After the match, Serafima stormed into the headmistress's office. She paced the floor in a rage as she ranted at Ariana Dumbledore.
"So help me, Headmistress, if you knew anything about this and let the match go forward anyway-"
"I assure you, I had no foreknowledge of today's events, Serafima."
"The Girl Who Lived, fifty feet in the air, flying on a used broom-in full sight of the entire student body and who knows how many visitors and parents-"
"I'm sure you'll find a way to finagle a new broom for Daisy using today's events as a catalyst."
"That's hardly my point!"
"Still, I can't help but wonder exactly when it was that the Snitch flew down Daisy's shirt."
"Yes Serafima?" The old woman looked entirely too innocent. And jolly.
"Someone made an attempt on Daisy Evans's life today!"
That, at least, sobered the headmistress. But she didn't have a response, so Serafima pressed on. "You wanted me to watch over Quirina Quirrel. I confess that I was preoccupied during the match, but Miss Flint informed me that during Miss Evans's ordeal, Quirrel had her head turned away." Serafima watched the headmistress carefully, to see if this detail bothered her as it bothered Serafima. There was something off about the posture she imagined Quirrel having-something about the body language of turning away-when it would be more natural to cover her eyes, or cover her ears. She imagined Quirrel, with her hands hanging uselessly by her sides, turning around in the stands, facing backwards with a blank expression...
Serafima shuddered, and Dumbledore looked up at her.
"That doesn't necessarily mean anything, Serafima," Dumbledore lightly chided.
"Why am I watching Quirrel?" Serafima burst out. "Is it for her own safety, or for the safety of others?"
"A bit of both, I imagine."
Serafima sighed and finally took a seat in front of Dumbledore's desk. "Miss Evans has two more Quidditch matches to play."
"Unless you ban her from the team."
Serafima snorted. "When the child is a natural flier, the Snitch flies into her very bosom, and she'll soon have offers for a free Nimbus 2000? Besides which, she's found an important niche in the Slytherin team."
The headmistress laughed. "I had noticed that."
"Difficult to miss, really. But who tried to kill her today? Dumbledore..." Serafima was almost afraid to voice her question aloud, but knew she must. "Was it the Dark Lady?"
The headmistress regarded Serafima carefully and chewed the inside of her cheek. "I have no doubt that Amy is ultimately behind what happened today. Does that mean that Lady Voldemort herself showed up at today's Quidditch match and tried to kill Daisy? I certainly hope not."
"You certainly hope not," Serafima repeated flatly.
"It's the best I can give you," the headmistress said.
Daisy couldn't believe that Snape would try to kill her. But the more Herman talked about it, the less Daisy believed that Snape wouldn't try to kill her. After all, the woman could be horrible to Daisy in class, and Daisy liked it best when Snape ignored her completely...but then Daisy would remember Snape talking to her about appearances, or she'd remember Snape's clenched fists after the troll.
Snape seemed cold and calculating and perfectly in control, except when dealing with Daisy. She was a wretchedly mean teacher-calling a student stupid if they didn't know the answer, or mocking them if their potions were the wrong consistency, but Snape's eye twitched only when she was looking at Daisy. Once, during dinner at the Gryffindor table, Nancy Longbottom said something about Snape being horrible to Daisy, and Daisy had tried to play it off. "Professor Snape is horrible to everyone," Daisy had said with more confidence than she felt, but Nancy said, "No, I know, but when Snape looks at you, things stick out in her neck and she gets all twitchy." And Daisy had to agree.
So Daisy knew it wasn't all in her head. There was something about Daisy, specifically, that made her different in Snape's mind. Of course it might be because she was the Girl Who Lived, but Daisy somehow didn't think so.
But then she'd remember when Snape had taken her to get her broom.
Perhaps, Daisy thought, ...perhaps Snape was just mental.
Daisy was quite preoccupied with this line of thought in Friday's Potions class-what did it mean if her own Head of House tried to kill her? What Herman saw-what did that mean if Snape hadn't tried to kill her?
She was so wrapped up in these questions that she very nearly chopped the ginger root too fine. Who knew what that would do to the Stomach Soothing Serum she was supposed to be making?
She glanced at the gray-blue slime bubbling in her cauldron. Actually, it didn't seem like it should do anything to the actual potion-but something about minced ginger root seemed...wigglier. Daisy thought that it might make brewing the potion messier.
Without looking around, she tried to place where Snape was in the room. Behind her, talking to Felina Malfoy. Good, Daisy thought, and started to chop her ginger root very fine indeed.
When she added the ginger to her potion, the gray-blue slime turned clear yellow and kept boiling happily, just as it was supposed to. Daisy felt her shoulders sag in disappointment. She only had three steps left, so she resigned herself to a perfectly normal potion brewed in a perfectly legitimate way.
But at the very last step of the brewing process, as she added the fourth and final drop of lemon oil, it happened-and it happened very quickly. Her cauldron simply boiled over. The cauldron didn't melt; the potion didn't smoke. It didn't release sparks or pops. The potion just had a silent revolt. Daisy almost liked it, until the bubbling mess reached her hand, and she realized that boiling hot liquid all over one's desk was not a desirable thing.
"Oi!" she yelled, and pulled Ronnie (who had been absorbed with her own potion) aside.
Beth Zabini, on the other side of the table, yelled "Watch it!" and stepped back herself, and suddenly the whole room was looking at their table.
Daisy hadn't considered all the unwanted attention when she'd hatched this plan two minutes ago.
"Miss Evans!" Professor Snape yelled.
Daisy didn't have to fake her cringe. "Sorry, ma'am," she said.
"Oh! 'Sorry,' she says. As if that's a substitute for following my VERY CLEAR DIRECTIONS!" Without missing a beat in her tirade, Snape somehow managed to Vanish the ruined potion-which impressed Daisy greatly. She blinked at her empty cauldron, then blinked up at Snape.
"Nothing to say in response?" Snape hissed. "Detention. Tomorrow morning, nine o'clock, and we can once again review the very clear distinction between chopping and mincing!"
Daisy opened her mouth, then closed it again. How had Snape known? She'd only glimpsed the potion for a few seconds, from across a classroom. She looked at Ronnie, but Ronnie was just looking at her in sympathy-a sort of a silent "Bad luck, mate." Daisy looked back at Snape. "Yes Ma'am," she finally said.
During lunch that day, Daisy was distracted by burns on two of her fingers. She hadn't noticed at the time, but she must have burned her hand on the potion-her fingers had angry red marks that hurt.
Meanwhile, Ronnie told Herman about what happened in Potions that day. Predictably, when Herman heard about Daisy's detention, he became very agitated.
"Don't go," he told Daisy.
"Herman," Ronnie said, "just because I don't think Snape wants to kill Daisy...it doesn't mean I think we should go trying to change her mind."
"It's not funny, Daisy. You can't be alone with her!" Herman insisted.
"Then come with me," Daisy said.
Herman blinked. "Yes, I think we should," he said.
"Wait," Ronnie said. "Who's 'we'?"
Herman gave Daisy a hard look, then said, "What's wrong with your hand?"
"Just so we're clear, Herman," Ronnie said, "I won't stop you from joining in detention time with Snape, but I'm not...keen on that plan for myself."
But Herman kept staring at Daisy's hand.
"I think I must have burned it on the potion," Daisy said, holding it up.
"And Snape just let you LEAVE the classroom like that?" Herman said indignantly.
"Oh, it's not like that," Daisy said, even though she hadn't really thought about it. "I didn't even realize it was burnt, and besides, Snape is...she's good at potions, but she's..."
"She's rubbish at people," Ronnie concluded. "Let's go to the hospital wing to get you some burn balm."
Saturday morning, Ronnie woke up rather earlier than she wanted to because she had an odd dream where Snape tried to convince their potions class that she was Daisy's mother. No one believed her until she showed them all a tattoo on her arm that proved that she had, in fact, given birth to Daisy eleven years prior. This made perfect sense to Ronnie, because she remembered her own mother's tattoo that ran the whole length of her arm, listing off all her children and their birthdays.
So she woke up confused, because there was no way that Snape could be Daisy's mother. She rolled over in bed and let her thoughts drift, trying to get back to sleep.
And then she heard it: a voice speaking in a stage whisper, "Excuse me, miss?"
And then she realized two things: Herman had found a way to wake her up early to get her to go to detention, and also-her mother didn't have a tattoo. Weird.
She rolled back over and covered her head with her pillow.
"Miss Weasley?" the voice tried again. It sounded like a portrait.
Ronnie didn't move.
"Miss Weasley, there's a young gentleman in the common room who asked me to wake you up. He says he needs to see you posthaste."
Ronnie could still win this, she knew. Portraits couldn't come shake you awake or pull your hair or tickle your toes or sit on your legs or do any of the things her sisters (and Jonathan) would do to wake each other up. She could definitely ignore a portrait voice, and Herman could just wait in the common room forever.
"Miss Weasley-" the voice began again, but it was interrupted by a blood-curdling scream.
Ronnie sat up quickly-just in time to be hit in the face with a pillow. Shaking with adrenaline, she leapt out of bed, throwing the pillow on the floor...and then she finally figured out who was screaming. It was Malfoy, of course.
"Oh, sweet MERLIN, would you GET OUT OF BED ALREADY? SOME of us would like to have a LIE-IN of a SATURDAY, WEASLEY, CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT? ARGH, I should just MURDER YOU and have DONE with it, even AZKABAN must be better than having to LIVE WITH YOU and your, your, HAIR, OH, MERLIN, PLEASE AT LEAST BRUSH IT BEFORE YOU GO OUT, FOR ONCE, PLEASE, JUST FOR ME-"
"Felina," moaned Nancy quietly. "Can you stop, please?"
Ronnie rubbed her face and turned to the portrait. "Tell Herman I'll be right down," she said, conceding the victory gracefully, she thought. She pulled on some trousers and a jumper.
"Just, seriously, brush your hair first," Malfoy said. "And give me back my pillow."
Ronnie picked the pillow up off the floor, and studied it for a moment before she held it to her bum.
"What are you doing?!" Felina shrieked.
"Farting," Ronnie said casually, and tossed the pillow back to Malfoy. She slipped out of the room before she did more than catch a glimpse of Malfoy's horrified expression-which was enough to cheer her up a great deal, anyway.
Herman was waiting for her in the common room.
"How did you get in Gryffindor?" Ronnie asked.
"Well, I know the password, don't I?"
Ronnie frowned. "But doesn't the Fat Gentleman know that you're not actually, you know-a Gryffindor?"
Herman just shrugged. "It doesn't seem like the greatest security system to me, either, but there you go."
"But then why didn't you just come up to my dorm and wake me yourself?"
Herman made a face at her. "Because I can't? Because boys can't go into the girls' dormitories?"
"Is that...is that a question?"
"No, you nitwit. Boys can't go into girls' dormitories."
"Since the founding of Hogwarts-it says so in Hogwarts: A History."
"I don't believe you," Ronnie said, and grabbed Herman by the wrist and dragged him toward the staircase leading to her dorm.
"No!" Herman cried. "We don't have time for this-Daisy's detention is in fifteen minutes!"
"It'll take half a minute," Ronnie said. Herman wasn't really fighting her, which made him a lot easier to pull along than, say, Jonathan, if, for example, Jonathan didn't want to help Ronnie de-gnome the garden.
Ronnie pulled Herman up one, two, three, four, five steps, and started to feel smug, which lasted for the amount of time it took to reach the sixth step, when the steps suddenly disappeared entirely and Ronnie and Herman both slid helplessly back down to the common room. Herman just grunted when Ronnie slammed into him.
"Sorry-sorry," Ronnie said. "I'm sorry."
"Let's just go to the detention, yeah?" Ronnie said, with false cheer. "And how long will the staircase stay like that?"
Herman sighed again.
"I only assigned the one detention, if I recall correctly," Serafima said when Miss Evans showed up to the potions classroom with Miss Weasley and Granger in tow.
"We know, ma'am," Granger said. "Ronnie and I are only here to observe."
Miss Weasley made a noise that sounded like, "Guh." Miss Evans merely blinked at Serafima.
Serafima gritted her teeth. "Your observation is not required, nor your interference. Miss Evans, you do not get to have your fan club follow you along everywhere, especially to your punishments."
Miss Weasley made another odd noise and turned bright red, but Granger spoke before Weasley said anything coherent. "Of course, ma'am, we've brought our own work to do; we won't bother you. We just don't want Daisy to be alone with you."
"Alone with me?" Serafima repeated in confusion and not a little outrage. She stood up from her desk and walked toward the children. "And what-"
"Herman thinks you tried to kill me at the Quidditch match," Miss Evans said, and Serafima literally took a step back. Miss Evans continued before Serafima could recover. "He saw you muttering something and staring at me while my broom was going wonky. And the moment your robes caught fire and you looked away, my broom leveled out."
There were so many things wrong with that statement. Serafima could only untangle one thing at a time. "What could possibly motivate me to murder my own Seeker during a match?"
"That's what I said!" Miss Weasley said, just before Granger elbowed her in the ribs.
"It would give you a nearly perfect alibi," Granger said shrewdly, which stumped Serafima.
"It would," she agreed slowly. "I'll have to remember that in the future."
The children didn't seem to know what to say, but Miss Evans was looking at her with an odd expression. Serafima said, "What do you think about it, Miss Evans?"
"Well," Miss Evans said, "I would like to hear what you were doing, if you weren't cursing my broom. And I would like to know who was cursing my broom, if it wasn't you."
"And have you thought about possible answers to those questions?"
Miss Evans shrugged. "Just stupid stuff. Maybe you were mad because I couldn't catch the snitch, and you weren't so much cursing me as you were, well, just cursing. And maybe it was a coincidence that my broom leveled off when it did. Or maybe it wasn't a coincidence-maybe when your robes caught fire, it distracted whoever it was and they stopped cursing me. But that would mean that it was a Slytherin, because you were in the Slytherin stands, weren't you?"
Serafima again saw Quirrel in her mind's eye-Quirrel with her back turned toward the match, staring blankly at the back of the stands with a vacant look, drool running down her chin...
Serafima shook her head. "I wasn't cursing, nor was I casting curses, for that matter. I was casting protective enchantments. And I know of no one in the Slytherin stands with both motive and sufficient talent to curse a racing broom."
"But you hate Daisy," Granger said, narrowing his eyes at Snape. "Everyone says so."
Serafima didn't know how she even got into these situations. Did Melvin McGonagall ever have to give the I don't hate you speech? She somehow doubted it, and yet this was not even the first time she'd been confronted with this sort of accusation. "Nonsense," she said. "I love Miss Evans the same as I love all my students."
The children all looked at her blankly. "If you were my own children, I couldn't love you more," she continued dryly.
"That's a lie!" Granger said.
Serafima waved her hand. "Not a lie at all. Formal logic and conditional statements-look it up."
"Oh," Granger said. "Like Alice in Wonderland-If wishes were things, cabbages would be kings!" And he laughed.
Serafima looked at the boy blankly, as did Miss Weasley and Miss Evans. She decided she wouldn't ask. "Miss Evans, you have a detention to serve."
"That's fine," Granger said, and grabbed Miss Weasley by the arm and forcibly dragged her to a table in the corner. "We'll just be over here, not interfering at all."
Serafima blinked and looked at Miss Evans, whose head was bent down to the floor, no doubt hiding her smile. Wise girl.
"For your detention, Miss Evans, you will take these beets," she indicated an entire barrel of beets she'd procured from the kitchens, "peel them all, and then, using only your knife, you will cut up four quarts of chopped beets, four quarts of minced beets, and the same quantities of shredded, diced, and chopped beets." She indicated five jugs of the proper measure that Miss Evans was to fill. "They must all be cut perfectly or you will start over. Any questions?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Granger said from the corner, "but you said 'chopped' twice."
Serafima felt for a moment as if she'd been stabbed through her right eye. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting her shoulders drop. She focused back on Miss Evans, who was eying the jugs nervously. As calmly as she could, Serafima said, "Chopped, minced, shredded, diced, and julienned beets."
There seemed to be a minor scuffle in the corner, which Serafima ignored completely, but then she heard Granger hiss, "She didn't say 'julienne' the first time!"
Serafima sat down at her desk and spent the next hour doing her best to ignore Granger, which perversely made it impossible to ignore Granger. The boy did seem to have quite a bit of schoolwork with him, but he currently had three books open on his table, all of which were enormous and had nothing to do with any subject Granger could be taking: Subduing Dark Beasts, The Compendium of Monsters, and Things That Go Bump in the Night.
Despite herself, Serafima finally caved. "Granger, what are you working on?"
"Oh, it's an extra credit assignment for Professor Quirrel." The boy sighed and continued unprompted. "I made a rather low mark on my last essay, but Professor Quirrel said I could raise it if I wrote an essay about how to calm a raging Cerberus. Only I can't find anything about it-I don't think there's one method that will work on any Cerberus, other than to build a relationship of trust with it, which is done primarily through food, activity, and calm affection. But that just prevents a Cerberus from becoming enraged-if you come across an unfamiliar Cerberus, it will probably try to attack you, that's why they're used as guards, really-and all the books say your best option is to run away. But there has to be a better way-Professor Quirrel would not have given me this assignment if there weren't an answer...You don't know anything about Cerberuses, do you Professor Snape?"
The only Cerberus Serafima knew was currently guarding the door on the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side, and the only reason she knew that was because she sneaked there late at night to see if she could find out what Dumbledore was keeping so secret. She didn't make it past the Cerberus.
(She suspected there was nothing of value there anyway. If anyone succeeded in getting through the Cerberus and then all the traps and challenges beyond it, they would probably find themselves in an elaborate cage, while the thing they were looking for rattled around in Dumbledore's desk drawer.)
But what would Quirina Quirrel know about that? And why would she be setting a first year an essay about it? Serafima started to feel uneasy. The cursed broom, and now the Cerberus essay...it could be a coincidence, but it felt...malicious. When Granger asked her about the Cerberus, Serafima simply said, "No," and looked down, pretending to focus on the essays she was grading.
She successfully ignored the children until Miss Evans finished her chopping, and mincing, and slicing, and whatever else Serafima had said. She barely looked at Miss Evans's work before she dismissed the children. Miss Evans walked a bit behind her friends, so when Miss Weasley and Granger had both stepped out the door, Serafima called out, "Miss Evans, close the door and come here."
To her surprise, Miss Evans did so without hesitation. Serafima wasted no time casting a quick locking spell to keep the other children out.
"Miss Evans," she said without preamble, "someone at this school tried to kill you last week."
Miss Evans looked at her, and looked away. "Maybe they just wanted to hurt me."
Serafima snorted. "If that gives you comfort."
At that moment, the door burst open and Granger toppled in like he expected that Serafima had Miss Evans in a choke hold. Miss Evans jumped at the noise; Serafima merely sighed. It was perhaps best that Granger and Miss Weasley heard what she had to say, anyway. All the same, she addressed herself to Miss Evans. "No student has the skill to curse a racing broom. If any other teacher gives you detention, it might be best if..."
"I brought along my fan club?" Miss Evans smiled at her. "Yes, ma'am."
"And one last thing, Miss Evans: in the future, should you need to talk to me for any reason, don't arrange a potions mishap. I do keep regular office hours."
Granger looked affronted, but Miss Evans smiled. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, ma'am," she said.