Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard.

Newest Beta Love: (All will be assimilated) Crazy Mishka (Resistance is futile)

A/N: School is back in session. *whimper*

Born Unto Darkness

A Crackfic by Corvus Draconis

Chapter Six

If it's true that men are such beasts, this must account for the fact

that most women are animal lovers.

Doris Day

Fleur grinned broadly as she helped round up the spiders for their feedings as Agatha clapped her hands and told all of them to take a refreshment break. The happy spiders skittered over to await their dinner, taking the plump moths, flies, and whatever else was on the menu for the evening directly from Fleur's hands. Little Gabrielle happily assisted, eager to prove her worth in all ways.

Agatha grinned, inspecting the spider-woven garments, all done after they inspected the original that Agatha had made and wove out copies with changes here and there to make them unique.

An eager team of defectors from Carrington's hand-dyed each of the fine silks to perfection, making their range of custom robes the best the world over—especially now that a small team of Chinese and Japanese silk artisans had succumbed to the lure of exotic silks to ply their crafts. They too boggled at the teams of eager spider weavers who seemed more happy to weave long into the night, as long as they were fed and were allowed cuddle-time. Often times, Hermione was somewhere in the shop on a silken cot or hammock with a pile of spiders on her as she napped or studied. Fenrir was often nearby, also covered in cuddle-craving worker-spiders.

Robes, scarves, jackets, blankets, and everything in between filled the store. Some people wanted ready-made, and most wanted custom orders, and they were willing to pay for the difference. Due to the spiders' unique spatial memory, they could feel out someone's old outfit and replicate it in their silk and then the team could dye it to their specific desires or alter it according to their current needs. It was a service few others could provide without the original patterns.

Professional Quidditch teams ordered entire sets of uniforms for their unmatched strength and resilience. Mungo's needed new uniforms for their staff, the Ministry wanted the very best for their officials, and the Aurors and DoM wanted durability as well as practicality and function. Even the student orders had come flooding in from parents of Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons. Within but a month, Agatha had carved a grand new business out of nothing but the financial support and advice of the Malfoys to get them started, a huge clutter of happy spiders thanks to Hermione, and some expert legal help from Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe to keep her knowledge in her own head.

The legal experts even gave Hermione a substantial discount for her "business associate"—having her spiders rid their offices of the parchment munching pests as well as weave them rather dashing ties and silk suits and robes for their legal appearances.

They carved out fair contracts in writing, making sure all the employees had a share in any design they created, and then they had to deal with the rampaging horde of seamstresses that wanted interviews to work at Agatha's Enchanted Webistry.

All things said and done, Lucius was happy that Hermione and Severus were getting their fair share for the spider wrangling, Agatha was more than happy to split profits to pay for the honour of the spiders' special attention, and everyone was getting paid very well. The chief investors, the Malfoys, were very smug indeed.

As winter started creeping in, orders for the Yule Ball were a top priority. Agatha's seamstresses were all zipping around measuring girls, boys, and staff members for their custom dress robes.

The DoM would occasionally stop in and make sure the spider habitats were in good condition and no babies went out exploring Hogsmeade and tying up drunkards. Nor did they want people to be able to magic open the doors and let the very curious spiders out to explore without proper supervision. Alastor commented that would be an improvement, but Amelia said the questions that would arise would be far too difficult to explain.

When Hermione got her parcel from the shoppe, her eyes bugged out of her head as she saw the delicate flow of emerald silk trimmed in silver. A thin long-scarf wrapped around her neck and flowed down from a silver clasp, and a matching belt flowed down to the floor. When she touched the silk it was wispy as a Dementor's robes but strong and smooth.

Hermione stared at it in awe for days, unsure if she was fit to wear such exquisite things. Snape scoffed at that, saying that of all people she was fit to wear it, and she should stop fussing.

"They even put in slits for my wings!" Hermione said with awe.

"They know you have them," Snape said.

"But, they actually considered it when they made it!"

Snape shook his head at her, not wanting to get into the finer details of what custom tailoring was.

When a parcel arrived from Lucius, Severus found his own dress robes for the Yule Ball inside, and it was his turn to look discomfited and Hermione's turn to smile smugly.

The Dementors all looked confused with parcels arrived for them—all of them getting new, silken robes to wear.

A note was found within.

"I know your Grandfather likes his dreary and drab black as with the other old-timers, so these are all in the dreariest black I could make. Plenty of pockets, of course, waterproof, fireproof, acid-proof, base-pr—well, you get the idea. Thanks for all your help with setting up the shop. If it weren't for your Dementor friends, we'd never gotten the place settled so fast. The spiders are all darlings, every last one of them. We're all taking a break tomorrow from the flood of orders and giving them all a rest. All the best, Agatha."

Hermione smiled and then looked to see one of her Dementors was sporting new silks—the kind of thing anyone who knew anything about quality goods would have undoubtedly coveted in short order, but seeing as they had to battle a Dementor for it, it probably wasn't going to happen.

Hermione extended her hand, and he drifted over. She clasped his hands and smiled up at him, and the Dementor seemed to radiate pure happiness at her regard, sending tendrils of hoarfrost out from under him.

Hermione never asked how they decided who was going to stick with her on a given day, but she didn't question. They had it down to a system, whatever that was, and it worked for them.

Even Fenrir sported a new silk bandana that said, "Built Fjord Tough."

Hermione scratched her head in bemusement. Spiders—you just never knew what they would come up with or from where they would pull interesting words and jargon and mash them together in creative ways.

Already the spiders had made themselves useful playing pranks on the pranksters, tying them up in silk and leaving them for Mr Filch to find, concealing banana peels in strategic places, and even nicking jokes and traps left out for other students to find. The spiders thought it was super fun. Hermione wasn't sure what the original prankster believed happened, though.

Argus was quite amused, however, and he'd been in great spirits since he'd caught troublemakers all tied up with no way to escape, their wands dangling by silk oh-so-close but not quite close enough. Whether or not Peeves had anything to do with how they were found had yet to be proven, but the poltergeist seemed all too happy to take the time to cover them in leftovers from the Great Hall: slime, mud, and whatever else he saw fit to fling.

Perhaps, Hermione thought, they were a little too gungho about collecting pranking tools, as it seemed the spiders liked to bring back loot marked with the curiously businesslike logo of WWW.

Again with the WWW logo.

Hermione had frowned as she pondered it, the revelation floating just outside her sphere of awareness.

Perhaps her master would remember such things better than she could.

A small spider, just small enough to nestle in her palm, crawled to the edge of Hermione's study book. "Cat witch would like to speak to you!" it squeaked.

Hermione tilted her head. "Okay, let me tell Master Snape."

After cleaning up her things, the little spider zoomed around her hair, braiding it and tying it up with spider silk to keep it under control. Hermione gave her little friend a plump stunned fly by zapping it with her magic, and the appreciative spider squeaked as it scurried off with it.

"Master," she addressed as she walked into the brewing area. She addressed him quietly, purposely dragging her toe claws on the floor to make a subtle warning as she walked. Nothing, she knew, was more dangerous than being surprised while brewing, not that her master was ever seemingly off-guard. Still—

Hermione waited, idly itching her ear with her wing and yawning, feeling it was far later than she'd expected it to be. Reading always took her into her own little world whether it be for study or light reading.

Contracts from far and wide had her master very busy, not only for the DoM but for people who were willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money just for Snape to brew it. There was, too, the projects they brewed that involved Dementor chill or the Volcanic Nightmare's fire—and those potions commanded a price that usually had them dining out somewhere very nice with Lucius and Narcissa.

Severus, she noticed, seemed much less stressed with his current work. Teaching crowds had always left a permanent scowl on his face. Maybe, she thought, it was children in general. Even so, he seemed perfectly fine with her and even content (dare she say happy?) with how things were going. He had such a range of emotions that were so subtle to find, but even on his more guarded days, she felt he had more emotional depth than Ronald had ever had.

Ronald and even Harry had two modes: hot and adamant or bored—at least it seemed that way.

As bubbles rose and signalled the finishing of the potion, Hermione noticed that Kai was there, happily helping "cuddle" the cauldron. The pup browled a greeting, tail wagging even as Severus ladled the potion into a line of ornate phials.

Wow, that must be for a well-paying customer, she thought. Those are the extra fancy crystal phials instead of the normal ones.

Snape had always preferred practical. Some potions required crystal. Some potions needed special charmed vials. These phials, however, were top of the line goblin crystal with white gold lips and sported a gem on top of the stopper—the focus of a powerful protective charm that made the phial impossible to casually break or even open unless it was purposely done.

The hospitals who needed life-preserving potions did not need such (perhaps overly) powerful charms, so even their golden elixir of healing needed no such fancy bottling. Judging by Kai's assistance, the potion had to be superheated, and there were only a few potions they worked on that required that.

"The Fertility Potion, Master?"

Snape nodded, carefully putting each phial in a box filled with shredded cedar. "Purebloods always value children—nothing as important as marriages that must produce an heir lest the marriage be nullified."

"They have to produce an heir, preferably male, to carry on the family name. There is almost always a time clause so they are willing to pay far too much even without having an enhanced potion such as this."

"The superheated element ensures that peak potency lasts much longer," he explained, "just as the superchilled element does for the healing potions."

Hermione nodded. "Master, I think Professor McGonagall wishes to see me this evening."

"Hn?" Snape narrowed his eyes. He closed the crate and sealed it, then Blodwyn appeared and disappeared with the crate with a poof.

"Echo gave me the message."

Snape nodded, his demeanor rather grim. "While Minerva is, by far, a much more considerate witch as well as acting headmistress, do keep me apprised as to what she would wish of you at such a peculiar time."

"Of course, Master," Hermione agreed.

"Here, take this up to Minerva. She will be expecting it." He handed her a jar of cream that held the distinctive scent of Scottish heather.

Hermione took it and bowed. "I will return soon, Master."

"Hn," Severus said, waving her off. "See that you do."

Hermione nodded and left the room with a sweep of her wings, missing the concerned look that crossed Snape's face as he itched one wing with the other.

Hagrid, having finished his lessons for the evening, made his way to the Headmistress' office to get leave from the main school to take care of Fang. The boarhound didn't even seem to notice he was gone-being the lazy, dozy sort. It made him wonder what sort of things he did where leaving for long periods without his dog had been so commonplace that the dog simply waited around for him to return with hardly a blink.

The tournament had taken a lot out of him, giving him far more study than he thought his brain could handle. He'd been allowed, due to his age and his "special" circumstances, to live in the same place he'd had on the grounds instead of the dorms with the younger students. He vaguely remembered his Gryffindor days. He remembered being happy until he had started to prefer non-human company—something the healers said had been the start of his compulsions.

He remembered most of the spells after having been refreshed on them, the cogs in his head turning like creaky old hinges that needed oil. Practice made it better, but it was work that made him wonder how he had done anything without magic in a magical school.

Then, there was the tournament—

He had this golden egg that screeched loudly at him. At first he thought he was going to die due to a banshee's wail, but it turned out not to be fatal. He'd dropped the egg into the lake in his surprise, and that had been to his favour. Now he had a riddle to solve, but he wasn't all that fond of riddles.

One of the main riddles was what he did before his healers discovered how he'd been manipulated. The hut he lived in outside the school suggested he had lived with so many animals that it had become filthy, and he'd obsessively cleaned it out—even throwing out a substantial amount of old, manky-smelling things that positively reeked of rodent pish.

Harry, Ron, the Weasley twins, and a handful of other students (all Gryffindor) assisted with the purging of his abode and putting cleaner things back in. That which couldn't be Scourgified had been burned in a flamboyant bonfire. Now, his hut had been repaired and cleaned, smelled of lemony pine, and he could actually see everything thanks to adding more lanterns. Studying the first night had made that an obvious need, and holding his wand with a Lumos spell did not appeal to him when studying.

When he seemed so baffled as to why he lived in such filth, Harry and Ron had said he just had so much on his mind, but they hadn't suspected that what he had on his mind had been planted there.

"Who would ever expect that?" Ron had blurted.

"No one, apparently," Harry had countered. "Half giants are resistant to magic. It's the last thing anyone would expect."

Ron had given Harry an odd look. "You living with that Shacklebolt bloke makes you too bloody thinky," he complained.

Hagrid was just happy to have some friends to talk to, even if they had to smack each other not to reveal something he wasn't supposed to know.

"After this tournament, we can talk freely," Harry had explained as he had magically stuffed a sock into Ron's mouth—a clean one, thankfully. It was one of Hagrid's, though, so it sort of engulfed his entire face.

As Hagrid reminisced about his situation, he stopped dead in his tracks. There in front of him was a dragon-girl—if but barely human. Alien, if not beautiful, dark purple dragonwings sprouted from her back and exotic tattoos glowed across her skin and fine scales. She waited by the gargoyle while giving the beast pets and scritches, rubbing behind his ears and making his leg pump in pleasure.

The beast pegged her with its tongue and the little stump of a tail wagged furiously. It was so innocently like a canine, that Hagrid boggled at how mundane the scene was despite it all.

"Rrrrk!" an obsidian dragonling said, pawing at the beast.

The larger gargoyle nosed the dragonling, and they played a bit together.

The path to the Headmaster's—Headmistress'—office was open for all to see, but Hagrid wasn't all that eager to test it, seeing as the gargoyle was, for lack of better description, huge.

A smaller dragonet flew in slow circles around them both, chirring happily.

The girl rubbed the gargoyle's tongue with her hand and put a biscuit on it. The beast kept its mouth open as she inspected his teeth and then gave him the signal.

"Okay!" she said.


The tongue went shooting back into its mouth and the enthusiastic chewing commenced.

"Ah, Hermione, thank you for keeping Craig so happy," the acting Headmistress said.

"It's not a problem," the witch-beast said with a radiant smile.

"Here is the proposition for you and your master," Minerva said, handing her the scroll. "I'm sure he'll want to read it forward and backwards before speaking with me."

Hermione grinned. "Every contract is a trap," she recited.

Minerva laughed. "He would think so, but at least this is not asking him to come back and teach, no matter what Lucius Malfoy might think."

"That will help," Hermione said with a grin. "He loathes dunderheads."

Minerva chortled. "Always has, that one. Thank you for hearing me out, and I'll meet with Severus whenever he's able to. Please give him my thanks for the cream."

The beast-girl smiled so genuinely that the hall itself seemed to light up. Despite her distinct otherly-ness, her face shone. "I will."

Hermione bounced off after giving the gargoyle a warm hug, and the beast watched her leaving with a whine, clearly longing to join her.

Minerva lay a hand on the gargoyle's head and patted him. "Hello, Mr Hagrid. Are you here to get leave to see Fang and return to your abode?"

Hagrid nodded. "Yes, Ma'am, Deputy-er-Headmistress, sir, uh… ma'am?"

Minerva arched a brow. "Are you alright?"

Hagrid stared blankly after the beast-girl as she went on her way. "I feel like I should remember that girl," he muttered.

"She once attended Hogwarts as a student," Minerva said. "She is here with her master attending to other duties as her master requires."

Hagrid's eyebrows knit together in confusion.

Minerva just shook her head. "You knew her while she was here, Mr Hagrid."

Hagrid tilted his head, puzzled. "I think I would have remembered the likes of that, ma'am—wings and claws and all would be pretty memorable."

Minerva sighed. "She wasn't always like that."

"Was there some sort of accident?"

"Not in the way one might think."

Hagrid stroked his beard. "She do something horrible? Forbidden?"

Minerva's eyes narrowed. "No, Mr Hagrid. She did nothing wrong at all."

"But she looks like—"

"I would like to think, Mr Hagrid, that her outward appearance does not make you come to some utterly unwarranted, not to mention completely erroneous, conclusions," she said coolly. "Remember, it was outward appearances that had you condemned without further ado back in the day."

"But I was—"

"Whether you were ensorcelled or not makes little difference, Mr Hagrid. Appearances are often the first to take root and the last to leave, isn't that so?"

Hagrid tightened his shoulders. "Yes, Headmistress." Suddenly, his eyes widened in shock. "Wait. That be our Hermione? Hermione GRANGER?"

"Indeed she was and is," Minerva replied.

"But, that means—" Hagrid's brows knit together tightly. "Sumthin' musta 'appened to 'er once she left 'ere."

"Prejudice does not simply disappear because you move away," Minerva said grimly. "One can only hope to find more understanding and support elsewhere to make life more bearable."

"She looked—'appy," Hagrid said slowly.

"She is," Minerva confirmed.

"But—Hogwart's is the best school in all o' Europe! Why wouldn't she stay here? Surely then she wouldn't have to run around part animal!"

Minerva's scowl was almost audible. "Mr Hagrid, I know you have been a wee frazzled between the grey cells lately due to your deconditioning and all in a healer's care as well as your role in the tournament, but rest assured that Miss Granger is getting a fine education, and it was because of those in Hogwarts that pressured Professor Snape to take another position and take her with him."

"But, she 'as Gryffindor! She had 'arry and Ron and all of Gryffindor if she were in trouble. They would 'ave 'elped her, they would!"

"No, Mr Hagrid," Minerva said grimly. "The only thing Gryffindor did for her was open the door to shove her out of it, then closing it quite firmly behind her."

Hagrid, clearly thinking he was missing something great to ever believe that Gryffindor would do such a thing, frowned, but even as he did so, a blur of feathers and scales blew by the tower window as Fawkes led Hermione on a merry chase in the darkening sky, his feathers aflame to light the way. A dragonet and a young dragonling tumbled and flew behind them, trying to catch up. Just as Hagrid moved to the window to look out, a dark swath of wings blotted out the window.

"What the—"

Hagrid stumbled forward to look out the window to see Snape— or what might have been Snape if Snape had grown bloody great dragon wings— flying behind the beast-girl. He flapped his wings lazily, their size allowing him to sail the updrafts with seemingly effortless skill.

He made for quite an impressive sight, even if he wasn't Snape. Hagrid couldn't be sure— but the familiar curtain of oily black hair, the billowing black robes. Who else could it be?


Watching them dip and sway, roll, and glide side by side, with the bea— Hermione—reaching out with one wing to touch Snape's— Hagrid felt a sharp stab of guilt begin to gnaw at his stomach.

That can't be 'ermione, Hagrid thought stubbornly. That couldn't be Snape. He would never let anyone, let alone a Gryffindor witch, touch him after—

Even as his thoughts absolutely refused to allow him to accept the sight in front of him, Hermione landed on the ramparts nearby, laughing as the little dragonet zipped and twirled around her. The little black dragonling thumped into her arms and fanned her wings, snuggling up to Hermione's chin and neck.

"Tov, you silly lady," Hermione gushed, and for a moment Hagrid focused on her voice and realised what he'd been denying.

The dark draconic shape landed with a fan of wings and Hermione looked up at him with nothing short of exhilaration and trust.

"That was wonderful, master!" Hermione said with a laugh.

Snape looked down at her, his expression softened. "It has been a while since we had a good chase."

Fawkes warbled nearby, singing I Did It My Way.

Hermione eyed Fawkes. "You did what?"

Hermione's eyes got really wide.

"What did the combustible feather duster do this time?" Snape asked dryly, rubbing the back of his wing with his hand as he curled the membrane around himself.

Hermione instinctively rubbed her wing against his as if to beg forgiveness.

Snape's brows knit together. "Apprentice."

"He put a paper into the goblet in trade for a basket of fresh fruit," Hermione said. "Apparently, the Headmaster hadn't fed him in days, so—"

Snape's eye twitched. "The Goblet of Fire was hoodwinked by a bird?"

Fawkes dangled upside down from a lantern sconce, using one foot to hold a peach he had acquired from somewhere. His beak tore into the fleshy prize as the bird ignored the utterly incredulous look Snape was giving him.

Fawkes flipped up into the air and landed on Hermione's arm, his wings spread like a thunderbird totem at the top of the carved totem pole. There was a rush of heat and a golden radiance as a crown of gold and red feathers mixed with Hermione's hair as her tattoos shifted to make room for a certain ornery bird's mark.

Hermione looked up at Snape as colourful feathers poked out of his normally midnight hair. She looked down. "I'm sorry, Master!"

Snape's talons closed around a crimson and gold feather that had infiltrated his hair, and he sighed deeply. "Weren't you Albus' familiar, bird?"

Fawkes warbled cheerily, his breath smelling suspiciously of sangria.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Why do I have the feeling you were drunk on bad fruit when you agreed to that little proposition?"

Fawkes chirped innocently, imitating a robin.

Snape looked the phoenix in the eyes. "Who put you up to this stunt, you little fire-hazard?"

Fawkes tilted his head, looking down his beak at Snape.

Snape fanned out one wing, curling it around Hermione and guiding her in. "Come, let's go tell Minerva before she has a—"

"Nundu?" Hermione volunteered.

Severus grunted. "Worse."


"Most likely."

"That is a rather startling and disturbing mental image, Master."

"Yes, and now you can share it with me."

"Do I thank or curse you for that?"


"Rumour has it that Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin got knackered together and made Rowena Ravenclaw so angry that she magically birthed a Kraken so it would drag them both to the bottom of Black Lake."

"That wasn't in Hogwarts: a History!" Hermione protested.

Snape snorted. "Do you really think something that embarrassing would be in the official record?"

Hermione looked down. "No, I know I wouldn't want that in there if it had happened to me."

"Supposedly, the giant squid is one of that most ancient line— a permanent reminder that one should probably not brass off a Ravenclaw but also that when Gryffindors and Slytherins go drinking together, bad things tend to happen."

Hermione looked a bit dubious. "Usually drinking makes bad things happen whenever excess consumption is involved."

Snape lifted one brow at her. "Hn."

As Snape shuffled her forward with his wing, Hermione fell in line and allowed her master to herd her forward.

They arrived in Minerva's office to find Hagrid staring at them— still standing by the open window where he had been blatantly spying on them.

Hermione eyed Hagrid with a little trepidation, her wing tangling around Snape's with a noticeable tremble of uncertainty.

Hagrid accusing her of "stealing" his dragon had not gone over well with her, and she'd been avoiding any and all contact with the burly half-giant despite his supposed therapy at Mungo's. Even knowing it wasn't his fault that he'd thrown himself at Sofa's eggs and tried to make off with the lot, there was a whole laundry hamper full of reasons why Hermione would rather not mingle for long with Hagrid.

There was also the fact that she'd only just barely managed to get Sofa calmed down before the Hungarian Horntail tore the grounds apart to get at Hagrid and literally eat him alive and screaming—

Snape, sensing her acute distress, promptly stood in front of her, channelling every bit of the signature billow he'd developed over the years as he tucked her under his wings and away.

"We will return… later," he said coolly, giving a curl of his lip. "Headmistress," he intoned politely, his eyes looking more draconic and taking on an unnerving glow.

Before Minerva could even say a word edgewise, the pair was gone in a blur of black and violet wings.

Fawkes gave a startled squawk and flew out of the room as well, chasing after his new favourite perch.

Minerva seemed caught between a scowl and a sigh.

Hagrid fidgeted, his eyes looking in a few different directions. "I— uh," he started to say. "I take it we're not really on the best of terms?"

Minerva's sigh won out, and she let out her breath heavily. "No, Mr Hagrid. I fear there are very few people that she trusts anymore. And understandably so."

"Perfesser Snape knows me!" Hagrid said. "He could tell 'er!"

McGonagall tried not to scoff at him too obviously. "Severus is all too aware of what drove his apprentice into danger, Mr Hagrid."

Just as she said that Fenrir padded in and looked around, puzzled. A smaller-than-a-Mark-Spider arachnid bounced between his ears. "She said she'd be here. Huh. Guess we keep looking.

Fenrir licked his chops and padded out of the room, his claws clacking on the stone floor in a strange cadence.

Hagrid rubbed his head. "I feel like I'm missing something really huge just inside me own head," he complained.

Minerva looked at Hagrid, her shoulders sagging. "Focus on the task ahead, Mr Hagrid. The rest can wait until that is done."

"Ron and 'arry said they would come by to help me with me lessons, Headmistress," Hagrid said. "Would it be alright for them to join me at me hut fer a cuppa?"

McGonagall nodded briefly. "Aye, Mr Hagrid. They may, but they must return to their dorm by curfew."

"Oh, I'll tell 'em," Hagrid reassured.

As Hagrid walked out of the office, Minerva squared her shoulders. "It's not the tellin' I be worried about."

"Oh, come on Harry," Ron complained. "If you can't sing above the ground, then it's obviously underground somewhere! Maybe it's a singing dungeon bat!"

Harry frowned. "I really don't think that's it, Ron. The egg sang under water, so it would be more logi—"

Ron thumped Harry with his arm.

"Ow! What was that for?"

"Just because the egg sang under water doesn't mean the entire event is underwater. It's not like you can breathe underwater, so what good would that do?"

Harry looked unconvinced.

"Wut you staring at me for?" Ron asked, stuffing a sausage roll into his craw.

"Where did you get that?" Harry asked.

"Kept it from dinner," Ron said, waving him off.

Harry cringed. "There's lint on it."

"Don't harm nuttin'," Ron snorted. "Just from my pocket."

"That's bloody foul, mate," Harry muttered.

"It's not even a day old," Ron muttered. "Leave me alone." His words were garbled as he ate the sausage, sounding something like "Ihf nawh efena dah eulph. Leaf meh ahwown."

"I swear you must have a tapeworm farm in your stomach, Ron," Harry said, shuddering. "And I don't mean the things we use to paste parchments on the wall."

Ron was chewing heavily as he pulled out his wand. He pointed it towards the parchment on the table as if to aim at it, but the grease-coated wand was sticking to his fingers and moved to point at Harry instead.

Hagrid pulled out his own wand to attempt to deflect the spell just as Fang leapt up to grab the steak off his plate, nudging Hagrid's arm just enough so the spell zinged straight towards Ron.

Fang yelped and dove for cover, conveniently with the juicy steak still clutched in his jaws. He watched the ensuing light show and sound effects with canine fascination, absently gnawing on his tasty prize.

The two spells clashed together quite badly in a flash of mud-coloured magic as two different lights met together in a swirl of odd sound effects that seemed taken out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Pastel flowers whirled and exploded outward as Ron and Hagrid went flying, knocked arse-over-tit across the room.





A cloud of ominous green and yellow vapour lingered.

Harry coughed and waved his hand frantically in front of his face, clearing away the pungent smoke that smelled like dog breath and unwashed clothes with a side of flatulence.

"Whoa! Far out, man! I can already taste those chocolate-covered hotdogs!"

"Heehehehheheheee!" a replying voice giggle-growled.

Harry rubbed his eyes as he saw a scrawny teen with shaggy orange-brown hair and odd whiskers poking out of his chin sitting in a pile of— chocolate covered weiners. The teen, who was dressed in baggy pants and a green shirt, stuffed a hotdog into his mouth with glee, making it disappear with preternatural speed. Meanwhile, a large great dane with an odd bristly beard shook his head as he tried to mow his way through the pile of food.

Harry thunked his head on the table and carefully kept himself away from the mess. "What the— is going on here?!"

"You want that, Hagri-doo?"

"Rut uh."

"Here, you can have this jellybean and sardine sandwich."

"Rohkay, Raggy!"

Harry ran outside and hurled violently in the pumpkin patch.

"What's his problem, Hagri-doo?"

"Ri dunno," the great dane said. "Ri'm rhungry."

"Me too, Hagri-doo! Let's go raid the kitchen!"


The pair trampled a groaning Harry Potter into the dust on the way to the kitchen as they left in a cloud of dust and random sound effects.

Harry groaned and settled to recover on the ground.

Meanwhile, the transformed duo had managed to make their way to the Hogwarts' kitchens without leaving too large a trail of destruction. Until they got there.

"What do you mean all the food is gone?" Minerva asked the house elf, her brows forming a sharp "v" of ultimate disapproval.

The house-elves started wailing and beating themselves over the head with pots and pans.

"Can't cook! All the food is gone!"

"All the food?"

"All of it!"

"All the food?" Minerva repeated in a much quieter, stunned voice.

"Even the— vegetables!" the head house-elf bemoaned.

Minerva slowly counted to ten… in Gaelic. "Dinner hour is in less than an hour."

The house-elves wailed and beat themselves silly with random objects from Dumbledore's office. "We have no way to fix this!" they wailed. "The horse-people hate when we harvest from the forest!"


The house-elves nodded.

"I will tend to this situation, but you all must promise not to get all bent out of shape because the food is coming from somewhere else until this crisis is dealt with."

"We promises!" the elves cried in a chorus of their squeaky voices.

Minerva sighed and opened the Headmaster's office window, walking out onto the balcony to find Fawkes dangling upside down from his foot as he ate a persimmon.

"Kek?" the phoenix queried. He gave a small hiccup, smelling of fermented fruit.

"Fawkes, are you too drunk to fly?"

Fawkes seemed to frown as he righted himself on the perch.

"I need to speak with Severus, if you would be so kind as to relay the message."

Fawkes belched, smelling of fruit punch, and flew off to the forest.

Minerva absently rubbed the space between her eyes.


The two food bandits ran screaming from the Great Hall as a crack squadron-clutter of eager spiders appeared, setting the tables, laying out food, and pressing the tablecloths.

As the first students trickled in from both Hogwarts and the visiting schools, the spiders had already vanished, having completed their jobs. They left the rest to the house-elves, allowing them to tend the tables, change the platters out, and serve the cycle of students.

"Quite an interesting spread of food today, Minerva," Flitwick said as he sat down to eat. "What is the special occasion?"

The normal fare had been replaced with a Scottish holiday banquet and a mixture of both French and Bulgarian foods, much to the delight of their guests.

"I haven't had borscht since my grandmother made it," Headmistress Fendrikova said with approval. She lifted her spoon from the rich soup in salute.

Madam Maxime seemed to approve greatly of the fabulous French fare, enjoying the homemade vinaigrette on her salad before moving on to a delectable-looking coq au vin.

"'Tis good to see that your elves have respect for our culture as well. Your foods are not horrible, but sometimes, I think I miss a bit of home," Fendrikova said with an agreeable nod.

Minerva could only smile and nod, pretending that it was all completely intentional, silently thanking the very helpful spider brigade, Severus, Hermione, and even a certain intoxicated phoenix. Making a mental note to bring Severus a jar of the elusive Scottish Mana Thistle in thanks, she made a show of enjoying her roasted grouse, some Arbroath smokie, and a steaming bowl of cullen skink.

"Say, Minerva?" Hooch said.


"Who was the strange teen with the dog?"

Minerva closed her eyes. "I have a feeling I know who those two were," she said after a while, "but I'm not dealing with them until I have a full stomach and a strong pot of Scottish Blend in me."

Pomona smiled, recognising Minerva's expression. "I, for one, am enjoying the meal," she said, enthusiastically digging into her plate of pan-fried sea bream and whisky-mac prawns.

"Here, here, Pomona," Sinistra said, spooning up another mouthful of a delightful gyuvech.

The head table was silent, save for the sounds of eating, and, for once, it seemed as if all the students were too busy eating themselves silly to bicker and get into trouble.

The forest was alive with autumn harvesting and winter preparation activity, and the foals were all racing back and forth from the forest to the main camp to deliver their baskets of nuts and berries, fish, and the spoils of various successful hunts.

Viktor used his wings to buffet the tops of the fig trees, and Hermione used spells to gently cushion their descent to where the foals could collect them. The Animagus Roc seemed utterly amused by the use of his size and wings, and he made a show of it like he did everything else in his life, wowing the crowd of centaurs as easily as he did the Quidditch fans.

Severus watched the proceedings carefully even as he assisted Magorian and his herd with food preservation— with a little help from some flash-freezing Dementors and heat-prone Volcanic Nightmare pups.

The Dementors seemed amused by the in-ground storage cellars, extending their hoarfrost into the dark earth even as Severus locked it in place with runes: the perfect cold-storage that combined centaur tradition with a little extra oomph.

The mares were busy cutting, drying, and making convenient, easily storable foods like pemmican— cooking and drying the lean meats, pounding the meat into something that was almost dust, then pounding fruit and nuts into the pulverised meat, mixing it with rendered fat, and laying it out thinly to dry. They seemed to spend significantly more time shooing the (always) hungry foals away from their hard work than grinding.

Viktor, given approval for his "senior project" in helping the centaur winterize their stores and learn their ways, had no problems spending more time with Hermione as well, and it seemed to please both him and her to be spending time with each other.

Viktor spent equal amounts of time learning how to make foods, helping the mares stuff their homemade dumplings with everything from venison, mushrooms, fruit, potatoes, and cabbages taken (with permission) from Hermione and Severus' garden. Viktor even bartered for sour cream from a local farmer and taught the mares some variations of his mother's favourite dumplings and the ever-popular cabbage rolls.

The mares made a lovely ground maize dish which they mixed with meat fat and cheese, cooking it over the fire to smoked perfection, adding bits of herbs, mushrooms and other favourite bits to lure even the pickiest of foals to the cooking fire.

Hermione helped make a sort of "is this meat jelly?" with the mares, boggling how things she didn't normally consider food mixed with vegetables and simmered into a gloriously scented broth. They poured it into handcrafted leaf molds, making a sort of jelly as it cooled, and that, too, went into the cold storage for later use. Hermione confessed, after it was made and she managed to taste a bit of it, that it was far more glorious than her mind had tried to tell her it was.

Bertje was enjoying herself as she roasted hazelnuts, chestnuts and other forest fare, amusing the elder centaur greatly. Tov attempted to emulate her, and she charred a few batches before she learned that breathing the hottest fire onto the nuts was not effective at gaining adulation.

High Master Fendrikova visited after the main classes were done, and she chatted with Magorian. She paid her respects by gifting the whole herd (rather than just him) with thick, woolen blankets trimmed in fur so that they could meet the bitter winter months without flinching. She'd done right by the herd, and Magorian accepted her offering and her respect given to the whole herd rather than just the individual.

As night fell and the entire herd gathered together for supper and conversation, the adults shuffled the foals to the winter shelters while the stories lasted long into the night before they all tucked themselves away for sleep. Severus led Hermione back home as High Master Fendrikova escorted Viktor back to the ship for a well-earned sleep.

Their exhaustion was so thick that no one noticed two master-level nose-followers walking right into the cold-storage and helping themselves to the stores.

"Zoinks! We'll just be, uh, leaving, Mr Centaur, sir!" Raggy blurted as Hagridoo nodded his head rapidly.

"Uh huh!" he agreed. "Ri rotally rill!"

"After you have devoured every bit of food from our winter storage?!"

"Rut roh, Raggy!"

"I told you we should have made ourselves a takeaway bag instead, Hagroob!"

"Nut-uh. Ri rold roo!"

"Let's get out of here, Hagridoo!"

"Ruh huh!"

The two tore out of the storage at top speed, their legs moving so fast that they were hard to see— deeper into the dark, dark forest.







"Oh! Sorry, Mr Spider, Sir. We'll just be— AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"Odysseus," Magorian said. "Why is our larder empty?"

The pinto centaur grit his teeth. "Interlopers, Magorian. Firenze said her heard chewing coming from the storage, and when I came to check, there was a scrawny-looking human foal and a dog having gorged on our stores. Nothing is left in this one."

"The others?"

"The others were warded with magic by herd-friends Severus and Katarina. This was the only one that was not so guarded because it was not quite full yet."

Magorian narrowed his eyes. "So we lost all the fish we smoked today, the fruit leather, and the pemmican."

Odysseus snorted and nodded, clearly wanting to chase after the ones that had cleaned out an almost full larder of winter stock in one sitting.

"Were they foals from Hogwarts?"

"I could not tell, Magorian."

"Better to err on the side of caution. I will speak with the acting Headmistress about these slights against our people."

"You hear about what happened with Ron and Hagrid?"

"No, what's going on, Seamus?"

"A collision of magic transformed them into rampaging eating machines that ate all the food in Hogwarts and tried to do the same to the Forbidden Forest!"

Neville blinked. "Wait— the great dane and that weird scruffy-looking bloke?"

"Yeah— turns out the dog was Hagrid and the scruffy one was Ron." Seamus shook his head. "McGonagall has them both harvesting apples from the orchard and nuts from the Wheezing Walnut orchard."

"They are trusting them with food? Is that even wise?" Neville asked. "Ron inhaled food even before the accidental magic!"

"Professor Sprout is supervising them," Seamus said, grinning madly. "She's out in the orchard having her tea and sunning herself in a lounge chair. That magical fern is fanning her— you know, the one that knocked Lavender into a barrel of water for singing out of tune?"

Neville's eyes gained wrinkles around them. "She's harsh when she's doing detentions. She gave Colin an extra day of detention for swearing and Dennis another day just for complaining."

Seamus' smug smile seemed to indicate he was fully aware of exactly what that meant for Ron and Hagrid— if only because it meant he wasn't there joining them for some reason.

"What are you smiling about, Seamus?"

Seamus grinned. "Something odd happened when they dispelled the magic."

"More odd than the transfiguration?"



"The magic created two large spiders that scream 'Jinkies' and 'Zoinks' whenever they are startled— which is every time either Ron or Hagrid see them."

"Ron hates spiders."


"Hagrid isn't a fan either since he was decursed."


"Why the shite-eating grin, mate?" Neville asked.

"Apparently Jinkies and Zoinks really want cuddles of reassurance— from them."

Neville blinked, turned purple, and then burst out laughing hysterically. "Awww, shite." He sniffled, rubbing his nose. "That's the best thing I've heard all day."

Ginny stared at the vast array of beautifully coloured fabrics at Agatha's Enchanted Webistry, stroking the exotic silks with awe. "Please, Bill! It's the Yule Ball! I want to at least look like the other girls and not like I just pulled moth-ridden rags out of Aunt Muriel's trunk!"

"There is nothing wrong with these other dresses, Ginny," Bill said logically. "If it was just you I had to worry about, then it wouldn't be an issue, but I have to support you, Ron, and the twins until Dad is back on his feet. I've got a flat in Egypt that I'm still paying on, and just because you want a better dress does not mean you have to have one."

"But— it's the Yule Ball!" Ginny cried.

"Ginny, please pick out some dresses from the racks and try them on," Bill said sternly. "These are all fine dresses. Just because they aren't custom-made to your specifications doesn't make them any less beautiful."

A purple and crimson spider hopped up and down on the nearby rack. "I know something you'd look really good in!"

A black and blue-spotted spider quickly agreed. "Oh, yes! This way! Come on!"

The pair scurried over to another rack, hopping a few racks over to a line of long floaty dresses.

"But— these are all long dresses! You can't even see my legs—"

"Ginevra Molly Weasley! I will not have my sister wearing tarted-up Knockturn Alley bordello robes to a once-in-a-lifetime Yule Ball where everyone can see you!"

"This one, this one!" the spiders cheered. They bounced up and down on a beautiful cream-coloured dress robe with a full, floaty under-robe, demure silken shoulder straps and an intricate ivy-like design done in gold thread and delicate seed pearls.

Ginny purposely avoided looking, determined to not like anything that was pre-made.

"Look at the dress, Ginny," Bill ordered her. "Or we can go to Gladrags and get you one of the dresses that every other witch will have off the bargain rack."

Ginny balked. "But I don't want to look like anyone else!"

"This dress will look beautiful on you!" the spiders said encouragingly. "Please look!"

"We made it carefully!"

"We made it with our very own silk!"

"No second hand silk here!"

"Nope, straight from our spinnerets," they enthused, waving said spinnerets joyfully.

"Come on!"

"Won't you at least look?"

"Ah, there you go, my lass!" an older witch said with satisfaction as she slightly tweaked the hem on a set of shimmering silver dress robes. "It's loose so you don't have that silly form-fitting thing going on. Much more flattering when you keep the crowds guessing rather than leaving nothing to the imagination, yes?"

"Thank you so much, Madam Winkle!"

"Tut, it's Agatha, Miss Apprentice, as well you know."


"It's a deal."

Hermione grinned at the elder seamstress. Her wings flipped out with a flap, and ornate wing ornaments tinkled like tiny bells.

"They're so beautiful, Agatha!"

"I had plenty of time practicing on your master, my dear," she said. "He's much harder. Too tall and a lot more wingspan."

Hermione grinned. "He does like his wingspan."

He's a real billower, that one," Agatha said with a grin.

"Oh, here are the special vitamins for the spiders," Hermione said. "Master Snape blended them for support of strong silk production and happier, healthier arachnids."

"Oh, what a dear," Agatha sighed, accepting the bottle with clear gratitude. "Same formula? One drop to a flask and one drop per spider?"

Hermione nodded. "Half a drop for the Humperdink Hairy-Legged Spiders, since they are so tiny. It won't kill them, but they'll get incredibly hyper."

"Brilliant. Please tell him thank you for me. They all do wonderfully intricate weaving work, but the hyper ones certainly come up with some truly astonishing psychedelic patterns."

"I will," Hermione said with a giggle. "You know, there is a student named Luna Lovegood who would love a dress made with psychedelic weaving, I'm fairly certain."

"Oh, she already bought the entire lot for special occasions. Quite a unique young witch, I must say."

Hermione laughed. "Excellent. And she certainly is, but she has quite a way with the not-so-average beast. You won't find many a kinder soul than Luna."

Agatha smiled. "Aye, she's a definite keeper. The spiders all love her, of course."

"I would expect no less," Hermione said.

"Ah, child, did you find one for yourself?" Agatha asked, as Ginny plunked the lovely cream-coloured dress on the checkout counter. "Here, let's hem and trim it up so it fits you like a glove. If you'll excuse me, Hermione."

Hermione nodded. "Thanks again!" She took the bundle of dress robes and then was robbed by Bling, who carried it for her. She laughed, kissing the spiders on the back before turning to leave.

She nodded to Ginny as she passed. "Miss Weasley."

"Hermione," Ginny replied, tightly. She turned to Agatha. "Can you trim it short so it shows off my legs?"

"Why in Merlin's name would you want to do that, child?" Agatha asked in astonishment. "All the girls are wearing the latest—"

"Not the ones who have bought their dress robes from me, dear," the seamstress said.

"But it wouldn't cost more to just hem it higher, yeah?" Ginny insisted stubbornly.

"Ginny, enough," Bill said. "Please hem it to normal expectations," he said to Agatha.

Ginny stalked off to the dressing rooms to put on the dress.

Agatha sighed. "The young are often the most eager to grasp onto new looks and share their supposedly womanly assets the likes of Knockturn Alley.

"Taking her time puttin' in on," Bill said, visibly annoyed.

Ginny came back out, looking quite proud of herself. The dress had been inexpertly trimmed to nearly mid-thigh to show not only her ankles but substantially more as well.

"Oh, no!" Agatha cried.

Bill's face turned a very deep red with absolute mortification.

"Emergency!" the spiders cried. "Code red!"

Spiders streamed from various places, pouncing on the tattered threads and connecting strands with their spinnerets, weaving and bobbing, swarming in unison to extend the fabric back down to the floor.

"Bring in the ironwebs!"

The spiders scurried and weaved, restoring the dress robes down to Ginny's ankles.


"Crisis averted!"

Dark grey ironweb spiders rubbed their fuzzy abdomens and scurried off, disappearing into the back.

"Well now, that looks much better," Agatha said with a slight frown. "I will warn you, Miss Weasley, that when you leave here, the dress will be charmed resistant to any alterations that are not performed by us. Standard procedure for all of our work to prevent any unfortunate misunderstandings that our work is in any way shoddy or half-baked. There you go. Beautiful."

Bill nodded. "That is beautiful work, thank you, Madam Winkle."

Ginny pouted at that, sullenly crossing her thin arms across her chest.

"You'll be a bright spot at the Yule Ball, lass," Agatha said. "Whoever will be taking you will be right proud to do so."

"No one is going to want to take me looking like some old hag…. like Professor McGonagall!"

Bill scowled. "You'll be lucky to be going at all with that mouth, Ginevra Weasley. Now, I promised to make sure you lot had all the necessities, but that did not include tolerating your shameful ingratitude. The robes here are high quality and new, which often do not come together."

"Mum and dad got me new things all the time!"

"Because you were a girl, and Mum didn't want you dressing like a boy. Otherwise you'd have been wearing used clothes just like the rest of us growing up, and I guarantee you that mum and dad would rather die than have you wear something tarty and revealing to a school dance."

"Fine," Ginny snapped, storming away to take the dress off.

Agatha sighed. "I've seen worse. Some of the other Pureblood families threatened to castrate and even disown their children if they didn't suck it up and wear something appropriate."

Bill blinked. "Hard to tell if that would be an overreaction after what she's put me through today."

Agatha patted him kindly on the shoulder. "Why don't we help you with the seams on your robes, my friend. "I know cursebreaker strain on the robes when I see it. We can fix you up at a discount for our cursebreaker friends in the field. My grandson, Roland, is doing that in Greece."

"Thank you, ma'am."

Agatha smiled up at him. "Just stand here, love. Let my little friends here look you over."

"Ooo! Project time!"

"Yay time!"


Eager spiders swarmed all over Bill, pulling his robes together and silk-sewing the seams together neatly and adding strong new thread to some of the more threadbare and abused patches.

As he stood there, his eyes alighted on a young woman with silver-blonde hair and fierce blue eyes. She stood still very as another seamstress worked her over for her robes. Her French accent was exotic and alluring— just like her poise and the charming tilt of her head.

Bill's head filled with cotton wool as his eyes told his brain to take a swift turn straight to the beautiful new girl—

Memo: All Employees

From: Head Goblin Markvar

All employees are to report to Agatha's Enchanted Webistry to be fitted for new uniforms, robes, and suits for your position. All employees are to be fitted for casual, formal, and work uniform fittings. Dragon handlers will be fitted for special flame and claw resistant uniforms. You will be permitted to customise for favourite colours and trim to make things more your own. You will be given paid time off to meet your appointments, but if you should miss your appointed time, it will be taken out of your pay for that week.

Memo: Gladrags employees

From: Gertrude Lovelace, Manager

We're happy to announce that Ursula Carrington will be joining our team for the design of our new school line "Swift and Thrift" robes for the economy-conscious student. Be sure to plug the quality cotton, flax, hemp, and nettle-blend fabric. Remember, it doesn't have to be silk to be good quality, and we have an excellent dye selection both for daily wear uniforms and dress.

We have also brokered a contract with Agatha's to supply us with the finest silk thread we've seen in ages.

Our two shoppes will be having a winter party to celebrate our new partnership, and everyone is expected to be on their very best behaviour as there will be Ministry officials attending as well.

Be sure to enter the dye and design contest. Winners will have their ideas made reality for the spring fashion release next year, and don't forget all the fabulous door prizes!

The grand prize will be one vial of the amazing Felix Felicis!

The Daily Prophet Presents

The Yule Ball Fashion Review

This winter's Yule Ball at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry served as a show of the best and worst fashion in the Wizarding Britain.

From worst to best:

[Photo of Lavender Brown in a dress that makes her look like a bowl of fresh blueberries]

This dress, crafted by Sanford Greyfolk, while visually stunning, attracted a hungry flock of phoenixes that chased the unfortunate Miss Brown around half the ball before she was forced to change dress robes


[Photo of Marietta Edgecombe in a vivid yellow dress robe featuring a fluffy yellow feathered collar]

This dress, crafted by Bolavinger Castaway, was designed as a tribute to the honourable canary, but thanks to a jilted young lover who attacked their ex with a cloud of brassed-off canaries, they all came to roost on the poor Miss Edgecombe and tried to eat off her birdseed-shaped beading.


[Photo of Ginevra Weasley posing cheekily in a Gryffindor red, sequined, mini-skirted, form-fitting strapless dress with a daring slit up to the left cheek of her bum]

Miss Weasley arrived to the ball and attracted much attention as gasps of horror at her shocking impropriety went beyond the showing of mere ankles. While there were indeed many more shocking dresses at the ball, none were as scandalously high cut as Miss Weasley's, nor one that showed off legs all the way up to the hips. Her date, Neville Longbottom, gallantly attempted to offer Miss Weasley a shawl, and our grand Hufflepuff hero, Cedric Diggory, even offered her his gorgeous evening cloak only to be rebuffed and subjected to a shocking burst of profanity from the shameless young hussy.

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall was seen ordering Miss Weasley to the side before the crowd swallowed them up.


[Photograph of Master Severus Snape, in a black silk long dress robe with dragonhide embroidery]

This incredibly elegant robe was the talk of the ball, showing an Asian themed dragon motif embroidered in deep greens and molten silver on black.

He was seen with his lovely young apprentice, Hermione Granger, who was absolutely stunning in a hunter green and black silk medieval-style gown with delicate silver embroidery, setting off her pale skin and long dark hair, which was intricately braided into a crown upon her head.

Both wore elegant silver adornments on their wings— a remnant of the confrontation with the convicted Death Eater, Augustus Rookwood, who attacked them both in Diagon Alley and in broad daylight, no less.


[Photograph of Fleur Delacour wearing a sea green and pale blue dress]

Beauxbatons visitor and champion, Fleur Delacour, soaked up the stage with her shimmering dress that shifted colour like the moving tide.


[Photograph of Cedric Diggory in a gold-lined black dress robe with his date Cho Chang, dressed in a violet fishtail cheongsam dress robe with pale gold kirin embroidery.]

Tournament contestant, Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory, and his date Cho Chang caught many eyes with his simple, stylish elegance and his date's subtle beauty.


[Photograph of Viktor Krum in Durmstrang dress robes]

While he wasn't alone in wearing Durmstrang dress robes to the Yule Ball, Viktor Krum was, by far, the cream of the crop in his striking crimson robes and elegant fur-trimmed cape.


[Photo of Leanne Yeung wearing a floaty cream dress robe with an ivy-like design in gold thread and delicate seed pearls]

One of the most stunning dresses of the evening was worn by Hufflepuff Leanne Yeung, who paired with her date for the evening, Terry Boot of Ravenclaw, wearing fine black silk dress robes with a cream bow tie and under-robe to match his lovely date, made quite a handsome young couple indeed.


[Photograph of Minerva McGonagall in a deep blue velvet and silk dress robe trimmed in a pewter Celtic cat motif]

The award for the most eye-catching dress robes of the Yule Ball goes to the acting Headmistress McGonagall who wore deep blue velvet and silk dress robes fit for royalty. She shared dances with a number of young Durmstrang wizards as well as Master Severus Snape and the always-elegant Professor of Potions, Lucius Malfoy.

Professor Malfoy's emerald green brocade vest offset with his black and pewter dress robes showed his impeccable taste in formal fashion.

"So let me get this straight," Severus said as the cat Animagus sipped her tea. "Miss Weasley traded her formal robes with another student who only had a set of robes her supposed "friends" pranked her with? That gaudy, tasteless, scarlet-sequined— thing?"

"Her parents had sent her a humble, badly frayed, frumpy black dress, and her friends tried to help her out—" Minerva sighed. "You know how youthful witches are. They can be just as helpful as they can be cruel."

"So Miss Weasley traded her robes for something vastly more revealing because she was under the impression that more leg was the current fad?" He scowled. "Let me guess, Minerva. Someone helped her think that if she didn't show plenty of leg, she was going to be the talk of the ball and not in a good way."

Minerva nodded.

Severus pinched his nose. "Why does it always seem to be a Weasley that is both the victim and at the root of a problem?"

"Miss Weasley was apparently under the impression from her brother that real women 'showed some curve'."

"So she thought Mr Longbottom and Mr Diggory were trying to treat her like a child by offering to cover her up."

"Precisely," Minerva confirmed. She lifted her head as she heard Viktor and Hermione laughing together in the next room. "They seem so stable compared the majority of teens," she confessed.

"They are hardly the norm," Snape said, wrinkling his nose.

"Thank the gods for that," Minerva muttered with feeling.

The corner of his mouth twitched, but he said nothing.

Lucius scowled. "If Draco ever does anything like that, I'm having him castrated and disowned."

Snape stared into his drink. "A little harsh, don't you think?"

"Fine, just castrated."

Snape drank the last of his drink. "I'm so glad I'm not a pureblood."

In the next room, Draco frantically ran over to Viktor and Hermione.

"Quick, make me swear an Oath!"

"What sort of Oath?" Hermione and Viktor asked.

"Make me swear not to ever act like Ronald Bilius Weasley or Ginevra Molly Weasley. I don't want to lose my bits!"

Viktor raised a brow, but Hermione nodded and reached to clasp his hand. "On your magic, Draco, swear that you will not knowingly ever act like Ronald Bilius or Ginevra Molly Weasley until the moment you are released via mutual consent. So mote it be,"

"I swear on my magic that I will never knowingly act like Ronald Bilius or Ginevra Molly Weasley until the moment I am released via mutual consent. So mote it be."

Viktor waved his wand over their clasped hands, and Draco felt the cord of magic tighten around his wrist.

"So mote it be," Viktor said in confirmation.

Draco slumped, clasping his head in his hands. "Thank the gods."

Hermione eyed him. "Why was this so important?"

"I'm never going to give my father the pleasure of mutilating me."

Hermione frowned. "That doesn't sound very fatherly to me."

Blodwyn appeared with a tray of freshly-baked biscuits and tea. "Break time! Eat and drink up! No more strange unbreakable vows on an empty stomach!"

She disappeared in a poof of aether.

Draco looked to the side somewhat suspiciously. "How—"

"Mark Spider. You can't hide anything from them."

"But that is Severus'-"


"That means he knows—"


"Fuck me!"

"If you think acting like a Weasley requires a vow, just imagine what doing that will do."

Draco paled and stuffed a chocolate biscuit in his mouth as the sound of Snape's deep baritone laughter filtered through the door and wall.

"Merlin, Severus, what has gotten into you?" came Lucius' puzzled voice.

End of Chapter 6

A/N: Oh, if Lucius only knew what went on one room over.

I'm going to be reading, eating, and breathing EKGs for a while. Next chapter is not going to be soon. Hope you enjoyed this one though.