"Mr. Malfoy, put that down now before you take someone's eye out with it." The silken cool voice of Severus Snape echoed through the dungeon hallway as he approached the group of Slytherin students enmassed around Draco Malfoy and his captive. The flapcat spit and twisted in an attempt to sink teeth or claws into the young blond haired boy but he held her fast by the scruff and pinned her wings. "Mr. Malfoy, did you not hear me?"
"Professor, I found it sneaking about the dungeon. I just thought we could have a bit of fun."
"It does not belong to you and you know very well that an instructor owns that animal. It can go where ever it pleases." The potions master's voice remained steady but his annoyance grew at the boy's reluctance to follow his instructions. "If you continue to disobey me you will find that I can deduct points from my own house as swiftly as from any other. Should this go so far, perhaps detention is in order." His black eyes bore into the gray eyes of the child. The boy had his father's eyes. Those same eyes that mocked Severus as Katherine lay dying in his arms and now haunted his dreams. The professor's gaze was meant to intimidate the boy into compliance but the pup's father had instilled defiance in his son.
"You wouldn't dare. If my father..."
"Thirty points, Mr. Malfoy and two days detention." He hated deducting points from Slytherin but would never allow a student, any student to threaten him. Draco needed to learn his place and Severus was all to glad to teach it to him.
Draco looked at the master in amazement. "You can't."
"Fifty points then and three days. Care to continue?" Draco released the cat who then darted down the corridor and out of sight without a backward glance. "Thought not." Severus could read his students like a book but it didn't take a master of human nature to read the contempt on Draco's face. "Mr. Malfoy, you will come with me; the rest of you, disburse or I shall find tasks for such idle hands." The students disappeared faster than the flapcat had. Severus suppressed a chuckle as he thought, "God forgive me, but I do love the power."
"I'll just be going now, professor."
"You will think again. The potions room needs a complete cleaning. I think that will be a good start for your detention."
"You're not serious," laughed Malfoy. "You aren't really going to give me detention."
Snape's voice dropped to a low growl. "Do presume to tell me what I will and will not do, Mr. Malfoy. Apparently Potter isn't the only one in this school who suffers from arrogance. You are both your father's sons. Such a character flaw."
"Don't compare my father to Potter's. My father is a great man who can have you removed from this school. All I have to do is tell him..."
"What?" Snape brought his face within inches of Malfoy's. "That his son was punished for disobedience? Somehow I don't think that will win you an advantage since your father values obedience above all else. Such a pity that he failed to instill that virtue in his son."
"I won't stand for this," Draco spat as he balled up his fists at his sides.
"You have no choice."
"Has no control over me." Severus drew his tall frame to its full height and looking down his large nose spoke in barely a whisper. "I am your head of house, Draco Malfoy, and what I say is law. I have the authority to decide what actions are to be taken against you whenever you step out of line. If you wish to discuss this further I suggest we take it to the headmaster."
"I don't think that will be necessary, Severus." He felt the head of a cane touch his shoulder before he had registered the smooth voice in his ear. Turning, Snape met the cold gray soulless eyes of Lucius Malfoy.
"Lucius, so nice to see you," Snape's smile was horribly forced.
"What seems to be the trouble? I was just in the area on business and decided to pay my son a visit only to find him being reprimanded, and by one of my oldest friends at that. Surely he could have done nothing so wrong to warrant such treatment."
"Your son was disrespectful towards me, Lucius. He was given a simple order and he refused to comply. I do not tolerate disobedience and, of course, I am not alone in this. I believe your son is in need of a firm lesson. It is obvious that his father has been slack in teaching the boy." As their cold eyes locked, Severus absentmindedly rubbed his forearm.
"It hurts badly, does it not, Severus?"
"No more then in the past."
"How dare you speak to me of obedience when you are too much of a coward to answer his call. Oh, I forget. You have reformed, haven't you, Death Eater. He will not allow your defection, you realize. You shall be hunted down like a dog. I only hope the task falls to me."
"That's right, Lucius, you were the first to fly back to service. Sad that you were the first to denounce him after the fall. Do you think for one moment that he doesn't know that? Such a loyal servant. Deny your master to save your own hide. I'm sure the Dark Lord will reward you when the time comes."
"At least I stand by his side now. I don't run and hide like a scared hare and hole up in the safety of a school."
"I have returned to service, Lucius," Snape snarled low. "I am not the coward here. I have appearances to up hold. If I were to disappear at a whim it would look very suspicious. I arrived after the Death Eaters had left, and yes, the Lord was understandably disappointed with me. I bore his wrath and accepted my punishment which is more than can be said of your son."
"Save your fairy tales for lulling your students to sleep."
"Proof then, Lucius?" Severus removed his teacher's robes and pulled his shirt up exposing his back. Red scars crossed his pale skin. He dropped his shirt and turned on Lucius Malfoy with the intensity of a wild beast. "Do you think I did this to myself? I rededicated my life to the Lord while he tested my loyalty beneath the lash. Now, when the summons comes and the Mark burns black, my back weeps. How well do you think your delicate flesh would have stood up to the punishment mine has had to endure?" Severus' eyes were cold and hard, and for the first time in his life Lucius Malfoy found himself at a lost for words. The Death Eaters stared at each other in silence until a small voice broke the spell.
"It's alright, father. I'll go to my detention."
Luicus turned to his son in shock. "Draco, I can put an end to this madness."
"No, father. This is something I must do. I am no coward and Professor Snape is right. I realize that now and I am ready."
Snape placed his hand on Draco's shoulder and steered him down the corridor towards the classroom leaving Luicus behind, stunned and speechless.
Severus opened the classroom door and ushered Draco inside. "I want it spotless, Mr. Malfoy."
"And you are not to use magic. I want it all done by hand."
"I understand, sir."
The dark wizard studied the boy who stood so still before him for what seemed like the first time. A change seemed to have overcome Draco. Not quite the boy he was just hours ago. Draco Malfoy was growing up and his professor saw promise in the lad. "Mr. Malfoy, it has been said that honor is the gift a man gives himself and there is truth in this. It is the only thing in this life that no one can ever take from you. Under ordinary circumstances I would take your wand until your punishment is complete to remove the temptation to use magic, but I don't feel the need to do so in this case. I have some errands to attend to so I shall seal the door and leave you to your own devices until I return." Snape swept from the room and was gone.
The potions master returned several hours later and, quietly opening the door discovered Draco asleep across his desk, a scrub brush in his hand. The room, while hardly spotless, was much cleaner. He went to where the boy lay and looked down on him, a satisfied smile crossing his face. Malfoy's hands were red and raw. I was clear that the boy's wand had stayed tucked away in it's pocket while he worked. Maybe there was hope for the next generation after all.
"Mr. Malfoy," his voice was uncharacteristically gentle. "Mr. Malfoy, wake up."
Draco stirred and looked around the room trying to get his bearings when suddenly, "Oh, God, professor. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
Severus cut him off with a wave of his hand. "It's alright, Mr. Malfoy. You have been here for quite some time and the hour is very late. You have done an adequate job. I am pleased."
"Thank you, professor."
Severus went to the small supply cupboard behind his desk and withdrew an indigo jar. "Here," he opened the jar and held it out to Draco. "It's very powerful so I only takes a small amount. This won't take all the pain away as that would not suit my case, but it will heal your hands." Draco rubbed the ointment into his sore hands and marveled as the redness faded leaving unmarred skin behind.
"Sir, would this not heal your back?"
"Oh no, Mr. Malfoy. There is nothing that can make those marks vanish. What you have seen is the signature of my master. I will carry it as long as he owns me."
"I am sorry, sir." Draco lowered his eyes from the potions master's stern face.
"Whatever for, Mr. Malfoy?"
"For whatever happened between my father and yourself. He speaks well of you. He says you were friends and that I can learn much from you. He won't tell me what happened between the two of you."
"I seriously doubt that he really understands himself, Draco, but this is not your concern. I don't want you to dwell in the past. You should think only to your future and right now I see sleep in that immediate future. Go to bed, you have a busy day tomorrow. I want to see you after class to discuss the rest of your detention so stay behind. I would hate to have to remind you and draw this to Potter's and Weasley's attentions."
"Of course, Professor Snape."
Draco turned to leave but the professor's voice halted his progress. "Mr. Malfoy, you are a credit to your family and to Slytherin House. It is a pleasure being your instructor and having the chance to watch you grow into a fine young man.
"Thank you, sir," was all the boy said as he took his leave.
Severus watched him go and as the boy departed the dark wizard found his mind wandering. As alike as father and son seem, Draco Malfoy, at his young age, showed more character than his father had ever displayed. So much for the old adage about the sins of the father. As he reflected on this an unsettling thought crept to the forefront of his mind. If it was true of one man's son, could not the same hold true for another's? Could he have been wrong about Potter? Maybe there was more to Harry Potter than the swaggering bragger the professor was witness to. Perhaps he would challenge the boy's character to see what surfaces. He would have to give this more thought but for now he bent to the task of preparing the next day's lessons in the quiet comfort of his dungeon classroom, safe from the puzzle that is Harry Potter.