After getting through the past few days without any blatent arguments with Professor Snape, I began to believe that the second week of the term would end on a peaceful note. I was to discover later that afternoon that I was gravely mistaken.
The sun was shining brightly as I led my students across the school grounds towards Hagrid's hut. With the brilliant blue sky and lush green of the grass there was no hint of the cold weather that we would be experiencing in the weeks to come. It was a perfect day to sit outside and have the students create nature sketches.
As we drew closer to the hut I noticed a Thestral was tethered to the fence. Frowning, I thought that Thestrals could be a problem as most of my students were unable to see the black skeletal horses. Hearing my class as we approached, Hagrid came smiling from his hut.
After greeting us, he said, "There ya are. I have something very special for your art students today."
"Hagrid, I'm not sure that Thestral will work for everyone." I replied warily.
Laughing, he explained, "Oh, he isn't here for that. Poor fellow has a bad tooth. No, your model should be along any moment and I'm sure you'll be pleased to see him."
Curious, I asked, "Him? Is this someone I know?"
"You'll see." Hagrid answered with a wink.
No sooner were the words spoken when several of my students emitted frightened screams. Turning in their direction I saw they were looking into the sky and pointed, their eyes wide with fear. Looking upward I saw what had drawn their attention.
Soaring overhead was a beautiful emerald green Forest Dragon, the size of a young elephant. He passed over us gracefully then began gliding towards me. Looking closer, I saw he was none other than the little orphaned hatchling that had been found on the edge of the Forbidden Forest when I was in my third year...now grown up, of course. It had been a rare chance for those of us in the Care of Magical Creatures class to see a young dragon up close and we came to regard the hatchling as our friend.
Smiling, I turned my back to the dragon and took a few steps away, then raised my arms, closed my eyes and waited.
Moments later the ground disappeared beneath my feet and I felt myself being carried upward in the dragon's strong arms. Slightly aware of the screaming that was going on down below, I swung my arm around the dragon's neck and pulled myself on to his back.
"Grayle!" I exclaimed excitedly.
For a few minutes he soared with me over the school grounds before flying downward to land on a large fallen tree. Sliding from his back I gave the dragon an enthusiastic hug.
The brilliant green dragon fixed his golden yellow eyes on me and replied with a combination of soft growling noises and telepathy, "Little Gwendolyn Archer. I heard that you had returned so of course I had to come see you."
Sitting on the tree beside the dragon I asked, "How have you been all these years?"
With a slight smile, Grayle answered, "I have managed to replace almost all of those diamonds that you swindled out of me."
Laughing, I protested, "Swindled? I did no such thing! You said you had no use for them."
"You swindled me! That is my story and I'm sticking to it!" Grayle replied.
"So...you are the model that Hagrid was able to get for my art students?" I asked with a smile.
Grayle nodded and answered, "He thought you would be pleased."
"Oh I am! I never expected to see you." I assured him. Curious, I asked, "Have you been living in the Forbidden Forest all these years?"
"From time to time, although I've taken to spending the winters in Brazil. In fact I will be leaving shortly but I wanted to come by to see you first." answered the dragon.
"I'm so glad you did." I said appreciatively. With a laugh I added, "We should probably get back to my students before the class is over."
"It looks to me like they are coming to us." Grayle replied as he pointed to a crowd of students, as well as members of the faculty that were rapidly approaching where we were seated.
Over the voices I could hear Hagrid pleading, "It's alright I tell ya! Gwen knows this dragon! There's nothing to be upset about!"
Gasping, I saw that the approaching professors had their wands out, more than likely to perform a stunning spell on the dragon next to me. Leading the group was Professor McGonagall, along with Sprout, Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy and Snape.
"Wait!" I called out as I jumped off the tree. Holding my hands up, I added, "Hagrid is right! Grayle is an old friend!"
"Friend!" Minerva exclaimed.
"Yes. Everything is fine." I assured her.
"I knew it! As soon as I saw him I knew that he was a rare species of friendly dragon...not that I expect the rest of you to be able to tell the difference!" said Lockhart dramatically.
Grayle raised his eyes to the sky and shook his head as he sighed, "Ah....wizards!"
Smiling nervously at my peers I explained, "I'm sorry we frighted all of you. Grayle and I were just happy to see each other again." Looking towards Snape as he stared at the dragon I added, "Nothing to worry about at all."
The black haired wizard turned his eyes towards me. Taking a step closer he glared at me and hissed, "It should have eaten you!"
As I gasped in outrage, Snape abruptly turned and started walking back towards the castle.
"Oh, no you don't!" I called angrily as I stormed after him. "You do not walk away! You do not walk away from me, Professor Snape!"
Realizing that I was following him, he picked up his pace until I was forced to run. Heading him off I stopped in front of Snape, blocking his path as I glared at him.
"How dare you say that to me!" I exclaimed.
"Is that the only retort you know? It's getting tiresome." he replied snidely.
Clenching my fists I said, "I don't know why you have such a problem with me, but these comments of yours stop right now!"
Stepping towards me he snarled, "I am not a follower who has to do the bidding of Dumbledore's Darling!"
"Stop calling me that! I demand that you stop calling me that!" I shrieked as I stamped my foot.
"Oh and what Princess demands, Princess expects to get! No, I don't think so! Hogwarts is not your Ivory Palace where we all wait on you hand and foot!" he replied as he glared in my eyes.
"I have done nothing to indicate that I expect to be waited on! All I have ever wanted was to be treated as an equal!" I shot back at him in a fury.
"An equal? Most certainly Princess, once you actually earn everything that has been given to you!" he sneered.
Jabbing my index finger into his chest I practically screamed, "Nothing has been given to me! Do you understand? Nothing! I have earned it! I have only received exactly what I deserved!"
"That is a matter of opinion!" Snape said in a terrible voice as his eyes widened. "You never did tell me exactly how many strings the Headmaster had to pull to make sure you received what you deserved!"
Before I could stop myself, I seized the front of his black robes in my fists and screeched, "My grandfather did not pull strings for me! I will not allow you to keep saying such things!"
Minerva suddenly put her hands on my shoulders and said gently, "Perhaps we should take this inside."
I was then aware of numerous students standing around watching us with their mouths hanging open but I was too angry to care.
"You will not allow me?" hissed Snape as Lucius appeared at his side. "I do not answer to a spoiled brat Princess!"
"And I don't have to take this sort of treatment from an angry bitter man who thrives on rising from his cold gloomy dungeon to torment me!" I replied furiously. "What exactly is it you want to do? Glower me to death! Bully me to tears? Fine! You do that! I'm sure you'll find that I won't cower and take it like your students! How long will you last now that there is an 'Anti-Snape' to stand up to you!"
Seething with anger Snape made what appeared to be an angry lunge at me. At that point both Minerva and Pomona had my arms and were dragging me backwards as Lucius did the same with Snape.
"Let go of me!" hissed the black haired wizard, his eyes fixed on me.
The school governor who looked as though he were trying very hard not to laugh said, "Now Severus, you can't just kill Professor Archer. If you do Dumbledore will be forced to have you terminated."
Snape snarled, still glaring at me, "It would all be worth it!!!"
Not knowing when to quit, I persisted in trying to break loose from the professors who were restraining me. This was yet another moment in my teaching career that I'm not proud of.
Later that afternoon as we stood in my grandfather's office, Dumbledore looked at us from behind his desk and said, "I must say, I am very very disappointed in both of you. Never would I have expected this sort of behavior from either one of you."
"It was his-" I began.
"I'm not finished Gwen. I am aware that the two of you have had...differences since the start of the term but I must insist that you find another way to work through them." said Dumbledore firmly. Indicating a pile of letters on his desk he continued, "Owls have been coming in all afternoon from parents concerned that two of Hogwart's professors are going to kill each other in front of the students."
Snape said nothing as he stood next to me, still looking furious. Behind us, I could hear Lucius's failed attempts to refrain from laughing.
With a deep sigh, my grandfather gazed at us and asked, "How did this happen?"
Pointing at Snape, I replied, "He said the forest dragon should have eaten me!"
"Is this true?" said Dumbledore as he turned his eyes towards the wizard beside me.
"Yes. We had no idea that Professor Archer was acquainted with this particular dragon and knowing what we do about the species that dragon should have eaten her." Snape answered softly.
Looking at him in outrage, I said, "That is not what you meant!" Turning to my grandfather I continued, "That is not what he meant at all!"
"How exactly do you know what I meant?" Snape demanded as he glared down at me.
Facing him I glared into his eyes and replied, "It was all in your tone!"
My grandfather abruptly got up from his chair and said, "Gwen, you and I spoke before about how we can't make rash judgments on mere tones!"
For a few seconds no one said a word as Snape and I glared hatefully at each other.
Watching us warily, Dumbledore said firmly, "I will over-look this afternoon's incident this time...and I trust you will find a way to co-exist peacefully. If you can't get along than I suggest you at least try to stay out of each other's way."
I heard him yet refused to be the first to tear my eyes away from Snape's. After yet a few more seconds of silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "If that is all I suggest we all go about our personal business now."
Narrowing my eyes slightly, I turned on my heel and stormed out of the office door. Why was my grandfather keeping such a hateful person on staff? I shuddered to think what his potions students had to endure with him teaching that somewhat difficult course.
As I reached the bottom of the spiral staircase and headed down the empty corridor I was aware of the a thin form in black coming down the stairs behind me. Turning around I glared and said sarcastically, "Following me, Professor Snape?"
"Don't flatter yourself! I don't live and breath to be in your company." he retorted.
"Yet I see so much of you." I grumbled as I crossed my arms. Not wanting us to walk in the same direction, I pointed at the other end of the corridor and said, "My grandfather told us to stay out of each others way. Go!"
Through clenched teeth Snape replied, "The way I'm going leads to Slytherin. You go!"
Looking around I saw much to my dismay that he was right. "Oh." I said lamely, "As dark and dismal as it is I should have guessed. Good day, Professor Snape!"
Aware that he was once again clenching his fists, I turned away and stormed down the corridor which led to where my own chambers were located close to Gryffindor. Feeling like I could tear my hair out, I muttered out loud, "So much for a peaceful week!"
It was early Friday morning as I sat at my vanity gazing at my reflection in the mirror. Why had I allowed myself to lose control? Within hours the entire school was talking about the spectacle that had taken place out on the grounds. The abrupt seizing of Snape's robes had been found particularly amusing, especially by the Gryffindor students.
I had been unable to face everyone in the Great Hall for supper and had instead eaten a quiet meal alone in my room. Now it was the beginning of another day of classes and I couldn't hide any longer. With a deep sigh, I forced myself out of the chair and left my chambers, bracing myself for the stares and giggles that I was sure would greet me.
Sure enough, as I entered the Great Hall and approached the staff table for breakfast, I was conscious of many heads turning in my direction but the response to yesterday's argument didn't stop there. To my dismay, many of the students at the Gryffindor table got up from their chairs and started to cheer and applaud. If that wasn't bad enough, the Weasley twins began bowing in the aisle chanting, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"
Stealing a glance at the staff table I noticed the professors that were assembled there had stopped eating to watch. My grandfather seemed slightly amused. Professor McGonagall appeared annoyed with the way her House was behaving. Snape looked murderous as he scowled across the Great Hall at me.
"Alright, alright that's enough!" I called as I raised my arms, very aware that from a distance it must have looked to members of Slytherin like I was waving to my fans. The chants and cheering only got louder as most of the Gryffindors followed the Weasley twins' example.
"Yes, yes good morning everyone!" boomed Gilderoy who had just walked through the entrance way behind me. "I'm glad to see you too!"
He didn't seem discouraged when by some miracle he realized that the students were in fact cheering because of me and not because he had just entered the Great Hall.
Laughing as he approached he said, "Well Professor Archer, now you know what's like to be me!"
Literally pulling on my own hair, I turned around and stormed away from the table as Minerva finally succeeded in getting the Gryffindors to settle down and return to their breakfast.
Wishing with all my might that I could return to my room, I took a chair at the staff table next to my grandfather.
"Did you sleep well, Gwen?" he asked kindly.
"Not really." I answered as I took a sip of pumpkin juice. Feeling mildly exasperated, I looked at him and said, "I don't remember things being so difficult when I was here before."
"Welcome to adulthood." Dumbledore laughed softly. After a pause he asked, "Have you apologized to Severus yet?"
I glared at my grandfather in outrage. "I'm not apologizing to him! It was his fault! You don't hear how he speaks to me!"
"From what I understand you were the one who started getting violent by grabbing the front of his robes. Did Severus at any time lay so much as a finger on you?"
I glowered at my plate at I muttered, "Well.....no."
"Severus, along with the rest of us, thought your life was in danger and I'll have you know he was one of the first ones to leave the castle when we heard the dragon had carried you off." said Dumbledore quietly.
"I'm sure he was, because he wanted to see that dragon swallow me whole. He was disappointed when he realized that Grayle was a friend of mine." I retorted.
"Now Gwen, you don't really believe that."
"Of course I do! It's obvious that he hates me. He's made that very clear since the day we met." I replied.
Looking at me over the top of his spectacles, my grandfather said gently, "Severus may not know exactly how to relate to you. Perhaps if you would allow yourself to be a little more approachable you would find him easier to get along with."
I looked at my grandfather in amazement. "Me? He's the one that skulks in the shadows scowling at everyone and making snide remarks...and you say I'm not approachable?"
"Well, at our dinner the other night you never once responded to his attempts at conversation." Dumbledore pointed out.
"Professor Snape was not trying to make conversation with me. He was taking the opportunity to be sarcastic...again!" I protested.
"Are you sure of that, Gwen?"
For a moment all I could do was stare at Dumbledore before whispering, "I don't understand why you keep defending him and suggesting that I...talk..to him."
Lowering his eyes to his breakfast, my grandfather answered, "There are not many professors here that are close to your age...plus for a while you and Severus were students at the same time. I can't always be here to keep you company and.....I believe you could use a friend."
"What would we talk about? How soon he has to go back underground in the morning before the sun burns him?" I asked sarcastically.
"That's not amusing, Gwen. I want you to apologize to him." said Dumbledore sharply as he raised his eyes to me.
"I'm serious. I want you to take responsibility for your part in what happened yesterday and apologize to him." he replied, his voice soft but very firm.
"Alright." I conceded. "When I see him I'll....I'll tell him that I'm sorry for losing my temper."
While I meant what I said, I didn't see Professor Snape for the rest of the day and figured that he was keeping to his dungeons. After dismissing the Muggle Studies class that I was substituting for, I made a quick trip to the library for something to read and once again, had a quiet supper alone in my room.
Tempting as it was to continue to hide in my room on Saturday, I realized that it had been a while since I had taken Ashlar out for a gallop and he was no doubt getting tired of being confined to his paddock. Not wanting to be seen, I carefully made my way out of the castle and crossed the grounds to visit my horse after changing into my riding clothes.
As I neared the paddock, I was alarmed to see the huge black horse lying on his side in the grass as Hagrid knelt beside him. Breaking into a run, I ducked under the fence and went to Ashlar's head. The horse groaned, blinked his red eyes and feebly stretched his nose towards me.
"What happened to him?" I asked Hagrid frantically.
"It's nothing serious." Hagrid assured me. Shaking his head, he added, "One of the students left their sack of Bertie Bott's beans near the fence and ole Ash reached over and got into them."
The horse let out a loud groan and gazed at us pitifully.
"Well it's your own fault for being such a pig!" I scolded.
Hagrid straightened up and said, "It will pass but he's in a lot of discomfort now."
With a sigh, I looked towards the castle and replied, "I'm sure there is something that could help him in the hospital wing." Looking down at the groaning horse I added, "Perhaps some powdered ginger root to sooth his stomach."
"If not in the hospital wing I'm sure there would be some in the potion stores." Hagrid pointed out.
"Could you keep an eye on him while I go see Madam Pomfrey?"
"I'd be happy to." Hagrid smiled.
With a sigh, I returned to the castle and climbed the stairs to the hospital wing. The school nurse was in the process of putting some supplies away in a storage cabinet when I entered the ward.
Seeing me, she smiled, "Good morning Gwen."
"Good morning, Poppy." I smiled. "Would you happen to have any ginger root or something similar on hand?"
"Upset stomach?" she asked with concern.
"Not for me." I replied. "My horse."
"Oh, I see. He would need a larger dose than a person wouldn't he?" asked Poppy.
"Yes." I answered. "About five capsules would be one dose for a horse and I think he needs about three doses."
Looking regretful, the nurse shook her head and said "I'm only equipped to treat people up here. You would be more likely to get the correct amount from Professor Snape. I'm sure he would prepare it for you if you asked him."
My heart sank. Why hadn't I apologized yesterday? How hard would it have been to go look for Snape in the dungeons and get it out of the way? Now I had to go apologize and ask for his help.
"Ashlar, if I didn't love you." I muttered under my breath as I went back down the staircase that led to the Entrance Hall and headed for the door that led down to the dungeons.
I hadn't been to that part of the castle since I was a student and as I carefully made my way down those dark, narrow steps I observed that that atmosphere really hadn't changed much over the years. The corridor was illuminated by torches and the light played eerily on the faces of the stone gargoyles that kept there silent watch along the walls. No doubt Professor Snape felt right at home down there.
The Potions classroom was also exactly the way it had been when Professor Slughorn taught the class. My eyes passed quickly over the old fireplace along with the desks and cauldrons. Students and professors came and went but Hogwarts itself was basically unchanged.
Stepping further into the room I noticed Harry at a table in the back corner of the room and appeared to be pickling some sort of distasteful object.
"Detention?" I asked.
Harry said nothing as he nodded his head, looking extremely annoyed. No matter what he must have done I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Being trapped in the dungeon with Snape was not my idea of a pleasant way to spend a Saturday.
I was suddenly aware that I was being watched from one of the back rooms. As my eyes adjusted to the shadows I was able to make out Snape's sallow features as he stood silently in the doorway that led to his office.
Taking a few cautious steps towards him I said softly, "Professor Snape, if you have a moment, may I speak with you?"
For a few seconds he said nothing as he continued to glare at me from the doorway. Finally, he beckoned me inside as he withdrew further into the room. With a nervous glance at Harry, I followed Snape into his office.
While his back was still to me, I said, "First of all, Professor Snape....I.....would like to offer my apologies for what happened the other day."
Saying nothing, he glanced at me as he took a seat and began gathering up rolls of parchment that lay across his desk.
Trying not to be angered by his silence, I continued, "It was wrong of me to..get as angry as I did, especially after I scared everyone and you had come outside to...help me. Please forgive me."
After yet another moment of silence, Snape raised his eyes to me and asked quietly, "And what else have you come down here for?"
Taking a seat in the chair in front of his desk I said tentatively, "I need help with something. Someone left a large quantity of Bertie Bott's beans near my horse and he ate them...and now he's sick. Madame Pomfrey said you might be able to prepare something to help him."
Snape still didn't say a word as he glared at me across his desk. What did he want me to do? Beg?
Desperately trying to remain calm, I continued, "I wouldn't bother you, Professor Snape...and I know this will pass but right now...my horse is in pain. If you could do something to help him I would be deeply appreciative."
Remaining silent, the Potions Master rose from his desk and moved towards one of the shelves along the wall, his black robes giving the impression that he glided like tall, thin phantom. Taking a large jar from the middle shelf, he went to the classroom and began working at the large cauldron that was in the fireplace. Not sure what to say or do, I stood in the office doorway and watched him as the fire he had just conjured illuminated his pale features. Harry was also watching curiously from the corner but said nothing.
After about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, Snape turned around and silently walked towards me, looking stern and menacing as his hair partially obscured his face. Handing me a jar that now contained four horse sized capsules, the Potions Master whispered, "I assume you know the correct dosage?"
In other words, was I intelligent enough to know not to give Ashlar all the capsules at once?
Refraining from making a sarcastic remark, I took the jar and answered, "Yes I do." Raising my eyes to his I said sincerely, "Thank you, Professor Snape. This means a lot to me."
Snape said nothing as he walked around me and headed back into his office. I felt strangely disheartened by his lack of response but I couldn't worry about that at the time. Ashlar's aching stomach needed tending to. With a nod towards Harry, I left the dungeons.
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