ccviii. morituri te salutant

On the twelfth of May, the members of Slytherin House woke to find a new announcement pinned to the common room board.

"Slytherin's final trial is in two days," Elara read, leaning over the shorter heads of those crowded before the board. "Apparently, it's going to be held here in the common room after supper, and the whole House is 'encouraged' to attend."

Harriet and Hermione exchanged short, uneasy glances. "I thought he meant to have the trial in June?" Harriet asked, a nervous tick in her voice. She'd expected to have more time—a month's worth, or at least a few more weeks. She didn't feel ready.

"He must want the month to acclimatize his apprentice?" Hermione said, but it came out as a question because she didn't have any more of a clue than Harriet did. The black letter neatly pinned among the normal bits of parchment seemed to taunt them and the others.

The next two days passed in a haze of dread and sleepless nights. Harriet tossed and turned and stared at the canopy of her bed, her stomach twisted into knots. At meals, she picked at her food, and everything tasted like ash in her mouth. Everyone's expectations sat heavy on her shoulders, and Harriet didn't think she could bear it. What would happen if she lost? What would happen if she won?

"You should eat a bit more," Hermione told her at dinner the evening of the fourteenth. "You've barely touched a thing all day."

"No, I feel like I might be ill," Harriet confessed, pushing away a tureen of stew. She glanced toward the High Table and discovered several of the seats empty, including the Headmaster. A pity; she could have done with an encouraging word from the wizard.

After the meal concluded, the Slytherins fairly buzzed with excitement as they returned to the dungeons. They entered the common room to find it empty of furniture, the space more cavernous than usual, lit only by the fires in the various hearths and the murky light of the moon washed green by the lake water.

"Good evening," Professor Slytherin said as he observed his students carefully edging farther into the room. He stood in such a way that Harriet almost missed the presence of Professors Snape and Sinistra at his back, the pair appearing suitably grim. Harriet wondered why they were there and, in a moment she'd later blame on her fatigue, remembered they were Slytherins too. It seemed the Professor had invited more than just current students.

"I have invited you here to bear witness to an auspicious occasion. Tonight, I will be selecting my apprentice from among those who have triumphed in the trials I have set them." Slytherin steepled his fingers before his chest, his posture a disgusting mirror to how Professor Dumbledore might have stood if he'd still had two arms. He'd dressed well—not that he ever wore anything substandard—but Harriet hadn't seen him wear those dark, pine green robes with the silver lining before. They looked expensive, and instead of a brooch at the clasp, he wore a torque fashioned to look like one of the stone snakes winding in the ceiling's arched ribbing.

"I have chosen a simple task for them—an opportunity to display their strength, their knowledge, their cunning, and ability. All traits any great Slytherin has in spades."

Next to Harriet, Hermione frowned. "That's a Muggle saying," she murmured.

Harriet had to frown as well because it was a Muggle saying, and wasn't it curious for Professor Slytherin to use it? Almost as if he hadn't meant to?

"Tonight, I will ask the eight qualifying witches and wizards to participate in our own little tournament. Through seven duels, we will see who can best their competition and survive through the final round. I will name the victor my apprentice."

Whispers of interest fluttered through the crowd. "It's gonna be Accipto!" Warrington said, backed by a vocal cheer from Dread. Nervous laughter trickled from the sixth years, though Professor Slytherin's expression never changed from one of cool cordiality.

"Silence," Snape snapped. The whispers died out.

"If you would all find places against the wall, Professors Sinistra and Snape will be setting a barrier. For safety."

The students did as told, spreading themselves thin along the perimeters of the room as the professors paced before them, using a quiet incantation to draw a solid, uninterrupted line on the stone. When they finished, it reminded Harriet of an arena—a large expanse of empty stone, a few slender, serpentine pillars, and the white line barring people from entering. When Slytherin snapped his fingers, a thick, transparent wall of gold sprung up toward the ceiling. Harriet gave the wall a prod—and flinched when an electric jolt burned her fingertip.

"The rules for each match are simple," Slytherin spoke from the head of the room by the best hearth. A single, winged armchair returned into being, and he sat in it, making himself comfortable. "Nothing can be used that will mangle or otherwise permanently disfigure your opponent. Of course, no magic that would see you sentenced to Azkaban may be used either." Slytherin smiled, red eyes blazing. "Beyond those stipulations, I leave it up to your discretion. The match will not end until a participant forfeits or is incapacitated beyond the means of surrendering. Spectators are not allowed to interfere. Do put on a good show for us." His head tilted, and with a lazy wave of his hand, he summoned the first pair in the ring. "Nott, Vuharith. Step forward."

Bodies shifted as the barrier dipped, and the pair came into the arena proper. Harriet couldn't see their faces well in the shadows, but Theodore's stiff shoulders radiated nerves, and Vuharith had a hand propped on her hip, wand twirling in her fingers.

"On the count of three," Slytherin drawled. "One—."

Nott fumbled to pull his wand from his pocket, shaking.


Vuharith's teeth flashed in the firelight when she grinned.


The first spell came from Vuharith, a flash of orange light catching Nott high in the torso before his shield could fully form. His legs wobbled as if boneless, his hands flying wide for balance, then—.


The second jinx struck Nott in the face with a burst of gold—and his skin erupted with large, scarlet boils. He yelped and clasped at his cheek. Vuharith laughed, prompting others to do the same. Before she could continue hexing him, Nott gasped out, "I forfeit!"

"Aw, c'mon, Nott. That's it?" Vuharith complained over scattered applause. Professor Slytherin clapped as well, not appearing surprised with the outcome.

But he wouldn't, would he? Harriet thought. Snape said Nott wasn't a challenge, that he doesn't have a talent for this. He was right. That didn't stop her from feeling sorry for Nott. He didn't deserve a full hexing in front of their entire House.

Snape broke from his position and strode through the golden barrier once the match was called. He canceled the jinx on Nott's legs, letting him settle on the floor, and Nott stifled a moan with his closed fist. Snape briefly examined his face, then sent him from the room with Sinistra to be administered a Cure for Boils.

"Next, let us have…Bragge and Lestrange."

The two older students parted through the barrier, Warrington clapping Lestrange on the shoulder before he sauntered forward. Harriet chewed her bottom lip as she watched, recalling everything she and Snape had gone over in the Aerie about the pair. Bragge was clever—intelligent and inventive, but she wasn't quick. Lestrange was quick, and nasty. He wouldn't hesitate.

Harriet almost gasped when her projection for the bout went as she expected it would; neither sixth-year needed to speak their spells aloud, and Lestrange was fast, aggressive. He didn't give Bragge a chance to showcase her skills. He simply fired hex after hex in a dizzying array until Bragge's shield faltered, she fell to one knee, and a blink of red laid her out flat.

That's not efficient, though, Harriet thought as Professor Snape woke Bragge and Lestrange returned to his cheering friends. If he does that every match, he'll be exhausted.

"Black and Carrow; you're next."

Harriet's heart leapt into her throat as she squeezed her friend's arm, and Elara shook her and Hermione off. Looking at her, one would assume her the picture of composure—her spine straight, hands steady as she retrieved her wand. However, Harriet could see her lips had gone pale, the witch nearly sick with nerves.

Harriet pressed so close to the barrier the spark licked at her skin, sending prickles through her nose and cheeks. Flora Carrow stood perhaps four yards from Elara and appeared shaken, scrutinizing her as if the grim reaper had stepped out into the light, not a fourth year. She was shorter than Elara and a tad reedier, more like Harriet in build. She had none of Elara's stone-like countenance and visibly winced when Slytherin began his countdown.

"One. Two. Three—."

"Expelliarmus!" Carrow cried.

"Protego!" Elara's shield blocked the red bolt, but Harriet noticed how she took a step back.

Lean into it. You need to lean into it, she said in her head, biting at her lip again to keep her mouth shut. She wondered if Slytherin was far enough away not to hear her giving advice and glanced toward him. She jolted when she found his red eyes already resting on her as if waiting for her to interfere. He saw Harriet looking at him and smirked.

She swallowed and lowered her gaze.


Elara used another shield to block Carrow's second jinx. Harriet ground her teeth, wanting to yell at her friend to stop hesitating, to stop waiting for her turn like a game of chess—and, as if she'd heard her, Elara moved, lurching as she jabbed her wand.


The Trip Jinx went lower than Carrow expected, and her hastily thrown protego didn't catch it from tangling around her ankles. She didn't quite fall, but her attention wavered, and this time Elara didn't hesitate.

"Accio Carrow's wand!"

The wand in question flew straight from Carrow's inattentive fingers to Elara's waiting hand. She clasped it tight, and the two witches stared at one another, Flora at a loss for what to do.

Slytherin cleared his throat. "The match continues until someone forfeits."

"I—I forfeit. I forfeit!" Carrow stuttered as if frightened Elara might continue firing spells. Elara nodded and handed back her wand, then returned to Harriet and Hermione. Harriet clasped her arm and felt the quiet, anxious tremors leave her friend in a rush.

Lestrange scoffed loud enough to be heard. "Child's play," he said, resulting in a mixed bag of titters and jeers.

"You did brilliant," Harriet whispered. "Real brilliant. Don't let him make you think otherwise, yeah?"

"Mr. Pucey, Miss Potter. It is your turn."

Harriet squeezed her eyes shut as she heard Professor Slytherin's call. Her heart thumped heavy and loud in her chest, and she could feel the eyes of her fellow students settle on her, both curious and caustic. Her skin stung from their attention. She felt as if she'd gone cold and warm at the same time, a nervous dampness sticking her collar to her scarred neck.

"Today, Miss Potter. While we're still young."

Hermione gave her a nudge, and Harriet stepped forward, stumbling when her shoe clipped the edge of the barrier. It snapped back into place, leaving Harriet standing alone with Pucey several meters away. Laughter echoed in the common room—the kind of mean, taunting laughter Harriet had heard more than once in her life because she was too short and thin with bones like a bird. She allowed herself one anxious gesture, adjusting her glasses farther up her nose before she forced her hand back down to her side. Pucey studied her.


Harriet drew a deep breath into her lungs, her eyes seeking out Professor Snape in the crowd. She found him a few paces down from Slytherin, his gaze fixed on her, arms crossed, waiting.


She pictured Pucey as the mannequin in the Aerie, his name across his chest, recollecting all the things she'd guess about him. Of course, the answers came less quickly now that she was face to face with a real person, but the exercise remained the same. She kept breathing, low and slow, her knees bent, posture loose.

He'll wait for me to go first because his reflexes are better than his initiative, she thought. Her tongue flicked against her lower lip. But he'll react hard. He knows more magic than me, has more practice. My best shot is the first—.


Harriet exhaled.


Shrieks sounded when the sudden blast of white light came from the end of Harriet's wand and blinded the onlookers—Pucey catching the full brunt of it. With her own eyes closed, Harriet didn't allow a full moment to pass before her arm was already twisting from her first spell into the next.

"Adhaerere Lentum!"

The black gunk struck Adrien in the face, and he gasped, stumbling.


A final jinx caught Pucey by the ankles, and when Harriet pulled, finishing the spell, he fell and hit the floor with a resounding thump.

"Expelliarmus." Harriet disarmed him as an afterthought, not expecting he'd get back up after having the air knocked out of him. As it was, he could barely wheeze a concession, holding his arm up to ward off any unseen attacks. Harriet looked up, realizing no one had said a word, finding a sea of shocked faces watching her. One of the first years broke the silence by clapping, and a few others followed. Harriet's face flushed as she started toward her friends.

"You're not dismissed, Potter."

Harriet stopped, alarmed, and Slytherin waved a hand. "Let us be efficient, shall we? Vuharith, you're in."

Puzzled, Vuharith glanced at the wizard—but when he narrowed his eyes, she didn't hesitate to scramble through the open barrier. She shook off her initial confusion and grinned, hand once more on her hip, wand out.

Harriet hadn't even had a chance to breathe, and Adrian had just been yanked from the ring by Snape. She rushed to remember everything Snape had taught her to recognize in Vuharith—her pettiness, how she enjoyed intimidating students younger than her. She remembered Vuharith as she used to be years ago, before she started following Lestrange, when she was kind and studious and helpful. Harriet saw the pieces of that witch and how they'd been twisted and picked over until Vuharith became the person she was today.

Harriet squared her jaw as Slytherin began to count.

"Ready to eat floor, Potter?" Vuharith mocked, holding her wand at the ready. The tip's position is by her middle, Harriet told herself. She's being an idiot and projecting where she'll cast from. It'll be a hex, something nasty, and it'll be orange or yellow. Which means I'll need….

"One, two, three—."

Vuharith jumped forward, dark hair swinging free of her ponytail. "Calvorio!"

Harriet already had herself ready and didn't blink when the frizzy blur of orange flew toward her. "Protego Calilumen."

The shield rippled in front of her, orange and syrupy like a caramel sweet, and when Vuharith's Hair-Loss Curse touched the surface, it bounced back like a rubber ball, spiraling at increased velocity. Vuharith's eyes had a moment to widen before the curse clipped her, and she shrieked as half the hair on her head disappeared.

The crowd roared with laughter. Vuharith's cheeks blazed with embarrassment, but her eyes glittered hot as coals, her attention focused on Harriet.

"Defodio!" she shrieked. Harriet jerked to the side to avoid the sudden knife of dark blue light. It carved a line in the floor and struck the barrier, the golden light shivering as the energy dispersed. "DEFODIO!"

Harriet dodged again. "Expelliarmus!"

"Protego Tria!" The shield gleamed, thick and unwavering. It was strong—stronger than any of the spells Harriet knew.


As Harriet predicted, Vuharith kept the shield up for the second spell, but it didn't extend to the floor. The Stickfast Hex struck her in the feet.



The Knockback Jinx blasted into Vuharith's shield, and the shield held. But, as the witch compensated for the sheer force Harriet threw into the spell, she tried to step back and couldn't, the soles of her shoes glued fast to the floor. She toppled, landing on her arse.


Vuharith flicked a silent spell at Harriet with a harsh stab of her wand, and Harriet flinched, interrupting her incantation. The spell flashed over the top of her thigh, leaving a stinging cut in its wake.

"Finite Incantatem!" Vuharith jabbed her wand toward her feet, then flicked it upward toward Harriet. "Incendio!"

"Protego Flammae!" The watery barrier swallowed the gout of flame with a hiss, then hit the floor with a splat! "Incarcerous!"

Vuharith attempted to scramble to her feet but slipped in the water, failing to dodge. The thin, black ropes wrapped around her legs and torso, pinning her arms.



The older witch attempted to shield, but she couldn't raise her arm to properly form the spell. The wand was snatched from her grasping fingers, and Harriet fumbled to catch it when it smacked her hand.

She waited for Vuharith to surrender. Her legs shook, and the right burned, blood dripping along her thigh to ruin the top of yet another pair of socks. Harriet exhaled, shuddering, and still Vuharith didn't surrender.

"The match doesn't end until you forfeit, Miss Vuharith," Slytherin said, bored.

"I'm not going to forfeit to a stupid half-bred brat like her!" Vuharith snarled, smacking her head against the floor as she writhed against her bindings. She looked rather pathetic, trussed up like a Christmas roast with half her head sheared bald.

Slytherin sighed, red eyes flicking skyward. "Then the match continues until you're incapacitated."

Unfortunately, Harriet didn't know how Vuharith could be much more incapacitated than she already was, and she had no plans to start hexing the witch into compliance. The longer she stood there frozen, the more she felt the pressure of waiting eyes. Vuharith kicked and rolled, scraping her elbows and knees, but the ropes wouldn't fail until dismissed, and the witch's wand remained tucked in Harriet's hand.

"Stop being difficult," she hissed.

"Fuck off, Potter!"

Slytherin sighed again, and the chair creaked ever so slightly as he rose. Any of the students standing close to him scrambled out of the way, and he crossed the barrier without resistance. Harriet's eyes must have resembled an owl's as the wizard approached her, coming to stand at her side and look down at Vuharith. He clearly enjoyed the situation.

"As I see it, you have two options, Miss Potter. You can either kick her in the head until she's unconscious—." Vuharith stilled at his words, looking at the defense professor with disbelief. "Or you can use a Stunner."

Well, she certainly wasn't going to pick the first choice. "I don't know how," Harriet confessed. She knew of the spell, but she wasn't entirely sure of the incantation or the necessary movement. She kicked herself now for not learning it.

Slytherin considered her, one finger balanced against his chin—and then he smirked, and Harriet tensed as he brushed her hair behind her ear and leaned nearer. Cold chills chased over her spine as the wizard whispered, "It's Stupefy. A short, downward motion. From the throat."

Harriet's hand trembled, but she held her wand up and performed the spell as he explained it. "Stupefy."

The red flash struck Vuharith, and her thrashing ceased. She looked dead.

Harriet's throat tightened as Slytherin leaned away from her—but not before the low, mirthless chuckle left him, shared between the two of them.

"Good job, Miss Potter," He told her, turning again toward his seat. "Next, Black and Lestrange. It's your turn."

A/N: You know, I originally wanted to do this scene in the Chamber: I thought it would speak to Slytherin's need to show off and be "better" than everyone, his need for drama. But the more I considered it, I decided he would never want to share that, not even once.

morituri te salutant"those who are about to die salute you." Supposedly what the gladiators told the Emperor before fighting to the death in the arena, though it's disputed.

Slytherin, whispering in Harriet's ear: "…"

Hermione: "What did he say?"

Harriet: "Nothing, he just burped."