A/N - Last Monday, I spent 6 hours in the ER with excruciating pain radiating down through the center of my abdomen. Turned out to be an ovarian cyst. 2.2 by 2.9 centimeters. It's just under the size that they do surgery automatically for. My OBGYN has put me on hormone therapy to try and shrink its size. If that doesn't work, then we'll probably do surgery. In the meantime, it's sitting on my bladder, emulating a bladder infection. Delightful sensation. /sarcasm

HOM – Ravenclaw/Gryffindor
DADA – Ravenclaw/Gryffindor
Transfiguration – Hufflepuff, Slytherin
Charms – Slytherin
Herbology – Gryffindor/Hufflepuff, Slytherin/Ravenclaw

Week 21 continued . . . January 15 (Wednesday), 1992

6:28 am

Severus awoke with a groan. He felt like he'd been run over by a herd of thestrals. He was pushing himself too hard, and it didn't seem likely that things would resolve on their own in any kind of timely fashion.

The situation with Miss Murphy was pulling him in what felt like six different directions, and he knew he wouldn't be able to continue at the current rate. He couldn't afford to get much more behind on his grading, and his Snakes needed have a close eye on them as well, unless he wanted to risk them descending into chaos.

And then there was Harry. The little boy was currently curled into his side, burrowed under both his arm and a pile of blankets. He would have never known the boy was there, if not for the little snuffly sounds that kept emerging from within.

He had collapsed late-or rather early that morning-into bed alone, but had discovered the small presence beside him upon his return to the waking world.

"Harry," He murmured, lifting the blankets off his son's head.

His query was met with a yawn. Casting around for his wand, he idly lit a few nearby candles.

"Child, I know you can hear me," He said.

A warm little nose pressed itself against his neck and he fought back the urge to laugh.

"Are you a puppy?" He asked instead.

"Uh huh, Papa Pa," Harry confirmed with a nod. "Woof woof."

"Well, woof woof," Severus' eyes were shining in the candlelight. "We'd best get out of bed and get some breakfast. What do you think about that?"

"Woof! I mean, okay daddy Sev!" Harry answered with a giggle.

7:14 am - The Great Hall

"Severus, I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you look terrible," Filius told him as he arrived at the staff table.

He slid into a chair and reached blindly for the coffee. Beside him, Pomona sighed and pressed a cup of it into his hands.

"Thank you," He murmured.

"Did you get any sleep last night?" Filius asked, a small measure of concern evident on his face.

"Night? No. Morning? Some," Severus grunted.

His son had coaxed a smile out of him, and full sentences, but his coworkers were not quite as lucky. He resisted the urge to put his head in his hands. Looking at the Slytherin table, he was reminded of his upcoming meeting with Tarquin McTavish and company, his mind helpfully added.

"Poppy informed me that Ms Murphy awoke for a brief time last night," He told them, eyeing the food dishes around him with varying levels of nausea.

"Oh, thank goodness!" Pomona exclaimed in a near whisper.

"And did she say anything?" Filius pressed.

"Not really," Severus answered with a scowl. "As she was more than a bit hysterical upon waking, Poppy opted to give her a calming potion in hopes that it would shed more light on the situation. Instead, Ms Murphy fell back to sleep. Poppy tells me that her body's physical and magical resources have been considerably depleted as a result of this ordeal."

"We still don't know why she did it?" Pomona asked in a tentative voice.

"I'm not a hundred percent certain that death was her goal," Severus admitted, thinking back. "My team and I have theorized that it is entirely possible that she was merely trying to induce an abortion. Healer Smythe told us a number of truly frightening methods that young-and old-witches have used to end their pregnancies."

Pomona and Filius nodded their heads at that.

"In the meantime, thanks to an anonymous tip from one of your 'Claws," He nodded to Filius. "I think I know who the father is. Was," He shook his head. "Thankfully, my sources in the Alley have provided me with an idea of where he has gone. I'm going to see him today, and hopefully we will have a better idea of what has happened after I return."

He stood up from the table, and stood up with more grace than he had upon arrival.

"I know you don't need to hear it, Severus, but be careful. There's a little boy who would be very distraught should you get hurt," Filius warned him.

Severus glanced up to see a little boy waving at him from the Slytherin table, "Oh, I assure you. I am aware."

. . .

A former Slytherin had owled Severus yesterday after McTavish arrived in the alley. The young woman was part of the reason that he had such a concise understanding of everything happening outside the walls of Hogwarts. She, and a handful of others, was part of a network of eyes and ears that reported to him any time anything untoward occurred.

And apparently, a boy in Slytherin robes badly splinching himself in the early evening hours of Knockturn Alley was noteworthy. Especially, since it was McTavish's uncle who had retrieved him.

He had sent an owl to McTavish's uncle warning him not to let the boy out of his sight. The aurors weren't yet involved with him, and Severus aimed to keep it that way. Getting key information out of someone became significantly more difficult after the aurors stuck their noses into the situation.

. . .

Knockturn Alley, Podric Batworthy's Beard Trimming Shoppe, 8:03 am

Severus strode up to the front doors of the darkened shoppe and knocked. A moment passed by, and then the door opened. A tiny house elf stood in front of him, wringing its apron nervously.

"Taddy be helping yous, Mr Professor?" It squeaked at him.

"I'm here to see Mr. Batworthy. I am expected," He said smoothly.

He had better be expected. He wouldn't be able to help his snake if the boy stupidly decided to run again.

"Taddy will take you up to master and young master," The elf said tremulously, large bulbous eyes watering slightly at Snape's stern visage.

"Thank you, Taddy," Severus answered.

A darkened shoppe and a flight of stairs later, and Severus was being ushered into Batworthy's second floor apartment.

A bed was in the middle of the floor, and in it sat his student, Tarquin McTavish. Upon seeing the numerous bandages surrounding his snake, Severus felt his stomach clench, and he took a step closer to better see the damage. Behind him, the door shut and then, the tip of a wand wedged its way into his back.

"Are ye Professor Snape?" A hot breath questioned into his right ear.

"I am," He scowled. "And you would do well to remove that wand from my spine," He warned.

"This is my shoppe and I call the shots around here," Podric Batworthy hissed.

"If you insist," Severus answered mildly.

"I do. Now-" His words were cut off as Severus viciously elbowed him in in his not unsubstantial gut.

"Uncle Poddy!" McTavish screamed from the bed.

Severus wasn't done. He flicked his own wand and Batworthy's went flying across the room. Then, he brought his sharp heeled boot down on the other man's foot, and shoved him down to the ground.

In less than a minute, the fight was over and Severus was perched atop Batworthy's chest, his wand shoved none too lightly into his windpipe.

"You were saying?" Severus bit out, barely winded.

"Don't hurt 'im, Professor Snape," McTavish whimpered from the bed.

"I won't need to hurt him if you tell me what Miss Murphy took," Severus promised.

"I don't know wha' Liz took," McTavish cried. "She said she'd take care of it! I swear!"

"And what did she need to take care of?" Severus asked, eyes never leaving Batworthy's sweaty form.

"She tol' me that we was gonna be a family," McTavish sobbed softly into his hands. "I tol' her to get rid of it. We don' need no kids. She said she woul' take somethin'. And then, next thing I know, she's in infirmary dyin' and no one knows what's goin' on. That's all I know, I swear!"

Severus scowled and stood up from slowly.

"I accept your story, Mr. McTavish. One would have hoped that you would have brought this to my attention before reaching this level of disaster," He said, scowling.

"But she's a Gryffindor, 'fessor. She don't have your protection," McTavish argued, reddened eyes shining from between his fingers.

"But you do. Did."

Tarquin cringed at his words.

"The moment you ran was the moment that I no longer trusted you," Severus announced.

He watched as Batworthy slowly made it to his feet. The frightened look on the other man's face did not please him. It merely made him more weary.

"Is there no way that the boy can make it right with you?" Batworthy bravely asked.

Severus looked at McTavish appraisingly.

"Come back to Hogwarts. Go to the Infirmary and have Poppy look at you. Then, station yourself next to Miss Murphy. She needs you-especially now."

. . .

Date: 15 January, 1992
House: Ravenclaw
Student Name: Lisa Turpin

Lisa: [Frowning].

Flitwick: What is distressing you?

Lisa: Duncan Inglebee.

Flitwick: What of him?

Lisa: He says that one of the Slytherins poisoned Liz Murphy.

Flitwick: [He frowns]. I believe the truth is a bit more complex than that. [It usually is.]

Lisa: Well, the rumour in the loo is that he caught her looking at someone else and then decided to keep her to himself by killing her.

Flitwick: [Spluttering]. That is the most ridiculous rumour I've heard yet!

Lisa: [Narrowing her eyes]. Then, what's the truth?

Flitwick: [Sighing]. The truth is rarely so black and white.

Lisa: Meaning?

Flitwick: There are often multiple truths.

Lisa: Well, which one's right then?

Flitwick: None.

Lisa: Pardon?

Flitwick: There's what happened and then there's what happened according to each of the participants. In such complex situations as this, not only is it difficult to come upon an agreed on history, it is also just as difficult to discover what each person meant to have happen. Inflection can change a conversation, you know. And if individuals give suggestions to each other instead of actual instruction, then the chances of things becoming misconstrued are greatly increased. Since we have only the events themselves to explain what has happened, the chances of knowing what actually happened are decreased. And they will continue to be so until someone has a chance to ask each party what they actually said, as opposed to what they actually meant.

Lisa: I think I'm more confused than when I came in here.

Flitwick: [Smiling]. Maybe you merely need some time to think on it.

Lisa: [Looking doubtful]. Maybe.

End notes: I can only hope this conversation goes toward decreasing the rumours.

. . .

Date: 15 January, 1992
House: Ravenclaw
Student Name: Sabrina Fawcett

Sabrina: [Whispering]. I think Duncan Inglebee has a thing for Elizabeth Murphy.

Flitwick: [Sighing]. Why do you think so?

Sabrina: He's been talking about going to see her, but Poppy isn't allowing anyone into the Infirmary right now. It's just as well. [She shrugged].

Flitwick: [Looking at her with a slight frown]. Why?

Sabrina: He's been getting really worked up with what he's going to do if . . . well, when and if, I guess. [She makes a face of discomfort].

Flitwick: When and if what? [He drums his fingers on his leg].

Sabrina: If he sees Tarquin McTavish. He says that McTavish is the reason that Elizabeth is dying.

Flitwick: I would be hesitant to say that she is dying [He speaks his words slowly].

Sabrina: Well . . . [She frowns]. She's in a coma, right?

Flitwick: More or less.

Sabrina: [She narrows her eyes]. How can you 'more or less' be in a coma?

Flitwick: [Shifting into a more comfortable position]. She awoke last night.

Sabrina: Really!? [She leans forward]. What did she say?

Flitwick: She wasn't awake for very long. I suspect she'll wake again soon.

Sabrina: And then we'll know what happened? [Her voice is hopeful].

Flitwick: I wish it were that simple. I doubt she will tell her story so easily. And if she does, I doubt her story will explain much to those outside the involved parties. We will have to find the correct questions to ask her.

Sabrina: And if we don't ask the right questions?

Flitwick: Then we'll never have the entire story.

Sabrina: And people will make assumptions based on the incomplete story?

Flitwick: [He claps]. Very much so!

Sabrina: Does . . . [Obviously hesitant] . . . that happen often?

Flitwick: Very frequently. In fact, I would say that basing one's opinions on incomplete information is entirely prevalent and something to be expected. But that's a concept for another day. You need to get to class and I need to get papers graded. But come back next time and we'll talk about it some more.

End notes: What is truth? And, do we ever really want to know the entire story? Or only the parts that corroborate our own understandings?

. . .

Date: 27 November, 1991
House: Ravenclaw
Student Name: Michael Corner

Michael: [Scowling].

Flitwick: Let me guess. I don't want to know?

Michael: Only-and I repeat-ONLY Malfoy would care to know so much about Elizabeth Murphy's origins that he would chart out a bloody flow map and THEN try to foist his knowledge off on other people.

Flitwick: [Pinching bridge of nose]. And I suppose they are related?

Michael: [Scowl deepens]. Distantly. And through the Blacks. And through a squib that seems to have been . . . misplaced.

Flitwick: So, she's a misplaced cousin of Narcissa's?

Michael: [Rolling his eyes]. Seems like.

Flitwick: And his point in showing everyone this?

Michael: I think he's trying to say that anyone descended from squibs isn't worth caring about.

Flitwick: Mr Malfoy can be more subtle than previously assumed. Very interesting. Is anyone listening?

Michael: [Shifting nervously]. Maybe. Some of the purebloods seem to be buying it, but nobody older than 3rd year even gives him the time of day. So it's pretty pointless.

Flitwick: And yet, you listened to a great deal of his speech?

Michael: I just like learning about the history parts. [He crossed his arms in front of his chest].

Flitwick: Did you confirm them with an outside source?

Michael: My cousin works in the Records Department at the Ministry. He says Malfoy has got the lines right.

Flitwick: What do you think of Mr Malfoy's claim that those descended from squibs are worth less than those not?

Michael: My family has had a few squibs too. Keith-my cousin-says that the number of squibs born to pureblooded families has been increasing. He says that no family has been spared, but some are more secretive about it.

Flitwick: Your point?

Michael: If we ignored all the descendants of squibs, we wouldn't be acknowledging too many folks at all.

Flitwick: [Clapping]. An astute observation! Nicely said!

End notes: I suspect that Mr Malfoy will soon be dazzling me with his own assumptions about said ideas . . .

. . .

Date: 15 January, 1992
House: Ravenclaw
Student Name: Draco Malfoy

Flitwick: Do you know the girl in Infirmary?

Draco: [Waving a hand]. Unofficial official cousin, yeah. My mum's said some about her family. They're wastrels. Lazy and always drunk and pretty well worthless.

Flitwick: [His eyebrows raise]. And why is that?

Draco: [Shrugging]. Dunno. I suppose they don't have very much to prove. They aren't Blacks, they aren't anyone of note. They don't have a higher standard to strive toward, so they've let themselves go.

Flitwick: What higher standard would that be?

Draco: Purebloods, of course. That's why Elizabeth Murphy is a Gryffindor and I'm not. She might be a Black at some level by blood, but she's not a Black at a level that counts for anything. If she were, she wouldn't have let herself be sorted in Gryffindor. She wouldn't be making headlines, because she would have never gotten in such trouble to begin with. Her parents would have found a way to make it disappear, but they didn't because they are worthless halfbloods that . . . never mind. [He purses his lips and runs a hand through his hair].

Flitwick: I don't know if you realise this, Mr Malfoy, but I myself am a 'worthless halfblood,' as you so elegantly put it.

Draco: I wouldn't say that you are on the same level as some of the others though, sir.

Flitwick: [Leaning back, crossing his legs]. No?

Draco: Champion of the dueling circuit, longtime professor of Charms at Hogwarts, esteemed friend of Gringotts . . . You've risen above your failings and made a name for yourself. I'm sure even my parents' friends are polite toward you. You are someone worth showing respect toward. In spite of your halfblood status.

Flitwick: [Running a hand over his face]. So, I suppose you are already at the level that I have so valiantly worked toward?

Draco: [Shrugging]. Well, not quite the same level, considering I don't have the experience, but I know that I won't have to work nearly as hard as you have to prove that my existence is worthwhile.

Flitwick: [Grimacing]. And Miss Murphy?

Draco: Hasn't tried to do anything about her less than worthwhile standing in the wizarding world. In fact, she could hardly do more to harm her image among the upper echelons of wizarding society. There are those who have . . . quietly wondered whether it was right for the Blacks to disinherit various members of their family. Finding out that Elizabeth Murphy is a descendant of one of those disinherited Blacks has gone lengths and bounds to proving them right. [He smiles]. I have explained this at some length to the others in our house, and I have received an acceptable amount of understanding. No one would want to claim Murphy as an outstanding member of their family.

Flitwick: No one other than a Slytherin? [He raises an eyebrow].

Draco: [Waving a hand in obvious dismissal]. A Slytherin whose name will be forgotten in a year.

Flitwick: So the rumours are true? A Slytherin is the father?

Draco: Or was, according to what I heard.

Flitwick: Another worthless halfblood?

Draco: But of course. What else could he be? Slytherin doesn't let in Muggleborns.

Flitwick: Minus Granger, you mean. [He smiles].

Draco: [He scowls]. A fluke.

Flitwick: If you insist.

End notes: The amount of pompousness that spews from Mr Malfoy is mostly a result of his upbringing. Still, that knowledge does not make it any easier to stomach.