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Chapter 19


The rest of the school was heading out to the Quidditch pitch, I on the other hand, was swiftly making my way up to Gryffindor tower. It had taken a lot for me to put on a calm façade for Fred, especially when I wanted nothing more than to use Nott’s face as a punching bag. When I had accepted Snape’s potion I’d never planned on using it, certainly not for help in dealing with Nott. I wasn’t going to risk it though, feeling nothing was better than being one spark away from attacking the next person who annoyed me.

I dug the potion out from the bottom of my trunk and downed it. A hollow feeling started seeping through me. For a fleeting moment I wanted to fight it, I wanted to feel and not be an empty shell. The next moment the feeling was gone, replaced with a blissfully clear head. Nott wasn’t important, what he said didn’t matter. Nothing but making sure I didn’t miss the Quidditch game mattered.

Letting out a sigh, I stood up. The door opened seconds later, revealing Hermione. I couldn’t help but let out a groan, at least I was able to make it a quiet one.

“Hi,” she started awkwardly. Just get to the point. “I wanted to ask, since Ginny’s sitting with Michael Corner, I thought maybe you’d like to sit with me. If-if you’re still going.”

“Are you going to pester me with questions about Nott?” I asked bluntly, much to Hermione’s surprise.

“No, we can just watch the match, unless you want to talk –”

“I don’t,” I interrupted. “Let’s go before we miss it.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Taking Snape’s potion was probably one of the smartest things I’d done in a long time. If I hadn’t, I’m willing to bet quite a few Slytherins would be in the Hospital Wing and I would definitely be expelled and sent back to Malfoy Manor.

I couldn’t get the words out of my head. How could the teachers, how could Dumbledore, allow the Slytherins to mock the Weasley family with their deplorable song? Ron Weasley might not have been my favorite Weasley but insulting him and his family was sickening. If I had been in Fred or George’s place I would have sent a Bludger into the back of Pansy Parkinson’s head as she played choir director. Even worse was watching the affect the song had on Ron. He failed to block every shot and if Harry hadn’t caught the Snitch, who knows how many more goals Slytherin would have scored.

Then in a fit of rage, Crabbe sent a Bludger to the back of Harry’s head. The game ended in a fist fight between Draco, George, and Harry. There was a twinge of anger when both George and Harry double teamed Draco, but when I saw the glint from Draco’s ‘Weasley is our King’ badge, it nearly all evaporated. As for Fred, the three Chasers on Gryffindor’s team were doing everything in their power to prevent him from attacking Draco as well. Angry and confused, but mostly just angry, I left the pitch as the teachers sorted everything out.

That brought me to where I was now, pacing in Snape’s office. A part of me wanted to demand an answer for why he hadn’t stopped his students. To blame him for not taking a stand.

Or you’re just looking for a fight.

“Oh shut up,” I muttered, not having a clue whether that had been my own thought or Snape’s. It was easier to blame it on him. Now if only this Snape would hurry up because I’d already been waiting here in the dark for over an hour.

Ten minutes later there were footsteps outside the door. I stopped pacing and faced the door as it unlocked. Snape stepped in and when I was sure he was alone, I took off my Disillusionment Charm. He was surprised to find me here, yet like always, recovered from it quickly.

“You realize I keep this locked for a reason,” he said, casting spells on the closed door.

“Why didn’t you stop them?” I asked immediately.

“There was nothing I could do,” he answered after letting out a sigh.

“Why couldn’t someone else? McGonagall? Dumbledore? You’re saying not one of them could have done anything?” I questioned, my anger rising.

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose as he sat down behind his desk. “Nothing they were doing was against school rules,” he explained.

“They were mocking a student –”

“Chanting and songs are not banned.”

“This wasn’t some Go Slytherin chant! This was your entire house belittling a student and his family!” I shouted. “You’re telling me straight out bullying isn’t banned? That there’s nothing anyone could have done?”

“I can see how much it bothers you, as it should. I don’t support it either but –”

“But what?” I cut in heatedly.

“But getting angry at me isn’t going to accomplish anything. Unless of course you’re just looking for a target to vent your frustrations on, in that case, carry on.” I sent him a glare and started pacing again, trying to work out how to explain what I was feeling.

“I keep telling myself it’s an act. He’s acting this way because it’s what’s expected from him. That he isn’t as mean and as…cruel as he acts. Every time he does something that makes me wonder what the hell he’s thinking, I go back and justify it. He’s just trying to fit in, he doesn’t really feel that way, he’s filled with guilt over the things he does. And every single time he goes on to do something even more appalling and the cycle begins again. I’m tired of making excuses for him. I’m tired of trying to justify it. I can’t keep ignoring all the hurtful things he says or the pain he inflicts on others.”

“I understand your –”

“No, you don’t understand,” I snapped. “How could you when I don’t even understand it? I should hate him for what he does to other people but I don’t. It makes me sick to see what he’s turned into. And it keeps getting worse. He wasn’t anywhere near this bad third year. I knew he was a bully but ever since Easter I’ve heard all about younger kids who have been picked on by him. Then Dumbledore goes and gives him a prefect badge and he’s harassing even more people. I keep telling myself that deep down he’s still the same person but I’m not sure that’s true anymore. He wasn’t always like this. Before…before me, before what happened–what I did –”

“No,” Snape said, quickly rising. He came around his desk and grasped my upper arms, turning me towards him. “You did not turn him into a bully. The person he became was not because of anything you did. It was not your –”

“Don’t,” I whispered. “I don’t want to hear you say it again.”

“People change,” Snape said after a pause. “Everyone changes as they get older. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You have absolutely no control over how Draco or anyone else changes.”

“Then what made him go so far? I can’t figure it out. What makes a person change that much?” Snape didn’t respond. “Just tell me,” I pleaded.

“It has not been since last Easter,” he informed me cautiously, leaning back against his desk.

“Well that makes me feel so much better,” I replied sarcastically. “So I’ve been what? Too blind? Too naïve to ever notice before?”

“It’s not your job to watch after –”

“How long?” I demanded. “Since Moody came? After Potter got picked as champion?”

“Since…Christmas,” Snape admitted at last.

“Christmas? What happened? Moody give him detention? He got a bad grade on an essay? One of the pretty girls rejected his invitation to the Yule Ball?” Snape was surveying me with a look of pity. “Tell me what happened!”

“Fred Weasley happened.”

Anger rushed through me and I fought to keep it under control. “You’re going to blame Fred for this?” I asked darkly.

“I am most certainly not,” Snape responded instantly. “I am simply trying to help you understand.”

“Help me understand that if it weren’t for Fred, Draco wouldn’t be acting this way?” I said harshly.

“Fred Weasley has as much control over Draco’s actions as you do. You wanted to know what happened and I told you. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t Draco’s own actions that led him this far. Jealousy is a very powerful motivator, usually for the worse.”

Jealousy?! There’s no reason for him to be jealous!”

“You have found somebody who makes you happy –”

“So I’m not allowed to be happy because of –”

“That is not what I am saying. People don’t always think logically, especially fifteen year old boys. You have every right in the world to be happy. No one else except for you is allowed to dictate your happiness. You have a responsibility to live your own life. I know you care about Draco and you always will, but don’t let him affect what you do. He needs to grow up and learn that life isn’t only about him.” I gave Snape a dark look. “I’m not trying to insult him,” Snape said, frustrated. “It would be a lot easier to explain these things if you didn’t look like you were about to curse me.”

“You’d easily block it,” I mumbled, feeling less angry. I began pacing again, mainly for something to do.

“A curse perhaps. A fork on the other hand…”

I shot him a glare. “Next time at least wait a minute before bringing up Nott unless you really do want a curse sent your way.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Are you going to attack me if I turn around and go back to my chair?” he asked. I sent him an annoyed scowl and he returned to his seat. “I never know when I’m about to anger you or calm you down,” he complained. “I used to be better at predicting it.”

“I distinctively remember you mentioning teenage mood swings once or twice before.”

“Only once or twice?”

“Eleven but I didn’t think you wanted an exact tally.”

“I don’t remember it hitting double digits,” Snape said thoughtfully.

“August ninth after the meeting. You seemed annoyed.”

“Ah, of course,” he stated. “Am I allowed to bring up Mr. Nott now?”

“No,” I answered briskly.

“Well I’m glad we had that enlightening discussion about you nearly stabbing him.”

Nearly. He wasn’t actually hurt so what’s there to talk about?”

“Such Gryffindor stubbornness,” Snape muttered. “I do applaud you for using the potion at least,” he added.

“Yeah well, half your house would have been in the Hospital Wing if I hadn’t.”

“Only half?”

“I would have spared the younger years.”

“How dreadfully compassionate of you.” I rolled my eyes and continued pacing. For a few minutes the only sound was from my footsteps. And then, “At the risk of incurring your wrath, I feel the need to inform you about what has happened since you’ve been down here.”

I stopped at once and turned to Snape.

What has happened,” I repeated, not liking the sound of this.

“Yes. There was a reason I was delayed for so long. I would prefer you took another potion though.”

Now I definitely didn’t like the sound of this. Snape pulled another vial of his potion out and set it on his desk for me.

“Tell me what happened first.”

“If you’re refusing the potion, which is well within your rights, at least sit down first.” More out of impatience than anything else, I sat down. “Thank you, it’s –”

“Stop stalling.” Snape scowled at me.

“There has been another Educational Decree –”

“Are you bloody kidding me?” What were Fudge and Umbridge trying to control now?

“The High Inquisitor has been given authority over all punishments –”

“How,” I interrupted, “is that supposed to work? The rest of the teachers will have virtually no power if Umbridge gets it all. It undermines all their punishments.”

“Yes, that is undoubtedly what Umbridge and Fudge want.”

“That’s legal?”

“The Ministry as made it legal.”

“But –”

“No. Listen to me very carefully. You cannot risk any detention, understood? Even if I assign it to you, she has the power to adjust it, even to make it more than just detention. You must control yourself no matter who is provoking you.”

“Fine,” I agreed moodily. “No attacking Nott.”

“Good.”

“You really thought I was going to go all hex crazy hearing that?” I asked, slightly insulted.

“Umbridge has already used her authority,” Snape confessed.

“On who?” I questioned wildly.

“Potter and the Weasley twins.” I felt my heart sink. “They have been prohibited from playing Quidditch –”

Prohibited? Like from the next game?”

“From all games.”

All games,” I repeated. “They’ve been banned from Quidditch? For what?!”

“Attacking Draco.”

“Fred didn’t do anything!”

“That is the case Professor McGonagall was trying to make to Dumbledore, however –”

Umbridge has more power than Dumbledore?!”

“Over punishments, yes.”

“He’s the headmaster!”

“I realize this.”

“Crabbe! What about him? He attacked after the game was over. He’s been banned too, is that why you were there?”

“Crabbe was…given lines –”

Lines?!”

“This is exactly why I asked you to take the potion first.”

“So Fred does nothing and gets banned, but Crabbe gets lines? In what universe is that fair? That foul, power hungry toad,” I said threateningly. “I bet she just loves this. She’d love to have all of Hogwarts under her fat thumb. A five year old would be a more competent teacher than her. And Dumbledore! How could he not find a new teacher? You’re telling me he couldn’t find one person?”

“It’s not a popular position –”

“You!” I exclaimed, focusing on Snape. “Why not you? You would have been a million times better!”

“You would have to ask Dumbledore about that,” Snape responded, unable to mask the bitterness in his voice.

“I need to go find Fred,” I stated, standing up.

“Please do not do something rash,” Snape implored. “And take the potion.”

I shoved the vial into my robes and tapped my wand against the top of my head, casting the Disillusionment Charm before leaving Snape’s office. I knew how much Quidditch meant to Fred and how being banned would anger him, especially when he hadn’t done anything. I really hate Umbridge.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All Saturday night Fred, along with George and Harry, appeared to be in a state of disbelief mixed with fury. As did the rest of the common room. There was no celebration tonight. It was like Gryffindor hadn’t even won the game. I was too much of a coward to approach Fred who was sitting with the rest of the Quidditch team, minus Ron. I don’t think Fred noticed anything around him, let alone me.

Sunday morning came and I sat in the deserted common room staring out the window, looking over the freshly snow covered grounds. Snape’s words replayed over and over in my head. Draco was acting so cruel because of Fred, because I was with Fred. I felt stupid for not noticing it before. I also couldn’t stop the guilt. How many students was Draco going to bully or lash out at because of me? I could try and stop it though…I didn’t have to flaunt my relationship with Fred around the castle. What did it matter if I ate meals alone and couldn’t talk to Fred during breaks between classes? Fred and I could still be together in the privacy of Gryffindor tower. That’s what we’d done before the Yule Ball.

I felt a pair of arms wrap around me and someone’s chin rested on top of my head.

“Morning,” Fred greeted softly.

“Morning,” I responded, feeling guilty for what I was going to suggest.

“I didn’t see you last night.”

“You…er, looked busy with the team.”

“You could have joined.”

“I didn’t want to intrude.”

“You wouldn’t have.” He kissed the top of my head before stepping back. He wrapped his hand around mine and pulled me over to the couch closest to the fire place. We sat there for a few minutes, Fred’s arm around me as I mentally prepared myself.

“Fred?” I whispered.

“Hmm?”

“I–I think we should limit our contact around the school,” I said quietly. “Just outside of the tower,” I added quickly when I felt his body tense. “Any time we’re in here, I’m all yours.”

“Because of Nott?” he asked in a strained voice.

“Yes,” I lied, knowing I could never explain the real reason. He would never understand. “I spend nearly all of my time in the tower now. And I know this is a horrible time to bring this up.”

“It’s fine. As long as he backs off I’ll do it. But if I see him harassing you I’m not going to ignore it.”

“Alright,” I agreed, knowing I would never let Fred catch any Slytherin, Draco or Nott, bothering me.

We went back to sitting quietly on the couch until George woke up. Fred left with him to go get breakfast. As the portrait hole closed behind them I couldn’t help but feel like I was the worst person on the planet. Not only for what I’d suggested, but for straight out lying about the reason too.

 

 

A/N: The first Quidditch game and the fight after are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 19, The Lion and the Serpent.

 

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