A Decoding of the Heart - Chapter 4

DISCLAIMER: Based on characters and situations created by JK Rowling. No money is being made from this.


Excuses for the 12 months' gap. Sighs. Well, first I had a public art-project to prepare in April. Then one to finish off (installed during the time Le Pen nearly got to power - a work including Algerian women, in a right-wing part of France. What timing.) My computer broke down last May 2002. By the time I got it back into working order (late-June) I had piles of RL stuff to catch up on, was in exhibition-preparation mode (again), had 12 two-hour lectures to research and write over the summer (and which I 'delivered' in packed teaching schedule of Autumn term.) Blame Mr Sphinx's success in roping me into more DIY than I wanted to do for lack of finishing in Christmas hols. (I took the computer, I calculated three days per scene) Gargantuan thanks to every one of you who has emailed and reviewed me encouragement - without you, chapter 4 would not have been written. Thanks especially to everyone who sent me comments (JL Matthews, Warrego, Paula, Layelle - I hope I haven't missed anyone) and to Angel of the North for doing a rapid and ruthless Beta of the text mere weeks away from her Finals. Both JLM and AotN persuaded me that I really could, even should, stop the chapter before the still-to-be-finished Haircut.

Having failed to post promised 'something' way back in January, I've divided one chapter into two. There are a number of balls cast here that will now only hit their targets in the next half-chapter, 'And Dumps him at the Hill of Difficulty'. (This lack of tying up of certain threads, to change the metaphor, is annoying me. I had plans for the line from David Hare. ) Chapter 5 will take us through the summer up to Hermione's early return to Hogwarts, 'Where Piety Discourses Him'.

I wish I could tell you that this was worth the wait, but the blasted thing is less than the sum of its wayward parts, and no better for having taken even longer than the others. "More labour than elegance", as Dr Johnson said.

References: the shameless lift of the last line of David Hare's play (later film) Plenty. Some Rupert Brook echoes and a twisted version of Walter Benjamin's description of the Angel of History. A weeny quotation from Sally Potter's film The Tango Lesson - an exchange about floorboards and dry rot rather than Snape's state of mind! Molly is trying very hard to be literature's most alluring Housewife, Mrs Ramsay. Hermione's notes became Bridget Jones actually thinking. (I have just spent two hours arranging the first part of Hermione's notes into two columns she would have used for comparison, only to find that when I save to html - ff.net doesn't like my Word documents - the Mac I'm on won't let me keep the two-column format. It's not even offering 'edit using bloc notes'. I will try to rectify this in the next week or so, since it's scrambled the way that part should be read. Any offers of help in this appreciated) The anecdote about Percy was sparked off by Cairnsy's story at ff.net Where Will the Children Play? (I've changed it to a minor incident, so as not to spoil the story for you. All three parts, not just Percy's, recommended.) The opening image of Salomé and Snape is from one of my favourite posters: the English National Opera's 1989 staging of The Magic Flute. I can't remember if it was Harold Wilson or someone else who said 'a week is a long time in politics'.

Two reminders: Maureen O'Reilly is the maiden name I gave Molly Weasley in Chapter One, and the canon time-line's been shifted a year (so that I could have the millennium when the characters need it.) Chapter three ended with Severus getting Salomé to hypnotise him into a sleep from which he didn't want to wake.

One of Christian's earliest obstacles, as you now all know, is the Slough of Despond. He flounders in it until the figure 'Help' comes and rescues him. Quite a few 'Helps' stroll along here (and in the next chapter) as it happens. None of them came to the writer's rescue when she got mired in a mass of back-stories.

Help Pulls Him Out

If a week is a long time in Politics, it is an eternity in Romance. This is particularly so when the protagonists get no opportunity to meet. Imagine ours, now, on opposite sides of the Labyrinth, and not a hairpin bend in sight to swerve them to proximity. They aren't even on the same pilgrimage. They traverse their separate landscapes with quite different destinations in mind. Imagine this as you trudge through barely half the week following Honours day, and pray that Patience accompany you on the journey.


He did not wake up the next day or the day after that.

At one o'clock on Wednesday morning, Albus Dumbledore was perched by the Perriand on the spindly stool. It wasn't exactly dark. The transparency rays' nocturnal light mimicked street-lamp sodium - redder, but as oddly unwarming.

"Is the serpent in your way?" he whispered to the ancient object on his lap.

Salomé had unwound her upper body to wrap it around Snape's eyes. Not for the first time, the Headmaster marvelled at her understanding of human need. His Potions master looked peaceful enough. The loosely tied dressing gown just covered the bandages, and Hermione's concealment charm held fast.

"Not really," replied the Hat. "But that concealment charm makes things a bit awkward."

"I can remove it." Dumbledore offered.

"No - don't want to disturb things more than we have to."

The Hat was tense in the Headmaster's hands.

"Is this absolutely necessary?"

"I'm afraid so."

It sighed. Snape's mind might be fascinating to visit, but the excursion (or rather incursion) always left you feeling you may as well Stitch yer Brim.

"So what am I looking for?"

It was a longstanding rule that general rummaging around was not on: you went in, found a specific piece of information, and came straight back out. At least, the Hat reflected, it was easy to locate things in there - unlike some cluttered, disorganised minds. Now Snape's did house a fair amount of chaos, but it was kept in the basement with very efficient locking charms.

"I need you to determine what's keeping him asleep. Poppy swears he hasn't taken anything and isn't concussed."

"That all?"

"Any plans to do something foolish - and what will prevent him."

"Tried the Love of Good Woman?" sneered the Hat.

"Please don't joke about that. I'm not God Almighty."

"You do a fair impression."

Dumbledore sighed. He could never quite predict the Hat's moods. Centuries of existence had doubtless made It a bit dotty.

"Do be quiet and get in; this is a most serious enquiry. And leave the Great Lost Love alone."


The erotic and romantic sections of Severus's brain - closer together than in most men's - earned 'Worth a Detour' in the Hat's unwritten guide to sorcerors' heads.

The mind-reader sucked in its breath. Things were a good deal less orderly than usual.

"Bad?" ventured Dumbledore.

"Bad." said the Hat.


Molly Weasley joined Hermione in the garden. The Burrow was looking smarter than it ever had, Arthur and 'the boys' having fulfilled long-deterred promises to get the place sorted out. The cracks in the house's rendering were filled and painted, the wellies and rusty cauldron tucked out of sight. Three types of lavender were flourishing and the lawn was recognisably a lawn.

"Where are Ron and Harry?"

Hermione, pocketing a notebook, jerked her head towards the paddock up the hill.

"Practising for Harry's trials with the Cannons. They want to test him for summer 2000 before the other teams get round to it."

She had the nettled look of the Neglected.

"He says Ron can prepare him better than Sirius because he knows their tactics; I think it's just an excuse to give Sirius some privacy with the G Wizz journalist. "

Mr. Black may not have owned a modernist chaise longue, but he had other virtues that said journalist had noisily appreciated the night before. Remembering Silencing charms was not one of them. A cringing Harry had taken red-faced leave of his post-war Cool - and his Godfather - that very morning.

Molly confined her comments to Quidditch.

"Harry could get into a better team than the Cannons. "

"Yes, but they don't need him as much. Harry thinks he could pull the Cannons back to the top of the League." She grinned. "He's doing it for Ron, of course. Promised to wangle him a season's discount tickets if he gets in."

"You'll never get a single Saturday together, " Molly protested.

"Oh, I don't know. I can't avoid watching Quidditch forever."

"You're not obliged to, Hermione, we all respect that. Ron especially."

The stale memory wafted across Hermione's mind. She had not attended a Quiddtich match since Easter of her fifth year - a first class seat next to Krum's parents in the Bulgarian Minister-of-Magic's box. Viktor had not pulled his team up to consistent top-of-the-world status, but they had done better than usual that season, and in that particular game, were all set to beat Albania 290 to 110.

And they did. Hermione had cheered along with everyone else as the young Viktor spun in the air and swooped into his famous dive - real, not feint.

More had depended upon the outcome of that match than national sporting pride. Albania, already weakened by her non-magical conflicts, had crumpled under Voldemort's early assaults and supplied him a puppet government. There had been moves to ban the country from competing altogether, but a straightforward defeat was reckoned to be both probable and strategically shrewder: a battle against Evil won on the playing fields of Europe. Some shuffling of the draw made sure that Albania faced Krum before the quarterfinals. Viktor had been well aware of the symbolic weight on his shoulders, and carried it with a conviction intensified by his devotion to a certain Muggle-born witch.

He had hurled right towards their box, inches above the pitch, leaving the hapless Albanian Seeker far behind. The glittering spec lurched skywards and Krum soared after, reaching up in triumph. Hermione could have sworn he caught her eye. She forgot herself, and everything else, entirely.

"Get it Viktor! Get it!"

And he did: the Snitch exploded on contact.

Someone had been most inspired by the Triwizard Tournament. All Hermione remembered of the succeeding moments was the fine spatter of blood on her skin, and the Bulgarian Deputy-Minister's lack of surprise.

Bulgaria, unlike Britain, had acknowledged the return of Voldemort, and been quick to put up every resistance she could. Viktor had used his star-status to strengthen that resistance, especially amongst Bulgarian youth. His country's apparent solidarity, that early in the war, had made open defiance - which included flaunting the equally valiant Ms Granger - seem as wise an option as less morale-boosting tactics of secrecy.

Viktor had joked about the 'so-boring securities' and dismissed the death threats.

Don't vorry, Herr-my-own-nee; I get such crazy letters since I haff been professional.

He'd had her heavily protected all the same.

Molly put her arm about Hermione's shoulders. The girl dutifully leaned in to her.

"Ron will wait a long time for you. You know that, don't you? He's worried it was only eighteen months after - "

Hermione cut her short.

"I wasn't in love with Viktor Krum. Not even a little."

Molly shifted ground. There was something cauterised about the way her son's Intended bore that particular wound, and it unnerved her.

"I came out here to give you this."

She handed Hermione the Daily Prophet.

"Skeeter's article. Page 3."

"She was supposed to have sent me the proofs! Is it ok?"

"I haven't read it yet. Picture's not bad."

Hermione took this as tacit acceptance of the Haircut. The picture was better than 'not bad'. It was brilliant. She made a mental note always to be photographed in black-and-white: it masked her undistinguished colouring, lending her features a definition they lacked in reality. Monochrome historicised as colour could not. She could imagine this image on the jacket of Breakthroughs in 20th Century Sorcery or Heroines of the Resistance - A World Uncovered. Against a backdrop which practically screamed 'potential' (half-open Ministry Gates plus emerging Millennium Bridge) she looked intense, serious and five years older.

As compliments went, it rivalled Professor Snape's.

The article itself was just as gratifying.

Sanity from the Dementor Girl

Hermione Granger, the eighteen-year-old prodigy who literally calculated away Voldemort's most dangerous allies, walked out of the Honours Ceremony held at the Ministry of Magic's Headquarters last Sunday. In an exclusive interview for The Daily Prophet, Hogwarts' new Head Girl explains why she refused the First Class Order of Merlin, and outlines her vision of a more rational future for the wizarding community.

The by-line was minuscule by Rita's usual standards, the prose sober, and not a single 'famous wizard' she could have been linked to was mentioned. She was the interest, not the love-interest.

Molly read over her shoulder:

" 'She attributes her achievements to being Muggle-born. "It should be seen as having a double heritage, not half of one." ' - Arthur'll want to borrow that for electioneering."

"He'll have to get permission from Rita then - I didn't put it like that."

"Oh dear - has she twisted everything?"

Hermione skimmed the article.

"No, she's just - polished me up a bit and - I don't believe it!"


"She kept the bit about house-elves!"

Molly homed in on another passage.

"The social structures of the wizarding world are trapped in the Muggle nineteenth century, and the legal system's hardly left the fourteenth. It's no wonder that in politics everything depends on personal connections and powerful personalities. Judged by Muggle standards, we're undemocratic - a One-Party state."

Perhaps the Dementor Girl has ambitions to be the first female Minister of Magic in over seventy years?

"If it's still the same old Ministry, I'm not sure. Of course there are good people there, but I don't know how radically you can change a system once you're in it, once it's your means of living. It would be good to have more witches in power though. That's another thing that, as a Muggle-born, I find strange. I just don't understand why sexism exists amongst Sorcerers - magic wipes out the physical differences men have claimed as advantages; it gave us the reproductive control my grandmother fought for centuries ago. But things seem to have gone backwards in the last half-century. Why does equality vanish after Hogwarts? Why do so many witches live like Muggle housewives from the 50s ? "

"Well don't ask me." said Molly, smiling as she noticed Hermione's nervous sideways glance and accompanying blush. "How could a dim earth-mother possibly analyse her situation better than her genius-of-a-future-daughter?"

Molly was looking remarkably like Albus Dumbledore in 'genial plus' mode.

"Of course I didn't mean you, Molly - you need to be really clever and powerful to manage a big household like this and bring up eigh - seven children properly...and ...well, you're the last word on authority at the Burrow. None of that 'wait til your father gets home' stuff." Hermione attempted humour- " Mrs Weasley Rules."

Her reserves were running out, and Molly was definitely chuckling.

"Anyway," Hermione floundered desperately, "you can't pretend you're dim because you held the NEWT's record and it took Professor Snape to top you."

"Who told you that?" asked Molly (idly noting the assessment of Snape's brains as well as hers.)

"He did. Professor Vector was teasing him about how I'd beat his record, and it came up."

"The Sniper got teased? I wish I'd seen that. Even Charlie used to have nightmares about that monster."

Hermione went rather quiet, though not for reasons that Molly Weasley could have guessed. She hadn't let go of the 'dust dome mystery'; the notebook she clutched in her pocket listed every clue she remembered from that strange Sunday.

"Well, go on - ask." persisted Molly.

"Ask what?"

" What you've been dying to ask since you've known me."

"It's none of my business."

"It is." Molly was surprisingly hard. "In a year or two you'll be marrying into my family and you want to know if you have to become like me."

Hermione took awhile to voice the plausible half-truth.

"Anyone would be proud to be like you Molly. You make everything alive. You don't just talk about values; you are values. You always make everything better."

"Not always, not everything. But it's enough. Since when did 'anyone' include you, Hermione?"

The young woman gaped at her. She was being tested on a subject for which she'd done no preparation.

"This may not look like much," Molly gestured towards the house and garden, "but it's mine and I'm free in it and I can shape it the way I want." She grinned. "Give or take the odd bucket of testosterone."

Hermione was surprised she used the term, but didn't comment.

"Better this than getting worn down like Arthur at the Ministry. I wouldn't change places with him, Hermione, not for the world. I'd rather have my own. And I form people. I make the future."

So that really is what she gets from it. Power - within her limits. Incredible power, or the illusion of it.

"They're good lads. I've taught them respect. They'll make good partners for good women."

And what about the bad women? The scarlet ones who don't make it to your category 'to respect'?

"I started out in the Ministry, you know. Straight from Hogwarts. Decided I'd head the Department of International Co-operation by the time I was thirty."

"So what happened?"

Arthur, followed by Bill.

Molly glanced at the paper.

"Fear happened. Post-Grindelwald backlash. We'd returned to social structures of the nineteenth century. I'd have had more influence in the old Wizarding Council. The ministry blocked me at every turn. The nearer I got to doing anything important or interesting, the more I was pushed into something boring or trivial."

Hermione tried to think of something more boring, if not exactly trivial, than housework and nappy changing, but couldn't.

"Even though my ideas were used, they were never attributed to me. Not that that mattered, but then this new wizard arrived - two years out of Beauxbatons and a tour round the world, not that bright, but bilingual with a smattering of twenty magical tongues. He gets promoted over my head, and to cap it all starts to - approach me."


"Yes. Of course I didn't let it get to me at first, but when I finally complained, no-one took it seriously, no-one believed me, said he was so good-looking and I could defend myself couldn't I? It all came to a head when I did just that - hexed the little sod."

"What with?" she dutifully fed the cue.


Hermione burst out laughing.


"Not brilliant. Got me sacked even though the damage wasn't - well - physically lasting. Arthur was the one who believed me. It took him months, but he managed to checkmate the man when he started on someone else. Got him shunted into some subsection of a subsection of the Department of Mysteries, where he disappeared as he ought."

Hermione hoped Little Sod's purgatory was watching The Home Life and Social Habits of a British Potions Master.

"But you decided not to go back?"

"I didn't like what it did to me - eating me up with anger and frustrated ambition. I was always right on the edge. Arthur just - helped me back from it. He was so untouched by money and status, so positive, so joyful, so can-do. It was like the sun coming out."

She paused. Hermione thought - Ron's like that. Maybe not quite the sun; more - well, a nice fire in a cosy room.

"And I wanted more sun. Endless sun."

Got endless sons, thought Hermione, but she said nothing.

"Of course we never meant to have such a big family. I was an only child myself. I always thought of a home as a cramped thing. We'd have stopped after Percy. But then Voldemort happened."

She was silent.

"The sun went in? " offered Hermione.

"People - especially children - just disappeared. The day we went to get Charlie's wand - I'd taken Bill and Percy with us, and suddenly we couldn't find Percy. Bill made us go into Knockturn Alley - I Apparated the three of us that short distance, and we were just in time. Percy was taking sweets from this man - he wasn't hooded, he looked friendly - and luckily Percy saw us and ran to me. The man vanished. I started to imagine our family being picked off one by one. I saw people who had no one left, and swore it would never happen to us. Everyone thought we were mad to keep having children at a time like that. I thought it was the sanest thing we could do. We were building a barricade of life. A kind of insurance... That must seem callous."

People in the Third World do the same.

"No - I can see the rationale. So Ginny was your last - installment."

"Ginny turned out to be celebration, not insurance. She was born the night Voldemort disappeared. Of course, lots of celebration kids were born exactly nine months after that..."

Hermione couldn't help giggling at the thought of Harry's first victory night as one of incessant and extensive bonking. Molly's smile was warm and frank.

Gods, it's seductive. Who wouldn't want a Mrs Weasley always to be there, to make things right, to make you at ease with everything? All that generosity, all that nurturing with no limit and no price.

"The thing about a big family like ours is - you'll never want for help. And you're a different generation - you'll be able to have everything Hermione. No son of mine will stop you doing what you want. I've made sure of that."

You think you have. They think you have. But how can they help wanting someone just like you? Because of what you do, not what you say. And there's a whole world out there that un-shapes what you've done here.

She did not contradict her. (Ron, after all, had turned out to be manageable: you could happily depend on his rock of stubborness - or skip round and ahead of it until he dropped everything to catch you up.) She thought of her own rather frigid relatives. You could do a lot worse than be part of the Weasley clan. She could not quite forget how easily Molly had once believed badly of her; she sensed less warmth towards her than towards Harry. Yet here was Molly understanding her better than her own, highish-achieving mother.

I remind her of what she gave up.

"We had to win this war. We had to believe it hard enough." Molly was murmuring. "I couldn't let Voldemort destroy everything I've created. "

She got up and shook herself a little.

The world where you can make everything all right.

"Lunch'll be about an hour. We can eat outside again."

It was, indeed, a perfect summer's day.

"Can we give you hand? I'll fetch the Quidditch slaves."

"No, no. Ginny's done strawberry duty; the twins'll do the tables. You three enjoy your holiday - that's an order."

Hermione gave her hug and strolled off towards the hill.

Another heart put at ease, Maureen O'Reilly crossed her plump arms and surveyed her patch of English heaven.

There would be days and days and days like this.


Severus awoke just after midday, with the sun boring into his eyelids. He had the odd sensation that an alarm bell had gone off inside his head, yet he hadn't heard a thing. He looked around for Salomé. The French windows were ajar, letting in breaths of lake-cooled air. A pile of letters, weighted down with a vial, was on the desk.

He was about to curse himself for oversleeping when he remembered that the holidays had begun.

The letter heading the pile was from the Headmaster.

Tuesday, 9.30 am (it lied)

Merlin - what day was it? He blearily checked the calendar in the window recess. Wednesday was glowing. Wednesday! And he had a nagging feeling that there was something he was supposed to have done.

Dear Severus,

I didn't like to wake you, as it is high time you slept in. I have taken the liberty of opening the doors for Salomé. (Such a pleasure - to be able to leave doors open.)

There has been a slight change in plans. Your annual appointment at the MOM has been put back to Wednesday evening, but we are still to Portkey over to Chartres on Thursday at midnight - I have had confirmation that your presence will indeed be required. I trust you are free tomorrow. As the reconstruction work has started here, I think it would be a good idea to spend all of Thursday in London anyway. I have arranged Wednesday night's stay at the Leaky Cauldron.

Thursday...Thursday. Something else on Thursday. Damn. He was supposed to have booked a - a haircut for Thursday, which involved the slightly complicated process of getting out of Hogwarts, Apparating to the nearest Muggle village and dealing with vandalised phone boxes and Directory Enquiries; if that failed, going to London and finding the place himself.

There is a great deal I should like to discuss with you about the clearing up, and about next year. It will be easier without the disturbances. (Last time we did some rebuilding, my office was in a state of permanent vibration, and my counter-charms apparently caused the new stonework many floors below to crumble. I do believe it was the only occasion on which I saw an enraged house-elf, an experience not to be repeated). Wear Muggle: I have booked us lunch at Granita's. and the Wigmore Hall for the evening (Bartok String quartets and Messian's Quartet for the End of Time – comprehensible enough for me, discordant enough for you.)

Gratitude, like a well-aimed Bludger, struck Severus to the heart.

You will undoubtedly welcome some Mindless distraction directly after Wednesday's MOM session. Suggest 8.30pm (meeting permitting) at usual venue.

Warmest regards,


Severus groaned.

It was one of the minor penances of his time under Dumbledore's care to accompany the Famous Wizard in his second favourite hobby.

The 'usual venue' was a rarely closed establishment opposite Finsbury Park tube:

Rowan's Tenpin Bowl.


Hermione did not rush to join the boys in the paddock. Instead of climbing the hill, she found a corner in a nearby field - and got out her notebook.

Professor Vector's challenge - to read herself and the world instead of books - was proving hard to meet, but she was determined to try. She had never been given to introspection, associating the bouts she'd had of it with upsets - her initial isolation at Hogwarts', the long-ago rift with Harry and Ron over Crookshanks and the Firebolt, then, briefly, with Ron over Viktor Krum. Viktor himself. She evaded such troubles by absorbing ever more from outside of herself. It was the Dementor-trap alone that taught her she was more than books and cleverness, that she might possess originality.

Her chat with Molly did not incline her to 'read herself'; but how did you read the world? Of course, she'd always been a good observer. The difficult part was to move from observation to understanding.

Her parents' allowance was comfortable, but a Pensieve was beyond it. Somewhat against the spirit of Vector's advice, she'd resorted to turning the world back into text. (When you had too many clues, it helped to see them in ink.) Her notes, she reflected, were less inspired than the literature she ought to catch up on.


1) Heard everything (sulking by river) and started fight.

2) Wanted to solve 'unfinished business'. Not nec. Stupid Prank bec. apologised for Shrieking Shack (failed Sh. Sh. payback for failed S.P). More to do with vermin?

3) Looked as if wanted to beat Sir. to pulp. Got badly hurt instead but managed to Apparate.

4) Took all the wands before fight started. Hexed Sir. ONCE only -so lost his wand (and ours) early in fight? (Our wands scattered about at end.)

5) Didn't seem humiliated.

(But raised Dust-dome so we couldn't see. "not in front of the children".)

6) Q - Wouldn't have lost if kept wand(s) or got them back? Maybe cast hex right at end, but collapsed after, then Disapparated? At what point wand retrieved? (Snape didn't look hexed. Ordinary physical wounds.) Evidence on Sn's jacket: hairs, but no blood. Sn's face - bruises and cuts. Not nec. dog-marks. Jacket removed at some point.

7) Q -Why did Sn. seem pleased given Sir. beat him up?


1) Called Sn. worthless opportunist - escaped punishment, 'cushy' deal . Picked up on rats thing - made/destroyed 'vermin'. (As if Sn. no better than Pettigrew?)

2) Still affected by single 'imperius' hex afterwards.

But Sir. beat Sn. to pulp. Sir. not even scratched.

Q- If Hex cast at start of fight, how did he beat Sn. up if didn't throw it off? Sir. always claims he can fight Imperius. Resisted but didn't throw it off totally? (Animagus form helped or hindered?)

5) Sir. called himself the loser. Said Sn's hex Variant of the Imperius curse. Wouldn't explain. "YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW'' - not scared, embarrassed. (Esp. to me - excused swear word. Doesn't usually.)

6) Swears DIDN'T attack as Padfoot. Resorted to Transforming bec. Sn. took the wands. But Sir. had his wand back by time dust cleared.

REVERSE of HEX (acc. to Sir.) M - something (overheard, not sure).

7) Sir. kept saying hadn't wanted fight. Concerned about Sn. after. Felt guilty tho he was one got hexed.

Sirius' views (from talk at night)

8) - Admits hasn't told all. Assume what did say truthful.

-"Not as horrible as it looks"

- " Snape was more in control, all the way through, than you'd think."

-(Q - So Sn. STARTED fight with Imperius-type hex?)

-Saw something of Sn. "no student should know." + "could never imagine".

(Ha! Don't need imagination, just logic.)

-Says I'd think better of him if I knew what really happened - only he's keeping quiet for Sn.

Q - Why Sir. ashamed if 'won' fair and square (and against odds)? Against a 'nothing' who deserved it? Why opinion of Sn. changed?

More Stuff re: Snape

8) Immune to healing; refuses dark treatments; fought anyway. (To out-macho Sir. & co?)

- Sloppy concealment charm (maybe result of injuries, plus looked ill at ceremony.)

- Threatened me if I told.

- Rooms - not cushy. (Opportunist's would be?)

Admires Muggle stuff (fits non-magic view of Potions) esp arts. v. g. taste. (Gran: "You can always tell a fascist - no taste." But Uncle Andrew in S.W.P has crap taste.)

- Family pro-Grindewald. No evidence he was, nor of pureblood prej. BUT had early knowledge of Dark Arts. (Never caught using). Whole school career like my first months. Put up a year, so younger than others. Only 20 when V first lost and spied two years (Harry's info from AD). So recruited at school.

- Accepts surveillance. Snarky, but seems to think it fair. (Hasn't clue what fairness is, mind).

- Foul temper + constant tension from being watched. (There is ALWAYS a reason).

-Beautiful Woman in photo - relationship fantasy/one-sided even if knew her, bec tore out lines about memory?

" Haply I think on thee, and then my state/ Like to the lark at break of day arising/

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;/For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings/That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

(Sh. Sonnet 29. Thanks Percy. ONE person in Burrow reads!)

BUT - Ring poss Engagement. Broken Time-Turner and seaweed - not conventional mementoes - private meeanings. Robes early 80s. If really had relationship with her, prob. before started teaching - no relationships once under surveillance.

(Ugh - realised what prob. does in boat.)

BW looks familiar - Who was she?

-In mourning for his life

-In disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

-Outcast state

-Poor in hope

(Ron - 'At least the git's a miserable git'.)

Hermione read through her clues.

As usual, she tried identifying what was assumption, not fact, to catch herself out.

1) Sir. didn't want to fight at first. Then won fair and square - against odds.

2) Sn. attacked Sir first. Used imp. hex to weaken him.

3) Sir. got his wand back by attacking physically/w Animagus. Duelled until Snape's hex hit him. (Snape still in bad state, afterwards, though managed hex and dodged any from Si.) .

4) Sn. would want fair fight with Sir. otherwise victory hollow.

5) So Sn may have returned Si's wand, hexed him while duelling, then come off worse bec Sir. used Animagus anyway..?

6) Sir. defended himself against Sn's hex, and following attacks, physically - then w. Animagus.

7) Sn. wanted to beat Sir. to a pulp.

She circled number 1 -only his word for it (+ Snape's wounds). She circled number 2 - How can I be sure? She crossed out number 3 - wd explain everything, and be typical Sir. but doesn't square with Sn's attitude after. (Smug). She circled number 4: just my opinion. 2 and 4 mutually exclusive. She crossed out number 5 - Doesn't square with non-humiliation. She circled number 6: More likely than 4. Try early Hex scenario. She circled number 7 - Then why didn't he? He and Sirius equally matched. Illness affected odds?

She still couldn't make head or tail of it.

Head or tail.

She tried an occasionally helpful trick - reversing her common-sense assumptions:

1) Sir. did want fight. Won unfairly. (WHAT IF? Drops his usual values when it's Sn.)

2) Sn. didn't attack Sir. (apart from Hex). (POSS) Hex not used to weaken Sir. (THEN WHAT FOR?)

4) Sn. would fight dirty against Sir. (UNLIKELY. Too proud.)

6) Sir. didn't defend himself with Animagus. (Then why tranform?)

7)Sn. didn't want to beat Sir.to pulp.

She read the list, paused, looked at the last sentence, and considered a different inversion:

7a) Sn. wanted Sir to beat him to pulp?

Surely not.

But What If? (Q - Why did Snape seem pleased given Sirius beat him up?)

2a) Hex not used to weaken Sirius.

Hexed used to strengthen Sirius?

She went back to her first list and read it through twice. She tried linking clues from both lists.

Snape was in control + Sirius was 'loser'.

Sirius did want fight, won unfairly + wasn't hurt

Snape didn't attack Sirius + Sirius felt guilty

Snape smug about outcome.

She identified, with heavy underscoring, the central inconsistency -

Snape successfully used 'Imperius' then Sirius beat Snape to pulp

and applied a logical formula.

IF Snape used Imperius AND Sirius was 'loser' THEN Sirius did what Snape - intended.

The knot was cut.

Snape was in control BUT Sirius beat him up.

Snape was in control AND SO Sirius beat him up.

She paused, thinking about the Potions master's prison, the sonnet, his strange Honours speech and the taunts by the Thames.

'Unfinished business': Sirius innocent, officially punished. Snape guilty, not officially punished.

Snape had Imperio'd Sirius to carry out - the punishment.

A very peculiar shudder passed through her. Sirius was right. One shouldn't know this of a teacher.

She persisted with unanswered questions all the same.

Why, if Snape called the shots, had Sirius felt guilty?

Because he didn't usually bend under Imperius -

Sirius hadn't wanted to fight Snape. Sirius had always wanted to fight Snape. Therefore:

Snape made Sirius do - exactly what Sirius wanted to do: he unleashed the Animagus.

"Snape was more in control, all the way through, than you'd think."

Hermione's logical formula had an unexpected side effect: it ensnared her imagination.



But brilliant.

Yet she was not given to introspection, not disposed to interpret herself - or that odd, voyeuristic shudder - too closely. If you had asked her why, of all there was to read in her world, she had selected the text of Severus Snape for scrutiny, she would simply have told you that mysteries annoyed her, and the mystery of the day happened to be an unseen fight. If you had pushed her farther, she might have admitted that a notoriously unreadable text was more of a challenge. She did not, then, consider why, during a quiet moment after lunch, she borrowed Percy's Hex and Counter-Hex to check up on variants of the Imperius curse; nor why she actually made a note of one she thought (with a little rush of triumph) solved the puzzle completely.

Levio Moderatium: (Eng. I lift restraint/moderation. Counter-charm: Moderatio) Used to deprive subject of inhibitions. Legal status: ambiguous - dependent on use and consequences. Convivial use with consent (eg, at celebratory social gatherings) does not carry penalties.

(Hermione wondered why. It sounded much stronger than a magical equivalent of alcohol or dope. She could never use such a spell on anyone, ever.)

Where deprivation of the subject's conscious will leads to harmful and illegal actions that the subject would not, in his normal state, commit, the penalty is paid by the spell-caster.

It was unlikely, Hermione thought, that Sirius would press charges.


Percy Weasley was feeling very irritated. This was not his department, and he did not appreciate Fudge's (s)cattiest personal assistant dumping a wad of parchments on his desk with the words: "Gotta clash, gotta dash. Wotsisname from Mysteries handles this, but he's off sick and his deputy's on leave. Be a love and cover - 7.40pm - it's all in there."

Percy sighed. The Department of Mysteries worked, not in Mysterious ways but nonsensical ones. It held its meetings at night for the mere air of secrecy, but slapped confidential information around as if it contained clues no more important than the DP crossword's. The dossier, Percy saw with a slight shock, concerned his former Potions teacher. There was a Hogwarts' contract for one year's lecturing; a fat scroll full of figures that seemed to be some kind of breakdown of Snape's yearly salary (going back to 1983); an elaborately sealed letter addressed to the professor, and a parchment showing a list of questions crossed out with diagonal lines.

Percy scanned the latter. It disturbed him - a document stamped with the St. Mungo's crest. The questions were - well - personal - and had scant relation to teaching. They were written in the third person (always referring to 'The Subject') and left ample room for comment by the questioner. Percy hurriedly slipped the questionnaire under the other parchments. It was 7.38 p.m., and 'the Subject' was known to be a punctual sort of chap.

For one indulgent minute, Percy Weasley hated the world. He hated the way it tossed his belief system - that hard work, honesty and ability paid - so casually in his face. Of course, there were his two carefully-engineered promotions (and third pending) - but just when you thought you'd earned some real respect, someone, from some nonchalant inner circle, would find a way of informing you otherwise. Four years in the Ministry of Magic had furnished the one lesson he'd absorbed less easily than the twins' master classes in humour: that Merit went unrecognised and Mediocrity unpunished.

He looked through the papers again - to be fair, it all looked quite straightforward. Clearance be hanged - he'd blame Fudge's assistant if there were any fall-out.

The Subject arrived ten minutes late. He did not apologise for it, nor did he conceal his dismay at seeing Weasley-the-Third.

"Why are you dealing with this? It's DoM business."

"Good evening, Professor Snape. Do take a seat."

Percy waved away some parchments an untidy colleague had left on the visitor's chair and waited for The Subject to sit.

"To answer your question - I don't know any more than you do. The usual people are off duty - "

"So they've dumped me on you."

Snape had clearly assessed the office and the status of its occupant in a glance. Percy felt the back of his neck heat up.

Really, the fellow could try a little common courtesy.

"It really is no trouble, Professor Snape. We just need a signature for your contract, and for you to sign for this letter and - er - I believe these may be for you tax records?"

He tried to hand over the fat scroll. Snape looked at it blankly.

'They've never given me this before. Hogwarts' staff are taxed at source and we're exempt from declaring other earnings. One of the traditional perks.' he added flatly.

Introduced by a Slytherin Headmaster, no doubt.

"I'll hold onto it if you prefer," said Percy with even-toned pleasantness. "If you could just sign here and here?"

Snape took the quill and made to sign, but stopped to curl his lip just a tad.

"This is only for a year. I've always had three-year contracts. What's going on?"

Percy took a deep breath and began to plan his put-down of Fudge's PA.

"As I've told you, Professor, I've no idea; but perhaps there's something about it in the letter?"

Snape took the letter with the air of one doing you a favour.

Merlin, they're letting him go. And I've got to deal with his finding out.

Snape read it through twice. Percy watched him warily. The Subject looked - oh dear, bewildered, and finally got to his feet, quietly placing the letter on Percy's desk. He paced the room for a minute, then sat down again, expressionless, twiddling the point of the quill on the wood. Percy tried not to look anxious for either his quill or his desk.

"I'm sorry if it's bad news, sir..."

Snape ignored him. He appeared to be talking to himself.

"This is the Headmaster's doing."

"It can't be!" Percy burst out.

"It has Dumbledore written all over it. Well. The cunning old...Well."

The Subject's lips were contorted into the peculiar half-smile.

Well - at least he's putting a brave face on it.

Snape twitched the contract from Percy's fingers and signed. Then he peeled through the three pages of the letter. The last, Percy noticed, was the unmistakable gold and olive-green of Gringott's bank.

Severance pay.

"This will need your signature too, Weasley, as witness to reception. And you'll need to file those salary details with it."

The soon-to-be-ex-Potions Master paused for a full, agonising minute then firmly signed each page. He turned them and placed the lot in front of Percy.

"If you wouldn't mind."

To sneer in the face of adversity - that was something worth learning, Percy thought. He was less antagonistic than his siblings towards the professor, having got through Potions relatively un-picked-on.

"I should like to read this properly. I'd hate to sign to anything I'm not fully -"

"It makes no difference."

What Percy wanted to do, in fact, was find out if, why - how, in all possibility - the benign Albus Dumbledore could turf out one his most loyal servants.

He read. Snape glared at the carpeting.

"But this - this is - my word, what excellent news. I thought - well, never mind - congratulations Professor! You must be very pleased. "

The letter contained the offer of a three-year Sabbatical, to which no particular research conditions were attached. The Ministry greatly regretted that, as Head of Slytherin House, given the delicate' situation of its students, Professor Snape could not be spared in the academic year immediately succeeding the war. However, he was free to take up his Sabbatical at any time after that, with an option to extend it up to five years, in the full understanding that his position would be kept for him whenever he wished to return to it. The Sabbatical was funded by reserves that had been put aside from the difference in the salary Professor Severus Snape had been permitted to receive as an E.U.O (Employee Under Observation) in his years of teaching, and the salary 'customarily' paid to a Hogwart's teacher and Head of House. A modest interest now accompanied the safely invested reserves. The yearly stipend would be more than comfortable. Should Professor Snape choose not to take the Sabbatical at this time, his (sic) money would be held and invested until he did, or until he chose to change jobs or retire.

'You must be very pleased' was one of Percy's less perceptive remarks. The Potions master looked far from pleased; though he did not look displeased either. He looked as if he didn't know how he wanted to look.

"Was there nothing else?" Snape finally asked. Percy thought of the questionnaire.

"No, nothing else, sir."

To his surprise, Snape seemed disappointed.

"Then please check. I've been led to expect certain changes - a rectification - in the conditions of my accommodation. You're certain there's nothing referring to it?"

Percy picked through the parchments as surreptitiously as he could.

"Nothing. But rest assured that I will notify the person who should be dealing with the matter."

He saw Snape's eyes catch the crossed-out parchment. For a moment, a fine thread of anger connected them.

"And all - departmental interrogations - seem to have been dropped."

Snape's face settled slightly. Percy felt recklessly happy. Something was being done properly. Someone was getting their just reward. With a flourish not entirely uncharacteristic of him, he whipped the offending parchment out of the dossier and sent it to oblivion in a shower of sparks.

"I'm the only person here methodical enough to notice," he confided.

Still, the Rewardee looked less happy than he ought. Weasley-the-Third had far too much of his mother in him to bear such inappropriate pathos. He conjured up two large flutes of (real) champagne - duly noting the indulgence in a scroll marked 'Expenses' - and held one out to Snape.

"One of the perks of being Chief Assistant of the Assistant Chief."

The Subject stared.

"A Muggle joke, professor. Flanders and Swann. "

This time The Subject was faintly amused - less at the joke, than at Percy trying to make one. He took one of the flutes from the younger man, who insisted on clinking them.

"I should like to say, Professor, and I'm sure I also speak for those of my family who were informed, that knowing you were working in the eye of the storm, knowing we had someone of your calibre on the case, always gave us reason to hope."

Five years before, five months before, Snape would have shat on the tongue that licked him. Now he couldn't be arsed - and something in Percy Weasley's gaze (he had his mother's eyes) disarmed him.

"To a well-earned break, Professor."

Snape drained his glass, gave his usual nod, and stumbled out with a muttered 'Thank-you' - though not before his hand had been relieved of its celebratory burden and thoroughly pumped.

For Percy did everything properly, and that included generosity.


It was impossible to tell, from a distance, whether Blaise Zabini was a boy or a girl. His was a stubborn ambiguity that no manipulation of clothes, manner or hairstyle would resolve. It had cost him unwelcome attention in his first year and unwelcome lack of it later, leaving him to seek his sparse alliances with the least visible students outside his own house.

The ambiguity mutated to an androgynous allure: subtly appealing to both sexes (and all orientations) but not so perfect as to provoke resentment. By his fifth year, Blaise found himself solicited. Nature's uncompromising gift, read as defiance of convention, did nothing to dispel the idea, held in all the Houses, that he was an individual of great personal integrity.

As a matter of fact, he was an individual of great personal integrity: one of those whom outsider status renders wise rather than bitter. He embraced the turn in his fortunes not with arrogance or reproach, but an assessment of how useful his influence could be. Until then, he'd made few friends, but no enemies.

The second war against Voldemort got underway, and Blaise was well placed for a Slytherin who meant to make a difference. He had no one to fear and none to betray.

Just what he had done to earn his Commendation as well as his Head Boy-ship was a mystery to the leading lights of Gryffindor. Fudge had not invited the 'Commended' to speechify, but simply acknowledged Zabini's 'protection of Hogwarts' students'. It was a mystery he was in two minds about unveiling to his new working partner - especially after he read the trenchant interview she gave to the Daily Prophet.

He adored people with a vision.

When the empty summer fireplace in the Burrow's kitchen erupted in green flames on Wednesday night, however, the limits of Blaise's allure looked as if they were to be tested. Most of the Weasleys present regarded him with a touch of suspicion.

He greeted everyone by name - correctly - introduced himself, and apologised for 'bursting in' on them.

"Could you tell me - is Hermione Granger staying here?"

The flames rendered him even more indefinable.

" Yes, I am. " Hermione stepped into view of the chimney and peered through the fire at the room behind Blaise's head: he had practised the exquisite courtesy of using Vyoo powder rather than Floo powder. This gave you a visual connection to the requested fireplace without actually transporting you to it.

The new Head Boy was crouching in what was unmistakably a Council flat high up a tower block. Identical and equally dour blocks cut the light from the window behind him, though the room itself looked pleasant enough. She could make out two people she assumed were his parents watching television. What she could see of his fireplace had a decidedly DIY air.

A Muggle-born Slytherin without his own Owl. Well - she squashed a newly exposed prejudice - why not?

"Oh - er, hello Blaise. How are you?"

"Great thanks. And you?"

"Um - fine."

"Listen - I just read your interview with Skeeter. It was great. Did you hypnotise her or what?"

Hermione shrugged, and gulped her thanks.

"It gave me an idea," Blaise continued, gabbling over her discomfort. "I met the woman who's over-seeing the next edition of Hogwarts', a History at the awards last Sunday - Alison McDougall - Morag's aunt. Well, you know how the nineteenth century editions always had an Afterword by the current Head Boy -"

Molly Weasly listened as she trimmed seakale. This Head-Boy-who-wasn't-a-Weasley obviously knew how to engage someone like Hermione.

"I thought - wouldn't it be good if we revived the tradition? But made it a joint Head Girl and Head Boy piece, of course. Especially as we're from - well, let's face it - opposite Houses..."

Hermione smiled. It was true - Hogwarts' loudest dramas always turned around Gryffindor and Slytherin, with the sensible Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as the buffers. Even the arrangement of the Great Hall tables illustrated that.

"That's a brilliant idea." (She was already picturing - not to be too ambitious - a footnote on house-elves.) "Do you think Mc Dougall will be interested?"

"Pretty sure - she was saying the book hasn't had a proper revision for years. It's totally out of touch - you'd think New Historicism never happened."

In Hermione's intellectual universe, it hadn't. Molly watched her jaw drop.

"The thing is, we need to be quite quick about it. They're rushing to go to press at the beginning of August. I've - um - already written a note to give her if you agreed."

Hermione was certain that, until Harry's Quidditch trial was over, she'd be abandoned to her own devices.

"I'm not doing much this week...Shall I Owl you a few ideas?"

"No," – Blaise sounded oddly alarmed, but then seemed to come to a decision. "It's not safe to send Owls to me." He leaned forward, speaking quietly. "The kids round here keep breaking onto the roof to throw bricks at the birds. They've killed quite a few owls."

"I'm so sorry. That's horrible," murmured Hermione.

"That's why Dad made the fireplace. You can send stuff by Floo if you wrap it in tinfoil, but I was thinking it might be easiest if we just met up somewhere."

From the other side of the fireplace, Mr Zabini had taken his eyes off the Channel 4 news and shifted them onto the young lady talking to his ungirlfriended son.

"Whaya dinna youse invaihta youra frienda te comma hee-yre."

Zabini Senior's accent was an unwritable blend of Glaswegian and Italian - of which Blaise's held no trace (except when talking to him.)

"You'd be very welcome to come to the Burrow, Blaise." said Molly, at the same time. "Hermione's with us all summer."

Hermione and Blaise exchanged a look of pure understanding -

This could be embarrassing. And how can anyone work in a noisy place like this?

"Maybe a coffee in Diagon Alley" said Hermione carefully.

"Bit packed now it's reopened. Astronomic Alley's still ok. The Observatory's dead quiet and you can work there for hours without the waiters bothering you."

Astronomic Alley, concealed amongst the Arcades in Cardiff, had a somewhat nerdy reputation that took the edge off the prices its name aspired to. Knowing it had hidden treasures like a writer-friendly café was cool in a way Hermione found totally unthreatening.

"Sounds perfect. How about tomorrow - what time do they open?"

"Ten. The Floo takes you to Stargazers'. I'll meet you there."

The delaying of NEWTs was especially irksome when you could finally Apparate. Holiday agic was still banned. Happily Floos and Portkeys, as 'public transport', didn't count.

Molly's mind raced. This Blaise Zabini was charming, unusual and obviously bright. He put her poor dear Ron in the shade, and had none of the repellent snobbery of the Slytherins she knew of. Of course, the creature might prefer boys, but you never knew these days, and Hermione was going to be working with him. Yes, better to have the two of them under her eye - as long as Ron could be trusted to demonstrate his new maturity and forbearance.

"You will both come back here for a proper lunch?" she insisted.

Blaise was now framed by hovering parents. A rapid volley of Glaswegian - Italian-flavoured and Original - hit him from both sides.

"That would be lovely, Mrs Weasley. And Mum says could you all come to Tea on Saturday in return. She wants to Market-Research her spaghetti sauces on you."

Slytherins, Hermione had to admit, could be wonderfully tactful. Blaise had avoided inviting her alone - and the return dinner invitation ('Tea') was presented as the guests doing a favour. Social Score 20 all. The Zabini's were hard to place - somehow the people and the environment didn't match.

A handful of Weasleys had now gathered round the novelty in the chimney. Arthur pushed in front of a decidedly knackered Percy, looking particularly intrigued.

"But aren't you the people who make ices? I'm sure I bought a 'Zabini' cornet from one of those refrigging vehicles in -"


Arthur's gallivants in the Gorbals (Abuse of Muggle Artifacts) was the stuff of family groans.

Blaise had kept his face very straight.

"That," he murmured, "was before the Ice-cream wars."

"People fought over ice-cream?" spluttered Molly.

"Yes," Blaise glanced up at his parents. " But don't get them started or you'll get the whole saga - Ice Wars, Frozen Empire Strikes Back and Return to Castlemilk."

He grinned.

"See you tomorrow Hermione. Good night, Mrs Weasley, Mr Weasley, Ginny, Percy."

Blaise and his Mundane context vanished.

"He seems nice," commented Ginny. "How did he get through toffee-nosed Slytherin?"

To Hermione, Molly Weasley suddenly looked quite calculating.


The bowling alley was smellier in summer. Just what the Headmaster found appealing in the combined whiffs of overpriced beer, sweaty armpits and sweaty-trainers-with-veneer-of-sterilising-spray, Severus didn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to. There was no denying that you got your authentic slice of Muggle Life. Wizard simulacra of Muggle traditions (a small but critical part of the magical tourist industry) bore the same relation to the real thing as Disneyland castles to châteaux on the Loire.

The noise, for once, was more than welcome. Admittedly, he shared Dumbledore's interest in overheard conversations. Shifts in communal obsessions marked the changes in the great Muggle world, whose non-literary form struck Severus as a swarming anonymity. He and Albus had indirectly witnessed the high-energy corrosion of the Thatcher years, the apathetic shrugs of Major's Britain and the ersatz optimism of New Labour. For the game itself Snape had less affection. Hell, in his view, had a bowling alley. He'd evaded boredom only by personifying the pins. Thus were Marauders smashed, Harry blasted, Moody, Malfoys, Crabbe-n-Goyles, Karkaroff, and every DADA teacher flattened. Voldemort had been beyond the mind-game's sour jokes, and Dumbledore had come in for it just the once - that fit of resentment after Potter's third year, when the Headmaster shamed him over the Lupin affair. Regrets and his New Improved Wolfsbane were duly supplied. In finding Sirius generally innocent, though, Dumbledore had overstepped the mark. Severus had said nothing, taken a swing at the imagined twinkle - and paid for the pleasure in guilt.

"Tired, Steve?"

They were queuing for shoes in the main concourse, and could of course be overheard by the Muggles. A muffling charm was feasible, but Dumbledore liked to do these things 'without tricks', and could pull off a passable Estuary.

"Not at all," (Severus steeled himself - his Estuary was less secure) "Al."

It was a lie. He was drowsy, not restful, from the long sleep, and the afternoon had been one of hurried little tasks. The hair booking he'd managed (a cancellation, though the receptionist gave the distinct impression that appointments at Toby's were nebulous things). Black was Owled, and he'd replied briefly to the other letters - one from Blaise Zabini (sent in Iceland oven-wrap; Flooed back in same) and one from a group of neutral ex-Slytherins who ran a potions company. They regularly picked his brains and were now offering him a job - 'No Voldie - no excuses!' He'd declined, washed, walked to Hogsmeade and Flooed to the Ministry of Magic meeting, where he'd barely taken in the proceedings.

"Ready then"?

They nabbed some chairs by their lane and changed footwear.

'Al' was dapper in blue jeans, matching denim bomber and Hawaiian shirt. His hair and beard were magically shrunk. So, it seemed, was his body. It always shocked Severus to see the outline of it so clearly. The Headmaster looked thin, flabby and frail, as if his majesty were kept in his robes. 'Steve' wore his usual black - this time as T- shirt, jeans and tacky blouson version of his jacket (worse for wear, despite Granger's clean-up.) He hoped his transfigurations and supplementary concealment charms would last.

Severus simply nodded. His voices subsided to murmurs against the babble as they pushed their way through to their aisle. The midweek evening session was surprisingly lively.

Their game began.

They chucked the balls in companiable wordlessness, until Albus said -

"Not playing with your customary vigour, Steve? Lost your old targets?"

(Convinced of Estuary's classlessness, he kept his usual vocabulary.)

'Steve' was actually struggling to compose a speech. The Headmaster's gift of five years' freedom demanded Thanks on a grand scale, but he had little experience in Thanking. Hunched over the ball and about to cast, he looked up.

For a smile rarely practised, it was damn convincing. He remembered to use his eyes more than his mouth.

(Dumbledore always thought it was like seeing the hidden part of a tapestry long rolled up: you marvelled at the still-vivid colours beside the sun-faded ones; seeing, in that miraculously-preserved expression, the boy who'd never been.)

"I 'spose Wotsisname took my grudges with him, Al. No more battles, no more sulks."

The dig at Albus' belittling of certain passions in his life hardly went unnoticed, but the Headmaster side-stepped them.

"And how will you do without your battles?"

Severus dropped his head again, and let the ball roll limply. The pins remained standing.

"Fine, Al, just fine."

He's up to something. If Black's been blabbing -

He did the smile again.

"But you know that already."

He threw another ball and finished his set.

"This - Sabbatical. You arranged it - didn't you? "

The Headmaster rolled a ball in his hands. He knew just what was bothering Severus.

"Guilty as charged. When I wasn't allowed to employ you on a proper basis, I made it - impossible - for the officials to keep the salary difference in their coffers without grave loss of face. Then I brought in this Bank Director to organise the investments..."

He toppled the pins in one go. Urmuck-the-Brass was popularly known as He-Who-Must-Be-Avoided-at-Any-Cost.

Severus did a few preparatory swings with his next ball in what he trusted was a laid- back manner.

Humour him; we're doing this for the last time.

"It is not from my personal funds;" said Dumbledore. "It's not charity. It's your money. Except for being bound by the Sabbatical to stop you giving it away."

"Ow- why should you think I'd do that?"

The ball was on his foot. Albus retrieved it

"I'm afraid your room wasn't the only part of your life the Ministry got to examine."

He sighed emphatically.

"I wish I'd known before now. Your account was such a credit to you, I had trouble convincing them I hadn't guessed and tipped you off had to hint some of your anonymous donations were a bit naughtier than they seemed. Don't look at me like that, Steve. Did your reputation a world of good - the psychiatrists thought it a healthy sign."

To his delight, Steve' had already snatched the offered ball and hurled it down the alley. Then another, and a third for one last obstinate target. The Hat's most worrying observation had been: I can't find any anger. None.

"To give the Ministry its due, it was one of their people who advised ring-fencing your savings once they were released. By Sabbatical was my idea, mind."

They waited for the balls to dribble back.

"You want me to go, Al."

Re-ignition Burning Eyes.

"As much as Prospero did Ariel. Like him, I keep delaying your release."

Oh gods, not the Bardic casting session. Definitely up to something.

"Ariel's done his jobs and is grateful for the golden handshake. My students would do better with a new Head of House."

"You underestimate the glamour of being a spy."

Steve' indiscreetly spat the word Pah in a most eighteenth century manner.

"Remember how few students know your full history, that those who do are sworn to secrecy. The way your Slytherins will tell it, their Head of House spent years drawing the hatred and suspicion of all decent people on his head to bolster his heroic deception and cunning manipulation of the Dark side. None of which is untrue. You are their answer to the Golden Gryffindors." (Pah!) "But I haven't engineered the delay only to exploit you further, much as you are needed this year."

A most twentieth century Oy' interrupted them.

"You playing or you gassing? If you're gassing we'll have your patch."

They repelled the intruder with thoroughly disquieting stares and returned to the game.

All right Headmaster, have the next move.

"Why not deliver the whole speech instead of pretending this is a conversation."

Dumbledore got in another strong shot, smug in his unique ability to manipulate Snape.

"I too intend to take a Sabbatical in a year's time, Steve, but mine will be - permanent. I do not wish to spend my last year at the school without you there. I should miss you."

His next throw was oddly feeble.

Snape stared at his employer and protector in astonishment. He had always understood Dumbledore's care of him to be as the artisan's for a tool; his paternal kindness that of one in the general business of soul-saving; the conditionality of that all too obvious in the whipping-away of approval at any lapse in maturity.'


No one can nail Albus Dumbledore. He bounces and bobs and is lighter-than-air. With him, affection, not reputation, is your bubble. It tantalised Severus for twenty years: ever within reach, never to be grasped. In wartime only did the bubble settle and solidify - into something else: mutual dependency, intimacy of crisis, trust.

Severus had been certain of Albus' trust, hopeful of his respect - doubtful of his liking. So he'd mirrored the bubble: a dance of tentative approaches and cold retreats.

Dumbledore, speaking very low, transmitted his message without ambiguity.

"We have had so little time, Severus. No real time; free from threat, from your history and mine, from inequality and obligation. I feared so very much that you would be sacrificed by others, that there would never be time."

He punctuated it, wandlessly and imperceptibly, with a mild Confundus charm. It took five more shots to finish off the pins, and he straightened up rather slowly.

He likes me; I'm dear to him. He wouldn't have done the same for anyone.

"It is important for me that you unlearn one of my earliest lessons to you."

Only Albus can pull off such sentimentality, but the admission and the apology arrive twenty-four years late. Recompense is a dish best served hot.

"That you are not of lesser value than the others. Nor merely my dark Ariel."

The bubble Affection is in Severus' hands; robust as the ball he's supposed to throw, and getting heavier by the second.

Oh Gods, Dumbledore, not now. Not when I can't - Not now.

He was going to hurt - disappoint - the Headmaster, and that would be the memory of Severus Snape: ingratitude, after everything done for him; betrayal, after all.

The bubble weighs like canon-ball, but he can't let it drop.

There Dumbledore leaves it. He has a great deal more to do, but it must be in stages, the coils tightened bit by bit.

They finished the game in silence, for Severus found he could communicate nothing - save his usual submission to the pleasures of fish-and-chips.

He cast his last shot at the inaccurate memory of his own reflection - and missed.


Hermione, clutching her notebook (minus the calculations about Professor Snape, which for some reason she'd torn out and disposed of) arrived at ten o'clock sharp in Astronomic Alley. Blaise was waiting for her. He proffered a clothes-brush as she stepped out of the Fireplace.

"Let's get out of here pronto."

Stargazers sold the latest astronomical toys to the sound of very loud, very bad music.

After that, the café was blissful. It was a worn-looking – no, burnished - place. Everything in it was dark, buffed up and clunky. Coffee came in an enamel pot with jugs of warm milk, cold milk and a plate of chocolate biscuits.

"Looks like a Ravenclaw hangout, " said Hermione, recognising some of the clientèle from the years above her.

"It is. There're debating evenings and guest speakers here every Wednesday. It used to be the inn where the goblins planned their Second Rebellion. Actually, it's still where most rebellions are planned."

He grinned.

"Do you know a lot of people in Ravenclaw?" asked Hermione.

"A few," said Blaise, in a way that could have meant all of them or one of them. "How come you don't? You could qualify as one."

The bluntness caught Hermione off guard. Blaise had picked up on the wistfulness in her question. He was determined to befriend the Dementor Girl, and had decided directness was the best strategy.

"I suppose I've always had Harry and Ron. They keep you pretty busy;"

"But they're Boys," protested Blaise, as if he, personally, didn't belong to that category.

Hermione stiffened.

"Well, I was never into girly stuff - like Lavender and Parvati obssessing over make-up. Harry and Ron's adventures were much more fun."

"Their adventures? What about your adventures - in the head?"

"Got them in the Library."

"Without side-kicks for the road?"


"The Ravenclaw women in our year – they're not bad you know; Lisa Turpin's as good as got Binns chucked out – he's under observation next year – and Mandy Brocklehurst runs this politics and philosophy group –"

Blaise's act, while not un-together, was far off its eventual refinement. He had been lonely too long, then under-cover too long, to get every new interaction right. The direct strategy suited his current state too well. He couldn't resist spilling out his precocity, his warmth, his fanaticism, indiscriminately.

"Sounds like fiddling while Hogwarts' burned." declared Hermione; "At least I worked on something useful."

Blaise looked her straight in the eye.

"Long term, what they're doing is useful. It's about breaking the British wizard mindset. That begins with barriers between the houses; Voldemort exploited it so well. Do you know how many unemployed ex-Hufflepuffs joined him? Inferiority complex learned at school, fewer mates around to make you feel ok - tendency to be loyal and devoted. Perfect rank-and file DE fodder. "

Hermione nibbled the chocolate from a biscuit.

"But the Ravenclaws are so snotty! They make people feel they aren't clever enough for their little cliques."

"The clique's got people from three houses. They only didn't approach Gryffindors because they thought there'd be too much tension with Slytherins, and the Slytherins needed them more. And they did work on useful short-term stuff. They'd have got further if you'd been on board."

"What sort of stuff?"

"One for the Dementors,for starters; a Matrona charm. They noticed Gryffindor witches were the only girls who didn't have real problems with the Patronus, even with Professor Lupin coaching loads of upper years to success; Mandy reckoned the non-Gryffindors couldn't identify with a father-figure emblem."

Hermione worked though the not-chocolate bit.

"Why wasn't it taken up – before my trap I mean?"

"Ravencluff rigour. Huffleclaw hesitation." (Blaise was already practising the art of the soundbite.) "They wanted to be certain, they wanted to be totally right, not risk looking like idiots. Lost time arguing whether they should be de-gendering Patronus rather than creating a matriarchal rival."

Hermione hmphed. No wonder they hadn't got anywhere.

"I did try to push them, but – well, I had a lot going on. Then you stepped in with your trap and your partnership with Vector."

The Dementor Girl considered the implications of all this.

"They must think I'm a total cow."

Blaise was relieved she'd said it first.

"Well - more the Queen Bee; they don't know you, they're jealous, and feel rejected by you."

"How d they work that out? I've never rejected them."

"You've never noticed them."

"That's not difficult when you never have lessons together."

"Yeah, it's a bummer. And us Slytherins to blame because if we went into the same classroom as the Huffs we'd eat them alive."

"Well you would, wouldn't you?"

Blaise smiled.

"There was a boy the year below me who didn't taste too bad."

He garnered - and recognised - the look immediately: the disappointed-then-relieved one that said - Oh goody, he's Gay. Can relax. He'll spy in the enemy camp for me and make a fun accessory for date-free clubbing.

Or for having coffee and biccies in places that aren't pubs. Blaise was well aware of that special, exquisite bond between straight women and gay men.

The divulsion softened Hermione's next question.

"Why are you telling me this? I thought we here to discuss this article."

"We are. This is what's it all about - we could change so much at Hogwarts', given what we've done and where we're from. Now's the time. People always underestimate an interregnum - when history slips in unnoticed and changes everyone's direction. H.A.H will be in Flourish and Blott's by the time term starts, and if we write something really persuasive, we'll be well set up. But take it from a Slytherin - politics with a small 'p' can really mess things up. You don't want get all snagged up in personality clashes you could have prevented, or have your authority questioned from the off. Besides," (he dimpled into a grin) "I'm not the sort of person who'd use your problems to make myself look good."

Hermione's cheeks burned. He'd understood, before she had, the implication of her question.

"It's all right", Blaise reassured her. "You're only judging Slythes by the brats who draw attention to themselves."

They both fell silent, thinking of the same Brat. Hermione drained her coffee and refilled before speaking.

"Blaise - what happened to Draco? Do you know?"

Draco Malfoy had disappeared from Hogwarts a year before the siege, and had not been seen since. His departure had been a relief to most - he was the fatal chink in Hogwarts' armour. "Better out than in", people joked. Assuming he'd gone to Voldemort, many were surprised when Draco did not appear with the Death Eaters' army surrounding the school. Lucius Malfoy's timely defection to the Light might have explained this, but whereas Malfoy senior had been glimpsed before he left the country, of Draco there was no sign. There was some speculation that he was dead along with his mother.

Blaise thought about the conversation he'd had with his Head of House on Honours Day.

Bloody fool won't go to Beauxbatons, insists on re-integrating into Hogwarts. Deal with it by yourself if you can, or get Granger in with you. Not the other Slytherins - we want Draco out of their way. Granger has more reasons than most to loathe Malfoy, but you'll find her perfectly co-operative if you convince her it's for the general good. In fact, given the clout she has, it might be an idea for you to cultivate Granger

Draco was the blot on his visionary landscape, the Slytherin you had to explain away. Hermione seemed concerned as well as curious, however.

She's insufferably high minded, but that can be useful - no bad thing to be associated with on your part either.

It had galled Blaise not to be considered high minded himself, but, as the professor had said, "If people think you're high minded they'll say you were miss-Sorted."

Blaise leaned forward and, checking the nearby tables were still empty, spoke low.

"He's alive. He'll be coming back to Hogwarts. In fact, he never left."


"He was there all the time. In the South East Tower - you know - the one they never use?"

Hermione nodded.

"It used to be the Slytherin tower didn't it?"

"Yeah - before we put ourselves into the dungeons."

The purge of 1791, Hermione thought - which wasn't in Hogwarts, a History.

"But - I mean - what was he doing there? All that time..."

"Good question. And between now and start of term we need to come up with an answer that works, otherwise Draco's a loose canon just waiting to go off."

"Works in what way exactly?"

"Something that stops people asking, leaves him a bit of dignity and keeps him quiet. The thing is, Draco never actually joined the Death Eaters. We prevented it."

Hermione rested her chin on her hands, looking thoughtful.

"Hogwarts imprisoned him."

"Hogwarts protected him. He was under a lot of coercion from his father, of course; but he overestimated his standing in Slytherin. Draco assumed that the majority of us would join Voldemort with him, but that - didn't happen."

Hermione smiled. "Shows people are never what they seem."

Blaise didn't smile.

"We prevented it," he said, a little curt. "Anyway, the point came when Draco decided it was in his better interests to defy Lucius. He went to the Headmaster to ask for protection and to - well offer his services as some one who could infiltrate - wheedle stuff out of his father, though he wasn't wild about taking the Mark. Dumbledore was all for trusting him, and brought in Snape, but Snape refused to play ball. Said Draco wasn't up to it, he'd crumble under pressure. He swore he couldn't be relied on, that he was interested in protecting himself, not others. So Draco insisted on taking Veritaserum - but what he confessed under it just proved Snape's point. Draco has no values. He doesn't know what he thinks because he's always been thought for. They all agreed he was especially vulnerable, that he'd be targeted by his father, forced to make a breach in Hogwarts' defences. So they gave him a choice: take his chances by getting expelled from Hogwarts for suspected Death Eater activity, and prove Snape wrong if he could - the Aurors would be told - or stay under the school's protection indefinitely, but removed from all contact with other students. Non-magical room, no wand. He chose the low risk option - not very Slytherin. Malfoy senior disowned him. 'Pathetic little tyke don't even make a decent turncoat'."

"But if they'd let Draco out he could have betrayed Snape! I can't believe Dumbledore was stupid enough to blow his cover in front of Draco just because he came to him with a sob story about his father."

"Not stupid at all - he was being very clever. Dumbledore knew he could invoke the restrictions against Obliviate on wizards. It forced the situation - once Draco knew, they could lock him up with impunity. Or if he'd been really, really trustworthy, let him out to be a hero with the knowledge he needed. Then of course Snape was master at playing to both sides at once - giving everything a double meaning that really was doubled up - read the way different people wanted to read it."

Hermione nodded, remembering some knife-edge moments in their Potions classes.

"Draco couldn't know whether Snape was bluffing Dumbledore or Voldemort." Blaise continued. "Whether he was now in peril from Snape-the Death Eater, or if Snape-the-spy thought he was in peril from himself. All he knew was that when Snape flatly rejected him as an infiltrator he was basically saying Draco was useless - as a Death Eater or as a member of the Order. Draco's really got it in for Snape. It's like he confiscated his rebellion, made him miss the War. He's done nothing to prove himself either way."

Hermione tried to imagine a life held in suspension like that.

"Was he treated all right? I mean, to be completely isolated. It'd drive anyone mad - especially some one as simple as Draco - no inner resources."

Blaise enjoyed the bitchiness disguised as concern.

"He was always in touch with the teachers. They kept his theoretical studies going, he had the House-elves attending to him - I think he learned to be much nicer to them. It was just Pansy and I who had contact. We wrote to him, sent him books and tapes. He had to learn to use a Muggle radio-cassette. With no magical reception up there, he could get stuff from the real world instead."

Hermione had never met anyone else at Hogwarts who referred to the Muggle world, even ironically, as the 'real' one.

"Things must have got pretty bad for him though - he got addicted to The Archers."

Hermione snorted.

"Better not let that one slip into the cover story."

"Or him slip up the tower every night at 7."

"So is Pansy still his girlfriend?"

"No way. She ditched him very quietly at the start of the war. She still feels responsible for him, though. Fought tooth and nail to have him let out for his mother's funeral, though in the end it was Lucius' turnabout allowed that."

Hermione was looking very rueful.

"Of all the people I had down as Death Eater dolls, Pansy was top of the list."

"Same here. She was the first we found out."

"Who is this is 'we' you keep talking about? People are saying there must have been a Slytherin cabal working for the Light. That was you and who else?"

Time for more divulsionary tactics.

"I suppose you could say I began it. Don't look impressed. It's not an impressive story. It's not like Harry facing down Voldemort, or you creating the Dementor trap. I'm what prevented Slytherins joining Voldemort - not just Slytherins, but over half my - um - targets were in my own house."

"But that's amazing."

He was suddenly toneless.

"False recruiting. Do you remember these?" He fished around in his satchel and produced some leaflets. "I've saved them to give Alison Mc Dougall. They're putting in a chapter on Hogwarts during the second war."

The leaflets were and weren't familiar - smaller, non-descript Slytherin-directed versions of the warnings that had appeared in all common rooms at the beginning of their fifth year.


As a student of Slytherin House, you are more likely than most to be identified by Death Eaters as a potential recruit. Even if your family is not Pureblood, even if they have never been involved in Dark Magic (or dubious business practices!) the mythology surrounding our House has become 'fact' for both sides.

Voldemort wants YOU.

Do not believe that he will give you power or privilege or freedom.

He will promise you the world, but never give it to you.

What he wants is your servitude.

He will do anything to get it.

He will threaten your family, he will threaten anyone you care for

- and he will carry out his threats.

Your family may already be his servants.

That does not mean you have to be.

You are not a puppet.

Recruitment happens by direct approach or by letter.

Do not put yourself in the position of being approached directly - once direct contact is made, you are trapped. NEVER go unaccompanied to Hogsmeade. Have at least one person in the group you are with from another House. Do not wear a Slytherin scarf or tie or any insignia that marks you out as a 'patriotic' House member. This strategy may seem unworthy, but it is necessary. Your life and your freedom depend on it.

Recruitment letters come in many forms.

Some are open and threatening. Most take on the guise of ordinary 'recruitment' drives from the business community - particularly for sixth and seventh year students. Even if a 'milk-round' letter appears to be genuine, DO NOT ANSWER IT. You are not risking your career. All that stuff is on hold now that we are on the brink of War. Above all do not go - even accompanied - to any rendez-vous proposed by the letter.

Open all letters you receive in company.

If you receive a recruitment letter, do not panic, however threatening it is.

Go to our Head of House or to the Headmaster WITHOUT DELAY.

They know what to do and will enable you to protect yourself and yours.

If your family is putting pressure on you, the Headmaster's door is open.

"We - I - slipped fake recruitment letters into people's dorms. It was important that they didn't come by normal owl post, that people thought it was all happening by sneakier channels. They had to be staggered pretty carefully, but about a quarter of the Slytherin sixth and seventh year had had one by the end of autumn term. I cut in front of nearly all the real recruitment letters."

"But why did it have to be you - why not the staff?"

"In case people traced the letters back to sender. No one in Slytherin knew anything about me. I could have been on either side. But I knew about Slytherins. I'd been watching them for five years. I had an idea who was more likely to turn, who not. The students who went straight to Dumbledore were no problem. Pansy did that. And poor Millicent."

His hands balled suddenly into fists.

"Wish I'd known Millicent sooner. She was all right, Mills. Bloody terrified me in my first year though; I didn't notice she could be a friend 'til the war."

Hermione tried to look sympathetic. She knew it was irrational, but somehow, she'd never quite forgiven Bulstrode for turning her into a cat.

"What about the ones who didn't go to Dumbledore?"

"Well, anyone who went to Snape got a fun time while he sussed out if they'd come thinking he was on the Dark side or on ours. He passed them on to Dumbledore, who dealt with them personally or dumped them on the Ministry. The ones who kept stum, who didn't go to anyone, got a second letter, insisting on a meeting. If they didn't turn up, I approached them - or as the plan progressed, one of the people who'd gone to Dumbledore did. We tried to get past the letter-stage as fast as possible, so that the recruiting seemed to be happening directly, in-House. Once we had a few people we could trust, it proceeded like that. Got people much more creeped out, which helped. We worked through the whole house, and many outside it. Some students even approached us, thinking we were Dark. We reported them to the Ministry. When people turned up for their rendez-vous, they met with Aurors. Always just within the school grounds, so they'd be whipped over the boundary and Apparated direct to the D.o.M."

"And then what?" Hermione almost squeaked.

"I hate to think. Some came back converted to our side. The rest came back with no memory of what had happened to them. DoM exemptions in times of war and so on. We watched them to see if they got real approaches afterwards. In some cases we sent another letter to test them again. They've ended up a bit like Draco - did nothing, estranged from family, missed the War and don't know why. The Ministry has records on them. They'll be surveyed indefinitely."

Hermione shuddered, and retreated, as she often did, into the mechanics of things.

"But - how could Dumbledore be absolutely sure of people? It would have only taken one person cunning enough to seem to play ball to have blown the whole thing open. Were they all force-fed Veritaserum?"

"Oh no - that's illegal. There were other ways - much simpler."

Blaise let her hang a few moments, then leaned even closer, whistling a jaunty tune she'd heard many years ago.

"There's nothing that's inside your head the Sorting Hat can't see

I'll eat myself if you can find a smarter hat than me."

Hermione was beginning seriously to dislike that Hat.

"It was still really dangerous. I don't think you should feel ashamed. You were brilliant."

(She supposed she should think of another word, but as it had been so serviceable in the last day or two, didn't bother.)

"Thanks for the benediction."

Hermione buried her head in her hands.

"I'm not made to get it right with Slytherins am I?"

"You're doing fine."

Blaise pushed the last chocolate biscuit in her direction and caught a waiter's eye for more coffee.

"So - where do we start with this Afterword?" Hermione asked.

"Getting Mc Dougall to make it Preface, since most people don't read through to the Afterword?"

Hermione could imagine Ron giving just the same advice, though in a different style.

Blaise put a sheaf of stapled papers on the table.

'Photocopies of the chapters on the houses. Didn't want to lug the whole book here, and we can scribble on these. I really miss magic sometimes. This took ages - the paper kept jamming because the post-office copier's really crap, and I had to stop people looking over my shoulder to see what it was, which isn't easy when you're in a queue of people wanting to do their DSS forms and tax returns before going to work or sign on."

The Castlemilk estate was clearly a starkly different environment from Hermione's well-serviced corner of London. She felt slightly guilty that Blaise had already worked so hard but was letting her cash in on his idea.

"I thought we could get some ideas by taking each house chapter and noting everything that isn't really true, or is an exaggeration - and anything they've missed out that you know of. Each do our own then swap - then do the Ravencluffs?"

"Maybe we should consult some Ravencluffs? Then put in an acknowledgment for their contribution?"

"You'll be a politician yet."

"It is a good place to start," said Hermione. "It was Hogwarts a History that made me think Gryffindor was the best."

"So that's why you weren't sorted to Ravenclaw. Did you just ask?"

"No - the Hat tricked me. It went - 'Hmmn - high intellectual aspirations - you expect to walk into Ravenclaw with those brains, don't you? But I'm not sure. You haven't had the most rigorous education. Not a selective school was it - no Latin, no benefits of the private sector training. Might not have the background '

Blaise was laughing.

"So of course I was off, telling him he was being TOTALLY elitist and that my local Juniors was JUST as good as any snotty Prep school and I'd already taught myself Latin for spells. 'Gryffindor - thought so!'"

Hermione didn't counter this by asking Blaise about his Sorting. She thought it might be a touchy subject.

Then they settled down to work, eagerly scoring their texts. For the more they analysed the present, the more they planned their utopia, the more they found themselves distracted by the sheer weight of tradition in those photocopied pages. It was complex, it was pernickety, tracing the lines of cause and effect from past to present, wondering what could be disentangled and cast ahead.

In the café that hatched the second Goblin rebellion, two little Angels of History skipped sideways into the future, looking every which way.


I sweated blood for this. Even if it wasn't worth it, please review. Ask questions, make observations, bring in the stuff you knowI'm interested in how the characters strike you.

Or just leave one or two words to let me know you read it and want it continued.

Next chapter - should not take a year; Its scenes are a bit clearer in my mind. Realistically - I have two exhibitions whose openings coincide mid to late June, so I'm out of action until after then. Nothing else lined up after that apart from promise to self to create RL art website with help of Mr Sphinx. (Typical artists' calendar). So, I should be writing chapter 5 in July and August - if Book 5 doesn't have some terrible effect on it.


i The Magic Flute poster was a close-up monochrome photograph of a man looking up at a single light bulb but blindfolded by the body of a snake. It summed up the opera's Enlightenment tensions between reason and passion brilliantly. (Shame about the production, which was very conservative - firmly on Sarastro's side rather than the Queen of the Night's.)

ii 'The Sniper': George Weasley's moniker for Snape in Morrighan's fic "George Weasley, Shadow Man". Angel of the North argues Molly wouldn't use the term, but I can imagine her adopting some Fred and George slang as ammunition.

iii Female ministers of magic. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them mentions a female chief of the Wizard's Council, whereas the canon ministry seems to have witches in secondary positions (and male idiots like Ludo Bagman in a top job!)

iv Rowan's Tenpin Bowl still exists, but I've never been there. I was a Sarf Lundenner myself. It's opening hours are 10 am round the clock to 4am. Thanks to J L Matthews for the low-down on the true horrors of such places...

v Socialist Workers Party - small political party well to the left of the mainstram Labour Party, but not as far-left as the Workers Revolutionary Party. Britain's voting system, however, gives very little leverage to any group that isn't fairly close to the political centre. Our Socialist and Communist Parties are taken less seriously than their equivalents on the continent, who do actually get parliamentary seats. The current conservative party, pushed way over to the Right by Thatcher, hasn't clawed its way back and seems to have lost credibility as the government's main opposition. Especially as Tony Blair behaves like the old One Nation Tories (mild, more or less well-meaning, paternalist Right.)

vi Flanders and Swann. The quotation is from the recording 'At the Drop of Another Hat'; the song is called The Reluctant Cannibal. It concerns a young cannibal who, to his reactionary father's outrage, refuses to eat the Roast Leg of Insurance Salesman. ("I will never let another man pass my lips!" "Musta bin someone 'e ate.") The son's radical stance evaporates only when Dad points out it would be as stupid not to eat people as not to fight them. Flanders and Swann were a comic song-writing duo in the 1950s. Very British. The sort-of-contemporary duo 'Kit and the Widow' are modelled very closely on them.

vii "Estuary" is an English accent, named after the area around the mouth of the Thames. It is pitched half-way between cockney and Received Pronunciation, and is de rigeur for anyone who wants to conceal their class origins, whether they reinvent themselves 'upwards' or 'downwards'. It came to the fore during the Yuppie 1980s, especially among trendy media types. Socially and politically equalising, it is, unfortunately, not particularly distinctive or musical compared to the accents of Northern England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland).

viii - Glasgow is in Scotland. It's most famous slum tenement area is/was "The Gorbals". Many of the tenement blocks were torn down and replaced by large estates of high rise blocks, amongst which is Castlemilk. Glasgow was named City of Culture in the 1990s. It is famous for the art nouveau designer Charles Renée Macintosh (the School of Art was designed by him, and it's lovely). It has its posh districts and its artists and its yuppies too - and one of Britains very best theatre companies (in the Gorbals) the Glasgow Citizens Theatre.

Blaise repressed his accent very early in his Hogwarts career. His father is a Squib, with touch and go associations with his sorceror relatives; his mother is Muggle. They are not 'natives' of the Gorbals - declassé (victims of negative equity in the Thatcher years) rather than working class proper.

iX New historicism; a branch of literary criticism that has interested some historians. It combines post-structuralist theories with a more grounded attention to historical context and non-literary texts of the same epoch. It departs from both the 'great individual author' approach to literature and the 'significant individuals' explanation of history. Classic examples are Stephen Greenblatt's "Renaissance Self-Fashioning", Jonathan Dollimore's 'Radical Tragedy' and Catherine Besley's 'The Subject of Tragedy'. Christopher Hill's books on 17th century revolutionaries aren't NH, but something of a precursor in combining literature and history. I imagine Blaise is, in secret, a very advanced, demanding student of Muggle Studies.

X Ice Cream wars. Actually not that funny. Rival owners of ice cream vans in vendettas over business territory. There were some deaths. Google has details.

Xi: Blaise's story was planned ages and ago. There are, however, similarities between it and the trapping of Slytherin students in a time warp in Anna's "Roman Holiday", which I read a few monthsback. KazVL's male Blaise from a recent chapter of "Falling Further In" is also a "subtle and intelligent" 'good Slytherin'. Have read far too many Snape-Hermiones for my own goodThe recruiting details owe a lot to Barb of "The Triangle of Prophecy' trilogy.

xi Walter Benjamin's line has been borrowed: "The Angel of History rushes backwards into the future."

xii - David Hare's play "Plenty" tells the story of an English heroine of the Resistance who finds her self shunted to the political margins in the post-war era of 50s complacency and backlash sexism. The last line, cried out on a hilltop on a beautiful sunny afternoon just at the end of the war, is a devasting flashback. "There will be days and days and days like this!". Meryl Streep took the role in the film that by rights should have been Kate Nelligan's - she created the part, and it's very difficult for anyone who saw her in it to dissiciate her with it.