VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 14 POSTED ON: 3/26/2012
1 Another summer gone, Harry thought happily, waving enthusiastically at the departing Dursleys, who hadn’t said a word to Harry since they’d arrived at the train station. Uncle Vernon had practically thrown Harry’s baggage out of the car’s truck and sped away, eager to be rid of him. Harry didn’t mind though, not in the least. He didn’t like the Dursleys as much as they didn’t like him. Glancing up at the train platforms, Harry made his way to Platform 9¾. And- yes!- there were Ron and Hermione waiting for him, just as they’d arranged when they’d met two days ago in Diagon Ally. Harry would’ve gone home with Ron after the shopping, but Albus Dumbledore, Hogwart’s Headmaster, had sent Harry a curious note only a week after summer vacation had started. Dear Harry: I am sending you this note because I wish to request a favour of you. Though I know you do not particularly enjoy spending the holidays with the Dursleys, I would prefer that you stay there during this summer. You are protected there, Harry, more than you can imagine. Snuffles has sent me a note also requesting that I write this note to you, as he fears for your safety. If, however, life becomes intolerable, staying with the Weasley’s would be best. Also, send me an owl if you make this decision. I do hope you enjoy your summer vacation. Albus Dumbledore It had given Harry pause, certainly, when he read the letter. Harry had almost given in and written to the headmaster during Dudley’s birthday, in which a present had (accidentally) exploded when Dudley had shoved it in Harry’s sleepy face early that morning to brag. He’d been locked in his room for a week for that, even though Harry had never meant to do anything. He hadn’t cast a spell, it had sort of just- happened. “Harry!” Hermione grinned, giving him a quick hug. Ron cuffed Harry on the shoulder. Ron had gotten even taller over the summer, with decidedly more freckles. “I’ve been practicing on your Firebolt!” he said excitedly, pointing to Harry’s broomstick lashed onto his trunk. “Thanks for letting me borrow it; it rides like a dream! Even Percy wanted a go on it.” “No problem- I couldn’t fly it at the Dursley’s anyway,” Harry smiled back. “Oh, I’ve heard the most horrid rumour” said Hermione worriedly. “I heard that Hagrid isn’t going to be back at Hogwarts this year- he’s still off somewhere up north.” Ron and Harry began protesting at once. “Are you sure?” said Ron anxiously. “Why can’t he be here?” “He’s all right, right?” said Harry at the same time. “From what I heard, he’s fine, it’s just he’s having a time convincing the giants to join with us against You-Know-Who,” she whispered. “I wonder if we’ll have a Care of Magical Creatures class with him gone?” 2 “I wonder who’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” Ron asked, pushing his luggage toward the wall that hid Platform 9¾. “I wish Lupin would come back. He was the best,” Harry sighed wistfully. “I know,” Hermione agreed, then ran through the wall. Harry followed quickly, and they began pushing their luggage into the Hogwarts Express. “I want no funny business this year!” they heard Mrs. Weasley telling her mischievous twin boys, Fred and George. “Or I might personally come up there just to cuff you ‘round the ears!” “Don’t you worry, mum, we’ll be no trouble at all,” Fred grinned, then climbed aboard the train. George reaffirmed his twin’s statement, smiling wickedly, then followed. Mrs. Weasley sighed, rubbing her temples. “Bye mum!” Ron called out the window after pulling it down. “You take care, dears!” she called back, waving and smiling. The train began moving off. Ron, Harry, and Hermione made their way to the very end of the train, to their customary car. As they sat down, Ron noticed Hermione was carrying a leather-bound book. He groaned. “Oh, c’mon Hermione, d’you have to start reading schoolbooks already? Can’t that wait until we actually get to school?!” “This isn’t a schoolbook,” said Hermione sniffily. She held it up, and Harry read the title aloud. “Check and Mate- A Comprehensive Book of Master Chess Moves. Why d’you have that?” “Because I want to be able to play chess, and actually win sometimes,” she said, smiling slyly at Ron. Ron sniggered. “Hermione, you can’t learn how to play chess with a book. You have to learn by experience! You can’t learn everything by book, you know. Although,” he sighed, “if anyone would try, you would be the one, wouldn’t you?” Hermione gave Ron a withering look, opened to her bookmark, and began to read, ignoring Ron’s chuckles. “Hey, Harry, up for a game of Exploding Snap?” Ron asked. “Sure!” *** They were halfway through their game when someone knocked on the door, then pulled it open. Ron and Harry looked up immediately, the game forgotten. A thin brown-haired girl who looked about 20 stepped through the doorway, her lean face wearing a friendly smile. “Do you mind?” she asked, motioning at the seats. “The rest of the compartments are full.” “No, not at all,” said Harry, moving over to sit by Hermione. “Ah, Exploding Snap,” the girl said fondly, noticing the game strewn over the floor. “I am quite hopeless at that game, though I enjoy it anyway.” She grinned, shrugging. Harry smiled back, already beginning to like her. “If you don’t mind my asking, who’s winning?” she said, leaning forward. 3 “Ron,” said Harry, giving his friend a mock angry look. Ron smirked and they resumed playing, the girl watching attentively. She cheered with Hermione when Harry won, and Ron pouted boyishly, then laughed along. “By the way, I’m Hermione Granger,” Hermione said, looking up from her tome. “Ah, yes, and you’ll be Ron Weasley-“ she nodded at him, “-and Harry Potter. Am I correct?” “Yes, but, how did you know?” Ron asked. “Not many people have such flaming hair,” the girl laughed. “Besides, I know your father. I worked with him some over the summer. He told me all about the three of you, as close as if you were siblings.” “Oh, so you’re Sammi- I mean, Samantha?” Ron asked. “Dad mentioned you a few times.” “Yes, I worked with him for two weeks or so. Just call me Sammi.” “What’s your House?” Harry began to ask, but the compartment door flew open again. They looked up. This time, it was someone much less pleasant. Draco Malfoy strode into the room, his familiar smirk on his thin lips. Predictably, Crabbe and Goyle- two boys who were as stupid as they were big- followed him inside, giving the compartment a rather cramped feeling. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Potter Gang.” Malfoy turned on Ron, pretending to be surprised. “Good lord, Weasley, your parents still have enough money to send you to school?!” Crabbe and Goyle snickered. Ron clenched his fists, then relaxed them, even managing a evil smile. “You know, Malfoy, if you weren’t such a suck-up to Snape I’d almost believe you make your grades honestly in his class.” Sammi coughed convulsively just then, which sounded remarkably like a giggle. Draco’s eyes narrowed. Goyle cracked his knuckles. “Ah, go boil your head Malfoy, you aren’t wanted in here,” said Harry irritably. “And you watch whom you insult, Potter,” Malfoy sneered. “There’s no telling who might just show up and teach you a lesson in… pain.” His pale eyes bored into Harry’s, and Harry caught his meaning, and scowled. Draco was referring to last year, when Voldemort himself had caught Harry and tortured him. “You’ll be in pain if you remain in my sight much longer,” Ron hissed angrily, guessing at the silent exchange. “Be quiet, Weasley, you poor excuse for-“ “Malfoy, shut your mouth if you wish to keep it intact.” Sammi’s voice was soft, but carried quite well. Malfoy rounded on her, sneering, “And who might you be? Another Potter-lover?” “I could, quite literally, be anyone, Malfoy, so I suggest you keep your fat clap shut,” Sammi replied casually. “Wait- I know you!” Malfoy exclaimed, his face relaxing into surprise. “You’re in my House!” 4 Ron’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Yes, I am, though not for the same reasons you are.” Sammi tossed the statement out like a dart, her own eyes glowering. Malfoy’s eyes widened, then narrowed in anger. “As I told Potter, you’d better watch whom you insult. My father has connections-“ “Yes, I’d say he did have rather… ‘Dark’ connections, eh?” she whispered, staring unblinkingly at him. Malfoy stepped back, unsure, then, sneering, turned and left. Sammi sat back as Ron grinned and reached forward to shake her hand. “Any enemy of Malfoy’s is a friend of mine!” he said happily. Sammi laughed. “I’ve never, ever cared for the Malfoys,” she shrugged. “At least there’s someone else out there who knows Draco for what he is- a jerk,” Harry replied, settling back into his seat. Sammi smiled and looked away. “I wasn’t really supposed to do that… Would you mind not mentioning it to anyone?” Ron grinned again. “Why not? We should start a ‘Down with Malfoy club’ or something! He did that last year with you, Harry. Remember the buttons?” “Buttons?” Sammi asked, and they explained about the ‘Potter Stinks’ buttons that had been briefly seen about everywhere in the school. “Oh, yes, I remember now,” Sammi mused. “So you’re in Slytherin?” Ron asked incredulously. Sammi glanced down, her face ashamed. “I’m not in Slytherin because of the reason Malfoy is!” she said desperately. “I- I just have such a fondness for reptiles, and when I found out Slytherin’s animal was a snake, I pleaded with the Sorting Hat to put me there. It said I would have been great in Ravenclaw, but that I had plenty of qualities where Slytherin was represented. Only afterwards did I realize what the real Slytherins were like.” Ron’s mouth was agape. “You can’t be a Slytherin- you’re way too… nice!” Sammi laughed. “Yeah, you’re definitely too nice. You should be in Ravenclaw,” Harry said, frowning, remembering his own Sorting Hat ceremony. Hermione looked out the window. “We’d best get into our robes- we’ll be coming on Hogwarts soon.” *** After they had changed, they bought some treats from the candy cart and talked of Hogwarts’ classes- what they liked, and what they hated. “I just can’t stand Potions,” Ron moaned. “If I could give up any class, it would be Potions!” “Me too,” Harry agreed, biting into a chocolate frog. “Why’s that?” asked Sammi. “Because of Snape!” Harry said fervently. “He’s got something for me. He detests me.” Sammi giggled, then covered her mouth. 5 “What’s funny?” asked Harry suspiciously. But Sammi just shook her head, smiling secretly. “Look, we’re here!” said Hermione, pointing out the window. They felt the Hogwarts Express slowing down, then come to a complete stop. They jumped off the train. “First years, over here!” Harry, Ron, and Hermione glanced hopefully over to their right, but it was Professor McGonagall, not Hagrid. “I’ll see you at the feast,” said Sammi, and she ran off. Laughing and joking, Harry, Ron, and Hermione made their way up to Hogwarts Castle, meeting up with many friends along the way, including Lee Jordan and Neville Longbottom (who was anxiously trying to remember where he’d placed his Remembrall last). The students arrived at the Main Hall and sat at their respective tables, chattering excitedly about the upcoming year. Harry waved at Professor Dumbledore, who smiled and nodded back. Soon afterwards, the first years were led in to be Sorted. “Have you noticed there aren’t as many first years as there normally are?” Hermione whispered. “Oh look, there’s Sammi!” Ron and Harry glanced up. Sammi had walked into the Hall from a side door. She had pulled her brown hair into a tight bun at the nape of her neck, looking much like Professor McGonagall. She strode toward the Head Table. “Where’s she going?” Ron asked, bewildered. “Shouldn’t she be sitting at the Slytherin table?” To their amazement, Dumbledore stood and shook her hand, then spoke to her in quiet tones for a moment. Then, they watched her walk toward Professor Snape, a delighted grin on her face. “Oh my gosh,” Ron said, mouth open. “Is Snape… smiling at her?!” For indeed, Snape’s mouth was not tucked into it’s normal scowl, but actually turned up in a gallant attempt at a smile. To their shock, she walked up, grinning, and hugged him. “She’s crazy!” Harry said, shaking his head in disbelief. “What’s going on?!” As Sammi took the seat next to Snape, Hermione gasped. She was about to speak when Professor McGonagall tapped her glass with a spoon to catch everyone’s attention. “Professor Dumbledore would like to make a few announcements,” she said, then sat as the Headmaster stood up. “Welcome, welcome! Ahh, the start of yet another year. I would like to make just a few announcements. “First and foremost, First Years should note that the Forbidden Forest is off- limits to everyone. “Second, the Care of Magical Creatures class will begin in November, when our groundskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, returns.” “So Hagrid’s coming back!” Harry exclaimed, relieved. “And finally, I would like to introduce our newest teacher.” He nodded at Sammi, and, blushing, she stood. “Samantha, or Sammi as she prefers, is your 6 new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, hopefully here to stay. She will also be assisting in Potions.” “She’s our teacher? This is great!” Harry whispered. “She rocks,” Ron agreed happily. “She has requested that you call her Professor Sammi, so as to avoid confusion-“ Harry and Ron glanced quizzically at each other. “Has Dumbledore finally gone nutters?” Ron whispered loudly. “What’s he talking about?” “I remember now!” Hermione whispered excitedly, but Dumbledore kept talking. “-Professor Sammi is our youngest teacher in over 200 years. She graduated from Hogwarts just last term. Please welcome Samantha Snape!” Ron and Harry’s mouths fell open in unison. “Snape?!” they said together. “She can’t be Snape’s sister… can she?” Harry asked as he clapped. “She can’t be related to Snape, she’s too neat!” Ron said over the applause. “I remember reading about her!” Hermione said loudly to both of them. “I read her name last year when I looked up the registered Animagus. She’s an Animagi!” Sammi was blushing even more furiously and sat down rather quickly. Professor Snape leaned over to whisper in her ear, and she laughed, nodding, seeming more at ease. *** All during the meal, Harry, Ron and Hermione kept speculating on Sammi’s relation to Snape, if there was one at all. “You never know, the name could just be a coincidence,” Hermione said. “Aw, come off it, she’s got to be related,” said Ron. He made a face. “Uggh, imagine having him in your family.” Harry chuckled. “That’s no worse than the Dursley’s!” After dinner, the students were rushed to their dormitories and to bed. Vince Glathers, the new Prefect, ushered them up and down the stairs to the Gryffindor tower. “See you in the morning,” Ron said sleepily to Hermione as they went off to bed. *** Harry, Ron, and Hermione couldn’t wait to start classes the next day. Their first class was Defense Against the Dark Arts, and they were itching to catch Sammi in the hall and ask her a few questions. But Sammi arrived to class a few minutes late, struggling to pull a large covered cage down the hall and into the classroom. She looked up at the full classroom and smiled warmly. “Sorry I’m late! I left early, but this cage is rather bulky. Could someone help me lift it onto the desk, please?” 7 To Harry’s surprise, Neville’s hand shot into the air. His ears were rather pink, and he was smiling shyly. Sammi nodded at Neville and he walked up to the head of the class, helping her wrestle the cage onto the top of the desk. “Thank you Mr. …” “Neville Longbottom, Professor,” he said. “Thank you Mr. Longbottom.” She nodded at him, and he returned to his seat, face flushed with pleasure. Sammi opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Seamus Finnigan, his hand waving in the air. “I haven’t even begun and there’s a question already?” she smiled. “Yes?” Seamus looked around, almost guiltily, then said, “Are you Professor Snape’s sister?” Sammi laughed. “No, no. I’m his niece.” “Tough job, that, eh?” Ron said. “Not as tough as you’d think.” She winked. “Now, where did I put that scroll…?” She fumbled through her pockets, finally locating a large aged scroll. She called the roll, then replaced the parchment in her dark violet robes. “Today I have brought a very dangerous, finicky creature for you to study,” she said, seeming just as excited as the students. Her dark eyes sparkled with delight. The entire class leaned forward eagerly. “This,” Sammi said dramatically, “is a doppleganger.” There was a collective ‘ooooh’ as she pulled the black cloth cover from the cage. The cage was made entirely of glass, with tiny round airholes at the top. Inside was a grayish, hairless humanoid sitting on it’s haunches. It’s face was sunken, and it had no mouth. The round yellow eyes stared at the students hungrily. “Now, who can tell me the most unique skill a doppleganger possesses.” Not surprisingly, Hermione’s hand was first in the air. “Miss Granger.” “The doppleganger’s unique skill is shape-shifting,” she said, sounding like she was reciting a book (‘Which she probably is,’ Harry reminded himself). “They can transform to look like anything, even individual persons or more obscure things like wood or stone.” Ron’s eyes popped wide in amazement. “Wow,” he whispered. “That is correct, Miss Granger. 10 points for Gryffindor. This doppleganger- I call it Joe, even though dopplegangers are genderless- is very young. It was captured before it was but three weeks old, and has grown up around humans. It is actually nice enough, truth be told. It will transform into anything I ask. I will let Joe out in a moment-“ Harry nudged Ron in the ribs worriedly, who looked just as anxious. They both remembered the pixie fiasco with Professor Lockhart three years ago. 8 “-I will keep a tight rein on it, of course. There will be nothing to fear. Joe is magically bound to the glass cage, and cannot walk more than three feet away from it.” They had a lot of fun with Joe. As Sammi had said, it actually was kind of neat. Sammi let each student ask Joe to transform into something, and it did so graciously, even seemed to enjoy showing off it’s powers. They all- even Sammi- got a good laugh when Neville had Joe transform into Snape wearing his grandmother’s clothes, reminiscent of how he had defeated the boggart Lupin had had. Ron- and most of the other students- got quite a fright when Harry made Joe morph into a huge spider for a joke. “I want you to read the chapter on dopplegangers in your books for next class period. Also, I want a two-page scroll on the doppleganger’s history by this Friday. That is all, see you tomorrow!” Harry, Ron, and Hermione were last to leave class, wanting to watch Sammi put Joe back in the cage. At the moment, it had turned into a large python, and was wrapping around Sammi’s neck as it slithered back into the cage. As they left the room, Harry heard her mutter, “No, Joe, the next class won’t be long, then you can return to my office, where its nice and dark, alright?” “That was so-“ Harry was interrupted by Ron grabbing his arm and stopping him dead in the middle of the hallway. “Did you hear what she said?” he hissed, eyes wide with shock. Hermione, next to him, had her hand over her mouth. “Uh, yeah. She was telling Joe that the next class wasn’t going to take long and then she’s taking it back to her office,” said Harry, confused. Ron rolled his eyes. “I guess you didn’t notice.” His voice dropped even lower. “She was speaking in Parseltongue!” “What?!” Harry gasped. “Really?” “Yeah,” Hermione muttered, glancing back at the classroom with an odd look on her face. “That’s why you could understand her. All I heard was- was the hissing.” “D’you think we should tell anyone?” Harry whispered as they walked quickly down the hall. “Probably not,” said Hermione. “I mean, Dumbledore hired her, he probably knows anyway. If anyone found out, they might sack her. And as she seems just as great as Lupin was, I don’t want her going anywhere anytime soon!” “Hear, hear,” Ron said, shrugging. *** The rest of the day went smoothly, Harry, Ron, and Hermione easily falling back into the school schedule. After dinner, they strolled about the castle a bit before turning in. As Harry got ready for bed, he pulled out a photo album from underneath his pillow. Hearing Ron and Neville’s snores already, he crept down to the common room and sat by the fire, flipping the pages, which were full of wizard pictures of his mum and dad. 9 Sighing, he longingly touched the pictures as his parents waved and nodded happily from the photos. A solitary tear slid down his cheek, and he did not wipe it away. “I miss you, mum, dad,” he whispered. Suddenly, the portrait swung open, and Sammi stepped through, closing it softly behind her. Harry quickly pocketed the photo book and stood. “AHH!” Sammi gave a small screech and jumped back. “Oh, hullo Harry, you startled me,” she grinned, shaking her head. “What are you doing in here?” Harry asked, glancing at her shrewdly. “There is no place in the castle proper for me to sleep except in the Gryffindor girl’s dormitory,” Sammi explained. Yawning, she stretched lazily. “I just finished in the Potions Lab in the dungeons, and I am tired.” “Um, Professor? May I ask you a question?” “Of course, Harry.” “Are you really Professor Snape’s niece?” Harry asked curiously. “Yes, I am.” She smiled, and the silence grew a bit stilted. “What’s that you’re hiding?” she asked casually. Harry brought out the photos. “They’re pictures of my mum and dad,” he whispered. “I- I never really knew them…” Sammi bowed her head. She placed a thin hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I am sorry,” she said softly, and Harry was surprised to see genuine sadness darkened her eyes. “I have my parents with me, and sometimes I forget how blessed I am. I… I wish you had known your parents, at least,” she finished softly. Harry was touched by her honesty. “Thank you,” he murmured, lowering his eyes. Sammi paused again, then said off-handedly, “Are you absolutely starving?” “Uh… not really.” “Pity… the kitchen house elves make a wonderful cuppa,” she said, winking. “But I’ll just go on my own, then…” Harry grinned. “Well, if you put it that way…” Laughing, they opened the portrait and snuck outside. Sammi knew the way down to the kitchen quite well; Harry didn’t have to tell her the way. “Harry Potter!” squealed a certain house elf as they entered the kitchen. “Harry Potter’s come to sees me!” Dobby wound his way through the throng of house elves and hugged Harry’s knee, eyes shining in adoration. Harry turned pink. “Nice to see you too, Dobby. Work going well for you?” “It’s great, Harry Potter!” Dobby answered happily. “Oooh, another friend. Sammi!” He bounded over and Sammi scooped him up with several other elves, giving them all a warm hug. “I’m glad to see all of you again,” she grinned. “How about serving up two of my usuals?” Harry glanced admiringly at Sammi. “But Sam- Professor Sammi, you shouldn’t be doing this! You’re a professor!” 10 “Professors can be out after bedtime, Harry,” she winked. “And I won’t tell if you won’t.” Harry greatly enjoyed the half hour with the house elves. Sammi had them re-tell the funniest stories they knew for Harry, and the peppermint-and-sage tea and biscuits they brought out were simply marvelous. “We really must be off, now,” Sammi said finally. “I’ll be seeing you again soon, though! Bye!” The house elves called their goodbyes, merrily stuffing tarts and biscuits into their pockets as they left. “Remember Harry, I won’t tell if you won’t,” Sammi whispered as they separated at the dormitories. As Harry was falling asleep, he thought on his first day back at Hogwarts. It was the most promising day he’d ever had. *** Ron was a bit cross at Harry not waking him up last night, but was mollified when Harry promised to wake him the next time. Defense Against the Dark Arts was great again. They were continuing their lesson on dopplegangers, and Joe was back, though today it was sulking in a corner of it’s cage, pretending to sleep. Even Potions was better than ever, all because of Professor Sammi. She was Snape’s assistant, and she flitted about, watching the cauldrons with a trained eye and catching any mistakes before they became full-fledged riots. Snape was milder with his comments, too, prehaps because his niece was there to hear him. He seemed rather preoccupied, and snapped at Harry only twice the whole period. Ron got a funny thrill out of Sammi calling Snape “Uncle Severus”. Harry also enjoyed watching Malfoy try to get on Sammi’s good side. At one point in class, he called her over to ask her a question. Harry and Ron, who were two tables away, could hear the conversation. Malfoy was smirking, as usual. “Professor Sammi, I am afraid we’ve gotten off to a bad start,” he said silkily. “I spoke harshly without thought. Prehaps we should forget what happened on the train, and begin again, shall we?” Sammi was not taken in, however. She smiled sweetly down at him. “Actually, Malfoy, I think we should continue from where we stand. I, for one, do not regret my words on the train.” She bowed, very formally, and walked away. Harry and Ron sniggered, and Draco, who was looking affronted, shot them a venomous look. “Too bad,” he said, a bit too loudly so she could hear him. “Another Potter- lover’s come to school.” Suddenly, a shadow fell over Draco, and he looked up into Snape’s face, which was wearing a nasty expression very akin to the one he especially reserved for Harry. “I’ll advise you to not discriminate against my niece whilst I am around,” he said, his voice dangerously soft. 11 Draco’s mouth dropped open in surprise as Snape stalked away. Was Snape actually talking down at him?! Ron couldn’t stand it any longer. He burst into semi-silent chuckles, hiding his face behind a stand of tubes. Harry had to punch him in the ribs twice before their chuckles wore off. Sammi winked at them from across the room, then hurried over to Neville, whose cauldron had almost spilled over. That night, Sammi, Ron, and Harry snuck down to the kitchens. Hermione had planned on going too, but insisted she needed to work on the doppleganger report instead. “Yeah, she’s a bit mental about her homework,” Ron affirmed to Sammi as they crept downstairs. As Ron didn’t care for the peppermint-and-sage tea, he drank a simple concoction of black teas. “I’m offended,” Sammi said light-heartedly. “I invented that tea!” Ron stuck out his tongue, made a gagging noise, and returned to his black tea. They were making their way back when they heard an odd noise coming from the Great Hall. Sammi stopped still in her tracks, listening intently. “That sounds like… someone crying,” Ron whispered. “Who could it be?” “Wait here in the shadows,” she replied softly, pulling them next to the doors. Then she glided silently inside. “Hello, why aren’t you in your House- oh… OH NO!” “Sammi?!” Harry whispered urgently. “What’s wrong?” Sammi ran from their sight toward the head table, where a dark cloaked figure was leaning on it for support. “Uncle, oh no! What’s wrong?” she cried, pulling the figure up to it’s feet. Harry and Ron gasped as she pulled back the hood. It was indeed Snape, but he looked absolutely haggard- his already limp hair was plastered to his head, his skin was deathly pale, and he was clutching his chest in a desperate grip. His breath was coming in ragged gasps, as if his lungs were being squeezed. Ron was so shocked he fell over and he and Harry toppled out into a patch of moonlight. But Snape didn’t see them. His eyes were pinned on those of his niece. “Sammi!” he whispered hoarsely. “No… no Sammi… I’m so sorry…” he muttered, closing his eyes, his face a mask of sadness. “Sorry?” Sammi said absently as she helped support him. Tears were trickling down her face. “He did this to you, didn’t he?” she gulped. “Yes but… it’s much… worse… Oh Sammi, I’m… so sorry!” Sammi shook her head angrily. “He’s going to suffer for this! I’ll personally make sure of it!” Snape bowed his head, beginning to shake uncontrollably. Sammi whirled and said, “Harry! Run upstairs and get Madam Pomfrey! I’ll get Uncle down to his office…” “No… I want you… to go… get Dumbledore,” Snape said, his voice scratchy. “Potter will… help me.” “But I don’t want to leave you-“ “GO,” Snape said more forcefully. “I must speak… with him!” 12 Harry and Ron crept forward, frightened now. But they both helped support the professor as Sammi sped for the doors. As she reached the hallway, she glanced back, worried. One look at Snape’s expression urged her on, and she disappeared around the corner. They could hear her light footsteps fade rapidly down the hall. “Potter…” Snape said softly as they slowly descended the stairs to the cold dungeons. “Why are you… always around when… you’re wanted least?” Harry, his mind whirling with uncomfortable questions, didn’t bother to answer. They arrived at Snape’s office and helped him inside and into an armchair by the fire. Snape leaned back, closing his eyes wearily. Harry and Ron glanced at each other, unsure of what to do. Snape (whom Harry swore could read minds) answered their question for them. “Go to… your dormitory. You are… not supposed to be out… at night.” He opened one eye at them. “Though that has never… stopped you, I know, Potter.” His voice, though broken throughout by ragged breaths, was still malevolent. But before they could move, the door was thrown open and Dumbledore strode in, a hard expression on his face. Sammi was right behind, nervously pulling on her sleeves as she skirted around the Headmaster and knelt by Snape, watching him anxiously. “Harry, Ron, return to your dormitory. I will sort out your predicament later,” said Dumbledore firmly, his eyes searching. Ron gulped. “‘Predicament’? You mean, like… detention?” “It will be sorted out later, as I’ve said. Now go,” Dumbledore said, the normal twinkle in his eyes missing as he shooed them out the door. As soon as it was closed, however, Harry and Ron looked at each other, then bent to the door as one, listening. Ron stomached out on the floor, squinting underneath the crack as Harry peered through the keyhole. Sammi hurried about, daubing a cloth into a basin of warm water, then wiping Snape’s hands, which were alarmingly covered in shining blood. Dumbledore pulled up a chair directly in front of Snape and sat, staring at him unblinkingly. Harry had never seen Dumbledore look so serious. “What happened, Severus?” Dumbledore asked quietly. At those simple words, Snape’s face seemed to draw in upon itself. His eyes were wide with a mixture of disbelief and sorrow. “Tonight we were… called to him,” Snape said, his voice oddly flat as he pulled back the sleeve of his left arm. Harry heard Ron gasp at the glowing Dark Mark tattooed on his skin and kicked him. “Tonight Voldemort discussed plans for his future,” Snape continued, eyes unfocused. “He wants to lie low for a while, let things smooth over a bit as he makes a few choice contacts, then resurge stronger than ever.” “And he hurt you,” Sammi whispered, tears shining in her eyes. Snape nodded slowly, his eyes closing. “Why did he torture you, Severus?” Dumbledore pressed softly. “To prove my loyalty,” Snape whispered, and a glimmer of fear flickered in his dull eyes. “He did not believe my vows that I had never left him… and he made me… prove my loyalty tonight.” 13 Dumbledore bowed his silvery head. “I was afraid of this. What did he have you do?” Snape glanced guiltily at Sammi. “I- I- He-“ Snape began, but could not form the words. “Take your time, Severus,” Dumbledore said, settling back in his chair. “Voldemort told me to- to- kill my brother and his wife,” Snape whispered, his voice barely audible. “So I Apparated to their house and told Alex and Gloria to flee… Then we staged a pretend argument, and they fled the house, running away as I half-heartedly chased them, in case anyone was watching…” “Yes?” Dumbledore was leaning forward now, one hand gripping the arm of the chair tightly in concentration. “Are mum and dad alright?” said Sammi anxiously, but Dumbledore shushed her, staring at Snape intently. “He- Voldemort Apparated next to me…” Snape said hollowly. “Then he used the Imperius Curse on me and… and made me…” He suddenly buried his face in his hands, while Sammi looked on in horror. “What happened?” Sammi asked shrilly, hands clasped over her mouth. “Mum and Dad aren’t-“ “Sammi, I’m so sorry!” Snape whispered, then drew up his robes, pulling the cloth around him, as if trying to hide. “There was nothing I could do… I’m so sorry…” “NO!” Sammi shrieked, jumping to her feet. “No, it can’t be- no-“ Dumbledore rose swiftly and pulled Sammi against him, enfolding her in his arms. He glanced sorrowfully at Snape, who had almost buried himself in his robes. Harry glanced down at Ron, who was staring open-mouthed up at him. Then he looked back through the keyhole, watching Sammi’s shoulders shake as she sobbed into Dumbledore’s robes. His heart ached for Sammi. She now had lost her parents to the relentless Voldemort, as he had… He still had such vivid nightmares, all because of that cruel wizard… “Wait here,” he whispered to Ron as a sudden thought struck him, then ran off. Harry didn’t stop running until he reached the hospital wing. He eased the door open, then tip-toed over to the cabinet. Quickly, he jerked open the cupboard and scanned the bottles, finally selecting one and tucking it under his robes. Then he swiftly shut the door behind him and ran back down to the dungeons. “What did you get?” Ron hissed. “Go on back to the dormitory so you won’t get into more trouble,” Harry whispered as he made to open the door. Ron grasped his wrist. “What are you doing?” he gasped, but Harry threw his grip off. “Just go on!” Harry said more fervently, then turned the handle. With a horrified look on his face, Ron skivvied off, rounding the corner, then peeking about. Dumbledore looked quite surprised to see Harry enter the room. His face turned down into a concerned frown. “Harry, I told you to go back to your dormitory,” he said sternly. 14 “I only wanted to give this to Professor Snape,” Harry said defensively. Snape glanced about the wing of the armchair, looking shrewdly at him. Harry set the potion down on a nearby table and backed away, returning Snape’s stare. “It’s a Dreamless Sleep Potion, Professor Snape. You and Sammi should share it before going to bed tonight.” Nodding curtly, Harry turned on his heel and left, closing the door quickly behind him. “Potter!” Snape’s voice froze Harry in mid-step. “Potter come here!” he called again. Harry reluctantly reopened the door and walked over to Snape. “Normally- under these circumstances- your detention would be assigned later,” Snape sneered, looking more like he normally did. “But I wish to assign it now.” Harry held his breath, eyes downcast angrily. “You listened at the door, then stole from the infirmary,” Snape continued, his eyes narrowed. “In fact-“ Harry risked a peek at Snape’s face, which had lost it’s curtness. “-You did exactly as I would have done. There will be no detention this time, Potter,” Snape whispered. “But if I find you lurking about at night one more time- just one more- and you’ll be in detention for the rest of the schoolyear!” Harry’s eyes shot upwards, boring into Snape’s unbelievingly. “But- But-“ “Tell Weasley he had no detention either. Now leave, before I change my mind!” Harry leapt for the door, still goggling at Snape. He had almost closed the door when Snape called, “Potter! … T- Thank you for the potion.” His voice sounded strangled, as if he had to force the words out.
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