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Chapter 11 : Quirrel v. Grease Lightning
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It was Filch, interrupting my daily goodnight lullaby to my shrine of Lily Potter (conveniently located in the center of the Slytherin Common Room—and very handsomely made, if I do say so myself).
I finished my song and turned around.
Filch for once seemed at a loss for words, however, and merely beckoned for me to follow him, his mouth hanging open in a very unseemly manner, staring at me uncertainly. I humoured him and followed, not forgetting that if I had had the stomach for that sort of thing, Filch would probably have been my “best friend” at Hogwarts. After all, what are friends for but to mend your leg after you sing to a three-headed dog and clean up your dung-bombs after you throw them at your fellow professor?
Anyway, once Filch had finally recovered the power of speech, he said, “Y—You—You asked me to come directly to you, Professor, if anyone was wandering around at night, and somebody’s been in the library—Restricted Section.”
I ignored the fact that I had never asked him anything of the kind and (thinking perhaps the man had finally lost it) replied soothingly, “The Restricted Section? Well, they can’t be far, we’ll catch them.”
I obligingly wandered around a bit in search of the wandering student who I was beginning to doubt even existed when I stumbled upon a very curious room.
It was curious because it held not only the Mirror of Erised, but also Harry Potter’s head, floating in midair, apparently disembodied. Speech was shocked out of me, and I crept in silently to observe the phenomenon—it was dark, but clear as day in front of me—his head, staring unblinkingly into the Mirror, as if it had realized after all those years of getting carried along on shoulders that it did not need a body after all.
I instinctively looked into the Mirror to see if I could see what Potter desired most when I realized a very interesting fact: when I looked into the Mirror, Potter disappeared entirely, body and head. I stared longingly at this enticing image of a Potter-less world for a while and then near-floated contentedly back to bed.
It was only when I woke up that I realized I had missed the chance to punish Potter. I believe I opened my eyes shouting something along the lines of, “Merlin’s chizpurfle's flesh-eating-slug’s saggy left pantleg!”
There also may have been tears involved.
I went (only barely sniffling) to Dumbledore’s office, triumphantly strutting, knowing that this time he would see reason; Potter would be gone for good. The Headmaster seemed to have different ideas, however.
“Headmaster, I saw Potter out after hours last night.”
“And yet you did not reprimand him? What an admirable Christmas spirit you have, Severus!”
“I…well, I forgot to, given the circumstances. But in light of this you must think it absolutely necessary—“
“What, may I ask,” interrupted Dumbledore impertinently, “was he doing out so late?”
“Staring like the possessed into the Mirror of Erised, if you must know, but that’s not the…” I trailed off, distracted and more than mildly disturbed by the over-wide grin that had spread over Dumbledore’s face; it beamed out so acutely that it seemed to be trying to kill me. “Is something wrong, Professor?”
He merely whooped and pumped the air with his fist.
I chose that as a fitting time to leave. Potter could be expelled later. I valued my life.
To vent the frustrations of my droll and disappointing life, I planned to take a stroll in the bright morning snow. Nothing ever goes the way I plan, however, because on my way out of the castle I managed to cross paths with Mr. Quirinius Quickly-Ruins-My-Day Quirrel.
It was a little more complicated than that, actually.
I saw him at the end of the hall, thought quickly, and dove into a nearby Christmas tree. I then tried to think Christmas-tree-ornament thoughts, but got a little distracted praising myself for my excellent reflexes and bodily strength. It takes a lot of muscle tone to cling to a tree trunk, after all. And a lot of resilience to handle all those prickly needles and branches in sensitive places.
But Quirrel must have a sixth sense, because he somehow noticed my presence, despite my highly skilled concealment. Perhaps he’s a better wizard than I thought he was.
“Severus, w-what are you doing up th-there hugging a Christmas t-tree?”
I stayed, still as the grave. How was I supposed to know that he wouldn’t think it was a me-shaped Christmas ornament?
“Er—Severus? Why are you in that tree?” he repeated, more slowly this time.
The game was up, so I slid down the tree (very painfully), turned to Quirrel, and said with much grace, “Life is full of mysterious questions. Why do you wear that hideous turban, for example?”
In my mind I thought, “SICK BURN, PLUM HEAD!”
He stuttered something unintelligible for a long while. I took the time to pluck pine needles from my body parts.
“Yes!” I eventually interrupted his drivel, “That’s nice, but if you’ll excuse me, I was on my way to take a nice long solitary walk.” I turned on my heel and jogged in the opposite direction. No time for billowing robes or striding, not with Quirrel. With Quirrel it’s run or suffer accordingly.
To my utter vexation, just as I thought I was safe, I noticed a medium-sized purple turban jogging along beside me. And, worse, beneath that turban was Quirrel, smiling at me like the possessed, stuttering the words, “W-well, I was j-just about to t-take a walk myself! P-perhaps I’ll come with y-you! How r-ref-fresh-shing!”
I slowed to a walk. I was panting too hard to think up a viable exit strategy. Before I could even say a word, Quirrel took my arm and dragged me through the nearest exit into the snow. Yes, he literally linked arms with me. And I think I heard a giggle as he did it.
It’s safe to say that that didn’t last for long. It’s also safe to say that Quirrel soon lay turban-deep in the snow.
He brushed himself off, looking vaguely perturbed, but not at all as discouraged as I would have hoped, and said, “Well, that’s no w-way to s-start our walk. But sh-shall we?”
It took all my self control not to say “No we shan’t,” and deck him again.
“Well, S-Severus,” he began, “Very strange, this whole Philosopher’s Stone s-situation. Our school sh-shouldn’t b-be a safe-hold f-for all the valuable, dangerous magical ob-bjects in the c-country. I f-felt v-very put upon having to c-create protection for the th-thing, didn’t you?”
I sighed like an insolent child (why did I have to walk with Quirrel of all people?) and reluctantly responded, “Not particularly.”
“W-well, d-did it take p-particularly long for y-you to create your obstac-cle to p-protect the Stone?”
“Why yes, it did, actually, but I rather enjoyed the process.”
“What was the process?” Quirrel asked quickly, stutter-free.
I was beginning to feel slightly better about this walk; I had been dying to talk with someone about the ingeniousness of my protection for the Stone. It had killed me when Dumbledore put me under strict instructions to tell no one…
“Well, you see I made a potion that…” I paused. Strict instructions to tell no one. I eyed Quirrel for a moment, and then thought of the way to annoy him the most.
I widened my eyes innocently and continued, “Quirinius, I don’t think we should be doing this.”
“This, here. It’s not right.”
I began to lean very close to him, “You and me, here, alone, talking about personal things…You could be trying to take advantage of me.”
“I w-wouldn’t t-take advantage…” He looked slightly alarmed.
“And you know, if we did…But we can’t. We need protection.”
“Protection?” he gaped at me in horror.
“—the Stone needs protection. We can’t just go around blathering our protective spells.”
“Oh!” he looked rather relieved, “So…s-so yours was a spell w-was it?”
“Not telling!” I lilted.
“Come n-now, old fr-friend,” I think he tried to smile reassuringly, but it came out more like the grimace of a dying person, “I’ll tell you m-mine. B-between teachers, w-what could h-happen?”
“You know that doesn’t work, right?”
“Of c-course, my ap-pologies,” he said, bobbing his turban around. For some reason it came out a bit like a snarl.
We were now walking by the lake, and I wondered if swimming in the freezing water couldn’t be better than spending quality time with Quirrel.
I wasn’t about to put in an ounce of effort with the quack, so he again chose the topic of conversation:
“How are you today, S-Severus?”
“Miserable, thank you.”
“…And what did you use to p-protect the Philosopher’s Stone?”
I shot him a withering glance. Or I would have if a bug hadn’t just flown into my eye. I don’t know what bugs were doing buzzing around in the snow—I thought they were meant to fly South in the winter or some such. Perhaps it wasn’t a bug, perhaps it was a medium-sized rock, or a small cat. It felt a bit like a small, angry cat, in my eye. So anyway, chances are I just blinked and squinted and dripped tears at Quirrel, but it was a withering-glance attempt, anyhow.
“Are y-you alright, Sev-verus? D-did you j-just w-w-w-wink at m-me?”
“Oh, honestly!” I said, and forcefully shoved him into the lake. I was in a good deal of pain, after all. I wasn’t responsible for what I did.
But that very night, it all came clear to me.
I woke up at 2:48 AM, removed my nighttime moisturizing gloves, and wrote the following note:
I have you figured out. Meet me behind the greenhouses at 13:00 on Wednesday. You cannot hide from me.
For I knew then; I just knew. What can I say? I am a remarkably sharp person. If any man or woman slips even the barest hint in front of me, he/she is a dead man/woman.
(Incidentally, I am also a die-hard feminist and woman’s rights activist, ever since McGonagall mentioned that she would see to it that I was no longer a man if I ever made a “kitchen” joke ever again. Perhaps the fact that she was holding my head underwater in a toilet at the time made her seem very, very serious.)
But Quirrel trying to get at the Philosopher’s Stone?—Who would have thought he had the nerve? No matter. I would see to him. They didn’t call me Grease Lightening back in my school days for nothing.
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