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Wizard's Sabbath: Prologue by Bella_Portia
Chapter 14 : Every Day Comes and Goes
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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The first thing Severus saw when he entered his final class, Defense Against Dark Arts, was the teacher’s name written in large letters on the chalk board:

                             PROFESSOR TIBERIUS HAROLD JUSTINIUS

Rodolphus, who had taken the desk to his left, turned to Severus with a puzzled expression. None of them had seen Professor Justinius before – he had not made an appearance at the staff table, neither Saturday at the feast nor any time Sunday. Lucy, taking the seat on the right, shrugged.

"Maybe ‘e just arrived?" she suggested.

The same flock of first year Ravenclaws sailed into the room, several of them glaring at the Slytherins before taking their seats. They looked just as determined as they had at the beginning of the day, excepting only the one girl, Artemis. Her face, from behind its veil of long dishwater-blonde hair, wore the same distant expression as before. Then, she leaned over, so that her large blue, slightly protuberant eyes were inches away from her desk, as though she were fascinated by the whorls in the wood.

The professor had been sitting behind his desk, watching the students as they entered the room and took their seats. When they were seated, he rose and stepped over to the podium. He was a slim middle-aged wizard, fastidiously dressed in tailored robes of a dark blue color. His hair, which was graying from a light brown, receded from a high, prominent forehead. His eyes were small and bluish-gray. He wore round horn-rim spectacles that, like his robes, had an expensive appearance; and he peered over his glasses at the students while pressing his thin lips together. He exhibited not a single hint of amiability.

"I" – he pointed to the name on the blackboard – "am Professor Tiberius Harold Justinius. For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, I was employed by the Ministry, by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, as an advisor to the Office of the Aurors. I held this position for more than fifteen years. Thus, my expertise in the area of defending against the dark arts is – more than adequate for this position." He moved his lips into the shape of a smile. Severus got the impression that it was his customary expression.

Turning to the predominantly Ravenclaw side of the room, he said, "Ravenclaws. I trust you will all do justice to your house." There were a few affirmative noises, but mostly the Ravenclaws were silent. The professor turned to the Slytherin side.

"Slytherins." He said the name in a drawling manner with a hint of a sneer. "I expect you will do," he paused, pretending to search for words, "whatever you capacities allow you to do." Lucy turned to Severus, biting her lip with irritation and confusion, just as Harbitus Mulciber turned to Quint Avery. Severus had the acute sense that Lucy Miller and Harbitus Mulciber had exactly the same expressions on their faces. The other Slytherins looked on, not quite realizing they had been insulted. On his left, Severus sensed Rodolphus growing tense, as if sensing danger.

"I’ve taught Aurors, at the academy, but not schoolchildren," continued Justinius. Severus was not certain whether the professor was oblivious to the effect of his words – or just did not care. The man smiled again in his unpleasant way. "This is a new experience." He turned to a parchment on his desk.

"Archimedes, Phoebe." The dark-haired Ravenclaw girl raised her hand. The professor smiled, even – unless Severus was imagining it – allowing the smile to touch his eyes, slightly.

"Aubrey, Bertram."

"Here, Professor," said a tall, thin boy with a chestnut pageboy, a slender nose, and a very loud voice. Professor Justinius gave him a slight nod of acknowledgment before going on.

"Avery, Quinton." Avery raised his hand. Professor Justinius pressed his lips together and narrowed his eyes.

And so it went. He smiled the Ravenclaws, even the dreamy Artemis Chambers, and glared at each of the Slytherins. He stopped at Snape’s name.

"Half-blood, I presume."

Blushing with embarrassment, Severus answered, "Yes, sir."

"Saved from the abomination of inbreeding. Good for you." Everyone, including the Ravenclaws, inhaled a gasp of air; but Justinius only gave the class a brief acknowledging glance, as if to say, that’s how it’s going to be, and went on with the roll.

Having concluded, he looked over the sixteen of them.

"Well, well, well. Perhaps before we begin we’ll have a little question and answer to see how carefully you attended to your Summer reading assignments. Perhaps test your general knowledge, as well." He paused, seeming to savor the tension that suddenly filled the air. With affected nonchalance, he glanced down at the roll sheet. "Bulstrode."

Lucy jumped. "Yes, sir," she responded squeakily.

"What can you tell us about the Grindelwald’s Reign of Terror?"

Severus sensed indignation coming from the students around him, and not only the Slytherins. The subject of Grindelwald and the events sometimes known as his Reign of Terror or the Continental Reign of Terror, were a sensitive subject. It was common knowledge that many of the old wizarding families had either provided support to Grindelwald, or had familial ties to European families that had. Even Severus’ own grandfather, old Rabinius Prince, despite his financial embarassment, had done what he could, which mostly took the form of writing self-published pamphlets in support of Grindelwald. The main effect of these efforts, at least in Britain, was to burnish Rabinius’ reputation as a crackpot and to make his daughter’s life ever-so-slightly more difficult. Eileen did own a locket, a gift from her father before their estrangement, with the words "For the Greater Good" written in filligree; she had never gotten around to throwing it away. Virtually all the Slytherins and at least half the Ravenclaws had, or had a relative who had, such relics tucked away somewhere. The Grindelwald business was generally acknowledged as a potentially delicate matter requiring tact.

"Well, Bulstrode? Your family were some of Grindelwald’s most vocal supporters in Britain." At this, Severus felt the sense of disquiet in the other students increase. Lucy glared at the teacher and did not say a word.

"Surely," said Professor Justinius, with a deep oily sarcasm, "you know enough about your own family history to answer a simple question about the Grindelvaldian Reign of Terror. What happened back then, Bulstrode?"

Lucy, seething, finally responded, "I don't know, sir."

Justinius looked at the class, as if he did not believe his ears, and then back at her. "No idea? How is it possible that you have ‘no idea’ about your own family history."

"I’ don't know.  Sir. "  Lucy snapped her answer.. "All I remember about Grindelwald is, ‘e ‘ad a fight with Professor Dumbledore.   And lost," she added.  There was silence. When no response followed, she continued.   "I know there was a war going on at the same time, you know, and we were at war, and we were bein' attacked."

Professor Justinius stared at her. "You are Miss Bulstrode."

"Uh, what? Yes."

"Because I am dumbfounded by your answer."

"Why?"  She stared at him, offended.

"It reveals a breadth of knowledge I would not have expected from a Slytherin."

She stared at him. "Well, I  didn't know about any o' this till about two months ago, when Professor Slughorn came to me 'ouse."

Justinius had a smile that was knowing and a bit patronizing. "You are half Muggle."

"What’s wrong wi’ that?"

"Nothing.  Nothing at all.  What was your" -- he made a pause that was definitely condescending -- "Muggle name?"

"Miller.  Lucy Miller."

" And where did you attend school before you came here?"

Lucy was no longer angry but was increasingly uncomfortable.. "Whitechapel Primary."

"Excellent. I will assume that you, Miss Bulstrode-Miller, are capable of reading, writing, and mathematical calculations appropriate to your age.   How did you find yourself in Slytherin?"

"No idea, sir. Ask the  Sorting ‘At."

He addressed the class. "Very well. Miss Bulstrode-Miller, having been raised as a Muggle, missed out on the opportunity to be indoctrinated concerning her pure and vaunted Slytherin heritage. So, perhaps, another scion of one of the old families" – he looked over the Slytherins, then glanced at the roll sheet, then looked up. "How about you, Lestrange."

Rodolphus looked down at his desk but, like Lucy before him, he kept his silence. Severus had the sense that, across the room, several Ravenclaws were waving their hands in the air. But Professor Justinius had his attention focused solely on Rodolphus. His voice took on a tone of false solicitude.

"I’m very sorry, Lestrange. I was unaware you were hard of hearing." Justinius leaned forward and raised his voice. "What can you tell us about Grindelwald?"

Rodolphus moved his mouth. At first, nothing came out. "Um, um," he finally said.

"Excuse me, Lestrange. What did you say?"

"Um, I, uh, I don’t, um, know, sir." Rodolphus put down his head, as if he were waiting for the executioner’s axe to fall.

"My goodness, Lestrange," interposed the professor mercilessly. "How is that possible? When so many of your relatives were involved in furnishing support to Grindelwald, back in the nineteen-forties, when he was bent on enslaving half the wizards and all the Muggles in continental Europe." His voice increased in pitch, until he nearly shouted the final words.

In response, Rodolphus made a soft gagging sound.

"What’s that?"

Severus could feel Rodolphus’ unsteadiness at the desk next to him. Rodolphus gulped. "I, sir. I, I, can I leave, please? Sir."

Justinius looked at him with a mock-puzzled expression. "What do you mean, Lestrange? The class has barely started. What’s the matter with you?"

"I think I’m, I’m . . ." He trailed off and lowered his head.

"He’s sick, sir." Lucy, on Severus’ right side, spoke up.

"I beg your pardon, Bulstrode-Miller. Did you raise your hand?"

"Well, no, sir."

"Then, I could not have called on you, could I have?"

On Severus’ other side, Rodolphus sounded like he was desperately trying to suppress a gagging sound. His right hand grasped the edge of his desk; his knuckles were white.

"No, sir. But, please, could I take Rodolphus to the nurse."

"Certainly." She shifted her weight, about to rise. "As soon," he continued, "as one of you inbred Slytherin mediocrities can give me the answer to my question.

All of the students, including the Ravenclaws, sucked in air.  There was a moment when they all looked at one other, shocked. Then, Severus, Quint and Harbitus quickly raised their hands.

"You," said Professor Justinius, pointing with the end of his wand at Severus. "What's your name, again?"

"Snape, sir."

Severus recited what he knew, which took several minutes. Even so, he was just getting to the duel between Grindelwald and Professor Dumbledore, when Rodolphus, who had been clutching his stomach, abruptly vomited over most of his desk and part of the floor. That ended the recitation. Professor Justinius, utterly disgusted, Vanished the regurgitation.

"House elf!" he shouted. A tiny elf popped immediately out of the air. Several of the students, including Severus, Lucy, and a few of the Ravenclaws, had never seen a House Elf before; despite the disturbance caused by Rodolphus’ illness, there were gasps and other expressions of surprise at the tiny visitor.

"Take that boy to the hospital wing," demanded Justinius, pointing.

The elf approached Rodolphus and said squeakily, "I is taking you to Nurse Madame Pomfrey, young sir." It then touched Rodolphus’ sleeve, and they both vanished.

Severus turned to look at Lucy and saw that her mouth was gaping open in sheerest amazement.

"Clearly," said Justinius sarcastically, "bloodline does not matter as much as some would like to think." He delivered it as a punchline, but no one, not even the Ravenclaws, laughed. 

"Yes?" he said, responding to someone in the back.

"I don’t think you can judge anything by the little boy in front," said a soft, dreamy voice, "because it was obvious that he was sick to his stomach. Or maybe you  scared him. Also, I thought the other Slytherin boy was giving a very good answer. And the two Slytherin boys in the second row probably wouldn’t have raised their hands unless they knew the answer, so they probably would have given good answers, too."  Justinius stared at her, his lips slightly parted, as she reached her conclusion.  ""Therefore, it seems to me that, given the available evidence, all we can deduce about Slytherins with ancient bloodlines. is that some of them may have very delicate stomachs.."

Justinius took a deep breath. Then another. He glanced at his roll sheet, then looked up and pretended to smile. "Thank you very much for that dissertation, Miss Chambers. Now. Moving on with our subject matter" – and, with a wave of his wand, the blackboard was covered with notes – "make sure that you copy this down. We test from lecture in my class. To understand the theory underlying defensive magic, you must begin by understanding the theory underlying offensive dark magic."

And he began to talk, as the students grabbed their quills and parchments.

Severus was relieved when the bell rang. As he and Lucy were walking down the hall, the blonde girl – Artemis Chambers – drifted over to them.

"I don’t think the professor likes your House," she observed. "I don’t know why, unless he was a Ravenclaw himself and he’s overly loyal. Personally, I think one’s just as good as another. It all depends on the people in them. Don’t you think?"

"Um, yeah," agreed Lucy. And the girl drifted away.

 




Rodolphus Lestrange was not at dinner. Severus saw no reason to worry about it. He reckoned Rodolphus was recuperating and, in any case, he had quite enough to worry about.

But Lucy, seeing Andromeda Black, asked her about Rodolphus. The prefect sat down for a moment beside them.

"Justinius is a piece of work, isn’t he?" Andromeda whispered. "Don’t tell anyone I said that." Severus and Lucy shook their heads.

"One of the Ravenclaws thought he was one of them, and maybe that's why he favors their House," said Lucy.

"He was, but that doesn’t excuse the way he treats those of us who are in Slytherin, or who happen to come from the older families.  Good grief!  Practically everyone is, if you look far enough.  A lot of people believe that even Muggleborns, if you trace their geneology far enough, are inevitably descended from Wizards or Witches of the ancient families.  But he looks at Lucius Malfoy and me -- we're the only Slytherins in sixth year NEWT --  like we’ve both got the dragon pox." She shrugged her shoulders. "Historically, Hogwarts has had a terrible time keeping that position filled. You’d think it’s cursed, the trouble they have.   If it weren't so difficult to find people to teach the subject -- well, I still wonder why the Headmaster allows that man to teach.  But it's not my job to second-guess him.  Justinius does have an impressive background, once you get past his personality."

"But what about Rodolphus?" insisted Lucy.

"Oh, he’s fine.  Don't worry about him.  Madam Pomfrey gave the poor kid a calming draught. He’ll be back tonight. If you ask me, he’s letting his nerves get to him. It’s not worth it. Rodolphus isn’t one of the ones who have to worry."
 




Two hours later, Severus was heading through the dungeons on his way to the Common Room, his arms full of books from the library. He was thinking about how he had three – at most, four hours before he had to go to sleep, and how he should allocate his study time. He had assignments in his textbooks for Charms and Transfiguration. Particularly Charms – they had Charms again tomorrow. In fact, he needed to spend time practicing that spell. Then, he should review the sections in Bagshot for History of Magic – in fact, he should outline them; that might make Binns’ lectures easier to follow, if not actually tolerate. He should read over the introductory material for Potions. If he had time, he could review his notes from Defense. He had library books to fill out the material. Severus had just descended the stairs, thinking about the library books he was carrying, and he was just about to round a corner where a door was standing open, when, suddenly, he froze as he realized he was hearing familiar voices. An instant later, he recognized two of the voices – Rodolphus and his brother Rabastian – plus a third, mature voice, evidently a professor. The only professor down here was – oh, crap! He had managed to wander practically into Professor Slughorn’s quarters. But what are the Lestranges doing down here? He stayed where he was, listening, not wanting to interrupt something. He could not look around the open door without being seen and looking foolish. But along the plane where the door pivoted was a thin sliver through which he could, by turning his head sideways, see bits and pieces of the people who were speaking.

"Yes, sorry, Professor," Rabastan was saying. "But my brother is starting his first year, and I wanted to make sure you met him properly."

"I had planned to meet the new students tomorrow morning in the potions classroom, on our first actual day of class, precisely the same as I do every year. However," – Slughorn changed his tone, making it more cordial as he shifted to face Rodolphus, "I am very happy to meet you, Rodolphus."

"Yes," said Rabastan, "he’s been wanting to meet you." Rabastian seemed to have Rodolphus enwrapped in his arm.

Slughorn held out his hand.

Rabastan hissed, "Shake hands." The acoustics of the hollow corridor were surprisingly good; Severus could hear everything.

As Rodolphus raised his hand to shake, the professor asked, "Are you excited about started Hogwarts, Rodolphus?"

"Oh, yes," answered his brother. "He’s excited. Couldn’t wait, you know."

"What class were you most looking forward to?" Slughorn was looking directly at Rodolphus, who met his eyes for a split second before looking away.

"Potions, definitely," said Rabastan. "And after that, Defense."

In a strained voice, Professor Slughorn said, "I’d like to hear from the young man himself. Rodolphus, I’m delighted to hear that you’re interested in Potions. How did you become interested?"

There was no answer. Then his brother whispered, "Answer him."

A hesitant voice said, "I don’t know, sir." There was a pause, after which he said something inaudible.

"What’s that, son? I couldn’t hear you."

"Um, nothing, sir. Sorry. That’s all."

"Well, I’m looking forward to having you in my class. In any case, I’ll be meeting with you and the other First Years tomorrow. Of course, I want to introduce myself to you. Now, it’s getting late, and it’s come to my attention that you had an episode of illness today. So, I would suggest that you, Rodolphus, go straight to bed and get yourself thoroughly rested up for tomorrow. I’m sure that’ll do you more good than anything else you can possibly do with your evening."

He shut the door.

As soon as Professor Slughorn shut the door, Rabastan looked around. He did not notice Severus and clearly thought he was alone with his brother. He pushed Rodolphus against a wall.

"That was a piss-poor showing."

"I’m sorry." Rodolphus was cowering, as though expecting a beating.

"Stop it! Stop acting like somebody’s going to hurt you. Or I might. For being such a little worm."

Rodolphus still said nothing, but his shoulders were shaking, as though he was sobbing.

"I said stop it. Mama isn’t here to run to, so you better quit crying."

Rodolphus struggled to control himself. "Yes, Rabastan."

"I’m taking you to the bathroom to wash your face. I’m not going to let you embarrass me."

Severus didn’t need to see the snatches through the door to know that the brothers were walking down the hall – fortunately, in the opposite direction. Severus waited for them to leave the hallway, then waited a few more seconds, rushed past Professor Slughorn’s door, and hurried on down to the Common Room.

"What’s a matter with you?" asked Lucy a minute later, when Severus come in through the door, heading for one of the study carrels tucked into the corners of the large room.

"Why? What’re you talking about?"

"Your face. It’s all red. You look like you’re mad or something."

"Nothing. I don’t know. Nothing."

Lucy looked at him like she didn’t believe him but said nothing.

 

Note:

I realize this is moving along slowly.  I am editing sections that I had written over the past eighteen or so months but did not have time to organize into chapters.   Once again, thank you for your patience. 
 
 


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