Disclaimer: To those who read this fanfiction, be aware: One, I do not own or hold rights to the characters and situations of this piece of fiction. Two, I did not create the Harry Potter world (… snerk…) and have no rights to that. Three, not a Euro, cent, or Knut is being made off of said fic From the Bottom of the North Sea.

Dedication: To everyone who really needs a hug now and whenever.

"Important" Note From Author: This is the first HP fanfic I've ever written that does not mention either the M, the W, the P, or the second P from the infamous quartet MWPP. *folds hands serenely and coughs* I'm really quite proud of myself, if only for that.

Second "Important" Note From Author: This fic is Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw and Slytherin friendly. I even listed them in alphabetical order. Let's see if we can keep the harsh and fiery opinions that come by reviews now to a nice minimum. Think Christmas spirit and peace on earth and ensuring that my review page doesn't alert my Parental Controls…

From the Bottom of the North Sea

Gritting her teeth, Ginny Weasley tried desperately to keep calm and cool. Not an easy thing, with Professor Snape on your very back, peering impassively over her shoulder into the cauldron full of eerily-red liquid.

He didn't move or say anything for a time - a time in which Ginny could feel herself growing befuddled by his very presence. Why did he always give the impression that she was doing something wrong? She knew very well she had done everything right to this point. That is, she had known, until he decided to stand behind her and play spectator. I hate him. I really, really hate him. She wondered if she had stirred it too long or not long enough. The potion had to thin some more… didn't it? But wasn't it supposed to be chunky? The whole point of the next ingredient was to dissolve the thickness.

Wasn't it?

'Miss Weasley.' That voice made her backbone constrict, truly. 'Do you happen to recall what this is to be used for?'

'A… A pesticide for - like, bugs and little creatures and things.'

There was a titter, and Ginny knew precisely who it was. Lil Rookwood, a Slytherin. She just knew that giggle too well.

'What might you say is the usual method of applying pesticides?'

Ginny blanked out, face scrunching in confusion. Usual method of applying pesticides? You… You sprayed it on the bugs… well, maybe 'insects' was a bit more impressive a word… ugh, why do I always sound like a complete idiot down here?

'Your pesticide is clogging while we wait for a response, girl.'

Girl! Girl indeed. She was fifteen, for Merlin's sakes. 'You…'

'You spray it, Miss Weasley. You spray it.'

She nearly kicked herself and settled for shivering in the chilly dungeon air. 'Yes, sir,' she muttered, feeling her face go very hot as Lil commenced to laughing outright, joined by Slytherins - and Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws - and Gryffindors! She glanced up furiously at her supposed Housemates. Colin Creevey caught her eye and gave a smile. Now, was that mocking or sympathetic?

'And how do you intend to spray a pesticide that is as thick as the head that directed its concoction?'

Now she felt her cheeks catch fire. She was used to Snape-abuse, even though she was a perfectly respectable student, but really! There were limits. And there was the dissolvent right on her table, not yet added to the cauldron, plainly in his line of vision. Surely he must realise it wasn't complete, and that of course it would be 'thick' - oh, that adjective in reference to her head rankled - until it was added.

'Well, I suggest you pull your head out of those fantastic dreams involving Harry Potter and few clothes long enough to do it properly.'

She burned. She could actually feel a hot, stinging tear in the corner of her eye. Why didn't he go pick on someone else! I'd really like to know when you last saw someone of the opposite gender with 'few clothes', Snape.

And, of course, the class found anything involving sexual innuendo hilarious. 'Oooh, Ginny,' cried two of the Gryffindor boys. Not Colin, but the other two, the ones Ginny always wanted to introduce to a Bludger club, and guffaws circled the room as if hungry sharks surrounded her in the form of none-too-well-concealed amusement.

But then - thank every deity known to mankind - he left, going down to the two Ravenclaw girls next to her, who were now pink-faced. 'You disappoint me,' Snape told them. 'I thought Ravenclaws, if no one else, would be mature enough to continue with their proper work. You've failed on all counts.' He ladled out some of their pesticide, which was a light pink and watery.

Ginny ignored what he said to everyone else and added her dissolvent furiously. All Weasleys had a temper and it was marked in Ginny. Why hadn't she pointed out that the dissolvent wasn't in? I hate him; hate him, hate him, hate him. There was no way Snape could chastise her for knowing the procedure. (And then, because you could only reflect on how you hated him for so long, How'd he ever earn the title of Potions Master?) And even if she had, she could've redeemed some of that lost pride.

But no, little Ginny is a coward, she thought, throwing the last word at herself like a brick. Hadn't Snape himself even said so once? 'However you got into Gryffindor, I don't know. I suppose family tradition counts for more than most allow.' She could always come up with some brilliant thing to do after the event had passed, which was probably for the best, considering she would never have the nerve to do them. Still, he has no right to bully students like that. Well, apparently he did, as he had been teaching for over a decade at Hogwarts and had yet to be restrained.

Sometimes she wondered why she had felt such a rush of pleased pride when she had been selected for Advanced Potions for her fifth year. Snape had told them he only wanted the dedicated students. 'Your marks do not have to be phenomenal. Of course, if you have any real passion for the art, they will be decent enough anyway.' He cut each class down for Advanced by more than half, and then squashed the whole year in. Some cases, even more. The current sixth and seventh years had Advanced Potions together because Snape had chosen so few. Hermione had told her that in the sixth and seventh year class a quarter of the room was still unused and that fifth year had an amazing lot.

The honour paled in comparison to the absolute torture of it. Why anyone would want to take not one, but two classes with Professor Severus Snape was completely beyond Ginny's mental powers and imagination. Why she still did it… well, she actually did like Potions. Not the man who taught them by any means, but the class, yes.

The best thing about Advanced Potions, and the biggest compensation, was that there was an odd number of students. No one had exactly jumped up to Ginny with eagerness to be her partner, so she worked alone. In no other class did she have that independence, and the elimination of the hassle of teamwork almost made up for the sting of not having any real companions. Maybe Colin. It was hard to tell. He had gotten into girls lately. While it was nice to know he was human, it also grew annoying. Ginny certainly didn't want to be his girlfriend but it vaguely bothered her that he showed no interest in her whatsoever. He had wrangled a blond-haired partner. She seemed to be his preferred type.

But really, there was an advantage in working alone. Ginny had never forgotten the story of Robert Lowell, who had been Dennis Creevey's partner. Dennis had proved to be quite the jokester and stand-up comic. Somehow he had managed to stay alive and retain all his limbs while still giving Snape a good deal of lip. Snape never found any of his comments amusing.

One day he was going at it at a great rate, and Rob, who wanted to pass Potions that year, kept his head down and tried not to show that he was dying to chortle. Eventually he gave himself a deep cut on his index finger while slicing his peppermint, and the combined pain and unbearable urge to laugh actually made the thirteen-year-old boy start crying (and giggling) helplessly in the middle of Snape and Dennis's banter. What a nightmare. Ginny would never have forgiven herself for such a display.

'… why she's in Advanced Potions, anyway.'

It was Lil Rookwood. Ginny sighed in spite of herself. She had disliked Lil from the Sorting. She was named for the mother of the Boy Who Lived by a father who wanted to convince everyone of his anti-Dark convictions - a complete sham, as everyone soon found out. "Rookwood, Lily" had seemed so artificial, and her trick of holding her head like she was a queen hadn't endeared her to Ginny a bit. Double classes with Slytherins had only firmed this opinion. Lil was such a snotty little prig. Sometimes Ginny had to suppress the very real yearning to shove her into the lake - just to see one of her hairs out of place for once, if nothing else. Lil had not taken to Ginny. 'The freak' - ever since that whole debacle in first year.

'Well, she needs something practical to fall back on once she leaves Hogwarts,' snickered Lil's partner, a Slytherin named Estelle Estwhistle.

Lil giggled. They were talking so loudly that Ginny could hear them clear across the room. 'No wonder the family's so poor. Ginny probably got on her knees, begging Potter to take her. Failing that, bribes. The Weasleys never had enough honour to think twice about it.'

That simpering little… oh, a word her mother would never let her say aloud, and that you may tie to! No honour, indeed; that was big talk for a witch whose father had died in Azkaban for treason to the British Ministry of Magic and alliance with a madman like You-Know-Who! Ginny's hands shook, but she tried to keep her face blank and feigned deafness. Honestly, Potions was always a doomsday class, but some days it seemed as though every person and thing in the dungeons were all out to get you, and get you bad.

'…How else do you think they got all those kids?…'

She wiped her hands on the cloth she'd kept on the table in case of the emergency that - fortunately - had not happened. Now she could breathe easily. Class would be over shortly. Straightening from her uncomfortable position of leaning over her cauldron, Ginny looked up for the first time in a half an hour. A line of jars full of slimy floating things greeted her eyes. She gazed along the row until she found her little buddy, something she wasn't sure was an organism or an animal or a plant or a mixture of all of them. Most inhabitants of the jars fell under the category of Certainly Not In Any Hogwarts Textbook. This one, however, seemed to acknowledge her. Maybe she was only imagining it, but in case she wasn't, she winked and made faces back at it and sometimes waved when she was sure no one was watching. She felt bad for it, inside of that jar. Anything to break the poor thing's monotony. And it was a comfort during the long Potions classes.

'You know, there are great potions to change babies' appearances for life.'

But now Lil motioned for the Slytherins to hush, because Snape was nearing their corner of the dungeon classroom. Ginny had never seem someone simper and play up to a teacher so much before in her life! It irritated her almost worse than anything else about Lily Rookwood. And how did she think that Ginny could hear them but Snape couldn't, anyhow?

'Fawcett! Williams!'

Hufflepuff Garth Fawcett cringed under the looming shadow of their instructor. 'Professor?'

For a long, unnerving moment Snape didn't say a thing, instead staring down into the cauldron with a decided sneer. Finally he looked at Garth and Riyad, both of whom were probably privately praying for a lightening bolt to strike them on the spot.

'What do you call this myriad of too-warm water and dissolved poisons masked by influcides that reflects yellow rather than red light?'

It was actually orange, a dark orange that most would pass off as red.

The boys exchanged a glance that seemed to say: You talk. No, you. Not me. You. No, I'm not. Well, he's waiting. Yes, and we're his dinner tonight. Is there any truth to that rumour of what's inside that funny-smelling broom closet down here that he never opens?

'Would you dare to turn that in as the Ministry-approved pesticide I asked for?' demanded Snape.

'Erm, yeah,' Riyad mumbled.

'What's that?' Snape was employing that trick of speaking through his teeth. But wasn't Ginny relieved it wasn't her, bad as she felt for Garth and Riyad.

Riyad cleared his throat. 'Yes… sir.'

The 'sir' did not improve Snape's mood. He leaned forward, hands on the other side of the table, claiming it as his own and boring into the boys' eyes. 'Do you mean to tell me,' he said in his patented soft and venomous whisper, 'that if applied this instant, this solution, if poured onto the head of a creature less the size of the palm of my hand, would kill instantly and painlessly, much less kill at all?'

No one was talking.

After a moment, Snape straightened with a rather unhuman snarl that sent a shiver over Ginny. He's mad. In all meanings of the word, he's mad. Slowly and deliberately he looked from one end of the room to the other, eyes locking onto each student before moving on. Ginny was very thankful when his eyes, dark and endless as the depths of the universe, left her. They found the end of the room, and Lil Rookwood, who looked back up at him squarely, eyes innocent.

'Miss Rookwood.'

Lil stood up at the address. 'Professor Snape, sir?' Next to her, Stella Estwhistle seemed devoutly glad it was Lil and not her.

'Do you think their so-called pesticide would do such a thing?'

For a moment, Lil hesitated, eyes flicking over to Riyad and Garth's cauldron, before looking up at Snape. 'No, sir, I don't believe it would.'

'Indeed.' He was actually civil to Little Miss Priss, thought Ginny with extreme uncharity. 'I'm thinking of testing their pesticide, Miss Rookwood. Before it cools and they can claim it's merely disabled by time.'

'They would likely make that argument when it doesn't work.'

She was revolting! Ginny wanted to walk across the room and smack her, and knew from the dark glances and disgusted faces of her classmates that she'd be heavily supported. But, of course, she didn't.

Snape turned, eyes moving along the same row of jars Ginny had looked at. She held her breath - not her little friend in the middle there! But he reached for a jar two down from the animated little creature, to one covered in something glistening. It was some sort of creature: a cross between a Lobalug, a Plimpy, and possibly some sort of imp. With a kappa thrown in. It was the strangest thing Ginny had ever witnessed. Some poor victim mutated by one of Snape's potions, no doubt.

'Miss Rookwood, would you approve of my idea of applying the pesticide to this?'

Lil, almost in her seat again, hurried up again with a grace masking the awkwardness of the movement that Ginny really did envy. She looked over the creature, nose wrinkling a little, and then to Snape. 'Yes, sir, I would agree with that decision.' Her hands were folded behind her back. Really, beyond disgusting. What a suck-up.

'It was not a decision until you approved, Miss Rookwood.'

Oh, heavens. He wasn't flirting with a student blatantly in the classroom, was he? Was he? Did she ever have something on him!

Snape all but slammed the jar onto the boys' table. Ginny had a clear view of him - her? - it: something perhaps six inches tall when it sat, as it was doing now, greenish in colour. Ginny had not known it had limbs, as the shelf's shadows had obscured them. But it did! Little Plimpy-like legs that it was sitting on, and helpless tiny arms with knuckles almost the size of its head. She wondered if the triangly point on its head would hinder the pesticide. Apparently Snape wasn't worried about that; he was unscrewing the lid to the jar and ladling the pesticide. One couldn't accuse him of confidence, but he certainly didn't seem the least bit perturbed about killing the life in front of him.

'Sir!' Colin called out. 'Don't - What is that?'

'It's another of Hagrid's illegal wretched cross-breeds. It's served its purpose and needs to be disposed of at some point. I see no better opportunity than now to do it.' His face twisted. 'Not that I think their pesticide will prove lethal.'

Could it smell? Ginny pondered. The pesticide? The ladle was over the jar when the cross-breed put its arms over its head in reflective protection. It's so very alive. How can Snape just kill it? He had said Garth and Riyad's pesticide was ineffective, but Ginny knew enough about potions to be aware that enough of any poison could prove fatal. Two Hufflepuffs broke into murmurs. A Ravenclaw boy folded his arms, frowning; Stella Estwhistle looked very pale. Wait - Stella Estwhistle?

It had a voice! Ginny's heart somersaulted. Snape had poured in the pesticide and the creature shrieked - a small-voiced shriek, one that Lil snickered at - but it was still a shriek! The little thing was in pain.

'Apparently not dead yet,' said Snape needlessly. He scooped out another ladleful from the boys' cauldron. Riyad stuck his hand out for an instant before letting it fall to his side.

This dose did not end the cross-breed's life or misery, either. The pesticide merely burned him. Riyad was stricken; Garth, frowning. So few others seemed to be realising that their teacher was torturing some defenceless animal in their very midst! Two of the Gryffindor boys stood on tiptoe to have a better view. Others were just as blank as if Snape had been writing something on the chalkboard. Ginny's legs seemed to have evaporated. I bet he's still a full-hearted Death Eater and that he'd kill anything he could just for the fun of it, git, git, git…

'We get the point!' she cried, but in a whisper that few acknowledged. 'It doesn't work!' Take their points and move on!

Unhearing, or simply ignoring, Snape turned back to the cauldron and dipped the ladle in. Ginny took two steps forward and then hesitated. People were beginning to look at her oddly.

Snape turned back to the jar - and Ginny darted forward to the Hufflepuffs' table, pushing past Faida Moran, who said 'Hey!' but then fell back next to her Hufflepuff partner. Ginny snatched up the jar seconds before Snape got the ladle in - what to do now? - the animal screamed at her -

She chucked the jar in the middle of the floor. Lil and Estelle ducked as it shattered, shielding their faces. Ginny dimly noticed a sudden increase in the room's noise level.

'Someone turn on the water and get some soap ready!' she barked, stumbling over her words as she scooped up the released cross-breed. The pesticide stung at her hands but not enough for her to break her stride over to the sink, where the Ravenclaw boy who had looked troubled before had the water jetting from the gargoyle's mouth. She dumped the creature into the sink without ceremony. Its cries ceased almost immediately.

'Miss Weasley!'

She didn't trust herself to reply to Snape. 'Thanks,' she muttered to the boy, not knowing what else to say as she didn't know his name. He nodded a bit dazedly.

'Miss Weasley!' Snape was yelling. Oh, dear. Yelling. Not a good sign. Maybe not quite yelling, but his voice was loud. Very loud. Not good. That sudden spurt of Gryffindor daring, where had it gone? Her legs were overcooked and soft and watery again. 'When I call you I want your attention!'

'S-She needs to wash her hands, Professor.'

I love you, Ravenclaw, Ginny thought with fervent sincerity. She soaped and lathered them so quickly that she knew she wasn't cleaning them a mite but was far too scared of trying Snape's patience to re-do them. Then she turned, cursing herself for the weakness of trembling.

She had noticed it before, but never quite so acutely as now: Snape was tall. Almost six whole feet. He would have made an excellent Keeper. Was Snape ever - well, fifteen? Impossible. But impossible not to have been. Did he ever think about Quidditch?

Snape was staring down at her - illustrating his height even further. He was really quite ugly, Ginny thought, and trembled all the more for the nerve just to think it. He wasn't reading her thoughts, was he? It sure struck her that he was. And everyone was staring at her.

He didn't speak for a moment. On hindsight, Ginny realised that it was a good thing: Snape was really too taken aback to find his tongue. But at the moment it only boded doom. What would happen when he finally spoke?

'There you go,' he sneered, still looking directly at Ginny but speaking to the entire class. 'A sadly brilliant display of the recklessness and stupidity known as Gryffindor "bravery". We'll reward them by taking off twenty points for disruption of class, disregard for authority, and willful immaturity. Miss Weasley, when you stay after class to clean up this ridiculous mess we can discuss your detentions.'

He emphasised the last syllable - particularly the s of detentions. Meaning more than one, Ginny thought detachedly.

Snape seemed to loose some of the tension in his limbs as he stood a little taller. 'Courage enough to act, but not to explain yourself or even respond? Tsk, tsk. So was that an act to win attention - a child's trick indeed - or some altruistic belief in defending the defenceless?'

Ginny choked. No, no - she was not going to cry, not like Rob Lowell! She had nothing to cry about - she had done the right thing - an amazingly brave thing. Wait until her brothers heard - and Harry. She had defied Severus Snape. Merlin, she'd been school legend for centuries, maybe. Certainly the entire room was whispering about her, and not all of it seemed negative. 'I - I don't know. What's "altruistic" mean?'

Ugh. Lame. Lil Rookwood sniggered in most ladylike fashion. Then again, the Gryffindor boys laughed approvingly.

He responded with a dismissive, impatient noise in his throat. 'Make sure that cursed thing doesn't escape and wreck havoc over my dungeons. Class, due to certain - disruptions - we're running short on time. No one is to leave until they've a sample vial of their pesticide and have cleaned up thoroughly.'

She was alive - minus twenty points and detentions - Ginny felt her stomach sink - all right, so she was worse off than she thought. But she peered down at the cross-breed. 'Guess it was worth it,' she muttered, washing her hands quickly and thoroughly before drying them and her rescuee. 'Sorry. Guess you like to be a little damp. Water-creature, aren't you?' 'That was amazing, Ginny!' someone hissed in her ear. Ginny glanced up at the now-vanished speaker and grinned. Then she noticed Snape staring at her, most unencouragingly, and erased the smile, opting instead to hurry over to her table and clean up. She wanted to be alone with Snape for as little time as possible. The cross-breed clung to her with its webbed fingers very well, and she let it hang on her robe as she worked. It was convenient that it had such a grip. But when she tried to go back to the sink to rinse off her supplies, she was forced to pass the pesticide table, uncleaned. Once bitten, twice shy - the cross-breed let go of her and scampered away quick as a flash. Ginny held her cauldron full of supplies helplessly.

'No, don't chase it for her,' Snape called idly. 'Let her handle it herself.' Ginny, flustered, started toward it. 'No, you stupid girl, put the cauldron down!'

Right. Ginny flushed a fiery red before taking that advice and coaxing the creature back. 'What now?' she whispered to it. 'I need to rinse them off, little fellow.'

It was stubbornly impassive.

'Okay, lady. Whichever. What are you? What if I walked along the other wall, far from that scary old pesticide as we can?' She attempted that with better success, but found to her dismay that when she had finished cleaning up just her own pesticide, everyone had left. Snape was staring at her still, making Ginny as jumpy as he had earlier in class.

'Come on,' she sighed at the creature impatiently. How do I clean up the jar and stuff too, with this? She pulled out her wand.

'You know my policy about non-magic cleaning,' said Snape. 'You won't always have a wand handy, and too many ingredients in contact with one can damage them.'

'I'm just transfigurating some sort of holder for it.' One of her vials was transformed into such for her purpose, freeing her hands and mind to finish the task.

Some cleared up glass later, she rose from her knees, hands full of pieces of what was once the cross-breed's imprisonment jar, and found Snape still gazing at her eerily.

'Am I doing anything particularly entertaining, Professor?' she asked tartly. While she had worked, she had decided that she disliked Snape too much to fear him. What he had done was absolute cruelty, brutal, and more disgusting than even Lil Rookwood - and that was saying something.

Perhaps Snape realised that she was too detached now to submit into his induced terror. 'You surprised me today, Miss Weasley. I did not expect you to do it.'

His tone was a little heavy, almost as if tired. He had looked undoubtedly bad lately, worse than usual. But what was so unique as compared to anything else he'd ever said to Ginny was his lack of malice. He was speaking to her as courteously as he ever had Lil Rookwood. Which wasn't much, really, but still… Ginny was so shocked she could barely speak straight.

'Well - I mean, if you had, you wouldn't've done it.' Grand way to lessen your detentions, Weasley! 'I mean - sorry.'

'Oh, I did it for a reason. I do everything for a reason, Virginia.'

Virginia? Would wonders ever cease? 'My least favourite great-aunt calls me Virginia.'

'That isn't important at the moment,' and Ginny stung with embarrassment. 'I've done similar many times. No other student has ever stopped me. They may have protested, long after it's over and the creature is dead or worse, or complained to each other. But never actually stood up to me.' He - laughed? It was a chuckle, a very dry one. 'Not even Gryffindors. They'll go out into the world and vow to destroy all evil and Voldemort in one blow, but never save a life when it's directly in front of them here. No wonder we're so vulnerable to terrorists.'

Ginny blinked. 'I - I guess - I don't know. Death is easier to face than a move that makes you like weird to other people.'

'You're so very correct.'

Again deflated and stunned, Ginny deposited the glass shards in the waste and wrung out a rag for what was left of the pesticides.

'I am not particularly impressed except for the fact that it's so rare. It should happen more often. We should fight such instances always. Everyone says these fools we drag in every year for Defence Against the Dark Arts teach the subject. They don't. It's in here you'll learn all you have to for the Battle. I stimulate everything you need to overcome.'

For a moment, Ginny was about to ask if that meant what they needed for the Battle was diligence, courage, intelligence, the ability to cower in fear, and a memory-full of sarcastic and degrading remarks, but then halted. One, she wasn't yet bold enough to say such things; two, there was probably a thin line between what Snape valued in terms of defying him and what he condemned for impudence.

'You stimulate a place where it's very hard to do anything except hate you,' she said frankly.

'The path of the Battle isn't glorious and heroic. Hasn't the Headmaster pounded it into your heads yet? "Not the easy path but the right one." I will be honest with you. It's almost never the easy one. It's generally the nasty, wretched, hard, torturous, miserable, heart-breaking one.'

So apparently he does this all to beat us into shape for You-Know-Who. Whoa. I'm tired. I'm really tired. This is too much for one day.

'Of course, there's consequences,' Snape continued, as she ran the rag under the sink, complete. 'I still need to do something with that pathetic cross-bred beast.'

'I'll take him.'

'Of course you'll take him,' said Snape, sounding cross. It was a blessed familiarity. 'I didn't say you had any choice in the matter. Mind you, don't you dare let that thing reproduce - and it can probably mate with a multitude of things. It's the offspring of the offspring of other cross-breeds. Keep it isolated. If I find its children, I'll know them and I'll know how they came about.'

'Yes, sir,' said Ginny dutifully - and cheerfully. She had never had a pet before. Her parents keep promising, but she didn't like to burden them and put it off the two times she'd had the opportunity. They couldn't really afford more pets. And no one had something like - this. 'So does it have a name?'

'A name?' Snape raised an eyebrow incredulously.

'I mean, species.'

'Let's not break our teeth on it. It's male, I'll tell you that much. It'll be troublesome. I believe it eats water-insects, but don't try to hold me to my word on that score.'

'Thanks.' She released it from its hold and let it jump onto and cling to her robes. It could rest on the brim of her hat, probably. Hagrid will help if the water-bugs fail.

'Don't get too perky, Miss Weasley,' Snape said dryly. 'You have three two-hour detentions - next week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at six o'clock, at the North Entrance. Be prepared to traipse around on the edges of the Forest with pesticides. And for the love of Merlin, don't bring that creature. I'm sick of the sight of it.' His voice was harsh and familiar again.

'Yes, sir. 'Evening.' She left happily, closing the door and listening to her light clap-clap-clap as her boots met the stone floor, with a broad grin at her new pet, which had crawled up to her collar and was gazing up at her with adoring eyes. She occupied she was with memorising this picture of its green face that she - literally - walked into something in black robes with a green collar. Ginny gasped and looked up -

Into the porcelain face of Estelle Estwhistle. Her mouth was firm and unsmiling, as usual, and her dusky dark blue eyes didn't reveal any of her thoughts.

'Stella,' she said breathlessly, and then remembered who she was talking to and murmured, 'Sorry.'

'That's okay.' She didn't sound the least distressed. She really had a nice voice when she wasn't mocking you. 'Snape let you keep it?'

'Him. Yeah, he did.'

'That - That was really decent of you.' Stella averted her eyes, as if speaking to the floor. Ginny stood, stunned at the taller girl's words. Stella, Lil Rookwood's shadow, had barely said two words to her not ending in 'freak' for years. 'To save it - him - like that. I couldn't believe Snape was doing that. He's always really looked out for some of us, but I couldn't believe he was doing that.'

'Neither could I.' Ginny answered readily. She would not reveal Snape's conspiracy. In fact, she was tired of the whole affair. She didn't want to discuss it much. Not even to her brothers, or Harry, no matter how impressed he might be. Yeah. As if. He's faced down You-Know-Who, and you barely stood up to Snape. Then she found she didn't know what to say.

Stella looked just as awkward. Probably even worse for her - she was big and tall and seemed to feel out of place and uncomfortable. 'Um…' Ginny hunted desperately for something to say. She wasn't used to chatting with her classmates. Luckily Stella wasn't your normal classmate. 'Do you, er, want to hold him?'

It was worth it. Stella exhaled in relief. 'Erm - can I just pet him? I'm not good with holding animals. He - He doesn't bite, does he?'

'No more'n Snape does,' Ginny chortled, holding the pet out on her fingers toward Stella, who backed away for a moment, but only an instant. She touched him gingerly and let out a small shriek when he jumped onto her hand.

'Shh! He won't hurt you. Just calm.'

Stella gave a lopsided and sheepish smile that improved her whole appearance. 'Oh. Hey, he's really cool. One of Hagrid's things - no doubt there's not another one in the world.'

Ginny giggled. 'I'd bet money on that.' Then she clammed up. Financial affairs were half the ammunition Stella and Lil had to pick on her with.

Apparently Stella realised this and flushed a little. 'Going to name him?'

'Walk forward a little,' Ginny hissed to her with a grin, having already thought up this little aspect while cleaning up the torturous pesticide. She glanced behind her shoulder and then up into Stella's face, whispering: 'Considering who gave him to me and where his ancestors came from, I think I'll officially name him Severus, From the Bottom of the North Sea. But that's a bit too long. We'll call him Sevvy for short; what d'you think?'

Concurring, Stella broke into a grin borne of the delight of schoolchildren poking fun at a least favourite teacher in the safety outside the dreaded classroom. It showed dimples - serious, plain Stella Estwhistle had dimples. 'I think you're terrible.'

In honour of this christening, Sevvy made a croaky sound as Ginny and Stella clamoured up the stairs out of the chilly dungeons.

A chocolate frog - no, we'll make that two; I'm in a generous mood - to whomever can cite the line of text that lent itself to this fic's title, where it comes from, and how it's related to the above story when they leave their review… as we all know everybody does without fail. *wink* Happy holidays, everyone.