The Pitfalls of Being an Insufferable Know-it-all

All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.

Part 9

If I've learnt anything about Severus Snape, it's that he's a spoilsport.

My moment, my moment of triumph, was woefully short-lived. I told him Cresswell had accused him of violence—that he'd attacked him. And the brief, gratifying sight of his surprise faded almost immediately as he… laughed. Laughed in my face.

He seemed to consider me for a moment, before he sat down, ran a hand over his face, and started chuckling quietly to himself. Naturally, I was thrown. I hardly knew what to do with myself while he indulged in this bout of amusement. I folded my arms around myself and perched on the edge of the sofa, a bit unsettled.

'What's funny?' I asked reluctantly.

Typically, he could not answer my question straightforwardly; in fact, he entirely ignored it. 'Tell me,' he said. 'Do you think I attacked him?'

I wasn't pleased to be put on the spot like this. Especially as I wasn't certain of my own mind. Instead I sought to deflect the point. 'I think, perhaps, the question is how does he know you aren't in Norway?'

His eyes narrowed. 'Perhaps he's bluffing?'

I decided to be forthright, regardless of the consequences. 'I don't think he is.'

'Well, maybe,' he said next, an odd gleam in his eye, 'someone's masquerading as me?'

I shook my head instantly. 'What would be the point? You'd be able to prove you weren't at the scene.'

'Quite so.' He nodded, still looking vaguely amused. 'So, then, Miss Granger, by my reckoning there is only one other option.'

I found myself sitting upright. 'You went to see Cresswell?' I tensed in anticipation for his answer, wondering if I'd mistaken his behaviour after all. Wondering if my suspicions about him would prove founded.

'I did.'

I froze. For a number of reasons, I felt my stomach sink at his words. For one, the possibility he had struck Cresswell was now increasingly credible. For another, it was clear he had an entire agenda that was invisible to me.

'I see,' I said tightly, feeling unaccountably slighted.

'What's wrong with old George, then? Did I split his lip? Or was it an old-fashioned shiner?'

'A shiner,' I confirmed distastefully, trying to judge from his expression whether he was feigning his lack of knowledge or not. Why I bothered, I don't know. As if I could ever make head or tail of his demeanour.

While I deliberated, he frowned to himself and looked at his hands. Then he started plucking off his gloves and flexing his freed fingers, showing them to me. They were unblemished. The corner of his mouth lifted. 'Suppose I could have healed any bruising, mind.'

What an incorrigible man! He was obviously enjoying teasing me; finding amusement in fuelling my confusion. And oddly, the one thing that sprang to my mind at this time, was the realisation he didn't care about my opinion of him. He clearly couldn't give a damn whether I thought he was guilty of assaulting an old man or not. Of course, I understood there was no reason my opinion should matter to him, but he was just another in a long line of people who seemed to find it easy to ignore me. Perhaps I'm too sensitive, but somewhere inside me, I was dismayed.

And that, in turn, made me indignant.

'Look,' I burst out irritably before I could temper myself. 'I don't know what your game is, but I'm beginning to think I don't want to know, actually.'

His eyebrows raised only a fraction.

'I don't think you really need my assistance, so…' I shrugged and got to my feet, hoping he would take the action for the dismissal it was.

But, of course, he didn't. I went to the sink to begin piling dishes into it, and I heard him stand. When he spoke, he was not headed for the door, however, he was directly behind me. How stupid of me to even believe my feelings should matter.

And what he said next nearly made me throw a plate at his head.

'This is bad form… Auntie Hermit, indeed.'

Needless to say, I didn't appreciate this little poke one iota. But after counting silently to five, I was able to concentrate more on the fact he seemed at pains to continue our pathetic attempt at co-operation. When I faced him, there was still something self-satisfied in his expression that elicited within me nothing positive at all. In fact, I rather thought if he didn't watch it, Cresswell wouldn't be the only one with a black eye. It was a nice fantasy at the time, and one, unfortunately, I've had cause to revisit several times in years since.

'Tell me why you went to Cresswell, or I go to the Ministry tomorrow and tell them all I know.'

His bottom lip curled briefly in an expression of consideration. He was not intimidated, I felt; if anything he was only amused again, much to my chagrin. He pulled out a chair at the kitchen table and said:

'Sit.'

I watched, dumb, as he pulled out another chair and put it next to the one I'd been ordered to occupy. He sat and tugged my map closer, and it was only when he took my quill from the inkwell and started scrawling a series of crosses at different locations on the map that I jerked into life. Indignant, I rushed to sit down.

'Ah, what are you doing?' I asked irritably, fighting a strong urge to wrench my map away and protect it from his swift lashings.

He sat back to admire to his handiwork when he'd finished, and said: 'Any tea going?'

'No.'

There was a murmured noise of disapproval as he produced a liquorice wand and began unwrapping it. I nearly burst with frustration while he chewed thoughtfully. I was inches away from telling him that I didn't have all bloody night, when he finally, finally, started speaking with a sense of purpose.

'See here,' he said. 'These markings denote where poachers have targeted in the last few months.' He consulted his pocketbook and pointed to each cross on the map in succession, reading off a list of dates and his own recorded observations at that particular time.

And while, undeniably, I was surprised and intrigued he was finally revealing some of his knowledge, I was also… oddly distracted. Indeed, I'm not sure what came over me, but I'm quite sure I missed half of what he said. It's with reluctance I say this, but I think I was momentarily flustered. He was awfully near, there was the smell of liquorice, and my eyes were more concerned with the length of his arm, which rested on the table, and with his hand, which was…

Well, it was all very foolish, a rather fuzzy moment, and I blinked back into sanity, folding my arms tightly around myself.

'Er, so, ah, what exactly does this have to do with Cresswell?' I asked, leaning away slightly.

'How was I to know where they'd strike?' he posed enigmatically.

I scowled. 'Here's an idea; why don't you just tell me?'

I'd like to say it was the late hour that disposed me to being brusque, but I'd be lying. It was all him. I simply couldn't be arsed with his self-satisfied demeanour any longer.

'Cresswell,' he began, speaking in possibly the most condescending tone he could find, 'is involved. He informs me where the next hit shall be. Do you understand now? Or should I write it down for you?'

Unfortunately, I didn't actually understand fully. Would have died before admitting it though. So I chose to ask what I thought was a respectably pertinent question instead. 'Why does he say you attacked him?'

Naturally, to him it wasn't a pertinent question. He shook his head, chuckling at me, and I felt my cheeks heat up a little. Again. When he stood up and went to lean against the sink, I was relieved I could hide my discomfiture.

'Tell me, were you born yesterday, Granger?'

I closed my eyes. 'No.'

'Really? You're doing a good job of convincing me otherwise. Cresswell is giving me the information against his will.'

He paused then, and, it seemed, was waiting for a reaction. When I stated, a little tiredly, 'You're blackmailing him,' I think I probably gave him what he expected. He's made no secret of the fact I'm predictably transparent.

Somewhere behind me, there was a muted huff of disapproval. 'That's such a disagreeable word, isn't it? Let us put it in simpler terms: Cresswell knows I have information on him that could land him in Azkaban, therefore, he… offered to help me. Of course, he's very reluctant, hence his little attempts to get me into trouble. Unfortunately for poor old George, he chose to use you in order to double-cross me.'

He stepped around the table, patting my shoulder lightly as he past me. 'And you,' he continued, 'are on my side, aren't you, Miss Granger?'

I was a bit uncomfortable with his subsequent piercing look and I think I may have fidgeted with some scrolls of parchment, so that I didn't have to make eye contact with him. Because I wasn't entirely sure I was on his side. I certainly didn't think we shared the same purpose in mind — the same principles driving us onwards.

'Indeed,' he murmured. 'This is could be very advantageous. We must ensure Cresswell doesn't find out about our… alliance.'

The way he said "alliance" made me feel a bit awkward, for some reason. And neither was I sure what "advantageous" constituted. Did it only mean to keep a few steps ahead?

'If Cresswell is involved, he should be reported to the Ministry and investigated.' I sat up and folded my arms, wanting to regain some stronghold in this discussion. 'In fact, this mess might have been resolved far sooner if you had done precisely that.'

Rather than being antagonised by my accusation, he actually had the gall to look smug. 'Bureaucracy has narrowed your vision, Granger. It is a terrible thing and you have my apologies.'

My jaw fell open.

Craftily, however, he cut in before I could tell him to piss right off. 'You've seen Creswell — he's well past it. They only want him for his connections on the continent. You don't seriously think he knows who is at the top of the chain, do you? Because there is someone out there, Granger, who is pulling all the strings, funding these operations, managing these operations, and reaping the spoils afterwards. That is the person we searching for; not the halfwits like Cresswell.'

What was the point in trying to compete with him anymore? I conceded his point. 'You've no idea who this person is?'

'No,' he replied after a moment.

At the time, I believed him. I chose to ignore what I thought was a rather cryptic turn to his countenance. Probably, I was relieved he'd provided an answer for the Cresswell issue, and I was ready to believe it, and him, in order to retain faith in my own judgement.

'What's next, then?'

'You are going to visit the Society.'

At the mention of the Most Extraordinary Society for Potioneers, I was reminded of my previous visits there, and I recalled my futile quest to find the book Snape and Ridley had once written about Augureys. Not to mention the enquiry to the offices of the Practical Potioneer journal. I'd made no mention to Snape of this little phenomenon I'd uncovered. Maybe Cresswell's actions extended further than false accusations. Or maybe it wasn't Cresswell. I wondered whether Snape had any inclination that Cresswell mightn't be the only person trying to double-cross him.

I rather hoped he didn't. Somehow, I wanted to prove he wasn't as omniscient as he liked to imagine. Yes, I resolved right there I was going to prove it, even if it was the last thing I ever did.

So, when morning came, and armed with instructions, I set off to Edinburgh. The foyer was empty again, when I went in, so I calmly went to wait by the desk. Despite my secret purpose in being there, according to Snape, I was to make my presence known. He'd decided I was to make as much noise as possible regarding my supposed desire to see him. The logic being that with Cresswell's allegation in mind, I'd ordinarily have been crusading around trying to prove or disprove the matter. He seemed to feel it important the facts of our co-operation were kept hidden for the time being. What machinations formed this strategy, I don't think I really wanted to contemplate. After all, how was Cresswell supposed to hear of my movements, I asked him.

I was told, succinctly, that there are "eyes and ears everywhere". I sometimes had to wonder whether the war had perhaps left him a little... touched.

As I waited for Albert to appear, I unfolded a copy of the Prophet that sat on the desk. Immediately, I flicked to the letters' page, and lo, there was a response to my previous appeal. However, it wasn't the response I'd entirely hoped for. Indeed, my cheeks flamed a little as I read and I've transcribed the most inflammatory comments.

'These idle do-gooders make me sick. These people who claim to care seem to enjoy telling everyone else how to live their lives, but what do they actually do about it, other than preach from the comfort of their armchairs?'

There was no name supplied, but I was prepared to bet my last galleon Severus Snape was responsible. Dsigruntled, I was half debating reducing the paper to cinders, when Albert peered around the door.

'Oh, Miss Granger! How lovely to see you again.'

'Good morning, Albert,' I replied with a smile. 'I was wondering if it'd be all right to use the library, again?'

'Certainly, my dear; you know where it is.'

'Thank you.' I turned to marble staircase, but paused. 'Oh, I, ah, really would like to speak to Professor Snape; do you know when he might return?

A frown appeared on the old man's face. 'Afraid not, dear.'

I nodded. 'Right; thanks again.'

I went up the stairs and followed the passageway around to Snape's office. My real purpose wasn't to visit the library. I'd received precise instructions from Snape, tasking me to retrieve an object from his office without being spotted by anyone. It was no difficult task; the building sounded almost eerily quiet, and I was confident about sneaking in and out. Furthermore, I'd been assured the door would be open, and it was. I crossed over to the bookshelves and immediately picked out the small, intricately carved wooden box I was to pick up. Intrigued by what Snape could possibly keep in such a small box, I decided it must be under a Shrinking charm. Perhaps it contained some doucments... I shook it, but nothing sounded. And naturally, I tried to open it, but the lid wouldn't budge.

Stuffing it into my robes, I was about to flee, when my attention was diverted. This was his office. This, perhaps, was my one chance to learn a little more about whom I was dealing with. The man who I wasn't sure whether to trust or not. Suddenly I was standing at his desk, contemplating opening the drawers, and just as quickly, I was scolding myself and turning away.

Then I was faced with the bookshelves and, like a magnet, I was drawn to an inspection of them, only to shout at myself again. I had to leave before I was spotted; it was no time to be rifling through someone elses belongings. And really, I wondered, would he have sent me here at all had he anything to hide?

No, seemed the obvious answer.

I'd like to say that was the end of it. But it wasn't. It was only by chance that I happened to look down and see the small piece of parchment peeking out from underneath the bookcase. Without having to think about it, I bent down and pulled what turned out to be several sheets of parchment, bound together.

My mouth opened in surprised when I realised what I held. I had before me, in black, handwritten script, stamped as the property of the 'Practical Potioneer,' the original draft of Snape and Ridley's treatise on the distribution of Augureys. By turns discomfited and surprised by this discovery, I hurriedly stuffed the parchment into my robes, with not a thought for the consequences. I rushed over to the door and listened for any sound. Satisfied I could escape unnoticed, I took a breath and pushed the door open.

The hallway was empty. Head down, I scurried forwards, only wanting to get out of the building as quickly as possible. As it turned out, it wasn't to be very quick for me, for when I reached the stairs to the foyer, Theobald Ridley was ascending them.

'Miss Granger,' he greeted coldly.

Painfully aware of what I had in my robes, I sought to keep my expression clear. 'Mr Ridley,' I said evenly.

I half-hoped he would continue on his way, and it seemed he was prepared to do just that, except, on surveying his blank features and flinty eyes, I found myself speaking further. 'Is Mr Snape still in Norway?'

'Yes,' he answered irritably.

'Really?' I injected just the right amount of doubt for him to really look at me with interest.

'Something to say, Miss Granger?'

I shrugged my shoulders lightly. 'I may have heard a rumour to the contrary, that's all…'

There was an odd flicker in his face and I was gratified to see it. 'Severus is a law unto himself,' he observed stiffly. 'Going to catch up with him one day, if he isn't careful.'

And with that cryptic remark, he walked off.

I wondered whether I'd done the right thing in being so deliberately suggestive. But if I had doubts as to Snape's trustworthiness, I had none whatsoever over Ridley's. It appeared perfectly obvious Ridley didn't hold Snape in any particular regard, and so, maybe, he might also like to see Snape in a spot of trouble. Of course, I hardly knew the man; who was I to judge him after only a few exceptionally brief meetings? I think I spied an opportunity to ingratiate myself with the man through projecting a distrust of his superior.

Because there was that manuscript I'd found in Snape's office, and my first inclination this time was that it had been put there by someone else. It seemed too stupid for Snape to have put it there himself. And if someone else had put it there, they'd want it to be found — hence it's unoriginal hiding place. I'd deliberate on it later; when I could be sure of a quiet five minutes to myself.

The man in question was waiting for me when I returned home. Despite being preoccupied, I didn't forget to feel umbrage at the fact he was still Apparating into my house whenever he felt like it.

'Well?' he asked expectantly as I took off my cloak.

'Well, what?' I answered tightly, taking out his wooden box and placing it before him, secretly hoping he'd reveal what was in it. I would keep all reference to the manuscript and the manner of my finding it at nil. Most definitely until I had read it, at the very least.

'Did anyone see you?'

'Not in your office. I saw Albert, and spoke to Ridley, though...'

I watched his expression carefully, but there was nothing remarkable at my mentioning of his deputy.

'Theo, eh?' he said, enlarging the box and taking out a little key to unlock it. 'Good, good… Did he have anything to say for himself?'

I barely heard him. I was transfixed by the opening of the box and the sight of the contents held within. Transfixed and aghast. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, praying for someone, anyone, to give me strength.

'You sent me to retrieve your… liquorice wands?' I questioned through clenched teeth.

'I'm in Norway, in case you'd forgotten.' He didn't even bother to look at me when he asnwered.

'I thought I was picking up something important! Something to aid our investigation!' I looked at him wildly.

He shrugged. 'Rule of thumb for you, Granger; never make assumptions.'

And right there; right there, I lost the will to live.


AN: Thanks for reading : )