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Return to Prince Manor by Snapegirl
Chapter 3 : Den of Vipers
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 15


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Draco cast Severus an uneasy glance as they walked together from the hall down to the dungeons to the Slytherin House common room.  Despite his outwardly calm demeanor, the fourteen-year-old was feeling nauseous, like a legion of vipers had taken up residence inside his stomach, and he was profoundly grateful for the tall black-robed guardian striding along beside him.  With Severus he was safe, and did not need to fear anything.  Unless, of course, he had done something to make Snape angry. 

The two made their way down the corridor to the portrait hole, with the large python curled about a staff, without saying anything. There was no need to speak, since both could tell that the other was not looking forward to this meeting, and wanted it over with quickly.  Severus did pause and squeeze Draco’s shoulder lightly in reassurance, sensing his foster son was making himself ill with nerves.

The boy relaxed a little after that and Severus spoke the password to the portrait, whose name was Raj, Prince of Pythons.  “Veritas.”

“Enter and welcome back, Profes-s-s-or,” hissed Raj in greeting, and the door swung open.

“Ever vigilant, Raj,” was all Severus said, and then he and Draco stepped inside.

Most of the House was already gathered in the common room, sitting on the comfy black leather couches or chairs and a few were leaning up against the study corrals nonchalantly, as if it were an everyday occurrence to find out that your Head of House was a spy and one of your members had totally rejected the dark path his parents had frogmarched him down since he was a baby. 

Draco knew that he could trust only three members of his house to support him at the moment.  Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and Blaise Zabini.  Crabbe and Goyle were his best mates, like Weasley and Granger were to his little brother Harry, they would stick by him through the second coming of Voldemort, if need be.  They had no love of the dark path either, despite being forced to ape the Death Eater way by their parents also.  And Blaise and his family had never been followers of Old Tom, they had always been enemies, though clever enough to hide under his nose.  Blaise had the same attitude and could be trusted.  He knew there were other members of Slytherin who were not Death Eater supporters, but he didn’t know the older ones well enough to be sure who to trust, though maybe he’d find out after the meeting.

Severus went to stand in front of the fireplace, beneath the portrait of Salazar Slytherin with his arms folded and indicated Draco should take a seat next to his two friends.  Draco obeyed, relieved not to have to stand up in front of the whole House and be stared at.  But he lifted his head proudly, for he was not ashamed of being Severus’s ward or of choosing the light over the dark and repudiating his parents.  He had done what was right, not what was easy, and he did not regret it in the slightest.  He would far rather be the son of a spy than the son of a Death Eater.

Severus waited until the last few stragglers had appeared, then cleared his throat and began speaking.  “For those of you who are new to Slytherin House, welcome to the House of Serpents. I am Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master.  I have called you all here not only for the annual beginning of the year House meeting, but to discuss some important personal events that have occurred over the summer.  Normally, my private life would not be the topic of a House meeting, however, circumstances being what they are, I would like to inform you of two things. “

Several whispers were heard around the room until Snape glared at them and then they hushed and the room went still, anticipation prickling their skin.

“The first being that I have been a secret double agent working for the Order of the Phoenix since before many of you were born.  If any of you followed the Malfoy trial, you know of my testimony during it and the fact that Draco is now my legal ward.  You should also know that Draco is not nor has he ever been a supporter of the Death Eaters or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Now, while that revelation may be shocking and unpleasant for some of you to learn, I will tell you now that any attempt to steer Mr. Malfoy back onto “the right path” will result in my unmitigated wrath on your head.  He is to be left strictly alone, unharassed, because from now on Slytherin House will no longer be synonymous with a House of Darkness.  You-Know-Who might have been a Slytherin and he might have dragged our reputation down into the dirt with him when he fell into darkness, but Salazar Slytherin, Founder of Hogwarts and First Head of Slytherin was not and never became  a dark wizard.  He was a strict and honorable practitioner of true magic, a defender of pureblood rights, yes, but never of the dark path.  Under him, Slytherin House was known for excellence in magic and the drive to be the best one could be.  This is the reputation I wish to cultivate again, and starting this year, shall institute a new policy.”

Several of the Slytherins looked surprised, and some were nodding their heads, and only a few, Theodore Nott, Pansy Parkinson, Walter Avery, looked outraged. 

Severus continued without missing a beat.  “All of you know that one of my rules for Slytherins is to present a united front in public and to try and remain respectful to professors and  maintain a certain dignity of appearance and manner. I do not think I need to tell you that academic standards should be among the highest in this school, as most of you are ambitious enough when it comes to that in any case. Any of you who play on the Quidditch team know that you must maintain standards of an Acceptable or better or else be put on probation and restricted from playing.  In the past I allowed some of you to get away with unseemly behavior in my classroom, or appeared to, in public.  That will no longer be the case.  Most of how I behaved in public was to cover my role as a Death Eater, but now that ruse is no longer necessary, you will receive detentions and deductions of points from me the same as any other students.”

Gasps followed this statement, and Draco found himself hard pressed not to grin.  This is the real Severus Snape you’re seeing, and now you’ll see that he doesn’t allow you to get away with anything, relation or no!

“But sir, you’d take points from your own House?” whined Pansy.

“If the student was deserving of it, yes,” answered the professor.  “While I never took points before in public, anyone who misbehaved in my class always received detention, and Slytherins were no exception, save that the rest of the school was unaware of it.  Now, it will be public, so best you all behave.” And he fixed them all with one his trademark scowls usually reserved for impudent Gryffindors, making several firsties and more than a few older students tremble.

“You will discover that I am strict but fair, but earn detention with me and you will also find I can be most unpleasant, especially with members of my own House who continually disobey and flout school rules and my own rules, in or out of the classroom.  My advice to you, first years especially, is not to do so. However, you may come to me if you having difficulty with a subject and need help, or advice about a problem, are ill, or wish to discuss something unrelated to schoolwork and I will do my best to assist you.  My office hours are posted on the board there,” he pointed to a low chalkboard upon which was written in neat script Professor Snape’s Office Hours 6-9 PM or by special appointment.

“After hours I am usually in my quarters, though I strongly suggest you not disturb me unless it is an emergency, such as you are dying of a disease, have been hexed into losing your arms or legs, or are suffering from severe depression, nightmares, or the school is on fire.  Yes, Mr. Sullivan?”

A first year was raising his hand in the front row, looking slightly intimidated by his stern teacher. “Uh . . .sir . . .when you give us detention . . .what do you do? In Durmstrang detention usually meant a caning or reciting a hundred school rules or the ducking stool.  Is it like that, sir?”

Severus shook his head.  “Barbaric! No, Mr. Sullivan, this is Hogwarts and we do not use corporal punishment here on any student. I will never raise my hand to you.  Detentions here are served doing disagreeable and nasty chores by hand or writing lines or essays or restriction to quarters, we do not believe in drowning, caning, or using magic as a form of correction.”

Suliivan looked vastly relieved, until a second-year said slyly, “But the professor’s detentions are no joke.  If you’re bad he’ll make you scrub cauldrons till your fingers fall off, then he’ll regenerate them.”

Sullivan looked horrified, until his Head of House snapped, “Sullivan, he’s putting you on.  Atwater, you’ll be serving a detention tonight, if you keep up your behavior!”

Atwater blanched and muttered a quick, “Sorry, Professor Snape.”

“Now then.  My last announcement concerns  Harry Potter, specifically that he was never a Potter, but always a Snape.  No I am not Confunded, Befuddled, insane, or drunk.  The boy you once knew as Harry Potter is actually Harry Albus Snape, my son. “

There was dead silence in the room for about three minutes.  Then Theodore Nott blurted, “Bloody hell, sir! Did the Potters like steal him away when he was born and make him think he was their son?”

Snape’s eyebrow rose into his hair.  Where did the child come up with these ideas? “No, Mr. Nott, nothing so dramatic.  At the time, I was engaged to Lily Evans, but was forced to fake my own death as a ruse to fool the Dark Lord during the first war.  Lily believed me dead, and married James Potter to give her baby a father.”

“Wow, and guess she never told him, right, sir?” asked Millicent Bulstrode. 

“No, but she did tell her sister, who then informed me over the summer, and I now have custody of my son. Who will now be known as Mr. Snape and whose appearance will have altered significantly, since I have banished the glamours over him and he has regained his true appearance.”

“But he’s a Gryffindor, sir!” Nott said.

“Yes, I am aware of that, Mr. Nott.  What of it?”

“If he’s your son, sir, why is he living with the enemy?”

Others began to murmur as well, angry and sneering, until Severus held up his hand.  “Quiet! My son being a Gryffindor is not a problem for me, as his mother was of that house.  Do not make it a problem, am I clear? Not every family member is Sorted into the same House.  And further, Gryffindor is not the enemy.  Rivals, yes, but enemy is reserved for the dark wizards, like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  They are your enemies, out to seduce you into following darkness and losing your mind to lies and shadows. Gryffindors may be idiotic and impulsive and inclined to play hero, but they are not your enemies.”

“But you hate them!” argued an older sixth year.  “You’re always taking points and giving them detention.”

“I do not hate them, that was an act for my role as a spy.  They are my students like any other.  And I give them detention because they so often deserve it.” Severus countered.  “As  I will anyone who steps out of bounds with me. This is your first and last warning.  Classes begin tomorrow at ten o’clock sharp, I would suggest you unpack and then get a good night’s sleep.  First years, you may owl your parents or guardian about your Sorting using a school owl if you have none, curfew for you is at ten-thirty sharp, everyone else, lights out at eleven.  Anyone interested in submitting their name for the tournament, come and see me tomorrow afternoon at three o’clock.  That will be all.  Dismissed.”

He turned to Draco and beckoned to him.  “Draco, a word with you.”

Once Draco had joined him in his quarters, Severus relaxed his reserved demeanor and said softly, “I know that you can take care of yourself, son, but I wished to let you know that I am always available should you ever need me for whatever reason.  If you need help, come to me.  And watch your back, I know that it might have seemed like most of them took your new position well, but you know how some of the Death Eater children are, dragon.”

“Yeah, I know, Dad.  I’ll be careful.”

“Do you know how to cast wards of repulsion?”

“Uh, no.  What are they?”

“Protective magic that you can cast about your bed or your trunk that will repel anyone who does not belong touching or hexing your things.  It can also work on yourself, if necessary.  Cast it before you sleep, it will last for two days.”

“Okay.  Uh, what happens if someone tries to break in?”

“The ward will physically repel them, either by force, like a powerful Stinging Hex or by knocking them down or mentally, by a strong suggestion.”    

“As in they’ll run away screaming from the room?”

Severus’s dark eyes glittered.  “Yes, exactly like that.”

“Wicked! Thanks, Dad! Show me how to cast it?”

“Of course, dragon.  It’s why I called you here, after all.” He drew his wand.  “Watch carefully, Draco.”

Once he was sure his son had mastered the spell, he sent Draco back to his dorm.  He prayed that those who were Voldemort supporters kept a low profile for now.

* * * * * *

 

Upon entering his dorm room, Draco immediately was faced with an angry Nott and Avery, who glared at him as if he were scum.  Draco glared right back, knowing to show fear when walking into a den of vipers was asking to get bitten.  “Got a problem, Nott? Or are you just staring at me because you’ve forgotten your Remembrall again?”

“You’re a traitor, Malfoy!” spat Nott.  “You’re a traitor and a coward, just like Snape! And one day you’ll pay for it. The Dark Lord sees all!”

“Tell the Dark Lord to bite me,” Draco spat.  “I’m no traitor, Nott, and neither is my father! And if you want to see a coward, Nott, look in the mirror!”

Nott looked as if he were about to go for his wand, but Avery grabbed him and shook his head.  “Nott, don’t.  You try and hex Malfoy and Snape will kick your arse for attacking a fellow House member and his son.”

“Screw Snape! He’s another one who’s gonna get his some night!”

“Shut up, you dope! You couldn’t take Snape in his sleep,” scolded his friend.  “Pick your battles, Nott, don’t  go off with your mouth running ahead of your brain.”

“I meant what I said, Avery!”

“Yeah, okay, whatever, mate.  C’mon, let’s go to sleep.” He dragged the still protesting Nott off to the other side of the room.

Draco sighed, then turned to Crabbe and Goyle.  “Keep an eye on that idiot, okay?” When they had nodded, he turned and cast the wards of repulsion on his bed and his trunk.  He had learned from being Severus’s special apprentice that it was important to always be prepared for anything.  Taking precautions had saved Severus’s life as a spy and Draco was smart enough to follow his example.

“I’ll be back.  Gotta go clean my teeth,” he told his friends.

“We’ll make sure nobody messes with your stuff, Draco,” said Goyle.

“Thanks, Greg.” He walked out the door and down to the boys’ bathroom.

On the way back to his room he banged into Pansy, who looked as if she had been lying in wait for him, her small eyes alight with a look that made Draco cringe and long to transfer to a school somewhere in Antarctica. 

“Oh, Draco, I was hoping I’d see you!” she burbled, batting her eyelashes at him in what he supposed was meant to be a come-hither-look.

“You got something in your eye, Parkinson?”

“N-No.” She looked a little upset. “I . . .I just wanted to tell you that even though Papa’s refused to let me see you since he doesn’t want me making a match with a pureblood traitor, I still want to be your girl.  I . . .I’ll defy anyone who tries to keep us apart, beloved!” she gushed.

Draco struggled to hide his horror.  Merlin help me, but I think I’m going to be sick! Please, please, why did she have to be like this? Why couldn’t she just hate me like all the other Death Eater kids?  “Uh . . .Pansy? You know . . .you shouldn’t defy your dad that way . . .”

“Why not? You did.

“I know, but that was . . .different.” Draco said awkwardly.

“How? I mean, I’m defying Papa for love and you did it for principles.  And even if I don’t really agree with them . . .you’re brave for sticking up for what you believe in. I like that in a man,” she purred and made as if to run her hand down Draco’s arm.

Draco jerked away.  “Pansy, remember Slytherin House Rules? No making out on the premises!”

She pouted, and it made her face look even more unattractive, like a pug with a bad underbite.  “Oh, who cares about old Snape and his boring old rules? He’s never been in love, what does he know about it? Kiss me, Draco!”

“He knows plenty, he was in love with Harry’s mum,” Draco pointed out hastily, stepping away from the too-eager girl.  “And I don’t need him grounding my arse the first night back, so control yourself, girl!”

“Humph! You’re no fun!” she sniffed.  “Fine! I’ll meet you tomorrow near the beech tree by the greenhouse after potions.  We both have a free period then.”

“How do you know that?”

“Snuck a peek in the Headmaster office before he gave the schedules to Snape.  I memorized yours, darling.”

Draco wanted to gag.  Help! Get her away! Get her away! “You memorized my schedule?”

“Yes,” she cooed. “Because I just had to know when we could see each other again.”

“Pansy, I don’t think that’s—”

“Why not? You’ve known me for years and we’re promised in all but name anyway.”

“Your father doesn’t want me marrying you . . .”

“Old killjoy! Who cares what he wants! I’m the one doing the marrying and I say I want you, Draco Malfoy!” she was practically drooling on him.

“I think you should listen to your father,” he blurted, then said, “Look, I’m really tired and we can . . .discuss this tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.  And don’t worry about my father.  He’ll come around,” she said with the conviction of a child who has always gotten her own way.  “Good night, love!” Then she kissed him and scurried away.

Draco waited until she was out of sight before scrubbing his lips with a handkerchief.  Yuck! I’ve been kissed by a bulldog girl! Bloody hell, why does this crap always happen to me?

He hurried back to his room, where he thanked his friends for helping him and then undressed and crawled into bed, where he tossed and turned all night, for after lights out, Nott and some other Death Eater supporters tried to hex him while he was sleeping and the wards repulsed them.  He could hear their cries of pain and surprise through the bedhangings and he silently thanked God for Severus Snape and his teachings, otherwise he would have probably started the term in the infirmary.

* * * * * *

 

Outside the potions classroom, Draco waited, he had gotten there early, hoping Harry had gotten the letter he’d sent with Stormy this morning.  The message had been short, asking Harry to meet him at the potions classroom fifteen minutes before class, he needed to talk to him. 

Harry appeared a few moments later, Smidgen perched upon his shoulder, though she was only visible to those who inhabited Prince Manor and Phil. The fae cat was sitting upright, wings folded against her back, tail wrapped neatly about her feet, her violet eyes bright with curiosity.  She had spent half the night exploring the castle, driving Peeves crazy with her blinking and teasing, for there is nothing so irritating as a shimmerling in a mischievous mood, and Peeves had nothing on some of the pixies and pookas Smidgen knew.  She had also gotten to know the other ghosts and several secret passages and talked to many of the castle portraits, learning the history of the ancient structure through the conversations.  She had been vastly amused to find that as a denizen of the Faerie Realm, she was regarded with respect and awe by many of the wizard portraits and some of the ghosts as well.  It seemed that not all mortals had forgotten the might of the fae.

“What’s up, Draco?” Harry asked as soon as he drew near his brother.  “Your message was kind of . . .vague.”

Draco coughed uncomfortably. “That’s because I didn’t want to risk anyone else accidentally reading it.” He looked up and down the corridor, then turned and whispered, “Smidgen, can you keep watch for us? This is kind of a private conversation.”

:It would be no trouble at all, Master Draco.: The fae cat answered, then she hovered lazily in the air, watching for any approaching students.

“All right, big brother, spill it.  What’s got your robes in a knot?”

“Remember when I told you that my father—Lucius—arranged a betrothal for me with Pansy? Well, her father called it off, like I figured, once I told Lucius off at the trial.  Only Pansy still thinks we ought to be an item.” Draco said, flushing.  “She . . .uh . . .cornered me last night in the hallway . . .and she was . . .like panting and drooling all over me . . .Ugh!” He glared angrily at Harry, who was snickering.  “It’s not funny, damn it! She bloody kissed me! I need to know how to dump a girl in ten days or less, Harry, before I go mental.”

Harry schooled his expression into something resembling sympathy, even though he found it hilariously funny that Draco, popular, pureblooded, suave Draco, was having trouble with a persistent girl. “Uh, okay.  I’ll try and help you out, although maybe you ought to ask somebody who has more experience? I mean, I’ve never even gone on one date with a girl, or really talked to one except Hermione, and she’s my best friend and like my sister, so it doesn’t count.”

“No way.  You’re the only one I trust to be let in on this secret, little brother, because I couldn’t even imagine telling Dad.”

“Me either.  All right . . .maybe you could try ignoring her? Like brushing her off?”

“Pansy’s kind of hard to brush off.  She’s like a bulldog with a favorite bone,” Draco grimaced.

“You could try being extra snotty to her.  You can do that real well.”

Draco socked him in the shoulder.

“Hey! What was that for? It’s the truth.  You’ve got that whole lord of the manor thing down cold.”

Draco rolled his eyes.  “That didn’t hurt, you big baby.  Too bad I’m not the heir to Prince Manor.  Then I could make up an excuse that I can’t marry beneath me or that I have to marry some fae princess or something.”

“Well . . .how would she know if you were lying?” Harry pointed out slyly.  “I mean nobody knows the truth except us, Dad, Smidgen, Sarai, and out best friends.  You told Crabbe and Goyle about everything, right?”

“Yes.  They were cool with it. How about Granger and Weasley?”

“They were kind of shocked, but they don’t hate you or anything.”

“Brilliant, because the last thing I need is more enemies.  Got enough of them right in my own dorm.”

“Like who?”

“Nott and Avery were the worst.  But I know there are others, some of the older Slytherins who are dark supporters, they’re just more subtle about it.  They paid me a visit last night, but nothing they tried penetrated the repulsion wards Dad taught me how to cast.”

“He taught you how to cast wards? When?”

“Last night after the meeting.  Good thing too because like I said, some people aren’t too happy I’ve repudiated Daddy Dearest.”

“You mean they tried to hex you?” Harry gaped.

“No, they tried to give me sweets and a bunny plushie,” said his brother sarcastically.  “Of course they tried to hex me—they’re Death eater wannabes!”

“Does Dad know?”

“No, and he isn’t going to know,” Draco said firmly.

“But Draco—”

“No!  I can fight my own battles, Snape! I don’t need Dad hovering over me like I was a little baby.  He knows how some of the House feels and he warned me to watch my back, not that I wouldn’t have any how.” Draco told him.  “So keep quiet and don’t go telling him, okay? Or else I’ll tickle torture you again.”

“Okay! I’m not a blabbermouth, you know!”

“Sure you are.  All little brothers are.”

“Bite me, Draco!”

“Temper, baby brother,” teased the Slytherin, laughing when Harry’s face got red.  He loved riling up his brother, it was too funny.

Harry glared at him for a moment, but then his temper died when he recalled what could have happened to Draco last night.  “Listen, if you need me, call me and I’ll come.  You don’t need to send a message if it’s an emergency.  Dad said that as the heir to the manor, I can sense everyone in my family who resides in it, if they’ve lived there for more than two weeks.  And if I needed to, I could hear you when you call me.  It’s part of the magic of the manor.  Blood calls to blood.”

“Merlin! I never knew that before!  So you can hear me if I call for you? No matter how far away?”

“That’s what Dad says.  So . . .if you need me, Draco . . .call me.  And I’ll help kick the arse of whoever’s trying to hurt you. ‘Cause nobody messes with my older brother.”

“Tell that to Pansy,” Draco groaned. 

“Maybe you should introduce her to Ripper, my Aunt Marge’s bulldog,” suggested Harry, laughing.  “No, that’s cruel.”

“To whom, Pansy or the dog?” Draco queried, chuckling.  “Could be a match made in heaven.”

“Ugh! You’re warped, Malfoy!”

“Me? You brought it up.  Seriously, though, what should I do? She wants me to meet her after class.”

“Don’t and say you forgot.  I don’t know.”

“That’ll only work so long.”

“Wait.  Maybe if you started showing interest in another girl . . .she might get upset and  back off.”

“Now that might work . . .except the girl I’m interested in would never give me the time of day.” Draco sighed.

“Not necessarily.  Try meeting her in the library and starting a conversation about books.  ‘Mione’s book crazy, she’d talk to a dead person about them.  And if Pansy sees that . . .”

“I . . .guess it can’t hurt.  Okay, I’ll try it.  What time does Grang—Hermione go to the library?”

Harry laughed.  “You ought to ask when doesn’t she go to the library? She practically sleeps there, some nights.”

“So any night is good.  Perfect.” Draco grinned, then whacked Harry on the back.  “Thanks, little brother.”

“Don’t mention it.  Just remember, call if you need me.”

“I will, don’t freak out, Snape.  I’m not a Gryffindor, I don’t go in for martyrdom. I’m all for living to fight another day.” Draco reassured him.  He knew that he could count on Crabbe and Goyle to help him, but Harry was a stronger wizard than they were and he knew kin-sa-dor, which gave him an incredible advantage in a fight, magical or non-magical.  It was good to have family you could count on.

* * * * * *

  Today’s potions class they were learning about brewing antidotes.  Snape had them pair up with partners from opposite Houses.  Draco ended up with Hermione, to her surprise and his secret delight.  Pansy looked as though she might cry, or hex Professor Snape.  She ended up with poor Neville.  Harry was partnered with Blaise and Ron with Crabbe, so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been.  At least neither of those Slytherins hated Harry for being Snape’s son or Gryffindors in general.

Harry was working companionably with Zabini, carefully chopping up the lavender buds while Blaise ground up the bicorn horn to a fine powder. 

“You’re potion making’s improved, Po-ah, I mean Snape,” Blaise remarked.  “It’s kind of funny, calling you that.  But you really do look like him.”

“Well, he is my dad, Zabini,” Harry said, a proud note creeping into his tone.  He ran his hand through his fine ebony locks, tossing them out of his eyes, they had grown a bit long. 

“And you’re okay with that?” Blaise queried softly, setting down the pestle.

Harry nodded.  “Yeah.  Why? You got a problem with that?”

“No.  Just wondering, I mean, you used to tick him off so much during class last year and now . . .you’re his son and you seem like you’re proud of it.”

“I am proud of it,” Harry stated, putting his buds into the slowly simmering cauldron and stirring it ten times clockwise and then one half turn counterclockwise.  “Draco and the professor are my family now.  And they’re a better family than my aunt and uncle ever were.”

Blaise nodded.  “Good for you, Snape.  You’re not like most Gryffindors, all stuck up and thinking every Slytherin is a dark wizard waiting to hex them.”

“That’s ‘cause I know better, Zabini.  And the same goes for you.”

Blaise shrugged.  “My parents taught me that I shouldn’t judge people till I had all the facts.  So I don’t.  Here, these are ready to be added.” He carefully tipped the ground bicorn into the cauldron.

A few cauldrons away, Draco was stirring while Hermione was grinding, doing his best to remain calm and collected even though his heart was racing.  It was insane, but Draco had to admit that he liked the way Hermione’s hair was so . . .wavy and untamed, like the elvensteed he had ridden in the Deepwood.  He wondered idly what it would be like to touch that mass of golden brown hair and immediately turned back to his solution, it was now a pale green, as the manual said it should be. 

“That looks good, Malfoy,” Hermione remarked, peering over his shoulder at their cauldron.

“Umm . . .yes, it’s the correct color and consistency,” Draco said, trying not to blush as her breath tickled his cheek.  Oh, Merlin, Hermione! Don’t stand so close to me, please! He could smell the sweet minty scent of her breath and longed to turn around and say something witty and kind to her, but didn’t have the guts.  Coward! What kind of Malfoy is afraid to talk to a . . .Muggleborn? one part of his mind taunted.  A good Malfoy, answered the other half of his mind.  “Do you have the distilled water measured out yet?”

“Yes.  We need two cups and then a quarter of a jigger of honey.” Hermione turned back to their lab table to get the water, and Draco half-turned about and caught a glimpse of the girl’s derriere and smiled to himself.  Nice.  Very nice. He nearly reached out and patted her on the bum before catching himself. 

Hermione turned around abruptly, the beaker of distilled water in one hand, and nearly banged right into Draco.  “Oh! Sorry!” Their noses were nearly touching and suddenly Hermione was blushing and so was Draco.

Draco opened his mouth to say something, but never got the chance to speak because suddenly there came a loud explosion from across the room and the air was filled with a choking, breath-stealing, poisonous green gas.

“Everyone, get out! Now! MOVE!” Severus bellowed, waving his wand to try and contain the dangerous gas that was seeping from two cauldrons on the right side of the room.

Students were panicked and coughing, their throats and noses on fire, as they scrambled for the door. 

Draco grabbed up a large towel from his workstation and shoved it at Hermione.  “Put this around your face, Hermione!” He tugged a fold of his robe around his own face and pulled Hermione towards the door of the classroom. 

Most of the class was out in the corridor by now, milling about like confused sheep.  Draco glanced around, saw Weasley coughing into his sleeve, eyes streaming. 

“Ron, are you okay?” Hermione asked, going over to him.

“Yeah . . .think so,” the other coughed.  “Smoke got in my eyes.”

“Where’s Harry?”

Draco was wondering that himself, for there was no sign of his brother. He stuck his head back inside the room, which was almost half filled with smoke along the right side.  His father was standing with his back to the door, chanting furiously, and yelling at Harry.

“Harry Albus Snape, get the bloody hell out of here!”

“No! I’m not leaving you!” Harry cried stubbornly.  His eyes were streaming and he was coughing hard.

“Damn you, boy! Go!” Severus roared.  “I need to concentrate!”

Oh, bollocks! Harry, you idiot! Draco thought and raced back into the room to grab his stubborn brother by the shoulder and drag him bodily from the lab.  “Come on, you stupid arse! Get out so he can concentrate on fixing this bloody mess!”

“Let go of me, Draco!” screamed Harry, terrified that Severus was going to die.  “Dad! Dad, come away, please! Dad!” he fought Draco, trying to get free of the other’s grip.

“Damn it, Harry! Stop!” snarled his brother.  But Harry was like a wild thing, and Draco did the only other thing he could think of.  He drew back his fist and slugged his brother hard in the jaw.

Harry sagged into his arms then and Draco half-carried him out of the classroom. “Sorry, little brother,” he muttered.

Harry groaned then whimpered, “Dad . . .got to save him . . .Draco, we can’t leave him . . .”

“We have to,” Draco panted, his eyes tearing.  “He knows what he’s doing . . .” At least Draco prayed that was so.  Because if Severus died . . .he would never forgive himself.

Harry leaned woozily against Draco, his jaw throbbing.  His brother had one damn good right hook, he thought grudgingly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something vaguely man-shaped run into the classroom.  He blinked, wondering if he were seeing things.  What was that? I saw something . . .Smidgen, where are you?

But the fae cat was not nearby and did not answer. 

A few moments later, Professor Snape staggered out the door, and Harry could swear a tall man, a little taller than his father, was holding Severus upright.  Severus was coughing violently, his hair plastered over one side of his face, his one visible eye tearing and burning. 

“What . . .are you all doing standing about . . .like a bunch of . . .ninnies for? All of you . . .report to the infirmary . . .” he ordered inbetween spasms.  He started to sag, and Draco thrust Harry at Ron.

“Here, hold him.” Draco snapped, waiting till the startled red-head had grasped his friend before turning and giving Snape his shoulder to lean on.  “Come on, Professor.  You need to get to the infirmary too.”

Snape’s arm came about his shoulder and gripped hard, and slowly, the students and their injured professor made their way down to the Hospital Wing, shadowed by a certain violet-eyed vampire, who was unaware that one young wizard had seen him before he put up his veils again.   


A/N: Sorry it took so long to update this, i was working on another story on a different website! Hope you all like it!

And check out my new fics--Where Shadows Go and Broken Wings.  Both are complete and I shall be posting a new chapter of each every day.  Please review them! Thank you! Chocolate frogs to all my reviewers!


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