Chapter Six: The Morning After (Severus)


The noise of his four roommates preparing for the day gradually roused Severus from his sleep. He rolled over and pulled his blanket over his head, not wanting to deal with any of them just yet. Flint and Belby had remarked on his late arrival in the Common Room last night, but he had brushed them off and walked downstairs to the dormitory, where he had done some more work on his Charms essay. It hadn't gone well, as his mind kept going over the night's events, but sleeping would have been out of the question. He had stayed up until long after the rest of them had come down and gone to sleep, sitting in his bed with the curtains drawn, scribbling down and scratching out the arguments he planned to make by wand light until his eyes had started to lose focus from sheer exhaustion.

"Snape, are you awake yet?" Flint called out. He sounded annoyed.

Severus ignored him. He was too tired to get out of bed any earlier than was absolutely necessary.

"Alright, Snape, what gives?" asked Quigley, yanking aside the curtains.

His cheeks had a reddish glow that doubtless meant he had already come back from his habitual early morning run. Severus's other three dorm mates stood beside Quigley. Severus sat up and kicked his feet over to the opposite side of the bed.

"What do you mean?" he countered, looking back as he reached for the dingy terrycloth robe that lay crumpled on top of the covers.

"You came in well after curfew, looking the worse for wear," Belby said, walking around the trunk Severus kept at the foot of his bed.

Severus stood up and pulled the robe on over his nightshirt. The other boys came around as well. Quigley sat down on the neighboring bed, Flint stood next to his cousin, and Bulstrode walked past Severus and leaned his considerable bulk against the headboard.

"I heard this morning that Potter and Black were out late as well," Bulstrode chimed in.

"Professor Slughorn left me a message to tell you that you are to see him in his office after your last class," Flint added.

"And coming back from my morning run, I noticed that the House standings have changed," finished Quigley, looking pointedly at Severus. "We've lost twenty points, and Gryffindor have gained fifty. So?"

"Sounds to me like you already know what happened, then," Severus replied.

"Huh?" Belby exclaimed.

"You know all that matters," Severus replied. "Potter, Black, and I were all out after curfew last night. I lost points; they won points. Simple."

Belby glared at him.

"I ran into my second cousin in the Owlery this morning," Bulstrode offered. "She's a third year Gryffindor. Her friend said she heard Pettigrew telling someone all about it in their Common Room last night. Potter challenged you to a wizard's duel, and Black went as his second, but at the last minute you got cold feet and ran off into the Forest, and got yourself attacked by an Acromantula, and then Potter got you away from it."

"Alright, I missed an important detail," Severus retorted, turning towards Bulstrode. "Peter Pettigrew is a lying sack of doxy droppings."

"The story fits the facts, Snape," said Flint. "Why should we believe you?"

"There are no Acromantulae in the British Isles, for one thing," Severus said with a sneer. "The blasted things live in tropical jungles; it's one reason their venom is so expensive here."

"Sure, the Acromantula is a bit much, it's not like Dumbledore would tolerate a XXXXX-classified creature where students might encounter it," Quigley opined. Severus bit back the retort that sprang to mind. That's what I would have thought, too.

"Pettigrew probably made that part up to make Potter look better, suck-up that he is," Quigley continued. "It had to be something pretty nasty, though, if Black and Potter got fifty points out of it!"

"The whole story is a crock," Severus said. "There was no duel."

"Then what were you doing outside, Snape?" Flint asked. Severus glared at him, considering what to tell them. How could he explain the conversation with Black, without mentioning the Willow, or sounding like an idiot? He couldn't.

"That's none of your business, Flint," he replied.

"A seventy point shift in House standings makes it everyone's business, Snape," Flint said, stabbing Severus in the chest with his elbow. The unexpected move threatened to topple him over onto his bed, so he sat back down.

"He's just ashamed to admit he chickened out with Potter," Belby said. "I'm sort of surprised he accepted the challenge in the first place, seeing how easily Potter handles him —"

Even as he launched himself off the bed at Belby, yelling a stream of profanities, Severus felt a mild surprise at his own reaction. Belby was always sniping at him from behind Flint and his Prefect badge. He thought he'd decided ignoring him was the best response. The way Belby's contemptuous smile gave way to a look of shock and alarm, though, made Severus wonder why he had not done this years ago.

Belby staggered back under the assault, but managed to keep his feet, so Severus drove forward and slammed him against the door. It echoed with a satisfying thud as Belby's head bounced off it. Abruptly Severus was jerked back, his chest and right arm encircled by what could only be the massive arm of Jonathan Bulstrode. Belby pushed himself away from the wall and punched Severus in the stomach. Severus tried to lunge forward and free himself, but Bulstrode just dragged him further back, using his left arm to grasp the wrist of Severus's trapped right arm and yank it up between his shoulder blades. Belby took another step forward and punched Severus in the face.

"Enough!" Quigley's voice rang with authority. He must have risen from his seat when the fight started, and was now standing alongside, with Flint behind him. Belby shot Severus a venomous glance but lowered his fists.

Severus, breathing heavily and still shaking with rage, relaxed in Bulstrode's grip, recognizing the futility of struggling further. He could feel a warm trickle of blood starting from his nose.

"You heard what he said to me!" Belby whined.

"Nothing they don't already know about you," Severus shot back. Quigley looked from one to the other and sighed.

"Snape, here, doesn't want to talk to us. That's fine, as we don't particularly care to talk to him either. So, he will apologize to Belby, and then we will leave," he declared.

As a compromise, Severus thought, it left much to be desired. He glared defiantly at Quigley, who rolled his eyes. Bulstrode responded by pushing Severus's forearm further up, increasing the pressure on his shoulder.

"Don't be an idiot, Snape," Quigley said. Right. Belby wasn't worth a dislocated shoulder, Severus reminded himself.

"Belby, I was out of line," Severus said, keeping his voice steady in spite of the discomfort in his shoulder. "I am sorry that I called you a —"

"Alright, let's get out of here," Quigley interrupted before Severus could elaborate.

Bulstrode released him with a precautionary shove away from Belby, but it wasn't necessary. Severus ignored the others as they filed out of the room, instead shoving the books he would need for the day into his knapsack with rather more force than was really needed. Once the others left, he stopped his bleeding with a quick Episkey, and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower before breakfast.

The Slytherin table in the Great Hall was unusually crowded, and there were no places to sit remaining at the near end. The steel gray ceiling overhead matched Severus's mood as the seventh years sitting at the end of the table spared him a hostile glare, which he ignored. He strode away towards the far end, looking for a place to sit. He began to wonder as he walked whether he had put his school robe on inside out in his haste, as it seemed that conversation stopped and eyes turned to him as he passed, at both the Slytherin and Ravenclaw tables. About halfway down the hall, he noticed an empty chair among a group of third-year boys.

"It's taken," the two boys sitting next to the empty chair told him, a trifle nervously, as he passed. He ignored them and continued. At the far end, there was an empty seat facing the Gryffindor table. Severus reached it and put down his notebook, resolving to ignore any protests by his neighbors, the fifth year Prefect and her friends. Instead, they all got up and crowded their chairs away from him, beginning an animated whispered conversation of which Severus heard only the words "Potter" and "Quintapeds."

Severus sat down. At the Gryffindor table all the way across the Great Hall, he could see Lily Evans. His stomach twisted as he saw that she was sitting, not in her usual spot with the other sixth year girls, but next to Potter and Pettigrew. The three of them had their heads together. Severus's heart skipped a beat. Would Lily believe Pettigrew's version of the night's events, if Potter and Black backed it up? She wouldn't, not if he denied it, he assured himself. Even if he refused to explain? A surge of hopelessness welled in him, as he watched the light play on the ripples in her long red hair as she nodded her head in response to something they had said. Abruptly they broke off and looked up.

Severus looked down self-consciously before realizing they were reacting to a new arrival. Black had come in and was seating himself across from Potter. Lily rose to her feet, said something to them all. Severus watched her hips sway as she walked away to join her friends at the far end of the table.

As she sat down and was lost to his sight, he poured himself a cup of tea from the teapot the fifth year girls had abandoned and piled some toast and eggs onto his plate. Flipping his notebook open, he tried to take stock of what, if anything, he had accomplished last night on his essay.

A few minutes later, the arrival of the post owls interrupted his thoughts.

"Black's got a Howler!" one of the girls sitting nearby exclaimed shrilly, as they all craned their necks to see.

Shortly, Severus heard a screechy woman's voice, magnified to many times its actual volume.


The girls next to Severus started giggling as Black rose and stormed out of the room. The table beyond them erupted with laughter. Severus's satisfaction at Black's discomfiture temporarily wiped his worries about Lily and his essay from his mind, and he watched Black leave with a pleased smirk. When the show was over, Severus returned to his notes and his breakfast, ignoring the whispers and speculative glances at him that the Howler prompted.

The scrape of a chair at the head of the table alerted him that he was no longer alone. Turning, he saw that Regulus Black had joined him.

"Good morning, Snape," the younger Black said, an easy smile on his face. As always, Severus felt a trifle disconcerted at receiving a friendly gesture from what was, except for perhaps a trace more boyish roundness in the face, a carbon copy of Sirius Black in a Slytherin tie. He put down his pen and sat back.

"Good morning, Black," he replied guardedly.

"Nothing like waking up to the sweet sounds of Mother yelling at Sirius," Regulus commented. "Almost makes me homesick. I wonder what the lousy git did this time…."

"What, you haven't heard the story yet?" Severus asked bitterly. It seemed unlikely. Black was the leader of his year, a sure winner to be Prefect next fall. He would be the first to get any news.

"Oh, you mean that tripe about Potter rescuing you from an oversized Venomous Tentacula? You would have no trouble dealing with one," Black opined. "So, what really happened?"

The vote of confidence was nice to hear, even if Severus saw some reason to doubt its complete sincerity. Black had a personal interest in the matter, Severus realized. Unfortunately, he had agreed not to disclose it to others. Wordlessly, he shrugged his shoulders.

"Sounds to me like something big —" Black said, pausing as if to permit Severus to confirm this. When no response was forthcoming, he continued, "If Mother already knows, he must have been in Dumbledore's office. An owl from McGonagall would only have been sent this morning. But my great-great-grandfather —"

"— was a former Headmaster. I met him, last night," Severus confirmed. Black already did, or soon would, know as much. Black grinned, an expression that served to underscore his similarity to his brother.

"It drives him mad every time Sirius shows up there," said Regulus. "Says the other portraits taunt him about it for weeks. I'll bet he had some choice things to say about whatever happened."

This was a safer topic.

"He did, rather," Severus agreed. "Did you know about the time your brother sold illegal study aids to underclassmen?"

Regulus laughed. "Yes, I remember Phineas Nigellus telling that story at Christmas dinner last year, after everyone had had a few drinks," he confirmed. "Mother was not exactly amused. It's hard on her though, Sirius was supposed to be the upstanding heir and instead he's turned out to be nothing but a disappointment to the family."

"That was the impression your ancestor gave as well," Severus agreed.

"He acts like he's somehow better than everyone else just because he's in Gryffindor," Regulus continued, looking somewhat resentful. "Thinks he can get away with anything. I'm just hoping he'll finally do something to get himself disinherited one of these days." He shot Severus a faint, conspiratorial smile. "So really, what happened last night?"

"Look, Black, we're not supposed to talk about it," Severus said regretfully.

"How bad can it be?"

"Well," said Severus, thinking carefully about how to word this, "I shall only say that for someone who professes to despise the Dark Arts, your brother is surprisingly amenable to the idea of murdering his enemies."

Regulus's scheming look gave way to one of genuine perplexity. "Huh? What're you talking about?"

"I'm afraid that's really all I can say," Severus said, as the morning bell rang. He stood up and shoved his notes into his knapsack. "I'm off to Arithmancy."

As soon as Professor McGonagall dismissed the Transfiguration class, his final class of the day, Severus hurried off to Slughorn's office. He was eager to get to the library to get a good start on his Charms essay before supper, but he could hardly disregard the summons, however little he wanted to listen to further lectures about his own stupidity in failing to befriend Black. Perhaps if he didn't encourage Slughorn's loquacity, he would hurry up and assign a detention, and Severus could get to work.

The heavy oak door to Slughorn's office was partly ajar when he arrived, so Severus glanced in. The small golden clock his Head of House kept on his desk chimed three.

"Ah, Severus," Slughorn said, "do come in." He was sitting at his ornate mahogany desk, dipping a peacock quill into his golden inkpot. Severus made his way around assorted tasseled footstools, a plush armchair, and a low table and stood in front of Professor Slughorn's desk.

"You asked to see me, Professor?" he inquired

"Just a moment," Slughorn said, folding the missive and placing it into a matching envelope. "I was just accepting an invitation to dine with Abraxas Malfoy, an old friend of mine. He's a school governor, you know, and very wealthy."

Severus did know, having been acquainted with his son Lucius, but he figured that a sidetrack onto the subject of the Malfoys and their many virtues could easily eat up fifteen minutes or more.

Slughorn sighed theatrically.

"Well, my boy," he said, "I wish to speak with you regarding yesterday night."

Noticing that Severus had left the door ajar, he waved his wand at it and it shut with a snap. Severus waited for him to continue.

"Professor Dumbledore explained to Minerva and me what happened last night," Slughorn said. What he thinks happened, Severus bit back.

"A nasty shock, that must have been," Slughorn said, shaking his head sympathetically. "So very fortunate, that Potter arrived in time." He paused.

Severus wondered whether Slughorn was waiting for him to interject some words of appreciation for Potter. It would be a long wait.

"Still, it would never have happened if not for your heedless pursuit of your feud with Black and Potter," Slughorn said after a few moments' silence. "I can only reiterate what I said yesterday. In these final two years of school, you should be learning the skills and making the connections you will need to make your way in the world." He paused, seeming again to expect a response.

"Is that clear, young man?" Slughorn asked, after a moment of awkward silence. That, anyway, required a response.

"Yes," Severus responded. It's clear. "Sir."

"As far as this notion of yours that Mr. Black had criminal intentions: it is overblown, and your insistence on it is counterproductive," Slughorn continued.

"I have agreed not to discuss the matter with anyone, sir," Severus said.

"Yes, yes, of course, Albus did mention it. He was quite pleased. Otherwise the scandal would surely force that poor Mr. Lupus out of Hogwarts, to say nothing of what it would do to the reputation of the school," Slughorn replied. "A werewolf," he muttered to himself, shaking his head. Severus adjusted his knapsack. The strap was biting uncomfortably into his shoulder.

"Where was I? Oh yes, the importance of thinking seriously about your future. Since nothing I say seems to make any impression … hmmm … yes, that will do. I will speak to Mr. Filch. He can always use some assistance with his cleaning of the castle."

I would rather starve. Or — or live as a Muggle, Severus recalled. Clearly, Slughorn remembered both parts of yesterday's conversation as well.

"Yes, Professor," he responded coldly. "When shall I report to Mr. Filch, sir?"

"Tomorrow night," Slughorn replied, gazing searchingly at Severus. "And the following three Fridays."

"Very well, sir," Severus replied, his expression impassive. "Will that be all, Professor?"

"Yes, you may go," Slughorn replied, a slight frown creasing his enormous forehead.

Severus headed for the door. "Good day, sir," he said correctly as he opened it to go.

Slughorn waved his left hand dismissively; his right was reaching into the open tin of crystallized pineapple on his desk.

When he was finally in the library, Severus chose a table in the far corner, near the Advanced Charms section. Black, he saw, was sitting a couple of tables over, apparently intent on an assignment of his own. After some time, Severus decided he wanted to recheck a reference and walked back into the stacks. Upon his return, he saw that Black's girlfriend, the blonde Muggleborn from their Charms class — what was her name? Banks — had approached Black. She did not sound very happy, Severus noted with a smirk.

Curious, he stayed out of sight behind a shelf and watched the scene. He gathered that Black's newly acquired detentions included the upcoming Valentine's Day Hogsmeade Weekend, and Miss Banks was not happy about this. Severus resisted the urge to applaud her performance as she crumpled Black's detention schedule and hurled it dramatically at his chest before flouncing out of the library. The little scene would be a memory to cherish while cleaning bathrooms, or worse, with Filch tomorrow night.

Severus returned to his table, to discover that Miss Vane, a Gryffindor he had vaguely noticed hanging around Black in the past, was rifling through his knapsack. Checking that his wand was within easy reach, he was about to confront her when he saw that she had grabbed a hold of his copy of Les Arts Foncés.

"Hey, Black!" she shouted, with a self-satisfied grin. Black looked up from his work, as did all of the students who were working nearby.

With a shout of "Catch!" she tossed the book to Black.

Severus spun around to see Black stand up to catch the book. He opened it and leafed through a couple of pages; his audience, sitting at the nearby tables, waited expectantly. Severus recognized the smirk on Black's face; it meant trouble. He reached for his wand, when, to his surprise, Black closed the book and tossed it down on the table. With a final regretful glance at Severus, he sat back down.

So he wasn't going to join in the fun, eh? Severus thought. Black must be worrying about "Moony's" little secret.

Severus walked over, and with a broad, insincere smile, said loudly, in his most pleasant voice, "Why thank you, Black, I'll take that back now."

As he picked up his book, he was relieved to see it was undamaged. Black glowered up at him, but did not respond.

"I couldn't help overhearing what passed between you and Miss Banks, just now," Severus said. "She was rather … emphatic." With a sneer, he added, "What a pity."

"Shut it, Snivelly," Black growled between clenched teeth.

"It's for the best, though, if you think about it," Severus continued.

Black's expression grew even stormier, if that was possible, and his right hand twitched toward his robe for a moment, before he reached instead for the book he had open in front of him.

"Your dear old mother seemed a trifle upset this morning. This ought to cheer her right up," Severus added.

Black slammed his book shut, grabbed his parchment and inkpot, and rose to his feet, nearly tipping his chair over with the violence of his movements.

Severus laughed softly at his retreating back, savoring his victory. Then he turned back, to find Miss Vane, her expression one of profound bewilderment, staring at him from his table. He walked back, fixing a cold glance on her. She remained where she was, paling slightly.

"Pardon me, Miss Vane," he said, as he walked right up to her. "I was sitting here." She shot him an angry glare, but stepped away. Apparently, her Gryffindor courage did not extend to taking on an upperclassman one-on-one, he thought, curling his lip.

Sitting back down, he returned to his essay. The writing went smoothly, so Severus ignored the supper bell. He had stashed a couple of rolls and some cheese from lunch in his bag for later. He hardly even noticed as students started to trickle back in after supper, to get in a bit more studying before the library closed at eight. He was absorbed in a few tricky little details he had missed in his earlier thinking when a voice broke through his concentration.

"That should be 1795, Severus," the voice said. The speaker was right, he realized, looking up to find Lily Evans had seated herself at his right and was reading his notes.

"Thanks, Lily," he answered, scratching out the error.

"You weren't at supper," Lily commented. "Is everything alright?"

"Yes, I needed the time in the library," Severus answered evasively. He really didn't feel like discussing his roommate problems or detentions with her. Lily regarded him silently.

"So, you don't want to talk about it?" she asked quietly.

"About what?" he asked coldly.

Lily looked around, drawing her wand. "Muffliato!" she whispered, as she flicked her wand and grinned conspiratorially at Severus. He leaned back and set down his quill.

"There," she said, looking pleased with herself. "I know you're not supposed to talk about it, Severus, but you can tell me. I already know Remus is," she covered her mouth cautiously as she spoke, "a werewolf. I figured it out last year, after we started to spend more time together, as Prefects."

"I talked with Remus this afternoon," Lily continued. "He doesn't remember anything, though he says that's how it always is. Sirius told him what happened this morning."

"Fat chance," Severus could not help responding. As if Black would admit his plan to Lupin!

"Sirius didn't think it through at all, Severus. It hadn't even occurred to him that it could expose Remus!" Lily said, gazing earnestly at him.

"You weren't there yesterday afternoon, Lily," Severus disagreed, remembering the murderous look in Black's eyes.

"He feels really awful about it, Remus told me. He'd never do anything to harm one of his friends."

"In case you haven't noticed, Lily, I am not one of Black's friends," Severus pointed out sarcastically. He could not stop himself from adding, "Or Potter's, for that matter."

"James wasn't in on it, Severus," Lily contradicted him with a little shake of her head, which set her long hair bouncing alluringly. "Professor Dumbledore would not make a mistake about something like that. He just … knows things like that."

Severus was uncomfortably reminded of Dumbledore's seeming ability to read his mind, the previous night. Shoving the memory ruthlessly aside, he gave an incredulous snort.

"You weren't there last night, Severus," Lily said, with a challenging glint in her green eyes. "I was. I saw the look on James's face as he ran out of the Common Room."

His own argument, turned neatly back at him. Admiration and anger warred briefly in his heart before she tilted her head back and smiled crookedly at him. A cutting response died on his lips and he lowered his eyes in confusion. He found himself observing the way her school robes clung to the contours of her chest. Hoping she hadn't noticed, he sat up and picked up his quill.

Gently, she put her hand over his. Grateful for the shoulder-length fall of his dark hair, which concealed the flush he felt rising in his face, he put the quill back down.

"Severus," Lily said softly, "I know you don't get along with him. I'm not saying you should. But I believe in this instance, you are not being fair to him. Just … think about it, alright?"

Not trusting himself to look up at her, he nodded mutely.

Taking her hand back, Lily set both her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her right hand. Having regained his composure, Severus looked back at her.

"So, what happened?" she asked. "Remus made it sound like you just walked in there, saw him, and walked out, but that doesn't explain the injuries to you and James, or how he injured his head."

"Potter collapsed the roof of the tunnel near the Shrieking Shack on top of him," Severus replied. He didn't really want to discuss the details, but the appeal in her eyes was irresistible.

"Ouch! Poor Remus!" she exclaimed. Severus, recalling vividly the beast that had charged through the tunnel at him, could not find it in himself to echo the sentiment.

Abruptly, a feather duster rapped the table in front of them.

"Closing time!" Madam Pince said, as she swept by into the stacks beyond. Lily stood up.

"Though Remus was pretty happy this afternoon, actually, because Dumbledore ordered you not to tell anyone about him," she said as Severus shoved his belongings into his bag. "He had been so sure, this morning when he heard what happened, that he would have to leave Hogwarts."

"Black told Lupin that?" Severus asked with a curl of his lip as he, too, got up to leave. "As true as anything else Black says, I see."

"Dumbledore didn't?" Lily asked, startled.

"No. He asked me to, so that Lupin could stay at school."

"And you agreed!" Lily stated firmly.

"Yes," Severus replied, and was rewarded by a radiant smile.

"Of course you would," she said, still grinning at him. From across the room, a fellow sixth year girl waved at her.

"Oops, I've got to run," Lily said. "'Night!"

"Good night," he replied. He stood and watched her retreating form for a moment, then headed for the exit himself.

The meeting left him with a bittersweet feeling. Lily had not believed Peter's version of the story. He had wronged her, to think she might. Yet, she insisted on Potter's innocence. He still remembered the way she had looked, when Dumbledore had defended Potter to her yesterday night. The radiant smile she had given him before leaving had been a pale shadow of that one.

The memory brought back the anger that Severus had felt all day. He didn't care what Lily and Dumbledore thought. He knew what he had heard. Potter had loudly interrupted what was obviously an intimate tête-à-tête between Black and Banks with his reminder about Moony. Even if Potter were stupid enough to do so for the sake of some private in-joke, Black surely would have been annoyed rather than play along. He had been set up, that was all there was to it.

For something everyone insisted was supposed to be accidental, the resulting incident sure had left Potter looking the golden boy … and him the goat. Which was what people already believed, anyway. No one believed his account of what had happened, and he was supposed to be a good sport about it. Tell no one what Black had done to him, accept his punishments quietly, and preferably thank Potter in the bargain. Well, he had agreed to keep quiet about Lupin, and so he would, but he would find a way to get back at Potter. Somehow.



A/N – Following the excellent example of my esteemed coauthor, I too will share the future career of one of my bit players. Sean Quigley will indeed go on to a successful career as a pro Quidditch player, crowned by the victory of the Irish National Team at the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire, of which he will be a member. Since Rowling neglected to, or, at any rate, has not shared it with me, in my story I also took the liberty of supplying him with a first name

It's been a fun project! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, and would love to hear all your closing thoughts on the feedback thread.