Hermione's groan echoed in the unnatural silence in the Great Hall. Her side felt like it had been hit with a cricket bat, and she got to her feet painfully. She looked at her surroundings and gasped. Everyone in the Great Hall was lying on the ground, arms and necks at awkward angles, and fast asleep.
Something shifted at Hermione's side, and out of the corner of her eye she could see the hilt of a cutlass sticking out from an opening in her armor. Curious, she pulled the weapon out. It was bent oddly, as if it had been slammed into a stone wall.
After loosening the sidestrap on her cuirass, she examined what lay beneath. The cambric undershirt beneath her armor was cleanly cut, with only the tiniest amount of fraying. She shuddered. Nott's cutlass had been very sharp. It shouldn't have merely bruised her, it should have pierced her through the ribs. Why hadn't it? Hermione unbuckled the rest of her cuirass straps, hoping for a closer look at her shirt. She looked down at herself and began to laugh.
Sir Gawain's green kirtle. Alan had encouraged her to wear it beneath her armor so she would match his dress. She had completely forgotten the magical properties that tempted Gawain to keep the kirtle in the first place. Relieved beyond words, she strapped her armor back on and set her mind to figuring out what to do next.
Everyone in the Great Hall had been incapacitated. It seemed expedient to prevent any further unpleasantness by restraining those responsible for it. She located Nott immediately, disarmed him and conjured cables to bind him fast. She cast a quick Levicorpus and floated him to the bandstand. Pleased at the sight, she similarly bound Amyctus and Alecto Carrow and placed them on either side of Nott, taking care to collect their wands. She found Alan a Dale snoozing peacefully, knives still in hand. She adjusted him slightly so that he lay flat on the floor, in hopes that his neck would not be stiff when he awoke.
MacNair, still stiff from her Full Body Bind, was concealed beneath several revelers. He quickly joined his friends onstage. On an impulse, she added Umbridge to the pile, after rifling through her pockets for anything incriminating. All she found was a crystal inkwell, which Hermione assumed had been a Portkey before Professors Flitwick and Sprout disarmed it at the entrance to the Great Hall. Still, Hermione was not about to be reckless and hid the inkwell along with the Death Eaters' wands beneath the Headmistress's seat.
Now all she was missing was Malfoy. Suddenly, it occurred to her why everyone had fallen asleep. "The worst," as Professor McGonagall termed it, had nearly occurred to someone. Steeling herself for what she might find and which student or students might be involved, she raised her wand.
"Accio Lucius Malfoy's mask!"
She heard the mask strap snap, and her gaze jerked to a fabric bunting along the far wall. Malfoy's red satin domino came flying, tugging up the bunting from the wall and displaying an awful sight. Malfoy was slumped over Professor Snape. Horrified, she ran over to the two men and pulled Malfoy off her professor, tossing him viciously to the side. Professor Snape was leaning rigidly against the wall, trousers and underwear around his ankles.
Torn between admiring the view and preserving her Professor's dignity, she pulled up his trousers firmly and removed the Full Body Bind. He fell limply to the floor, still fast asleep. Reassured that he had come to no harm, she turned her attention to Malfoy, who lay on the floor. He appeared to be enjoying a lovely dream.
She pointed her wand at the hated face. "Depilato!" It was with great satisfaction that every hair on Malfoy's head, including his hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, fell to the floor in a spill of platinum blonde. She grinned. Lucius had an oddly shaped head. She floated his body to the bandstand and on an impulse set Malfoy's limp form on top of Umbridge.
After admiring her handiwork, she made her way to the Minister of Magic's seat. He sat slumped in his chair. She stood for a few moments, measuring the pompous arse she'd known in school against the rather lost-looking man before her. Losing his father had been hard on him, though she knew he would never admit it. He'd been clever to toss his hat into the political ring at that point, when public sympathy had been at its highest. But now, with public opinion turned against him and his absurd policies, what would he do? And more importantly, would anyone daft or ambitious enough to seek the office do a better job?
At that point, Hermione made a decision. Percy Weasley would remain Minister of Magic for as long as he chose. Short of claiming to have been under the Imperius Curse, he would take some of the blame for the Department of Deflorestation debacle. But if she could get him to mend his rift with Hogwarts, perhaps there might be hope for him.
She searched his robes for the speech that she knew would be there. She unrolled the scroll, frowning to see Dolores Umbridge's script on the page. She transfigured a quill from a discarded pair of butterfly wings, vanished the previous contents of the parchment, and began to scribble furiously.
When she had finished the Minister's speech and returned it to his pocket, she scanned the room again for any potential trouble. Now, to wake them all up.
She swept her wand in a wide arc. "Finite Incantem!"
Nothing happened. She frowned. "Rennervate!"
The soft breathing of the sleepers continued uninterrupted. Puzzled, she sat down next to the Minister and began to think. This charm was Professor Flitwick's, and was altered from the original Magical Sleep spell, which, she remembered from a footnote in Olde and Forgotten Bewitchments and Charmes, had been a witch's revenge against a social slight. The book had neglected to provide the incantation, or any useful information about how to undo the spell.
Her eyebrows drew together, willing herself to remember everything Professor Flitwick had said about the spell. Something about fingertips and-
"Bloody hell!" she swore aloud.
It couldn't be the same spell. That would be ridiculous. But the more she thought about Professor Flitwick's sense of humor, the more sense it made. Lucius Malfoy was attempting to "prick" Professor Snape. Thus, Professor Snape had, with the rest of the castle, fallen into an enchanted sleep.
She supposed she could even understand why the spell had not affected her. As the knight in shining armor, she supposed that she would be the one to break the spell. Still, doubts ran through her mind as she picked her way across the Great Hall, and not just on whether or not she would be able to counter the spell. Well, if she closed her eyes and did it quickly, she might even be able to be across the room by the time he realized what had happened. That was probably the safest way to do it.
She looked down at her slumbering Professor, who looked as different from the willowy princess in the film as could be. He even managed to look disapproving in his sleep. She awkwardly lowered herself to her knees, leaned over her teacher, and kissed him lightly on the forehead.
She scrambled to her feet, anxious to be as far away from him as possible when his eyes opened. However, he and the others slumbered on. Hermione tentatively approached Professor Snape again. Perhaps the kiss on the forehead didn't count. Screwing up her face in distaste, she pressed her lips firmly against his. Again, she stood quickly to watch the results. Professor Snape's mouth twitched, but quickly fell back into somnolent stillness.
Hermione felt a rising sense of trepidation. Why hadn't her kiss worked? Fortunately, she had applied herself to childhood reading with the same vigor that she did her studies, and had several versions of the tale to go from.
In one non-Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, the rescuer had to be a prince. Hermione ruled out this stipulation because there were no magical princes, except for those related to Professor Snape's mother. The other common stipulation was that the princess had to sleep for a hundred years before being rescued. Hermione dismissed it similarly, because she believed Professor Flitwick to be more sensible than that. In a Russian version, the princess not only slept through the kiss but also the prince's amorous visits, only to be awoken nine months later when her newborn infant sucked the spindle splinter from her finger. Hermione dismissed that out of hand for a number of disturbing reasons, the least of which was that she was certain Malfoy hadn't had the opportunity to stick anything into Professor Snape before the spell was activated.
Other than those, the more sentimental version of the story required the rescuer to fall in love with the sleeper at first sight. She didn't really need to be in love with Professor Snape for it to work, did she? If so, a hundred years of enchanted sleep wouldn't be enough. Of course, having him silent for all that time would make him infinitely easier to love, but she still felt tears of frustration fill her eyes.
She looked at the man who lay before her, somehow managing to make her life difficult even while unconscious, and the events of the past few days finally hit her. Suddenly exhausted beyond words, she began to cry. She cried for all the girls who had been victims of the Death Eater's previous missions. She cried for Percy, too blind to see Umbridge's machinations for what they were. She cried for the danger she and Professor Snape had been in.
As quickly as they had started, her tears stopped, and she scrubbed them from her cheeks with her gloved hand. She studied the man who lay on the ground beside her. His hair was still lank and greasy and his nose was red from some ill usage, likely by Malfoy. But this was the man that Sophie turned to for safety and the man who had risked his life for them. This was a man who'd acquiesced to her pleas for help because he knew that it was the right thing to do. He was not beautiful and he was not kind, but he was a man worthy of her respect and gratitude.
With those thoughts firmly in mind, she leaned forward a third time. In her mind's eye, she pictured him fighting fearlessly but hopelessly through the Goblin Rebellion and fighting with lethal speed and cunning against Voldemort and his followers. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his, attempting to communicate her admiration and respect through the simple contact.
It wasn't love; not then. But it was enough.
When she withdrew from the kiss and opened her eyes, she found herself staring into the depths of Professor Snape's eyes. From such a close distance, it was easy to see from the tiny changes of expression his quick mind taking in what he saw, remembering what had happened, and concluding what needed to be done.
"Get off me, you little fool!" he hissed.
She could have kissed him again in relief. Instead she gave him a tiny smile and stood to check on the others.
The others were all stirring, blearily standing and helping their dates to their feet. Conversations began quietly, but soon the Great Hall was buzzing with questions about rogue Death Eaters and one furious Undersecretary stacked neatly on the bandstand.
"What is the meaning of this, McGonagall?" screeched Umbridge.
"I haven't the foggiest notion," replied the Headmistress, stretching her arms and shoulders- she had fallen asleep holding her greatsword. "Minister, can you explain why your second-in-command is tied up at the front of the Great Hall?"
The Minister shook his head.
"Would you like me to release her?"
The Minister shook his head again, finding his voice at last. "I think we had better find an explanation for this."
"An excellent idea," said McGonagall, without detectable irony.
Hermione caught Professor Snape's eye, and he stood beside her. "I can explain," they said in unison.
"Very well," said the Headmistress. "Minister, I propose a chat in my office. Severus, Miss Granger, if you would be so kind as to join us?"
"You can't leave me here like this!" shouted Umbridge.
"Of course you're right," said McGonagall with a thin smile. "The band must have somewhere to play."
With a flick of her wand, the Headmistress levitated the five Death Eaters and Umbridge, trailing them after her like malevolent bubbles.
"It's a shame you didn't gag them," commented the Headmistress to Hermione in an undertone. "Enjoy the rest of the Ball," she announced to the assembled crowd. "I will see you all in classes on Monday. Good evening."
The band took this as their cue to begin playing, and the Headmistress shut the door behind them with a smile. "Well, Severus, I hope you have something truly impressive for me."
Remembering the sight she encountered under the bunting, Hermione grinned to herself.
So that brings us to the end of my poor story. Yes, that's really the end, for now at least.
What happened? You mean you're not satisfied with the ending?
Very well, I'll try to sum it up. Umbridge is rotting in Wizarding prison beside her retainers, wondering why she ever decided to face the Falcon a second time.
The Minister of Magic remains in office, though he now runs every law and statute by Headmistress McGonagall before announcing it. She finds it tiresome, but really can't complain.
The Falcon herself went on to receive record-high N.E.W.T.s, recently placed seventh in women's sabre at the Commonwealth Championships, and still occasionally visits her friends in the portrait world when she calls on the Headmistress.
Professor Snape returned to his usual routine teaching Potions. The only purported change is abnormally high house point totals, which leads some to speculate that he no longer stalks the halls at night as regularly as he once did.
handsome Alan a Dale was returned safely to his portrait, where he
advises the lovelorn, sings songs and tells tales to passing
travelers much like yourself.
I see that our number around the fire have increased by two. Welcome! You arrived just as I was finishing a Falcon tale. Oh, I see you know the story already. Friends, allow me to introduce the Falcon and her mate. Yes, I know you expected them to be taller.
There have been many stories of these two already, and the stories will continue long after they are gone. Perhaps one day I'll have the opportunity to learn them all, and perhaps one day tell them.
Some night when they're not around to correct me.
I must go- er- restring my lute.
Many thanks to my giftee, whose prompt inspired me to go places I'd never considered. I hope you enjoy the story, and thank you for giving me such fun to work with!
Long overdue thanks to Keladry Lupin, whose brilliant madness inspired the majority of my take on this story. It all started with her LiveJournal post about men that go from village to village deflowering virgins for a fee, and this story is the sordid result.
Enormous thanks to Mr. 42, my beta reader, who not only read this whole story twice in as many days, but also turned it into something that I like enough to repost!
In no particular order, here is a semi-complete list of my sources:
Severus's embarrassing brush with Arthurian romance contains lines stolen directly from "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," by an unknown Midieval midlands author. The knight's garbled speech is Old English, courtesy J.R.R. Tolkein (editor).
All the characters in the Merry Men's camp, including Alan a Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and Little John are all from the various Robin Hood legends. Robin was great fun to relocate to Loxley, AL. Alan a Dale is also loosely based on Roger Miller's singing rooster from Disney's version of "Robin Hood."
Alan a Dale's song about the Falcon is comprised of two songs. The verse is a folk song called "The Cuckoo," and the chorus is Shakespeare's "O Mistress Mine" from Twelfth Night. I also stole the Rosalind verses from Shakespeare's As You Like It.
Hermione's arc was inspired by virgin warrior Britomart from Book III of Spenser's "The Faerie Queene." Unlike Britomart, Hermione gets the guy at the end.
Zoot and Dingo from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail has a brief appearance, but I've also used Zoot as a stand-in for the Faerie Queene's lusty Malecasta who tries to seduce Britomart, unaware that she's a woman.
The dragon is of course, the fearsome Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit," and several of his lines have been appropriated for the sole enjoyment of its intended audience. There was also a cameo by C.S. Lewis's Narnian lamppost in the winter landscape that Severus had to slog across.
The passionate shepherd and the nymph mentioned are from Ralleigh's spoof of Marlowe's poem about the same couple.
The Garden of Eden is stolen in equal parts from the Bible and Milton's "Paradise Lost."
The Cone of Silence is borrowed from the television series "Get Smart."
The fox is from Aesop's fable, "Fox and the Grapes."
The cottage painting in Umbridge's office is Thomas Kinkaid's "Glory of Morning," with kittens added. Couldn't happen to a better painting.
St. Feullian's order was inspired by a Belgian ale of the same name that is made in a defunct monastery.