A/N: Having checked out my schedule for the next few days, I realized it would be nearly a week before I could post the second and final chapter to this snippet if I didn't do it today. So, here it is now so nobody has to wait.
Please review. Thanks!
OF GNOMES AND DARK MAGIC
Nearly an hour after her father's departure to Malfoy Manor, Zoe heard the clear sound of boots climbing the stairs. She looked up a moment later as he entered the study and watched as he crossed straight to his desk and collapsed into the chair with a great sigh. He rubbed his face for a moment as if exhausted then glanced to where Zoe sat cross-legged on the floor using a book as a writing surface.
"Come. Bring them here," he said, waving her over.
Zoe stood and walked resolutely to stand beside her father behind his desk as he took a jar of red ink from a drawer and placed his black, rectangular spectacles onto his nose. Drawing his handsome eagle-feather quill, he began to mark her work quietly. Zoe fidgeted a bit, waiting, and picked at the wood of her father's desk.
"You didn't finish the last two," he said evenly after several minutes, waving her hand away from his desk impatiently.
Zoe shrugged. "I didn't have enough time."
"If you had started on this when I assigned it two days ago, you would have had plenty of time," he scolded, peering sternly down his nose at her.
Zoe's eyes dropped to the fascinating wood of her father's desk once more, but she had no retort.
"The rest of these are correct, however," he continued. "I think it is time to begin incorporating true algebra and some simple Arithmancy into your education."
"Do we have to?" Zoe whined loudly without even thinking. Her father's eyebrows shot up in a clear challenge to continue with the insolence if she wanted to see exactly how far his tolerance of it would stretch. Zoe quieted immediately and her father sighed.
"Zoe, you are ready to move on. Don't you wish to expand your learning?"
"Not in maths," she grumbled.
Her father's lips fell into a thin line. "Well, it isn't up for discussion. We will begin more-advanced lessons Monday morning. Now, where are your translations?"
Zoe pointed to the corner of her father's desk. Her father took up the parchment and immediately scowled down at it.
"Have we not addressed your penmanship on several occasions, young lady?" he said, squinting down at the scroll before looking at his daughter earnestly.
"Do you honestly have an explanation for these scribbles?" he mocked, holding the sloppy work up to show her.
Zoe frowned. "You said I could go to the park once I finished them," she mumbled.
Her father raised a single eyebrow. "In other words, this is the result of a hurried hand; a little girl more fixated on fun time than on her studies. Something else we have discussed, I believe…"
"None of them are wrong," Zoe defended her work.
"Yet, you can't be sure of that until I mark them and I can't possibly mark them if I can't read them, now can I? These will have to be rewritten—tonight," her father responded, handing the parchment to Zoe and softening his features slightly. "I have seen you write quite elegantly. You mustn't allow yourself to rush through your work. Be precise and thorough. You will gain speed in legibility with time and practice."
Zoe nodded though she was thoroughly annoyed with her father's seemingly relentless scrutiny. She started to turn away but her father latched onto her arm and brought her back to face him.
"We are not finished here," he said firmly. The inflection of his words sent a sudden flutter of apprehension to Zoe's stomach as she somehow knew that her father was no longer going to remain on the subject of equations and penmanship.
"How much did Scorpius tell you about the Unbreakable Vow?" he asked, almost as if he was tired.
Zoe shuffled her feet. "Er, that it's unbreakable, I guess," she mumbled. "But I kind of figured that out from the name…"
"Did he tell you how to cast one? Or, perhaps, what happens if a person were to break one?"
She shook her head. "No. He, er… he didn't really know a lot about them."
Zoe could feel her father's heavy, onyx eyes boring into the top of her head as she examined her shoes before he gingerly placed his hand below her chin, guiding her head up so she could look at him.
"You lied to me."
Zoe's eyes grew wide instinctively before she could ever even try her poker face. But it was too late now, her father had seen it and now held her arm in a slightly stronger grip.
"When I arrived at Malfoy Manor and confronted Scorpius about the Unbreakable Vow," her father said, "he confessed to telling you about it, said that he had read to you from a book. I, of course, rounded on Mr. Malfoy who was, frankly, astonished. He informed me that there wasn't a book in their library that so much as hinted at Dark Magic. So, Draco and I dug further. I'm sure you know where Scorpius said he got that book, don't you, Zoe?"
Zoe fidgeted. Of course, she knew. She had seen the book in the very study in which she was now standing and smuggled it into her bag nearly a week ago—the previous Sunday—to show off to Scorpius at the weekly brunch. He was always gloating about his expensive toys and wonderful holidays in beautiful countries and his knowledge of Quidditch teams that, for once, Zoe wanted to one up him.
Once out of sight and hearing of their respective parents following the meal, Scorpius had taken the book from Zoe and skimmed through it. He had only really gotten through reading the definition of the Vow aloud before Mrs. Malfoy had poked her head into the room. Scorpius had quickly stuffed the book in between the cushions of the sofa so as not to be caught with it and Zoe had only just placed the tome back into her bag before her own father came to announce their departure.
"Why did you lie to me, Zoe?" her father asked then, zapping her back into her present situation.
"I don't know," she mumbled quietly, averting her eyes once again.
Her father slammed his left hand down onto the surface of the desk then—causing her to jump—as he pulled her toward him so close that their noses nearly collided.
"You do know," he hissed ferociously. "Tell me now why you lied, for you shall not like the consequences should you not."
Zoe futilely struggled against her father's grasp as tears started to well in her eyes.
"B-because you l-looked so…so…scared that I knew about it and I thought maybe I was…I was going to get in a lot of trouble for knowing."
"You are in a lot of trouble, but it has nothing to do with your knowledge of the Vow. For despite you knowing exactly where the information came from and fessing up about a stolen book, you thought it more appropriate to have me go to the Malfoys and falsely accuse their son of telling you about Dark Arts."
Her father's voice had started quite low but now seemed to crescendo with each word, and Zoe couldn't help but cower slightly. She knew he was angry, but she also knew he was reining back the worst of his temper for her sake for when her father was truly irate, his voice became lower, more menacing, and he tended to not speak so eloquently.
"I looked like a complete fool," her father continued, "and that is not something I enjoy or appreciate, young lady. And what's worse is that you lied to me and told me it was Scorpius in a clear, manipulative and vindictive attempt to have the blame fall on him. That sort of behavior is cowardly, absolutely disgraceful and unbecoming of a respectable young witch and for that I have half a mind to paddle your behind."
Zoe trembled, fearful that her father may spank her but knowing in the back of her mind, that she had really brought it on herself. She had panicked at her father's reaction to her knowledge and, instead of thinking about what she was saying, she had fibbed—baldly. She had thought her father would be annoyed but she hadn't thought that he might feel strongly enough to confront Scorpius about it.
"I'm sorry, Papa, please, I'm sorry," Zoe managed to squeak out, knowing it was feeble at best for what she had done.
He continued to stare severely down at her for several moments before finally releasing her arm and sitting back in his chair, staring off away from her.
Zoe stood solidly in place but she was looking at the floor. Despite how much trouble she was in, she had questions she wanted to ask but she knew better than to start asking them until her father had calmed down considerably or risk a continuation of his tongue-lashing. After all, her father could lecture, rant and threaten for England—she definitely didn't want to start him up again.
Once she was certain that he wouldn't yell anymore, Zoe cautiously took a step toward his chair and leaned into his shoulder. He unconsciously looped his arm around her waist, pulling her closer, and lightly patted her hip, but he didn't look at her.
The tension still a little high, Zoe busied herself by running her fingers over the folds of her father's robes and playing with the buttons on his cuff. He seemed oblivious or was ignoring her. Eventually, having felt the tense air dissipate, Zoe looked up to him.
"Papa? Why were you so scared?"
Obsidian eyes found her deep blue and Zoe saw an immediate flash of annoyance.
"I wasn't scared," he stated, biting, but his next words were softer, tender even. "Even wandless magical children can cast certain spells, including oaths. I was merely…concerned that you had tried something foolish."
Zoe nodded though she was sure those two words meant roughly the same thing.
"So, er…what does happen if you break an Unbreakable Vow?" she asked timidly, eyeing her father warily.
"Can you not figure that out on your own?" he asked almost immediately.
Zoe thought for a moment, and then shook her head.
Her father looked away again. His eyes went very distant and when he did finally speak, his voice was softer than Zoe had ever known it to be both in volume and in timbre.
"The Vow is very much what it says it is: unbreakable. To contravene one would be a violation of one of the oldest and deepest forms of magical bonds. The witch or wizard would pay the ultimate price for such a breach."
Zoe wrinkled her brow, thinking very hard about her father's words when suddenly it occurred to her exactly what he was talking about. The ultimate price.
She looked up into her father's face, horrified, as the former tears returned to sting her eyes. Her father responded instantly to her reaction and pulled her onto his lap, taking his handkerchief from within his robes and handing it to her.
"No tears," he said as he pushed her head to lay against his chest. "There is no need for such emotion."
"But that's so…awful," Zoe said, drying her eyes.
"Indeed," was her father's only response.
He allowed her to sit there for several minutes as he pulled a scroll of parchment toward him to read. Zoe squirmed slightly.
"Have you ever made an Unbreakable Vow?"
Zoe could feel her father tense beneath her and the parchment he had been holding fell to the floor. Zoe sat up and looked at him and was alarmed to see shock register across his features—and regret, maybe—before an impassive expression replaced it an instant later.
"Go work on your essays," he said, placing Zoe back onto her feet.
"Now?" Zoe didn't understand why the entire atmosphere in the room had shifted so suddenly.
"Yes, now," her father said sternly, turning her toward the door and giving her bottom a swat to get her moving.
"Ow! Papa!" Zoe complained as she danced forward.
"Do as you're told."
Zoe started walking, dragging her feet. She wasn't in the right mood to write essays, especially not now that her father had quite clearly refused to answer her question.
"Accio Darkest Vows, Oaths and Blood Bonds," she suddenly heard him say behind her.
A moment later, Zoe had to dodge out of the way as the book flew through the open door and into her father's waiting palm. He glanced briefly at the black-covered tome then frowned up at her.
"This was in your bedroom?" he asked.
Zoe stared and then slowly nodded. Her father sighed and took off his glasses, placing them on the desk before him. He rose from his chair with the book in hand, walked to one of the bookshelves across the room and replaced it between the two books from which Zoe had nicked it. He turned to look directly at her.
"Are there any other books up there that I would not approve of you reading? If there are, it would be wise to tell me now."
"No, sir," Zoe stated truthfully.
He watched her a moment longer before barely nodding in concession.
"Very well. From now on, I shall be restricting the books you have access to in this house. Anything above a Hogwarts third year curriculum is off limits. In other words, if you can't pull it easily from the shelf, you have no business reading it. Is that understood?"
Zoe desperately wanted to protest but one look at the severe expression on her father's face and she thought better of it.
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Good. Now, at brunch tomorrow, you are going to apologize to Scorpius as well as Mr. Malfoy for your lies and when we return, you'll spend the rest of the day restricted to your bedroom," he said. "Your house arrest from the garden incident will apply through next Sunday."
Zoe nodded in defeat—she'd really done it this time. "Yes, Papa."
"Come here," her father commanded evenly and Zoe reluctantly made her way to where he stood by the bookshelf. When she stood before him, he cupped her chin in his hand and made her look up at him.
"Lies and deceit not only spawn distrust in a person's character and cause one's word to be questioned, they can hurt others," he said plainly. "You will not lie to me. This is your only warning. I can assure you, if I get so much as a hint that you have repeated this despicable behavior, your punishment next time is unlikely to be so lenient."
Her father released her chin and nodded once more. He walked back to his desk, sat down and, after replacing his spectacles to his nose, he continued reading the scroll.
"Essays," he reminded her firmly without ever looking up. "And I don't want to see you in those filthy clothes at dinner."
Zoe scowled and started for her bedroom.
No books above a third year curriculum? That left very few of the interesting books in her father's vast library. Hopefully one of them she was allowed to read would give her a clue as to how to get around child-proofing charms…
A/N: Severus is a bit hard on Zoe here, I know, but keep in mind that he is a tasking professor. There is no reason to believe that, even as a parent, he wouldn't expect excellence from one of his pupils-maybe even more so from his own child. Zoe is exceptionally intelligent and Severus sees that, no doubt, but he is also a bit annoyed by her seeming lack of ambition as far as her studies are concerned.
As for the Unbreakable Vow knowledge: he was, indeed, scared that she knew of them and worried that she would try one. Severus loves his daughter very much and he most definitely doesn't want to see her make his mistakes. Therefore, sometimes he may say and do things without thinking in order to protect her.
I hope you enjoyed the story.