Note: Some of you have suggested that I start the second part of Best Revenge as a whole new story. Therefore, I will repost chapters 46 and 47 as 1 and 2 of The Best Revenge: Time of the Basilisk. I will not take down 46 and 47, because I don't want to lose the reviews. Consider 46 and 47 preview chapters. Time of the Basilisk will not be anywhere as long as Book 1. You may wish to review chapter 47 as Chapter 2 in the new story.
The Best Revenge
The new Defense Teacher was a tremendous hit with the students. At the first Explorers' Club meeting after the holidays, the members shared their unanimous approval over spiced cider.
"Did you hear about the boggart lesson he gave the third years?" Ernie asked excitedly. "That sounded like so much fun!"
"He has such kind eyes," sighed Hannah.
"He seems to know the subject," Draco said, with more measured approval. "But he should make more of an effort to look the part of a Hogwarts Professor!"
Justin laughed. "I suppose some girls like that raffish, bohemian style. Very daring."
Hermione agreed. "Knowledge is much more important than how one dresses."
"One can be both scholarly and decently turned out," Draco said stiffly. "Don't you agree, Harry?"
"I suppose. Professor Snape always dresses well in class."
"In black," Lavender snorted.
"Hey!" Harry leaped to his guardian's defense. "I like black! And it suits him. It's his style. And I've seen him in other colors-now and then."
"Well—" Hermione said patiently, "Maybe being tweedy and shabby and—and—bohemian—is Professor Lupin's style. I like it."
Draco muttered, "There's no accounting for lack of taste."
Hermione huffed, but stood her ground. Most of the girls—even the Slytherins—liked the new Professor very much. He was clever and unthreatening and—
"-And he doesn't stutter!" Pansy pointed out. "I thought Quirrell would drive me completely mad. Professor Lupin has a very nice voice. Soothing."
Neville saw the look Harry and Draco shared, and whispered, "Girls."
There was a lot of chat about everyone's holidays. Harry, of course, could not recount the tale of The Destroying of Lord Voldemort, so he joined with Ron Weasley, their newest member, in describing the glories of their snow fort, otherwise known as the Weasley Winter Palace.
"We should make the most of the snow while it lasts," agreed Dean. "Maybe we should go out next week and everybody can build something. Or we could make a really, really big fort together."
That idea was considered interesting. Ron assured them that he had learned a lot, and could find out the charms for smoothing the walls and floors and even making ice windows.
"All right," Harry nodded. "If we still have enough snow next week, let's do that. Then we'll enjoy warming up over tea all the more afterwards."
And then there was a great deal of head-shaking and regret about Sally. Most thought she was making a terrible mistake.
"-What if the Ministry decides to snap her wand?"
"-What if they obliviate her?"
"-She'll never work in the magical world!"
Some of the girls did express interest about the kind of clothes Sally would be wearing. Her costume for the Hufflepuff program had been a big hit. It was Justin, of course, who was her greatest defender. Once again he brought up the idea of actually going to see a ballet, so her friends at Hogwarts would understand what it was she was doing.
It was a daring idea to some.
"You mean-actually go out among the muggles?" Daphne Greengrass asked, a little fearfully. "What if they see that we're-different?"
"What is this Royal Opera House like?" wondered Lavender. "Are there-chairs? How would we get in? Do you have to pay anything?"
Draco became irritated. "I daresay it's much like going to any theatre! We go all the time in Paris. You buy the ticket, you go into the theatre. There's a stage and, yes, of course there's seating! There's nothing to be afraid of!"
"I'll bring pictures," Justin promised. "It's a gorgeous place. My mother would love to arrange it for us."
"And there are so many other places we could go!" Hermione burst out, catching fire at the idea. She sat down and began making a list of absolutely essential places to see in the London area alone.
"I wish we could go to the zoo," Harry said wistfully. "I went there once."
"The-zoo?" Draco frowned.
"They have all sorts of animals there!" Harry told him. "Of course not the magical ones, but really interesting ones-like-like lions and tigers. And snakes. I like snakes."
"Of course you do," Draco smirked.
"It's brilliant!" Harry said. "I'll bet the Professor would be happy to take us sometime." He lowered his voice, "especially if it were just you and me. You can get treats and everything. I'll never forget the time I was there with my cousin-"
Hermione stood up and began reciting her list.
"The British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, the National Gallery, Kew Gardens, the Tower-so you can see the real Crown Jewels, Draco-"
"We couldn't do all these if we stayed at Hogwarts for ten years!" Ernie protested.
"I'd like to see where muggles shop," Hannah suggested. "Isn't there a big place called Harold's?"
"Harrod's," Hermione corrected. She allowed, "It might be interesting for you. It's certainly very different than Diagon Alley!"
"We'd need muggle money," Ernie pointed out sensibly.
"So?" Parvati dismissed his concerns. "We'll go to Gringotts first and get some money changed. I like the idea of seeing shops. Things like that are on the Muggle Studies N.E.W.T., you know."
"But we should take some wizarding field trips, too!" Blaise Zabini spoke up. "We're supposed to help the muggleborn learn about wizarding things. We're not allowed to go to Hogsmeade until we're third years, but maybe there's somewhere else we could go."
Susan had a moment of inspiration. "We should go to the Ministry!"
Everyone turned to look at her.
She waved her hands. "Yes! We should! I'm almost sure I could get my aunt to agree to it. We could see the reception area and some of the offices and maybe where they do research...maybe even meet some Aurors and see their training! Aunt Amelia might even arrange for us to have tea there."
"That," said Harry, "is an absolutely brilliant idea."
After a little more consideration, there was a groundswell of approval in favor of a Ministry visit.
"Do you suppose," asked Theo Nott, "that we could meet some Unspeakables? I've always thought they sounded mysterious and incredibly neat. They're so secret that nobody even talks about them!"
"Then I daresay we'd have to request that in writing," Draco answered, without cracking a smile. "The Ministry! Yes-I think-that would be just the thing. I've never been in the Minister's office itself. Perhaps we could go have a look."
Harry nodded sagely. "You can decide how you'll redecorate it when it's yours."
Mr Harker, of Harker & Dedlock, agreed to show Snape the house on Sunday afternoon.
Harry would be at his club meeting. Charity would be there as well, supervising the young fiends. Snape would go and have a look at the property Madam Fletwock had bequeathed Harry in her will, and if the place was impossible, he could tell the lawyers to get rid of it, without complaints or second-guessing from anyone else.
Clothilda Fletwock had been very old indeed when she died. She was related to the wealthy Fletwock family, who were famous for raising winged horses, but had not raised them herself. She had outlived her brothers and sisters, and her children and only grandchild, and that grandchild had died without heirs. She had left the world quite alone in it. She had not been particularly wealthy, but she was not penniless, either. She had inherited family money from a number of her dead relatives, and had lived the second half of her life in her aunt's little cottage in Cheshire.
Shortly before she died, she decided to leave everything to the Boy-Who-Lived, "who saved us all, poor dear." She had died only two years before, and so this inheritance had not yet reverted to the Ministry, as a number of others unfortunately had. And there had been no other heirs to litigate against the bequest.
"Harker—Jonathan Harker," arrived at the appointed time, and took Snape there by portkey. They arrived in the middle of a dirt lane, which wound in between a dense wood of oak and beech.
"This side of the road is the property in question," Harker informed him. "Only eleven acres in all, but I wanted you to see how well sheltered the place is from muggles and that sort."
Any sort would be hard put to penetrate the secrets of the wood without taking considerable trouble. Harker led Snape through a narrow gate. A weathered stone by the gate was inscribed, "Old Piggery Close."
Snape raised a brow. "Old Piggery Close? Interesting name."
"The stone is a relic of a former owner," Mr Harker replied dismissively. "Madam Fletwock's aunt renamed the property Lacewing Cottage."
There were some good anti-muggle wards still in place. The dense little wood gave way to a grassy meadow of two or three acres, fenced neatly, and dotted with—"
"Are those goats?" he asked, peering at the little creatures.
"Yes, Madam Fletwock kept pygmy goats. Her instructions were to care for them until the property changed hands legally. Useful creatures. Keep the grass clipped short, you see. She used the goats for her cheesemaking—especially her famous Pantysgawn. The goats were quite her pets."
"Hmmph!" Snape grunted. Goats. At least they weren't pigs.
Beyond the meadow was quite a nice little orchard and garden. Not tended properly, unfortunately, but with interesting possibilities. Snape saw the remains of a water garden, as well, guarded by a pretty statue of a nymph. Beyond a hedge the house revealed itself, long and low and thatched.
"There you have it," Mr Harker gestured, for all the world like a muggle magician doing a trick. "Lacewing Cottage."
Snape privately thought it might well have been a piggery at some point. It was certainly shaped like one—if a big one. When they reached the door, however, he could see it had always been a house, for there was a second floor, and the casement windows did not have the look of afterthoughts.
He liked it. It was a funny sort of place, and it smelled like an old woman who made cheese had lived there a long time. Still, it was—worth considering. The furniture was worn and covered with hideous chintz, of course, and there was too much fussiness throughout. That could be remedied easily enough.
The big kitchen was really the main room downstairs. There was an inglenook fireplace with an old settee in front of it, and a big sanded table with benches on either side. The little overdressed parlor could be stripped down into a library, and the even smaller downstairs bedroom could be turned into something less—floral. The plumbing was primitive but usable—certainly better than the nonexistent plumbing at the Spinner's End of his youth.
He went back into the library. There was a small fireplace here as well. He began measuring the room with his eyes, considering how to begin here. Above the mantel was a painting of a pretty young woman in a garden, dressed in Victorian style.
"Who're you?" she asked, in a high, girlish voice.
"I am Severus Snape," he answered absently. The wallpaper must go. And the curtains. Then, a desk. A table. Bookcases against the east wall. Hmm..
"What are you doing here?" the picture asked. "Are you another lawyer?"
"I am not. I am Harry Potter's wizarding guardian."
The pictured girl jumped up from her garden swing, and cried, "Is he coming to live here at last?"
Snape studied the picture. "Madam Fletwock?"
"Yes! It's me! How exciting! I hoped he would."
"I will be making-a great many changes," Snape told her.
"Well-all right," the picture sighed. "I suppose that was inevitable. How old is he now?"
"He is eleven, and in his first year at Hogwarts."
"I suppose he has all sorts of places he could go," the picture said wistfully, "but I do hope he comes here sometimes. I would love to see life in this house again! Make whatever changes you like!"
"I must see the rest of the house, first."
"Oh, do! And bring him with you, next time!"
Up the narrow, uneven stairs were two bedrooms under the eaves, an airing cupboard, and a little bathroom. All the rooms had been used as box rooms for years, and were piled high with papers and old clothes. The ceilings were low and slanting, and the windows mullioned. Once one dug through all the detritus, there might be something worthwhile here. He peered through a grimy window. There was a large vegetable garden behind the cottage. The trees surrounding the property were tall. It might be possible to play quidditch—after a fashion.
It was a house for Harry, at least. A place where his friends could visit. A place where he could go out of doors without fear. Hartwolde Hall might never be his, but he could have this. Snape would do a bit of preliminary work, and they could come here in the spring for a few days.
"All right." Warily, he asked the lawyer. "I don't have to keep the goats, do I?"
"It seems—complicated," Harry remarked, looking at the instructions for the Wolfsbane Potion. Snape had asked Harry to meet him after dinner on Sunday to go over a special project they would work on together.
"Very complicated," Snape agreed. "You'll only do some preparatory work, but it would be helpful, as I will have to keep my attention on the potion itself. It is essential that this potion be absolutely correct."
"But what does it do?" Harry wondered.
Snape went into lecture mode. "The Wolfsbane Potion," he declared, "allows werewolves to retain their minds—such as they have—during the period of the full moon when they undergo their transformations. The theory is that if the creatures have human consciousness, they will then refrain from the bestial behaviors that have made werewolves pariahs."
"They won't go on a rampage and kill people and eat them," Harry specified, liking the gory details. "That's neat. That's a really great invention! It's really nice of you to do this, Professor! Thanks for letting me help. I get tired of things like boil salves. This is really doing a good thing for somebody!"
"Yes, it is. And it's tremendous work, since it must be done every month without fail."
"I'll be glad to help. Will I get to meet the werewolf? Who is it?"
"I am not—permitted—to reveal his identity. You will have to guess."
"Not with me!" Snape said sharply. "I'm not playing a game. Be discreet. I am forbidden to discuss it because revealing that someone is a werewolf is tantamount to ruining the person's life! Keep your speculations to yourself, and be careful!"
They worked together quietly enough. Snape glanced at Harry and smirked at the frown of concentration. All things considered, he had done his duty. Harry would be able to draw the proper conclusions for himself soon enough, and he would know to be wary around Remus Lupin. Now, if he could just warn Charity, too…
"Are your thank you notes complete?" Snape asked, staring into an alembic.
"I am done!" Harry declared, pleased with himself. His hand had nearly fallen off with weariness. He had loads of loot and thanked everyone who could or should be thanked. "So now—if people write wanting a signed photograph, what do you think I should do?"
Snape rolled his eyes.
"I know it's silly, " Harry persisted, "but if they do, I don't want to be rude. Maybe Professor Burbage could take a picture of me and I could sign it and we could make a lot of copies. I've learned the replicating charm—"
"Yes—very well done," Snape interrupted brusquely. "Words fail me when I wish to describe how idiotic I think those people are who write a young boy for a signed photograph, but I suppose it does no harm to reply civilly to your admirers."
"No, it doesn't," Harry agreed. "I don't want anybody thinking I'm stuck up or that I think I'm too good to write to the common folk."
Snape snorted a laugh. "Use your best handwriting. Otherwise they'll think you're the idiot. Now get busy with those roots."
Harry chopped diligently for some time, before he looked up and commented, "Professor Lupin is a really good teacher. I think Defense Against the Dark Arts is going to be one of my favorite classes."
"You don't say," Snape growled. Perhaps no one would notice if he substituted strychnine for aconite just this once...
Thank you to my kind readers for your interesting and thoughtful reviews. Thanks especially to JOdel for her advice and encouragement (Yes-she is working on a Red Hen version of this story, and to Slytherindragoon for her continuing support!