Any and all satisfaction I had from Hogsmeade evaporated Monday morning. Hanging on the Gryffindor notice board was a new sign – Educational Decree Number Twenty-four. Every organization, society, team, group or club was banned. The only way they could be reformed was if you got permission from Umbridge.
At breakfast I expected to hear or maybe even see which one of Hermione’s recruits had sold us out but it never came. Not one person showed any sign of blabbing. Then how did Umbridge find out? Was it me? Were my spells faulty? No. I’d checked and double-checked and even triple-checked them. I set up protection against Extendable Ears. I spelled every window, every wall, the door. It should have worked, it had to of worked. There was no way it was a coincidence. What had slipped through?
Even Quidditch teams were disbanded. Of course they would be, it was something Umbridge could hold over Harry to instill obedience. The Slytherins on the other hand, were approved before classes even began that morning. Draco was bragging about it before Potions, much to the delight of the other Slytherins. The Gryffindors were glaring at Draco from across the corridor as I tried my best to block out Draco’s words.
“…they’ve been looking for an excuse to sack Arthur Weasley for years…” I tried to shut it out, I really did, but Draco’s next words made my ears ring. “…it’s a matter of time before the Ministry has Potter carted off to St. Mungo’s…apparently they’ve got a special ward for people who’s brains have been addled by magic.” Draco did a crude impression with his mouth sagging open and his eyes rolling. The other Slytherins howled with laughter.
Something inside me burst. One second I had been leaning against the wall and the next I was swinging my fist at Draco – hard. He dropped to the floor and the other Slytherins fell silent. Actually everything was quiet except for the blood pounding in my ears. Crabbe and Goyle were looking from me, down to Draco and back at each other, seemingly confused. They decided on helping a stunned Draco back to his feet. Draco pushed them away though, getting up on his own as he clutched his bleeding nose.
He looked at me, right at me and for the first time in over seven years, I didn’t avert my eyes. It was like he was looking at me for the very first time. I didn’t feel anything except fury and a sickening need to hit Draco again and again.
“What is going on?” a firm, cold voice asked. I didn’t look away from Draco and he didn’t seem to be able to look away from me either. “I asked what is going on here?” Snape repeated from beside us. Still neither of us moved. Snape reached out towards Draco who flinched away and turned to glare at Snape before his eyes drifted back to me for a fraction of a second. Without another word he reached down to pick up his bag then gave me a last look of contempt before marching out of the dungeons.
There was a pause of silence as everyone took in what just happened and then…
“She’s mental!” Pansy Parkinson shrieked. “She lunged at Draco and broke his nose!”
“Lestrange, detention tonight. Everyone inside now,” Snape ordered. The rest of the class began slowly shuffling into the classroom but I didn’t move. “Lestrange,” Snape barked.
I jumped when someone grabbed my right shoulder. It was Hermione who looked as nervous and scared as she had the night of the third task. She gently nudged me towards the doorway and I finally moved. I didn’t want to look at Snape. I didn’t want to look at anybody. I spent the entire double Potions lesson obsessing over my Strengthening Solution and blocking out everything around me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the day. Hermione had tried during Arithmancy but after a harsh glare she fell silent. I ate lunch and dinner in the kitchens. It was nearly six when Dobby told me I needed to go to Snape’s office. A spark of annoyance mixed with anger shot through me. I squashed it down the best I could and traveled to the dungeons.
There was not an immediate answer when I knocked on Snape’s door and I debated whether I could just leave. Before I had the chance to turn around, the door swung open and Snape was standing there. Again I couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Sit,” he instructed. There was no tedious, disgusting, faux detention work set up. Just a single chair in front of Snape’s desk. As tempted as I was to kick the chair over, I sat down and Snape closed the door then cast a number of spells. After that he sat down behind his desk as I stared down at the floor waiting for whatever he was going to say.
“Seven years,” he finally said, sounding tired. “Nothing for seven years as guilt has consumed you. And the first thing you do is break his nose.” I said nothing and continued gazing at the stone floor. “You’re not even going to tell me why? Or at least attempt to explain yourself? A dozen other students witnessed it and the story is already making its way around the school but you won’t tell me why it happened?” Snape let out a frustrated sigh when he realized I wasn’t going to answer. “Did you see who was in class today? Umbridge was there and very curious about why Draco was not.” I hadn’t noticed her at all, I hadn’t noticed anything not pertaining to my potion. “If I had known, if there had been any indication that you would have reacted this way after what happened last June, I would not have used that method for securing you.”
Now a spark of bitter resentment shot through me.
“Of course not. Merlin forbid I actually know what’s going on inside my own head.”
“If I had known for sure, there was always a chance I was wrong –”
“So what, you’re going to wait until you’re absolutely, one hundred percent certain you’re right? I’m just supposed to wait around for Severus Snape to decide if he’s sure before I can be told anything? Is that how you plan on keeping control?! Keep me in the dark until the last possible minute?!”
“I hardly think you’re in the position to lecture me about keeping information to myself,” Snape replied in an even tone. “I’ve been waiting for over three months for you to say something but you ignore it. I’ve asked you about it outright but you still refuse to speak to me.”
“What makes you think you have the right to know?” I responded coldly.
“Haven’t I always tried to give you the best advice I could? Haven’t I tried to do what’s best for you?”
“What’s best for me isn’t always your choice to make!” Something about Snape’s calmness was infuriating me.
“I’m trying to keep you alive and sane in the best way I know how.”
“That’s not enough!” I snapped, shouting at Snape as I leapt up from my chair.
“Then what do you want?” Power. Control. Everything. “A servant?” Snape asked, still using the same calm voice. “A loyal follower?”
I felt my stomach churn as I realized just what I was thinking, or more precisely, who I was thinking like. The Dark Lord was the one who wanted power. He was the one recruiting loyal servants. Here I was feeling the same desires. It made me disgusted with myself.
“I’m not like him,” I muttered weakly.
“I know you’re not. That doesn’t stop the emotions from being there.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I was perfectly fine until today.”
“You’re lying. And not very well either. This isn’t the first time you’ve been furious lately. It’s not the first time you’ve snapped without hardly any provocation.”
“I’m fine nine days out of ten,” I said defiantly.
“I do realize that, but all it takes is one day. You know that.”
“It’s not going to get that bad –”
“You’re already jumping from extremes. It’s not just the anger. There’s the crushing guilt, not to mention your visible recklessness which worries me more than anything else. I will not sit around and hope you don’t inflict more damage upon yourself.”
“I’m not some loony nutter,” I said bitterly. Snape let out a sigh and rose from his chair. He gripped my right arm and directed me back into my chair before returning to his own.
“I do not, nor have I ever, believed you were. However,” he said cautiously, “certain precautionary steps should be taken.”
“Precautionary steps?” I asked, not liking the sound of that at all.
“I want you to take up the journal again. It’s easier to recognize discrepancies when they’re written down. Much easier than when it’s going through your head. You have to be honest though, choosing to keep something locked up because you’re ashamed of it isn’t going to help you. I certainly won’t judge whatever you write.”
“Ok,” I agreed softly.
“Alright. We’ll use Dobby as a messenger.” Snape paused for a moment before continuing. “There is something else I would like you to consider.” He pulled a potion out of his desk drawer and set it in front of me. I stared at it darkly, remembering what it did. It was one of Snape’s own concoctions. A strong calming potion mixed with a mood altering solution that left me feeling exhausted. “I don’t expect you to take it everyday. Only when you feel like you have today. You don’t even have to use it at all if it truly bothers you that much, but at least take it with you in case you do need help balancing yourself.”
Not feeling up to protesting this, I took it and slipped it into my pocket. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
Snape leaned back in his chair and folded his hands. “I won’t make you talk about Draco if you choose not to. Still you should remember about trying to keep a low profile. And if you indeed feel that you would like to keep the events of last June private, I will respect your wishes. However my door is always open to you, day or night, should you require it.” A part of me wanted to tell him, maybe so I didn’t feel the pressure of keeping it locked inside. Or maybe I only wanted answers and had fooled myself into thinking Snape had an answer for everything. I couldn’t do it though, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. One day, I promised myself. One day I would find a way to tell him, just not any day soon.
“Although, there is one final thing I do wish to question you about.” My mind drifted to the now illegal study group Harry and Hermione were carrying on with, the one I would be attending, illegal or not. “Your...friend. Mr. Dimitri.” I think I’d rather be interrogated about the defense group now. “I did not realize you were still in contact with him.”
“I’m allowed to have a foreign friend.”
“You had given me the impression he wanted to be more than friends.” Internally I cringed, regretting the fake back story I had invented for Dimitri during my third year. I told Snape Dimitri was a student at Salem, one I got along with and enjoyed being around. Of course Snape being Snape, pounced on this instantly, asking if the bracelet I’d been wearing was from him, which it was. I hadn’t at all claimed Dimitri fancied me (because that was completely nutters, the Russian was in his thirties for Merlin’s sake!) but Snape interpreted it that way and instead of correcting him, I went with it.
“People of the opposite gender are capable of being just friends,” I pointed out.
“I assure you I am aware of that. That being said, most boys do not…gift girls jewelry without…other intentions beyond friendship.”
“It’s not some –”
“Just because you do not see it as a romantic gesture does not mean he feels the same.”
“There is not a shred of romantic feelings between me and Dimitri,” I snapped. Snape sat there looking thoughtful for several minutes before it annoyed me too much to ignore. “What?” I asked rudely.
“Nothing,” he answered, looking surprised by my question.
“I hate that,” I said angrily after letting out a growl.
“I know there’s something but you won’t come out and say it. You always do that.”
“You complaining about normal teenage things is oddly reassuring.”
“Are you going to tell me what you were thinking?” I asked sharply.
“I would prefer not to antagonize your anger.”
“Not telling me is antagonizing my anger.” Snape rolled his eyes in exasperation.
“I was curious if Mr. Weasley was aware of your…pen pal.”
“Fred? Why does it matter if –” A sudden realization of what Snape was thinking, not only now but back at Grimmauld Place, made me narrow my eyes at him.
“And there’s the anger,” he lamented quietly.
“I am not cheating on Fred,” I said threateningly.
“I never thought you were. I was merely curious –”
“Well stop being curious,” I snarled.
“I can’t imagine why I initially chose not to say anything,” he muttered sarcastically. I gave him a look of loathing. “Would you prefer puncturing pus pods or grading first year essays to dull the fury?” I roughly pulled over the stack of parchment he had indicated.
After quickly reading the top essay I snatched a quill off Snape’s desk. Midway through marking a three at the top, Snape spoke up. “He’s a Slytherin.” I glanced up and glared at Snape. Then I changed it into a two. “Point taken.”
A/N: Draco’s lines before Potions and the new Educational Decree are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 17, Educational Decree Number Twenty-four.
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