Gryffindor for each of you, Furthermore,
you will write me an essay, due in three days, on broom safety."
She shook her head then. "You two really don't understand. Last year,
attacks on schools overseas by a terrorist Dark Wizard shut down a
number of schools. Nothing like that has happened in England, so far,
but we had a number of parents express concern about sending their
children to any school. Safety is more important than ever."
"I'm sorry," James told her, "We didn't know."
Sirius nodded, "If any parents complain about this, we'll write back to
them and apologize. It's not like it's Dumbledore's fault; I got bored
and acted stupid."
McGonagall smiled softly. "You really are good kids, even if you are the
most trouble. Run along, and I want you to fly at least that well in the
They walked out into the corridor, where only those brave enough to dare
McGonagall's ire still lingered. Snape stood, pretending to read the
schedule outside a classroom door. "Oh, Pot-ter," he singsonged as they
passed him. "Guess you're wishing now you hadn't kept me in the game
tomorrow. Bet you're wondering if you sub will be up to the match."
"Uh, no." James frowned at him. "I'm still playing tomorrow."
"You mean she's not taking away your broom for that stunt?!"
"No. We've just got a writing assignment. And we lost points."
"No escape, Snape," Sirius couldn't help smirking at Severus's
jaw-dropped face. "Unless you want to feign illness tomorrow. And yet,
you are the best Seeker Slytherin's got."
They walked on, leaving Snape in the hall. Passing them from the
opposite direction came Lucius Malfoy. He was using one hand to drag, by
the ear, his personal house elf. He was the only student in school to
have brought one from home. The house elf was carrying in his spindly
arms the frosted cat, who was licking remnants of whipped cream from its
tail. Malfoy eyed their brooms. "I should have known."
"Severus!" they heard him call. "Look what they did to my cat. (Dobby,
you are supposed to be punishing yourself for letting this happen)
Tomorrow it's a Grudge match-- and you'd *better* be the one to get the
Sirius winced at the sound of the house elf hitting its head against the
wall. He didn't spare a thought for snarly Snape.

Chapter 3-- Game

The musty smell of wet owl woke Severus Snape from slumber.
Today was the final round of the yearly tournament for the Quidditch
cup. He pulled the message from his owl's leg: a note from home it had
flown through some rain to deliver. It was from his mother, written in
biro pen (not a decent quill!), wishing him luck on the game today. But
she'd written it 'quidich'. He sighed and ripped the note into fine
pieces, lest anyone see it and tease him. Then got dressed and headed to
the Great Hall to get a bit of studying done with his breakfast.
The Gryffindor team was partly assembled in the Great Hall
already. Aurora Reyes, the tall and broad shouldered Keeper, sat at one
end of the table, flanked by Kelley Shaeowens, Chaser, and Farhan
Shaheed, Beater. Two Sixth Years went back and forth from their seats at
the Gryffindor table to chat with the early risers from Hufflepuff and
Ravenclaw. Snape watched them moodily. They were undoubtedly looking to
take wagers on the match, and from their laughter chatting with their
team, they were having trouble finding anyone betting for Slytherin at
odds they were willing to offer. More Gryffindors were rowdily jostling
around the table.
The Slytherin table was less crowded, but still well-populated
for the hour. Severus Snape tapped Alexander Aquila on the shoulder. He
was another third year student. "Lex, have you seen those Gryffindor
bookmakers? Someone ought to stop them. Why don't you talk with them and
see if they'll ask you to make a bet? Then we can tell a teacher and
Gryffindor will lose points."
Aquila looked hesitant. Snape persisted. "You don't have to ask
them; that'd ruin it. Just, you know jingle some coins while you talk to
them. And take the bet." Another pause. "I'll lend you the Sickles."
That did it. Aquila took the money, five Sickles, and headed over. Once
he left, the team spoke in terse, paused sentences. "We'll
need a 220 point victory to get the Cup."
"It won't happen. We just want the game."
"No one's beaten that team all year."
Snape's teammates fell silent, which suited him fine. He drew his
Arithmancy book close to his face. Then Lucius joined them, taking
the chair next to Severus. "We win." That was all Lucius, Chaser and
team Captain, said as he looked around the table. It might have been
encouragement; it might have been instruction.
Hestia Hextrum, a seventh year who'd come down early out of
concern for her N.E.W.T.s rather than the team's success, gave a thin,
condescending smile. "They've got a good team, Lucius. What makes you so
"Motivation. This game means more to us than it does to *them.*"
The disgust in his voice was compelling, but Severus kept his attention
on his book.
Suddenly, a flash washed his vision and a loud bang left soot on
the pages. A bit of fast-flying debris hit him on the nose. Severus let
out a squawk of surprise. There was a burst of laughter and more distant
pops. Potter and his friends had entered the hall and were letting off
cascades of Exploding Snaps. James was waving to a group of cheering
Ravenclaw girls. Lupin and Black tossed their Snaps randomly into the
'sky' of the Great Hall. One boy, however, was grinning smugly at Snape.

"Pettigrew!" Severus growled, fists balling, rising to his feet.
He could feel his face flush with anger.
Then came a voice at his ear. "Carefully," whispered Lucius. "I'll help
you deal with him." He stood with Snape.
Potter and Black had joined their team at the table by the time
Snape and Malfoy had sauntered over. Lupin gave them a wary glance and
slunk away as they closed in on Pettigrew. Malfoy smirked. "Well, where
are all of Pettigrew's friends now?"
"I could yell," muttered Peter.
"Yes. But during the *game* everyone will be yelling, Pettigrew.
And I have a lot of friends, who can see to you while me and Severus and
Potter and Black are all busy up in the air. My friends don't like it
when someone upsets one of my other friends." Saying this, Malfoy draped
an arm over Snape's shoulder. "Mess with my friends and you get messed
"I--" Pettigrew didn't know what to say, his beady eyes darting
around for help. Snape lowered his own gaze, then thought of the
laughter and glared up again.
Malfoy continued, "Too bad your buddies won't be there for you."
"Oh," came a voice behind them, "he won't be alone. Remember,
I'm not on the team."
Snape pivoted to stare at the interloper. Lupin hadn't slunk off
after all-- he had circled around behind them. Malfoy turned, too, and
increased his sneer.  "You'll still be with us then?"
"Of course."
"There's no 'of course' about it, Lupin. Every few weeks you
have to go home because your Mommy's calling you."
Lupin calmly shot back, "I guess a couple of months a year with
you is plenty for your mum."
Malfoy, without warning, lost his own cool facade and lunged for Lupin.
Snape grabbed his shoulder and with some difficulty held him back. As he
did so, a Quidditch bat swung through the air, cutting a boundary into
the distance between Malfoy and Lupin.
"Whups!" said Black, "That was a bit close, sorry." There was no
apology in his voice. "Just came over to tell Remus the girls are asking
for him. You, too, Peter." Black kept an eye on Malfoy and Snape as his
friends retreated.
Malfoy has frozen now; Snape no longer needed to hang on to him. Yet
Severus felt that the icy rage in Lucius now was far more serious than
his earlier outburst. "You nearly smashed my skull," hissed Malfoy.
"You'll regret this, Black."
Sirius narrowed his eyes. "I expect I will. I'll regret I aimed to
Severus took a step back and tugged at Lucius's elbow. "The
professors are coming down. And we haven't eaten yet." It worked; Lucius
accompanied him back to their table and Black returned to his.
Alexander's sting operation had failed; the Gryffindors weren't
making bets with anyone from Slytherin, it seemed. Severus was more
concerned with cheering Malfoy up. "You sure took care of Pettigrew,
Lucius. We don't have to do anything now. He's too scared to go to the
lavatory without a bodyguard. As for Black, just wait for the game."
Snape thought to himself about how the game might go, then committed
himself. "I promise, Lucius. I promise we'll win!"

After breakfast, Severus Snape prepared in private for the game,
then came back to join his team for the pre-match pep talk from the head
of their House, Professor Adderson. These talks might have been
uplifting if Adderson was in his right mind; however, years ago he had
been blasted by a terrible curse. These days he only really knew where
he was and what he was doing if he was in a classroom, chalkboard behind
him and text in his hands. The rest of the time... well, his speech said
it all.
"Dearly beloved," Professor Adderson blinked and went on, "we are
gathered here today because Mr. Jelly can't have dessert until he
finishes his vegetables."
"Oh, God," groaned Lazarus LeFay (Chaser). "Someone get him to shut up."

"They all laughed when I said I'd destroy the Suez, but I'm
laughing now! Where was I? Oh, yes. Play fair, play well, and make mommy
proud of you."
"Would anyone actually notice if we tied him up and left him in a
closet for the rest of the term?" speculated Caesar Croft (Beater).
Snape frowned. "He's a teacher, and a good one. Sir!" He tugged at the
professor's arm to get his attention. "Sir! The graded exams have to be
handed back in half an hour!" That did the trick. Adderson lifted his
robes above his knees and legged it back to his office. At least now
they wouldn't have to worry about embarrassing them by adding his own
spin to the announcer's commentary during the game.

The announcer, Melody Goshawk of Ravenclaw, began: "The Gryffindor team
is coming out on to the field. Oh, doesn't James Potter look smart! He's
the Seeker, of course, started as mid-term replacement in his second
year, and hasn't missed the Snitch yet. Aurora Reyes is Keeper; this is
her last year-- she was Chaser for two years and then moved to Keeper.
Farhan Shaheed and Sirius Black are the Beaters-- look at how their
shoulders show with those sleeveless robes!"
"This is a Quidditch match, not a muscle beach," McGonagall's
reprimand could be heard over the announcer's microphone as well.
"And here are Mitsy Moody (her dad's an Auror), Bruce Wallace, and
Daisy Domini. They are Gryffindors Chasers, and they've been getting the
team close to a school record for highest yearly team score!"
"Coming on the the field from the other side are the Slytherin team.
Lucius Malfoy, team Captain and their Chaser leads the way. Oh! They're
using their 'snake dance' entrance, where they fly on in a slow, winding
single file. This appears to be a sort of intimidation tactic. It worked
on Hufflepuff, but I don't think the Gryffindors are going to be
impressed. Behind Malfoy is Severus Snape, their Seeker. Chasers Lazarus
LeFay, and Claude Arcadis follow, looking tense. For those who've lost
track, it would take a victory of 220 points for the Slytherins to win
the tournament as well as the game. Virgil Fortes, the Keeper, is very
tall for a Fifth year student, isn't he? That extra reach has helped the
team get this far.  Caesar Croft and Quentin Pluribus are carrying their
bats over their heads. They certainly look like they are aching to send
Bludgers toward the Gryffindors.
"The teams take their ready places and Master releases the balls! The
Quaffle is taken by Mitsy Moody, who passes it on to Bruce Wallace. The
Slytherin Chasers are closing in; Claude is trying to cut Bruce off.
Wallace drops it?! No! Domini passed beneath him; it was a pass no one
saw coming! Daisy moves fast and it's up to Fortes now. Daisy Domini
feints to the left but throws to the right-- Virgil hesitates and is
lost. Score ten for Gryffindor.
"Down field, I'm not sure what the Beaters are up to? Croft and
Pluribus are knocking one Bludger back and forth between them as they
get closer toward the action. It seems like they must be readying an
attack on the Gryffindor Chasers?"
Severus Snape listened to the game announcing carefully. He'd learned
the hard way, his first game, that a Seeker could never watch the match.
You had to let your ears follow the game, and save your eyes for the
Snitch. Although right now he'd let Potter keep an eye out for the
Snitch while he kept his eyes on Potter.  Potter was idly moving
gradually further outward from the center of the field. They were both
riding high, well above the scrimmage over the Quaffle.
"Arcadis is trying to make it to the goal on his own; he won't pass it
to LeFay, although Cyrus's waving openly. And no wonder, as Mitsy looks
ready to try for an interception on any pass."
"Sirius Black knocks a Bludger toward Arcadis, hoping to force him to
lose the Quaffle. Caesar Croft intercepts and sends it back toward
Quentin? No, toward Sirius-- Quentin has control of the other Bludger;
they are both aiming Bludgers at him!  Can this be the play they were
setting up? Yes, Black is caught between Croft and Pluribus! He has to
defend himself against two Bludgers, and the Beaters are keeping him too
busy to aim the Bludgers or escape their cover."
"The Quaffle--" McGonagall reminded.
"Yes, right. August's goal shot was blocked by Aurora Reyes. She
knocked the Quaffle right back to Wallace. Wallace is being blocked by
Claude again; this time, it looks like he'll have trouble making a pass.
LeFay is coming in at an angle. Wallace-- Wallace scrunches up tight and
actually slips past as Shaheed bumps Arcadis."
Snape slid up closer still, tailing Potter by only a couple of yards.
James looked back over his shoulder. "Trying to count the bristles?"
"Feel crowded, Potter?" asked Snape. "You've got a lot more space than
the kids in the hall did when you did your stunt flying." In reply,
James did a quick dive which Snape nearly matched, pulling up a bit
short to have his broom level with Potter's head.
Melody continued, "The Slytherins get a penalty shot for on account of
Shaheed's move. Reyes saves-- she's rumoured to be part Valkyrie, and I
believe it... Sirius is still caught between Slytherin's Beaters! If he
misses a Bludger even once, it will destroy his rhythm and he'll be in a
tunnel of pain! He's making hit after hit, those tan, muscular arms
building up glistening beads of sweat as he plays not just for his team
but for his safety! The poor, brave darling!" Suddenly Melody lost her
"Miss Goshawk! This is a Quidditch Match, not a dating game!"
McGonagall said sharply. "If you cannot stick to the facts, it may be
time to audition new announcers."
"Right. Sorry." Melody cleared her throat and continued. "But it is a
strange strategy being played out. Shaheed is trying to get in there to
help his fellow Beater, but Malfoy keeps interfering. Are the Slytherins
desperately trying to disable Black in order to force the Gryffindors to
forfeit? Or is this personal?"
James Potter paled a little and turned his broom to face Sirius and his
assailants-by-proxy. Snape felt a bit reluctant to follow him closer to
the Bludgers, but he had to stick with him in case Potter's eye had
really been caught by the Snitch. Before they'd gone more than a dozen
yards, however, another player intervened. "Mitsy Moody sweeps in though
the Beater's flight path! She's drawing on of the Bludgers behind her,
relying on speed alone. Black is free to take his time and aim the
remaining Bludger. He knocks it up and out toward Pot-- no, at Severus
Snape. Slytherin's Seeker has to dive quickly. Quentin catches up and
uses it to make Daisy miss a pass. Quaffle intercepted..."
Snape squinted around the field. Potter was hovering, talking to Black.
A flutter of excitement rose in his throat, but look as he might, he saw
no flash of gold. Shrugging, he moved toward Potter again, pulling up
just in front of him as James moved away from his friend.
"Were you part of that plan?" Potter had the nerve to ask him.
"Don't be stupid," Snape shot back. "Black may be a jerk, but a win is
the revenge I want."
"Good enough." Potter flicked and sped up, trying to break away from
Snape, but Severus kept up with him. "You really have improved your
"Uh..." Snape wasn't expecting to hear anything like that. "Thanks."
And then Potter took off, quickly, at a seventy degree angle to his
former path. Snape sighted along the path, then away from it. He still
couldnt see the Golden Snitch. He hurried , rushing after Potter. He
was actually faster and had nearly closed the gap between them when:
Wham! Potter jerked his broom so the back end slammed the front of
Snapes handle.
He was knocked down, had to react fast to avoid hitting Potters
bristles with his face, but this was what all the training was about.
Snape had had the Bludgers sicced on him so often, he knew exactly
howhis broom would respond to a suddenly blow. So he went with the
motion, rolling under Potter and then spinning upward, arcing around and
blocking Potter from getting to the Snitch. James was smooth in pulling
short to avoid collision, their eyes locked for a moment and then they
were twisting and tumbling like a pair of Chinese dragons fighting for
Melody Goshawk saw it another way. If any of you have missed taking
Muggle Studies, this might change your mind! I've never seen anything
like this except in a film about the World War I Flying Aces! Potter
straightens out, Snape drops again, Potter has to dive, slips back,
pulls up behind Snape, Snape reverses, whips his bristles by Potters
ear, Potter rolls, Snape follows suit. I cant see the Snitch-- oh yes,
its just beyond them, but moving up, now! Potters pursuing it while
still in the barrel roll, Snape changes to a loop to try to pull out of
it and get ahead. Potter cuts him off with a sudden horizontal spin
which Snape takes on the shoulder. Glancing blow only. Referee indicates
no penalty-- Slytherin did score on their penalty shot for the
deliberate hit to his broom which started this dogfight. Snape sweeps
between Potter and the Golden Snitch; a Bludgers headed their way, all
Beaters from both sides are chasing it, they dont want anything
And the pounding in Snapes ears and the roar of the crowd was drowning
out the rest of Melodys announcement. He matched Potter for a corkscrew
turn that took them spiraling twenty yards in less than a minute. And
then Potter pulled away with a surge of speed and a whoop of excitement,
and leveled out. Snape had no idea where the Snitch was.  Potter looked
over his shoulder to Snape and grinned. His hands were empty, but his
thighs were tense as he sped up again, ready to dive at the first glint
of gold.
Severus, on the other hand, felt dizzy and slightly motion sick. He
couldnt go through that again, not without a chance to recover. Potter
looked down and ahead, searching the field. The crowd was still roaring.
Severus, stomach clenching worse than ever, moved his arm up. The
gesture was casual and barely paused; to an observer, it would look like
a salute of respect. He respected Potters ability-- too much to give
him a second chance to win. Orbit obscurus, tempus finitum. His little
finger, curled, barely lay against the inner tip of his wand, which he
had taped running along his wrist, up to his palm, with flesh coloured
Potter stopped turning his head, and stared straight up and ahead, then
let go of his handle to rub at his eyes. His broom drifted aimlessly.
Snape had no time to waste. He dropped ten feet, fifteen, in a spiral,
searching the area theyd last seen the Snitch headed toward. Then he
heard Potter call his name and looked up again. The Golden Snitch was
only about five feet below James Potter. The Gryffindor Seeker had no
idea. He was simply calling to Snape as the person who had been close
by. Severus glided up, caught the Snitch, and waved it for the referee
to see. Ten seconds later, he was next to Potter.
Are you all right? he asked, knowing perfectly well what was wrong.
I cant see a thing, said James. There was a hint of fear in his
voice that gave Snape a short thrill of triumph followed by a sense of
Ill help you down. He rested his free hand on Potters broom handle.
Ive got your broom. Games over. Ill steer you down and Madame
Poultice can look at you.
Thanks. Potters relief trebled his feelings of guilt.
They had not gone far together; Snape was just trying to think of
something more to say, when a hostile voice cut through his thoughts.
Let go of him, you little creep!
Sirius, he offered to help me, Potter explained.
Dont trust him, James. That slimy rat would love to see you out of the
game permanently. If we werent here hed probably steer you into the
Whomping Willow!
Hey! Severus began to protest.
Shut up, big nose! said Farhan Shaheed, who really shouldnt have been
talking about large noses. Snape turned red, then pale, and left Potter
to the care of his teammates.
Severuss own team rallied around him as he neared the ground. As soon
as they were off their brooms, Lucius ran up to him and threw his arms
around him. You did it for me! he could hear his friend yell in joy
and gratitude. Severus at last began to smile and feel the victory hed
won the Slytherins. The Gryffindors had won the tournament, but the last
game had gone to the Slytherins, and all of them, every single person in
the House was beaming at him. The team as a whole had been losing on
goals, too, so there was just one hero that day, and it was him! Hestia
Hextrum was screaming his name and Gesthemane Graves (a second year
transfer student from America) planted a kiss on him as soon as Lucius
let him go. He couldnt help but feel overjoyed when he was lifted up
and carried to back to the House to celebrate. Still, for just a moment,
he looked back to where James, now clear-eyed (the curse had been for
only a few minutes duration) was talking to Madame Poultice, Professor
McGonagall, and his concerned teammates. In that instant, Sirius Black
looked up and glared at him with deep hatred, and his voice rang out
over the crowds. Cheater!

Chapter 4-- Celebrations

Remus Lupin had left the stands before the game was over, Peter
Pettigrew right behind him. Youre all right now, James? he asked for
the third time as they walked back to the castle, drifting away slightly
from the rest of the Gryffindors.
Yes, Im fine! Im perfect! Madame Poultice gave me a clean bill of
She didnt do much, grumbled Sirius. You went blind, thats no light
I was *blinded*, temporarily. Im sure I just flew into some insects
and got a gnat in my eye. James shook his head, tired of all the fuss.
A gnat? Pettigrew didnt believe this explanation. Neither, judging
from his scowl, did Sirius.
Look, if he says it was a gnat, it must have been a gnat. James should
know his own eyes. Remus tried to change the subject though, noting the
doubt on Potters own face. Do we want to worry about this all night,
or do we want to enjoy our victory party?
Peter was sounding more confused now. Victory party?
Sure. Its still on. We won the tournament! So what if a bit of dumb
luck cost us one game? All of his friends brightened up at this.
Besides, I need that party; I havent got a date yet for the end of
school dance.
James laughed and clapped him on the back. The day thats a problem for
you, I want to know. He paused. I know youll have to go away
tomorrow, but... weve got a surprise for you.
Remus didnt know what to make of this. The squeaky toy you gave me
last time didnt help a bit.
Sirius smiled, No, this will be better. Just wait. Say, Remus, just how
long do you think it will take you to get a date for the dance?
I dont know... well have to catch up with the girls first.
You really are a wolf, you know.
Remus started to flush, then caught the second meaning. Hey, they are
usually the ones chasing me. Besides, what about Dibs on Sirius, you
sly dog? For some reason, this joke had his friends laughing a lot
harder than he expected.
They reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.  Champion, Remus gave the
password and they stepped through the opening. A couple of girls were
hastily changing some of the banners that hung in the common room. Lupin
remembered them... hed helped create them, and Undefeated wasnt the
phrase to use just now. He gave them a little smile and wave to thank
them for their tact, but the gesture was misinterpreted. Hey, Remus!
cooed Liz Macey, a leggy blonde girl in her sixth year.
Hi, Liz. Uh, youre going to the dance with Steve, right?
Youve got such a good memory! Now, my minds like a sieve if I dont
take notes. Youll have to show me again how to do that charm...
The one for kissing without having to interrupt for breath?
Mmmm-hmmm. she grinned. He blushed. As he promised to meet with her in
a few days he could hear the guys behind him.
I dont get it, said Sirius.
And you dont have it, pointed out Peter.
But Id like it! What makes him such a girl magnet?
Lets see, began James, Hes sensitive, charming, a good listener,
writes poetry, notices when they change their hair--
Has to be animal magnetism, theres no other explanation, finished
Aurora Reyes let off a cloud of coloured sparks to draw everyones
attention. We lost the game, today, but the Quidditch tournament is
ours, and we are practically a shoo-in for the House Cup, too!  The
refreshments will be arriving any minute, and lets not let todays loss
spoil our fun.
Hear, hear!
Actually, we have a little entertainment planned, said James. Remus,
would you?
Lupin paused, What *is* this about, James? I can do the scrying spell,
but you never told me why...
Sirius and I created a little surprise package for Slytherin House.
Lupin hesitated. He had a nagging feeling that sometimes his friends
took things too far... but then, a big part of the fun of them was the
unpredictability of their humour. He drew a circle in the air with his
wand and spoke. Clairvoyat, clairaudium  ville Slytherin! The circle
became a portal of sight and sound into the Slytherin common room.
Just in time, to judge from the expression on Sirius face based on what
they heard from within. Take a look at this! Adderson left a present on
the table. A brightly coloured box was lifted up by DuNuit. Lucius,
you should open it, the tag says its for the team.
The perpetually disdainful Malfoy stepped forward and examined the box.
Its rather small. God knows what he thinks is appropriate. It could be
socks in the team colours. Still, his even getting it seems like an act
of surprising awareness. Severus-- you won the game. We were down
points. The honour should be yours.
In Gryffindors room, Sirius cried, Yes! and punched air.
Severus Snape, looking uncomfortable, took the box in both hands. For a
moment, Lupin wished there was some way he could shout a warning to
Snape. As sour-faced as he could be, there were times when Remus thought
that came from unhappiness rather than a malign disposition, and felt
sorry for him.
Severus pulled off the ribbon and wrap. The box itself flew open as two
large balls pushed their way out. Girls in *both* common rooms screamed.
Snapes reflexes were quick and he ducked under the box as the Bludgers
targeted students around him. Malfoy called for his house elf as he
scrambled out of the way, pushing a first year between himself and the
ball. The first year slipped on some spilled punch and slid beneath the
Bludger, which began chasing after DuNuit, who began running over a
plush sofa, shrieking and leaping just barely ahead of it. The second
Bludger couldnt stay fixed on a target but darted this way and
that,sending shrieking Slytherins running for cover. Dobby! Malfoy
yelled again, and the much put-upon house elf appeared. Catch that
Bludger! He pointed at the one Cynthia was dodging.
Do it!
A moment later, the house elf was in front of the Bludger, which hit
him... creating a soft squishing sound. Dobbys head was dripping with a
sticky, dark red substance. Dobby is bleeding! the house elf shrieked,
Dobby is... not in pain? His hand went up and then to his mouth.
Dobby is bleeding blackberry jam?
The tension that many of the Gryffindors had been feeling was released
in a gale of laughter. They should have known, should have trusted,
James and Sirius would never hurt anyone with their japes.
In the Slytherin common room, Severus gaped at Dobby, then waved
frantically at Croft, who had picked up a serving tray to use as a bat.
It was too late. The tray smashed into the fake Bludger,  splattering
blackberry jam across half the room. Crimson smears oozed on the
wallpaper, the antique furnishings, and the expensive clothes.
What is THIS?! Professor McGonagalls voice, chillingly stern,
stopped the laughter. Lupins concentration broke and the viewing
portal  closed. Then his knees buckled and his face his the floor.
Amid the chaos around him, he heard Peter telling McGonagall he would
get Madame Poultice for him. Sirius put an arm under his shoulders, and
with James carried him over to a chaise. James sounded very worried as
he told him, Im sorry, Lupin. I shouldnt have asked you to do that
hard a spell this close to... you know.
Ill be all right, Lupin said, and managed to lift his head and grin.
It just robs me of strength, with my body getting ready to change.
Sirius patted him on the shoulder. Youre a good sport.
Then McGonagall was looming over them. I am aware of Mr. Lupins
condition, but that does *not* excuse the two of you from explaining
what you were doing spying on Slytherin House.
James began, It was just a joke...
I dont think the students there found it very amusing. You are going
to go over there, right now, with me, and while the rest of Gryffindor
House is enjoying their party, you and Mr. Black will be cleaning jam
off the walls of Slytherin House under the supervision of their
To Remuss surprise, his friends looked relieved. Yes, maam! Right
James added. Well clean up after the Gryffindor party, too. Just dont
make us do detention tomorrow, please?
We promised wed do something for Remus.
Her frown melted. I cant find fault with that. Hurry up tonight,
though, because you still owe me those essays, too.
The three of them walked away. Remus was left to enjoy the rest of the
evening with the attentions of a number of pretty girls who felt sorry
for his frail, sensitive soul.

Chapter 5--Interlude

Severus lay on his back on the hillside around the Shrieking Shack; it
was his haven, a place where no one would bother him. He wasnt afraid
of the rumours of haunting. It was a wonder the other students avoided
it, when they went to school with the likes of the Bloody Baron. At
least Malfoy wasnt too afraid to meet him here.
A bag marked Honeydukes dropped at his side. Id eat the gingerbread
man before he runs away, if I were you. Malfoy sat on the ground next
to him.
Thanks, said Severus, pulling out the cookie and nibbling its legs,
ignoring the screams spelled out in frosting.
Feeling better?
I guess. At least Potter and his friends werent around. Snape really
didnt want to talk about what had happened at Honeydukes. It had been
bad enough at school through the weeks, hearing the hissed accusation,
Cheater! follow him through the halls. He had looked forward to the
Hogsmeade weekend as an escape; instead, Honeydukes was thronged and
students had used the anonymity of the crowd to elbow, pinch, bump, and
tread on him. After a few failed attempts to get to the counter, he
abandoned the store, aching and shamed. Lucius had been talking with
some older students outside. Noticing something wrong, hed made a list
of what Snape had wanted and added it to his own shopping. I went to
Ancient Tomes afterward, Severus now changed the topic to something he
could smile about. His gingerbread-free hand tapped a small stack of
dusty books.
The used bookstore? Malfoy was surprised. No one ever goes there.
I like it. Look what I found. _687 Little Known Magic Poisons That
Mimic Curses_, _Tap Your Wand_, I even found an international fireplace
Lucius studied Severus with interest as he proudly displayed his finds.
You like books better than people, dont you?
Books cant hurt me.
Are you afraid of people? The words could have been insulting, if it
were not for the kind, gentle tone in which they were spoken.
No. Yes. I dont know. Not coward-scared, but... theres a risk in
caring.  A risk in trusting.
Do you trust me?
There was a slight pause, then Severus said, Yes, Im afraid I do.
After a second pause, both youths laughed a little. There was a
silence,  then a noise from within the Shrieking Shack caught their
Repeated, rapid thumps came from within, followed by a crash like
something large being knocked over. Severus and Lucius exchanged glances
and stared at the house again. A howl came from within, like the baying
of a hound. Snape ventured the question, Do you suppose this is really
just the Headless Hunts club house? Wouldnt that be funny? He began
walking toward the house.
What do you think youre doing? asked Malfoy.
I want a closer look. Dont you want to know what everyones afraid
Adult wizards wont come near this place. Severus, dont be stupid. I
thought you were the cautious type.
Im not afraid of the unknown.
There was a sudden crash louder than any of the others, and the window
that Severus had been approaching broke, sending small bits of glass and
large pieces of the boards that had been nailed over the window. A
stags head glared out, a bit of blood running from a nicked ear. Its
nostrils flared, and it exposed large, gleaming teeth. Severus turned to
Lucius only to see him taking off at top speed. A growl came from
further within the Shack, a growl which raised the hairs on his neck. He
picked up his books and ran after Lucius. Ill come back, he said to
himself as he half ran, half slid down the hill. One day Ill find out
what its all about.

Chapter 6-- Going Places

Lucius surveyed Slytherins dining table in the Great Hall with
distaste. It was time to change things to reflect changes within the
House.  Ill stay with my usual seat, he declared to the fellows hed
spent the last few days in negotiations with, rebuild the team around
us. With that, and no glance back, he left Macnair, a large Sixth year
student interested in being Keeper, and Crabbe and Goyle, his new picks
for Beaters, to follow discreetly and move students around.
Theoretically, it was to allow the team to plan strategies over meals.
In fact, it was purely about power. Malfoy could make students give up
their chairs; Malfoy was de facto head of Slytherin House. Prestige
would no longer mean sitting at the end of the table with the  Seventh
Years, but be measured in terms of distance from Malfoy.
Severus sat quietly, not speaking to the students around him, his long
nose stuck in another book. The smile on Luciuss face softened as he
looked at Snape. The younger student was at a loss in the power games
that went on around him. Yet it was he who singlehandedly won the game
that gave Malfoy his leverage within the house. Instead of making the
best of it, Severus was still too shy and too proud to even start a
conversation. Lucius pulled out a chair and moved it between Severus and

the girl on his right, Matilde Matrix. She made room for him
wordlessly.  A minute later, she had to pick up her plate and find
another place entirely as Macnairs girlfriend was moved into that seat
and Macnair took up a spot across from them.
Severus put the book away as Malfoy joined him. Lucius added another
roll to his plate as well as helping himself when the basket was passed
down. Will you stop picking at your food? You dont need to get any
Snapes reply was a sigh. Someone transformed my dolmathes into a frog.
I didnt have much appetite after that.
Did you see who it was?
If I had, I wouldnt just be sitting here. Or he wouldnt... Id wait
until he was putting his food in his mouth, then transfigure steak to
Malfoy laughed. Youre one of the best, Severus. Thats why Ive got
something special planned tonight-- a party the Gryffindors *wont* be
crashing. Its secret, just a small group Ive invited.
I, thank you, but--
Dont say no, Severus! Youre the guest of honour. Youll make me look
a prat if you dont show.
In that case, I will be there.
Good.  Come down to the Common Room just before midnight, and Ill show
you the secret passage that leads to a storage dungeon. Now, what about
the End-of-Term Dance?
Im revising for my exams that night.
You can revise any time. You have to be there, at least for an hour.
Why should I? Severus was beginning to sound cross. What should it
matter? Im only a Third Year; I cant go without being asked.
Look around this table, Severus. Youre the Quidditch hero. Any of the
girls will ask you to the dance if I tell them youll say yes. But
after you turned down Carmine Avon, theyre too nervous. Tell me who you
like and Ill give her the nod.
I just dont want to go. I dont like crowds, and I dont know how to
Well, Jessie made a fuss, and if you dont go with *someone*,  people
will start to say you dont like girls. Thats not a reputation you
Hed said the wrong thing. Severus flushed and said, I happen to
fancy... well, Im not saying, but I have no intention of going to a
dance Im not interested in with a --
Calm down. Lucius waited in silence while Severus composed himself.
Im just trying to look out for you. Youve got no idea of the
importance of image.
Very well. Tell DuNuit I can study with her for Potions at that time.
If shes willing to stay behind from the dance. Then, any busybodies can
assume that we are necking, and she will have a chance at a passing
grade from Proffitt.
Thats brilliant! Lucius was sometimes amazed at how devious Severus
could be.
There was a pause. You dont mind? Youve had your eye on her...
Hestias an older student. Im going to the dance with her.
Youre choosing your own date on the principle of image as well?
Dessert appeared on the table and Lucius snatched up a creme brulee. Of
course, Severus. You know, youre a pretty quick study at this sort of
There was a quirk at Snapes mouth. It is not my favorite subject. Pass
me a jelly roll?

Later that night, Malfoy saw the wand glow that announced Snapes
approach. Severus was hesitant. If we get caught having an unauthorized
party after curfew...
We wont be caught. This room probably hasnt been used by anyone but
house elves in a century. Come on, everyones waiting.
Joy, said Severus dryly as Malfoy twisted an andiron, causing the
entire fireplace to swing out and reveal the passage. My party is being
held in... what, a large broom closet?
Come along and find out. His patience was rewarded as they reached the
other end. Severus gave a gasp as the Red Room came into view.
The ceiling was covered in copper tiles, the floor in tiles of red
clay.  Bowls of eldritch fire, ignited by the students, lit the
crimson-painted walls. The only evidence that its current purpose was
storage was the number of cupboards, wardrobes, chests, and bookcases
along the wall, in some areas stretching out to subdivide the room.
Its too magnificent! What makes you think it isnt being used?
There was laughter then, from all the students that had gathered ahead
of them and set things up. Malfoy explained. The regular corridor
leading here collapsed over seventy years ago and they never got all the
rubble moved. The house elves are small enough to get through and
probably dust this area in the summer, like they do everything else. The
rest of the year... its all ours, reachable only through Slytherin
Severus continued to stare around, hardly noticing Lucius gently
steering him to the snack table which had been set up with goodies from
home by the others. The green and silver banners caught and reflected
the light. Its like having our own secret clubhouse.
Macnair gave Snape a slap on the back that seemed a little too hearty,
but Severus stood the blow unflinching. Youre right, Malfoy, he may be
quiet, but hes sharp. Hes anticipating us already.
What do you mean? Severus was suddenly tense, whether from anger at
the blow, or suspicion, Malfoy could not tell.
You are our guest of honour tonight, Severus, because we want to form a
club. And we need you in it.
I... dont follow. I thought this was because of the Quidditch win?
Yes. But not because you won. Because of *how* you won.
How. I. Won. There was a pause between each word. You think I
cheated, too.
I know you cheated. But none of us can figure out how you pulled it
off! You know more curses than anyone else, and whats more, you snuck
it past everyone, even the teachers. No evidence.
Snape was pale. Malfoy continued, Look, no ones mad at you. We think
it was brilliant. And the thing is, we all want to know more about the
Dark Arts.
Are you saying you want me to teach you to cheat?!
DuNuit intervened, Were *all* going to be learning. This is a study
group. Well all do research and share the knowledge. But you *are* the
expert on curses.
Macnair nodded. Im interested in monsters. That will be my
You see, Malfoy continued, our Dark Arts Club will just be another
learning opportunity. For all of us. The school has a limited
curriculum, and Dark magic is so fascinating. Wouldnt you agree?
You came to this school already knowing books full of curses. You
wont keep them all to yourself, will you? Thats not very friendly.
I didnt mean that, its just... Severus looked around at the eager,
smiling faces and sighed. All right. As the others turned to the snack
table, he caught Malfoys eye. Its just... I wanted you to believe in
I do, Severus. I do.

Chapter 7-- Truth and Consequences

Severus Snape went to his Potions final with heavy feet. He knew he
would pass; there was no question, since he was back with the other
Third Years. For the same reason, he felt the test was really a bit of
an insult to his intelligence. As soon as he opened the door, Proffitt
stopped him. Snape, you are to go to Dumbledores office immediately.
He requested I send you, and you really dont need to take the exam
That, at least, seemed like good news.
You can take it tomorrow, with the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor
So much for that. He had thought hed been reluctant to come to class,
but going to Dumbledores office felt like a command to cross the Sahara
on foot. The Headmaster was waiting... the way was clear as he trudged
up the steps leading to Dumbledores office.  When he peered in through
the open door, the great wizard was looking out the window. Do come in,
Severus. Ive been worried about you.
Worried, sir? Then he was striding across the floor to Dumbledores
side. My father! Youve heard something?
The tall wizard sighed at this, Im sorry, no.  Integrus is still
Severus drooped at the news, or rather, lack of news. Then what is this
You werent at the dance last night...
Severus couldnt believe it. Im only a third year student, and I
dont even know how to dance!
Im not arguing with your decision not to go. Merely clarifying why you
are not aware of the events of that evening.
Events, sir?
Dumbledore cleared his throat, It began with a plague of frogs hopping
out of the punch bowl that the Slytherin Quidditch team were gathered
around. Then the Gryffindor team had L-O-S-E-R-S appear in flashing
etters on their dress robes. Im not sure what they would have chosen to
spell if James hadnt been strolling the grounds with his date at the
time. Sirius Black raised his wand at Malfoy, who performed an
Expelliarmus so fast that Black was knocked backwards and tripped to the
ground with both of his dates--
Both dates? He was with TWO girls?
Yes, Moody and Goshawk. But after that, half the students were drawing
wands and the faculty had to disarm *everyone*.
I see. But, what does this have to do with me?
Every student I called into my office said this dispute is based on an
accusation that you cheated at the final game of the tournament.
I thought you should know about the situation. I dont like seeing one
student drawing the anger of half the student body.
What do you want me to do about it?
Dumbledore walked back to his desk, sat and placed his chin in his
hands. What do you think that you should do?
I dont know. Look, the Gryffindors hate me anyway.
Hate is a strong word. They are angry, yes, but I have never seen any
hostility on their part toward you before. In fact, James Potter has
told me he probably just had a gnat fly into his eye-- and he has told
his friends the same thing.
Or so he said. Severus bitterly added, *No one* thinks I could have
won without cheating!
Dumbledore let silence fall for a moment. That is not true, Severus.
If you didnt cheat, you know you won without doing so. And whether or
not you did... *I* believe you could have.
Oh. Severus could barely stand to look at Dumbledores kind eyes.
After a moment, his gaze dropped. Youre wrong. I tried to win fairly,
but I just couldnt. I had to win, I just HAD to! You dont  know what
they are like!
They are high-spirited. But there was no sign of a curse on James or
his broom...
I made a self-limiting curse.
Where did you learn such a thing?
My father taught me. Since hes a professional Counter-speller, he
believes that all wizards should use temporary curses whenever
Of course. Youve worked very hard to make him proud of you, havent
Snape thought darkly for a moment that his father was the sort who one
had to work very hard to make proud. Yes.
How do you think he would feel if he heard you cheated?
Hes not here! And Lucius is!
Did Lucius ask you to cheat?
No. He just wanted me to win. He needed me to win. And hes my only
Ah, yes. That may be the problem in a nutshell. You really need more
friends. That has been what has worried me about you.
I... dont make friends easily.
You shut people out, Severus. I saw much the same thing when your
father was a lad, but you are even more distant. Dont you want to have
more friends?
Well, yes.
I would like to see you try to make a few.
Professor Dumbledore?
Id like... I mean, you listen... I mean... Snape paused, then
suddenly stretched his hand across the desk. Will you be my friend?
Dumbledore clasped the thin hand in his own strong grip. I would be
Severus smiled.  Thank you, sir. And... about the cheating thing... I
was thinking... maybe I should quit the team?
It would remove temptation.
And, uh, I think...
Yes? Dumbledore encouraged him.
I think I should talk to Potter.  Tell him the truth. That I used a
curse to win. And that Im sorry.
That would be the right thing to do. Im glad to hear you suggest it.
Dumbledore got to his feet again, and came around the desk. I should
hate to have made the wrong decision myself.
Not all of the teachers were in agreement with me, but knowing the
difficulties youve been facing on a personal level, and having every
confidence in your abilities as a student...
Snapes eyes widened in amazement as Dumbledore finished.
You will be starting your next term with the Fifth Year students. Here
is a list of the books you will need to study over the summer. And...
Oh, dear, it looks like Ill have to ask Professor Proffitt to give you
your Potions exam with the Fourth Years this afternoon. Can you be ready
for it?
Already am, sir! A rare smile lit up Severuss face. He felt like he
could walk on air. Ill talk with Potter first thing after the exam.
Thank you, Professor!
Run along now. Dumbledore made a little shooing motion and Severus
could barely keep from racing back to his House
in his excitement.

Chapter 8-- Respect

James and Sirius carried plates stacked eight high as they headed back
to the dorm. Fruit plate for Desmond?
Jeanines eclairs?
Check, said Sirius. Why cant everyone have the same favorite
exam cram food?
Because were all different. I wouldnt eat that pepperoni sausage you
like for ten galleons.
Protein is good for the brain.
Acid indigestion would distract me, negating the benefits.
A slightly chubby second year boy nearly bumped into them as he ran down
the steps to Gryffindor House. James stopped him. Matthew, you sound
Matthew beamed back at him. That asthma charm you taught me really
works great! Want me to help you carry that back upstairs?
Thank you. James and Sirius let him take the top plates off their
stacks. James continued, Does that mean youll be trying out for the
team next year?
Gosh! Matthew grew even more eager. I guess I could. He laughed, I
could fly even in hay fever season!
The older boys smiled.  James could think of few things more rewarding
than helping one of the younger students, especially the one from Muggle
backgrounds. They always seemed so surprised to find out how much they
could do for themselves once they were shown the way. Although, he
confessed to himself, there was also nothing like the satisfaction of a
real challenge... like the Quidditch game. His teammates couldnt
understand how delighted hed been by Snapes improvement as a flyer. It
had been pure exhilaration to feel the wind tugging at his robes as
theyd dove and spun, and it bothered him that the others werent giving
Snape the benefit of the doubt. Sure it was strange about the sudden
blindness, but there was no evidence of wrongdoing, and a few rumours
had ended up making his best rival the object of scorn.
Unload! Remus interrupted Jamess reverie, pulling plates off his
stack and delivering them to the study tables scattered throughout the
common room. He was smiling and much livelier than he had ever been
before a week following a full moon. Peter, on the other hand, was
rather glumly doing his Potions revisions. James sat next to him and
spoke quietly.
Well work with you more over the summer, Peter. Youve almost got the
change down.
We dont want to leave you out, but Remus needed help fast.
I need help. Peter groaned. Im going to flunk.
You always say that but you never do. Youre smarter than you think you
are. Here, James picked up the book, what is the main ingredient for a
Leaping Libation?
Thats easy. Frogs Legs.
James ran Peter through more questions until it was time to go down for
the exams. As they reached the class Sirius came to a stop. What does
that git think hes doing here? Proffitt kicked him back to his proper
Remus tugged on Siriuss sleeve. Just keep your mind on the exam, all
right? This isnt your best class.
As they walked into the room James rolled his eyes at Siriuss next
remark, spoken in tones meant to draw attention. Well, this may not be
my best class, but I certainly wont CHEAT on the exam!
Snape scowled, but put a restraining hand on Malfoys arm, and the
Slytherin boys went in and took their chairs without another word. James
went over him written exam twice, the first time writing in the answers,
the second, covering his answers while he read the question again,
making sure he had not misunderstood the original intent. Still, he
finished well before time, as had Snape. The younger fellow kept
glancing at him and the hourglass on their professors desk, then began
pointing to his on mouth and ear.
Proffitt noticed. No communication between students during the exam!
Im sorry, sir, said Snape. We were both finished. I just wanted to
talk to him after class. The whole room was now staring at them and
Snape went red and slid part way down his chair.
You can make your appointments later. And those of you not yet
finished, should be aware there are only 7 minutes left until the
practical portion of the exam. James, still watching Snape curiously,
saw his face light up a little. It was amazing, but the chap actually
seemed to delight in mincing eldritch roots, weighing everything on his
brass scales (which were kept in better order than anyones-- not even
Remus bothered to polish his potion apparatus), and standing over the
noxious steam that seemed to seep into the brewers pores.
One hour, two small explosions, four burnt brews and eighteen floating
students later, the practical exam was over and even Peter had managed a
pass after his second start. James wanted to compare answers with his
friends, but caught Snape gesturing out of the corner of his eye. You
fellows go on without me. Meet you by the lake?
They agreed and Snape walked over to him. Can we talk somewhere more
private? The Slytherin student was glancing nervously at their
professor. I was thinking, the library?
Certainly. There was an uncomfortable silence that James tried to
break as they walked to the library. So, youre back with us in
Potions, huh?
Actually, I, em, got the full year promotion Ive been trying for.
Wont that be tough, with O.W.L.S next year?
Well, Im dropping out of Quidditch, so Ill have more time to study.
James was flabbergasted. Was that what you wanted to talk to me about?

Sort of. Here we are. It doesnt look like even the librarian is in,
thats good.
Whats going on, James was getting impatient. Why all this secrecy?
Because, Snape began, through now gritted teeth, what I have to say
to you is very difficult and I dont want anyone else commenting or
interrupting. He took a deep breath. Its about our last Quidditch
game. *My* last Quidditch game ever.
Jamess gut gave a twist; he had a feeling he knew what was coming.
Snape was speaking more normally now, but his eyes were closed as he
continued. Your friends are right, Potter, I couldnt beat you in a
fair match--
But you flew fantastically! Youre the best Ive ever faced.
I can fly, but Im no good at finding the Snitch.
But you did--
Once the pressure was off, yes. Look, stop trying to praise me, Im
trying to tell you I CHEATED!
There was a long silence. Then James felt the disappointment and fury
rising in his throat. You utter , shameless cur! Ive been sticking up
for you--
I didnt ask you to!
Ive been arguing with my friends about it; Ive been made a total fool
of! Im probably the only person in this whole school who tried to give
you a chance after you BLINDED me and STOLE the Snitch!
I know it was wrong. Im trying to apologi--
And just to think, I had started to respect you!
Their eyes locked for a moment, two glares that could probably throw
curses without the help of a wand.
Snape drew himself up to his full height (four inches short of Jamess)
and answered back. I cast a spell on you, yes, but I didnt make a fool
of you, Potter. You did that all by yourself. Turning on his heel, he
strode away as quickly as he could.
Run away, you cheating coward! James encouraged his retreat. A moment
later, he dropped himself into one of the chairs. What was he going to
say to his friends? The rest of his team?
There was a small cough in the background. James looked up, startled.
Dumbledore was standing there, a sad expression on his face. That went
rather badly for both of you, it would seem.
You heard?
Oh, yes. I knew he was going to be offering you his apology, and I had
hoped... well, you are so mature so much of the time, James, Im afraid
I quite forgot that you are still inclined to the follies of youth,
including a quick temper.
Folly... he CHEATED!
And a little over-much emphasis on something that is, after all, only a
game. Mind you I quite agree that he did terribly wrong. The thing is,
James, he agrees as well.
That doesnt make it all right, sir.
No, James. It will take a lot more time and effort on his part to make
things right with you, with the Gryffindors, and with his entire life.
With that in mind, it would be easier for him to make things right if
you had not discouraged him from doing so.
With all due respect, sir, it isnt fair to blame his actions on me.
He must take responsibility for his actions, yes. He was trying to do
so, although it is difficult for him. Dumbledore paused and sighed He
has known few people his own age, and since Lucius Malfoy picked him out
as a friend, he has had a strong and, I fear, very bad influence upon
him. I wish with all my heart that the Sorting Hat had put Severus in
Ravenclaw, like his father, instead of Slytherin.
Oh, yes. Severus certainly has the keen intellect that Integrus, his
father, did-- or does. I fear the past tense is the correct one,
I dont understand.
I beg your pardon. Ive been musing to you as if you were one of the
other faculty members, with all the students backgrounds laid open to
you. Forgive this old man, James.
James paused, and pointed out, Even if his father is dead, I dont see
what that has to do with his manners and morals. Look at Remus; you know
how bad things are for him--
He has been given love, though, James. From his family, and some
excellent friends. Ive seen him become more outgoing thanks in a large
part to your influence. You are, in fact, a very likable lad. I do
believe Snape would not even have been so angered by your opinion of
him, had he not held a rather high opinion of you. I was curious as to
why Severus was picked out for Slytherin in spite of his love of
learning. What ambition could so sway the decision?
In spite of himself, James was curious. What is his ambition? I mean,
hes quitting Quidditch, so it wasnt even worth... he trailed off,
watching Dumbledore smile at him now.
Youre quite right, his ambition isnt of that sort at all. He wants to
be the best Counterspeller in the world. He wants to be better than his
father, who has accomplished things that were thought impossible.
Thats why he ended up in Slytherin House?
Yes. Dont be surprised, James. In spite of what people think,
ambition can take many forms, and some people with very noble ambitions
have gone through that house. People who wanted to change the world.
Still, even a lofty goal can be a two-edged sword, and so, Severus
worries me more than most of my students. He will be a great wizard, but
how he will use his abilities depends upon his influences.
James understood at last. You were hoping that after he talked to me,
Id be a good influence on him.
You have helped so many of your fellow students already.
If he comes to me again, Ill try. But... he doesnt act like he wants
much help.
The ones who need it the most never do.
Briefly, James mind flickered back to Remus in his first and second
year, so affable most of the time, but then secretive and sensitiveabout
his frequent departures. Hed told them plenty of lies, but finding out
the truth, theyd instantly forgiven him. Still, being a werewolf was a
frightening thing; not making friends was simply a lackof effort. If
Snape wants a second chance, Ill give it to him, because I believe in
you, Professor Dumbledore. He has to try, though.

Chapter 9--A Farewell

Lily sat in the last car of the Hogwarts Express. Fields turned to
houses in the windows, and she knew they would reach London soon. She
looked forward to holidays with her parents, of course, but then there
was Petunia, her older sister, who always tried to make her regret
coming home. The clacking wheel s of the train sounded a musical
underbeat to the laughter coming from the next car, crowded with the
audience of Potter and Black, class clowns.
Suddenly, there was silence, followed by a loud burst of laughter. A
door slammed. She could hear the voices in the next car clearly.
Potter asked, Are you starting your own owlery, now?
Black joined in, No, Snarlys going to teach them to catch the Golden
Or fly in his opponents faces, added Pettigrew.
Even Remus laughed. No, no. Fellows, its one of the Hogwarts
gargoyles down off the roof. At least hes got owls instead of pigeons.

Why dont you all try giving me the silent treatment!
Hey, I didnt mean to get everyone started, Snape, if you want to
talk-- Potter began.
The door to the last car swept open and in stalked Severus Snape, face
pale and ears red. One arm was raised and bent in front of him. The arm
was being offered as a perch for more than half a dozen tiny owls that
were as content to hop around his shoulders, hat brim, hat tip, shirt
pocket and anything else that presented itself. They hopped from perch
to perch so fast she couldnt be sure of their numbers, and their
hyperactive antics made a comic contrast to the grim set of his face as
he slammed the door behind him.
She smothered her giggles in her hands, then said as quickly as she
could. How cute! Theyre *adorable*.
Snapes stoic expression was quickly flooded out by apparent relief.
You like them?
Of course I do. Lily reached out to stroke one that had settled on
Snapes cuff and was pulling at a loose thread. Why do you have so many
of them, though?
I have some special business this summer I needed them for. But I
bought them in a batch. I have an extra one, if youd like it. His free
hand wrapped carefully around the owl shed been petting so he could
gently disengage its talons from his sleeve. I think it likes you.
Turning up her hand to receive the little bird, Lily forced her eyes off
of it and toward Severuss intense yet noncommittal face. Thats nice
of you to offer, but... why?
You live with Muggles. It must be hard for you to keep in touch with
your wizard friends during the summer. Young people forget you if you
arent under their no-- if you arent around. His mouth flinched a
little and Lily realized with surprise that he was embarrassed by his
Oh, I know why Id want one. That will be terrific. But why from you to
Oh. He looked out the window. Were getting close to the London
terminal. Well, I thought if you could write to your friends, maybe I
might be one of them. Now his gaze went down to the floor, then flicked
to her face and out the window again. His next words spilled out
quickly. I know we havent spoken all that much, being in different
houses and all, but you stuck up for me in class and I rather respect
the way you handle yourself and how smart you are, but maybe youre as
mad at me as everyone else about the cheating bit, Im not making any
assumptions. He turned away completely as the train slowed. His
long-fingered hand waved generally at the owl. So its yours, whether
you want to be my friend or not.
Thats good, because if I didnt want to be your friend, you couldnt
bribe me to! He took a step away and she continued in a gentler tone.
I *do* want to be your friend, though. Ill write to you when I get
His face, as he turned back, flashed a lightning-quick smile, then
relaxed into its normal borderline gloomy expression. She continued,
And tell me how things go with your father. That is what the rest of
the owls are for, isnt it?
However did you know about that?
I heard some of the teachers talking. He disappeared?
Yes. The Ministry has pretty much stopped looking for him now. Owls
always seem to be able to find people, so I thought Id give it a try.
He disappeared in South America, so Im going to send my owls through
the Wizard Embassy fireplaces there, using Floo Powder. He looked
rather pleased with himself.
How will you get them back? Theyre much too small for transatlantic
Thats easy. Im going to tell them when to come back to the
fireplaces, then step through and fetch them myself.
The train stopped. You will let me know how things go?
Of course. Do you need a hand with your luggage?
Not really. James and his friends are unloading everyones things at
our stops. What about you?
I have everything in my rucksack.
That seems austere.
Id better hurry. Id like to be out before the crowd. Ill talk to you
later, all right?
Goodbye, Severus. Have a good summer.
He waved back at her with a smile as he left. Walking past all the
waiting parents, he disappeared beyond the barrier, owls still
fluttering all around him, hooting like mad as he quickly tried to grab
them and stuff them all into his hat to hide under his cloak. She
stifled a giggle as she disembarked. Then, as she took the dolly that
held her trunks, she wondered why he wasnt a Gryffindor. It took a kind
of courage to keep your pride when there were white streaks on your
It seemed like even before hed bought the owls, life was leaving white
streaks on his shoulders.

Questions? Etc? More etc?