Chapter 14 : Chapter 13-Agravation
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Severus frowned as an owl landed in front of his breakfast plate. He hardly ever got mail in the morning with the rest of the school. Sure, Hermione had begun to write occasionally since they had started talking again over the summer, and Harry wrote, but it wasn’t either of their owls. Besides, their letters usually came later in the day or at night. It was a sleek, elegant bird with gray plumes, probably belonging to a wealthier family. It held out its right leg regally, waiting for him to untie the attached letter. As soon as he had done so, the owl flew over to Minerva. The two professors exchanged looks of confusion before Minerva removed a similar letter from the owl’s left leg. The owl took off almost immediately.
He looked at the crest stamped into the wax seal. It wasn’t one he was familiar with. Frowning, he broke the seal and began to read:
Dear Professor Snape,
As you must be aware, there has been a mistake in regards to the sorting of my daughter, Emmaline Hurtz. The Sorting Hat was supposed to place her in Slytherin as I was placed years ago. (You wouldn’t remember me, I finished school long before you began teaching.) I will be coming to Hogwarts tonight to discuss this matter with you. I can assure you that my daughter would be an excellent addition to Slytherin House, don’t let her foolish trick of being sorted into that horrible place fool you. I will be arriving at seven thirty to discuss this matter with you. Afterwards, we shall meet with the Headmistress to fix this situation. I wished to meet with you first so that we may present a united front to the Headmistress.
Victor Emanuel Hurtz
Severus cast the letter aside, snorting. What a pompous ass. He glanced over at Minerva. She was still reading her letter. He could almost imagine what that imbecile had written to her. Her expression looked angrier and angrier the more she read. Finally she slammed down the parchment. Livid, she turned to Severus. “I would like to speak with you privately before you’re first lesson.” she informed him tersely.
“Of course,” He quickly finished his breakfast. Standing up, Severus walked over to Minerva’s chair. “Where would you like to meet?”
The Headmistress wiped her mouth and placed her napkin down on the table. She scooped up the letter and stood up. “My office. Now. Come.”
The two professors quickly left the Great Hall. “The audacity!” Minerva began as they walked, even before they reached her office. She was literally shaking. Severus hadn’t seen her so angry since the war, when her wrath had been directed at him when they all thought he was the Evil Headmaster. “What did he say to you?” Minerva demanded
“He wants to have his daughter switched into Slytherin, and he wanted to meet with me first so that we could, quote, ‘present a united front’ to you.”
She nodded angrily. “Mine said about the same.” Minerva sighed. “I shouldn’t get this upset about this. But he acts as if I have no authority, as if he can just send an owl and have his way!”
They stopped walking. It seemed that they were having this conversation before they reached the Head office. “Look,” Severus began. “Let me talk to him. Maybe I can talk him out of it, keep him out of your hair.”
She sighed. “I doubt that will be enough. But thank you, Severus. That would be wonderful.”
Severus glanced at his watch. “Is that all?”
Minerva nodded. “Yes, I think so.” She shook her head. “I guess I’m going to be spending the day researching how the Sorting Hat’s word is binding.” She rolled her eyes. “Just the way I wanted to spend my time!” she muttered sarcastically. Severus couldn’t help but give her a grim grin.
Emma had been on edge all day since she had seen her father’s owl Eule deliver letters to the Headmistress and Professor Snape. Still, there was no sign of her father. But she knew better than to get too comfortable.
She was walking to dinner with Jake after their last lesson. Suddenly, out of what seemed like nowhere Professor Snape appeared. “Ah, Miss Hurtz,” he drawled. “We need to talk.” Emma swallowed. This was it. He turned to Jake and nodded at him in what must have been a greeting. “Mr. Baxter.”
“Professor Snape,” Jake returned.
“This will only take a few minutes, Miss Hurtz. Please, come with me.”
Emma turned to Jake. “Go on, I’ll meet you at dinner.” She tried to act as normally as possible, but it was exceedingly difficult. Jake looked at her sort of funny, but she hoped that she was convincing enough for him not to worry.
She followed Professor Snape down the corridor. They stepped into an empty classroom. “Are you aware that your father is going to be here within a few hours?”
Emma looked down at her feet. “Yes, sir. I am aware.”
“And are you also aware that he wishes to switch you into my house?"
“And are you aware that switching houses is impossible?”
Emma’s heart skipped a beat. “It-it is? Are you sure?” she asked excitedly, her face briefly betraying her emotions.
“Yes, positive.” Professor Snape frowned. “You mean, you didn’t want to switch houses.”
“No, sir, it was all my father.”
Snape stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Interesting. So you want to stay in Gryffindor?”
“Yes, sir. No offense.”
Snape gave her a tight smile. “None taken.”
She looked up at him worriedly. “Please, don’t tell my father I said that,” she begged desperately.
The professor nodded. “Certainly. That will be all.”
“Thank you, sir,” Emma replied before scurrying out of the room. She wanted to get down to the Great Hall as soon as possible so she could eat quickly and get back up to the Gryffindor tower before her father arrived. She couldn’t help but smile. At least there was one thing he couldn’t take away from her.
Severus was sitting at his desk, leafing through some of his NEWT student’s essays when there was a knock on the door. He glanced at the clock on his desk. Half-past seven exactly. “Come in,” he called out.
A tall man with dirty blonde hair strode into the room. He had hazel eyes, but they were stone cold. He had perfect posture, but his chin was a tad bit too high. His black robes were quite elaborate, though they were obviously not dress robes in particular.
Severus stood and extended his hand. “Severus Snape.”
The man took his hand. “Victor Hurtz.”
“Please,” Severus implored, “have a seat.” He gestured to a chair in front of his desk. Victor Hurtz sat down.
“So, you got my letter.” Ah, so he’s one to get right to the point. “I assume that you have begun to make the proper arrangements.” Condescending bastard.
“I’m afraid that your request is not possible, Mr. Hurtz.”
The man frowned. “Excuse me?” He was obviously used to getting his way.
“Your daughter cannot be moved to Slytherin house.”
“And why not?”
“The ruling of the Sorting Hat is final and magically binding. There is nothing mere mortals such as you and I can do to alter it.”
Mr. Hurtz looked at him incredulously before breaking out in laughter. “Seriously? The word of an accessory is binding.” He shook his head. “What has this world come to?”
“Look,” Severus added. “I would love to have your daughter in my house, she seems like a lovely girl.” A slight grunt of contempt came from Mr. Hurtz’s direction, but he ignored it for the time being. “However, there is nothing I can do. It is out of my hands.”
Hurtz stood up and crossed his arms brusquely, shoulder’s squared. “Then take me to someone who can. No child of mine is going to be a…Gryffindor.” he sneered.
Severus sighed. This man just didn’t understand. There was no one who had that authority, no one alive anyways. “I’ll take you to the headmistress.”
“Good,” Hurtz puffed. “At least someone around here is worth half of what they are paid.”
Severus gritted his teeth. Only years of practice suppressing violent urges prevented him from smacking Mr. Hurtz across the face. There was something grimy about him beyond his obvious arrogance. He didn’t like it.
“Come,” he growled.
Severus led Hurtz down the corridors in silence. Finally, they arrived at the Head’s office. “Bookworm,” Severus muttered, mentally noting to remind Minerva to change the password after Mr. Hurtz’s departure. The pair stepped into the crevice that opened onto a stone that slowly turned as the stairs creaked upwards. Severus knocked on the wooden door leading to Minerva’s quarters.
“Come in,” her voice called out, muffled by the thick wood. He pushed open the door. She sat regally at her desk, glasses perched sternly on her nose. Severus forced himself to suppress a smirk. Mr. Hurtz was in for a shock. “Sit,” She indicated to a chair in front of her desk. Severus chose to remain standing. This was going to be fun to watch.
“Headmistress,” Hurtz began with the same promptness as he had in Severus’s own office, “Professor Snape tells me that he does not have the authority to switch my daughter’s house. You, I trust, do.”
Minerva looked as if she was going to explode. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hurtz, I do not have that authority.”
Mr. Hurtz glared at Minerva, all pretence of respect evaporated. “Then where can I find someone who does.”
“You would have to travel back in time, give or take a thousand years, and bring your daughter before the Founders of our fine school so that they could assess her according to their preferences. However, even then I believe they would uphold the ruling of the Sorting Hat. After all, it was they who spelled the Hat in the first place.”
“This is rubbish!” Mr. Hurtz exclaimed. “You’re nothing but a pathetic little-”
“Excuse me, Mr. Hurtz,” Severus interrupted steely. “but I believe that your frustration can be expressed without insulting the Headmistress.”
Flustered, Minerva nodded. “Thank you Severus, but I can fight my own battles.” She turned to the man in the chair. “Mr. Hurtz, frankly I have had enough of you and yours games.” She glanced at Severus. “Professor Snape, kindly locate Miss Hurtz and bring her here. I would like to make it quite clear to both her and her father that this matter ends tonight.”
He wanted to tell Minerva about what the girl had said, about how she didn’t want to transfer. But that was impossible with her father in the room, the one person she particularly expressed to withhold that information from. Normally he would have disregarded her comments; he was not used to taking orders from First Years. But there was something in her eyes when she had made that plea that urged him to keep quiet until he had a chance to talk to Minerva privately.
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable leaving you alone with this man,” Severus told her instead, getting an ignored response of ‘Really!’ from Mr. Hurtz.
“Professor Snape, I am quite capable of taking care of myself. Besides, there are plenty of secrets hidden in these walls that may just come to my assistance if needed.” He was almost certain that he heard sniggering from some of the portraits. “Go fetch the girl. That is an order, Severus.”
He had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. “Good evening,” he addressed her. I need to speak with a student, Emma Hurtz.”
“Password?” the painting asked automatically, eyeing him suspiciously as if he was some sort of imposter Snape up to no good.
Severus rolled his eyes. “Pigfarts. Would you like to see some identification as well?” he said mockingly.
She nodded. “That would be nice.”
He sighed. Can’t anyone take a joke around here? He closed his eyes, and thought about the day he had been cleared of all charges, had been given a second chance at life. “Expecto Patronum!” he cried, a silvery form shooting from his wand. He took a double take. It was not his customary doe. Rather, his patronus was in the shape of an otter swimming gracefully through the air. “Bloody hell?” he muttered.
“Sorry, no entrance,” the Fat Lady told him, obviously convinced he was a fraud.
“Look,” he began, “I need to bring the student to the Headmistress. Could you just have her sent out here?”
She hesitated for a moment. Severus held his breath. It shouldn’t be this difficult to do his job. “Fine,” she finally relented. “But I’d like to hear from the Headmistress later to confirm she actually saw this girl. What did you say her name was, Emily?”
The Fat Lady disappeared from her frame for a few minutes. When she finally returned, she informed him that the girl was on her way. Moments later, the frame was pushed outwards, and Miss Hurtz’s small figure scrambled out.
“You wished to see me, sir?” she asked meekly, and it looked as if she was trembling.
“Actually it is the Headmistress who wishes to meet with you. About your father’s demands.”
She nodded, and followed him silently. As they reached the gargoyles in front of the entrance of Minerva’s office, she asked, “Sir, is my father still here?”
“Yes,” he replied, scrutinizing her reaction. Her face was blank, expressionless, but he was positive that he had seen a flash of terror in her eyes briefly before being expertly masked. “He is with the Headmistress. She wished to speak with you both. I didn’t have an opportunity to inform her about what we discussed earlier, however.”
Emma nodded silently, her mind clearly elsewhere, preoccupied with something. The two traveled up the moving stairs, and Severus again brought a guest into Minerva’s office. There were now two seats in front of her desk. Mr. Hurtz turned from what looked like a disgruntled position to see the noise. He turned his seat around at the sight of his daughter. “Emmaline,” he almost spat, anger thinly veiled in his eyes.
The girl beside Severus curtseyed low, eyes glued to the floor. “Good evening, sir,” Severus frowned. This was no typical father daughter relationship. Something was clearly amiss.
“Miss Hurtz,” Minerva began, her voice much calmer than when Severus had left. “Please, take a seat.”
“She should stand,” Mr. Hurtz interceded.
Severus saw Minerva grit her teeth. “This is my office, Mr. Hurtz, and I may ask whomever I wish to sit, thank you very much.” She smiled at the girl, but Miss Hurtz did not see it, as her eyes remained on the floor even as she took her seat next to her father, who reluctantly turned his seat back towards Minerva. “I would like to make it clear to both of you that Emmaline’s sorting is final.” Severus noticed that the girl cringed at the use of her name. Interesting. “Emmaline, please look at me.” The girl slowly raised her eyes until she was looking directly at the Headmistress. “Do you understand?”
She nodded. “Yes, ma’am, I understand.”
“So this matter is finished.”
“No, ma’am!” Mr. Hurtz sneered. “I daresay that this is not finished by a long shot. I will not have my daughter-”
“Good-bye, Mr. Hurtz. Please leave the premises immediately or you will be forced to leave.” The man departed, slamming the wooden door behind him. She turned to Miss Hurtz. “Professor Snape will escort you back to the Gryffindor common room,” she told the girl kindly, though with some emphasis on the name.
“Oh, Minerva, you may need to talk to the Fat Lady, she was giving me some trouble earlier when I went to fetch Miss Hurtz.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll see to it tomorrow Severus.” She rubbed her temples. “Right now I have a headache and want nothing more than to go to sleep.”
Severus nodded. “Good night, then, Headmistress.” He turned to the door. “Come,”
As he and Miss Hurtz exited at the bottom of the stair case, someone jumped out and blocked their path. It was the girl’s father. “Excuse me, I wish to have a word with my daughter.”
“No,” Severus replied tersely, placing a hand on the girl’s back to steer her around her father.
Mr. Hurtz stepped in front of them. “That was not a request.”
Severus sighed. “Fine,” He crossed his arms, not moving an inch.
“Some privacy, please?”
Severus back up several paces. “This is as far as I’m going.” The girl cast a glance back at his direction before her father forced her face in his direction. It was hard to hear what was being said, but the father was obviously furious with his daughter. The conversation, if it could be called that, only lasted a minute or two. Then Mr. Hurtz stormed off without looking back.
The girl looked shaken, but said nothing. That was the last straw-he had to do something.
Instead of heading back to Gryffindor tower, he steered her towards an empty classroom. She looked uneasy, and it occurred to him that she had probably heard some less than accurate stories about him. “I need to talk to you briefly. It won’t take long.” He gestured to a seat in the front row. “Sit,”
He situated himself on the teacher’s desk facing her, arms crossed. He made a decision. He was going to have to take down a few of his barriers. It was the only way to get her to trust him. And if his suspicions were correct, it was vital that she did. “Are you alright?” he asked gently.
She looked up in shock, seemingly taken aback by his soft tone. “What’s going on?” she asked cautiously, digging her hand in her pocket, presumably reaching for her wand. She’s afraid of me.
“I just want to talk.” He pointed to her fumbling hand. “You won’t need that, I can assure you.”
Miss Hurtz nodded, slowly releasing her wand and clasping both of her hands on the desk in front of her.
Here goes nothing. “Has your father ever hurt you?”
The girl’s eyes widened with shock and panic. “What do you mean?”
“Has he ever hit you? Has he ever verbally abused you? He seemed rather harsh-”
“No,” she said with more force than he anticipated. “Never.”
Her behavior told him she was lying. He knew the signs. Hell, that had been him once. But he wasn’t going to sit around like all the adults in his life had done, ignoring what was right in front of them. “Are you sure?”
Miss Hurtz nodded.
“Look,” he continued, more gently if that was possible. “I know what it’s like.”
She glared at him defiantly with those all too familiarly deadened eyes. “You don’t know anything!” she spat, crossing her arms tightly across her chest, staring off to the side. Those eyes. He had seen them every morning for years growing up. They were his eyes. His mother’s eyes. He placed a palm over his face briefly. He normally didn’t let himself think about those days.
“What I am about to say,” he began slowly, “stays in this room. Understood?”
Miss Hurtz showed no sign of acknowledgement that she had heard, but Severus took her silence as a sign to continue. “I-I had an abusive father.” He saw her head twitch slightly in surprise, though she still avoided eye contact. “I know what it’s like to pretend like it isn’t real. You feel like it’s just your problem, why does anyone else need to know, am I right?” Silence. “You don’t have to say anything. I can tell.” She shifted uncomfortably. “I want to help you,” he insisted.
She shook her head vigorously, the sudden movement startling him slightly. “You can’t. Nobody can.” She froze, eyes wide. “You can’t help because there is no problem. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of homework to get done and I would like to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight.” She stood up quickly. “Good night, Professor Snape.” She headed over to the door.
“Wait.” She paused with her hand on the knob. “I will walk you back. It is only your second day here, after all, you’d probably get lost.”
She stepped back away from the door. “Yes, sir,”
“One last thing before we leave.” He couldn’t believe he was about to say this to a student. But she was a special case, a special case indeed. “Don’t push your friends away. If they want to help, let them. I didn’t and-” he paused, not quite sure how to continue. “Well, suffice to say that it had a tragic outcome.” He straightened up, dusting off his robes. “Come, we mustn’t keep you from your assignments, now can we?”
Jake stood up as Emma came back into the common room. She had been gone for almost forty-five minutes, and he was beginning to worry that maybe her father was so displeased that he’s taken her out of Hogwarts. So when she came through that door, relief flowed through him. “What happened?” he asked, concerned.
She smiled, though it looked like she was holding back tears. “Snape and McGonagall basically put him in his place. I don’t think they liked him very much.”
“So, you’re still a Gryffindor then?”
She nodded. “Yeah, though I’m not quite sure how that happened.”
Jake grinned at her, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze, pleased that she did not pull away from him like she had done before. “Well, whatever reason, I’m awfully glad you were.”
Severus sighed as he entered his quarters. He yanked off his school robes and hung them on the hook by the door. He gingerly sat down in the armchair by the roaring fire, starting to take off his shoes.
“How is Master Severus being?” Snarky’s voice asked, the small elf appearing moments later.
Severus smiled grimly at the house elf. “It’s been a long day.”
“Is Master Severus wanting tea?”
He thought for a moment before replying. “Yes, Snarky, that would be lovely. Thank you.” A few minutes later, he was sipping strong black tea, staring into the dancing flames.
She hadn’t told him anything. He didn’t have anything substantial to bring to Minerva. But he wasn’t done, not yet. He would get the truth out of her, some way, somehow.
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